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The Midrange World of Standard

2018/03/17 00:00 

    • Grzegorz Kowalski
    • Hareruya Pros Blog

Hello! I am writing this article two days before my flight to Madrid for the Constructed Team Trios Grand Prix (on March 10th-11th). This time I will be playing Standard. As you probably know by now, I'm a classic midrange guy and I have spend the last two weeks trying out every possible midrange deck in Standard.

Today I want to share with you everything that I have learned in that time. My goal is to show you the pros and cons of each deck, my take on the decklists, some tips and tricks and how I see them positioned in current metagame. Let's go!

Naya Monsters

About the deck:

Chandra, Torch of DefianceAjani Unyielding

The deck consists of cheap removal and mythic rares. From my experience it isn't consistent enough. Naya Monsters is great if you get to do what you want to do - in my first league when I played turn 3 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》 into turn 4 《Ajani Unyielding》 I felt like I found by far the best deck in Standard. Unfortunately draws like that do not happen all that often.

Naya Monsters is very clunky and splashing for the third color comes at a price. Even though adding white grants you access to removal spells that exile, it's not all peachy - people have learned and are prepared for them now.

Commit // MemoryCast OutIxalan's BindingNaturalize

《The Scarab God》 decks are playing cards like 《Consign // Oblivion》 or 《Commit // Memory》, and green decks have 《Naturalize》 effects in sideboard. If you take all of this into account you come to the conclusion that playing enchantment removal is not what you want to be doing right now.

《Chandra》, 《Rekindling Phoenix》 and 《Glorybringer》 are obviously very powerful cards, but if you want to play them I think RG is just a better, more stable way to do that.

Pros:

Cons:

The deck moving forward:

Rekindling Phoenix

4

I believe 4 is the right number for 《Phoenix》 - the card is frankly insanely strong, and oftentimes strictly better than 《Glorybringer》.

Cast OutIxalan's Binding

You almost never want to Cycle 《Cast Out》, so 《Ixalan's Binding》 is probably the better maindeck card, as it makes your Mono Red match-up that much better. You will be targetting 《Hazoret》 or 《Phoenix》 anyway and it provides additional value for the cost of flash.

I'm not a huge fan of playing more enchantments in sideboard, doing that would make you very vulnerable to 《Naturalize》 effects. The following is my list of Naya Monsters:

Atzocan ArcherSweltering Suns

《Atzocan Archer》 is great against Mono Red, Mardu Vehicles and RB Aggro, but is worse than 《Sweltering Suns》 when it comes to decks like Vampires or GW Tokens, so if you have a lot of these in your metagame, feel free to run the sweeper instead of it.

Deathgorge Scavenger

《Deathgorge Scavenger》 is very versatile - it comes in against Mono Red, Gift, and 《The Scarab God》/《Search for Azcanta》 decks.

Carnage Tyrant

3

《Carnage Tyrant》 is your only way to beat Grixis and UB Control, so I want to have access to 3 in my 75.

Tips and tricks:

Carnage TyrantHazoret the Fervent

If your opponent has a 《Hazoret》 in play and you attack with 《Carnage Tyrant》, you can deal damage to 《Hazoret》 (e.g. with 《Glorybringer》's Exert ability or with 《Abrade》) to trample for more damage. You only have to deal damage equal to 《Hazoret》's toughness to her, so if you Exert your 《Dragon》 you can deal full 7 points of damage to your opponent.

Dire Fleet DaredevilTorrential Gearhulk

《Dire Fleet Daredevil》 exiles a spell card from opponent's graveyard even if you don't cast it. Sometimes it's good to cast just to steal a target from future 《Torrential Gearhulk》.

Fanatical FirebrandJadelight RangerMagma Spray

《Jadelight Ranger》 has a triggered ability, which means it enters the battlefield as 2/1 and everyone can respond for his trigger. Be aware if your opponent has a 《Fanatical Firebrand》 in play. It can also works to your benefit, as you can kill opponent's 《Ranger》 with 《Magma Spray》 before he will reach the 4/3 size.

RG Monsters

About the deck:

Earthshaker KhenraResilient Khenra

For me this is simply the better version of Naya. You have a better mana curve, and more threats that not only are stronger, but also more resilient - 7 of them return from the graveyard. Your mana is consistent in this version as well.

Hazoret the Fervent

The only thing you're losing here is the answer for 《Hazoret》, which makes your Mono Red match-up significantly worse. Other than that I don't see any disadvantages when compared to Naya.

RG Monsters is more of an aggro deck rather than a classic midrange deck. You don't have good defensive tools nor 'catch up' tools, so just try to not fall behind and focus on curving out and everything should be fine.

Pros:

Cons:

The deck moving forward:

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

2

The version from GP Memphis seems fine for me. If the metagame moves towards having more midrange and control it might be worth to fit two copies of 《Chandra》 in the main deck.

Magma Spray

4

Abrade

3

Right now I would also play 4 《Magma Spray》 and 3 《Abrade》 to improve the Mono Red match-up. Since we have so many 2 drops the fact that 《Magma Spray》 costs only one mana makes a huge difference as it allows us to double spell turn 3.

Atzocan ArcherDeathgorge Scavenger

I really like the sideboard here - 《Atzocan Archer》 and 《Deathgorge Scavenger》 are very underrated right now and I fell that people will play them a lot more in near future.

Tips and tricks:

Earthshaker KhenraMerfolk BranchwalkerResilient Khenra

Explore and Eternalize is a great synergy; it usually is a good idea to put any Khenra into your graveyard.

Jadelight Ranger

You can make different decision about Explore each time, so if you want your 《Ranger》 to be 4/3 but you also revealed a useless non-land card from the top, you can put it on the top with the first Explore and then put it into your graveyard with the second one.

Magma SprayThe Scarab God

《Magma Spray》 is a great way to finish off 《The Scarab God》. It combines well with Exert of 《Glorybringer》 or just post combat if 《The God》 blocked or attacked into your blocker. Even though it only deals two damage, 《The Scarab God》 will be exiled forever.

UB Midrange

About the deck:

This deck aims to provides card advantage in every possible way. Your main goal is to trade resources with your opponent, gain some card advantage in the process, and reach the point when you can safely resolve 《The Scarab God》 and win the game off of his back.

Gifted AetherbornGonti, Lord of LuxuryCommit // Memory

You have answers to everything - including 《Carnage Tyrant》, which is the biggest nightmare for UBx decks in general - thanks to 5 deathtouch guys main and two copies of 《Commit // Memory》 in the 75.

Champion of Wits

UB Midrange is very complex to play and every early decision matters in the late game. Choosing a different creature to play turn two might be the difference between winning and losing. You have so many one-ofs that you have to use them carefully. Even discarding cards from 《Champion of Wits》 is way more complicated than in - for example - UW Gift. UB is a very mana hungry deck, so you can't just simply discard lands every time.

I think this is the most complex deck in Standard right now; it is also extremely rewarding. When I tried to play it I lost a lot of games due to bad plays, and I dropped a deck because I didn't feel I have enough time master it before the GP. If you are not in rush, and you're not afraid of losses caused by your misplays when you're learning I really recommend you to try UB Midrange.

Pros:

Cons:

The deck moving forward:

Let me say this first - I don't feel qualified to talk about making significant changes to the deck as I don't feel I understand it well enough at the moment.

Walking Ballista

I wasn't very happy with 《Walking Ballista》 here, so that's the first card I would cut if I wanted to try something new. It's only good against Mono Red, and even vs Tokens decks it doesn't shine without 《Snake》 or 《Verdurous Gearhulk》.

Lost LegacyJace's Defeat

Brad Nelson, who also played this deck in Memphis (finished at 26th place) ran this deck again on MOCS a week ago with 6-2 score. The only change he made to the original list was -1《Lost Legacy》 + 1《Jace's Defeat》 in the sideboard, which means that the deck is fine-tuned as is.

Tips and tricks:

Commit // MemoryTorrential Gearhulk

You can flashback 《Memory》 at your opponent's end of turn step using 《Torrential Gearhulk》. The fact that 《Commit》 is an instant makes it a legal target, even though in the end you will be casting the 《Memory》 part.

The Scarab GodLiliana, Death's Majesty

With 《The Scarab God》 and 《Liliana, Death's Majesty》 sometimes you just want your creatures in graveyard more than in play. Don't mind chumpblocking with 《Chupacabra》 if you know you will cast 《Liliana》.

Chart a Course

Don't be aggressive, it's not how you want to win games. You want to trade creatures often and try to keep the board clean. Unless you want to cast 《Chart a Course》 in your second main, the only creature that you really want to attack with early is 《Siphoner》.

Grixis Energy

About the deck:

This is mash-up of UB Midrange and remains of the good old Temur Energy; the deck contains a little bit of everything.

Vraska's ContemptChandra, Torch of DefianceConfiscation Coup

It is more proactive than UB Midrange and having access to 《Chandra》 is a great thing, but just like with Naya - the cost of playing a three colored deck is very real. Your manabase is way worse compared to pure UB. To have double color costed spells in each of your three colors, seven lands that always come into play tapped - and few more that do so conditionally.

The deck just loses to itself more often than other midrange decks in the format, but on the other hand the ceiling of this deck is probably the highest of them all. You can play all the best cards in the format in a single package: 《Chandra》, 《The Scarab God》, 《Torrential Gearhulk》, and 《Search for Azcanta》 are all format breaking cards.

Chandra, Torch of DefianceThe Scarab GodTorrential GearhulkSearch for Azcanta

Personally I prefer UB over Grixis as I think consistency is very important in this type of deck. On the other hand Grixis seems to still be very unexplored - there are a ton of different versions of this archetype, so there is certainly a lot of space for fine-tuning and refining it.

Pros:

Cons:

The deck moving forward:

Grixis is very flexible in terms of how you can build it. You have access to all the best cards, and there is no one correct answer about the numbers. Everything depends on the metagame and the playstyle you prefer.

I really like PetrKikac's list from the last MOCS (6-2).

Doomfall

《Doomfall》 is an extremely underrated card - it's the best answer to scary 《Tyrant》, which is the biggest threat against you. It also deals well with 《Phoenix》 and is never dead, since you can always use it as an overpriced - and improved - 《Thoughtseize》.

Search for Azcanta

A single maindeck 《Search for Azcanta》 seems great, as it can land you wins on its own and it costs only 2 mana. With only one copy in our deck we don't risk drawing too many as well.

Consign // Oblivion

I would also fit at least one 《Consign // Oblivion》 into my maindeck. This card did a lot of work for me and it is the one of our two ways of dealing with resolved enchantments (outside of 《Commit // Memory》).

Tips and Tricks:

Consign // OblivionTorrential Gearhulk

If your opponent doesn't have cards in hand you can bounce the best permanent to their hand with 《Consign // Oblivion》 and flashback 《Oblivion》 with 《Torrential Gearhulk》 in their draw step. This interaction allows you to deal with their best threat and the card that they drew for the turn, while at the same time leaving a 5/6 creature on the battlefield.

《Consign // Oblivion》 is also great against enchantment removal. You can release 《The Scarab God》 from opponent's resolved 《Ixalan's Binding》 at the end of their turn, and then bring back one or two creatures from the graveyard after untapping - all before your opponent will be able to recast the enchantment.

Cast OutThe Scarab GodIxalan's Binding

Speaking of the 《Scarab》 and dealing with enchantment removal, if you have another 《The Scarab God》 in your graveyard you can easily play around it. In response to the trigger bring back the second copy from your graveyard, which will allow you sacrifice the original one due to the legendary rule. The original 《God》 will return to your hand at the end of turn and you will get to enjoy your brand-new (and completely alive) 《The Scarab God》 token!

Champion of WitsLiliana, Death's MajestyTorrential GearhulkGlimmer of Genius

If you're playing a build featuring both 《Liliana, Death's Majesty》 and 《Champion of Wits》 you can make extremely mana efficient plays. Simply discard a 《Torrential Gearhulk》 and a card you want to flashback with it to a 《Champion of Wits》 and then bring back the 《Gearhulk》 with 《Liliana》!

Sultai Constrictor

About the deck:

Bristling HydraWinged Temple of Orazca

Last but not least, the deck that I like the most in the current format. It allows you for explosive plays, and has a lot of free wins with 4 《Bristling Hydra》 main and an almost unstoppable way to give them +10/+10 flying.

Glint-Sleeve SiphonerWinding Constrictor

It also has a really good match-up against other midrange decks and it's the best deck to abuse 《Glint-Sleeve Siphoner》 - it offers a lot of ways to generate energy and 《Winding Constrictor》 just makes fuelling the 《Siphoner》 extremely easy.

Hadana's Climb

《Hadana's Climb》 does amazing work as well - with 《Snake》, 《Bristling Hydra》, and 《Ballista》 it provides good value each turn and at some point turns into a three mana finisher that's really hard to deal with.

Since we splash for only three cards (I don't think 《Negate》 in the sideboard is a good idea), we don't have to ruin our mana base. Obviously, after the ban of 《Attune with Aether》 it's impossible to make a 3 color deck with a perfect manabase and I still think that's the biggest downside of this deck. Don't get me wrong, it is better than in Grixis or Naya and 《Hadana's Climb》 is certainly worth splashing for.

I love the amount of synergy in the deck - basically any combination of two cards provides more value than just the parts. It also has a great way to punish less experienced Standard players, as there is a lot of math involved. When I played MTGO people made a lot of mistakes against me by simply blocking incorrectly due to damage miscalculation etc.

Pros:

Cons:

The deck moving forward:

This is the deck that I will play in Madrid, so I spent the most of my time working on Sultai.

NegateDuress

First of all, I don't think you want to play any 《Negate》 in your 75. This deck plays out like the classic midrange tap-out with a relatively high curve, so you don't have the time to be holding up 《Negate》. 《Duress》 is just better in such a proactive deck considering what you want to achieve with cards like these. You can play turn one 《Duress》 to clean up your path for 《Siphoner》, discard 《Search for Azcanta》 before they get to play it - even if you're on the draw. You can get rid of 《Fumigate》 or 《Settle the Wreckage》 and deploy another good threat the same turn. 《Negate》 fails at any and all of these tasks.

Vraska's Contempt

Another change I made was moving more 《Vraska's Contempt》 to the main deck. The card is fantastic in the current format and is needed in almost any match-up. Even against most aggressive decks you often want 3 or 4 copies because you need a way to deal with 《Hazoret》, 《Phoenix》 or 《Chandra》.

Deathgorge ScavengerAtzocan Archer

Since your match-up versus all Tokens decks is very good I don't think you need that much enchantment removal in the sideboard, so I cut one and made some more space for underrated green sideboard cards like 《Scavenger》 and 《Archer》.

This is very close to the list that I'll register in Madrid; I still have one more day of testing, so I might change something, but I feel like I'm locked in 70 out of 75 my cards at the moment.

Tips and Tricks:

Aether HubWinding Constrictor

Keep 《Aether Hub》 as your last land if you don't have any energy pay-off on board. There's a chance that you will draw 《Winding Constrictor》 and gain free energy later.

Hadana's ClimbWalking Ballista

Unless you're killing your opponent this turn, it's usually better to keep 《Hadana's Climb》 in its enchantment form. The transform on it is an obligatory trigger so after you put a counter on a creature you have to flip the 《Climb》 if there are 3 or more counters on the targeted creature. Try to distribute the counters in a smart way and remember that you can use your excessive counters from 《Ballista》, to make it 1/1 precombat and prevent the 《Climb》 from transforming.

Servant of the ConduitAbrade

《Siphoner》 and 《Constrictor》 are your best two drops and it's often good to play 《Servant of the Conduit》 first and let it eat removal. You can then play the better two drop with protection of 《Blossoming Defense》.

Aether HubGlint-Sleeve Siphoner

If you have 《Aether Hub》 or 《Glint-Sleeve Siphoner》 in your opening hand, always start with a black mana source (or 《Aether Hub》 if you have both cards, but don't have any other black source). 《Siphoner》 is the best on turn two with additional energy from 《Hub》, which lets you use his ability a turn early - so always be prepared in case you draw the second part of this combo (or a black source, if you have both cards in hand) from the top.

Underrated Cards For Midrange Decks

Atzocan Archer

《Atzocan Archer》 - great versus aggro. ETB trigger always deals with early drops, and four toughness is enough to handle anything cheaper than four mana. Doesn't matter which midrange you play, your late game is always better than Mono Red's is, so the key to win is just to survive. I expect 《Archers》 to be a key sideboard card for green decks, to fight Mono Red, Red Black, or Mardu Vehicles.

Deathgorge Scavenger

《Deathgorge Scavenger》 - a very flexible and powerful sideboard card. Majority of decks in the meta relies on graveyard interactions and 《Scavenger》 has a lot of utility against each of them. Against aggro you gain free life and can get rid of 《Earthshaker Khenra》. Against control you can slow down 《Search for Azcanta》, make 《Gearhulk》 and 《The Scarab God》 useless cards while attacking for four since turn four.

Doomfall

《Doomfall》 - black is generally weak to 《Carnage Tyrant》, but it has a lot of removal for everything else. This is the best way to deal with this powerful dinosaur. It also works great against 《The Scarab Gods》 and 《Phoenixes》 as well.

Confiscation Coup

《Confiscation Coup》 - great in each blue-based energy deck against creature based decks. It's MVP versus midrange, but is also a great answer to 《Hazoret》 or 《The Scarab God》. I'm really surprised it doesn't see that much play. I would love to fit it in Sultai, but unfortunately the manabase doesn't support double blue costed cards.

The Future Of Midrange In Standard

There is a lot of viable midrange options that you can choose in this format, which is great. At the moment I would say Sultai is the best one, but I can see Grixis becoming the stronger pick in the future - when someone finds the right build of it.

Also, Standard feels really fresh right now and there is a lot unexplored space, so who knows - maybe we will see another good midrange deck soon? The metagame might just shift around and change the format completely as well.

Whatever happens, I'm sure that there will always be a good deck for us, midrange guys, to pick up and enjoy playing Magic! The current Standard is really healthy and offers us so many good tools to duke it out against aggro and control alike in almost every color - and that's why I like this format so much!

Thanks for reading,

Grzegorz Kowalski.

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