Once a week we meet to play a few matches of (pretty casual) Magic. This week I am going to bring a mix of Junk/Stoneblade to the board. Check out this post to get the list.
Usually we try to stay close to the common sanctioned formats like Modern, Standard and Legacy. In our group it’s ok to add in a few cards that are not within a certain format. For example, it is ok to play a few cards from the directly former block if you really want or have to and still call your deck Standard-compatible. However it would not be tolerated if you “splash” in a few Moxes in your Abzan Megamorph deck and still call it Standard.
So, the deck I am currently playing is called “Junkblade” – a mix if Junk and a classic Stoneblade deck. It makes use of Stoneforge Mystic to tutor for strong equipments and combines them with powerful removal and undercosted creatures. In addition, Mother of Runes takes care of the bodies. The kind reader might already have realized that this deck is definitly Legacy and in no case can be called Standard compatible. The Stoneforge Mystics are simply too powerful, a reason why they got banned. The good thing is, that if we are in Legacy anyways, we can also use Deathrite Shaman, Swords to Plowshares and the original dual lands.
The deck’s core consists of 4x Stoneforge Mystic together with the equipment package, 4x Mother of Runes and 3x Phyrexian Arena. Those cards enable you to win. Stoneforge Mystic gets you a suitable equipment that transforms every body in a threat. Meanwhile Mother of Runes will just sit there and do nothing but protect your threats (and sometimes makes them unblockable). Since we are talking about a deck that is played in a group, I suspect heavy disruption and removal thus I am running 3x Phyrexian Arena to never run out of gas.
Ok, Mother of Runes and Stoneforge Mystic are there for utility but what about the hitters? I play tested this deck for a while and Mirran Crusader came out really strong. Due to his double strike, he will trigger a Sword’s/Jitte’s effects twice per attack which is just insane! Equipped with Batterskull he results in a 12 point life swing (if unblocked). In addition to that, he brings protection against two colors (black/green) equipped with Swords he can get even more. The good the protections are, they sometimes could be a bit annoying due to you not being able to pump the crusader with Abzan Charm or force him to battle with Dromoka’s Command. Another thing to mention is the 2W requirement in it’s cost. Usually I’d say that makes him pretty much hard to cast on turn three in a three colored deck, but since we are on Legacy our mana fixing is insane with duals, fetches and Deathrite Shaman nullifying this aspect.
In addition to the Cursaders, the deck runs three Vampire Nighthawks. Three mana for a 2/3 Flying, Lifelink, Deathtouch creature? Anytime. Usually the cost with 2B would usually force you to a black centric deck but for the same reasons as I mentioned a section above mana fixing can be considered to be no problem. Equip the vampires with a sword and make use of their evations: Flying to dodge ground units and Deathtouch to dodge the enemy’s valuable flying utility creatures he doens’t want to trade in. Or maybe hold them back to make an enemy think twice if he wants to attack you. And in addition it’s Lifelink ability helps to lower the Phyrexian Arena‘s consistent life drain.
Next, the Siege Rhinos. I run three of these to not draw them too early in the game even though they are really good. The 6 point life swing when they come into play is already pretty reasonable considering the constant life loss due to Phyrexian Arena but you really want to the Trample ability. Pump up a rhino with equipments and he’ll be unstoppable and trigger your swords nearly every attack.
The last one to mention is Scavenging Ooze. I actually don’t consider him to be bad but he just doesn’t bring too much to the table by itself. You have to activate it to make it work. He scales well to late game due to dying creatures while generating life from it. Just a decent mana sink for your unused mana. In addition he is nice to cope with all those reanimation/delve/graveyard strategies out there. My Ooze keeps your graveyard empty, good luck paying 8 mana for Dig Through Time. You want to cast Reanimate to get back your Griselbrand? Sorry, I got one green left, let me respond to that… just make sure you don’t eat everything. Leave something to your Deathrite, too
The removal package
There is really not much to say about this. Abzan got tons and tons of pretty flexible removal spells, so I had to choose. Abrupt Decay is flexible, fast and just takes care of everything cheap. Maelstrom Pulse takes out tokens and stuff which lies around on the board way too often. Swords to Plowshares and Abzan Charm are there to exile Indestructible creatures and the latter card can work as a Sign in Blood in case you just don’t find anything to remove or pump up your vampires for a few points more of damage (which equals life) or toughness (to survive against angels).
Only two cards in this section Lingering Souls and Phyrexian Arena. The latter is straight forward: exchange life for card advantage. I’d take that.
For a little more defense I added in Lingering Souls, you can cast it twice due to Flashback so one card equals 4 blockers. Well equipped an enemy should not underestimate the little spirits. For example, they can easily charge up your Jitte. If I’d had the slot, I’d even think about adding Basilisk Collar to make them even more fearsome.
The mana base is straight forward. Fetch lands into duals lands: I want to have access 3 mana with at least 1G, 2W and 2B in turn three. In addition the early stages of the deck benefit more of white mana, due to the low cost Mystics and Mothers. Thus we need 4 Marsh Flats and 4 Verdant Catacombs paired with Scrubland, Bayou and Savannah. This results in 16 chances to get each color we are running on turn 1… mana fixing in legacy is just a joke. The other slots are more or less just fill ups. Maze of Ith, Ghost Quarters, Strip Mine, Mishra’s Factory. Anything will do. Oh and you really, really want Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Ok, sometimes you help your enemy with it but it makes your mana base more consistent by transforming “unused” fetch lands into swamps and Savannahs into tri lands.
The game plan
The game plan should be obvious now: get out a Mother of Runes on turn one so you can use it on turn two to protect the then played Stoneforge. In turn three you have a few options: remove anything annoying, get out an Arena, cheat in an equipment, prepare for heavy attacks with Lingering Souls and finally put out a threat like Crusader. On the fourth turn you should then be able to equip a creature and attack with it.
Good match ups are usually all creature based matches. For example, Elves die to a protection-green Crusader pinning them down with Sword of Fire and Ice and Jitte activations. Same goes for Delver. Entreat the Angels? Not too big of a deal. Mother or Runes empowered Vampires will take care of them. If they won’t a well placed Maelstrom Pulse can help out. Basically you get out Fire and Ice and Jitte if you are facing smaller creatures and Batterskull if you want to overpower huge creatures.
Bad match ups are control matches. Even with the deck not being completely vulnerable to Wrath-effects a good control player will try to eliminate your equipments and kill the Rhinos. That actually halves your power instantly.
- Noble Hierarch: A good mana dork but since he can’t provide black mana, he is not good enough compared to Deathrite Shaman
- Quasali Pridemage: Surely a good card if you have to get rid of a lot of enchantments. Throw out an Ooze for that.
- Sword of War and Peace: Definitely a good alternative to the Sword of Feast and Famine.
- Dromoka’s Command: Always nice. Could replace a Swords to Plowshares in the right match ups due to being more flexible in exchange for cost and reliability.
- Green Sun’s Zenith: Not worth to put in. Can only transform in Rhinos and Ooze. Maybe if you add in some other green creatures, this could be worth it.
Overall, the deck is really flexible and fun. Abzan offers such a wide range of good stuff you actually can’t do too much wrong. It’s fast (enough), offers a lot of utility and creature battles and still it doesn’t feel like it’s always played the same (I am looking at you, Infect and Combo ;)).