The mana of Standard has allowed for a multiplicity of hybridized decks to exist at the same time. There are like 15 different versions of Jeskai alone! There is so much opportunity for innovation that change happens quickly and it can be difficult to keep up with it all. My strategy for enduring hybrid mania has been to ride it out with a deck that is great and doesn’t require constant tune-ups to stay competitive.
By Brian DeMars
Two things I find appealing about 4-Color Rally:
• It’s objectively one of the most powerful, linear decks.
• It’s a set product. The list doesn’t change much.
In addition to being a great deck it is also fun and challenging to play. Don’t be hesitant to embrace challenging decks. Decks do not have easy or hard skill levels—every deck is difficult to play well.
The Beatdown Plan
Rally is an aggro deck with an over the top combo finish: think Aristocrats meets Elves.
This Christmas you’ll be visited by three spirits. Actually, more like thirty spirits.
Half the time the deck wins by combo’ing and the other half of the time it wins with aggression.
The deck plays 28 creatures, 4 Collected Company, and 4 Rally. All of the creatures have combo synergy, but the 4 Rallys are the only “combo cards.” So, unlike most traditional combo decks, Rally can win without going off because it’s full of creatures that can attack.
The beatdown plan also helps facilitate your combo because it forces opponents to interact. They cannot sit back and focus on defending against a combo when they are under attack.
Mana Base and Fetching
Properly utilizing the mana is an important part of playing this deck. We play four colors, need to cast three different colored 2-drops, and play aggressively on curve.
My mana base is only slightly different from conventional Rally decks. I cut the second Sunken Hollow for the fourth Evolving Wilds. A third black-producing land doesn’t provide much upside since you never need three in play at the same time. Getting basics into play early is important as is putting cards in the graveyard for Jace and delve.
The key to fetching is that you need to ensure that two of your first three lands are basics. This allows you to play a 2- and a 3-drop. By the time you’ve played five lands two should produce white so you can cast Rally.
Gain and Drain
One from you. And, one for me.
Bleeding an opponent out with Cutthroat is a key component of the deck.
There are situations where the opponent must be the aggressor, and Cutthroat allows you to make profitable chump-blocks. You may end up down material, but you’ve bought extra time by gaining life.
Against decks that can’t interact with the combo you want to use your life total as a resource so that you can maximize “going off.” The incidental life gain from Zulaport can give you an extra turn.
In concert with Husk the Cutthroat also provides the ability to win at instant speed outside of combat.
Rally is an instant and can be cast at various times for tactical advantage. After their attackers have been declared but before blockers is a good time because it will allow you to ambush your opponent and trade your temporary troops for their permanent ones.
In some matchups racing is as important as raw card advantage.
He’s Spexy and he knows it.
Did you know a Haruspex is a religious official who interprets omens by inspecting the entrails of sacrificed animals? Well, that is awfully specific (emphasis on awful). Also, if you haven’t checked out the Ugin’s Fate version—it’s pretty epic.
People don’t realize Haruspex has morph and that it’s often correct to play the card face down to ward off Abzan Charm or Ultimate Price. Against an inexperienced opponent you can bluff Den Protector.
Haruspex is at the heart of many of many mini-combos in the deck and is great insurance against board sweepers.
If multiple triggers go onto the stack simultaneously you choose the order they resolve. So, if one of your creatures were tragically eaten by a Nantuko Husk while you control a Haruspex and a Sifter, you can choose to resolve the scry first and the draw second.
The ideal turn-4 play from this deck is face-up Haruspex and an exploited Faithful. “Build your own cantripping Unsummon” is as insane as it sounds, plus it progresses your agenda on all axes by progressing the board, drawing more cards, and juicing up the graveyard for Rally.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in sideboarding is that they take out too many Faithful too often. Just because you are boarding in removal doesn’t mean Faithful isn’t a useful card. I typically leave in a couple against opposing creature decks even if I bring in Cuts and/or Executioners.
The Jeskai are pulling your leg when they say they’ve got the best Jace deck. The Prodigy pulls double-duty here, softening your draws and gassing up the graveyard. Flashing back spells to generate card advantage isn’t bad either. Flashing back Collected Company is a pure delight.
Jace also combos with Rally—flip him into planeswalker mode and he won’t become exiled when the trigger to exile creatures resolves.
Haters Gonna Hate
People overestimate how good the hate is.
I easily beat turn-3 Anafenza multiple times at the Vegas Invitational by simply deploying my cards, bouncing her, and going off. In a post-sideboard game I calmly Murderous Cut her and did my thing without missing a beat.
Anafenza is the best card against Rally in the sense that if you can’t do anything about her she ruins your day, but the deck has lots of ways to interact and play around it. There are four bounce spells and lots of dig to find them.
Also, note that Anafenza only stops creature cards from going to opponent’s graveyards. Tokens, such as the Eldrazi Scions generated by Catacomb Sifter, are not cards and will still hit the graveyard and cause “when a creature dies” abilities to trigger with an Anafenza in play.
Post-sideboard, things change dramatically because opponents suddenly have more disruption for your combo.
The worst one is:
If they Moonlight in response to a Rally you are forced to exile all of the creatures in your graveyard. All those poor ancestors, gone forever.
Much of my sideboarding revolves around becoming less combo-centric against strategies that are going to spend a lot of energy on attacking my combo. I typically take out 2 copies of Rally against opponent’s who are going to try to Hallowed Moonlight.
Less combo, more combat. I end up with better threats and removal, and less reliance on the combo.
The coolest piece of technology I’ve come up with is this Limited all-star:
The Atarka matchup was unfavorable and I looked hard for a good answer. Watcher was the best one I found. I know from playing a lot of red that Arashin Cleric is too wimpy to hold down the ground on defense.
A 3/3 body will either eat a creature every turn or trade for a creature and a card. He even gets formidable every once in awhile!
Anafenza is a mirror powerhouse but I also like it against red and Jeskai decks. It is bigger than their creatures and doesn’t die to burn.
I’m big on Executioner because Hangarback Walker has fallen out of favor.
Executioner is insane against hexproof Dragons but is also excellent against midrange creature decks. Most decks don’t have little dorks to protect their Mantis Riders and Anafenzas. The Executioners plus the Murderous Cuts give the deck a lot of removal which most decks simply don’t expect or plan for.
Sideboarding tip: don’t overload on spells!
Company is a Modern bomb and the most powerful card in the deck. The biggest mistake I see players make with the deck is they sideboard in too many spells and take out too many creatures.
One of the reasons I built my sideboard with fewer spells and more creatures was that I wanted to use my sideboard more but realized I couldn’t afford to board out too many creatures without turning my best card into a liability.
The best advice I can give to anybody looking to play the deck is to goldfish a ton of hands. Luckily, the deck is fun to fish with. It will help you get familiar with how the triggers work and what it feels like to execute the combo. Some of the sequencing can be tricky but it becomes more intuitive after going through the motions a couple of times.
And remember, nothing says “Happy Holidays” quite like sacrificing all of your creatures to a gigantic Zombie Insect and then returning all of your ancestors from the graveyard to the battlefield and doing it all over again.
After all, the holidays are a time for family.