I spent more than 12 hours traveling from New Jersey to Indianapolis, and the car ride consisted of me talking with everyone about what decks we should play, teasing my friends and a lot of sleeping. When we arrived at the invitational I started off with an awesome 1-3 record before mulling to four against RUG Delver in Game 3 of my first Legacy match. You can guess how that game went.
I definitely wasn’t feeling great about my playing ability. I joined the Standard Challenge (which is a great way to test your deck and make changes) and crushed it 4-0, not losing a single game. I was feeling confident for the Standard Open but a quick drop at 2-3 sent me back to my room to accept defeat. I couldn’t stop thinking about why I wasn’t doing well. After discussing it with my roommates, I came to the conclusion that I was playing too fast. I assumed too much without thinking each play through. I also realized Esper Stoneblade would probably be the worst deck in the room, but I wasn’t changing decks so I’d have to crush people.
For reference, here is my list:
Round 1 vs. Steven (Bant Blade)
I was a little nervous sitting down for a nine-round tournament, but knew I could do well if I kept a calm head. Steven led with a Tropical Island into Noble Hierarch. I plucked his Knight of the Reliquary with Thoughtseize, but he drew Stoneforge Mystic and searched up Batterskull. After a few turns of getting bashed by Batterskull, I dropped to 8. I sent Swords to Plowshares toward Batterskull and he returned it to his hand. What he didn’t know is that I had another Swords to Plowshares, which I used on his Stoneforge. I used Snapcaster Mage to flashback Thoughtseize for his Batterskull and won shortly after.
I had discard for his Knight of the Reliquary again but all removal meant I had no action for a few turns. Steven went Noble Hierarch into Noble Hierarch into Stoneforge Mystic for Umezawa’s Jitte. He beat me down until I drew a Swords to Plowshares for his equipped creature followed by a free Massacre to clear his board. I resolved Jace and kept his creatures off the table until Jace ticked up too dangerously high.
Round 2 vs. James Higginbottom (Sneak and Show)
Jim is a good friend of mine from Jersey. The previous night he crushed me over and over again during testing. Needless to say, I thought I was in for a quick trip to the X-1 bracket. I won the die roll and had no discard but Karakas in my hand made me comfortable if he played Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. James led with a Turn 2 Show and Tell into Griselbrand as played Karakas and immediately bounced Griselbrand when he attempted to draw seven. My Batterskull was too fast a clock, and he played nothing else. I found after the game that he drew five lands with Griselbrand. Rough beats.
Round 3 vs. Reid Duke (Reanimator)
I saw Reid playing Reanimator the previous round and was slightly worried because it isn’t a good matchup for Stoneblade. Reid also is a great player, as evidenced by his Legacy Open win with the same archetype in Worcester. He started with Reanimate on Griselbrand with double Daze backup to win the game on the spot.
I didn’t think I could actually lose after my opening hand of Vendilion Clique, Nihil Spellbomb, Glacial Fortress, Polluted Delta, Spell Pierce, Force of Will and Spell Pierce. After Turn 1 Nihil Spellbomb I used my discard efficiently to take out all his Show and Tells and reanimation spells. That left Reid with some good creatures but no way to kill me.
I kept a similar hand while Reid mulliganed. On Turn 3, I played Vendilion Clique end of turn with Reid stuck on two lands to see Show and Tell, Show and Tell, Griselbrand, Reanimate and Reanimate. I took nothing, untapped, attacked for three, cast Cabal Therapy naming Show and Tell and flashed it back naming Reanimate. He quickly died to my Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull.
Round 4 vs. Jim Davis (Reanimator)
Jim is usually playing Goblins, and I was surprised to find out he didn’t play the deck. The winning deck list from the tournament is actually his 75. It was a close game in which I used Karakas to bounce his Griselbrand. But he ended up killing me with a 5/5 Djinn that bounced all my lands (Tidespout Tyrant) before I could slam Jace to win with Jim at a precarious 1 life.
Sideboard (Same as Round 3)
Jim mulliganed to 4 and played a Turn 2 Show and Tell with Force of Will backup. I played Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskull, and he played the last card in his hand, Griselbrand (obviously). I drew Karakas and started beating with Batterskull the turn after. He didn’t draw anything of relevance.
Jim played a Turn 1 Thoughtseize on himself to reveal Daze, Daze, Reanimate, Scalding Tarn, Griselbrand and discarded Griselbrand. My hand of Inquisition of Kozilek, Nihil Spellbomb, Stoneforge Mystic, Vendilion Clique and lands didn’t feel very good in comparison. However I drew Karakas, which allowed me to take over the game. After Jim played Reanimate and drew seven cards, he was down to two life. I attacked him twice with Stoneforge to lock up 4-0.
Round 5 vs. Michael Braverman (RUG Delver)
Ah, finally a fairer deck than Griselbrand. I asked and Michael said he hadn’t played against Griselbrand yet. The game went very, very quickly. He had Delver of Secrets that flipped with double Daze for my Stoneforge Mystic on Turn 3.
Games 2 and 3
I don’t remember too much except we had a grindy game where I got him to Krosan Grip my Nihil Spellbomb so I could safely play Jitte. I used that and Stoneforge Mystic to win Game 2; I resolved Batterskull in Game 3 to kill him.
I was running pretty well, sitting at 5-0 despite making a couple mistakes because I caught them before or realized them shortly after. My friends deserve thanks for yelling at me when I was playing too fast.
Round 6 vs. Eric Prim (UB Delver Stifle Nought)
Usually when I get to this kind of penultimate round I fall apart and only Top 16. I was even more nervous when my opponent went Dreadnaught into Stifle with double Daze backup (sounds familiar huh?). I lost this game in short order and thought I was just playing against UB Stifle.
I was in for a surprise when he revealed Delver and Bitterblossom with my first discard spell. It was a long and serious grind, and everyone around me was fairly certain I was going to lose. He had a Turn 4 Bitterblossom while I used Stoneforge Mystic to search up Batterskull. Turn 5 he played Tombstalker and I had nothing in hand but a Batterskull. After a couple turns gaining just enough life to stay alive, I drew a Jitte and Lingering Souls, which allowed me to take over the game.
It wasn’t a close affair. I got Batterskull into play after ripping apart his hand with discard spells.
I was sitting at 6-0 and could draw into the Top 8 if I won either of my next two matches. I was incredibly nervous but knew I could beat Maverick and thought I had a decent chance against Combo Elves, even though I had never played against the deck and didn’t really understand how it worked. I moved on ready for my next round when I got called to a video feature match against …
Round 7 vs. Chris Andersen (Combo Elves)
Yeah, Elves. I figured if I could land Jitte he couldn’t win. That just shows you how little I understood about the matchup. You can watch our match on SCG Live and see me get crushed on camera.
It was more of the same and I got comboed again. Yeah, I got crushed. And it was on camera, too, so it sucked more. I was sure I could rally back until I sat down across my next opponent.
Round 8 vs. Alex Hon (UW Stoneblade)
I tried to hold a conversation with Alex, but he was having none of it. He was being kind of rude, which made me a bit angry. You’re there to have fun, make friends and hopefully make money or win a trophy. You don’t have to talk, but don’t be rude about it.
Alex mulled to six but had double Stoneforge Mystic. I had no answer to anything and got crushed.
It almost sent me on full-blown tilt when I mulled to five on the play and had to keep a bad hand. Somehow, I battled out of it to win the game. Alex went to his fifth land when I only had three lands in play, no cards in hand, and Stoneforge Mystic on the battlefield. My opponent had Vendilion Clique on the field and then played Batterskull. I had to draw some perfect series of cards to not lose this game. I drew my card face down, and upon peeling it I almost immediately slammed it down. It was a Vindicate, which I used to destroy Batterskull. He drew and attacked me for three again before I drew Lingering Souls and cast it. My opponent had no answer. He drew and passed back into me drawing Preordain into Batterskull. I flashed it in end of turn and beat my opponent down.
I couldn’t believe I ripped like such a fiend to win that game, and I was still feeling really nervous. I watched as my Turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskull didn’t get countered. I then used Snapcaster Mages and Creeping Tar Pit to close out the game in three turns. A sign of the slip, and I was off to the Top 8.
Top 8 vs. Josh Glantzman (Maverick)
It felt really good to Top 8 an event, and I felt confident knowing my opponent was Maverick.
It was not a close one for me. My opponent had Cavern of Souls and Sylvan Library while I drew nine lands. I lost because I didn’t play around Qasali Pridemage or the first strike of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. I played way too fast and very loosely but really pulled it around in Games 2 and 3.
Games 2 and 3
You can watch these games on camera at SCG Live. Unfortunately for Josh, I had Turn 1 discard and he had two loose keeps; in his position, I don’t think I would have mulled either anyway.
Top 4 vs. Dustin Taylor (RUG Delver)
You can read about the matches here, and I sideboarded exactly like Round 5. I felt it gave the best defense to the deck even though I fell in two games.
My match against Dustin was rough. I drew all my nonbasics, had only a couple fetchlands and he had a powerful start to my weak one. I probably should have mulliganed more aggresively to get a hand that could put up a fight. My biggest mistake in Game 1 was not taking one of his two Tarmogoyfs. Scavenging Ooze isn’t that scary when you have a lot of Lingering Souls tokens and they have only one green source. In Game 2, my biggest mistake was when I Cliqued him. Vendilion Clique is not easy to use correctly and I messed up in this instance. I saw his hand after he dredged Life from the Loam and he Bolted me in response; I saw Scalding Tarn, Misty Rainforest and Life from the Loam. The correct play would have been to take nothing and let him play off the top of his deck. Instead I took Loam and was punished when he drew Lightning Bolt. Of course, I peeked and had the Blue Elemental Blast on top of my deck.
It’s unfortunate, but next time I’ll get the trophy. (I hope!) The biggest challenge for a Stoneblade deck is one which taxes your resources to the max. Put too much pressure on a Stoneblade deck, and it will be in trouble. RUG Delver is hands down the toughest matchup but also winnable. Use your resources wisely and drag RUG Delver to the mid to late game where you have powerful spells and they have weak creatures.
Q & A
Why are there so many one-ofs?
The deck has eight fetchlands, five draw spells, four Stoneforge Mystic and three Snapcaster Mage. Moving through your deck to find one-ofs isn’t actually difficult to accomplish when your deck is thinner and cards like Brainstorm exist. The split for discard was two Thoughtseize, two Inquisition of Kozilek and one Cabal Therapy. When you have discard and a bunch of creatures, Cabal Therapy can really just destroy an opponent’s hand. You can see evidence of this in my match against Reid Duke.
Would you change anything in this deck for a Legacy tournament ?
I would suggest cutting the Intuition and a Lingering Souls for Gitaxian Probe and another Vendilion Clique (another Preordain or Ponder wouldn’t be a bad choice for either slot). I would also consider playing with Reanimate in the sideboard because it allows you to have a different game against Reanimator and RUG Delver. Reanimating their Scavenging Ooze or Tarmogoyf can really help you defend until the late game, when you get the advantage.
Now that Land Tax is unbanned, could it be useful in this deck?
This is a tough one actually. Land Tax is a really powerful card but without an engine within Stoneblade to really abuse this. If you wanted to abuse the card with Stoneblade, I would suggest playing Scroll Rack and Land Tax in a straight UW build with possibly an Entreat the Angels to go over the top of all the fair decks.
Hopefully I can get a good flight out for GP Atlanta and use Stoneforge to make more money. Good luck in your next tournament and feel free to message me @itssobza.
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