The Bant Snowblade Guide

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Modern is finally in a good place.

I can say this with utmost confidence, since the deck I’m presenting you, my beloved readers, with today is extremely fair, fun to play, interactive, and most of all, actually kind of good. This kind of nonsense hasn’t been competitive in Modern for ages, but by the grace of the banlist update, Faithless Looting bit the dust, and all of a sudden we get to play to the board instead of only the graveyard. Sure, the griefers of the format all immediately picked up big mana decks like Tron and Scapeshift, but it’s much easier for us to interact on that axis than against something like Dredge or the dreaded Hogaak.

But enough blabbering about the changes in the metagame, better writers than I have covered this topic before. I played a pair of Modern events this last weekend to a trios win and an individual semifinals finish, only dropping two matches total between them. Stoneforge Mystic is obviously a powerful card, and revisiting the glory days of Stoneblade with Jace, the Mind Sculptor is definitely quite appealing. While it would be easy to just build the deck in a manner inspired by Modern’s classic Azorius control decks, I don’t feel like these reactive, low creature count decks are able to actually take advantage of Stoneforge’s power level. Adding a green splash gives us access to Baleful Strix, but with flash, and Veil of Summer out of the sideboard to absolutely clown on Thoughtseize decks, as well as anyone foolish enough to try and Cryptic Command us.

Let’s get to it — a deck with 16 distinct shuffle effects, oh boy!


Before I get into any specifics, there’s a bit of an elephant in the room to address: why play this version of Stoneblade over any other? Firstly, the splash is soft. It’s only for two cards, and the manabase continues to support Field of Ruin, a card that seems absolutely essential in Stoneblade going forward. It’s not like a Thoughtseize splash that would require a completely new, and likely more painful manabase. Secondly, it excels in the broad Modern metagame that always inevitably turns out to events. Sure, Urza variants are probably the best deck, and Ice-Fang Coatl does close to nothing for you in that matchup, but you’re going to play significantly more rounds against Jund, Shadow, or Humans than you are against Urza variants in any given paper Modern tournament. With that in mind, aren’t you interested in having an instant speed Baleful Strix in your deck? I am.

That said, in a more known metagame, where you don’t expect to be blocking very many creatures, I would advocate for a straight UW version of the deck. I’d still play Spell Queller and try to keep my creature count fairly high, but I’d use the Coatl slots on some copies of Teferi, Time Raveler, and probably another Mana Leak. The Veil of Summers can easily become Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, who fulfills a different role in the same matchups, and the Explosives can just be a third Timely or Rest in Peace, depending on your expected metagame.

As for the nitty gritty details, I’d like to start with the ol’ manabase. Two copies of Celestial Colonnade has become pretty standard across Azorius decks as of late, and I can’t help but feel like it’s too many, if anything. Despite notably being a Colonnade skeptic as of late, my favourite game action (activate Colonnade, attack for lethal and pray that they didn’t draw removal) continues to feel weak in this world where Field of Ruin is king. We have enough ways to win, and especially in this splash version of the deck with slightly sketchy mana, I’d consider playing an additional fetchland and a Hallowed Fountain in these slots. I haven’t quite done it yet, but it’s something to keep in mind. The rest of the mana is pretty set in stone. It’s kind of awkward to keep the second Plains around in an Ice-Fang Coatl deck, but Field of Ruin and Prismatic Vista are both so strong that you need a high basic count. Stoneforge eats up a lot of white mana, and so long as Path to Exile is in your deck, you might very well need to fetch up a second Plains in early turns.

While analyzing this deck’s mana, it’s important to keep in mind that Ice-Fang Coatl is not a card that’s really meant to be played on curve — it’s generally very low impact in the early game. As such, you can lean a bit more heavily on Field of Ruin to fix for green. The only green sideboard card operates in much the same way. There is, however, a new point of tension. Thanks to the high basic and Field of Ruin count, it can be hard to get double blue on turn three. This might be a reason to move away from Vendilion Clique despite it being both the best card in history and a great fit for our strategy. That said, once again, it doesn’t really have to be played on turn three. Spell Queller and Stoneforge Mystic are equally reasonable things to be doing in the early turns, and I’m not too beat up about not being able to play Snapcaster into Opt proactively.

Speaking of my beloved Snapcaster Mage, I’ve been feeling a particular malaise towards this card as of late. Granted, I haven’t paired it with the fine wine that is Lightning Bolt in quite a while, but I can’t help but feel that there’s a real absence of good targets in most matchups. Snapcaster has always felt best to me flashing back a one-mana removal spell, with the upside coming from not only the card advantage granted by the leftover 2/1, but the remaining versatility of flashing back counterspells. To wit, the good mode is flashing back Path to Exile, and everything else is a bonus. That feels less important now than it ever has in the past, and as such, the Snapcaster count is relegated to a depressing two. If Spell Snare continues to be a powerhouse in the prospective metagame, this could be an excuse to add additional copies of the erstwhile Wizard back to the deck, but right now, I’m happy to shore up the Tron matchup a bit more with copies of Vendilion Clique in the slot.

Everything else about the construction of this deck is pretty typical for Azorius variants in this day and age. Hard graveyard hate is preferable in the sideboard to Surgical Extraction thanks to how good it is against Urza and Jund, your Burn and Prowess matchups correlate directly to how many Timely Reinforcements are in your deck, and Disdainful Stroke is extremely good all of a sudden.

As for gameplay, Stoneforge has really changed a lot of play patterns in Azorius decks. Sure, you get to be much more proactive, but I’d say the biggest thing that this style of deck accomplishes versus Snapcaster-centric control decks of old is dominating the board. You don’t need me to tell you that Batterskull is big and vigilant, but it’s worth throwing out a reminder that Spell Queller has a surprisingly workable body, and even if its trigger doesn’t get to snag a stray spell, its Ambush Viper mode is often much stronger than Snapcaster’s. What this means is that you often don’t need to commit as many resources to keeping the board clear, so long as you have access to your creatures that can easily make combat difficult for your opponent.

Before I leave you with a brief sideboard guide, I’d like to take a moment to talk about mulligans. This deck is chock full of two-for-ones. Almost every creature in the deck is capable of generating card advantage, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor also exists. There are powerful ways to interact with a wide variety of matchups in this deck, and so long as you have information about what you’re playing against, be it from scouting or it being a post-board game, you should take advantage of the London mulligan. If you’re playing against a big mana deck, you desperately want a Stoneforge for Sword of Feast and Famine to quickly shut out the game. Burn? Find a Stoneforge but also look for a Force of Negation to protect it. Don’t be afraid to throw a couple copies of the Coatl on the bottom of your deck in exchange for finding a functional gameplan. It’s way better than stubbornly keeping a hand of Jace, Snapcaster, Opt and lands against Prowess and just immediately eating a face full of dirt.

Burn
IN
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Celestial Purge
2 Timely Reinforcements
OUT
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Remember, mulligan to a hand that actually does something instead of seeing lands and spells and instinctively saying “keep.” I see you, blue mages.

Jund
IN
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
2 Autumn’s Veil
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Celestial Purge
2 Rest in Peace
OUT
4 Force of Negation
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Vendilion Clique

Boarding out Clique is an unfortunate must, as it’s too big of a liability against Wrenn and Six. With Force of Negation out, we’re not all that excellent at interacting on the stack, and in the low resource games that Jund tries to force you in, I’d rather insulate against this tempo and resource blowout.

Whirza
IN
1 Nature’s Chant
1 Celestial Purge
2 Rest in Peace
2 Disdainful Stroke
OUT
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
1 Force of Negation
1 Opt

Consider bringing in Supreme Verdict as a clean answer to Urza and his token. I’m not really confident that it’s better than anything that would already be in our deck, and we’re already pretty good at interacting with Urza thanks to Spell Queller, so it stays in the sideboard for now.

 

 

 

Stoneblade
IN
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
2 Autumn’s Veil
1 Nature’s Chant
OUT
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Force of Negation

Force of Negation used to be very powerful in Azorius mirrors, but with the increased creature count not only in our deck, but in other decks, it’s lost a lot of stock in my mind. I’d still leave one or two in, but it’s on the cutting block.

Mono-Green Tron
IN
1 Nature’s Chant
1 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Disdainful Stroke
OUT
4 Ice-Fang Coatl

Coatl does nothing here. Remember to mulligan into a hand that meaningfully interacts with them, and not just Spell Queller and blanks.

Death’s Shadow
IN
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
2 Autumn’s Veil
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Celestial Purge
2 Supreme Verdict
2 Rest in Peace
OUT
4 Force of Negation
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Spell Snare
1 Mana Leak
1 Opt

Ever played a Baleful Strixagainst Death’s Shadow?

TitanShift
IN
2 Disdainful Stroke
OUT
2 Ice-Fang Coatl

Wish we had more going on here, but three ways to counter Primeval Titan is unfortunately the best we can do. Luckily, Scapeshift itself is a breeze thanks to Queller and Force. Suit up a Sword of Feast and Famine, go to town, and hope for the best, I guess!

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