Hello, readers, and welcome to my second segment in the ongoing series, Let’s Build! Today I’ll be walking you through an unusual way of looking at deckbuilding – by looking not at a general, but a card to build around.
It’s no secret to anyone who’s played against my Oros, the Avenger deck – I’m of the opinion that Sunforger is one of the best card advantage engines ever printed. It’s an uphill battle to make work, but I’m going to explain how to get the engine going, and then after that how to completely steal entire board states away from opponents in the blink of an eye. (Hint: That part involves untapping with it, usually only once.)
MAKING SUNFORGER WORK
The most important part of your Sunforger engine is making sure it sticks. Let’s take a look at the elements that make up the card first.
Casting Cost – 
Being an artifact, it’s pretty easy to cast. It’s weak to counterspells if you naturally draw it, given that it doesn’t get protected by Cavern of Souls or Boseiju, Who Shelters All, but at the same time, being identified with the same colors as Stoneshaker Shaman and Grand Abolisher certainly helps its argument, and it’s a good Stoneforge Mystic target.
Costing 3 is also extremely helpful because you can return it to play with a Sun Titan trigger, which is way more than relevant when people think they’ve dealt with the problem.
Artifact – Equipment
This is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. Artifacts are typically extremely easy to remove (Putrefy, Return to Dust, Orim’s Thunder), but being an Equipment means that a Stonehewer Giant with 1RWW open is a daunting presence in any board state. It synergizes well with the aforementioned Stoneforge Mystic as well as Puresteel Paladin and Leonin Shikari. Overall, it has its weaknesses as an artifact without hexproof (run Leonin Abunas if this becomes a problem), but it has merit as an Equipment that’s easy to tutor and abuse.
Equipped creature gets +4/+0.
This is hilariously relevant as equally as it’s irrelevant. 4 power means any first strike or lifelink creature absolutely adores this thing, and it’s very effective at closing the gap of 21 general damage. It’s clearly not the best aspect of the card – it would be playable without this line of text, but everything helps.
RW, Unattach Sunforger: Search your library for a red or white instant card with converted mana cost 4 or less and cast that card without paying its mana cost. Then shuffle your library.
This is obviously why we play this card – it’s unique, it’s interesting, it’s flavorful, and within every new set, new toys for the sun stick are printed that get people thinking – is this actually worth casting?
The range of targets this thing has is massive, but honestly, very few are actually worth casting once you look through your deck to think “Hmm, how do I answer this?” I’ll get more in-depth about the wealth and worth of Sunforger’s targets later on.
This is the line of text about this card that frustrates me most. Paying 3RW to cast your answer is obviously a balance thing, but it’s still frustrating that in multiplayer games. I paint a target on my head whenever I play my Sunforger deck, and when I first sneak it in, I’m left with the ability to answer only one spell or activated ability per round of the table, without being able to cast the spells in my hand to boot. It’s rather annoying, but once you can get the ball rolling it’s pretty hard to not win based purely off the momentum you generate by playing any spell, from your deck, whenever you want.
PROS AND CONS TO PLAYING SUNFORGER
There’s a lot of risk-reward involved in committing to the plan of sticking a Sunforger onto the table. You run the risk of it being the target of a timely hate spell (Return to Dust is admittedly terrifying), but if you can keep it alive for more than one round of turns, you pretty much can threaten to win the game just because of how much pure card advantage and pressure a live Sunforger exerts on damn well any board state.
-Easy to get onto a board state though cheating directly into play (Stonehewer Giant, Stoneforge Mystic) and cheap enough to cast easily
-Has a hearth of targets that can literally let you do anything to any permanent on the board, even just in red/white
-Can dismantle entire strategies or board states by itself without having to deplete resources
-Plays very well with an intrinsic, synergystic package devoted to it (Mistveil Plains, Puresteel Paladin, Leonin Shikari)
-Provides 4 power to commander attacks
-They just printed Boros Charm in Gatecrash and if you untap with Mistveil Plains, Stonehewer Giant and Sunforger it is literally impossible for any one opponent to dismantle your grip on the board so long as you can loop Boros Charm
-Plays well with abilities relevant to combat
-Is a strong political jackhammer; unless the entire table is able to combine their efforts in stopping you, you have free reign over the board to do what you want, and can stave off opponents just by telling them what you’re capable of
-Your control matchup’s best scenario has you sneak in Sunforger unfettered while depleting their countermagic casting Return to Dust on their Rhystic Study every turn while they desperately fumble to save it, wasting cards in hand while you don’t deplete your resources
-Combo matchups are much less intensive because of the fact that your silver bullets against them are more easily at your disposal
-Aggro matchups have multiple targets that are extremely powerful (Homing Lightning, Volcanic Fallout, Riot Control)
-Is a slow strategy that relies on setup, making you vulnerable to aggro
-Players who have experience against this type of thing will work together to disrupt you
-Is vulnerable to exile effects
-Can be best described as “politically volatile” – when you slowly grind your opponents out of resources while not winning the game unmercifully quick, opponents will get frustrated with your ability to remove all of their attempts to even stay alive, and begin to prioritize you as a target (read: they’ll get really butthurt and cry that they didn’t stop you before it was too late)
-Is difficult on your mana to constantly re-equip your creature to cast your target
-Targets are vast in hindsight but narrow in function – sometimes you devote deck slots to cards you think are good, when in reality you never cast them because you have better options
-Relies on other cards devoted to it in order to be truly effective
-Resource management can be difficult when board states get cluttered and you forget an activated ability (More accurately, the engine takes practice, as it has an above-average skill floor and an insanely high skill ceiling, one I have yet to master)
-Can be in a difficult position when you draw neither the Sunforger itself or the means to get the engine going
-The control matchup can be shaky because it can be hard to resolve your Sunforged spells without backup from something like a Vexing Shusher
-The combo matchup can be problematic when they get a good draw and combo off before you can assemble Sunforger due to how mana-intensive it is to hardcast it, equip it and then prepare for the oncoming storm
-The aggro matchup can similarily run you over if they draw the right combination of cards before you’re able to setup your engine
When building a Sunforger deck, there has to be two underlying things you have to be constantly thinking about – do I want to deal 21 general damage, and will I have enough creatures to equip the Sunforger to?
Luckily, in almost every color combination for the Sunforger, there are a wealth of options for both. Let’s take a look:
Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran – Building an Agrus Kos deck gives you a lot of incentive to run a token theme, so as long as you can spit out tokens (Assemble the Legion, Goblin Assault, Mobilization), then you’re never going to realistically run out of creatures to equip Sunforger to.
Aurelia, the Warleader – Aurelia makes use out of the +4/+0 strangest out of all generals listed here – only having 3 power, she doesn’t seem like the most impressive general to attach it to – until you realize she has haste and can attack twice, effectively having double strike. It also helps that with a Sunforger in hand she hits the extremely sweet spot of 7 power, making three attacks to a player lethal. If unanswered, she can swing and kill a player in two turns while also applying 7 general damage to another player and threatening another kill the turn after that.
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight – Gisela functions similar to Aurelia in the sense that she effectively has double strike. What makes her different is the fact that a single pump spell for 2 or more will seal the deal. Aside from that, play Gisela with a Sunforger for the same reasons you’d play Aurelia with a Sunforger.
Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer – Sunforger is pretty much an auto-include in Jor Kadeen. It contributes to Metalcraft, Jor himself has first strike, and any double strike enabler threatens 22 general damage very quickly.
Tajic, Blade of the Legion – Tajic must have been printed with Sunforger in mind. I overlooked Tajic at first as a general, but after looking at him again, he’s fantastic in the 99 of any Sunforger list. Almost all of them need at least one hard-to-kill body that can constantly hold all your golf clubs and tire irons, and Tajic delivers. As a general, Sunforger gets Tajic to the magic number of 11 when you trigger his Battalion ability, so a double strike enabler will seal the deal for you.
Numot, the Devastator – Though he may be a little lacking on the political side of things, Numot has merit as being a scary control finisher. Being able to hit a player. and then destroy another player’s utility land is very powerful. Sunforger gets him to 10, which isn’t a magic number, sadly, but that being said, RWU is more concerned casting counterspells with Sunforger than anything else.
Ruhan of the Fomori – Ruhan is a powerful 1v1 general without Sunforger, but if you want to slap a Sunforger here, go nuts. With it, Ruhan hits the magic number 11, which merits inclusion in the discussion of potential generals.
Kaalia of the Vast – I’ve not been a fan of Kaalia with a Sunforger, mostly because of the fact that people generally understand the threat density of Kaalia (ever had her sneak in an Iona, Shield of Emeria? It’s not fun.), but she is the cheapest general in those colors, so if you’re able to successfully convince your opponents you aren’t sneaking in a Master of Cruelties, by all means, go ham and try to general damage someone out with Kaalia. She doesn’t hit 7 or 11 without additional setup, though, so be aware that it will take some work to live the dream.
Oros, the Avenger – Oros is my go-to general for my Sunforger deck. I enjoy having black (it’s mostly because I like Hide // Seek – sue me) to be able to have more readily available answers to creatures, but it’s also helpful that your colors give you access to Reassembling Skeleton, making Skullclamp an attractive equipment option as well. Oros’ ability to wipe the board is also a luxury due to the slow, setup-type nature of Sunforger shells, and I included Basilisk Collar and Vault of the Archangel just to sometimes get that sweet Oros sweep.
(My list for Oros, the Avenger can be found on MTG Salvation here: http://forums.mtgsalvation.com/showthread.php?t=415270)
Tariel, Reckoner of Souls – Tariel deserves mention just because, like Sunforger itself, Tariel can provide powerful card advantage through his activated ability. Tariel’s downside, much like Gisela’s, is how expensive he is to cast, making general damage with him a tad unrealistic. At the same time, you’ll almost always have a body to attach Sunforger to, so that’s a welcome bonus.
Hazezon Tamar – Hazezon, if you’re lucky enough to own one, is decent at the helm in a bubble – he makes bodies to hold Sunforger, which is really good, but the problem is, there aren’t any instant-speed ramp spells that are worth casting off Sunforger, and the Sand Warriors he creates die when he leaves the battlefield, making it very attractive for any opponent to remove him if Hazezon or his tokens are vital to your game plan.
Mayael the Anima – Mayael may seem like an awkward inclusion in this list, but Mayael is cheap and relatively powerful if you’re looking to simply cast green spells off your Sunforger while still dealing a lot of general damage. It can also be very surprising for your opponents who play against this for the first time and put you on the Avacyn, Angel of Hope plan.
Rith, the Awakener – Rith is probably a better option than Hazezon if only because the tokens stay in play when Rith dies. The only issue is, people at a table can and will band together against Rith to ensure it doesn’t ever connect more than once in a game. Just be prepared for a lot of hate if you ever attempt this strategy.
Horde of Notions – Horde of Notions merits inclusion in this list for one reason and one reason only – Crib Swap. While a tad color-intensive, if you ever get this going it can be pretty difficult for opponents to mount a defense against it when your Sunforger can dismantle whatever protective bubble they set up.
Scion of the Ur-Dragon – Scion of the Ur-Dragon can be built a number of different ways, but the +4 power is relevant when Scion becomes Dragon Tyrant, and the rest of the Sunforger package can be dedicated to removal or ways of protecting Scion.
All right, the meat and potatoes section. I’m not going to get into detail about every single target, but I think for a number of reasons that these are all optimal Sunforger targets.
White / Red:
Brave the Elements
Debt of Loyalty
Fight to the Death
Leave No Trace
Path to Exile
Price of Progress
Rally the Peasants
Renounce the Guilds
Return to Dust
Swords to Plowshares
Advent of the Wurm
Congregation at Dawn
Ray of Revelation
Signal the Clans
5-color (more than one non-red color):
The process of looking at your options and deciding which are the best to run can be difficult sometimes. Deciding how much of your spell slots you want to dedicate to your Sunforger targets is a delicate process, but if I had to give you one piece of advice, it’d be this – don’t be afraid to play around with your options. Typically, only 10 of your slots are concrete, necessary options – the rest are slots you can experiment with.
When constructing a Sunforger shell, you want:
-1-2 slots dedicated to unrestricted permanent disruption (Chaos Warp is just way too solid to ignore here, but Oblation is decent as well)
-2-3 slots dedicated to creature disruption (Swords to Plowshares is my personal favorite)
-1-2 slots dedicated to artifact / enchantment disruption (Return to Dust and Orim’s Thunder are very solid due to their flexibility)
-Wrath insurance (Boros Charm is almost an auto-include imo, but Ghostway helps just as well)
-1-2 slots dedicated to your game plan – general damage will want protection from colors, double strike and pump, whereas token strategies will either go with mass pump or token generation
-A way to redirect or copy spellcasts (Wild Ricochet is an auto-include imo)
-4 slots dedicated to metagame calls (Homing Lightning and Volcanic Fallout beat tokens pretty well, Wing Shards and Renounce the Guilds deal with bubbles.dek pretty well, and Angel’s Grace and Orim’s Chant can help tone down combo decks)
Basically, you can toy with the numbers a bit, but remember, there are several options you can utilize to make your Sunforger toolbox unique and powerful.
Don’t think that now that you’ve assembled 10-15 spells for Sunforger to cast, you’re done dedicating your deck to the plan of it. Sunforger can be powerful by itself, but backed up it’s nearly unstoppable.
Any creature that cares about Equipment is pretty decent, so in that regard we have the following:
Stoneforge Mystic – Mystic can tutor your Sunforger and cheat it into play for free, and it can hold it to boot. I like how solid SFM is, and I definitely would recommend it for anyone looking to play a Sunforger list. (Though lately, I’ve had SFM tutor Batterskull much more often – it could be something I’ve learned from my days of playing Standard, but it’s pretty big game to sneak in a turn 3 Batterskull)
Stonehewer Giant – Undoubtedly Sunforger’s best friend, the Giant can not only tutor it directly into play, but on top of that it bypasses its awful cost of 3 to equip by automatically attaching Sunforger to whatever creature you want! If you have 1RWW open, it’s pretty easy to answer pretty much anything your opponent does, provided you can activate Stonehewer Giant. On top of that, you can reactivate the Giant’s ability to fetch other all-star Equipment like Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Fire and Ice, Skullclamp and Umezawa’s Jitte.
Puresteel Paladin – Probably the most under appreciated card in a Sunforger deck, Puresteel makes all your Equipment cantrip, but more importantly, if you have metalcraft active (easily achieved with mana rocks), Puresteel Paladin makes Sunforger free to equip, which is just insane when you start rapid-firing spellcasts to generate insane advantages.
Leonin Shikari – Another all-star of the matchup is the Vedalken Orrery of a Sunforger deck. Being able to equip Sunforger at instant speed is big game, and with Puresteel Paladin it’s absolutely disgusting.
Tajic, Blade of the Legion – I mentioned earlier that a hard-to-remove body is invaluable in a Sunforger deck. Tajic is your base R/W creature for this task, but trolls in green, Reassembling Skeleton in black, and cards like Aetherling in blue work just as well. Hexproof, cheap regeneration, recursion or indestructibility are what you’re looking for here, but you always want at least one creature slot dedicated to this task. (Until the printing of Tajic, my list ran Darksteel Myr in his place and some opponents as just couldn’t remove him)
Sun Titan – Sun Titan is insurance not only for a destroyed Sunforger, but for most of the aforementioned cards – in general, a grindy recursion engine fits the bill of what you want to be doing in most Sunforger decks anyway – slowly building advantage through efficient cards that aren’t resource-intensive and have synergy.
Mistveil Plains – Don’t get it confused – Mistveil Plains is just insanely powerful in a Sunforger deck. Being able to constantly recycle your Sunforger targets is huge game. Opponents try to Wrath you out? Boros Charm on loop means your opponents are casting Plague Wind for you. Trying to attack you? Homing Lightning kills their tokens, and Wing Shards kills their actual attackers. Opponents rely heavily on their generals? Renounce the Guilds keeps it locked out of the game forever. In general, the deck gets absolutely silly when you can repeatedly cast your Sunforger targets. It helps that you can tutor for the Mistveil Plains[/card[ through not only fetchlands and [card]Kor Cartographer, but Tithe can actually be cast from Sunforger itself.
I think I’ve covered most of the bases – you cheat Sunforger in, you cast spells off of it until you’ve depleted your opponents of resources, then you attach it to your general and win. The concept of playing a Sunforger is not extremely difficult, but when playing the deck it can actually be pretty difficult to micro-manage all of the abilities you have at your disposal.
Anyway, I hope I’ve given you insight on one of my favorite cards for EDH; perhaps inspired you to build a deck of your own!
Best of luck Sunforging in the future!
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
Hits & Misses of Dragon’s Maze:
Part 1 – Melek, Izzet Paragon - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?