Tales From the Buylist #1 – The Stoneforge Cycle

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I’m a buylist processor for ABU Games in Boise, Idaho. I stare at expensive cardboard all day, and I love every second of it. I’ve been playing Magic since 2010, beginning with Standard. Since then, I’ve grown to love non-rotating formats, making Legacy my format of choice. Blue decks are my thing. For the most part, I’m an average Magic player who enjoys weekly LGS tournaments and the occasional Grand Prix when I can afford it. When it comes to Magic finance, my philosophy is trying making the most of what resources I have and make my insanely expensive Legacy addiction a little bit more affordable.

A Light History Lesson

Speaking of 2010, what a year to start playing the game! The Zendikar block had been well established, with Scars of Mirrodin dropping in October of that year. It wasn’t until the release of Mirrodin Besieged that I started playing tournament-quality decks and keeping up with the metagame at large. Pro Tour Paris 2011, coinciding with Mirrodin Besieged’s release in February, wrapped up with a win from a deck that would come to be known as Caw-Blade. For some, merely mentioning the name of this deck jogs memories of long, drawn-out control mirrors and one of the stalest GP metagames to date.

Caw Blade

A rough overview of Caw-Blade: it was a Blue-White control deck with an insane card-advantage engine in Stoneforge Mystic, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Squadron Hawk. These cards, in tandem with powerful equipment such as Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of Body and Mind, came together to create what would ultimately become an unstoppable force. Naturally, this became my deck of choice for every FNM I would attend in that time.

New Phyrexia’s release in the summer of that year would solidify the deck’s dominance, with the printing of Batterskull and Mortarpod. Not long after, the decision was made to enact the first Standard banning in several years, with the removal of both Jace and Stoneforge. Some point directly to GP Dallas-Fort Worth’s top eight as the event that would seal their fate, where a record 32 copies of Jace (yes, that means four in every deck) and 16 copies of Stoneforge Mystic were featured.

Many players around me were talking about bans long before the decision was made by R&D, and as I was afraid of losing all the value of my very young collection. Jace was then at an all-time high where a playset would set you back at least $400, which is not all that different than today.

Judge me if you will for being rash, but I made the decision to panic sell the deck and play something else with the cards I had left over. I consider myself lucky, as I made this decision the week before the announcement. Talk about close calls! However, with my suspicions confirmed, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth, as were many other players. I decided to leave the game for a while, selling most of my remaining collection and putting that money into the World of Warcraft TCG (RIP). Oops!

While I would dip into Limited from time to time (looking at you, Innistrad!), I largely was out of the game until the release of Theros in 2013, and more importantly, the advent of the Modern format. Coming back, I was unsurprised to find Jace and Stoneforge on the banned list for the format. With the wounds of that Standard being so fresh, this was understandable.

From what I just told you, would you believe it took six long years to get Jace into the format safely, only for him to make a relatively dull thud of an impact? 

In its infancy, the format was dominated by decks like Affinity, Jund, Splinter Twin, Birthing Pod, and Jeskai Control. Jace and Stoneforge were then considered to be too powerful to have a healthy format. Since that time, we’ve gone through several Banned and Restricted List announcements where two of the namesake cards for the decks I just mentioned are no longer even legal for play.

Alright, enough of the history lesson,  on to my point.

Enter Stoneforge Mystic

I find it hilarious that Stoneforge still isn’t legal. Even funnier, every three months, it's the same story. The Stoneforge Mystic hype train pulls into the station, carrying passengers eager to strike it rich on the next big thing in Modern. Around the Magic sphere of the internet, many vocal proponents of Stoneforge's unban in Modern outline great reasons as to why it would be fair and balanced in the metagame. Jeff Hoogland probably has my favorite takes on how silly the situation has become. So, bearing in mind all this chatter, why don’t we take a look at the numbers?

In the graph above, you can see an even, pulsating rhythm of price movement. Shortly before each B&R cycle, people get hyped about the card. Each time that B&R announcement doesn’t include the unbanning, it dips, and after a short while sees slow but steady growth into the next three-month period. This last one was perhaps the most intense. Reviewing my time as a buylister at ABU, I have not seen a single card that has fluctuated with such reliability as Stoneforge Mystic, and with net-positive gains to boot.

The Foil Version

While Stoneforge Mystic does have a Foil Grand Prix version that made the card widely available during its distribution run, I believe the original Worldwake foil printing will be the primary target for substantial returns. Community response to the new art was mostly positive, but the most premium version will be the original.

Two Different Cards, Similar Story

It bears mentioning that you can see upward trends for both Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin. The fringe viability of these cards in Legacy, as well as the relatively low buy-ins that are widely available, make these great targets to pick up. While not a direct comparison, as Stoneforge Mystic’s current prominence in the metagame surely outstrips both of these cards by a country mile, they still may have some play value to them yet.

During the legal period of Dig Through Time in Legacy, Splinter Twin was oddly viable as an alternative to Sneak and Show builds, and will still occasionally crack a top eight at a smaller event. Birthing Pod is currently in the middle of a modest resurgence in popularity in Legacy, and is seeing small yet substantial gains.

Connected Items

The obvious complements to Stoneforge are of course the main targets to fetch up: Batterskull, the Swords of X and Y, and the most succinct and widely played answer, Kolaghan's Command. A quick note on Batterskull: I’ve personally seen quite a few of these go out the door to drop our current stock on non-foils to zero. This is anecdotal at best, but I expect upward movement in the very near future. Honorable mention to Manriki-Gusari, which may be a bit narrow as an answer, but is sometimes boarded in by UW Stoneblade and Death and Taxes decks in Legacy.

Wrapping Up

So what does this all rambling and speculation mean to you?

If I had to make a recommendation on purchasing, I’d say to pick up Stoneforges when you can get them around the $20 to $25 mark. The current buylist spread of several retail stores, including Card Kingdom, makes the investment fairly low risk at that price point should you want to out them in a pinch.

Between you and me, I currently own a non-English playset for Legacy UW Stoneblade, and I’m seriously considering snapping a few English copies up if the price is right. Due to the track record of reluctance from R&D in releasing the Kor Artificer from her prison, I won’t be holding my breath for a quick turnaround on these. However, I do believe patience will win out the day, and we’ll see the card make its debut in Modern a relatively short time from now.

That does it for this week! You can follow me on Twitter @chroberry or Instagram @chroberrymtg if you want to see extra goodies and spoilers for next week’s article. Feel free to let me know how you feel about my targets here in the comments.


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