Throw Away the Key: Erayo Prison in Modern

Parker Ackerman
May 18, 2018

 Lantern Control. Tezzerator. Shops. These are some of the premier prison decks that have seen play over the years of Magic’s existence, and at a glance, you can probably see one thing they all have in common: artifacts. Today’s deck shares that common element, but in a different way. In the prison decks I listed, the artifacts are the prison. They stop the opponent from playing the game and make sure that we can get ahead. In this deck, however, they’re more or less the enablers. Let’s take a look at the list (originally found here), and then dive into the nuts and bolts.

Erayo PrisonParker Ackerman Erayo, Soratami Ascendant Ethersworn Canonist Monastery Mentor Baral, Chief of Compliance Darksteel Citadel Island Seachrome Coast Inkmoth Nexus Hallowed Fountain Flooded Strand Inventors' Fair Ensnaring Bridge Mishra's Bauble Chalice of the Void Mox Opal Mox Amber Repeal Remand Paradoxical Outcome Leyline of Sanctity Welding Jar Walking Ballista Engineered Explosives Spellskite Remand



    The creatures serve a few different purposes in this deck, but I’ll start off with the most important one: Erayo, Soratami Ascendant. This is what makes the whole deck work, and is one of the main cards you want to see in your opening hand. The main gameplan is to land this as early as possible, and then flip it (preferably in the same turn). This deck is capable of doing this as early as turn one, thanks to our collection of moxen and other zero-cost artifacts. Ethersworn Canonist is the second piece of the lock. Where Erayo slows the opponent down, Canonist makes sure that they’re brought to a grinding halt. With the exceptions of Lantern Control and Affinity, the combination of Erayo’s Essence and Ethersworn Canonist makes sure the opponent can’t resolve any spells, letting us take as long as we like to win. And once we find a Monastery Mentor, that task is easy. Mentor gives us a nice army to swing in with once we have our opponent locked out, and can even just help us block to find time. Finally, we have Baral, who turns on Mox Amber and helps make our Remands, Repeals, and Paradoxical Outcomes even better than they already are.

    Our artifact package gives us four copies of each mox, which help us reach our four spells in a turn and enable a turn one Essence; Chalice of the Void, which can stop decks that rely on lots of cards at the same converted mana cost or just come out as our fourth spell for the turn; Mishra’s Bauble, which can thin our deck while giving us a little bit of extra information; and Ensnaring Bridge, which can stop anything the opponent may have already gotten out before we established the lock. We have Remand to cantrip and stop our opponent’s spells early on while also doubling as a way to reach our four spells; Repeal, which helps reach four spells and can remove problematic permanents like an opposing Ensnaring Bridge; and Paradoxical Outcome, which can draw us a lot of cards while helping us flip Erayo after committing too much to the board.

    Our lands are pretty straightforward, with Darksteel Citadel to enable the turn one Mox Opal, Inkmoth Nexus to give us a second wincon in the air, and Inventors’ Fair to stall aggro and find Ensnaring Bridge later on. In the sideboard we have Leyline of Sanctity to deal with hand disruption and burn, welding jar to protect our bridges, Engineered Explosives to deal with tokens and other go-wide strategies, Spellskite to eat miscellaneous artifact and creature removal, Walking Ballista for finishing off opponents or armies of small creatures, and one more Remand in case we need extra countermagic.


  • Erayo’s Essence may not be symmetrical, but Ethersworn Canonist is. It doesn’t come up often, but keep in mind that we can’t cast multiple non-artifact spells in the same turn with it out.
  • Don’t be afraid to hold your cheap artifacts until you can find an Erayo, since holding them will make it easier to flip in the same turn. Against GBx decks this might change, since they have plenty of cheap discard, but in most cases it doesn’t help to run out Moxen and Chalices earlier than you have to.
  • If you play out your artifacts too early or your first Erayo gets destroyed after flipping it, Paradoxical Outcome can bounce your artifacts for another try.
  • Abrupt Decay is your worst enemy, since it can break the lock for the low price of just two mana.
  • Be careful you don’t play Chalice too early when trying to flip Erayo. Even though Erayo only cares about casting spells, and not that they actually resolve, it’s still more helpful to have your Moxen and Baubles on the battlefield as opposed to in your graveyard.
  • Keep a close eye on hands with Erayo and two or more moxen, since these hands usually have a high chance of flipping Erayo on turn one.
  • Baral triggers of of Erayo’s Essence, so make sure you use that ability when you have at least one card in hand to help dig for extra lock pieces or a win condition.

Potential Changes:

  • Baral often feels like he’s not pulling his weight, and I think either Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive would feel better in his place. Jace’s front side helps us dig for pieces, and his back protects us, helps flip Erayo, and can win us the game. Tetsuko can make all of our Mentor tokens unblockable to make sure we can secure the win before the opponent can find a way out of it.
  • Inkmoth Nexus rarely gets used, and Academy Ruins is a great way to help recur pieces we might need and can get back Walking Ballistas that we’ve used up in games two and three.
  • I like the idea of running Spell Queller in the sideboard, since it helps take care of one of the biggest weaknesses this deck has in Abrupt Decay. Spellskite also helps with this in our current sideboard, but I don’t think a little extra protection would hurt. You could also try out Imp’s Mischief if you wanted something a bit more off-the-wall.
  • Although I didn’t play against Dredge much in testing, this deck in theory relies heavily on Ensnaring Bridge to shore up that matchup. Some form of graveyard hate, such as Rest in Peace, Relic of Progenitus, or Tormod’s Crypt, would help with this matchup. Tormod’s Crypt has the benefit of being another zero-cost artifact to help flip Erayo.

    This deck has been a lot of fun to play around with, and while it still needs a little bit of tuning, it definitely feels like a fun deck to take to an FNM, even in its current state. The lock is fun to power out early, and is a lot more decisive than Lantern Control’s since your opponent can immediately tell if they have an out. Monastery Mentor is a great win condition here, and helps us go wide enough to finish our opponent even if they’ve established a board presence prior to us setting up the lock. Take this deck for a test drive, and I think you’ll have a blast with it.