A Guide to Black-Green Midrange in Modern

I spent the first couple weeks of the new Modern format exploring control archetypes without a ton of a success. I was barely winning more than I was losing, so I decided to try something a bit different and picked up Black-Green (“the Rock”) after Logan Nettles told me he was doing well with the deck.

Here was his list at the time and what I started with:

Black-Green Midrange in Modern

Logan Nettles

3 Field of Ruin
3 Overgrown Tomb
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Nurturing Peatland
4 Blooming Marsh
2 Forest
4 Swamp
4 Dark Confidant
4 Hexdrinker
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Plague Engineer
4 Fatal Push
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Thoughtseize
1 Abrupt Decay
4 Liliana of the Veil
2 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Assassin's Trophy

Sideboard
3 Collector Ouphe
2 Surgical Extraction
4 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Grafdigger's Cage
3 Fulminator Mage
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Liliana, the Last Hope

Hexdrinker felt fine and definitely won me its fair share of games, but I ended up cutting it entirely from the build. I could see still playing a copy or two as it’s a decent threat and lets you use your mana efficiently.

Hexdrinker

I didn’t kept perfect track, but I think I was winning around 75% of my matches in leagues with back-to-back trophies and a 14-1 streak at some point, even though I couldn’t do better than 4-3 drop in the Modern MOCS  playoffs. I haven’t been doing as well in the last few leagues, ending with a bunch of 3-2 finishes as the meta has shifted with decks like Devoted Combo being a bit less popular and UW Control seeing an uptick.

Here is my current list:

Black-Green Rock

4 Blooming Marsh
3 Field of Ruin
2 Overgrown Tomb
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Nurturing Peatland
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Treetop Village
2 Forest
3 Swamp
4 Dark Confidant
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Tireless Tracker
1 Plague Engineer
4 Fatal Push
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Thoughtseize
1 Abrupt Decay
2 Assassin's Trophy
3 Liliana of the Veil
2 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Vraska, Golgari Queen

Sideboard
2 Surgical Extraction
3 Collector Ouphe
1 Nissa, Vital Force
1 Plague Engineer
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Leyline of the Void
2 Weather the Storm
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Tireless Tracker
2 Fulminator Mage

New Cards and Arguable Choices

Nurturing PeatlandUrborg, Tomb of YawgmothField of RuinTreetop Village

Even though four Nurturing Peatland might seem like a lot, I’ve been happy with the new dual land, though I could see trimming one if the meta gets a bit too aggressive. I didn’t have Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in the deck for most of my testing, and it should help offset the downside of the horizon land.

You would think that with all the duals that the mana base would be great, but things can still get a bit awkward at times (especially with the green mana requirement from Scavenging Ooze). Even though Logan told me you could go down to only one basic Forest, I almost want a third one. In my current list, three Field of Ruin with only five basics is experimental and I doubt it ends up being a reasonable choice.

It’s always hard to gauge creature lands, but I’ve been happy with the Treetop Village.

Nihil SpellbombAssassin's TrophyAbrupt Decay

I expected Nihil Spellbomb’s impact to be marginal in game one versus Bridgevine (it was mostly an elegant way to save sideboard slots), but I’ve found out that between Spellbomb and the discard spells, you can sometimes slow them down just enough to kill them quickly with Tarmogoyf and for your Ooze to take over the game.

The Assassin’s Trophy/Abrupt Decay split is fine, but if I had to pick a side I would lean towards more Trophy, and I might actually just try a four Trophy build at some point. Getting rid of Hogaak is very relevant, and even if WotC decides to nerf the deck with the next B&R announcement, you might see an uptick in big mana decks, making Trophy better.

Tireless TrackerVraska, Golgari QueenWeather the Storm

I think Tireless Tracker, while a bit slow, is good enough for the main deck, and I’ve liked Vraska, Golgari Queen particularly since this deck and Jund have become popular again.

Weather the Storm has been very impressive. It almost always wins you the game against Burn. It’s also very good against the Mono-Red Phoenix decks despite their resilient threats and sustained sources of damage. It also just happens to neutralize the Grapeshot kill from actual Storm.

Collector OupheLeyline of the VoidSurgical ExtractionPlague Engineer

I haven’t played against a ton of artifact decks or a single time against Mono-Green Tron, but I think Collector Ouphe is a good addition to the deck. Despite the nonbo with Spellbomb, you bring it in against Bridgevine to stop Altar of Dementia so I think it deserves a sideboard slot right now.

Although a lot of lists run four Leyline of the Void, I’m not sure the enchantment is the best choice for this specific deck. I’ve found that you can keep some hands without a graveyard hate card against Bridgevine as long as you have a turn one discard spell and a couple of good two drops. Bridgevine also brings in enchantment removal (whether its Nature’s Claim, Assassin’s Trophy, or Wispmare), and you have no ways to get rid of dead Leylines in the midgame with cards like Faithless Looting or Seasoned Pyromancer.

Surgical Extraction is also a bit more versatile, and you can try and combine it with your discard spells against a combo deck like Neoform.

Plague Engineer has been impressive and I had up to four in the 75 at one point, but it’s hard to make room for everything. In some ways, Black-Green feels a bit like Blue-White Control as you can probably target three or four decks with your flex slots but can’t really cover the entire metagame spectrum.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Bridgevine

I’ve found the matchup to be favorable and so have the other people who have tried the deck. Keep track of your opponent’s graveyard size and try to keep them off Hogaak “mana.” Don’t forget that they can’t fill up their graveyard without putting something on the stack so you’ll always have a window to sacrifice the Spellbomb.

Out:

Liliana of the VeilLiliana of the VeilLiliana of the VeilTireless TrackerTireless TrackerVraska, Golgari QueenThoughtseizeThoughtseizeFatal PushFatal PushFatal Push

In:

Collector OupheCollector OupheCollector OupheFulminator MageFulminator MagePlague EngineerLiliana, the Last HopeSurgical ExtractionSurgical ExtractionGrafdigger's CageLeyline of the Void

The discard spells are a bit awkward as they are usually really good on turn one and terrible after that, which makes sideboarding tricky. I feel like discard spells are usually a bit better on the draw, but this is a matchup where even turn one on the draw they might not even have a single good target left in their hand. The discard spells might be more useful post-board for snatching their reactive cards (Trophy, Lightning Axe, etc.).

Keep in mind that Collector Ouphe and Spellbomb is a nonbo and actually the reason why I don’t have the fourth Spellbomb in the sideboard.

U/W Control

This is a very tough matchup. Unlike Jund, you have very little reach (i.e. haste creatures or burn) to get rid of planeswalkers. As in most matchups, you should mulligan fairly aggressively since Black-Green isn’t a deck that plays very well from behind, and a lot of the time you’re trying to snowball an advantage like an unchecked Dark Confidant or a Liliana of the Veil. This is a matchup where Treetop Village and main-deck Tireless Trackers shine. If you want to improve this matchup, additional Trackers and Thoughtseizes is probably the way to go.

Out:

Fatal PushFatal PushFatal PushFatal PushNihil SpellbombNihil Spellbomb

In:

Fulminator MageFulminator MageTireless TrackerLiliana, the Last HopeNissa, Vital ForcePlague Engineer

Humans

This one is fairly close but I think Humans has the edge. Plague Engineer helps a lot but isn’t the be-all and end-all either.

Out:

Nihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombNihil Spellbomb

In:

Plague EngineerLiliana, the Last HopeTireless Tracker

Izzet Phoenix

This has been one of the most favorable matchups; I don’t think I’ve lost a single time to it out of four or five times. One of the reasons is that most of the current lists don’t run cards like Crackling Drake or Jace, the Mind Sculptor in the 75 (Narset, Parter of the Veils gets the nod these days, and this card isn’t nearly as scary for the BG deck), but I could see the matchup becoming much tougher if that becomes the case. While Aria of Flame hasn’t been a problem, you need to respect it, so try and save a removal for it if you can afford to.

Out:

Dark ConfidantDark ConfidantDark ConfidantDark ConfidantPlague Engineer

In:

Surgical ExtractionSurgical ExtractionGrafdigger's CageTireless TrackerLiliana, the Last Hope

While cutting Dark Confidant always stings, I think getting one to stick is a pipedream with the addition of Lava Dart. I’m not sure if you want Leyline of the Void in this matchup as the games tend to go long and it isn’t the best topdeck. The matchup is good and you don’t want the extra variance, but I could be wrong as even casting it on turn five or six might be impactful. Nissa, Vital Force is another grindy card that might be good, but I’m not too sure what I would cut for it, and you don’t want to make your deck too clunky either.

Eldrazi Tron

This archetype seems to get the nod over Green Tron these days as I believe it is much better against Bridgevine. I’ve only played against it once and felt like I got lucky to win. Take these sideboard recommendations with an extra grain of salt.

Out:

Nihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombPlague Engineer

In:

Fulminator MageFulminator MageTireless TrackerNissa, Vital Force

Mono-Green Tron

Once again, I haven’t played this matchup recently so this is theory crafting. Another nonbo with Collector Ouphe is Tireless Tracker and its clues, but I’m guessing you still want to max out on both against Green Tron.

Out:

Fatal PushFatal PushFatal PushFatal PushNihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombScavenging OozePlague Engineer

In:

Fulminator MageFulminator MageTireless TrackerNissa, Vital ForceCollector OupheCollector OupheCollector OupheLiliana, the Last HopeSurgical Extraction

You might want to keep in some number of Fatal Push if they bring in Thought-Knot Seer against you. Sometimes, being able to get rid of a Walking Ballista or even a token from Thragtusk or Wurmcoil Engine can be valuable as well.

Burn

While I still believe Burn is a bad deck, people play it. To be fair, it might be a bit better now that Bridgevine is the graveyard deck of choice since Burn had an awful time beating Dredge with its Creeping Chills. The matchup is fairly close and you will be an underdog if you don’t have at least a few ways to gain life in your 75 besides Ooze, whether it’s Kalitas, Collective Brutality, Obstinate Baloth, or even something like Courser of Kruphix. This was one of the reasons I started trying out Vraska, Golgari Queen as I was looking for “elegant” ways to incorporate lifegain elements in my deck. It might only be one life a turn, but that’s usually the difference between winning and losing against Burn.

Out:

ThoughtseizeThoughtseizeNihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombDark ConfidantDark ConfidantDark ConfidantDark Confidant

In:

Weather the StormWeather the StormLiliana, the Last HopeFulminator MageFulminator MageTireless TrackerNissa, Vital ForceCollector OupheCollector Ouphe

Obviously some of the cards you’re bringing in aren’t very good (Ouphe is literally a Grizzly Bear with a downside most of the time), but they’re still probably better than what you are taking out.

BGx

The mirror can be a super long and grindy game or one player can snowball really fast off of a perfect curve, so while having expensive, high impact threats can be good, overloading your sideboard with these cards isn’t necessarily going to give you a huge edge.

Out:

Nihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombThoughtseize

In:

Tireless TrackerLiliana, the Last HopePlague EngineerNissa, Vital Force

There’s a debate on whether discard spells are good in the matchup or not as they can be dead draws if the game goes long, but I’d rather have them than something like Fulminator Mage. Even in the long games, you can get in spots where your opponent is holding a removal spell or two and you can make good use of a late Inquisition of Kozilek by firing it off before playing a creature.

Storm

This was always a good matchup, and I think it’s even better now with Plague Engineer and Weather the Storm.

Out:

Assassin's TrophyAssassin's TrophyNihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombNihil Spellbomb

In:

Weather the StormWeather the StormPlague EngineerSurgical ExtractionSurgical Extraction

You’ve kind of got an embarrassment of riches after sideboarding, and I’m not exactly sure what the best way to proceed is. You want some graveyard hate, though not all of it, and I think Surgical might the best one. It can catch them off guard in the early turns, they can’t just bounce it the turn they want to go off (like a Leyline), and there is value to just exiling all of their copies of Grapeshot/Empty the Warrens. Holding Weather the Storm up pretty much guarantees they can’t kill you with Grapeshot no matter how absurd of a turn they have, and Engineer deals with one copy of Empty the Warrens. You also don’t want to go too low on your card advantage engine as they might be able to grind you out with Pieces of the Puzzle and Fact or Fiction if you go full reactive graveyard hate cards.

Hardened Scales

I only played this matchup once and won, but it’s probably bad so you might need to mulligan aggressively after sideboard.

Out:

Nihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombLiliana of the VeilLiliana of the VeilLiliana of the VeilTireless TrackerTireless Tracker

In:

Collector OupheCollector OupheCollector OupheFulminator MageFulminator MageLiliana, the Last HopePlague EngineerLeyline of the Void

You should cut Tracker because of the nonbo with Ouphe, but keeping one in over an Ooze might be okay. Leyline is actually sick against them as it shuts down Hangarback Walker and modular triggers.

Affinity

I’m assuming this is a much better matchup than Hardened Sclaes, but still rough even with the addition of Collector Ouphe.

Out:

Nihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombNihil SpellbombTireless TrackerTireless TrackerLiliana of the VeilLiliana of the Veil

In:

Collector OupheCollector OupheCollector OupheFulminator MageFulminator MageLiliana, the Last HopePlague Engineer

It’s possible Confidant is a bit too slow and worse than Liliana of the Veil, but I haven’t played this matchup recently so I’m not positive.

One of the biggest complains with Modern is that some people feel like there are a ton of non-games, but that is rarely the case if you play interactive decks like Black-Green Midrange or Blue-White Control. This is one of the reasons I really enjoy these type of decks compared to the more linear strategies.

I hope this guide might entice you to pick up the deck or something similar, or help you out if you were already playing it. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

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