A couple months ago, I wrote an article about G/B Midrange, a.k.a. the best deck in Standard. Once a new format settles down a bit and you know exactly what kind of mix of threats and answers you want, these midrange decks usually thrive. The best part about this deck is that your threats are also answers at the same time—cards like Vivien Reid and Vraska, Relic Hunter work both as a way to get further ahead and to help you stabilize by killing annoying cards like Niv-Mizzet, Treasure Map, or Experimental Frenzy.
With the addition of Ravnica Allegiance, the deck got a new weapon.
Introducing Hydroid Krasis.
Basically, if you wanted to create a perfect card for the deck, this wouldn’t be too far from it. Hydroid Krasis gives you card advantage, helps you stabilize by giving you extra life, you can find it with a Vivien Reid activation, and its ability happens even if it gets countered. It also makes it impossible to flood. Vivien Reid is now better than ever because it can find you a Stroke of Genius.
Of course, this all means you are adding another color to your deck, but luckily Breeding Pool and Watery Grave make this easy. It also means that with the addition of blue, you can add Negate or Disdainful Stroke to the sideboard for control matchups.
This is my updated list with Ravnica Allegiance.
This deck is currently my frontrunner for Mythic Championship Cleveland. A lot of the cards serve dual purposes and the deck just screams value. Explore creatures make sure you don’t miss land drops, Vivien Reid might actually be the best card in Standard right now, Hydroid Krasis refuels your hand even through counterspells, and Find // Finality means you can do it all over again or sweep the board if necessary. This deck has everything covered.
Let me explain some of the card choices.
4 Hydroid Krasis – Don’t play fewer than 4. This card is just too good and fits the deck perfectly. Definitely the most impactful card from the new set.
0 Carnage Tyrant/2 Vraska, Relic Seeker – This is probably the most common question I get when people look at my list. The answer is pretty simple: First of all, I don’t believe you need Carnage Tyrant anymore. Previously, the deck’s plan was to cast Carnage Tyrant, follow it up with Finality, and use that as your finisher. With four Hydroid Krasis in the deck, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. While Carnage Tyrant is great against control, it’s pretty bad against aggro. Krasis is amazing against both, and flying and trample make sure it can close the game quickly even on a board full of other creatures.
Vraska, Relic Seeker, on the other hand, is just better at the moment. While Carnage Tyrant is only good against control, Vraska is much more flexible. It is also amazing in the mirror. If the board is at parity, it comes into play with a whopping 8 loyalty and a Pirate token. If your opponent doesn’t have a way to kill it immediately, the game is over. It is also very good at killing multiple Hydroid Krasis, which is otherwise the most important card in the mirror. Being able to kill annoying permanents like Search for Azcanta, Tocatli Honor Guard, Treasure Map, Experimental Frenzy, or Niv-Mizzet also doesn’t hurt.
It seems to me that people are scared to make this change because Tyrant has been so good for them in the previous season, but give it a try and you will see that it’s just not important anymore. The only downside is that you cannot find Vraska with a Vivien Reid activation, but I am willing to live with that.
Another common question I get is: why don’t you just play both? With four Krasis, two Vraska, three Vivien, and three Find // Finality, you simply have too many expensive cards in the deck. This is also the reason I’m not playing Doom Whisperer. The curve is just too high and Hydroid Krasis accomplishes the same thing.
3 Cast Down – I believe this is one of the cards that drastically improved with the new set. The key cards to kill at this moment are Hydroid Krasis, Pteramander/Enigma Drake/Crackling Drake, Wildgrowth Walker, Hostage Taker, Thief of Sanity, Runaway Steam-Kin, Benalish Marshal, Tempest Djinn, Deputy of Detention, and Gatebreaker Ram/Gate Colossus. The only legendary creatures I can think of that Cast Down doesn’t kill are Judith, Lyra, and Aurelia, and they don’t seem very popular.
0 Assassin’s Trophy – Trophy is a better removal spell in a vacuum because it can hit any permanent, but giving your opponent a land if you are forced to play it early is a huge price to pay. Previously, it was correct to play some number of Assassin’s Trophys to answer cards like Conclave Tribunal and Experimental Frenzy, but with two Vraska in the deck and those cards being less popular, I don’t think you need to play Trophy anymore. That said, if Wilderness Reclamation and Experimental Frenzy decks become more popular, some number of Assassin’s Trophies will need to make it back to the 75.
0 Incubation Druid – At first I thought that Druid would naturally fit a deck with four Krasis very well, but it doesn’t feel like it does in this deck. First of all, between four Elves and 24 lands you are already playing 28 mana sources, and if you add the 8 explore creatures on top of that, you really can’t afford to run more. By the time you get to 5 mana to adapt, you already want to do other things like cast Vivien. Druid is just too slow and vulnerable, and is only good on turn 2. Afterwards, you always have better options for 2 mana. It comes down to whether you want to play Elves or Druids, and I believe with so many 2-drops in the deck already that Elves are just better.
0 Vraska, Golgari Queen, 0 Karn – With four Krasis and five other planeswalkers in the deck already, I don’t think you need additional value cards that are bad against mono-red and aggro in general. I can see Karn as a sideboard card against control though.
0 Memorial to Folly – I’m currently somewhere between 0 and 1. Playing more duals helps your Woodland Cemetery and Drowned Catacomb come into play untapped but Memorial to Folly is better if you expect lots of mirrors because it provides additional value that you don’t need to spend a card slot on. So it just depends on what metagame you expect. If it’s aggro, then play the untapped land. If it’s a lot of Sultai Midrange and control, then one Memorial to Folly is a fine choice.
1 Hostage Taker, 2 Vraska’s Contempt, 2 Ravenous Chupacabra – This split depends on the expected metagame. Hostage Taker is amazing in the mirror because you can steal Hydroid Krasis with it and play it yourself, getting insane value out of one card. But it’s pretty bad against decks with cheap removal like Mono-Red where it always dies on your opponent’s turn and even gives them the enters-the-battlefield trigger from their creature again. Against those decks you would rather have Chupacabra, but then against Rekindling Phoenix and control decks with Teferi, you would rather have Vraska’s Contempt. So feel free to switch these around based on what you expect to play against.
0 Midnight Reaper – Once again, Hydroid Krasis is now doing what this card did. It was a glue that held the deck together, but especially with Mono-Red’s popularity these days, it’s fine to cut it from the deck and get your extra cards with Krasis. Reaper was also a great early play against Deafening Clarion out of Jeskai Control, but that deck is almost nonexistent now.
2 Negate and 1 Disdainful Stroke – Excellent sideboard cards against Esper Control and Nexus of Fate decks. Being able to counter Kaya’s Wrath, Teferi, or Nexus of Fate for 2 mana is a huge tempo swing.
3 Thief of Sanity – I believe Thief is one of the most underutilized cards at the moment. It can easily win you any game on its own and it costs only 3 mana. The dream is to play it on turn 2 with the help of Llanowar Elves. It’s one of the best cards you can have for the mirror and against control, where stealing their Thought Erasure, Absorb, or Teferi goes a long way.
2 Thrashing Brontodon – A decent proactive answer for Wilderness Reclamation and a good blocker against mono-red, where the 4 toughness matters because all their burn spells deal 3 damage. Also kills Experimental Frenzy.
12 Blue Mana Sources – The early version of this deck played 10, which I didn’t feel comfortable with. Especially with Thieves and the blue counters in the sideboard, 12 is the lowest number I would play.
The mirror is a huge grind and it isn’t uncommon for one player to end up with an empty library. The most important cards are Vivien Reid and Hydroid Krasis. After sideboard, if you ever connect with Thief of Sanity, you should be heavily favored. Wildgrowth Walker usually just sits in play among other random ground guys, unable to get a profitable attack, or interact with Krasis or planeswalkers, so it gets cut. It might be good to also bring in Disdainful Stroke, but I have been finding myself tapping out on most of my turns and you don’t want to play Krasis for 2 less just to keep Stroke up, especially because it’s so obvious. If your opponent also has Thief of Sanity, you can keep more Cast Downs, especially on the draw.
This is basically the same as Sultai, but instead of Krasis, they have Carnage Tyrant. This means that Wildgrowth Walker is actually relevant because it helps you block the Tyrant, while Cast Down doesn’t have any good targets here.
Game 1 is bad for you because of all the creature removal in your deck, but you can still win if you stick an early planeswaker. After sideboard, things get much better when you bring in all the discard and counters. Thief of Sanity is good against them because it’s a cheap threat that can hit cards like Absorb, Teferi, or Thought Erasure. If you know they have Thieves, you can keep some Cast Downs, especially on the draw. But between Vraska’s Contempt, Vivien, The Eldest Reborn, and your own Thief, you should have enough answers to it even if you leave them in the sideboard, in the dark.
I’m not sure if you are supposed to bring in the counters, but I personally don’t like them. It is very easy to keep up Negate and have your opponent play a Drake, or keep up Stroke and have your opponent chain three 2-mana spells or play a Niv-Mizzet. Duress is great for making sure they can’t counter your 4- or 5-mana spell with Cast Down or Spell Pierce. Be careful with Hydroid Krasis—they are boarding in Entrancing Melody, which only takes X=2 to steal your guy.
I’m not entirely convinced you are supposed to take out Elves for Duress, but at least against Chainwhirler it makes sense. On the play you can at least get 2 mana out of it, but that still might not be good enough. I like keeping Vivien because she can destroy Experimental Frenzy and help you find Hydroid Krasis. Your key card is Wildgrowth Walker for obvious reasons. Try to not play it “naked” into a Lightning Strike if you don’t have to. Wait for them to tap out, then play it on your turn with an explore creature. I would like to bring in Thief and get them with their own burn spells and Light up the Stage, but it’s just way too fragile.
Nexus of Fate/Wilderness Reclamation Creatureless Decks
Your sideboarding is going to change depending on what exactly they play, but the idea is pretty simple: take out removal spells for hand disruption and counterspells. You should still keep in mind that they are probably always going to have Hydroid Krasis, so make sure you have some removal for that. Between Vivien Reid and Vraska, you should be fine in the dark even without actual spot removal. If you also see Teferi, I would bring in The Eldest Reborn or keep some number of Vraska’s Contempt. If Nexus of Fate decks with Wilderness Reclamation get too popular, I would look at changing some of my Cast Down for Assassin’s Trophy.
I haven’t played enough against this deck so I’m not entirely sure what the last two cards out should be. I think it’s between Llanowar Elves and Vraska, because you already have a lot of expensive cards. The only cards that really matter from them are Thief of Sanity, Hostage Taker, and Teferi, so keep your removal to be able to answer them. I usually don’t bother killing something like Hero of Precinct One because the tokens eventually die to Finality anyway.
The key to winning against Mono-Blue is not playing into their Dive Downs and Spell Pierces. It’s usually better to just try to race them and force them to keep untapped, unused mana every turn. All the expensive planeswalkers and Find // Finality play right into that. Thief of Sanity is good at blocking their creatures, and stealing flyers and counters from their deck, so I think it’s worth it to bring it in.
Gates with Gates Ablaze, Gate Colossus and Gatebreaker Ram
Try not to overextend into Gates Ablaze, and keep in enough removal to get rid of their creatures. Duress should help you figure out your game plan. Planeswalkers are really good against them as they usually don’t have any ways to remove them from play other than to attack them with creatures.
That’s all I have for today. I hope Sultai treats you well and if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer them.
Thanks for reading!