Modern 4 Color Midrange

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Posted February 28, 2017 by Abdullah Elhawary in Tabletop

Remember when I said that that you might not need a third color in GBx decks a while ago? Well that was before Fatal Push was printed and Magic Online’s resident BG expert, edward40hands, has been putting up 5-0’s in Competitive Leagues with the deck. Today’s deck is the opposite of that, as you get to have your cake and eat it too. The main source of inspiration behind the deck came when I was going through my old standard decks as I stumbled upon Mardu Green (or White Jund or Abzan Red…) which used the efficient removal spells like Crackling Doom and Murderous Cut alongside the back-breaking interaction between Siege Rhino and Kolaghan’s Command.

I thought to myself this deck could have some real potential in Modern but after I played with it, I realized the mana was too shaky and my Burn/ Zoo match-ups were abysmal due to the amount of damage I took getting my colors. I considered scrapping the deck but I played with it a few more times and beat decks like Grixis, Jund and Junk with relative ease. I revisited my old Mardu Green list and realized I had neglected one of the key aspects of the deck, life-gain. Back when Mardu Green was in standard, Atarka Red was the finest aggro deck standard had seen in years so having Soulfire Grandmaster alongside Siege Rhino in the maindeck and Arashin Cleric/ Surge of Righteousness in the sideboard meant the deck could stabilize against it at a fairly high life-total. I took that idea and added Scavenging Ooze, Lightning Helix and Huntmaster of the Fells to the mainboard and voila: I was beating aggressive decks. As for my shaky mana-base, I turned to a mathematician, who also happens to be in the Hall of Fame, Frank Karsten, and read his article on how to construct manabases in order to consistently cast your spells on curve. Here is the final result:

4 Color Midrange

Test Deck by Abdullah Elhawary

Maindeck:

Lands (24):
2x Arid Mesa
2x Blackcleave Cliffs
2x Bloodstained Mire
1x Blood Crypt
1x Forest
1x Godless Shrine
2x Inspiring Vantage
1x Marsh Flats
1x Mountain
1x Overgrown Tomb
1x Plains
1x Raging Ravine
1x Sacred Foundry
1x Shambling Vent
1x Stomping Ground
1x Swamp
1x Temple Garden
2x Verdant Catacombs
1x Windswept Heath

Creatures (12):
4x Scavenging Ooze
4x Tarmogoyf
1x Huntmaster of the Fells
2x Siege Rhino
1x Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Sorceries (3):
3x Lingering Souls

Instants (16):
2x Fatal Push
3x Path to Exile
3x Lightning Bolt
2x Lightning Helix
1x Abrupt Decay
2x Terminate
3x Kolaghan’s Command

Planeswalkers (5):
2x Liliana of the Veil
2x Liliana, the Last Hope
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger

Sideboard:

1x Engineered Explosive
2x Duress
2x Surgical Extraction
2x Thoughtseize
1x Ancient Grudge
1x Abrupt Decay
1x Stony Silence
3x Fulminator Mage
2x Kitchen Finks

Card Choices:

Manabase

  

This deck’s manabase is by far the most difficult part of both playing and building the deck because you need untapped black, white and red on turn 1 and red/ white, black/ green and black/ red on turn 2. Finally double black on turn 3 for both Lilianas is your last color concern as Siege Rhino, Nahiri and Huntmaster are easily castable if you have 4 lands in play. I made a spreadsheet similar to the one Frank Karsten recommends for turns 1-4 just to ensure that I have the correct number of sources. There are only 2 manlands in the form of one Ravine and one Vent, which give the deck something to do late in the game whilst fixing colors. You do not want too many of these effects because they are incredibly clunky in multiples especially alongside fastlands. The best land combination to have on turn 2 is a black/ white in the form of Godless Shrine or Shambling Vent alongside a green/ red land in the form of Stomping Ground or Raging Ravine.

Threats

These cards don’t really need an introduction as they are all proven commodities in the format. Unlike Noble Hierarch in Abzan and Dark Confidant in Jund, these cards are great at ending the game quickly. Most of the threats do it whilst providing you with a life cushion, which allows you to race or get out of burn range against some decks. Goyf is one of the poster boys (Lhurgoyfs?) of the format and you can’t find a better beating stick in Magic’s history. Scavenging Ooze provides a life buffer whilst also shutting down Snapcaster Mage, Dredge, Delirium, Kolaghan’s Command, Delve shenanigans, etc. Siege Rhino and Huntmaster are arguably the best creature 4 drops in the entire format and it’s easy to see why as having Alms of the Vein attached to a 4/5 trampling body is great, and controlling Huntmaster’s flip is really easy in this deck. Lastly Tasigur can be a huge, cheap threat early or a card advantage machine late which makes him slot nicely into the deck’s gameplan.

Value Machines

Although it’s not a technical naming convention, “value machines” aptly describes what these cards are trying to do; 2 for 1 your opponent out of resources.These cards are so incredible at their job that 3 and 4 for 1’s are common occurrences. Lingering Souls is an incredible deal, as it is so difficult for decks like Jund, Affinity, Grixis and Infect to slog through whilst being phenomenal both alongside and against opposing Lilianas (of the Veil) and Nahiris. Liliana, the Last Hope is magnificent in a protracted game as it can simply bury your opponent in cards before they can muster up any kind of response. Additionally, her plus ability deals with a lot of Affinity threats, Infect threats, Dark Confidant, Lingering Souls’ tokens, Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, mana elves, Vendilion Clique, Master of Waves and the list goes on and on. Usually cards that have “Choose two” in their text are inherent 2 for 1’s but this command pushes those limits as all 4 modes are incredibly relevant in different kinds of situations. Not since Cryptic Command have we seen such power and versatility in an instant.

Removal

There isn’t much to say here as these colors give you access to every single piece of removal you could want in Modern. I arrived at the specific numbers after testing, but they are certainly not set in stone as there are arguments for more/ less of any card. All in all, the 13 spot removal spells offer you flexibility in answering almost any threat in the entire format. The key thing to remember is to use your more conditional removal when the opportunity presents itself even if it comes at the expense of mana efficiency. I understand that there is a fine line between the two and other times it won’t matter but which removal you use could be the difference between winning and losing the game.

Flex Spots

Liliana of the Veil and Nahiri, the Harbinger range from being incredible in some spots to truly underwhelming in others. They are magnificent at dealing with a threat and ticking up to provide value but are both abysmal when you’re facing down a large board. Liliana can be rough on the manabase sometimes but can also be a game-winner all on her own. Nahiri can deal with a multitude of problematic permanents whilst plusing to improve your hand and some opponents throw resources at her fearing a game ending Emrakul. If they were replaced by more of the creature 4 drops, Kitchen Finks, Ajani Vengeant, or Maelstrom Pulse the difference wouldn’t be that severe so keep that in mind whilst tuning the deck for your meta.

Sideboard Guide:

Affinity:

In:
1x Engineered Explosives
2x Stony Silence
1x Ancient Grudge
1x Abrupt Decay

Out:
2x Liliana of the Veil
1x Huntmaster of the Fells
1x Siege Rhino
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger

Burn:

In:
2x Kitchen Finks
2x Duress

Out:
2x Liliana the Last Hope
1x Nahiri, the Harbinger
1x Lingering Souls

Eldrazi Tron:

In:
2x Thoughtseize
2x Fulminator Mage
2x Surgical Extraction

Out:
1x Fatal Push
2x Lightning Helix
1x Abrupt Decay
2x Lightning Bolt

Jund/ Junk:

In:
2x Kitchen Finks

Out:
2x Lightning Helix

Death’s Shadow Aggro:

In:
2x Kitchen Finks
2x Surgical Extraction
1x Engineered Explosives
2x Duress

Out:
2x Lightning Helix
2x Siege Rhino
1x Huntmaster of the Fells
2x Lightning Bolt

Bant Eldrazi:

In:
2x Thoughtseize
2x Fulminator Mage
2x Surgical Extraction

Out:
1x Fatal Push
2x Lightning Helix
1x Abrupt Decay
2x Lightning Bolt

Titanshift:

In:
2x Thoughtseize
2x Fulminator Mage
2x Surgical Extraction
2x Duress

Out:
2x Liliana, the Last Hope
2x Fatal Push
2x Lightning Helix
2x Lightning Bolt

Tron:

In:
2x Thoughtseize
2x Fulminator Mage
2x Surgical Extraction
2x Duress
2x Stony Silence

Out:
3x Lingering Souls
2x Fatal Push
2x Lightning Helix
3x Lightning Bolt

Grixis Control:

In:
2x Duress
2x Thoughtseize

Out:
2x Lightning Helix
1x Abrupt Decay
1x Fatal Push


About the Author

Abdullah Elhawary
Abdullah Elhawary