Firing Up the Forge: A Guide to Brewing Modern Stoneblade

Modern got riffle shuffled pretty hard in the most recent B&R announcement. Banning Hogaak, and Faithless looting and freeing Stoneforge Mystic has certainly shaken things up.  As is usually the case, this newly unbanned toy is met with a great divide in opinions among the magic community and some are left wondering if Stoneforge Mystic is too broken for Modern. The answer is no. In fact, I feel that Stoneforge Mystic is a step in the right direction. A step towards a fun and more balanced version of Modern. With that being said, I feel like the Stoneblade archetype in Modern has yet to find its rare form. In this article, I invite you to take a deep dive into this fun new Modern mainstay on an adventure to newly explored territory; Modern Stoneblade.   

The Core

Before we delve into all of the characteristics that make each Stoneblade deck variant unique, we should discuss the similarities between them. For starters, Force of Negation has been widely adopted in varying numbers throughout all Stoneblade variants. Force gives you an early layer of protection for your Stoneforge Mystic allowing you to insure and progress the board advantage that you are trying to implement. This card is best used as a way to push your advantage through via a threat like Stoneforge Mystic or a source of card advantage such as Jace, the Mind Sculptor. For this reason, Jace has also found his way into most Stoneblade brews, often accompanied byTeferi, Time Raveler to round out the Planeswalker slots.

Deck Building & Balancing Strategies

 When building your Stoneblade deck, it is important to prioritize balancing your deck list to be as consistent as possible. Our journey starts with the decision of which threats we want to play and which color combination we want to implement.

Snapcaster Mage is usually a snap keep in the list of includes for Blue strategies, however, there are some deck building restrictions involving Snapcaster Mage that are worth mentioning. The combination of Snapcaster Mage and Stoneforge Mystic are a bit antagonistic. Snapcaster Mage is at his best when played in combination with an abundance of cheap and interactive spells featured in the straight UW, Esper, and Jeskai blade builds. Stoneforge Mystic incentivizes us to play a higher density of creatures. But not just any creatures. There is a criteria for this also. The creatures we pick should be evasive, resilient, and must have relevant card text independent from any other stipulations (such as a sword equipped to it).

Snapcaster Mage is effective because it can be cast at instant speed and provides Flashback to your useful interactive spells but, on the surface, it is a 2/1 body with no effects once it is in play. This means that Snapcaster is not the most ideal sword-wielder but, if you value the spells in your deck highly enough in the meta game, Snapcaster Mage can be a fine include. Stoneblade builds including Snapcaster typically stay in the ballpark of 9-12 creatures. Some UW lists are also turning to Geist of Saint Traft as a creature option. I feel like Geist of Saint Traft is not really the way to go. Geist is just so underwhelming against allot of match-ups, especially decks with a larger creature density.  I feel that Geist belongs in the sideboard to board in for match-ups where it shines.

Spell Queller has been showing up in most Stoneblade variants in hefty numbers. Some lists are playing the full playset. Queller is an efficient way to interact before turn four. Which can fill an important role if you aren’t running something like Cryptic Command in your deck. Spell Queller alone is a decent candidate for the evasive creature slot at face value, but when combined with other synergies such as Force of Negation, Sword of X and Y, and Teferi, Time Raveler it can play down right dirty. Teferi, Time Raveler‘s static ability can turn Spell Queller into an exiling counterspell on a 2/3 flying body that you could even buyback with a Teferi bounce.

Vendilion Clique is another consideration for Stoneblade, however, since the printing of Wrenn and Six and the decline of Humans, Clique has lost some of its stock in Modern. This card still shines against strategies like Tron and Control mirrors and can be justified as a one-of. 


Joseph Bernal’s UW Stoneblade [2nd at GP Indianapolis, 8/2019]

Creatures (9)
Vendilion Clique
Snapcaster Mage
Stoneforge Mystic

Artifacts (2)
Batterskull
Sword of Feast and Famine

Spells (20)
Supreme Verdict
Spell Snare
Mana Leak
Opt
Cryptic Command
Force of Negation
Path to Exile

Planeswalkers (5)
Teferi, Time Raveler
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Lands (24)
Celestial Colonnade
Snow-Covered Plains
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Snow-Covered Island

Sideboard (15)
Celestial Purge
Disdainful Stroke
Disenchant
Surgical Extraction
Timely Reinforcements
Winds of Abandon
Batterskull
Vendilion Clique


And for another take…


Do0mSwitch’s UW Stoneblade [9/2019]

Creatures (9)
Snapcaster Mage
Stoneforge Mystic
Vendilion Clique

Planeswalkers (5)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Teferi, Time Raveler

Artifacts (2)
Batterskull
Sword of Feast and Famine

Spells (20)
Cryptic Command
Force of Negation
Mana Leak
Opt
Path to Exile
Spell Snare
Winds of Abandon
Lands (24)
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Plains
Polluted Delta
Prismatic Vista

Sideboard (15)
Celestial Purge
Ceremonious Rejection
Disdainful Stroke
Disenchant
Dovin’s Veto
Rest in Peace
Supreme Verdict
Sword of Light and Shadow
Timely Reinforcements


Assuming that UW is the core to the Stoneblade plan, here is a look at what options we are faced with given a third color inclusion…

Red

The Jeskai blade shell is the ideal tempo shell. Utilizing cheap and flexible spells to interact with the opponent, push through the primary game plan, or switching gears to throw big bursts of damage to the face. Cards like Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix have some reach; however, spells act as a secondary win condition. Which can be a good thing. But at the end of the day, These spells fall a bit short against decks like Tron and Urza. your bolts should be an interactive spell first, and a win con second. The Jeskai variants can leverage cards like Geist of Saint Traft more efficiently than other Stoneblade Variants However.  Nonetheless I can see this deck having legs if decks like Humans become popular again. 


Joseph Karani’s Jeskai Stoneblade [1st at GP Indianapolis 9/2019]

Creatures (17)
Geist of Saint Traft
Giver of Runes
Snapcaster Mage
Spell Queller
Stoneforge Mystic

Planeswalkers (3)
Teferi, Time Raveler

Artifacts (2)
Batterskull
Sword of Feast and Famine

Spells (15)
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Helix
Opt
Path to Exile
Spell Pierce
Spell Snare
Lands (23)
Arid Mesa
Celestial Colonnade
Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Inspiring Vantage
Island
Mountain
Plains
Sacred Foundry
Scalding Tarn
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents

Sideboard (15)
Abrade
Celestial Purge
Ceremonious Rejection
Disdainful Stroke
Force of Negation
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Rest in Peace


Black

The addition of black in Stoneblade decks add an additional level interaction with the biggest gain being Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. These spells clear the path for turn two Stoneforge Mystic and increasing the likelihood of her going unchecked. Hand disruption spells also help you breakdown linear strategies to slow down a deck that is faster than you. Lingering Souls has declined sharply in terms of playability for me. It would take quite a bit for me to register this card at this point. Souls is better in decks utilizing cards like Collective Brutality, Liliana of the Veil, etc, so something like that may be more appropriate.

Plague Engineer is a big gain in black. Hosing weenie decks while also protecting you from the Urza combo are two very relevant effects at the moment. Fatal Push is a more reliable removal spell than than most other colors can provide short of being a Golgari deck and having access to Assassin’s Trophy, Maelstrom Pulse, etc. 

Green 

I wanted to shed some light on the Bant Stoneblade variant in particular as the strategy is significantly different from the other variants. Notice that a large portion of the options you gain from adding green are creatures, which is an appealing direction for a Stoneforge Mystic deck to go in. As we mentioned before, Stoneforge Mystic incentivizes a higher creature density. This deck is looking to utilize a mana advantage with Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise combined with powerful three-drops to out-tempo the opponent. Ice-Fang Coatl is a big incentive to adding green. It turns out that having a flashable Baleful Strix in your Sword deck is good. Who knew?! Ice-Fang Coatl combos well with the sword plan while also being leveraged in combat to protect your Planeswalkers. Knight of Autumn is a versatile sideboard card that gives you reach against artifact decks while also being a source of life gain against aggro and burn decks. 


Tony Johnson’s Bant Snowblade [9/2019]

Creatures (23)
Noble Hierarch
Birds of Paradise
Stoneforge Mystic
Ice Fang Coatl
Spell Queller
Giver of Runes
Deputy of Detention

Spells (7)
Path to Exile
Force of Negation

Artifacts (3)
Batterskull
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Light and Shadow

Planeswalkers (5)
Teferi, Time Raveler
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Lands (22)
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Prismatic Vista
Breeding Pool
Temple Garden
Hallowed Fountain
Razorverge thicket
Snow-covered Island
Snow-covered Plains
Snow-covered Forest
Horizon Canopy

Sideboard (15)
Knight of Autumn
Winds of Abandoned
Ashiok, Dream Render
Unified Will
Ceremonious Rejection
Disdainful Stroke
Collector Ouphe
Eldritch Evolution
Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Gaddock Teeg


Giver of Runes is an excellent inclusion to the Bant Snowblade strategy and is best served in a deck with higher creature density. Protecting the delicate creatures in your deck such as Stoneforge Mystic or Spell Queller from removal spells can create a soft lock against your opponent. Giver is also utilized well in combat to prevent opposing creatures from being able to block. This can be very oppressive when you are trying to connect with a sword-bearing creature.

Giver of Runes serves a role as one of many tiers of protection and disruption that can push through your game plan. The inclusion of Giver of Runes complements other creatures in the deck such as Deputy of Detention and Shalai, Voice of Plenty out of the sideboard.  This plan allows you to utilize a combination of counter spells and various hatebears like Collector Ouphe and Gaddock Teeg out of the board to combat the meta as well. 

The Manabase

Like most midrange decks, there is a great emphasis on deploying your spells and permanents in early turns without taxing your life too much. In Jesaki variants, Inspiring Vantage casts all of your one-mana cards: Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Giver of Runes. Razorverge Thicket can be included in Bant builds to cast a turn-one Noble Hierarch, Path to Exile, or Giver of Runes. As I mentioned previously, mid-range decks thrive on consistency and trading resources efficiently. Every decision that favors consistency in any deck begins with the manabase. 

Prismatic Vista has exploded onto the Modern and Legacy scene enabling more consistent four-color decks in the likes of 4c Control with Acrum’s Astrolabe in Legacy and 4c Saheeli in modern. What the Stoneblade variants have to gain from Prismatic Vista is the inclusion of Ice-Fang Coatl. I love this card dearly and I’m glad WoTC gave us a “fixed” Baleful Strix

Opening the Armory

Selecting the right weapons for your deck can be a daunting task, and perhaps the most important decision. I think that Sword of Feast and Famine is what every Stoneforge deck wants to be doing and is easily the first include for me. Pressuring the hand of decks like Tron, Valakut, and Amulet Titan is an incredibly useful plan, especially in pre-boarded games. Batterskull is the second obvious choice. In fact, its so obvious that I will spare the time it would take to talk about the endless value it produces. The third equipment is the most controversial decision. Some players omit the third equipment slot entirely.

Sword of Fire and Ice is usually the next logical choice, however, your number three should either pick up the slack on the areas your deck is lacking or synergize well with specific qualities of your game plan. For example, Selesnya Eldrazi plays Sword of Fire and Ice to help pick off creatures due to their limited ability to remove creatures and permanents. Creatures like Reality Smasher vastly outclass several other creatures in the Modern meta. It’s trample ability makes it ideal for farming sword triggers. Eldrazi variants are also not the best at generating card advantage. Sword of Fire and Ice helps on this front.

Sword of Light and Shadow synergizes well in decks with a high creature density. It makes sense for Bant Snowblade to play Sword of Light and Shadow because who doesn’t want to buy back Ice-Fang Coatls and Spell Quellers? Gaining 3 life is also an extra layer against aggro and burn decks.

Discussion