I have been playing a lot of Standard lately in preparation for the World Magic Cup. I didn’t attend GP Milwaukee or Shizuoka, but I did pay close attention to the decks and results.
G/B Midrange gets better over time because you are playing a lot of answers, and you need to figure out the metagame to know exactly how to build your deck. This is always true of control decks—they can be big hits or misses during the first weeks of a new format because it’s hard to correctly predict the metagame, and you can end up playing the wrong kind of removal, or Negate when Essence Scatter would have been better, and vice versa.
But if you get it right, you have a well-oiled machine. I believe Petr Sochurek’s G/B Midrange is currently that deck. He is very good at tuning decks, especially in Standard, and his results over the two GPs were 12-3 and 13-2. He missed the Top 8 with a 13-2 record, which is something that has happened to him four(!) times already. Talk about bad luck.
But back to the list. I’ve been playing it for a while now and the deck is great. Everything makes sense, it has the perfect mix of threats and answers, and sideboarding numbers add up perfectly. The more answers you play, the harder it is to get it right. Fortunately, a lot of the answers in his deck also function as threats—Vivien Reid or Vraska can kill a Niv-Mizzet but can also win the game on their own. Vraska’s Contempt gets rid of Teferi or Adanto Vanguard, making it one of the best removal spells possible.
This is the list I would currently register for a Standard tournament tomorrow, and I would feel very good about it.
1 Memorial to Folly – I am not actually sure if one or two is correct. There are so many good cards in the deck that you very rarely run out of steam, and a tapped land can hurt you when you are curving out, so I’m currently playing one. It shines in the mirror, so if you expect a lot of G/B in your local metagame, you should play the second copy. But it’s not very good against U/R Drakes and aggro.
1 Karn, 1 Baby Vraska – Most people are playing two Karns but I think a 1/1 split is better. They are both a little high variance. Karn especially can sometimes be completely ignored when you are under pressure, and they can trade 1-for-1 with removal on your guy in the same situation against Vraska. They are both a bit situational, so you don’t want to play too many cards like these, but there are also spots when you are on the play or ahead on board and then nothing is better than having a 4-mana planeswalker that gets you ahead even more. They play an important role because you need snowball-type cards like these, but overall they are the two most high variance cards in the deck and for that reason they would probably be the first cards to replace if I was looking to cut something.
3 Vraska’s Contempt – I can see playing two, especially if Rekindling Phoenix weren’t in the format, but the card is just too good at getting rid of anything problematic. The most important part is that it’s never a dead card, whether you are playing against control, aggro, or TurboFog.
1 Cast Down, 1 Assassin’s Trophy – Neither is exciting but you need some amount of cheap removal. Cast Down is bad against Jeskai (unless they are playing some Enigma/Crackling Drake, which they have been recently) and Trophy feels really bad if you have to use it in the early game and give them a free basic land, so I like a split. Trophy is good around turns 6-7 when it allows you to double spell but you wouldn’t want to draw two copies in the dark.
1 Druid of the Cowl – I’ve tried both four and six mana-producing creatures and I believe five is the right number. You need to have some early game and it’s great on turn 2, but you wouldn’t want to draw two copies of it.
2 Wildgrowth Walker – There doesn’t seem to be that much aggro and it’s not very exciting against other decks, so I like two. Of course, the more aggro you expect, the better they get.
3 Midnight Reaper – While obviously not as powerful, this card is comparable to Rogue Refiner and it’s currently what glues the deck together. It’s great against control and in the mirror, and basically never really bad against anything. Of course, if you had to choose a good card against aggro, it wouldn’t be Reaper, but it can still trade with a Knight token and draw you a card—that’s not the worst. You don’t know what you are playing against in game 1 and this is a fine, cheap card that’s good against most decks, so I like it even if you board it out a decent amount.
2 Assassin’s Trophy – Important against decks like G/W, Boros, or Mono-Red that get much worse against your deck post-board and they need to have some “trump” cards like Ajani, Aurelia, Experimental Frenzy, or The Immortal Sun to try to win the game on their own, and hope that you don’t have an answer for it. Trophy isn’t great in game 1 when they usually don’t have that, but it’s the perfect answer after sideboard.
2 Cast Down – One of the best removal spells against creature decks. It’s especially important to have a cheap answer for Goblin Electromancer and Tocatli. This is also the reason why no one is playing cards like Dead Weight anymore. It looked serviceable when people were playing Golgari Findbroker earlier, but the fact that you can’t use it to kill Benalish Marshal, Tocatli, or Drakes against U/R makes it really bad now.
2 Deathgorge Scavenger – Scavenger isn’t the most powerful card but it’s good against decks with Rekindling Phoenix and Dire Fleet Daredevil. Against U/R, it’s a cheap creature that has a unique effect on the game and if you can exile Arclight Phoenix, Beacon Bolt, Radical Idea, or Maximize Velocity with it, then it did its job. Just keep in mind that exiling random instants and sorceries doesn’t make their Drakes smaller—they still count cards in exile. You can play a 1/1 split with Plaguecrafter instead of running two Scavengers.
4 Duress – Against control you need to interact with their hand, not their board. Being able to get rid of Expansion // Explosion, Dive Down, Settle the Wreckage or a counterspell on a key turn when you are trying to resolve Vivien Reid is very important and nothing in this format does it better than Duress.
2 Golden Demise – It’s better than Ritual of Soot because I don’t like killing my own important creatures with it (Wildgrowth Walker). One kills Adanto and the other one kills Tocatli and Benalish Marshal, but Demise is cheaper and you actually get to ascend pretty quickly, so it’s not hard for it to be a one-sided wrath.
1 Eldest Reborn – Similar to Vraska, Golgari Queen, it is a high-variance card, but when it’s good, it’s really good. You are playing a lot of cards with explore, so you get pretty deep into your deck and every 1-of matters. It’s also one of the very few answers to Carnage Tyrant, even if it takes some setting up.
1 Vraska, Relic Seeker – Curve isn’t important against a lot of decks after sideboard and Vraska is one of the most powerful cards that often wins the game on its own. It’s also another answer to cards like Experimental Frenzy.
1 Midnight Reaper – The best 3-drop in the mirror and against control decks. Against Jeskai you need both value and aggression, and Reaper fits this role perfectly. It also makes Deafening Clarion look really bad as a sweeper.
If they are playing Druid of the Cowl or Nullhide Ferox then I have two Cast Down on the play. On the draw, Trophy is still better because you are usually playing from behind and can’t pressure their planeswalkers, so it’s better to kill them directly.
There are too many versions right now and you don’t sideboard the same against all of them, but in the dark I would usually sideboard something like this:
Most people are keeping Wildgrowth Walker but I’m not such a huge fan. It’s one of the weakest cards in the deck and it forces you to awkwardly sequence your cards off-curve sometimes. It also gets stolen by Entrancing Melody a lot. Pretty much the only version of U/R where it’s actively good is the one with Maximize Velocity because you want to stay away from one-shot kill range. If you know they are on the control version with tons of removal and Ral, Izzet Viceroy and Niv-Mizzets, it’s fine to keep Midnight Reapers over Llanowar Elves because that match is more of a grind. If they have planeswalkers and Conjecture, then it’s fine to have some numbers of Assassin’s Trophies in your deck, but not in the dark, because you really don’t want to ramp them into Niv-Mizzet and give them more options with what to discard into their Chart a Course and Tormenting Voice.
They usually have some creatures after sideboard: Lyra, Niv-Mizzet, Drakes, sometimes even Rekindling Phoenix, so I like to keep Chupacabras. The games go long and having a 2-for-1 answer is always nice. Scavenger isn’t great but attacks for 4, so you don’t need to overextend. Other creatures like Llanowar Elves look better on paper, but your opponent can just ignore it and sit on counterspells, and then eventually sweep them away with Clarion, earning both time and card advantage. Scavenger also gets rid of cards like Chemister’s Insight and Rekindling Phoenix, and makes it really hard for them to flip Search for Azcanta.
They have Goblin Chainwhirler, so Llanowar is bad. It’s possible that some number of Duress is fine too, but all of your cards are already very good against them, so I don’t know what else I would cut for it. Scavenger again doesn’t seem exciting, but it helps against Rekindling Phoenix and you can remove something from your own graveyard to make Dire Fleet Daredevil worse against you. Find // Finality is good against Siege-Gang Commander and the games go long, so you get some nice value out of it.
On the draw, Vraska, Golgari Queen is usually too slow because they just kill it right away (Tyrant is the next best card), but when you are on the play you can usually defend it. It’s also an answer to Tocalti. Try to save Assassin’s Trophy for Ajani and Experimental Frenzy.
Out on the Draw
Out on the Play
If they have Tocatli, you want the Cast Downs. You will usually be able to tell if they have it or not—it’s not a very good combo with cards like Venerated Loxodon, Trostani, and explore creatures, so if you see those, you usually don’t have to worry about Tocatli. In general, I think most people don’t have them because it’s the only good target for Cast Down and most people keep it against Selesnya, so it turns into a bad card. On the draw they are down a card and you are up a card so you can afford to have a few more situational and reactive cards like Vraska’s Contempt. On the play I like Reaper and Karn better.
Thanks for reading and wish us luck at the World Magic Cup this weekend!