Stoneblade to Death – By Jeff Milton

 

In preparation for Grand Prix New Jersey, I’ve decided to share with you my thoughts about the Legacy format and the 2 decks I’m thinking of playing. I’m going to show you the process I went through prior to picking up these decks and what I feel could be my best option.

Legacy has been my favourite format since I built my Maverick deck 3 years ago. Apart from being much easier on the wallet, this deck had a toolbox like no other deck in the format and if you where able to play the deck right, you could answer anything the format threw at you. As a mechanic by trade, I couldn’t pass up on playing the “toolbox” deck. This was exactly what I was looking for.

Creatures (28)

3 Aven Mindcensor
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Mother of Runes
4 Noble Hierarch
2 Qasali Pridemage
3 Scavenging Ooze
1 Scryb Ranger
3 Stoneforge Mystic
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Dryad Arbor

Spells (12)

1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
2 Sylvan Library
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
3 Green Sun’s Zenith

Lands (15)

1 Plains
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Savannah
4 Wasteland
2 Wooded Foothills
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Karakas

Sideboard (15)

1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Choke
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Parallax Wave
1 Wheel of Sun and Moon
3 Enlightened Tutor
1 Krosan Grip
2 Path to Exile
1 Gaddock Teeg

I was having so much fun learning the ins and outs of Maverick. The different builds, the new tech from each upcoming set, and I loved watching the deck perform on camera during the SCG Opens.

My love for Legacy grew every time I seen a new deck emerge on stream. I think the point where I got “hooked” was the time I seen an elf combo player go off. I felt like Legacy has no limits and it was made for everyone.

I felt like my deck choice was solid right up until they printed this guy.

Deathrite Shaman

As soon as I first seen Deathrite Shaman, I knew his implications in Legacy would hit pretty hard. I got my playset when they where still 5 dollars each. For only 1 mana, he single handedly shuts down so many game plans and is a win condition all on his own. There isn’t a single other card in Legacy that utilizes the graveyard better than he does. There is a reason why he got banned in Modern.

His toolbox like feel had steered me to give him a try in Legacy. I started off only splashing a Bayou in my Maverick list until i quickly realised how he was making my Knight of the Reliquary smaller… uh oh! Trying different builds and adding other cards to the deck like Lingering Souls helped a bit but never posted any better results than before.

A few months pass by and Deathrite Shaman started having an impact in Modern and soon after, was seen in Legacy top 8 lists. The rise of the “1 mana planeswalker” meant defeat of the Maverick deck. Futile attempts to play cards like Ground Seal was also met by Deathrite Shamans friendly companion from the same set, Abrupt Decay. And if that wasn’t enough, Rest in Peace became a maindeck-able card for a while.

I felt like I needed to switch decks before it was too late. So I sold everything but the Wastelands and the Stoneforge Mystics so I could start building Esper Stoneblade like something along the lines of what Tom Martel had won with the year before. This was his deck list.

Creatures (8)

3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Vendilion Clique

Lands (22)

4 Flooded Strand
2 Island
1 Karakas
2 Marsh Flats
1 Plains
3 Polluted Delta
1 Scrubland
1 Swamp
1 Tower of the Magistrate
3 Tundra
3 Underground Sea

Spells (30)

1 Batterskull
4 Brainstorm
1 Counterspell
3 Force of Will
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Intuition
4 Lingering Souls
2 Ponder
1 Spell Snare
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Thoughtseize
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Vindicate
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Sideboard (15)

1 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Darkblast
1 Disenchant
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Force of Will
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Perish
2 Spell Pierce
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Zealous Persecution

Esper Stoneblade at this time had changed a fair bit by the time I started building the deck but the core remains the same. Stoneblade was becoming more popular and top 8 deck lists where popping up every other weekend at this point. It was a deck to beat.
All of a sudden, in March 2013, Brian Braun-Duin came up with the idea to throw in 4 Deathrite Shamans, 2 Dark Confidants and 4 Geist of Saint Traft into his Esper Stoneblade list. He called it Esper Deathblade.

Taking a more aggressive approach, Brian found that by playing a more proactive gameplan, the fair matchups where more in his favour than the traditional Stoneblade list. With the same type of disruption, but with more threats, You can take over the game before your opponent can catch up.

Creatures (16)

2 Dark Confidant
4 Deathrite Shaman
2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Geist of Saint Traft

Planeswalkers (5)

3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Liliana of the Veil

Spells (16)

1 Batterskull
4 Brainstorm
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Ponder
3 Thoughtseize

Lands (23)

1 Island
1 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Flooded Strand
1 Marsh Flats
4 Polluted Delta
1 Scrubland
1 Tropical Island
2 Tundra
3 Underground Sea
2 Wasteland
1 Karakas

Sideboard (15)

1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Counterspell
1 Disenchant
3 Force of Will
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Vendilion Clique
2 Supreme Verdict
1 Thoughtseize
1 Vindicate

At the early stages of Deathblades infancy, it felt unclear if a 4 color deck like this would be able to stick around in a Delver of Secrets infested metagame.

But here we are, over a year later and Deathrite Shaman is still one of the best 1 drops the format has to offer.

I liked how Stoneblade could have a more reactive game plan against other decks and play more of a controlling role which I found appealing at first but quickly realised that Miracles plays a much better controlling role and this shift in the meta was starting to lean more towards fair decks being the dominant archetype according to SCG open results. I felt like Esper Stoneblade had a better matchup against combo than control so I found myself in a crossroads between switching to either Miracles or Esper Deathblade.

Switching to Deathblade only required a few changes to the deck but required me to change my playstyle quite a bit where as Miracles needed more of an investment but played a much more controlling playstyle.

I have a really bad habit of buying cards for a deck and changing my mind once it’s half built and selling those same cards to build a different deck. Legacy is too pricey to be doing that every 6 months so what I did was I kept my Stoneblade cards and I can easily swap out for Deathblade depending on what I feel like playing.

The issue with Deathblade

I’ve always found that building a good deck is a bit like having a good hockey team. You have quality players that all have different sets of skills that work well together. Esper Deathblade on the other hand, is like the team that plays all star players that often steal each others spotlight. Stoneforge Mystic getting a Batterskull so you can equip it onto a True-Name Nemesis might sound really powerful, but you can still lose to all kinds of random things if you didn’t draw enough disruption to deal with your opponent.

Deathblade looks like it’s trying to do everything that the other decks are doing but can’t do any of it as well as those decks. Brad Nelson said it best when he said:”This deck is a grind. It wins by inches, not miles, and if you lose with it, it looks like the biggest heap of crap you’ve ever seen.”

You can easily see what I mean when looking at some anti-synergistic card combinations. First of all you play Deathrite Shaman and Snapcater Mage in the same deck. I’ve seen some lists play 0 Snapcater Mage and I really can’t say it’s a bad idea. But I’ve also found myself using the extra mana that Deathrite Shaman provides to help get more value out of the spells I’ve already played so you could say it’s not all bad. Even though this might be one of the weaknesses in the deck, nothing comes close to this decks terrible manabase.

4 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
2 Marsh Flats
3 Tundra
3 Underground Sea
1 Scrubland
1 Bayou
1 Tropical Island
1 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Karakas
2 Wasteland

Never underestimate the real power of a basic land. When playing 4 colours, your biggest weakness is your inability to play basic lands. with cards like Liliana of the Veil, Council’s Judgement and True Name Nemesis, You can’t afford to be fetching basic lands to cast your spells. There are so many decks that prey on fragile manabases with cards like Blood Moon, Back to Basics, Price of Progress and Wasteland just to name a few. Looking at SCG Open results, you see more and more decks that switch their sideboard strategies to attack the decks with greedy manabases like BUG Delver and Esper Deathblade so therefore we are seeing an up tick in Esper Stoneblade, Miracles and various mono coloured decks.

Blood MoonWasteland

This past weekend, I played Deathblade to an unexciting 3-2 finish, losing to Alex Morash playing UWR Delver in the first round and to Phil Léger’s Lands deck in the fourth. Both of these decks stomped me with multiple Wasteland activations and crushed me pretty easily. From what I understood, Alex is an experienced player that had borrowed UWR Delver from Mike Sheng and was playing it for the first time. Aside from getting Wastelanded, I do remember making a few mistakes that had cost me the match in the end. Phil on the other hand made me feel inferior in many ways and I just hope I never have to face that deck ever again. I would like to congratulate Alex and Phil for their great performances and making it to the top 8!

For those who haven’t read it yet, you can read Phils report here.

I think it might be time for me to put the Shamans away for a few weeks to see if I still enjoy the good ol’ Stoneblade. If you have ever been interested in playing Legacy and you live in the Moncton area, the Comic Hunter has a 100% Proxy Legacy event every Sunday at 1:30pm. Hope to see you there!

If you had any questions or comments, please feel free to message me on Facebook or email me at thecomichunterblog@gmail.com

Until next time!

Thanks for reading!

– Jeff Milton

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