Behind the Tag - Deck Stories Part 1
- Christopher Brunner
Nowadays, most new decks have reasonable names like "Izzet Phoenix" or "Golgari Midrange," which more or less describes what the decks do/contain. But what about deck names from days gone by? Where does "the Rock" come from? What does "Death and Taxes" have to do with a white weenie deck? This is a series meant to discuss, briefly, the history behind these names.
When I look at the current meta in Modern and Standard, I see a bunch of different decks with similar names. Most of them are built in the same logical way: You combine the colors / guilds of the deck with the way the deck is played… or with key cards / key abilities and et voila: You have deck names like "Golgari Midrange," "Jeskai Control," or "UB Death Shadow".
Of course, this is not always the case, some newer decks are named in another way, like KCI, which is an acronym for Krark-Clan Ironworks, the key card of the deck. But some decks, especially in older formats, still cling to the old ways, having names that literally make no sense - Tron? The Rock? Death and Taxes? How about Nic Fit? There are plenty of decks (especially older decks) that have weird names with very interesting backstories.
But before I start, I want to put a little disclaimer here: There are rarely official sources about the origin of deck names, and sometimes, there are multiple stories behind a deck name, which means some might not be true. But they are all interesting, so take them with a grain of salt and enjoy some historically minded entertainment – true or not.
The Rock (and his millions)
The Rock is a green and black midrange deck that currently sees play in Modern. The original name of the deck was "The Rock and his millions," a T2 deck in Urza block designed by Sol Malka. The name is a tribute to the wrestler Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, whose pose looks similar to the artwork of Phyrexian Plaguelord. The win strategy was the Plaguelord (the Rock) combined with Deranged Hermit and his tokens (millions). Since then, the name is synonymous for B/G midrange strategies with variations throughout Extended, Modern, and Legacy.
|4Treetop Village||4Birds of Paradise||4Duress|
|2Dust Bowl||1Llanowar Elves||2Vampiric Tutor|
|6Swamp||4Albino Troll||1Tranquil Grove|
|11Forest||3Yavimaya Elder||3Rapid Decay|
|4Yavimaya Granger||2Diabolic Servitude|
Death and Taxes
I found two stories about the name "Death and Taxes." The first one deduces the name from small efficient creatures (representing Death) and the abilities on cards in the deck, which "tax" opponents, like Thalia or Wasteland. Even before the printing of Thalia, White Weenie strategies used taxing effects like Wasteland or Port.
|1Cavern of Souls||4Flickerwisp||4Swords to Plowshares|
|1Horizon Canopy||2Mirran Crusader||4Aether Vial|
|3Karakas||4Mother of Runes||1Batterskull|
|5Plains||1Palace Jailer||1Sword of Fire and Ice|
|4Rishadan Port||3Phyrexian Revoker||1Umezawa's Jitte|
|5Snow-Covered Plains||2Recruiter of the Guard|
|4Thalia, Guardian of Thraben|
|1Cataclysm||2Containment Priest||2Council's Judgment|
|2Ethersworn Canonist||2Gideon, Ally of Zendikar||2Path to Exile|
|2Rest in Peace||2Surgical Extraction|
The second story references a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." While White Weenie was a popular deck since Alpha… and was never a particularly fun deck to play against, people started to add a third thing to Franklin's list of certainties: "There are only three things certain in life: death, taxes and this one dude that's going to play White Weenie at the tournament."
I personally like the second story, because everyone who has played against the deck understands it and it's… more poetic, much like the man responsible for the original quote.
Stax is rarely seen nowadays in Legacy and Vintage. The deck is a "prison" archetype, which locks out the opponent by completely preventing any action through Trinishpere, Chalice of the Void and taxing his resources with cards like Smokestack and Wasteland + Crucible of Worlds.
|4Ancient Tomb||4Metalworker||4Chalice of the Void|
|4Buried Ruin||4Crucible of Worlds|
|4City of Traitors||4Ensnaring Bridge|
|4Inventors' Fair||4Mox Diamond|
|4Rishadan Port||4Serum Powder|
|1Staff of Domination|
|1Defense Grid||3Grafdigger's Cage||3Ratchet Bomb|
|2Sorcerous Spyglass||2Sphere of Resistance||2Staff of Domination|
|1The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale||1Walking Ballista|
The common story is that the name "Stax" comes from the card "Smokestack," which is one of the signature cards. This is not completely true. Stax is originally written "$T4KS", also known as "The Four Thousand Dollar Solution," a vintage deck by Scott Lemenager that cost nearly $4.000,00 at the time it was created in 2005.
In addition to the acronym $T4KS, it also stacks its use of Smokestack to lock the opponent out of the game. The deck originally ran eight of the "power nine" pieces and four Mishra's Workshop. When you take a look at todays card prices, the deck is worth over 28.000 €! If you are interested in the complete history of Stax, including the original four thousand dollar solution, I'd recommend this article.
As the last deck of part 1, I'd like to present the Legacy graveyard-based combo deck "Tin Fins". Similar to Reanimator, the deck reanimates Griselbrand as quickly as possible, but mainly to draw as many cards as possible with help of Children of Korlis to play a big Tendrils of Agony.
|2Flooded Strand||4Chancellor of the Annex||4Brainstorm|
|1Island||1Children of Korlis||4Careful Study|
|2Marsh Flats||1Emrakul, the Aeons Torn||1Collective Brutality|
|1Scrubland||2Force of Will|
|3Underground Sea||4Shallow Grave|
|1Tendrils of Agony|
|2Defense Grid||2Dread of Night||1Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite|
|3Show and Tell||2Surgical Extraction|
The creator of the deck gave it the very unusual name "Tin Fins", based off an episode of the Series "Sealab 2021" with the same name (Season 2, Episode 19). "The crew of Sealab star in a sneak preview special for the movie "Tinfins", complete with plenty of ads for the restaurant Grizzlebee's." The name of the restaurant is obviously very similar to the deck's signature card - Griselbrand.
I hope you enjoyed the little journey to the past. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or want a source of something I wrote in the article, feel free to comment below.
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