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In Development – Stoneforge Mystic Junk at the 5K *Top 16*

 

When I first read through the full Worldwake spoiler, Stoneforge Mystic looked like a fun card that I might want to pick up and use “someday.” It’s a creature that lets me search my deck, and as you may have noticed from my Extended writing, I really like searching my deck. Unlike the creature lands, which I’d already realized I’d definitely want to play in post-Worldwake Standard, I wasn’t sure whether I’d end up running [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]s or not.

Then I saw this:


A [card]Basilisk Collar[/card]ed [card cunning sparkmage]Sparkmage[/card] seals the deal</a></i></p>
<p>That's from the round five feature match between LSV and Gaudenis Vidugiris. The well-stocked board on the left is LSV's. The obliterated board on the right belongs to Vidugiris. Watching the [card cunning sparkmage]Sparkmag[/card]e completely eviscerate Vidugiris' game plan was somewhat revelatory. I made sure to order a playset for myself later that day.</p>
<p>However, outside of watching the Pro Tour and checking out the coverage, I haven't been putting much thought into Standard over the past few weeks, preferring to focus on Extended instead.</p>
<p>Then, after a very busy week, I suddenly found out I was going to be able to make it to the ChannelFireball February 5K after all, and that meant I needed a deck. I'd been giving some idle thought to what I wanted to play over the course of the week, but most of that thought centered on the idea that I wanted to play [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card]s and [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]s, and not lose to opposing [card]Basilisk Collar[/card]s.</p>
<p><b>Framing the post-Worldwake metagame</b></p>
<p>Even when designing a deck on very short notice, we want to check in on the current metagame. In the immediate wake of a Standard Pro Tour, I think it's reasonable to expect pretty much any tournament you attend to map onto the decks that succeeded at the PT. This time around, that meant that I thought I would be playing against Jund, Boss Naya, and U/W Control, with a possibility of Vampires and Red Deck Wins.</p>
<p>The PT brings an additional consideration, in that you can realistically expect to play against decks that are derived from those that appeared in the top eight. Given the current mixed format, this can actually mean that you're going to see players with specific builds that are not the "best

Of course, even this ignores the role of player and opponent skill.

The upshot of all of this is that I expected to see people running Boss Naya, Jund based on either Kyle Boggemes’ or Simon Gortzen’s build, and the Chapin et al U/W Control deck.

Then I noticed that the archetype breakdown from the Friday “early bird” 5K flight had been posted. Fourteen Jund, eleven Naya, seven U/W Control, and a smattering of “other.” Nice. Time to build a deck.

Stoneforge Mystic Junk

Going into deck design, I knew I wanted to be able to overpowered Jund and U/W Control, and avoid being run over by Naya. I considered playing Naya or Bant decks, but I kept coming back to the efficacy of the Junk (W/B/G) color combination in terms of both efficient fetch lands and the ability to run Maelstrom Pulses to deal with planeswalkers and pesky equipment. After tinkering around a little bit, I settled on the following build:

Stoneforge Mystic Junk (as played at the ChannelFireball February 5K)

Let’s break this one down:

The standard Junk package

This deck contains my standard Junk package of Knight of the Reliquary, Emeria Angel, some number of Elspeths, Path to Exile, and Maelstrom Pulse. These are all exceptionally powerful cards, and they give the deck a lot of its intrinsic endurance.

The Stoneforge Mystic toolkit

The Boss Naya builds from PT San Diego ran two maindeck copies of Stoneforge Mystic along with one each of Basilisk Collar and Behemoth Sledge. Although I briefly played with builds that maindecked additional copies of either piece of equipment, I eventually realized that in most of my matchups, I just didn’t want to be drawing more copies of Basilisk Collar or Behemoth Sledge. However, I really did want to draw those cards more frequently, and that meant pushing the deck up to three copies of Stoneforge Mystic in the main.

I reviewed all twenty-five equipment cards in Standard, but none of them other than Basilisk Collar and Behemoth Sledge made the cut. Although Trusty Machete and Sigil of Distinction can push the power of a weenie deck, the real value of equipment in this deck comes from its ability to generate inevitability based on an ever-increasing life total and the ability to kill off your opponent’s creatures.

Not losing to Stoneforge Mystics

At the same time as I was packaging the Stoneforge Mystic toolkit into my deck, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to lose to opposing decks packing their own Stoneforge Mystics. This is a real concern right now, since Stoneforge Mystic is an excellent card and it has a very special friend in Cunning Sparkmage.

Although my default Junk package contains four copies of Maelstrom Pulse, I was unwilling to rely on just four cards to stop a potentially game-winning equipment on my opponent’s side. This is how the Qasali Pridemages made their way into the deck. Although its a 3/3 for two mana rather than one, Pridemage has the versatility of being able to take out opposing equipment and powering up your own Basilisk Collared-up dudes via Exalted triggers.

The other eight cards

I went back and forth on just how many mana dorks I wanted in the deck, running the full range from eight all the way down to zero. I settled on just the four Noble Hierarchs on the basis of wanting the opportunity to hit a turn two Knight of the Reliquary or turn three Elspeth, but not wanting to load up on cards that are terrible after turn one or two. In addition, the presence of Stirring Wildwoods and a Sejiri Steppe in the manabase meant that I effectively had another five “one drops” in the form of lands that enter the battlefield tapped.

The two copies of Borderland Ranger were a concession to the Jund matchup, where they provide a valuable reload for your hand. They also aren’t bad in other games, as they tutor up one or more Birds, depending on how many Emeria Angels you have out.

Finally, the Wolfbriars were an attempt to have a “reload” card for control matchups, as well as general card advantage for the Jund game.

Lands really, genuinely matter

As I mentioned above, the Junk color combination lets us use eight on-color Zendikar fetchlands, which is pretty nice. Notably, this gives us nine lands slots that access the single Swamp, but only one actual black producer, meaning that the vast majority of your lands are on-color for the vast majority of your needs.

Given my earlier analysis of the Worldwake duals, it’s probably not surprising that I put in as many of them as I could. The Stirring Wildwoods have been serving me well in Extended, and they continue to be brilliant in Standard. This is especially true in Stoneforge Mystic Junk, where they let me run a total of six W/G duals. I experimented with going up to the full eight duals, but then the deck is no longer running enough fetchland targets and Knight of the Reliquary fuel.

I also did a couple brief test games with more than one copy of Tectonic Edge, but the negative impact on the deck’s operation more than outweighed the potential positives of being able to Edge out multiple lands. More to the point, the ability to kill one opposing land can be game-turning, but the ability to do it again seemed to be unnecessary.

Finally, I ran a single Sejiri Steppe, a card that can save your big beaters and let you attack through blockers for the win.

The tripartite game plan

Given my limited ability to prepare for the event, I decided to focus my planning on my best guess of the top matchups – once again, that’s Jund, Naya, and U/W Control. I built the deck using my normal method. In this case, that meant I built three versions, one for each matchup.

You can see the spreadsheet here.

The unified main deck came out of that spreadsheet, as did the bulk of the sideboard and the associated game plans. Here’s how I planned to sideboard:

Versus Jund

+2 Grim Discovery
+2 Thornling
-4 Path to Exile

The logic here is that I want to enhance my ability to recover from Blightnings and I want to overload the Jund player with hard-to-handle threats. I’m willing to cut the Path to Exiles for this because one-for-twos that ramp your opponent into Broodmate Dragon are just bad.

Versus Naya

+1 Basilisk Collar
+1 Stoneforge Mystic
+1 Behemoth Sledge
+1 Martial Coup
-2 Borderland Ranger
-2 Wolfbriar Elemental

Against Naya, my goal was to win the equipment war, so I decided to go up to the full set of Stoneforge Mystics and pack one extra of each equipment. In retrospect, I think this is not the right plan.

Versus U/W Control

+2 Wolfbriar Elemental
-2 Borderland Ranger

More reload cards, plain and simple.

The Scattershot Archers went in as a sort of “just in case” selection. Maybe I’d need to sweep the sky of Baneslayers using a collared-up Archers.

With the deck list solidified, I printed it out and wrote these sideboarding plans onto it. As I’ve discussed previously, I’m a big fan of tools that let me focus on the game. Especially in the case of a deck with which I’d had basically no practice, sideboarding notes seemed like an excellent element to have in my tournament toolkit.

The main flight

The main flight for the 5K was a seven-round tournament with the top sixteen players making it into the thirty-two player single-elimination finals. I’m going to include a simplified tournament report here that conveys my impressions of the matches, as these impressions led to the revised deck list I’ve included below.

Round one versus U/R Land “Destruction”

This round saw me paired with a deck that tried to keep me off plays using Spreading Seas and Convincing Mirage while it burned me out. Although that might work well against Jund, it’s not great against a Junk list with eight fetchlands. I rolled over my opponent in game one. Game two was a little slower, but I still won.

Round two versus Mythic Bant

This round was a feature match, so you can go there for a detailed write up. The short version is that equipment, Emeria Angels, and Knight of the Reliquary turned the game around for me after one of those very long life gain fights with a deck packing Rhox War Monks and Rafiq of the Many. Game one took nearly the entire match to win, and we weren’t able to finish a second.

Round three versus Jund

In game one, I rolled over him with Emeria Angel, Knight of the Reliquary, and Elspeth beats. In game two the Grim Discovery plan worked as advertised, as I recovered from a Blightning by casting Grim Discovery to return a land and a Stoneforge Mystic, the Stoneforge Mystic in turn tutoring up a Basilisk Collar. I took this game when a multiple-kicked Wolfbriar Elemental gave me more attackers than he had blockers.

Round four versus White Weenie

I won one game with removal, Basilisk Collars, and Behemoth Sledges. I lost one to a weenie rush. Then, with very little time on the round, my opponent risked a Pulse blowout and, when I had no Pulses, ran me down with multiple Steppe Lynxes.

Round five versus URW Control

He countered my early plays and then ran out a Baneslayer, which I had to chump for a while with Birds until I actually drew three of my Stirring Wildwoods and could threaten a lethal block. Although the game felt bad early on as the URW deck seemed to be taking control, I didn’t see myself winning two games straight in short order, so I stuck with it. I was able to stall his win condition until I could use Stoneforge Mystic to find a Behemoth Sledge and then slap it on the battlefield. Don’t forget this ability! It’s an Aether Vial for equipment, which is bigger than you might realize in the control matchup. I finally managed to carve through his massive early life gain and kill him off with just three minutes to go in the round. Another one game match win.

Round six versus Naya

I lost game one to a Ranger of Eos overload, and then won game two by flooding the board with Birds and Soldiers before Elspeth went ultimate and gave me an invincible team. I lost game four to more Ranger overload, and began to have serious doubts about bringing in an extra [card]Behemoth Sledge[/card], or ever casting that Martial Coup.

Round seven versus Jund

This was a win-and-in round. I gave myself a huge life margin for game one by attacking into chump-blocking Saprolings with a giant, exalted, Basilisk Collared-up Knight of the Reliquary, and then won when I finally drew an Elspeth and the Knight of the Reliquary flew in for the kill. Game two saw the Jund deck stuck at two lands while I hit a turn-two Knight of the Reliquary. It ended quickly.

The top 32

My first match in the top 32 took me off guard”¦

Round of 32, versus Unearth

Unearth really wasn’t on my mind going into the day, and its pilot affirmed that he was trying to goldfish his way through an unprepared tournament.

Well, I didn’t have a plan going in, but after he cycled the first black creature into his graveyard, I sure needed one. I figured the best way to avoid being combo killed in one turn was to choke the board and hike up my life total. My deck cooperated, giving me a Stoneforge Mystic for the Basilisk Collar, as well as an Emeria Angel and Knight of the Reliquary to stall the board. That won me game one.

Game two was fast and gross, as his deck comboed out pretty quickly and I neither filled the board nor gained enough life to do more than stall the bleeding for a few turns.

Game three began with my inauspicious mulligan to five on the play, but a Hierarch and a Knight of the Reliquary started me out reasonably well, and I was able to Path to Exile away one Extractor Demon while two more unearthed and swung at me. This proved to be critical, as I was able to eventually go on the lifegain plan and get to 41 life. With a turn left to live, my opponent couldn’t kill me with damage, and with one Extractor Demon left in his deck, couldn’t mill me out.

That match took an hour and a half, despite our maintaining, to quote HJ Eric Levine, “a reasonable rate of play.” That’s how it goes when the Junk deck is doing its best cockroach impersonation and refusing to die, but needing time to go for the win.

Round of 16, versus Naya

You can read this match in the coverage of the top 32. I felt I’d stabilized game one, but then Ajani Vengeant came down and just burned me out. In game two I made a pure, fatigue-based mistake and literally miscounted my mana, leaving me dead on the board after my play. After being awake for seventeen hours that day following a busy week, that’s not awful, but it was a touch disheartening.

How I’d revise the deck

Overall, I really liked this deck. It’s quite powerful, and, to quote my round five opponent, “Just won’t die.” In fact, one of the aspects I really appreciated throughout the day was the deck’s resiliency, especially against my own play errors. At any reasonably long tournament you’re going to make some errors, and you want the core plan of your deck to be able to survive those errors and power on through regardless.

Stoneforge Mystic Junk worked well against the Jund matchup, but faltered against Naya. Clearly, the sample size here is vanishingly small, so I’m just discussing my impressions, but I think they do accurately reflect how the matchups would go in the future if the deck were left unchanged. Against Jund, the deck has eighteen N-for-1s in the main and goes up to twenty after sideboarding, meaning that you can trade card advantage favorably with them, and your creatures are simply better on a one-for-one basis. In contrast, I felt that the games I lost to Naya came down to that deck’s ability to reload not just with generic card advantage, but with solid card quality as well. A Bloodbraid Elf into a Lightning Bolt is fine, but a Ranger of Eos into Nacatl and Scute Mob is a beating. The “have more equipment” plan does not successfully interact with this problem, and that’s why I think it was incorrect.

Given these considerations and a couple days to think about it, here’s how I’d revise the list:

Stoneforge Mystic Junk (recommended version)

 

With the following sideboarding plans:

Versus Jund

+2 Grim Discovery
+2 Thornling
-4 Path to Exile

Versus Naya

+2 Day of Judgment
-2 Borderland Ranger

Versus U/W Control

+2 Grim Discovery
-2 Borderland Ranger

Versus White Weenie

+1 Basilisk Collar
+1 Stoneforge Mystic
+2 Day of Judgment
+1 Martial Coup
-1 Qasali Pridemage
-2 Borderland Ranger
-2 Wolfbriar Elemental

Versus Vampires

+1 Stoneforge Mystic
+2 Day of Judgment
+2 Thornling
+1 Martial Coup
-1 Qasali Pridemage
-2 Borderland Ranger
-1 Emeria Angel
-2 Wolfbriar Elemental

Versus RDW

+1 Basilisk Collar
+3 Kor Firewalker
+1 Stoneforge Mystic
-1 Qasali Pridemage
-1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
-1 Emeria Angel
-2 Wolfbriar Elemental

Versus Open the Vaults

+3 Relic of Progenitus
-1 Stoneforge Mystic
-2 Borderland Ranger

The overall plan of this deck can be summed up as “endure, swarm, win.” You may find yourself throwing Stoneforge Mystics under the bus (or Wild Nacatl, as the case may be) in the early game. Don’t feel bad about the card disadvantage then, as you’re going to make up for it with Elspeth, Emeria Angel, and so forth in the late game (also, keep in mind that the Stoneforge Mystic already put you up a card, so losing it just means you’re back to parity). You must play briskly with this deck as certain matchups can be real grinders, and you must know when to try and win a long game one, as you might not get a chance at two more games afterward.

This is a powerful build that works well if you enjoy highly interactive game play. If you want a deck that gives you a lot of decisions and options while still letting you beat face, give Stoneforge Mystic Junk a try.

Discussion

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