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Black and White in Dallas and Vienna

Last Monday morning, something awkward happened. Several friends congratulated me on winning GP Dallas-Fort Worth, or to be more accurate on my deck winning that GP. Eh? Well, I had built a deck with Patrick Tomelitsch for GP Vienna the week before. We had a larger group of people discussing various decks for Vienna, and at some point just about everybody contributed something, but Patrick and I were the ones falling in love with the idea of playing Orzhov. Last Sunday night, I had taken a look at the metagame breakdown of Dallas Fort Worth, but I hadn’t noticed the lonely Orzhov control in Day 2. So that deck winning was not an outcome I could have expected or hoped for. Surprise, surprise!

A couple of weeks before, a friend had given me a black-splash-green devotion deck to play around with. I liked what Mono-Black Devotion did, but I cannot stand playing Guildgates. Compared to playing with Temples, it feels like taking an extra mulligan once per match. Afterwards, I toyed around with straight mono-black on Magic Online, and that was okay, but I kept wondering if there was some kind of twist to the deck to make it better positioned in the metagame. Also I don’t like playing cards such as [ccProd]Nightveil Specter[/ccProd]. Right now everybody talks about [ccProd]Nightveil Specter[/ccProd] as if it were one of the best cards in Standard. Now take a look at that thing. It’s a glorified [ccProd]Sunspire Griffin[/ccProd] with a small bonus in the mirror. If that thing didn’t cost BBB/UUU nobody would give it a second thought. While I do respect linear strategies in most cases, I do not much enjoy playing them. I prefer to play a bunch of powerful cards with a coherent game plan.

I did not seriously consider adding a red or a green splash as that would lead to Guildgates. I didn’t give blue much thought either. However, white had a few cards to offer that I liked. [ccProd]Sin Collector[/ccProd] seemed like a good way to beat Esper. Taking away their [ccProd]Sphinx’s Revelation[/ccProd] while putting pressure on their Jaces? Sign me up! Influenced by the MTGO metagame, I was also not particularly happy with [ccProd]Desecration Demon[/ccProd]. It just didn’t block reliably versus the red blitz decks. [ccProd]Alms Beast[/ccProd] was thus in the deck for a while. I was aware that it would probably not make the final cut, but it was certainly fine at doing what I hired it for. If you like Orzhov control and expect a sea of red aggro, you might consider running [ccProd]Alms Beast[/ccProd]s instead of [ccProd]Desecration Demon[/ccProd]s.

Now you might wonder why [ccProd]Alms Beast[/ccProd] is that much better than [ccProd]Desecration Demon[/ccProd]. If your opponent sacrifices a creature to your Demon, that is not that much different from the Beast blocking one. The problem is that [ccProd]Desecration Demon[/ccProd] rarely eats creatures that would have attacked. He gets some confused, summoning-sick dork for breakfast. And even if your opponent has emptied their hand you will kill their worst creature instead of their best one, probably taking 2 extra damage in the process. Finally, if you play [ccProd]Alms Beast[/ccProd] on turn four and [ccProd]Whip of Erebos[/ccProd] on turn five you will often win. If you follow [ccProd]Desceration Demon[/ccProd] up with [ccProd]Whip of Erebos[/ccProd] your opponent will just laugh and give you a good whacking. Another advantage of [ccProd]Alms Beast[/ccProd] is its robustness. It doesn’t die to [ccProd]Ultimate Price[/ccProd], making theirs all but useless in the mirror.

Aside from that, there were a bunch of other random cards we tried out early—stuff like [ccProd]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/ccProd], [ccProd]Blind Obedience[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Renounce the Guilds[/ccProd]. These cards all had their merit, and I would keep them on my radar, but decided against them for Vienna.

The first real breakthrough was Patrick’s suggestion of running [ccProd]Obzedat[/ccProd] as it should be good against control. Now [ccProd]Obzedat[/ccProd] stretches the mana base to a point where you have to run Guildgates again. I didn’t look forward to that, but at least you are not playing them instead of good lands. Having [ccProd]Obzedat[/ccProd] on our shortlist of cards to play, [ccProd]Whip of Erebos[/ccProd] was another natural candidate for inclusion. How is control ever going to stop that? At that point, putting [ccProd]Pack Rat[/ccProd]s back into the deck was another logical step. For a time I had advocated cutting them altogether, because—I must admit—I really didn’t understand the role that this card plays.

As we had to support a double-white card, I suggested that we might go all the way and include [ccProd]Fiendslayer Paladin[/ccProd] as well. That card looked like it could take care of some trouble with aggressive red decks. [ccProd]Fiendslayer Paladin[/ccProd] is immune to their removal, their threaten effects, and kills all of their creatures on sight. The idea was sound, and the Paladin didn’t disappoint. However, I had imagined mono-red decks being truly helpless against him, and that is just not the case. Depending on their build they might have [ccProd]Rubblebelt Makka[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Titan’s Strength[/ccProd], [ccProd]Legion Loyalist[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Firefist Striker[/ccProd]. It’s not like they are happy to see you playing [ccProd]Fiendslayer Paladin[/ccProd], but they certainly won’t fold to it, either.

However, I did find [ccProd]Obzedat[/ccProd] to be horribly disappointing. That guy just didn’t do anything. Most of the time you played him, and then he would just stare at the opposition, waiting for his master to be swarmed to death. Mono-black shoots him on sight, and while I have to admit that he is decent against Esper, he was just way too bad in every other matchup. Even Esper can stall him. They have [ccProd]Azorius Charm[/ccProd], and the occasional [ccProd]Hero’s Downfall[/ccProd], too. Playing double-white cards didn’t seem worth the trouble. In the end, Patrick Tomelitsch and Simon Görtzen decided to play such lists in Vienna, though, and both made Day Two. Maybe Obzedat is not as bad as he felt to me. If you expect a lot of control, then it is certainly reasonable to go for Obzedat and a few Whips.

At that point, the only reasonable alternative to Obzedat was [ccProd]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/ccProd]. We had had a split between Obzedat and Blood Baron anyway. Previously I had always thought of Blood Baron as something that costs five and doesn’t even get to block once due to [ccProd]Mizzium Mortars[/ccProd]. This is not necessarily true here, though. We play a bunch of discard maindeck, and some in the board. [ccProd]Sin Collector[/ccProd] is not great against aggro, but we have a bunch of cards that we want even less. So we can afford to have [ccProd]Sin Collector[/ccProd]s even against aggro. Turns out, this deck is very good at protecting its [ccProd]Blood Baron[/ccProd]s.

While we were working on the deck, the removal count increased slowly. We were not entirely happy with what we had, though. At that time, it was basically the standard removal suite that mono-black uses too. Each of those removal spells has at least one unacceptable weakness. The removal spell that we wanted should cost 2 and be able to kill at least [ccProd]Nightveil Specter[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Master of Waves[/ccProd]. If it could also kill [ccProd]Pack Rat[/ccProd]s that would be a very nice bonus.

—Enter [ccProd]Last Breath[/ccProd].

[draft]Last Breath[/draft]

It looks innocuous, but [ccProd]Last Breath[/ccProd] turned out to be the most important reason to have white in the deck. The matchup against mono-blue always bothered us, and having a play set of [ccProd]Terminate[/ccProd]s against them helps a lot. As a bonus, you get the one good answer to [ccProd]Chandra’s Phoenix[/ccProd], another troublesome card for the deck. Just in case, you also prevent your opponent’s [ccProd]Pack Rat[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Gray Merchant[/ccProd]s from being reanimated by [ccProd]Whip of Erebos[/ccProd].

Afterward, we moved around a few last cards, and the four of us that chose to play Orzhov all registered different lists. Simon and Patrick went for Obzedat lists. In case you are interested in trying that, this is the list that Simon played in Vienna:

[deck]Main Deck
3 Pack Rat
3 Sin Collector
4 Desecration Demon
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
1 Duress
4 Thoughtseize
1 Last Breath
4 Devour Flesh
1 Doom Blade
1 Ultimate Price
4 Hero’s Downfall
2 Plains
4 Godless Shrine
4 Temple of Silence
1 Whip of Erebos
4 Underworld Connections
4 Mutavault
8 Swamp
3 Orzhov Guildgate
Sideboard
1 Sin Collector
3 Fiendslayer Paladin
1 Shrivel
2 Last Breath
2 Wear Tear
1 Duress
4 Lifebane Zombie
1 Dark Betrayal[/deck]

Andreas Ganz and I chose Blood Baron versions. With hindsight—and not only results-oriented—I would say that my list was a bit worse. This is the deck that Andreas registered:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Godless Shrine
4 Mutavault
1 Plains
12 Swamp
4 Temple of Silence
4 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
4 Desecration Demon
4 Pack Rat
1 Sin Collector
4 Devour Flesh
2 Duress
4 Hero’s Downfall
2 Last Breath
4 Thoughtseize
2 Ultimate Price
4 Underworld Connections
Sideboard
1 Dark Betrayal
1 Doom Blade
1 Duress
2 Last Breath
3 Lifebane Zombie
3 Pharika’s Cure
1 Shrivel
2 Sin Collector
1 Wear Tear[/deck]

Does that look familiar?

It is the exact same main deck that Marlon Gutierrez used to win Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth. The sideboard is off by a grand total of three cards. My list was a few cards off, the most important one probably being the fourth [ccProd]Blood Baron[/ccProd].

So Marlon won the Grand Prix, Andreas played for Top 8 until the last round, and I didn’t even make Day Two. What happened? I am still very happy with my deck choice. Some days you don’t even win the mirrors with [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Pack Rat[/ccProd] on the play, and get a bunch of bad matchups on top of that. Of course, this should never be an excuse to not try to learn something from a tournament, but on the other hand Magic has some variance. Sometimes you are dealt a bunch of bad hands. Not accepting that only gets you depressed and won’t make you a better Magic player either.

If you are interested in playing the deck, chances are that you would like to know what can be improved. The first thing that comes to my mind is that I really don’t know how this deck ended up with just 25 lands. Owen plays 26 in mono-black and we have 25 in a deck that craves more mana. It doesn’t seem right, and I believe it isn’t. What can we cut for that 13th Swamp?

There is one card that I suspect shouldn’t have been a 4-of in the first place: [ccProd]Underworld Connections[/ccProd]. [ccProd]Underworld Connections[/ccProd] is almost never good in multiples, and in all matchups but control and mono-black, having a play set isn’t even desirable. I would move the fourth to the sideboard, then cut something there, depending on the expected metagame.

A card that you might want to consider is [ccProd]Merciless Eviction[/ccProd]. In Vienna, I had one in the board and one in the main deck. The idea was that it should be good against mono-blue and red devotion. I am not so sure about red devotion any more, but to be honest I have not found a convincing game plan against that deck yet. Against blue devotion decks it is a decent card. [ccProd]Merciless Eviction[/ccProd] also offers some flexibility. For example you can remove [ccProd]Detention Sphere[/ccProd]s against control.

The final card that you might want to check out is [ccProd]Ratchet Bomb[/ccProd]. I haven’t tried it yet, but it makes a lot of sense. [ccProd]Ratchet Bomb[/ccProd] is never dead and handles several issues elegantly. It is really good against the super-aggressive deck, but also a nice card against control. It is a way of dealing with [ccProd]Pack Rat[/ccProd]s even after the first token has been created, and it deals with [ccProd]Underworld Connection[/ccProd]s, too. It kills a bunch of [ccProd]Master of Waves[/ccProd] tokens, and it can deal with the aggressive start of mono-blue. That aggressive start is actually the most likely way for Orzhov to lose against mono-blue. We didn’t have that in Vienna, Marlon didn’t have it either, but I would like to see two of those in the main deck.

An Alternate Approach with Dimir

On my way back from Vienna, I toyed around with the idea of splashing blue instead of white. The starting point of my musings was that [ccProd]Last Breath[/ccProd] is rather easily replaced by [ccProd]Dimir Charm[/ccProd]. If you want to go the Dimir route, then you can play a deck that is much closer to the original Mono-Black Devotion. You lose [ccProd]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Obzedat[/ccProd], and thus you will be forced to play [ccProd]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/ccProd] anyway. If you play [ccProd]Gray Merchant[/ccProd] and are blue, then you will surely make room for [ccProd]Nightveil Specter[/ccProd] again. In the end you will arrive at a deck that might look like this:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Watery Grave
4 Mutavault
1 Plains
13 Swamp
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Desecration Demon
4 Pack Rat
1 Aetherling
2 Dimir Charm
1 Duress
4 Hero’s Downfall
1 Doom Blade
4 Thoughtseize
2 Ultimate Price
3 Underworld Connections
1 Whip of Erebos
Sideboard
2 Dark Betrayal
1 Duress
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Whip of Erebos
2 Dimir Charm
2 Pharika’s Cure
1 Notion Thief
3 Lifebane Zombie
1 Underworld Connections[/deck]

I will not pretend that this Dimir list is as well developed as the Orzhov one, but there might be some potential here. As I found out some time after writing this part of the article, I am not the first person to see this. Apparently, Todd Anderson is working on something along these lines.

Golgari

People have fielded Golgari versions of black devotion, and as we are taking a look at potential splashes we might as well take a look at all of them. This is a deck that Top 16’d the last SCG Open:

[deck]Main Deck
3 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Reaper of the Wilds
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Devour Flesh
2 Doom Blade
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
2 Whip of Erebos
4 Underworld Connections
1 Vraska the Unseen
2 Forest
11 Swamp
4 Golgari Guildgate
2 Mutavault
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Sideboard
4 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Devour Flesh
2 Golgari Charm
3 Pharika’s Cure
2 Ultimate Price
3 Duress[/deck]

I don’t think this list is very streamlined. It still cares very much for its devotion, employing cards such as [ccProd]Nykthos[/ccProd], [ccProd]Gray Merchant[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Erebos, God of the Dead[/ccProd]. On the other hand, it has much fewer black mana symbols in its permanents than a straight mono-black devotion or a Dimir devotion deck.

Let’s not dismiss Golgari right out of hand, though. What does green bring to the table? Candidates worthy of inclusion might be [ccProd]Mistcutter Hydra[/ccProd], [ccProd]Golgari Charm[/ccProd], [ccProd]Abrupt Decay[/ccProd], [ccProd]Reaper of the Wilds[/ccProd], [ccProd]Skylasher[/ccProd], [ccProd]Gaze of Granite[/ccProd], [ccProd]Putrefy[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Deadbridge Chant[/ccProd]. In my opinion there are two ways to build such a deck. Either you stay focused on devotion as in mono-black and Dimir, or you turn into a control deck that has just a lot of cards in common with the black devotion decks. Which one is better for Golgari?

I think both are possible. If you want to be a devotion deck, then you probably should probably still play [ccProd]Nightveil Specter[/ccProd]. To make that possible you would have to play [ccProd]Temple of Mystery[/ccProd] instead of Forests. Green is then mainly for [ccProd]Abrupt Decay[/ccProd], [ccProd]Golgari Charm[/ccProd], and maybe [ccProd]Reaper of the Wilds[/ccProd]. [ccProd]Mistcutter Hydra[/ccProd] looks good, too, but I am not convinced that the Hydra fits your game plan against mono-blue. That card is obviously tough to deal with, but if you take a look at mono-blue, they are not in the business of dealing with things anyway. You might actually play into their hands by playing a very inefficient threat. In the end, I wouldn’t choose a Golgari black devotion deck unless I knew exactly that I need [ccProd]Golgari Charm[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Abrupt Decay[/ccProd]. And where would that need come from? In most cases, [ccProd]Ratchet Bomb[/ccProd] should be a reasonable proxy for both cards.

If you want to drop the devotion theme altogether you might find an interesting control deck. Lacking Temples I doubt this is stronger than Orzhov, but it might be different enough to do something in specific metagames. I really like the idea of playing [ccProd]Skylasher[/ccProd] in such a deck. That card got some interest at first, but hasn’t found a home since its release. In a deck with a lot of targeted spot removal, that should be very good against mono-blue. It doesn’t kill many of their creatures, but I don’t think it has to. If only one of their creatures is dominated by one [ccProd]Skylasher[/ccProd], that means you basically got a 2-for-1—the dominated creatures can never attack and another creature will still be blocked by [ccProd]Skylasher[/ccProd]. If you find a second [ccProd]Skylasher[/ccProd], I don’t see them doing a lot of attacking any time soon.

The other card that might make this kind of deck a reasonable choice is [ccProd]Reaper of the Wilds[/ccProd]. Reaper is the most robust 4-drop in Standard right now, making it a good card against control and aggro. Its triggered ability also comes in handy when you plan on playing a bunch of spot removal. [ccProd]Golgari Charm[/ccProd] is another card I like. [ccProd]Shrivel[/ccProd] is too narrow, so is [ccProd]Wear // Tear[/ccProd]. Getting both in one card frees up sideboard slots. The greatest problem with trying to be Golgari control is that you lack good creatures besides [ccProd]Reaper of the Wilds[/ccProd]. White brought a lot more to the table here. If I had to start testing a Golgari deck right now I would start with something like this:

[deck]Main Deck
2 Deathrite Shaman
4 Pack Rat
4 Reaper of the Wilds
4 Kalonian Hydra
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Ultimate Price
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
2 Duress
3 Read the Bones
1 Golgari Charm
4 Forest
10 Swamp
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Mutavault
4 Overgrown Tomb
Sideboard
4 Skylasher
2 Pharika’s Cure
3 Lifebane Zombie
1 Duress
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Doom Blade
2 Underworld Connections[/deck]

I didn’t think of [ccProd]Kalonian Hydra[/ccProd] at first, but we have to win somehow, and there is enough discard in the deck to protect the Hydra at least sometimes. I suspect that [ccProd]Kalonian Hydra[/ccProd] is a rather powerful win condition against mono blue. I am aware of [ccProd]Tidebinder Mage[/ccProd]s, but the deck plays a lot of removal, so this should be only a temporary issue. The nice thing is that it is almost impossible to block the Hydra even in its first attack. The second attack already forces severe chumpblocking.

Of the decks we have seen so far, this one is the one where I am most certain that [ccProd]Read the Bones[/ccProd] is better than [ccProd]Underworld Connections[/ccProd]. Mono-Black and Dimir cherish the devotion that [ccProd]Underworld Connections[/ccProd] provides, and Orzhov often assumes a control role, where you want to play a long game with an extra card every turn. This Golgari version on the other hand is a pure midrange deck and doesn’t care for devotion either.

Rakdos

Of all color combinations it is most difficult to harness the devotion mechanic when red is incorporated in a base-black deck. Golgari at least had the option of running [ccProd]Temple of Mystery[/ccProd] to have access to green mana without having to cut black mana sources. If you want to try Rakdos then you will have to not only play Guildgates but also run actual Mountains. Being a true devotion deck is thus out of the question. Red offers a few interesting cards, though. [ccProd]Rakdos’s Return[/ccProd] was a cornerstone to Jund’s success in the last Standard format.

[draft]rakdos’s Return[/draft]

Cards that are interesting for a Rakdos midrange deck include [ccProd]Young Pyromancer[/ccProd], [ccProd]Master of Cruelties[/ccProd], [ccProd]Underworld Cerberus[/ccProd], [ccProd]Sire of Insanity[/ccProd], [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd], [ccProd]Shock[/ccProd], [ccProd]Electrickery[/ccProd], [ccProd]Dreadbore[/ccProd], [ccProd]Anger of the Gods[/ccProd], [ccProd]Flames of the Firebrand[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Slaughter Games[/ccProd]. This is arguably more than any other color has to offer. Of course, Rakdos will have a pronounced weakness to enchantments such as [ccProd]Assemble the Legion[/ccProd], but other than that these cards are efficient and powerful against control as well as aggro. If you don’t plan for very long games, then cards like [ccProd]Assemble the Legion[/ccProd] should not be that much of a problem for a discard-heavy deck anyway.

Playing a deck with [ccProd]Master of Cruelties[/ccProd] and a bunch of damage-based spot removal might be interesting. It is also a bit cute, probably too cute for a metagame where the amount of [ccProd]Dimir Charm[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Last Breath[/ccProd]s is approaching an all-time high. On the other hand, [ccProd]Underworld Cerebrus[/ccProd] has been tried in Jund decks, and I can see it doing work here. [ccProd]Desecration Demon[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Underworld Cerebrus[/ccProd] might team up nicely with [ccProd]Anger of the Gods[/ccProd]. Admittedly that card is rough on the mana, but it seems key to that kind of deck. The problem is that [ccProd]Pack Rat[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Anger of the Gods[/ccProd] don’t fit together, and there is not much to replace [ccProd]Pack Rat[/ccProd] with.

As I see it, Rakdos has a lot of potential as it has very powerful spells, but it lacks the creatures to make it work, and the mana is as bad as it gets in two-color decks. If Born of the Gods has just one interesting red creature you might have a player here, but right now I don’t see it, and taking a look at the recent tournament results, I am hardly alone in that.

Summary

There are five general options of what to do with a base-black midrange deck, depending on the color you pair it with. Though, Rakdos is not really an option, so that leaves only four color combinations. Of these Dimir, Orzhov, and mono-black have good mana. Naturally, mono-black is a bit advantaged, but even that can be color-screwed due to the combination of [ccProd]Nightveil Specter[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mutavault[/ccProd]. The main advantage of mono-black is not that it has access to its mana more consistently. Its greatest advantage is that all of its lands come into play untapped. The mana of Golgari is tolerable, but playing Guildgates instead of Temples decreases the overall power of the deck.

Against other mono-black decks, Orzhov should be slightly better than the other options. Having [ccProd]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/ccProd] can be a decisive advantage, especially pre-board. Dimir and mono-black should be roughly on par. [ccProd]Dimir Charm[/ccProd] is a nice tool, but having a few tap lands extra should compensate for that advantage. Golgari might be competitive pre-board, but takes a huge hit from [ccProd]Lifebane Zombie[/ccProd] post-board.

Against blue devotion these decks have radically different game plans. Dimir and mono-black lack the removal to contain mono-blue effectively. Instead, they try to set up a race with [ccProd]Lifebane Zombie[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/ccProd]. Dimir should be better equipped for this matchup, as having four [card dimir charm]Terminates[/card] is a decisive advantage and its [ccProd]Nightveil Specter[/ccProd]s are more effective. Orzhov can realistically out-control mono-blue with [ccProd]Underworld Connections[/ccProd], [ccProd]Desecration Demon[/ccProd], and a lot of spot removal. Golgari is probably the weakest deck against mono-blue pre-board, as [ccProd]Tidebinder Mage[/ccProd]s are very annoying, and pre-board Golgari has not much of a choice but to play into that. However, [ccProd]Skylasher[/ccProd]s might enable Golgari to play a different game post-board. Being able to save removal for important targets and having more time, Golgari might be able to live long enough to close games with [ccProd]Kalonian Hydra[/ccProd].

Against control, Orzhov is the best deck due to [ccProd]Sin Collector[/ccProd]. Golgari also should be better than Dimir and mono-black. [ccProd]Reaper of the Wilds[/ccProd] is a great improvement over [ccProd]Desecration Demon[/ccProd] in this matchup and so is [ccProd]Abrupt Decay[/ccProd] when compared to other spot removal.

Against red devotion decks, Golgari should have the best chance. The matchup is problematic for each kind of black midrange deck, but Golgari can deal most readily with [ccProd]Hammer of Purpohoros[/ccProd] and can close games quickly with [ccProd]Kalonian Hydra[/ccProd]. Orzhov is weakest here, as playing control against mono-red is just unrealistic for various reasons. Mono-black and Dimir can at least race.

Against aggressive decks, Dimir should generally be the weakest choice. The blue cards help against few aggro decks and the tap lands make it an inferior choice to mono-black. I believe that Orzhov is marginally better against aggro than mono-black, but that might be just preference. Orzhov has more spot removal, but it depends very much on the actual game and matchup if you would rather have [ccProd]Blood Baron[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Gray Merchant[/ccProd]. Golgari might be the best of the bunch here. The combination of [ccProd]Golgari Charm[/ccProd]s, [ccProd]Reaper of the Wilds[/ccProd], and a bunch of spot removal is tough for most aggressive decks. [ccProd]Kalonian Hydra[/ccProd] might be a bit awkward. For the slower aggro decks, it might be very tough to race a Hydra, but against the super-aggressive ones, [ccProd]Kalonian Hydra[/ccProd] is an over-costed [ccProd]Rumbling Baloth[/ccProd]. And then there is always that [card act of treason]Sword of Damocles[/card].

Thanks for reading,
Florian

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