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Building Stoneforge Mystic in Modern


They did it. The mad lads actually did it and released Stoneforge Mystic.

My major concern with the unbanning is that it incentivizes every deck that plays White to add 4 Stoneforge and a Batterksull and a couple Swords. There's no reason for most decks with White to not play the Kor. By the time this article is released we will have had as full week of MTGO testing and SCG Dallas to see the immediate impact on Modern that Stoneforge has brought. So while I won't have the full set of information, I can tell you what I have learned through testing and playing Stoneforge in other formats has taught me about how to build and play the deck.

Stoneblade decks, much like uw control, are going to be exceptionally hard to build in a flux format. It is pretty clear that Modern has been opened up in new ways which makes building a deck with solid answers tough. Watching Jonathan Rosum stream last week, he mentioned he built his deck poorly because he didn't consider the mirror enough. However, his deck looked pretty solid anyways! I want to use this as an example of how tough it is trying to fit all of Modern into 75 cards. White has always had some of the best sideboard cards in the format and now that they have a good threat they get to shine. That being said, don't be surprised if it takes the archetype a few weeks to get going. When Stoneforge finds its footing it will be a pillar of the format.

When Stoneforge got unbanned my Twitter feed was flooded with people who said things like "If my opponent plays a Stoneforge Mystic, I would simply Kolaghan's Command it and the Batterskull". Well it turns out that likely isn't something that is going to happen often. Every Stoneforge deck is playing Force of Negation as a way to protect a blind Stoneforge on turn two as it is. The other nice part about playing an instant speed way to put in Batterskull into play is if you don't have protection you can just wait.

The card I think really helps swing Stoneforge in these decks is secretly Teferi, Time Raveler. Being able to protect your Stoneforge from instant speed threats and be able to interact early puts a ton of pressure on any opponent. While Teferi is easy to kill in Modern it changes how your opponent has to play the game which gives you a ton of room to maneuver (and especially if you're going to be playing several counterspells or Spell Queller).

There are quite a few ways to approach building the deck, but the most classic way is going to be uw.

uw aficionado @HarryMTG got a 5-0 recently with his take on uw and I think it's a solid place to start. Much like its Legacy counterpart, hooking up an 'untouchable' Blue 3-drop is going to end quite a few games. In this case we have Vendilion Clique and Geist of Saint Traft as cards that love to wield Swords and can do a ton of damage. That aside, this deck isn't great at holding Swords in general due to the lower creature count. What uw does offer is a better way to beat big mana strategies. A clean mana base means you get to play Field of Ruin (and potentially other colorless lands) to be able to interact with some of your worse matchups like Tron. This deck is also the best Feast and Famine deck as well. Being able to re-buy counterspells and Snapcaster is ideal and since we have room to maneuver and give time we can play a second Sword in the main deck (Fire and Ice) to play catchup with some of the faster decks in the format.

Next up is Bant Stoneforge. This particular version is from Kelvin Chew, former Platinum Pro known for his Bant Modern prowess. Being able to play mana dorks means that when your Stoneforge eats a removal spell that you'll be able to get even farther ahead by casting your Batterskull way ahead of the curve. A big reason to play Green is it also gives you a ton of creatures which means you'll have plenty of creatures to hold Swords and can get into combat way easier. It is also likely that this is the best deck to play Planeswalkers and Queller in. Spell Queller is a fantastic card in Modern and being able to keep your game plan going while holding up a counterspell is going to be relevant as we move forward. If Bolt is the premiere removal spell then hooking up a Queller to a Sword is going to end games very fast.

I am curious if there is room for Giver of Runes in this kind of strategy. Being able to protect anything from dorks to Queller makes life more difficult for any opponent. If Burn gets popular then I like Giver even more as a way to protect your creatures. The other consideration for this kind of deck is Sword of Light and Shadow. In a heavy creature deck, you need some way to grind when playing into heavy removal and, without Kolaghan's Command or Liliana, the Last Hope, Light and Shadow gives you the best opportunity to grind.

Playing Path to Exile only certainly causes some issues in the world of Stoneforge. Pathing a Stoneforge just to get slayed by Jace, the Mind Sculptor sounds like a miserable world. Adding Red to our uw deck gives us plenty of action early against creature decks while helping the Burn matchup by giving us access to Lightning Helix.

I based this deck list of off Seth Manfield's.

Goodbye creature decks. Jeskai Blade will obliterate each and every one of them. The downside, of course, can be all the mana coming into play tapped. Combo decks and big mana decks also are going to be rough for these kinds of strategies but if players are going to bring Stoneforge to the table then Jeskai will be an excellent choice moving forward. This is definitely a deck where you'll have to think about which Sword you'd like main deck. Fire and Ice plays into your burn plan (on both ends) but Feast and Famine lets you play the control role and manage creatures and allow you access to attacking with Colonnade then untapping for burn to finish someone off. I'm unsure which is better without testing but in this kind of deck I'm going to lean toward playing Feast and Famine first always.

Esper Blade is the last deck I'm going to look into. There are plenty of options past this for you to play but these are the four I'm going to start with. Out of all these choices I think Esper is probably the best. Being able to play a healthy mix of discard, removal, and counterspells seems like an excellent place to be. Here's where I'm at:

Of course there's still plenty of room for maneuverability and customization but the way I've built this deck is essentially as a uw deck that is light on Black cards (minus discard) in order to effectively play Field of Ruin as a way to hedge against big mana decks. Getting discard means you'll be able to be meaningfully proactive and craft a better game plan in the face of adversity. Clearing a path also makes life easier for your Stoneforge Mystics to crash through and live. One of the concerns I discussed earlier was Path providing too much advantage in this world. Playing Fatal Push lessons the strains while having the flexibility to manage everything that you'd commonly play against. Lingering Souls is an excellent tool against creature and control decks. It is also the best thing to be equipping swords to as if they die they are easy to replace and they fly so you're more likely to connect.

Post board we get access to the same impactful White cards plus some of the bomb Black ones (but mostly Plague Engineer). Plague Engineer is exceptionally good in a multitude of matchups but one of the ones that will be tough for Blade decks are Tribal decks. Without Jitte to quell them, Plague Engineer steps up as a way to nail down those decks without trying to settle into a wraths.

Overall my personal preference for these decks are in this order:

  1. Esper
  2. uw
  3. Bant
  4. Jeskai

Here are some tips and tricks for those of you who may be new to playing with the Kor.

  • One of my favorite tips with Stoneforge Mystic is with Batterskull. If you need to put Batterskull back into your hand first activate Stoneforge first; then while holding priority bounce your Batterskull back into your hand. This doesn't allow a window for your opponent to kill Stoneforge in response for value.
  • If you think your opponent has removal, oftentimes it's easier to just get the Sword. Let your creature die and still be able to get value. In Modern it may be a little different since the format is more land heavy than Legacy so it may be right to just get the Skull. However, getting the party going with Sword of Fire and Ice or Feast and Famine might just be one of the best things to do anyways if your Stoneforge is just gonna die.
  • If you're playing a deck with a bunch of reactive spells (and Snapcaster Mage) then you should lean into playing Feast and Famine first. If you're playing a midrange deck then Fire and Ice or Light and Shadow are going to be way better in helping keep pace with the format.
  • Clique is excellent in Stoneforge mirrors to nab equipment in response to an activation. Try to keep this in mind when playing against other Blue decks.

As I said previously, it won't take long for Stoneforge to become a pillar of the format. I'm holding out some hope that it won't become a dominant force, but I am all too worried about Stoneforge becoming the best thing White decks can do by far and all of them adopting it and warping how folks play and build their sideboards.

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