Your Guide to Blue-Black Midrange

by Simon Nielsen on 13 March 2018, Tuesday

Simon Nielsen

 

Your Guide to Blue-Black Midrange

By the time you read this, Grand Prix Madrid will be over, and hopefully, you will see my silly face on the front page of Wizards events website. But right now as I'm writing this article, I'm on my way to Spain. I just couldn't wait to tell you about my Standard deck.

This is hands-down one of the best decks I have ever sleeved up for a tournament.

Grand Prix Madrid is the team trios format, and I will have Danish Legacy expert and winner of the last American Eternal Weekend Hans Jacob Goddik as well as Polish Lantern master Piotr Głogowski supporting me this weekend.

It was Piotr who convinced me to play with The Scarab God as he grew tired of me trying to break Snubhorn Sentry. And as soon as I had tapped into the power of the mighty mythic, I never looked back!

 

Champion of Wits Whirler Virtuoso


I started with Owen Turtenwalds Grixis Energy list, but realized that Champion of Wits is better than Whirler Virtuoso and that I'd want access to Field of Ruin.

I mirrored Owen's Grixis theories (such as 4 The Scarab Gods, lots of interaction, 27 lands) in Blue-Black and cut the stock Gifted Aetherborns to make the mana better. After all, one of the reasons this deck is so good is because of the mana. It would be a shame to be unable to play your two-drop on time because you got too greedy anyway.

Without having played a game with the deck beforehand, I went 6-2 in the MOCS Monthly. Afterward, I realized that Aethersphere Harvester was the perfect blocker that I felt the deck was lacking, and Dusk Legion Zealot was the perfect crew for it.


We worked on the deck in collaboration with Standard streamer Matthew Foulkes. Aethersphere Harvester turned out to be not good enough for the main deck, but Dusk Legion Zealot earned a stay. We also realised that Commit // Memory and Liliana, Death's Majesty are the bomb, and ended up at this list that registered

 


 

Why This Deck Is So Good


First of all, it plays the two best cards in Standard: The Scarab God and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. The Scarab God's power is self-explanatory once you've tried to untap with that thing. It stabilizes the board, provides tons of value and wins games by itself. Even it match-ups that should be bad in theory, sometimes they do not have an answer for your 5-drop, and you win anyway.

 

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner Dark Confidant


Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is another card that is just a must-answer, especially in conjunction with Aether Hub. If you play both of those on turn 2, the opponent has to have an answer immediately. Otherwise, you're just playing a better Dark Confidant in Standard. And even if they do answer it, it still leaves energy for your next Siphoner.

In general, the best cards get you very far, but this deck also has another significant point going for it: consistency.

You play 26 lands, and many of your early game creatures provide you with lots of velocity (that is, sifting through your cards quickly), which means that you are rarely stuck on lands. The deck doesn't get too greedy with its colored mana, so you are usually safe on that front as well.

And between The Scarab God, Champion of Wits and Walking Ballista you've even got a lot of use of your mana in the late game. Usually, you are happy to make your ninth land drop, so the deck also rarely floods out.

When playing with such powerful cards, consistency is critical, because it lets you access that power in every game. And because of Champion of Wits, you often find your key cards, but can also get rid of excess removal or high-end cards depending on situation and match-up.

 

Dusk Legion Zealot


Dusk Legion Zealot is the new innovation. It's easy to cast, helps with the early game velocity, plays well when the opponent leaves up removal. It's a house against decks with X/1s for it to trade for, against control where it often ends up pressuring for a non-insignificant amount of damage and it crews your Aethersphere Harvester well out of the sideboard. I think this little guy has earned its spot in the deck. 

 

Liliana, Death's Majesty


Liliana, Death's Majesty turns out to be the perfect companion for Champion of Wits. Not only can Champion discard a The Scarab God or Torrential Gearhulk to set up for the perfect turn 5 of Liliana reanimating a powerful threat. But Liliana's first ability can also randomly mill over a Champion of Wits providing you with approximately infinite value.

 

Commit // Memory


Commit // Memory has also proved powerful enough to warrant a 2nd spot in the main deck. If you think about it, it's almost both a Vraska's Contempt and Counterspell stapled into one spell. Especially if you have Field of Ruin or Gonti, Lord of Luxury to remove the card you put on top of their library. 

And sometimes Memory is precisely what you need, such as when you have drawn a lot of lands, and the opponent has missed land drops but sits with multiple spells in hand. Or if you are staring down a The Scarab God without an answer, Memory can at least dig for one while also removing the graveyards.

And because everyone keeps asking, even though it seems evident to me: Canyon Slough is just a tapped Swamp that cycles. It's another part of why you rarely flood out.



Sideboard Guide

Even though The Scarab God archetypes seem to be clear tier 1, Standard still has so many possible decks that I am only going to cover a small amount of them here.

 


Blue-Black Midrange Mirror

On the Draw:
-2 Dusk Legion Zealot
-2 Fatal Push
+1 Negate
+1 Doomfall
+1 Glimmer of Genius
+1 Jace's Defeat


On the Play:
-2 Dusk Legion Zealot
-3 Fatal Push
+1 Negate
+1 Doomfall
+1 Jace's Defeat
+1 Glimmer of Genius
+1 Arguel's Blood Fast


This match-up is very grindy. It takes a while before one player is out of gas, and even when they end up there, they can just use Memory to keep on going.

 

Torrential Gearhulk


What you want to try and do is set up for an endgame where you play a The Scarab God with nine mana and another The Scarab God or Torrential Gearhulk in the graveyard. This makes it very hard for the opponent to come back, but to get there, you still have to outlast their counterspells, so the mirror often ends up in a dance between being reactive and proactive.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is another way to pull ahead, so you have to pack answers for it, even though Fatal Push isn't good against anything else. Remember that Walking Ballista can answer a turn 2 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner in a pinch.

You might think that Duress would be perfect here, but the problem is that it's not that uncommon to be cast in a position where it just bricks, and losing a card for whatever reason is very bad. The same reason applies to why there are no Lost Legacy to be seen.

 

Arguel's Blood Fast


Arguel's Blood Fast seems like another card that could be great in a grindy match-up, but I think it is only infrequently so. The problem is that on the draw, they're often going to have random creatures to attack you with, which means that can't afford to spend both the mana and the life. I don't think the card is good if it's just six mana and four life to draw twice. That's why I only bring in a single copy on the play.

Against Grixis Energy, the baseline is the same in that you want to trim Dusk Legion Zealot and Fatal Push. I wouldn't bring in Arguel's Blood Fast or Doomfall because of Whirler Virtuoso, however you might want an extra Negate if they have lots of Confiscation Coup or Aethersphere Harvester if they play a version with Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer.



Mono-Red

-2 Liliana, Death's Majesty
-2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
-1 Champion of Wits

+2 Aethersphere Harvester
+2 Moment of Craving
+1 Golden Demise (on the draw)
+1 Doomfall (on the play)


Mono-Red lost a lot of its power with the bannings, and they still have a hard time with The Scarab God. Even without any lifelink blockers main deck, the match-up is still favorable. Postboard they usually have more 4- and 5-drops, which runs right into your many Vraska's Contempts.



Blue-Black Control

-4 Fatal Push
-3 Vraska's Contempt
-2 Walking Ballista

+1 Jace's Defeat
+2 Negate
+1 Glimmer of Genius
+1 Doomfall
+2 Arguel's Blood Fast
+2 Duress


Most control match-ups play out where you lose game 1 and win games 2 and 3, mainly on the back of Arguel's Blood Fast and that you get to board out the weak removal for powerful sideboard cards. 

Arguel's Blood Fast shines here, as they can't remove it once you stick it. They also can't pressure you to punish you for activating it, and having Arguel's Blood Fast in play also punishes them for passing the turn with reactive cards. At some point, you will have enough lands and counterspells to overwhelm them.

Don't be afraid to go down to 4 or 5 life with your Arguel's Blood Fast. After it transforms, the extra land it turns into is useful, plus it can also protect The Scarab God from Vraska's Contempt.

Sometimes they try to get you with Glint-Sleeve Siphoner or Deadeye Tracker post-board, in which case just leave in your Walking Ballistas.



Green-Red Monsters

-2 Liliana, Death's Majesty
-1 Champion of Wits
+2 Aethersphere Harvester
+1 Doomfall


The match-up can be scary, but often something doesn't line up for them. Look out for Carnage Tyrant. Usually, they have very few answers to The Scarab God, so it often works just to set up a double-block. Commit // Memory can even counter it!

 

Carnage Tyrant


Sultai Constrictor

-1 Champion of Wits
-1 Walking Ballista
-1 Vraska's Contempt
+2 Duress
+1 Doomfall


This is a match-up that I assumed was quite bad. Bristling Hydra plus Hadana's Climb is just so hard to interact with. But a deck shows real strength when it starts defeating the bad match-ups, and this is exactly a case of that.

Sometimes they don't have it all, and they just end up as an outclassed midrange deck. Now, I must admit that I'm not 100 % confident in this sideboarding. It might look bad to board in Duress against so many creatures, but Blossoming Defense and Hadana's Climb are their most scary cards.

Duress is the only reasonable way to deal with them. Plus, they have 4 Vraska's Contempt post-board and sticking The Scarab God is the best way to overpower them.




Signing Off

 


Now I'm not sure if it's Wizards R&D or just the community that has gotten good enough at finding and playing the best decks, but it does seem like we're headed towards another imbalanced format. Luckily, not everyone has realized yet that you play The Scarab God or you go home, which can give you a leg up. 

I hope you still have a chance to feel invincible with this deck.

I know I have.




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