Do you like annoying your opponents? Do you like making your opponents feel like there is nothing that they can do and their only hope is that you screw up? Is winning a game when your opponent has no permanents a goal on your bucket list? If you answered yes to any of those questions do I have a deck for you!
You may have seen me playing my deck at the SCG Open Series in Madison or read the deck tech article. In this article I'm going to outline why I chose to play the cards I did over other options and show you the changes that I made for GP Minneapolis.
First off here is the one that I played to 26th place at SCG Open Series: Madison.
- 2 Spellskite
- 4 Blade Splicer
- 3 Merfolk Looter
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 3 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Stonehorn Dignitary
The basic premise of the deck is to get a Stonehorn Dignitary lock on your opponents so that they can never attack you. It's a hard lock for a lot of the decks that are in Standard to get out of because the format has shifted to a more aggro format with less control as a result of Cavern of Souls.
As I stated in the deck tech I played against the Stonehorn lock back in October so I knew how annoying it was to try to get out of the lock. One thing that helps is that people are no longer playing Dismember which cuts down on their ways to disrupt the combo.
Here's a breakdown of the deck:
4 Stonehorn Dignitary - He is the main combo; you have to have four of him.
3 Venser the Sojourner - You don't really want to draw two as most people can't handle the first.
4 Blade Splicer - The second best card in the deck. The token is quite good since it beats most creatures all by itself; being able to Blink the Blade Splicer and assembling a first striking army is very strong in this format.
4 Restoration Angel - It is the best card in the deck; it does so much and is really annoying for your opponent to play around. The only bad thing about playing Restoration Angel is when your opponent clones it and gets to Blink something like Acidic Slime.
3 Merfolk Looter - Some people really like Merfolk Looter and other people really dislike it. I firmly stand by it as a reason for this deck's success. The ability to dig for lands or a piece of the lock is very important. Some people have tried to cut the Looter but then find out that the deck just doesn't run as smoothly. He is also a lightning rod for removal against good opponents; even if they are just using Gut Shot on him it makes it so they are less likely to have removal when you try and Blink your Blade Splicer.
2 Spellskite - The deck feels at times like the Splinter Twin combo because Stonehorn is a 1/4 that you are trying to protect and like in Splinter Twin Spellskite does a very good job of protecting your combo of Venser and Stonehorn. It also does a good job of blocking early.
3 Oblivion Ring - Sometimes I want to go up to four but three just feels like the right number.
3 Cloudshift - Sometimes the best and the worst card in the deck. When you cast it to save a Restoration Angel from removal and Blink a Blade Splicer or Stonehorn it is the best feeling. However when you have two in your opening hand even if you have a Blade Splicer it isn't the best feeling since you get no value if they just kill the Blade Splicer as most people have learned to do.
4 Ponder - The cheapest dig spell in the format.
4 Gitaxian Probe - Since this is a combo deck having information about your opponent's hand is very nice and it can help dig with Snapcaster Mage. Overall I would say it's the weakest card in the deck.
1 Mimic Vat - Very strong against any removal heavy deck. It's also another way to assemble a Stonehorn lock.
2 Negate - For the control matchup.
2 Day of Judgment - I wanted a sweeper against any aggro deck. I ended up not liking it since if I cast Day I would lose my board presence also. Mostly it's a judgment call if you want a sweeper if the board gets out of control.
3 Timely Reinforcements - A little awkward at times since you can generate a lot of creatures with Blade Splicer and then Timely Reinforcements doesn't do much. It's necessary against Delver on the play as you need it to temper their aggressive starts.
This version performed very well at the SCG Open Series in Madison propelling me to a 6-0 start against a variety of decks including Reanimator Tezzeret Ramp and Delver.
Unfortunately in round 7 I ran out of time against Delver having the Stonehorn lock and would have soon had a Venser emblem to wreck his board and swing for the win.
Then I lost two straight to Delver for a variety of reasons. First is that a flipped Delver of Secrets is hard for the deck to deal with since only Restoration Angel can reasonably block it. This is where Mana Leak and Vapor Snag cause you a lot of trouble. Mana Leak in general is very good against the deck since your threats are four mana or more.
I also had some weak opening hands such as double Cloudshift or missing a color of mana.
So after the disappointment of finishing 26th I played the deck on Magic Online thought about the Delver matchup and came up with this.
- 2 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Spellskite
- 4 Blade Splicer
- 3 Merfolk Looter
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 3 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Stonehorn Dignitary
I decided that I had to add Mana Leak to the deck to give it better early game against Delver and other decks. I didn't have in the deck initially since it doesn't protect your combo because even if you did have spare mana when you cast Venser or Stonehorn the Mana Leak is going to be useless anyways. This is another place where Merfolk Looter really helps you in the mid to late game.
As I mentioned earlier the double Cloudshift opener is pretty awful so cutting one for a Phyrexian Metamorph made sense. A Spellskite was the other card I cut to make room for the second Metamorph; with Mana Leak in the deck it was stronger against Zealous Conscript and Spellskite has less synergy with the rest of the deck.
While I hated to see the Gitaxian Probes go away it was the weakest card as you can normally get a read of what the opponent has from how they are playing. Since I cut the Probes the deck was a little mana light so I added the third Moorland Haunt that I had been thinking about putting in the deck.
I added Geist of Saint Traft and Sword of War and Peace to the sideboard to fight against Delver and control decks. The Faith's Shield is a card I had been playing as a one-of online and it comes in handy because it can save a Stonehorn or a Venser. I haven't gotten to live the dream of someone attacking Venser and giving Venser protection from the color of their guys to fog.
The changes felt very good when I played the deck at GP Minneapolis. Sadly I wasn't playing very well played the deck in a very shortsighted manner and lost my last two rounds to not make Day 2. Which is guess is a long-winded way to say that I was tired and played awful.
As for the deck I think it's a strong performer but it has lost some positioning lately. Like in round 4 I played against a RUG Pod deck that had Acidic Slime and Deadeye Navigator which basically wrecks you even if you get the lock and can make multiple Venser emblems. Of course unless they have a way to break out of the lock you might be able to deck them but they should eventually get a Zealous Conscripts to pair with the Deadeye Navigator and just steal your Venser in your upkeep to ensure that they can attack.
Another thing to remember is that the Stonehorn's trigger is not a missable trigger since it has no effect on the game state so it is assumed to have happened. Also since it's a replacement effect it does stack so if you play Stonehorn and Blink it with Venser they will skip their next two attack phases which gives you a turn to ultimate Venser.
Fun Cards That I Didn't Play
Sunblast Angel - If you're playing at FNM go ahead and try to live the dream of Cloudshifting it during your opponent's attack phase. Otherwise it doesn't really work in the deck since it's too slow and you can't Blink it with Restoration Angel because the ability targets a non-Angel creature. I can't think of a deck where it would be good to let them attack me just so that I could Wrath them with Sunblast Angel.
Deadeye Navigator - While this guy is awesome and sure could do a lot of damage with Blade Splicer or Stonehorn he is six mana and therefore to slow. If you want to build the deck as a pure Stonehorn lock deck then you should probably try this guy out as Venser 4-5.
Forbidden Alchemy - A great card to dig with but a bit slow by costing three mana. I would prefer to be casting a Metamorph or Blade Splicer. You could probably squeeze a couple in the deck. Again if you want a pure Stonehorn lock deck then you probably want this and maybe some black mana to flash it back plus then you can play Drownyard to wreck control decks or an alternate win condition.
Aether Adept – Well he's decent guy but just bouncing an opponent's creature is not very sexy and there are just better effects that you could have. I have thought about having him in the sideboard against G/R Aggro.
Fiend Hunter - I would love to play some Cloudshift shenanigans with this guy but four white mana would be hard to get. It's possible that it belongs in the deck as a way to answer more of the problem cards.
Cards That Beat the Deck
Nightfall Predator - The worst nightmare you could have. He can fight any guy you play and live; sure it's easy to play two spells on your turn and flip him back but then they just pass and proceed with slaughtering your guys. The worst part is that they easily can play one and Green Sun's Zenith for it.
Zealous Conscripts - Can take your Venser and make your opponent an emblem which is game over unless they draw lands in a row. You could maybe steal a win with Venser and unblockability.
Tips for Playing the Deck
When playing against a deck that can Wrath your board keep the extra Stonehorn Dignitaries in your hand; that way you can reestablish the lock after they rebuild from the Wrath.
If you make a Venser emblem remember that you can ultimate Venser again and get a second emblem. This happens a lot against control or if they have a lot of creatures out and don't feel like scooping. I did this in Madison. I had two Venser emblems and drew a Snapcaster Mage so with the double Cloudshift and Ponder in my graveyard I was able to remove eight permanents then cast the Ponder I got off the one from the graveyard to remove two more for a total of ten permanents. However he had Thrun the Last Troll so I couldn't go for the perfect victory.
Don't be afraid to flash Restoration Angel in at the end of their turn. While it's really nice to get value from it a lot of times you just want the board presence.
Venser has a second ability and it's pretty good and can end the game quickly. This is not just a Stonehorn lock deck; opening Blade Splicer into Restoration Angel is a very strong beatdown hand and good with Venser's second ability.
Yes you can take out the Stonehorns; sometimes it's just a 1/4 dork for four mana and terrible. Any time you play against control this is the plan. Leave in the Venser as he is really good against control. Such as if they Wrath you can use Moorland Haunt on your turn then Blink it to use it on their turn.
Blade Splicer can be sided out against ramp; while it's nice to sometimes have the first striking squad to hold back their Titan it is one of the weaker cards since it usually doesn't attack profitably against them.
I sometimes side out a Merfolk Looter. I know I said that it's one of the best cards in the deck but sometimes you have to make an additional cut and it's okay to cut one. Don't cut all of them; I did it a couple times and have always regretted it since I couldn't get to the mid to late game because I was mana screwed or got flooded in the late game. Looter solves both those problems.
Cloudshift is another card I side out a lot. It really only shines against removal and when you need the extra Blink effect.
Til next time may you know the joy of double Venser emblems.