Less than a week into spoiler season and The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth has already seen its fair share of powerful spoilers. From infinite combo creators on Arena to scary EDH staples, The Lord of the Rings MTG set is looking really neat set.
Luckily for us, the spoilers have not stopped, and there appears to be more format staples in our midst. Today, we will focus on two specific cards and their impact in Modern and beyond. The first card is a unique Counterspell that interacts quite favorably with a handful of Modern Horizons 2 Creatures. The second card is an Enchantment that provides an interesting angle to Equipment-centric decks.
Stern Scolding is the first example of a Counterspell that cares about the power and toughness of the Creatures it looks to counter. In Modern specifically, this card counters nearly 60 percent of the 50 most-played Creatures, which is quite a few. Being able to interact with anything from Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer to Solitude is big game, as the card is relatively flexible at only one mana.
Alongside these powerful staples, there are plenty of other usually sticky permanents that Stern Scolding can hit and get rid of. For example, Sanctifier en-Vec can be a thorn in the side of any Izzet Murktide player, and being able to simply stop it from ever hitting the board can be a game changer. All of this for a super-efficient Counterspell is quite appealing.
Where It Shines
Obviously, Stern Scolding is quite capable of countering Ragavan in a pinch. The issue is that, unlike classic removal spells like Lightning Bolt, this card only gives you a one-turn window to interact. If you are on the draw, you simply can’t Counter a turn one Ragavan.
In this context, the card definitely has its weakness. However, this card has a much higher upside than that. The threats this card works best against are the ones where cheap removal doesn’t cut it. A few styles of Creatures come to mind.
The first group of Creatures that removal isn’t as good against is cheap Creatures with good enter-the-battlefield effects. For instance, Stoneforge Mystic, while an obvious target for removal, is devastating in Hammer Time due to its enter-the-battlefield effect. Even if Stoneforge Mystic gets bolted right away, it’s still able to find a Colossus Hammer or another piece of needed equipment.
Due to this, countering Stoneforge Mystic is obviously far better than just killing it. Thankfully, this is what Stern Scolding does best, as it acts as a clean answer, even when on the draw. If that’s not good enough, it can even counter Grief and Solitude, which similarly have great enter-the-battlefield effects.
The other group of cards that removal isn’t as good against is Creatures with annoying static abilities. Whether they blank certain removal or give your opponent immediate value, these cards can dangerously effective. Thankfully, this is once again where Stern Scolding proves its worth, as it doesn’t allow these creatures to land.
This new category includes cards such as Sanctifier en-Vec which we mentioned earlier. Typically, this card is a prevalent menace in Modern, however, Stern Scoling is a definitive answer to it. This is also the case for cards like Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. Found predominantly within Amulet Titan, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove provides value even when being killed the same turn, making countering it imperative.
Forge Anew’s obvious home is alongside Colossus Hammer in Modern. This card functions very similarly to Sigarda’s Aid in allowing you to not only bypass the eight mana equip cost of Colossus Hammer, but also equip the Hammer at instant speed. This makes combat especially difficult for the opponent, which is a good thing for us.
While three mana may seem like a lot, the redundancy this gives for the deck is quite appealing. Because current iterations of the deck generally only play Sigarda’s Aid and Puresteel Paladin as ways to bypass equip cost, this deck tends to mulligan a decent amount. Redundancy is definitely an issue for the deck, in fact, some Hammer players play one or two copies of Kor Outfitter, despite the card being significantly weaker than Sigarda’s Aid or Paladin.
Not only does Forge Anew helps Hammer Time be more consistent, but it also provides an added bonus of being able to return equipment from the graveyard to the battlefield. This can help improve sideboarded games significantly. This deck’s biggest weakness is its weakness to artifact hate cards, so being able to immediately return a Hammer from the graveyard and suit up a Creature helps mitigate this issue.
Read More: MTG’s Rarest Card Already Looks Curled!
Room for Innovation
At the moment, almost every Hammer list is either mono-white or Azorius. Mono-white Hammer has a less painful manabase and is slightly more consistent. Azorious lists, however, can include The Reality Chip and some potent sideboard cards. Regardless of which color you’re playing, Forge Anew seems strong in current iterations of Hammer. Synergies with Goblin Engineer, however, shows there may be room for innovation.
In current Hammer Time lists, there is undeniably fierce competition at the two-mana slot. After all, Stoneforge Mystic and Puresteel Paladin are auto includes when building the deck. Thankfully, while there is competition, there are still some replaceable flex slots. Goblin Engineer is one such option for these slots, all the more so now thanks to Forge Anew.
Beyond the inherent synergy, a neat aspect is that Goblin Engineer does not have to find specifically Colossus Hammer. Hammer Time decks often play one copy of Kaldra Compleat to pair with Stoneforge Mystic. Unfortunately, however, finding it can be risky as the card is rarely castable if the Stoneforge dies. In the case of Goblin Engineer and Forge Anew, the removal from the Engineer doesn’t break up your gameplan. Kaldra Compleat is very capable of winning the game on its own, unlike Colossus Hammer, and giving the deck another avenue to victory is a nice touch.
Both Stern Scolding and Forge Anew seem like quite good additions to Modern and potentially elsewhere as well. Both cards add a unique element to their respective potential decks that isn’t easily replaceable. Stern Scolding provides a one-mana answer to otherwise problematic Creatures for Izzet Murktide. Meanwhile, Forge Anew offers a new graveyard-focused angle to Hammer Time’s many pieces of equipment.
Forge Anew and Stern Scolding join a plethora of other spoilers from Lord of the Rings that can provide a spark to different formats, and I’m excited to see these spoilers in action in the coming months.