Nassif Stoneforge

Stoneforge Mystic Has Made Modern a Better Format


After the recent unbanning of Stoneforge Mystic, many players wondered “What is the best Stoneforge deck in Modern?”

Stoneforge Mystic

Since then, we’ve had two Modern Grand Prix events, both in the Team Modern format, and their top decklists don’t provide a clear answer to this question yet. There are many viable color combinations and archetypes with Stoneforge Mystic, and they’re all finding success. Overall, this has increased the diversity of competitive decks in the Modern format. And that’s great.

To showcase the diversity, this article will provide a sample list of all Stoneforge archetypes, in order of popularity, that appeared at least twice in the set of top decklists at GP Indianapolis and GP Ghent. With “top decklist,” I mean a deck registered by any team who scored at least 28 match points (9-4-1 or better).

Blue-White Stoneblade

Joseph Bernal, 2nd at Team Grand Prix Indianapolis

2 Celestial Colonnade
4 Field of Ruin
4 Flooded Strand
3 Glacial Fortress
3 Hallowed Fountain
6 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Vendilion Clique
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Teferi, Time Raveler
1 Batterskull
4 Cryptic Command
4 Force of Negation
2 Mana Leak
4 Path to Exile
2 Spell Snare
2 Supreme Verdict
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Opt

Sideboard
1 Batterskull
1 Celestial Purge
3 Disdainful Stroke
1 Disenchant
2 Surgical Extraction
3 Timely Reinforcements
1 Vendilion Clique
3 Winds of Abandon

Number of Jeskai Stoneblade players among high-placing teams: 4 (out of 11 in Day 2).

Stoneforge MysticBatterskullSword of Feast and Famine

This is basically a U/W Control deck with 4 Stoneforge Mystic, 1 Batterskull, and 1 Sword of Feast and Famine. These additions replace the planeswalkers Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

Joseph Bernal finished second at GP Indianapolis with the list shown above. The highest-placing W/U Stoneblade deck at GP Ghent, played by Alex Stok, looked very similar, with one exception: Stok did not have Supreme Verdict in his main deck. The other two top U/W Stoneblade decklists from GP Ghent also had extra Opts instead of Supreme Verdict main deck, so that seems to be the standard. When the deck runs more creatures, it seems fine to me to move those sweepers to the sideboard.

Jeskai Stoneblade

Brent Vos, 2nd at Team Grand Prix Ghent

4 Arid Mesa
1 Blinkmoth Nexus
1 Clifftop Retreat
4 Flooded Strand
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Scalding Tarn
2 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
2 Snow-Covered Plains
2 Steam Vents
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Spell Queller
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Opt
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Teferi, Time Raveler
1 Batterskull
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Lightning Helix
2 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
2 Spell Snare
1 Sword of Fire and Ice

Sideboard
2 Abrade
3 Alpine Moon
1 Ashiok, Dream Render
1 Batterskull
1 Celestial Purge
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Force of Negation
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Magmatic Sinkhole
1 Timely Reinforcements

Number of Jeskai Stoneblade players among high-placing teams: 3 (out of 4 in Day 2).

Lightning BoltLightning Helix

Starting from the blue-white core, this deck adds red for Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix. These take the place of Force of Negation and white anti-creature cards. For mana base reasons and to support the burn plan, the deck also runs Spell Queller instead of Cryptic Command. Supporting the burn plan further, the blade of choice here is Sword of Fire and Ice, not Sword of Feast and Famine. 

While Brent finished second in Ghent (which marks his second 2nd-place finish at a Team Grand Prix, having also made it to the finals together with Bas Melis and myself at Grand Prix Rotterdam three years ago) Joseph Karani outright won Grand Prix Indianapolis with Jeskai Stoneblade, specifically with a list featuring Giver of Runes and Geist of Saint Traft. I chose to highlight Brent’s list because the creature base of the other top Jeskai Stoneblade deck, played by Philip van Donselaar, looked more similar to Brent’s.

Bant Stoneblade

Nicolas Chabriac, 4th at Team Grand Prix Ghent

Number of Bant Stoneblade players among high-placing teams: 3 (out of 4 in Day 2).

Noble HierarchIce-Fang Coatl

The white-blue core with Path to Exile, Force of Negation, and Teferi, Time Raveler is still present, but the green cards enable a midrange strategy. Noble Hierarch and Ice-Fang Coatl provide board presence while developing your mana or hand, and they can pick an equipment later.

In Indianapolis, teammates Caleb Durward and Jacob Bagha did reasonably well with two different builds of Bant Stoneblade: Instead of Cryptic Command and Tireless Tracker, Durward had Force of Negation and Geist of Saint Traft, while Bagha had Knight of the Reliquary and Karn, the Great Creator. Given that these two teammates couldn’t even agree on how to build Bant Stoneblade, it’s clear that there are many options for the flex slots in this color combination.

Stoneforge Urza

Nikolas Labahn, 4th with team at GP Ghent

Number of Stoneforge Urza players among high-placing teams: 2 (out of 3 in Day 2).

Urza, Lord High ArtificerSword of the MeekThopter Foundry

There is no Path to Exile or Force of Negation in sight, so this is a departure from the previous lists. Instead, it’s Whirza where the clunky Whir of Invention is replaced with Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull. This provides an alternative angle that opponents have to contend with. Stoneforge Mystic also suits the deck because it can tutor for Sword of the Meek to set up the infinite Thopter combo.

Nikolas Labahn made Top 4 in Ghent with the straight-up Esper list shown above, while the deck piloted by James Moskal to a Top 4 finish in Indianapolis dipped in red for Goblin Engineer. Labahn felt the mana base sacrifice was not worth it and had great results with his build on MTGO, but the red splash has merit as well.

Green-White Eldrazi

Ally Warfield, 4th with team at GP Indianapolis

Number of G/W Eldrazi players among high-placing teams: 2 (out of 3 in Day 2).

Ancient StirringsNoble HierarchEldrazi Displacer

Ancient Stirrings and Noble Hierarch are great for finding and ramping into Thought-Knot Seer. These cards previously teamed up with Bloodbraid Elf to produce the R/G Eldrazi deck. But white now got an equally powerful midrange option in Stoneforge Mystic, which led to G/W Eldrazi.

Multiple teams did well with Selesnya Eldrazi in Indianapolis, and Ally Warfield made Top 4 with the build shown above. Rob Holt’s deck looked similar, but I prefer Ally’s use of Prismatic Vista along with Wastes.

Conclusion

Comparing these five Stoneforge archetypes in terms of how they converted Day 2 appearances into a high-placing team finish, W/U Stoneblade did relatively poorly compared to the others. Since individual records are not available and sample sizes are small, we shouldn’t draw strong conclusions from these Team GPs in Indianapolis and Ghent. But the early indication is that a variety of Stoneforge builds can find success in Modern, which is great to see.

Many other archetypes have adopted Stoneforge Mystic. The following were singletons among the set of top decklists:

What I like most is that Stoneforge Mystic is not an automatic inclusion. For example, among the top decklists, there were multiple W/U Control decks with Stoneforge and multiple W/U Control decks without. Likewise, there were multiple Urza decks with Stoneforge and multiple Urza decks without. This suggests that the card is playable, but not overpowered–let alone dominant.

Based on what I have seen so far, the power level of Stoneforge Mystic is appropriate for the format. Given that it has enabled several new archetypes, R&D has made the right call: It was an excellent unban, and the Modern format is better for it.

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