Esper Stoneblade Primer (Main Deck)

by Zen Takahashi on 31 July 2018, Tuesday

Zen Takahashi


Esper Stoneblade Primer (Main Deck)

Hello everybody! 

A few weeks ago, Wizards decided to shake up legacy by banning Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe. Although Grixis Delver and 4c Czech Pile have been my go-to legacy decks for the past year, I was stoked about the announcement, as it meant I now had the opportunity to play my favorite deck again – Esper Stoneblade!

My History with Esper Stoneblade

In 2011, after being glued to my computer screen for a whole Sunday as I watched Chris Van Meter take down an SCG Open with UW Stoneblade, I realized that I wanted to play this deck.

The only problem was that I was fourteen years old at the time, and so I did not have much money – in fact, my only income was the $10 a week I got from the delivering the local paper around the neighborhood every Wednesday
 and Friday. There was also not many legacy events in Auckland, which meant I would not get many opportunities to play the deck even if I owned it. 



Still, I was so encapsulated by the deck that I decided to double the number of papers I deliver by taking on the neighbourhood next to where I was already delivering, and after months of grinding over six hundred houses a week on an hourly that was about a third of minimum wage, I was able to afford a playset of Tundras and Force of Wills - which were around $80 each at the time. 

When I finally finished completing the deck, I thought I could go back to my old route. However, during this time, Tom Martell had won GP Indianapolis with an Esper version of the deck. This meant that I now needed Underground Seas and Polluted Deltas as well – the latter which were still expensive at the time as it would be another two years before they were reprinted in Khans of Tarkir. 

With my eyes now set on purchasing a playset of Underground Seas and Polluted Deltas, I kept on grinding the large workload until I was able to get them – in fact, I even got scammed out of an Underground Sea from a shady online dealer, so I ended up having to pay for five! With Underground Seas being $150 each at the time, it took just over seven weeks of delivering papers to buy a single copy. 

By the time I finished getting the lands for the Esper version, I had gotten used to the workload. With legacy cards increasing in price, I decided just to continue doing it and used those funds to build my legacy collection further, as well as help fund my initial trips to Australian Grand Prix.

Needless to say, because of these experiences, Esper Stoneblade always has and likely always will have a special place in my heart. Although I do not expect the deck to be Tier One now like it used to be because other decks have gotten much stronger, it is at least viable again – and I plan to do my best to try to make it as competitive as I can. 

The Main Deck

Without further ado, here is my starting list in this post-ban world, and what I played at a local event a few weekends ago: 

Main Deck Choices

Threat Base


Stoneforge Mystic Snapcaster Mage True-Name Nemesis

The threat base of the deck has historically been four Stoneforge Mystic, three Snapcaster Mage, three True-Name Nemesis/Lingering Souls/Vendilion Clique, and three Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Some players have experimented with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy over Snapcaster Mage, but I dislike it due to its vulnerability to Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt

The contention for the three drops is a close one, and for the longest time, I was a fan of Lingering Souls due to its resilience against Daze and Pyroblast against other fair decks. However, I am now solidly in the True-Name Nemesis camp – the card is simply too good if it resolves, but it is also great against Lands, and it pitches to Force of Will, which is essential as the deck does have a low blue card count. 

Vendilion Clique is relatively mediocre, but it is well rounded, so I generally like to play one – especially in an open metagame such as the one we are currently in as the metagame has not been quite established yet. In a combo-heavy metagame, I would be happy to play another copy. 



Umezawa's Jitte Batterskull

I have opted for the standard one each of Umezawa's Jitte and Batterskull. I have tried various Swords in the past, but I have always found them to be too clunky – they are mana intensive in a deck that is always mana hungry. If Sultai decks become popular, I can see playing a Sword of Feast and Famine in the sideboard. 



Brainstorm Ponder

For pretty much the entirety of playing this deck, I have played with four Brainstorms and two Ponders. Although the full eight cantrips have become the norm in fair blue decks over the past few years, Esper Stoneblade has a higher curve compared to other decks, so it is more mana intensive and hence cannot afford to be spending a bunch of mana just to set up draws.

With the banning of Deathrite Shaman and losing that extra mana source, it may become more common to see various blue decks play fewer cantrips than we have accustomed to. This will make these decks more inconsistent, but you cannot afford to be durdling when you are tighter on mana, especially with Wasteland becoming popular again. 

Removal Spells


Swords to Plowshares Fatal Push Supreme Verdict

I have generally played between six to eight removal spells – mostly dependent on the metagame. Currently, I am playing the full eight, as I am expecting RUG Delver and Death and Taxes to be overrepresented as the former will be the go-to choice for previous Grixis Delver players, while the latter is the most accessible deck in legacy. 

The four Swords to Plowshares and one Engineered Explosives has always been a staple in this deck. From there, it is largely a combination of Fatal Push, Supreme Verdict, Council's Judgment and Vindicate. I like always having one of either Council's Judgment or Vindicate to serve as a catch-all answer, but I dislike playing any more than that as three mana is expensive. Right now, I prefer Council's JudgmentCouncil's Judgment due to the presence of True-Name Nemesis

Most lists online play two Supreme Verdict, but I have historically found the card to be quite clunky and drawing multiples against non-creature decks is a Nightmare – whereas other removal spells may still have some application, such as being an answer to Marit Lage.

I am also currently trying one Diabolic Edict, a card I have not played in this deck before, but I was impressed by it in 4c Czech Pile as being an answer to True-Name Nemesis and Marit Lage. It is also good against RUG Delver and Death and Taxes, as it answers Nimble Mongoose and Mother of Runes



Counterspell Inquisition of Kozilek Thoughtseize

I am currently playing five Counterspells and four discard spells – which is the minimum number that I generally play in this deck. If the metagame becomes heavier on combo decks, I will look to cut two removal spells for a sixth Counterspell and fifth discard spell. 

My Counterspell suite is currently four Force of Wills and one Counterspell – which is what I have been playing for the longest time. If I were to add a sixth Counterspell, it would either be a Spell Pierce or a second Counterspell.

One mana discard spells are the main reason to splash Black, as it provides the deck with some much-needed interaction against Combo decks – without them, it would be almost impossible to beat Combo decks in pre-board games. They also work great with Snapcaster Mage and they complement Stoneforge Mystic well.

In fact, even though discard spells have historically been underwhelming against creature decks, in this deck you can often use them on turn one to take a removal spell out of their hand, and then follow it up with a Stoneforge Mystic fetching Batterskull that they now cannot answer – and that is usually enough to steal the game. 

I have always liked running a split of Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize as drawing multiple of the latter can hurt your life total – especially against creature decks. I recently tried Collective Brutality after seeing some lists online with it, but I was unimpressed by it – costing two mana made it pair terribly with Snapcaster Mage and Stoneforge Mystic. Even though Collective Brutality is a way to hedge against creature decks, I found that I rather just have a one mana discard spell against those decks because of its complementation with Stoneforge Mystic

Mana Base

The mana base you see in the decklist was the mana base that Shaheen Soorani built years ago, and it is what I have been playing ever since – and I have never felt the need to change it. The main strength of this deck is that it can operate solely on basic lands, and so unless I know the matchup, I almost always fetch for basic lands in the first few turns so that I am not vulnerable to Wasteland. I know that Shaheen has recently cut the basic Swamp, but I still like it because of the Fatal Pushes in my sideboard which I want to bring in against RUG Delver and Death and Taxes. 

I hope you enjoyed this article as I went over my favorite legacy deck – Esper Stoneblade! In my next article, I will be finishing off this primer by going over the sideboard in detail, as I discuss all my sideboard choices and how to sideboard against the top decks in the format. 

Until next time!

Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter 

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