Does Stoneforge Mystic give Modern Maverick Hope?
Well it happened. Stoneforge Mystic has been unbanned in Modern. This has been a pretty common talking point within the Modern community for the past few years when it came to the Magic the Gathering banned and restricted announcements and I personally (as a huge fan of fair magic) couldn’t be happier with this outcome. Before we jump into possible archetypes and deck lists, let’s look a little into the history of the powerful 1/2 Kor Artificer and its relationship with Modern.
Why was Stoneforge Mystic banned?
This may surprise some newer players, but Stoneforge Mystic has actually never been played in the Modern format. Stoneforge along with Jace, the Mind Sculptor were banned in Standard and then when the Modern format was announced, were moved across to the Modern banlist.
Here’s Tom LaPille’s, a former Magic: The Gathering developer simple reasoning for keeping Stoneforge out of the format.
“We prefer to just ban this card rather than risk yet another format dominated by Stoneforge Mystic.” – Tom LaPille, 2011
To back him up and give you some understanding of where Tom is coming from, here’s Director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe on the issues Stoneforge Mystic (and Jace, the Mind Sculptor) presented when they were both legal in the Standard format (before Modern as we know it was a format).
“The Standard metagame is stagnant and unhealthy at the moment, and has been for months. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is appearing in winning deck lists an alarming percentage of the time, with Stoneforge Mystic appearing almost as often. For reference, 88% of the decks in Day 2 of Grand Prix Singapore contained multiple copies of Jace, and almost 70% of the Day 2 decks contained Stoneforge Mystic. The numbers from Pro Tour Qualifiers and independent large events like the StarCityGames.com Open Series look very similar. We haven’t seen cards dominate the field like this, possibly ever.“
Since Mystic‘s banning in Standard alongside Jace, the Mind Sculptor, many players have been calling for its unbanning, suggesting Modern’s ‘fairness’ has moved far away from the power of Mystic. As Modern has shifted closer to a turn 3 format, many have argued the power level of a turn 3 Batterksull .
What does Stoneforge Mystic do to the Modern metagame?
This is a question that will mature an answer in the coming months of testing but for right now, there’s one question everyone should be trying to answer when building a deck. Does my deck care about a turn 3 Batterskull? Some decks like Infect, Ad Nauseam, Whir Prison Tron and Amulet Titan will most likely not even care about it, however some of the more aggressive decks will. Archetypes like Burn and 8 Wack will need to adjust their decks to better suit a gameplan that doesn’t stumble over a 4/4 creature with lifelink on turn 3.
Where does Stoneforge Mystic fit in Modern?
When you look at MTG Goldfish’s Modern metagame breakdown, it’s currently built around the dominance of the late Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Faithless Looting. Over the next few weeks I can see players trying out a range of the following archetypes:
- Stoneblade [UW, Jeskai,Esper, Mardu]
- Junk and Tokens [BW]
- Death & Taxes / Eldrazi & Taxes
- GW Value [Hatebears or Value Town]
- Artifact based decks [Thopter/Foundry or Sram Cheerios]
Here’s a sweet looking 5-0 BW Midrange list from @CalebdMTG and a great example of the exploration, testing and evaluation of Stoneforge Mystic archetypes happening right now.
First 5-0 of the new Modern 🙂 Bob is p good if people are playing UW control instead of W6 pic.twitter.com/PBNQn0f6Ie
— CalebdMTG (@CalebDMTG) August 27, 2019
What I want to focus on in this article is, and you guessed it – GW creature-based Modern decks. I’ve actually already discussed Modern Maverick and how you can port the Legacy deck to Modern through CBRMTG’s Format Shifted Series.
What is ‘Maverick’?
Taken from the History of Maverick page, Maverick as we know it today made it’s debut in the Legacy meta game in early 2011 with the release of Mirrodin Besieged and the printing of Green Sun’s Zenith. The deck, traditionally a GW midrange toolbox deck had been around before this and made use of the card Survival of the Fittest. Like its sister deck Death & Taxes, Maverick runs disruptive creatures like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben & Mother of Runes and lands such as Wasteland and Karakas. The deck is able to disrupt its opponent while also beat down with large threats like Knight of the Reliquary, Tireless Tracker or other troublesome creatures.
In Modern, ‘Maverick’ decks are very similar with a small adjustment in power level. In the past we’ve seen decks like GW Hatebears and Value Town take down tournaments with the same core creature set of Thalia, Knight of the Reliquary and bears like Gaddock Teeg and Scavenging Ooze.
Classic Green-White Hatebears
Green-White (GW) Hatebears was played by Brian Kibler in the 2013 Magic the Gathering World Championship then later popularised to the masses by Pleasant Kenobi and my first taste of the Modern format. As soon as I witnessed my friend Kreutzer play a turn 1 Temple Garden & Noble Hierarch into a turn 2 Leonin Arbiter, then proceed to Strip Mine his opponent with Ghost Quarter, I was hooked. I’ve always had an interest in decks that try to constrict what my opponent can cast and lock them out of their deck entirely.
However, when thinking about Stoneforge in this deck, there is one clear issue with an already proven inclusion, Leonin Arbiter. For those unaware, Leonin Arbiter is a 1W CMC 2/2 creature that possesses a unique ability, restricting players from searching their library unless they pay 2 mana. This seems like it only gets better with the format about to be inundated with Stoneforge Mystic decks, but can they work alongside each other in the same deck? Well, if I’m going to trust anyone it’s Death & Taxes Master Michael Bonde.
I’ve played an Arbiter-focused Legacy build with only 2 SFM, and it wasn’t a problem. Maybe this is a bit too heavy, but I would imagine that hands that do ArB+Ghost is often a turn3 play, and if you have vial you can often pay the 2 to search. Anti-Syngergi, but nothing that bad.
— Michael Bonde (@Lampalot) August 27, 2019
Here’s a basic GW Hatebears list I’ve put together based on what I believe my local meta will be over the coming weeks. There is also a popular GW deck with a different flicker strategy with Blade Splicer, Knight of Autumn over Qasali Pridemage, Flickerwisp and Restoration Angel, however this original build has always rewarded me with strong results in a control (UW, Grixis, Jeskai) and midrange (Jund / Junk) field.
In this deck, Stoneforge allows you to either retrieve an early threat in Batterksull or find an equipment that grants one of your threats the ability to pass through defences and clobber your opponent. Unlike Legacy where Sword of Fire & Ice dominates the sword slot, I believe Sword of Light and Shadow will be a favourite in Modern as it dodges all-star removal such as Fatal Push, Path to Exile, and Dismember while also getting straight through opposing Stoneforge Mystics and Batterskull tokens, Gurmag Angler, Deaths Shadow
and tokens from Bitterblossom and Lingering Souls, to name a few.
Sword of Feast and Famine seems like a great choice if you’re looking to primarily get your creature to a bunch of ground defences like Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze, as well as the black creatures above. Being able to use your mana base in your first main phase and then untap it and cast more spells in your second phase seems devastating against midrange and control decks.
Green-White Value Town
Here’s a mock up of a Modern Maverick by Peach who’s taken Legacy GW Maverick and ported it back to a Modern viable list. It’s a take from Modern’s GW Value Town list with some more aggression thanks to Stoneforge Mystic and her accompanying equipment package.
Here are his thoughts on Stoneforge in a GW Shell:
“Stoneforge *might* allow Maverick / Death and Taxes decks to gain some traction, now having the option of getting Sword of Feast & Famine against control decks or Batterskull vs. the aggressive decks allows a lot of flexibility. It may be similar to Legacy variants where we don’t actually want or need 4x Stoneforge Mystic and want more utility creatures and have Mystic as a way to close out a game via equipment. Stoneforge Mystic is significantly less powerful in this format with no access to Umezawas Jitte, however I like that we get chance to at least try it and I will certainly be playing all manor of GW/x decks to find her a home. For now, while everyone including myself is messing around with Stoneforge Mystic shells, I think Tron is probably a good place to be.”
The Modern GW Maverick decks are different to their Legacy counterparts, no doubt. No Green Sun’s Zenith, No Mother of Runes and no Wasteland. Instead Giver of Runes is there to protect our threats, Eladamri’s Call and Finale of Devastation to find our silver bullets and ‘Wasteland’ is here in spirit in the form of Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin and Tectonic Edge. The hardest part will always be the deck building considerations, especially after a heavy ban update such as this one. Will Gaddock Teeg be worth a slot in the 60? Are multiple Scavenging Ooze needed to ground out opposing graveyards? Once a meta is established, these types of disruption decks will be much easier to to tune – especially toward your local metagame.
Secretly the best card in Modern right now:
Aven Mindcensor has always been a favourite of mine as taxing, instant speed creature. In a format where fetchlands and now Stoneforge Mystics are going to be running wild, Aven seems like a great way to combat the expected meta without affecting your gameplan like Leonin Arbiter does. With Noble Hierarch, you have the ability to cast Mindcensor as early as turn 2 which means on the play, you can even ‘stifle’ your opponents Stoneforge Mystic (without a little luck on their side).
I believe UW Control and GW midrange variants can’t pass this instant speed bird up when deciding on a 75.
Pro Tips of the day:
1. If you want to bounce and reset your Batterskull but want to play around removal on your Stoneforge Mystic, you can activate SFM, hold priority and then bounce the Batterskull. This way if the Stoneforge Mystic is killed in response to the bounce effect, its ability is still going to be on the stack after you’ve returned Batterskull.
If you don’t do this and try to bounce the Batterskull first, your opponent can remove the Stoneforge Mystic leaving you feeling sad.
So remember…. If you want the 4/4 body, make sure to hold priority! If you want the 4/4 body, make sure to hold priority! If you want the 4/4 body, make sure to hold priority! You get it.
2. Want to ‘get’ your opponent? Try this one out:
Or how about activivating Stoneforge Music against Humans or UW Control without any equipment in hand to see if they play a Vend. Clique or Vial in a Kitesail in response? Is that next level enough for you? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?! ⚔️⚔️
— DougesOnTwitch🎥 (@DougesOnTwitch) August 28, 2019
It’s an exciting time to be a Modern fan with what feels like a reset on the format. Will Stoneforge dominate for years to come? Testing and time will tell. I believe there is such an assortment of competitive archetypes Stoneforge Mystic fits into that we’re bound to see it flourish in at least one or two over the coming months. I believe those who thought Stoneforge Mystic was too powerful for the format or would create tunnel vision for white pilots are going to be proven wrong as the format begins to shape around her.