A while ago, I decided that I was going to play the Brazilian Legacy National Championship. Originally, I wanted to play Miracles—it was a deck I had experience with, that I liked the play style of, and one that had done very well in recent events. Soon after I started playing on Magic Online, I was reminded of all the reasons I’ve hated Miracles since the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top. It doesn’t do anything.
The biggest issue I had with the deck was that, for a late game deck, it lost the late game a surprising amount of the time. It wasn’t uncommon to survive in the early stages and then be outclassed later on. It also had the big issue of being a control deck with 20 lands—you had to hit your first four land drops most games, so you had to spend all your cantrips in the early game finding lands, which meant you flooded out later on. Decks like Delver get away with it because they consistently want to avoid finding lands (plus they have Wastelands), but Miracles wants a lot of lands early and doesn’t want a lot of lands late, which is awkward.
Things were made even worse by the fact that Andrew Cuneo’s list did not run Monastery Mentor in the main deck (or in the sideboard, for that matter). I think that’s a mistake, because most of the games the deck wins include that card. It was certainly the card I was the most afraid of playing against it.
Once I decided I wasn’t going to play Miracles, I found myself a bit short on time to settle on a deck. I didn’t really want to play Death’s Shadow (which was the deck I had played the last GP with), so I defaulted to one of the various Stoneblade decks that I had tried before. I looked up Joe Lossett’s list and went from there. This is what he played at GP Richmond:
Joe Lossett, 6th at GP Richmond (Legacy) 2018
There were some things from his list that stuck out to me.
First, three Force of Will. I’ve seen a little bit of hate for Force of Will lately and I really must disagree with it. Force of Will is your best card by miles against a lot of the field, and it’s solid against almost everyone else. It also isn’t bad in multiples on a lot of occasions (since you can pitch one to the other), so I don’t understand why you would only play three of them.
There’s also this train of thought that you should take out Force of Will in grindy matchups (such as the mirror), but I believe that is incorrect. It’s a relic from a time where the best thing to counter or protect was a Tarmogoyf, which wasn’t worth spending two cards on because it could just have been 1-for-1’d another way. Right now, there are many cards in Legacy that are worth more than two cards. For example, when I played the mirror match in the tournament, my opponent took out Force of Wills—I did not. Then he slammed True-Name Nemesis, which I Forced, and then I played mine and he couldn’t do anything. Countering their True-Name Nemesis (or protecting mine) is worth a Force of Will, and the same goes for Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
The same can be said for decks like Grixis Control. Some people like to take out Force of Will because it runs into Pyroblast, but I think the fact that you can slam a powerful card (like a Gideon) or counter their planeswalker is just worth it.
The key is that even though these matchups may be attrition wars, they aren’t pure attrition wars. When I think of an attrition war, I think of a matchup where everything trades, and therefore cards are interchangeable. Card quantity is much more important than card quality in an attrition war, because you want to be the person with the last thing left standing, and then it doesn’t really matter what it is. This is not what happens here. Cards like planeswalkers and True-Name Nemesis are qualitatively better than the other cards, and therefore worth protecting and fighting for.
The next thing I don’t agree with is three main-deck Flusterstorm, though I think that’s debatable (as opposed to four Force of Will, which I’m pretty confident is correct). Overall, Spell Pierce is a better main deck card than Flusterstorm, as there are just too many things it counters that Flusterstorm doesn’t: Aether Vial, Counterbalance, Chalice of the Void, Jace, Liliana, Jitte. Flusterstorm is better in narrow situations, such as counter-wars or Storm, but overall you’ll lose a lot more games because you couldn’t Spell Pierce their Chalice than because you ran into a counter war and Spell Pierce wasn’t effective.
Then we have the Vensers. Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to like it. Venser is a block-Constructed power level card, not a Legacy power-level card. I understand it does have some narrow applications (like bouncing Marit Lage tokens), and it does work with Karakas, but despite all of those things, it’s still an underpowered card. Even without Venser, I think you should play two Karakas, as it’s still great with Vendilion Clique and a lot of people play legends for you to bounce (Clique, Emrakul, Thalia, Marit Lage, and so on).
The last meaningful change I made was to add two Gideons to the sideboard. I think Nahiri is good, but I’d rather have the cheaper card. The main argument for Nahiri is that you want her in case your opponent destroys your Equipment, so that you can get your Equipment back, but if you have Gideon, you simply don’t need the Equipment.
It turned out that Thiago, the guy who had invited me to the tournament, was a U/W Stoneblade player himself, so he gave me some help to finalize the list, and this is what I registered:
This is a deck that can win a lot of types of games. Sometimes you play an early Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskull and that’s enough to win. Sometimes you play a True-Name Nemesis and that just goes all the way. In other spots, you win the control game with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Like any Legacy blue deck, you have a lot of flexibility in what your draws look like because of Brainstorm, Ponder, and Jace.
If I were to replay the tournament, I’d change my sideboard a little. Supreme Verdict was unimpressive, because even against the decks it’s supposed to be good against it’s often not great. You want to deal with their early creatures anyway, and then your plan becomes Umezawa’s Jitte, so Supreme Verdict doesn’t really fill a role.
One card I’d like to add to the sideboard is a Sword of Fire and Ice. There were a lot of matchups I didn’t want Jitte in, but wanted to be able to play a turn-2 Stoneforge for pressure. Being able to get a Sword of Fire and Ice would have been very helpful, and it’s a great card in the True-Name Nemesis mirror.
The other card I’d add is another copy of Council’s Judgment. Council’s Judgment is very important against control decks, as you want to be able to deal with a card like Monastery Mentor without having to keep in Swords to Plowshares. It also gives you a way of dealing with Chalice of the Void, Equipment, True-Name Nemesis, and random Eldrazi.
So, this is the list I’d play right now:
There are a lot of different decks in Legacy, so I’m going to try to give you a general overview of what cards are good/bad versus each type of deck, and you adapt to whichever build your opponent is playing.
Combo matchups in general are OK matchups. You have Force of Will, Vendilion Clique, and Spell Pierce as the key cards, but you’re lacking the Delver/Wasteland package from Delver decks, so your clock is much slower (and your matchup is therefore much worse).
Post-sideboard, things usually improve for you. You get to add Flusterstorm, a third Vendilion Clique, and then a combination of Containment Priest and Surgical Extraction or Back to Basics depending on which combo deck they are. As a general rule, I bring in some Surgicals even against combo decks that don’t use the graveyard because you have a lot of bad cards against them anyway and Surgical can be very good if you snipe a combo piece (it’s useless a high percentage of the time, but it’s still better than a card that’s useless all of the time). If they don’t have 2-drops, you can cut Spell Snare (so you want it against Storm and Reanimator but you don’t want it against Show and Tell, for example).
Most of the time, you take out True-Name Nemesis, Swords to Plowshares, Council’s Judgment, and Umezawa’s Jitte. You can also take out one Stoneforge Mystic. Be careful about creatures in the sideboard though (so against Show and Tell you want to leave in some copies of Swords to Plowshares).
There are two main control decks nowadays: Grixis Control and Miracles. Your matchup against them is kind of even (a lot of matchups with this deck are even-ish). I feel that they are favored game 1 since you have dead cards, but game 2 becomes a lot better for you.
You want Council’s Judgment, Gideons, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Vendilion Cliques against them. Against Grixis, you also want Back to Basics. You don’t want any copies of Swords to Plowshares, Jitte, and an assortment of things depending on what exactly they are playing. You should not bring in Disenchant versus Miracles just to deal with Counterbalance.
Against creature decks (Death-and-Taxes-type stuff), I believe you’re advantaged. Batterskull brickwalls them, and True-Name Nemesis plus Jitte is almost impossible for any creature deck to beat.
Eldrazi decks range from good matchups to a horrible matchups, depending on how they’re constructed. The “small” Eldrazi decks that are more aggressive are good matchups, as they don’t have a lot of ways to deal with Batterskull, Jitte, and True-Name Nemesis. The Cloudpost versions that go over you are very bad matchups, however, as your clock isn’t fast enough. Your best way to beat the slow versions game 2 is Back to Basics.
Post-sideboard you want Back to Basics, Disenchant, and Council’s Judgment. You don’t want Spell Snare or Spell Pierce (at first I was keeping in Spell Pierce on the play since it can get Chalice, but with three Council’s Judgments and one Disenchant you’re actually OK against it). Plus, this deck can easily win through a Chalice on 1, unlike some Delver or Death’s Shadow builds, so I think you don’t have to leave in a bad card just for that.
Overall, U/W Stoneblade is a very solid deck. It’s very “Jund-ish” in the sense that it has game against everything. The blue cards as a whole are good versus the unfair decks, and the Stoneforge Mystic + True-Name Nemesis package is very good against the fair decks, so all you need to do is draw the right half for whomever you’re playing against, which is not that hard in a Brainstorm deck. If you’re playing a Legacy event and you’re unsure what to play, you should give it a try.