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Deep Dive: Historic Four Color Midrange

For the Kaldheim Championship, I knew one thing: I’d have to register a deck with Yasharn, Implacable Earth.

 

Yasharn, Implacable Earth

 

I started from UW Control, splashing green for the Pig. Then I moved away from Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and started working with Nissa, Who Shakes the World.

 

Teferi, Hero of DominariaNissa, Who Shakes the World

 

A deck I’ve had good success with in testing was Bant Midrange, which I explored and wrote about last week. However, my teammate, Tian Fa Mun, and I decided that black had much better sweepers with Languish and Shadows’ Verdict and better spot removal with Eliminate. In the end, we felt like adding a color wasn’t a big downside.

Bant Midrange was still an excellent choice for the players who chose to play it, with a total win percentage of 59.3 percent and notably a 68.4 percent win rate against Jund Food. However, we believed that adding black for the aforementioned cards would’ve made the matchup against UW Control slightly better, since Eliminate is amazing against Narset, Parter of Veils and Shark Typhoon while Thought Distortion is naturally a great card versus them.

Going from three to four colors definitely hurts your mana base in the slightest, although Triomes make fixing much easier nowadays. Additionally, playing so many Forests even makes you a better Nissa deck too.

 

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Historic Four Color Midrange by Andrea Mengucci

 

Header - The Game Plan

If you’ve playing Standard or Historic in 2020, you’re probably quite familiar with Growth Spiral, Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Hydroid Krasis decks.

The goal of the deck is to accelerate in early game with four Explore and four Growth Spiral and then gain control of the game with either sweepers in the form  of Languish and Shadows’ Verdict or spot removal like Binding the Old Gods and Eliminate. Finally, you take over the game with Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Hydroid Krasis.

 

Yorion, Sky NomadKaheera, the Orphanguard

 

If your deck can barely allow it, you should always be bringing a companion. The cost of having one card less in the sideboard is always inferior to starting the game with an overcosted creature in your hand, especially if you play a ramp strategy that desperately seeks for mana sinks.

In the first version of Bant Midrange, we went for Kaheera, the Orphanguard, since we could still play Yasharn, Implacable Earth and Hydroid Krasis anyway. On top of that, Kaheera was relevant in making Nissa’s lands into 4/4s, which definitely adds up in a game of Magic.

However, Kaheera wasn’t that impactful, and once we chose to go black and play Binding the Old Gods, we felt like having access to Yorion, Sky Nomad was just an upside since the curve Binding into Yorion is one that works exceptionally well.

Of course, that meant we had to add 20 cards to the deck. In reality, that wasn’t a big issue since we could just max out on Wraths and Explores, with the only having four Nissa, Who Shakes the World to draw into being the only downside.

Overall, I was very happy with Yorion, and if I had to play the event again, I’d still choose it over Kaheera. Yorion’s great when you can blink Omen of the Sea against midrange and control decks and Binding the Old Gods against Jund Food, whereas I think Kaheera would be just fine in certain spot rather than actually game-breaking.

 

Thoughtseize (Timeshifted)Aether GustOmen of the Sea

 

If you remember playing Sultai or Four Color Midrange in Historic with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, you might wonder why there’s no Thoughtseize in the 95. However, without the large life gain that Uro provided, the two life loss ended up being a big deal so we opted to omit it.

On top of that, we felt that even in midrange matchups against decks like Jund Food, the life loss provided by Thoughtseize was often insurmountable. In the end, we preferred to replace the interaction spells with more sweepers and Aether Gust.

We also found out that the Historic format is quite aggressive. The decks that we expected the most outside of Jund Food were Auras, Gruul, Elves and UW Control, meaning that Thoughtseize would only be good against one of these four decks, which was already perceived as a good matchup (UW Control).

Aether Gust was an amazing card the whole weekend. It’s phenomenal against Jund Food, especially now that they maxed on Korvold, Fae-Cursed King and even brought in more expensive spells like Casualties of War. You can either play it on curve on a Gilded Goose or Trail of Crumbs or use it as a tempo play while beating down with Nissa lands. 

The only matchups where you’d rather not draw it are against Orzhov Auras and Azorius Control. However, a pleasant surprise is that, thanks to Binding the Old Gods, you’re able to turn your Aether Gust into a removal spell. It’s a bit of card disadvantage since you’ll skip your normal draw step, but nonetheless it’s a pretty good use for a card that’s supposed to be dead in those matchups. Another way to use Aether Gust in a dead matchup is to bounce your small Hydroid Krasis in the late game, which happened to me twice in the event.

Omen of the Sea is either amazing or redundant based on the matchup or how the game’s going. It’s not uncommon for this deck to find itself with eight mana and nothing to blink with Yorion. In that spot, you’d love to have an Omen of the Sea laying around. On the other hand though, there’s also spots where you’re under pressure in early game and you just can’t find two mana free to cast your cantrip, and having this in your hand instead of an interaction spell is quite a big burden.

Don’t be afraid to board out Omen of the Sea out quite often. It’s definitely the worst card in the deck and it’s only playable for its strong synergy with Yorion.

 

Header - Mulligans

Here’s a few opening hands that I’ve opened this past weekend at the Kaldheim Championship.

 

Game 1, On the Draw vs Jund Food

Example Hand 1: Mull - Indatha Triome, Glacial Fortress, Drowned Catacomb, Forest, Shark Typhoon, Binding the Old Gods, Nissa, Who Shakes the World

 

Despite the perfect mana, this hand lacks early plays or Yasharn, Implacable Earth, so I opted to mulligan. Against Jund Sacrifice, it’s important to draw one of your mana two-drops to have a chance of competing.

I’d consider keeping this hand if Yasharn replaced Binding the Old Gods though, since it’s that good in the matchup.

 

Game 3, On the Draw vs Gruul Aggro

Example Hand 2: Keep - Glacial Fortress, Clearwater Pathway, Drowned Catacomb, Swamp, Explore, Languish, Binding the Old Gods

 

The matchup against Gruul Aggro is pretty bad and it’s exceptionally hard to win on the draw. However, you do have a way out and that’s Languish on turn three. Despite the fact that this hand doesn’t have it guaranteed, since you’re lacking green mana, I still decided to keep. I drew my green source in time, cleaned their board on turn three and still barely won the game thanks to Thragtusk and Yorion gaining me 10 extra life.

 

Game 1, On the Draw vs Azorius Control

Example Hand 3: Keep - Glacial Fortress, Plains, Island, Narset, Parter of Veils, Shark Typhoon, Shadows' Verdict, Yasharn, Implacable Earth

 

This hand seems a bit weird. There’s a double black card and a green card with your Azorius mana base. In the end, I decided to keep it since I had my two key cards against UW Control in Narset, Parter of Veils and Shark Typhoon. Black mana isn’t necessary in this matchup, so I was only lacking green and I had time to find it.

If I was playing against a companion that would tell me my opponent was on aggro, then I would’ve certainly mulliganed.

 

Header - Sideboard Guide

Jund Sacrifice

Korvold, Fae-Cursed King

 

Jund Food

 

Jund Company

 

Jund Sacrifice was indeed the matchup that me and Tian Fa Mun practiced the most. This doesn’t mean we’re highly favored like the Abzan Midrange that Team Pantheon registered, but it’s certainly a matchup we had on our radar.

You have to understand whether you’re playing against the version with Collected Company or the one with Trail of Crumbs, since they’re very different and you’re supposed to sideboard in a different way.

Against Jund Food, with Trail of Crumbs and expensive cards such as Casualties of War and Bolas’s Citadel you want to bring in Negate. Negate is very versatile since it counters their only ways to deal with your Yasharn as well as their important cards.

Negate is of course fine against Jund Company too, but in that matchup, you’ll be under pressure from Dreadhorde Butcher and Priest of Forgotten Gods that might be harder for you to leave up Negate.

The biggest mistake you can make whenever playing against Jund Food is to misunderstand their deck’s nature. They’re a midrange/control deck and their goal is to grind you out with Korvold and Trail of Crumbs. Don’t sideboard out your Narset, Parter of Veils; instead, board out your Languish. Don’t bring in Grafdigger’s Cage since that’ll only stop Cauldron Familiar and your own Memory.

 

Orzhov Auras

Kaya's Ghostform

 

 

An Aura deck without hexproof creature would normally have a terrible matchup against a midrange deck full of removal spells. That was the case back in the days of UW Auras against Sultai Midrange. However, things have changed. Aura decks have gotten way better and adopted a lot of great tools against control and removal spell-based decks such as Demonic Vigor and Kaya’s Ghostform.

A card that positively surprised us in this matchup was Grafdigger’s Cage, since it stops Kaya’s Ghostform, Sentinel’s Eyes and Lurrus of the Dream-Den, which are all recursive problems that can play around your removal spell-based plan.

Narset, Parter of Veils is an outstanding card and you should bring in as many of her as you can. Their deck isn’t that good of attacking her on turn three, and in order to do so, they may waste some draw triggers. On turn three against a creature, it’s often right to just play Narset and not minus her, much like when Izzet Phoenix was around, if you’re guaranteed to sweep the board next turn or kill their Kor Spiritdancer. This leaves Narset around to stop their draw engine.

 

UW Control

Thought Distortion

 

 

Azorius Control is a positive matchup. You don’t have as many dead draws as they have in Game 1 and you have a solid late game with good card selection and mana sinks.

You also have good answers to their planeswalkers in the form of Binding the Old Gods and Shark Typhoon. It’s often correct to pick a fight in their turn to resolve your own Nissa, Who Shakes the World to take over the matchup.

Post-sideboard, you have access to Thought Distortion. Normally, you don’t want to give them the option to cast much of their hand before you can resolve it and move on from there.

Watch out for foretell cards. It’s a real way they can play around Thought Distortion these days, which has made the card slightly worse. However, it’s still a good tool for this matchup.

 

Gruul

Klothys, God of Destiny

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t an easy matchup. Aether Gust and Languish help and you should try to mulligan to always have a either a piece of interaction or ramp spell on turn two.

Watch out for Klothys, God of Destiny. That might be a hard card to answer as she doesn’t die to Binding the Old Gods.

We added Thragtusk to our deck specifically for this matchup as it might gain you up to 10 life when paired with Yorion.

 

Sultai Ultimatum and Bant Ramp

Eliminate

 

Sultai Ultimatum

 

Bant Ramp

 

Both these matchups are similar to Azorius Control, with the difference that you don’t have to respect Shark Typhoon and Narset, Parter of Veils against Sultai Ultimatum and can trim on Eliminate.

I think Four Color has an edge over Bant since Eliminate is much better than Baffling End and Thought Distortion is a GREAT play on turn five or six.

 

Elves and Goblins

Muxus, Goblin GrandeeCollected Company

 

Elves

 

Goblins

Goblins

+2 Grafdigger’s Cage +2 Aether Gust +1 Shadows’ Verdict

-4 Omen of the Sea -1 Yasharn, Implacable Earth

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Elves is similar to Gruul, with the difference being that they don’t have direct burn spell or haste threats. This makes the matchup slightly easier, although the rule of mulliganing to a turn two interaction still applies.

Goblins is quite terrible instead, as you don’t have Thoughtseize to control their hand and definitely fall to their late game of just casting Muxus, Goblin Grandee.

Binding the Old Gods helps against Herald’s Horn while Yasharn might slow them down for few turns, but you definitely need a Nissa to apply some important pressure.

 


 

It looks like Historic is going to be shaken by the Mystical Archive cards in Strixhaven. I’m for sure having keeping my eyes on Memory Lapse, since that card will naturally pair well with Nissa

Midrange lovers: even though they banned our boy Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, there’s still hope!

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