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Modern Azorius Stoneblade

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Hey everyone!

Today I return to my roots. It has been a long time coming as I'm reunited with one of my favorite creatures - Stoneforge Mystic. I wish I could post a list that won me fame and glory in the past beginning with four Stoneforge, but I can't. This is a creature that hasn't quite delivered the goods yet, but I still can't help but have fun playing her.

When Stoneforge Mystic was unbanned in Modern I was completely shocked. I didn't have a specific list in mind that would warp the format, but it felt possible. This wasn't a unique thought as there are plenty of Stoneforge decks doing well.

Today I want to talk about my favorite version of the deck so far - uw. There are plenty of bells and whistles to add, but I think in this case slow and steady wins the race.

Here's my current list:


As is typically the case, my maindeck is fairly stock. The secret sauce is the sideboard, knowing how to utilize it, and using the London Mulligan.

The Maindeck

Vendilion Clique
Vendilion Clique initially seemed like an obvious card to play two copies, but it's less impressive than Teferi, Time Raveler. The amount of times I had an early Clique combined with Sword of Feast and Famine was less than expected. If there's an uptick in Stoneforge mirrors it's correct to play a second copy, but for now the field is fairly diverse.

Since Clique is a legend I never want to run the risk of drawing two. I could, in theory, put an equipment at the bottom of my deck with Clique's ability, but Modern isn't about getting that kind of value. Don't get cute and just take the card from the opponent's hand that will kill you.

Teferi, Time Raveler continues to impress. uwStoneblade is much better at playing to the board compared to straight control which makes the tempo gained from the minus ability more powerful. Bouncing Stoneforge Mystic to find the second equipment is too cute; a Repulse that demands an answer is good enough. It's a legend so I don't want to play three copies in the main- hence the Vendilion Clique.

Batterskull is important against Burn and is also a great grindy element. The secondary equipment is Sword of Feast and Famine because my form of interaction is countermagic. I prefer Sword of Fire and Ice in black-based Stoneblade decks because hand disruption will get them hellbent quickly already. Sword of Light and Shadow combo with Devoted Druid and Ranger-Captain of Eos.

Cryptic Command
Cryptic Command looks clunky and usually is in uw Control. It's much more dangerous after connecting with Sword of Feast and Famine because losing a card each turn to the trigger prompts the opponent to act. They can't play the game of sit and wait to cast multiple spells in the same turn, which is an effective strategy against slower control decks.

Three Spell Snare looked too hateful at first, but I'm sold. It enabled me to cash in Snapcaster Mage in the mid game more often. Snare is currently very well positioned and Tron getting Once Upon a Time makes it even stronger than before.

It's reasonable to play two Force of Negation, but I currently like three because it's great against Tron and Burn. I want to run out a turn two Stoneforge Mystic, but not be vulnerable. It also enables me to slam Jace, the Mind Sculptor on turn four more often.

Mana Leak has been great for me. In the past I have preferred Logic Knot, but Leak plays much better with Snapcaster Mage. This is important as a common play pattern is to Mana Leak on turn two and flash it back on the fourth turn. Since this is a tempo deck it doesn't rot in my hand as often as it did in uw Control.

Three Jace might seem like overkill, but I want to tap out aggressively with this deck. I can Brainstorm away equipment only to find them again with Stoneforge Mystic. It's the most powerful proactive spell to cast after I untap my lands with Sword of Feast and Famine.

A single Dismember is basically my fifth Path to Exile. It could be On Thin Ice, but I prefer the instant-speed option. It could be argued Snapcaster Mage can flash it back, but that means taking eight damage. It's certainly possible this is the right play, but likely need to swing with a Batterskull first to gain life.

I was skeptical of playing just two Celestial Colonnade, but Spell Snare makes me want more lands that enter the battlefield untapped. I become more indifferent winning the die roll because Island into Spell Snare on the draw is very powerful. Stoneblade also wants to tap out more often making the tap land more costly.

The London Mulligan

Tron mulligans very aggressively while Burn likes to often go to six cards in search of early creatures for pressure. uw Stoneblade plays differently; I don't mulligan often with this deck because the counterspells are fairly generic. I don't run the risk of drawing too many removal spells as I only play five and Path to Exile. That was my main beef with Jund decks as I was never sure if my removal hand would be playable in the dark.

Since many of the spells either apply pressure or interact in a generic sense I'm primarily looking for lands and spells. Some matchups I want to find an early Stoneforge Mystic to apply pressure, but I don't know that in the first game. Jace helps me clean up in the mid game if I don't have an early Stoneforge Mystic.

uw Stoneblade is a great deck to punish opponents that mulligan aggressively for a busted hand. Aggressive mulligans work best in uninteractive matchups as the only thing that matters is doing your powerful effect as quickly as possible. uw will counter your first few attempts which makes reloading redundant pieces of combos important.

Why Not Play Three Colors?

The cost of playing a straight uw Stoneblade deck is the lack of removal after Path to Exile. I would prefer to play Lightning Bolt or Fatal Push, but I don't believe Dismember is bad enough to warrant a splash. This could change if Stoneblade becomes more popular, but I already have three Spell Snare as other early interaction.

The true power of uw Stoneblade lies in the strength of Spell Snare. If Modern moves away from strong 2-drops then it might be correct to splash. For now Azorious has never been more nimble.

Another reason not to splash is Field of Ruin. While I have seen three color Stoneblade decks stick with easier mana requirements to keep Fields in the list it comes at the expense of Cryptic Command. Your deck will be too clunky if you play three colors, Field of Ruin, and Cryptic Command. I would prefer the Tron matchup to be good and three color removal decks rarely play well against big mana strategies. This becomes more important as Once Upon a Time is about to debut.

Spell Queller is a popular creature to play, but I have enough 3-drops. Many of the lists that exclude Cryptic Command play Quellers in place. I prefer to play less creatures as this shoehorns you into also playing Giver of Runes. Protecting your Stoneforge Mystic can be done with counterspells as they are more versatile than a creature that's weak against combo decks.

The Sideboard

Wrath of God and Supreme Verdict don't come in often as the deck is very nimble. Humans and other creature tribal decks demand sweepers as you can fall behind in the early game with counters being weak. I play the split as Meddling Mage is likely to name Supreme Verdict if not Path to Exile.

Surgical Extraction and two Rest in Peace are my graveyard hate. I want all three against Dredge, but a single extraction combos nicely with Field of Ruin against Tron. Two Rest in Peace has also been phenomenal against Jund; it shuts down Wrenn and Six, Tarmogoyf, and Scavenging Ooze. I like my dredge hate to be good in other matchups.

Ashiok, Dream Render is a common graveyard hate spell in the sideboard that overlaps against Primeval Titan. I expect to face Tron if I play against a big mana strategy after Once Upon a Time gives it a boost. Amulet Titan is rarely a popular deck due to its difficult nature to pilot. I also play many 3-drops so Surgical Extraction gets the nod. I don't want Ashiok against Tron because it only realistically stops Sylvan Scrying and Expedition Map which are cast before I have three mana.

Disdainful Stroke is better than Ceremonious Rejection because Whurza and Paradoxical Outcome decks occupy a large piece of the artifact metagame share. They play a shockingly large amount of colored spells I can't reject- Urza, Paradoxical Outcome, Whir of Invention, and Thopter Foundry. Disdainful Stroke only misses Thopter Foundry which is covered by Spell Snare.

Spell Pierce is more nimble than Dovin's Veto so I play a single copy in the board. Disdainful Stroke and Mana Leak are often in my deck for the same matchups which makes me want a total of four 2-mana counters. When I played Dovin's Veto I felt the need to cut a Mana Leak to reduce the clunkiness of my counters which means the deck could use some tuning. A single Spell Pierce is difficult to play around and a great card to flash back with Snapcaster Mage.

A third Teferi, Time Raveler is a concession to the power of Veil of Summer and other counters in opposing sideboards. I have tried other 3-drops such as Spell Queller and Vendilion Clique, but Teferi plays better post board. I can board out all four Path to Exile without being more susceptible to Wurmcoil Engine, cast a sweeper at instant-speed, or hose opposing Blue decks. Artifact hate for my Batterskull and Sword of Feast and Famine after board gets much less appealing with so many Teferis, too.

Celestial Purge is very powerful as it hits Liliana of the Veil, Wrenn and Six, Goblin Engineer, and Thopter Foundry. Since Rest in Peace also nullifies Goblin Engineer and Thopter Foundry I don't want two against Urza.

Disenchant is another catch-all in the board. I don't need too many copies as Teferi, Time Raveler and Cryptic Command can deal with problematic permanents. It's nice to have a single copy to flash back with Snapcaster Mage.

The second Batterskull gets better after sideboard as some matchups become less about counterspells. This makes Sword of Feast and Famine weaker. Other matchups I want three equipments because I expect additional artifact hate.

I like my Burn matchup thanks to two Timely Reinforcements. Burn is a strong deck and you need to be prepared.

Sideboard Guide

Tron:

I search for Sword of Feast and Famine early with Stoneforge Mystic as Tron has inevitability. Think of Stoneblade as a Fish deck in this matchup. I typically fight over one land-searching spell and use Field of Ruin to undo another and try to save other counters for the payoffs. I don't expect to keep them off Tron forever so I don't want to be exposed once it's assembled.

Tron doesn't have much of a sideboard, but they can bring in Nature's Claim and Veil of Summer. Teferi is great in this matchup even if it doesn't bounce a high value card like Wurmcoil.

Once Upon a Time can be cast on the upkeep of the first turn; even if on the draw. This could be useful to play around a first turn Spell Snare. They probably won't do this in the dark so try and begin the game with untapped Blue mana to counter Once Upon a Time.

Tron plays four Forest.

Burn:

Burn will try and stockpile spells to unload on one turn to force as many through as possible. Teferi helps stop this plan as they can't begin the unloading process at the end of your turn. Suspending a Rift Bolt can also be indicative of the following turn dumping the hand. Teferi stops Rift Bolt from being cast from suspend.

Celestial Purge isn't great in the matchup, but I want more early removal spells. If you like Jeskai or Esper I would leave Purges in the board.

Stoneforge Mystic can come down on turn two if you have a Force of Negation otherwise I would wait for the third turn to leave up Spell Snare.

I don't think Burn should board in Smash to Smithereens to fight Batterskull, but I would also be ready for it. People will try and solve matchups in different ways.

Burn plays three Mountains.

Jund:

I'm willing to protect Rest in Peace by using Spell Snare to counter Assassin's Trophy because it nullifies all of their 2-drops. Even the Wrenn and Six emblem isn't effective when graveyards are taken out of the equation.

Teferi, Time Raveler is able to bounce an early Tarmogoyf and the opponent needs to wait until the next turn to remove him. Don't worry about Veil of Summer because Jund does want it; it's not a combo with Bloodbraid Elf's cascade. Teferi shuts off cascade so I can slam Teferi on an open board and it's tough to get punished.

The extra Teferi gives me more opportunities to attack with Sword of Feast and Famine. I want all three equipment as the game goes long. Don't aggressively run out Stoneforge Mystic because she will die; pick your spot as the equipment can run away with the game.

Snapcaster Mage is the counter to Bloodbraid Elf despite him being worse with Rest in Peace on the battlefield. I can attack Liliana of the Veil or suit him up with a sword worst case scenario.

Jund plays a Mountain, two Swamp, and one or two Forest.

Humans:

I'm not looking to do anything fancy here; board out counters and add removal. Field of Ruin can hit Cavern of Souls, but I would rather ignore countering spells and hit Horizon Canopy instead.

Every Humans deck plays a single Plains, but some also have an Island, too. If you're losing Game 1 I would fire off a Path to Exile before conceding to see if they have Island for next game.

Bouncing Aether Vial with Teferi is good in the mid game to prevent them from flashing in Reflector Mage targeting the Germ token.

Red/Green Valakut:

Surgical Extraction can go after Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, but they all play Field of the Dead. I can kill the Field of the Dead with Field of Ruin, but they will have a turn of making zombies if it enters the battlefield late game. Remember the zombies cannot block a creature equipped with Sword of Feast and Famine.

If I extract Valakut the Supreme Verdict can come in to sweep up the zombies. This is a low opportunity cost card to board in as it pitches to Force of Negation. I also need to be ready for Tireless Tracker, but Path to Exile is too embarrassing in the matchup.

The floor on Surgical Extraction in this matchup is high because I can also counter a Scapeshift or Primeval Titan and then hit the remainders to make their deck less threat- dense. Remember Force of Negation exiles the spell so you won't be able to extract the Scapeshifts this way.

Whurza:

Whurza plays a lot of mana sources so I want to trim Mana Leak and not bring in Spell Pierce. They will Thoughtseize you so the opponent will know to play around it. When Rest in Peace is in play the game will drag out; it's like a Blood Moon effect in the matchup. I can board out Snapcaster Mages because the 2/1 body isn't as relevant as it is against Jund; the 1/1 Thopters and Goblin Engineers are annoying. Clique comes out for this reason as well. I might want the second Batterskull to grind.

Whurza usually plays five Island, a Mountain, and a Swamp.

That's all I have for this week. It feels good to be writing about a sweet Jace deck again. Give it a spin!

Thanks for reading,

Kyle