If you really want a card to slow opponents down, keep them from being able to do what they want to do, and make them cry, then there's one iconic card that really stands out, perhaps the most unique card in the "prison" or "lockdown" category... Bask in the brown glory that is Smokestack. That beautiful Scott Kirschner art. That Urza's Saga set symbol, the very finest of set symbols. Soot counters! You know how many cards use soot counters? One (it is Smokestack). While I can be hard-pressed to put aside my devotion to fast combo decks, I have sometimes been inclined to grind people out with hard control decks, and Smokestack just might be my favorite card for the job, overall. I do not say that lightly. I've been getting use out of Winter Orb more often and for longer. I've gushed about Nether Void in one of these threads. I could go on about Stasis for much longer (maybe some day I will). I've professed my undying love for the Necropotence + Zur's Weirding combo. Arcane Laboratory, Sphere of Resistance, Contamination, Mana Web, Static Orb, I've used them all. Some of them, I've used quite a lot. And of course, my usage of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale has been the scourge of the local EDH tables. But Smokestack is special. Most other prison cards are either speed bumps of some kind (Sphere of Resistance), components in a lockdown engine (Zur's Weirding), or fire-and-forget disruption (Arcane Laboratory). A few cards are more modal or more flexible, functioning by themselves but having different options with various synergies (Static Orb). But for such a powerful prison card, the flexibility of Smokestack is unrivalled. It can be used, by itself, to put pressure on the board. And even when used in that way, there are options as turns go by, how many counters to add to it, when to add them, and when to sacrifice it to itself. But it also synergizes with recursion engines, with token generators, with ephemeral permanents, counter manipulation, with mana denial, with graveyard manipulation, and with a variety of specific effects (Black Vise, It That Betrays, Paradox Haze, etc.). That's a lot for one card! Smokestack is powerful and versatile. As an artifact, it can be used in virtually any color combination, and an argument could be made for pretty much all of them. Or none of them. It's the bizarre namesake to the umbrella term "Stax", which has been, to my dismay, vastly overused among EDH players. It had its forays into Standard and Extended tournament play. It's consistently been a reasonable dark horse in Legacy since the format was created. And while I've long supposed that its glory days in Vintage are over, Smokestack continues to show up in Vintage tournament records and has demonstrated some strong showings. It's never been banned or restricted and it almost certainly never will be, which is really a kind of testament to the card design. Smokestack has been so successful in so many different decks, but it isn't dominant or broken. While other Urza's Saga rares became infamous for dominating tournaments, Smokestack has shown itself to be more balanced and has also outlasted many of those other cards in terms of its utility (both in casual play and in competitive formats). With a track record like that, it's actually a bit strange that WotC only ever reprinted it in one of those "From the Vault" boxes. It's been a real missed opportunity. I've been talking up Smokestack as powerful, but really, in a lot of ways the card is harshly constrained and doesn't seem to be very good. It's a four-drop that you pass the turn with to no advantage whatsoever. You cast it, then it does nothing, then on your opponent's turn it does nothing, then on your turn it continues to do nothing, with the first actual sacrifice not occurring until your opponent's turn after that. In tournament environments with their extreme focus on efficiency and maintaining advantage on the board, it's rare for such a slow card become a staple. Also, as a card with a symmetrical effect (kind of), it imposes deckbuilding considerations and wouldn't seem to be favorable as a tournament card. And it has certain weaknesses, as opponents get to choose what they sacrifice and get ample opportunities to play around Smokestack. Taken together, it would seem utterly ludicrous that this card could ever be a tournament powerhouse. It looks more like a "Johnny" card, something a creative player might bend over backwards to utilize in an unexpected way. Well, nope. Smokestack is a bomb. It's been a powerhouse for over 20 years, and seen play alongside and against some of the most feared cards ever. Even as I started a Memories thread for Nether Void, I knew I wanted to do Smokestack next. So much to say about this card. Anyway, I hope this introduction has done it justice.