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Valuable Lessons – The Ambitious Approach: Four Color Midrange

Welcome back to Valuable Lessons! For the last week, I’ve been playing quite a bit of Standard on Magic Online. I had a long phone conversation with my good friend Brad Nelson and he was gushing over his four-color midrange deck. The deck seemed a bit ambitious at first, but after playing with it, I can confidently echo Nelson when he says that the deck is incredibly well-positioned against pretty much everything that isn’t four copies of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. Today, we’ll talk about the version of the deck that I’ve been playing.

Why is Four-Color Midrange well-positioned in the current metagame? It’s pretty much established that the green strategies have the most raw power of any archetype in Standard. Unfortunately, those decks get demolished by the Blue/White Heroic strategies that have become increasingly popular. Now, it seems that four copies of Crackling Doom (to beat Blue/White Heroic) is essential to success over a large sample size in the current Standard. Why not play Crackling Doom alongside the best cards like Siege Rhino and Courser of Kruphix?

Here’s the version of the deck Brad was advocating. I always do very well with his decks, and this one was no exception.

Brad Nelson’s Four-Color Midrange

Do you like playing much better cards than your opponent? Well, then this deck is the perfect pile of better cards to win matches while your opponent complains about your mana base. It’s not that bad, get over it.

So, I’ve made some changes since I first got the list. First, I decided that Butcher of the Horde is whatever. I’m not really about that life. I feel like there are much better options for a deck that plays four colors. I’m not gonna bend over backwards to put Tower Gargoyle in my deck.

Goblin Rabblemaster is a very strong card. It feels a lot like Pack Rat—sometimes you just play it and win the game without any resistance.

Getting to play four copies of Crackling Doom makes our deck much better against the heroic decks. The card is absurdly good in the current metagame. A lot of the blue decks—the only decks that really stand a chance against our decent draws—are playing Prognostic Sphinx now, and Crackling Doom does a very good job punishing those people effectively.

Drawing more than one copy of Elspeth is really bad. I know how good it is to draw the first copy in a game where we’ll be playing it, but drawing more than one is always miserable. I’m very happy not playing a second.

When we put the whole thing together it becomes an incredibly efficient winning machine. The sideboard plans for the deck allow us to shift our game plan against specific strategies. Let’s take a look at my version:

I like playing with a high-impact sideboard. I’ve found these to be the most efficient fifteen cards for the metagame that we’re playing against online. Thoughtseize is cool and all, but a lot of the time we don’t have the spare black mana until it’s competing with a Siege Rhino or Crackling Doom and by the time we can efficiently Thoughtseize our opponent, we’re throwing away a turn to do so. It does get a bit better with Goblin Rabblemaster in the deck, so I might need to try it again. I’m very happy with the current setup, though, and it’s entirely possible that no Thoughtseize is still the right call.

Let’s talk about the sideboard plans. The deck is malleable, so it’s wise to roll with the punches and sideboard according to the specific contents of an opponent’s deck instead of the matchup. There are a lot of different Jeskai decks, a lot of different Mardu decks, and a lot of different green decks.

For reference, I bring in Doomwake Giant when I’m playing against a deck with Hordeling Outburst or Raise the Alarm 100% of the time. I won’t bring it in against Elvish Mystic unless it’s also alongside Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and/or Ashcloud Phoenix.

I bring in Anger of the Gods when it kills at least 75% of my opponent’s threats. In some matchups, it’s correct to take out the Goblin Rabblemasters when we’re bringing these in. Sometimes, though, there are opponents that lack a lot of cheap spot removal, but are also weak to Anger of the Gods. Against these decks, it’s wise to bring in the Anger of the Gods and take out Sarkhans and Murderous Cuts.

End Hostilities comes in against basically every creature matchup. It’s a nice way to overcome a faster start.

Against decks that want the battlefield to be empty, like Blue/Black, we bring in the full set of planeswalkers. We can overwhelm their Hero’s Downfall by having more ‘walkers. This seems like it’s the best way to effectively fight those decks.

The second copy of Magma Jet is really good against the red decks. Sometimes it’s hard to win games against them when we’re on the draw, but I’ve found Magma Jet to be the ideal card to keep up. Sorin, Solemn Visitor also makes an appearance against anyone with a lot of reach. It’s important to have the big life gain swings if we don’t want to get alpha’d to death on a key turn.

Four-Color Midrange has been incredible for me. The deck seems to be strong enough to win any matchup as long as it draws reasonably well.

Going forward, I’d like to try a five-color version of the deck that takes advantage of all the most powerful cards in Standard while also jamming Chromanticore, a card that seems pretty busted given the current Standard climate, into the mix. It’s not tested, but this might be worth experimenting with:

Chromanticore just wins games really hard right now. Bestowing Chromanticore is game over almost every time it happens, and it’s not that unrealistic, especially now that we can make that play off a morphed Rattleclaw Mystic.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing more four- and five-color decks in the coming weeks. Standard is basically becoming battleship Magic and the five-color deck can play that game better than anyone else. Remember, Chromanticore is two Baneslayer Angels.

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