Constructed Criticism – Stoneforge Mystic Across The Board

Thursday, March 3 – Everyone is Stoneforging in all the formats lately, it seems. Todd Anderson explains what makes the little Mystic so good and why Valakut could potentially rise again in Standard.

Stoneforge Mystic and Sword of Feast and Famine have a sort of symbiotic relationship, unlike any I have seen in quite some time. While both are fine
on their own, the fact of the matter is that the existence of one makes the other that much better. If Stoneforge Mystic didn’t exist, then Sword of
Feast and Famine wouldn’t be nearly as powerful, and vice versa. While Stoneforge Mystic saw a lot of play before Sword of Feast and Famine was
released, never before had it been implemented in a control strategy with such a high level of success.

Pro Tour Paris brought Caw-Blade to the forefront for deckbuilders around the world, and it continues to dominate in every Standard event since Ben
Stark’s victory. The strength of the card lies in the inherent card advantage created by the existence of relevant equipment, while still acting as a
threat, a speed bump, and a body to carry said equipment. It also allows you to cheaply play whatever equipment you search for and puts any equipment
directly into play to avoid countermagic. What we have yet to see is a solid, diversified package that allows for Stoneforge Mystic to become a
toolbox, but that step shouldn’t take long to develop. After all, the newest set brought living weapons to the table, and being able to search up a
creature with Stoneforge Mystic is pretty useful. Bonehoard is already starting to make an impact in Boros, and I’m sure Mortarpod won’t be far behind,
at least as a sick way to trump the Boros mirror. Having a creature that tutors up a recursive removal spell is just absurd. 

With Stoneforge Mystic and Squadron Hawk side-by-side in both control and aggro strategies in Standard, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where you would
want one without the other. After all, with equipment, all you really want is a bunch of bodies to stick the equipment on and bash. Squadron Hawk
provides this utility while also having evasion. The recoup of card advantage that both bring to the table makes mulligans much less painful and can
bring you back into a game with a single topdeck. Both cards can make problems for any control or aggro deck, but this strategy is generally weak
against combo.

While Standard is full of Stoneforge Mystics and Squadron Hawks, cards typically weak against combo but great in a world full of aggro and control, it
seems like prime time for Valakut to make a comeback. GerryT’s latest brew of Caw-Blade, fresh off his victory at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open
in D.C., splashed red for Lightning Bolt, cutting counterspells to make room. This change makes his Valakut matchup a bit worse but makes every other
matchup, including the mirror, a lot better.

While he compensated by adding a full four Flashfreeze to the sideboard, it just isn’t enough sometimes. Without Spreading Seas or more dedicated hard
counters, I don’t foresee his build being successful on Magic Online once people realize that Valakut is good again. Boros can’t race Valakut when they
decide to pack a decent suite of removal, and control decks don’t have enough counters for their threats. Where does that leave us?

Without proper disruption from Boros, the only other option for fighting combo decks (aka Valakut) is to race. While Boros is generally solid in the
racing department, you aren’t as fast as you think. Often, your draws will feature one or two threats, followed by a removal spell and a bunch of
fetchlands. Should your creatures be removed via Slagstorm, Pyroclasm, or Lightning Bolt, you don’t have a whole lot of time to come back in the game
before Primeval Titan shuts the door. This argument implies that most Valakut decks in Standard are packing removal, while the reality is that most of
them forego removal in order to be more explosive. While this is better against the control-heavy metagame that is expected in the wake of the
dominance of Caw-Blade, it is not the actual reality of the matter.

Magic Online, as well as every Standard tournament you should expect to play in over the next few weeks, will be full of a variety of decks, including
(but not limited to) G/W Quest, Boros, Vampires, Caw-Blade, Valakut, U/B Control, Elves, and many, many more. The format is fairly diverse, since most
of the decks are on par as far as power level is concerned. Valakut suffers from the floods; control suffers from metagaming too heavily against one
archetype; and aggro decks tend to run out of steam after a sweeper or two.

While Stoneforge Mystic decks are probably the most successful in Standard, they’re definitely not the only decks you should be worried about. Once you
forget a deck exists, it will pop up and eat you for breakfast if you aren’t prepared.

Even as I write this, Stoneforge Mystic is making waves in Extended, where _ShipitHolla and his cohort __SipitHolla took first and fourth in one of the
most recent Magic Online PTQs. This variant on traditional U/W Control looked for a new weapon to help battle the Faerie menace in the form of a
gigantic sword that keeps Bitterblossom tokens from being relevant. In addition to the creature gaining protection from black, the ability to untap all
of your lands is just insane for any control strategy. While you’re putting pressure on them and forcing them to discard cards, you get to untap with
Cryptic Command on backup to counter whatever they play. Talk about a deal. Here’s the list used to win that PTQ:

While there are a few changes I’d make to the deck for personal reasons, there isn’t a lot to say other than, “Why is this deck good?” At first glance,
it seems underwhelming. It looks like a mediocre control deck with a mediocre aggro deck inside of it. Honestly, that’s what it feels like when playing
it too, but people can’t seem to beat Sword of Feast and Famine, so I’ll keep taking free wins as long as people keep being awful. The deck itself is
just so smooth, with most of your turns playing themselves out. The theory behind all of the card choices is sound, and this is definitely where you
should start testing if you want to battle with this deck in the last few Extended PTQs.

While most people are set in playing their pet deck for the last few tournaments of the PTQ season, let me make one argument. Two people played this
deck in that particular PTQ, with about five cards different between them. They both placed in the Top 4. That alone should at least put it on your

While U/W Control isn’t the only new Extended deck on the block, it is certainly more known than the latest PTQ-winning list. Our very own Reid Duke
piloted his Bant Brew to a Top 4 finish in the same PTQ where __SipitHolla won with U/W, and his revamped version of Bant took down the very next PTQ.
His original concoction sported Finest Hour and Hero of Bladehold, both fine cards in their own right, but both seem a bit underwhelming for Extended
if you ask me. The newest iteration featured Stoneforge Mystic and Sword of Feast and Famine. Can you guess which version was more successful? The
waves being created by Stoneforge Mystic are even affecting Legacy. I only see its value increasing as time goes on, so I’d recommend picking them up
before they jump to $30 each. Here is Reid’s list from the last PTQ:

Ah, Bant Charm. The only removal spell I’ve ever truly loved. Its versatility far outweighs its awkward casting cost. The ability to trump any
creature, destroy any pesky artifact, or even counter Cryptic Command is just insane. It adds something to the deck that normal aggressive decks don’t
usually have access to: options. If Bant Charm drew a card, I’d probably marry it. My wife, Kali, often gets jealous when I talk fondly of Bant Charm,
often insinuating that I would’ve married Bant Charm had I met it first. Alas…

I honestly have no critiques or changes for this deck. Every single card has its merits, and Reid proved how in-tune with the format he is by crushing
this tournament with a deck no one else played. He’s truly a solid player and a good deckbuilder. Keep an eye out for him in the future. The man knows
what he’s talking about.

As for Standard, here is my current list for U/W/r Caw-Blade:

While Gerry’s list differs on only a few cards, I feel like the changes I’ve made are positive in regards to how the metagame will shape up. Spreading
Seas has a lot of merit, and I feel like having access to a few will really help out against Valakut strategies, and it’s a fine card against just
about everything.

I agree with the cutting of Sylvok Lifestaff from the deck completely, since Basilisk Collar goes so well with Cunning Sparkmage and Stoneforge Mystic.
They’re functionally the same, though one gives you a way to “Visara” your opponents every turn while gaining life. Basilisk Collar also gives your
one-power guys the ability to trade with any other creature, where Sylvok Lifestaff only gave you the ability to stall and gain life.

The singleton Inferno Titan has just been bonkers, and I really want to find a slot for him maindeck, but I don’t know if that’s possible just yet. It
isn’t that difficult to cast him, since you should be able to fetch whatever lands you need by the time you hit six mana. In conjunction with Cunning
Sparkmage, he makes Basilisk Collar look bananas, though that’s usually a bit overkill.

The Divine Offerings in the board have become staple, and I want to stress that you should keep it this way. Argentum Armor decks are incredibly
popular because they allow people to do absurdly broken things without a lot of monetary investment. Quest for the Holy Relic allows for some of the
most one-sided games of Magic in Standard, but they’re completely shut down by a single Disenchant effect. The Vengevine versions are much more
resilient, but their best draws involve blowing up your lands on the first few turns of the game. Don’t underestimate them, and come prepared. The
Offerings are great in the mirror as well, since a lot of games will come down to who has Sword advantage in the early game. If you have a Divine
Offering to keep parity, then you should be fine. Otherwise, being on the draw is just detrimental. Lightning Bolt helps out in this particular
scenario but just isn’t enough if they have a Squadron Hawk to fuel the fire.

Other than that, there isn’t a lot to say about the deck that hasn’t already been said. The Lightning Bolts are a great addition to the deck and allow
for a lot more play in the mirror. Bolt also solves the problem of Hero of Oxid Ridge, which bends you over backwards most of the time. There isn’t a
good white removal spell for Hero, so having access to Bolts keeps him in check. That guy alone shuts down your entire stall plan, so having a good
answer to him is priceless. Be prepared to face off against many of them in the coming weeks once people realize just how dumb he is in a world full of
Squadron Hawks. He’s sick with and against Squadron Hawk, which is just busted.

Caw-Blade is going to be around for quite a while, so suit up and be prepared to fight it, or join up and prepare to fend off the hate. Stoneforge
Mystic will continue to go up in price because it’s just that good, and you’ll still need them for Legacy, so why not buy a playset? If anything,
they’ll make some sweet trade fodder. Everyone’s going to need them and probably even more so when they release some more sweet equipment in the next
set. The R/W Sword? More living weapons? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading!


strong sad on MOL