Today, Wizards of the Coast unbanned Stoneforge Mystic in Magic: the Gathering’s Modern format.

Don’t miss our stories on today’s other Banned and Restricted updates: Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Faithless Looting were banned in Modern; Rampaging Ferocidon was unbanned in Standard; and Karn, the Great Creator, Mystic Forge, Mental Misstep, and Golgari Grave-Troll were restricted in Vintage, while Fastbond was unrestricted

The highly anticipated Banned and Restricted update was expected to ban Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis from Modern, where it had dominated the format. Although the banning of Bridge from Below last month aimed to slow down Hogaak strategies at first, it did little to change the Modern metagame, which has remained warped since the release of Modern Horizons in June 2019.

But Wizards surprised the Magic community by banning Faithless Looting in addition to Hogaak, as well as the stunning unban of Stoneforge Mystic.

Welcome to Modern, Stoneforge Mystic

Stoneforge Mystic was first banned when it was in Standard back in June 2011 as it was considered too powerful alongside Jace, the Mind Sculptor. This thought process extended into Modern when it was announced later that year, and both Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor began on the banned list of the new format.

Standard Caw Blade, June 2011

Creatures (8)
Squadron Hawk
Stoneforge Mystic

Planeswalkers (6)
Jace Beleren
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Gideon Jura

Spells (17)
Gitaxian Probe
Spell Pierce
Divine Offering
Into the Roil
Mana Leak

Artifacts (3)
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of War and Peace
Lands (26)
Celestial Colonnade
Glacial Fortress
Inkmoth Nexus
Marsh Flats
Misty Rainforest
Seachrome Coast
Tectonic Edge

Sideboard (15)
Tectonic Edge
Celestial Purge
Divine Offering
Day of Judgment
Sun Titan

The key reason for the Kor Artificer’s banning was due to its ability to tutor for and play Batterskull at instant speed, making for a powerful Turn 3 play. With Stoneforge Mystic becoming legal in the format for the first time, it will now be able to do the same trick with Battlerskull—or any other equipment—in Modern.

Moving Away From a Graveyard-Centric Modern Format

In explaining why they banned Faithless Looting, Wizards said that they were dissatisfied by the Modern metagame being dominated by graveyard strategies to the point where deck diversity was being negatively impacted. This dominance was evident in the fact that cards like Surgical Extraction, Leyline of the Void, and Rest in Peace—cards whose use is solely to combat the graveyard—became important cards in the main deck of many Modern decks.

Wizards is keen to move away from a Modern dominated by graveyard strategies, which is one the key reasons for Stoneforge Mystic‘s unbanning. It offers a strong battlefield-based strategy, which is different from what Modern has been defined by over the last year, and they hope that Stoneforge Mystic will serve “as an enticing draw for decks to refocus toward the battlefield, creature combat, and card advantage.”

Assuming the Worst

Wizards is well aware of the danger in unbanning a card as powerful as Stoneforge Mystic. But the Modern format has changed dramatically since its inception, when Stoneforge was originally banned, and is a much more powerful format today. “Cards that were added to the banned list on pure power level may now be more appropriate in context of a more powerful metagame,” Wizards said. “We believe the Modern metagame and power level are in a place where Stoneforge Mystic is now an appropriate inclusion in the card pool.”

It’s easy to assume to worst when unbans like this occur in a format as powerful as Modern. When Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf became legal last year, for example, many assumed the cards would warp the format. Now, looking back, the impact of these two cards had was relevant but not format-defining, and I expect Stoneforge Mystic to fall into the same category.

It’s important to have faith in Wizards R&D as what they set out to achieve is for the best interest for the game, and they don’t take decisions such as this lightly. Plus, an unban like this can revitalize the format and help counteract the disappointment of major bannings.

Where Modern Goes From Here

Initially, I expect Urza, Lord High Artificer strategies to incorporate Stoneforge Mystic as an additional means to grab Sword of the Meek alongside with Goblin Engineer. Urza Thopter Sword is one of the best non-Hogaak strategies in Modern at present, and offering an additional axis of attack could make the strategy even more potent than before, especially with Hogaak out of the picture.

Modern Urza with Stoneforge (First Draft) by Piotr Glogowski

Creatures (8)
Stoneforge Mystic
Urza, Lord High Artificer

Spells (8)
Fatal Push
Whir of Invention

Artifacts (22)
Mishra’s Bauble
Mox Opal
Chromatic Star
Nihil Spellbomb
Pithing Needle
Arcum’s Astrolabe
Thopter Foundry
Icor Wellspring
Sword of the Meek

Planeswalkers (2)
Teferi, Time Raveler
Lands (20)
Inventor’s Fair
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Prismatic Vista
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Plains
Snow-Covered Swamp
Watery Grave
Hallowed Fountain

Sideboard (15)
Celestial Purge
Monastery Mentor
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Dead of Winter
Collective Brutality
Detention Sphere
Fatal Push
Timely Reinforcements
Grafdigger’s Cage
Damping Sphere

(From Piotr Glogowski on Twitter.)

Stoneforge Mystic will also help Modern Death and Taxes move closer to its Legacy variant, and perhaps a Modern Stoneblade variant could be on the horizon.

Either way, it’s going to be interesting to see builds incorporating Stoneforge Mystic and how the Modern landscape changes. This Banned and Restricted update looks to revitalize Modern in ways I didn’t think would happen, and I’m excited to see where the format goes from here.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.