Nassif Stoneforge

Taking Modern Jeskai Stoneblade to the Top 4 of GP Ghent

Hello! I’m Brent Vos. I’m 28 years old and from the southern part of the Netherlands. I have two GP finals appearances out of five Team events, including last weekend when my teammates (Jesper Box & Niels van de Sande) and I had the pleasure to finish second at Grand Prix Ghent. This was my second Top 4 finish with two different teams, in both Limited and Constructed, and I think both our preparation and teamwork during the tournament helped us immensely.

Modern Preparation

In the month before the GP, we saw the banning of the best-performing decks, and as such had to figure out what we wanted to play. After some discussion, we recognized the potential best decks as:

We quickly ruled out Devoted Druid, as the resurgence of Jund and other midrange strategies hurt the fragile creature-based combo deck. Burn performed great in the weeks before the GP, which could also be a trap since we were not the only one to see those results. Burn is only as good as your opponents want it to be, as my semifinals opponent found out.

Tron and Titanshift were perfectly reasonable, but my teammates found more broken decks in the form of Whirza and Dredge. The question mark behind Dredge was removed when the deck continued to perform even with the removal of Faithless Looting. The deck definitely got worse, but the decrease of graveyard hate meant the deck performed better (for us) than before the banning. I don’t think this will continue to be true, as I expect an increase in graveyard hate. Whirza is a great deck, and my teammate was happy to play the deck and felt prepared for everything but the mirror, something echoed by many pros.

Meanwhile, my love for Stoneforge Mystic certainly clouded my judgment at first, as I was jamming the card into several shells trying to find a good fit. After a few leagues, U/W Stoneblade came out favorably, and after some discussion we concluded that the deck was missing early interaction (opposing Stoneforge Mystics, Burn and Humans), interaction with planeswalkers (Jund, U/W Control) and a clock when necessary (Tron, Titanshift).

Enter Lightning Bolt. Adding red solved most of these problems, as you now could bolt the opposing SFM instead of having to Path it. The exact configuration eluded us for a while, as we couldn’t decide whether to go more aggressive (Geist of Saint Traft), controlling (Cryptic Command) or more tempo-oriented. After seeing the list of fellow Dutch player Philip van Donselaar (who finished in the semifinals of a Dutch MCQ the week before, and went 10-4 at GP Gent), we made some changes.

In the end I was very happy about the list–the only card that felt off was the third Alpine Moon instead of the first Damping Sphere. Blast Zone out of Tron is a serious concern, and this makes drawing the second Alpine Moon way worse.

For future tournaments, I would make some changes, mostly in the sideboard. We decided to give up on the Dredge matchup in favor of big mana strategies, and while this turned out well for me this tournament, I expect more Dredge to be played in upcoming tournaments. Lastly, Whirza seems to be even better than expected (and we already thought it was very good), so while I had plenty of decent cards against the deck, I would look for a better game plan against the deck. (I haven’t found one yet, which is scary in itself). Here’s the list I played at the GP.

Brent Vos GP Ghent Top 4

Jeskai Stoneblade

Brent Vos, Top 4 GP Ghent

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

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

Here’s the final record I had:

  • UW Stoneforge: 1-0
  • Dredge: 1-1
  • Jund: 2 matches, neither finished before my teammates did
  • Humans: 0-1
  • Burn: 2-0
  • Tron: 2-0
  • Scapeshift: 2-0
  • Devoted Combo: 1-0
  • Whirza: 1-1-1

Notes About the Deck

Sword of Feast and Famine vs. Sword of Fire and Ice

Sword of Feast and FamineSword of Fire and Ice

We had a lot of discussion about which Sword to play. Feast and Famine seemed to have the edge due to its protections and it being one of your best sequences, allowing you to set up a clock while still holding up countermagic mana. (turn 2 SFM, Turn 3 Spell Queller, Turn 4 activate Mystic and equip Queller). However, this rarely happened during testing, and connecting with any Sword usually finishes a game quickly. The protection on Fire and Ice proved to be relevant with the Thopter Foundry tokens being blue, as well as opposing Quellers/Snapcasters. Aiming 2 at a planeswalker, Goblin Engineer or simply to the opponent’s face is nothing to scoff at, certainly when Bolt-Snap-Bolt is a thing this deck loves to do.

The second Batterskull in the sideboard felt like a great addition. We were looking for a midrange card, and Batterskull ensured your second Stoneforge Mystic could still be great, even if you wanted to board out the Sword. We were considering other midrange cards like a second Gideon, but felt that another equipment made Mystic better, as well as being good against creature matchups.

Cryptic Command

Cryptic Command

As we started with a U/W build, there were some Cryptic Commands in the deck from the start. While the versatile and powerful card often has a great impact on the game, the manabase could not reasonably support UUU on top of the RR1U (Bolt + Snapcaster + Bolt) and 1WUW (Teferi + Path to Exile) that were required for the rest of your deck. Playing 1 Cryptic Command made fetching very awkward, and cutting it seemed to be the right move

Blinkmoth Nexus vs. Celestial Colonnade

Blinkmoth NexusCelestial Colonnade

Colonnade is a standard inclusion in decks like these. Coming into play tapped felt incredibly awkward when trying to curve out while still holding up Spell Snare on turn 1. Six mana is nothing to scoff at either, as this deck usually fires on all cylinders with 4 lands in play. As such, they rarely were activated.

However, we were in the market for connecting with Swords, so having an extra threat capable of doing just that was great. It also makes Liliana of the Veil and Teferi, Time Raveler less good because you can always poke it down without losing much tempo. I would have included more, if not for my teammate Jesper putting his foot down. And realistically, the mana base couldn’t really support it anyway.

Mana Leak over Force of Negation

Mana LeakForce of Negation

Mana Leak overperformed, and quickly took the slots from Force of Negation. While Force seemed to be everything the deck wanted, you simply did not have enough gas to pitch cards to stop everything your opponent was doing. Exiling a Spell Queller was a serious cost, and often it wasn’t worth it. It’s still great against Karns, Scapeshifts and more, but that is why it ended up in the sideboard.

Standout Moments

In Round 3, we had to play against our roommates and friends. Since I’ve played Death’s Shadow for over a year, we went over the deck and sideboard together. The Dredge matchup isn’t good even if you prepare for it, so I suggested to “give up” on the matchup in favor of other matchups. As you can imagine, my friend wasn’t very happy when he faced our Dredge player in round 3 of the event, without a good way to combat the deck.

In Round 10 I had to play Dredge Expert Sodek. Remember when I said we gave up on the Dredge matchup with my deck? Well I still played 1 Ashiok to hedge, mostly for Titanshift (and it comes in against Whir as well), drew it Turn 4 and decked him with it on Turn 5 of extra turns.

Teferi, Time Raveler did amazing work the entire tournament. Bouncing Quellers is good, but permanently exiling a Search for Tomorrow suspended on turn 1 of the game is even better. I’ve also caught a few Rift Bolts with it, and Bloodbraid Elf isn’t the same card without cascading. The card continues to impress me, and it just feels so very, very sweet whenever you pull a trick like this.

In preparation for the tournament, both my teammates got a large part of their information from pro players. Both Sodek (Dredge) and Kanister (Whirza) had patreons my teammates signed up for to get advice. As you can see in our Top 4 profiles, we are not afraid to give credit where credit is due. The best part, for us, was us having to play against both Sodek and Kannister during the swiss, and beating them both. While I don’t think we’re masters, for a brief moment the student did indeed become the master.

Lastly, we complement each other well throughout the event. When I’m watching my teammates play, I assume they see all the right lines, and so I look to find unorthodox plays that could easily be missed. If we ask each other a question, we don’t expect to get the answer, but rather help in the thought process. The person playing the game has a much better idea of the situation than someone that has 20 seconds to interpret that game. But a simple question like: “Does it change the clock?” or “can you play around card X?” and a simple confirmation that you seem to be doing the right thing is often enough.

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