Card Spotlight: Stoneforge’s Equipment Box

The new Modern format has begun to settle and all eyes are on Stoneforge Mystic. This past weekend we received the results of Grand Prix Indianapolis and more than 10% of Top 32 finalists were playing Stoneforge Mystic. That being said, a Mystic is only as good as the equipment she forges. Today we will be going over the best pieces of equipment In Modern as well as when and how to use them in your shiny new Stoneblade deck. Time to stoke the forge!

Batterskull
The Stoneforge Mystic-Batterskull combo is not the format destroyer that a few strange folks thought it would be. In oversimplified terms, we are paying 2WW for a 1/2 and a 4/4 with vigilance and lifelink. Definitely a solid rate but not insane when you consider that it takes two turns and falls apart if the 1/2 dies. A big difference maker is the card advantage. If your SFM is removed and Skull eventually comes down, you have pulled ahead on card advantage. Furthermore, they can kill the 4/4 but their problems are far from over. Skull itself is still an equipment that can make even the smallest creatures threatening. Or if it is alone, it can be bounced for three mana and replayed to generate a fresh token.

This line is much more troubling if the SFM is still in play as it will be able to cheat out the Skull for another discount. When doing this, do not use the bounce ability first or they can remove your SFM in response. Instead you want to activate SFM, hold priority on the ability, and activate the Batterskull bounce ability. Therefore the bounce resolves and then the SFM activation resolves. They can kill the SFM in response but the ability is already on the stack; the Skull is coming back in once the full stack resolves. This equipment is the reason SFM is a Modern playable card and it is a mistake to not play it. How playable was Steelshaper’s Gift?

Swords of X and Y
I do want to make it clear that I do not see the Swords themselves as Modern playable cards; equipment in general really. It is a three mana investment, then an additional two mana, and you must have a creature in play. Your creature can just be removed in response to the equip before the protections can take effect. They have not seen any significant play in SFM-less Modern and even with SFM their casting cost is only reduced by one mana. But when you are already playing SFM for Batterskull, it pays to have an additional equipment option.

The typical equipment package is one Skull and one Sword of your choice. Between your opening hand and first draw step, there is a 13.3% chance that you will have your Batterskull stuck in hand. It is worth noting though that under the London mulligan, you can just bottom a Skull and tutor it later. You could run two copies to mitigate this but there is more value to be had in adding a Sword to give SFM additional options. After all, how neat is it for a germ token to be holding a Skull and a Sword?

The decision point then becomes which Sword. Seven of the ten possible have been printed so far but they most are very underwhelming. Some would argue for the Modern Horizons Swords or War and Peace but so far they are unproven. The effects of the Horizon options are too situational and W&P has great protections but a very weak triggered ability. With all of that in mind these are the three swords I recommend and a sampling of relevant cards they protect against:

Feast and Famine
The most popular choice and one that is especially popular among blue players. Black is the best color to be protected from in the Modern format but protection from green is quite underwhelming. What really puts this sword over is the damage trigger. The untap ability allows a blue player to tap out, often for a planeswalker, but still have interactive mana on the opponent’s turn. Better yet, that opponent must also discard a card. So every time you connect, you put yourself ahead on both mana and cards. If your deck is full of interactive elements this sword will allow you to dominate the resource war. I see this sword as the midpoint of the three good Swords; solid protections and a useful triggered ability.
Relevant Protections: Assassin’s Trophy, Tarmogoyf, Fatal Push, Germ Token

Fire and Ice
The most expensive sword and my personal favorite. You could argue that red is the best color to be protected from as Bolt is the format’s most popular card and players love mono-red strategies. However, usually you just want Batterskull against these aggressive decks. Blue is a solid protection but surprisingly narrow; not interacting with counterspells. So the protections are just fine. People run this because they want interactive damage and an extra card. This allows less controlling decks to remove small creatures and continue to advance their board state by drawing cards. I see this as the weakest protections and best triggered ability among the three. 
Relevant Protections: Lightning Bolt, Teferi Time Raveler, Snapcaster Mage

Light and Shadow
This is the dark horse of the playable swords but has started to gain more respect recently. Black and white are arguably the best protections to have in the Modern format as it stands. The best strict removal spells are Push and Path. This allows you to evade both SFMs and Germ tokens. In a grindy format, no Sword protects your creature quite as well. That being said, Healing Salve and Disentomb are really bad magic cards but that is the price you pay for the best protections around. It is not terrible though. If you are playing a creature deck, it develops your board and pads your life total so that you can swing without fear. This Sword has the best protections and the weakest triggered ability.
Relevant Protections: Assassin’s Trophy, Fatal Push, Path to Exile, Germ Token

Sword of the Meek
If not for the printing of Goblin Engineer in Modern Horizons, this would be pretty huge for SFM. Engineer is certainly better at assembling the combo as he finds either piece and can bin Sword to find Foundry; the combo can begin with Sword in the grave. As long as you have your Thopter Foundry, you can rely on SFM for the Sword to complete the loop. If you lack Foundry, you can just go for the good old Batterskull for an alternate win condition.

That being said, there is already so much going in these decks that it can be difficult to fit a robust SFM package. A recent Top 32 finalist did achieve this by putting together an SFM Whirza list that passed on Whir entirely. I personally do not believe this to be the optimal build, a dozen other Whirza players place with typical builds, but he pulled it off so it must have some merit. Whichever direction you go with it, I believe that this is the best deck in the format.

Viridian Longbow
This equipment is as lowkey and unexpected as the deck that runs it: Devoted Vizier. This deck is such an interesting case in that it has been consistently placing just outside of Top 8s for over a year but garners little respect. However, the London mulligan and Modern Horizons were very kind to it. The cherry on top appears to Stoneforge Mystic. A key weakness of the deck is that all of the combo pieces are not individually playable cards; apart from Walking Ballista in artifact and ramp decks. While there is nothing we can do about Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies, Stoneforge is far better than something like Duskwatch Recruiter.

When we go off and generate infinite mana, we can play out SFM and tutor up Viridian Longbow. The infinite mana will allow us to immediately play the Longbow and equip the Druid. The Druid’s infinite untaps are then used to ping the opponent to death rather than generate mana; build your own Ballista. The deck then gets additional use out of those Part C combo slots in interactive matchups via the classic Batterskull combo. This is the alternate gameplan the deck needed but could not make room for; curving into it with Giver of Runes is especially potent. I do believe that this will be considered the optimal build going forward.

Manriki-Gusari
The ultimate Stoneblade mirror-breaker. You can tutor it with your SFM and then on Turn 3 cast it, suit up the SFM, and tap it to crush your opponents equipment. This beats a Batterskull to the punch even when you are on the draw. You can sideboard this as a tutorable one-of for the Stoneblade mirror but I honestly think this is too cute. If I did not include it though, I would endure the comedic wrath of the comment section.

Wrap-Up
This should cover the best equipments and one meme to consider for your Stoneforge equipment box. Some folks are also excited for Embercleave from Throne of Eldraine but I am not optimistic about that one. Did we leave any viable equipments out though? Do you have any spicy ones that you cannot stop yourself from trying? Please share your ideas with us in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

 

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