For the Kaldheim Championship, I knew one thing: I’d have to register a deck with Yasharn, Implacable Earth.
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.
Historic Four Color Midrange by Andrea Mengucci
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Game 3, On the Draw vs Gruul Aggro
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sultai Ultimatum and Bant Ramp
Elves and Goblins
+2 Grafdigger’s Cage +2 Aether Gust +1 Shadows’ Verdict
-4 Omen of the Sea -1 Yasharn, Implacable Earth
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.
Midrange lovers: even though they banned our boy Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, there’s still hope!