Can Anything Top Four-Color Midrange In Historic?

Historic is a format with several strong decks, but can any of them top Four-Color Midrange? Our experts weigh in!

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, illustrated by Vincent Proce
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, illustrated by Vincent Proce

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the recent introduction of Kaladesh Remastered, many are unsure what they’d play in Historic. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Historic event!

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Four-Color Midrange

With the recent bans and the release of Kaladesh Remastered, Historic became wide open once again. In spots like these, I usually favor playing powerful cards, and Sultai Midrange (or in this case Four-Color Midrange) has those in spades. As I mentioned in my article today, I think Thoughtseize and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath are two of the best things you can do individually, and they become even more powerful if they’re together, so I’m naturally drawn towards this combination. To accomplish that, you need to play the Sultai colors. 

The biggest question for me is whether to splash for Yasharn, Implacable Earth or not. That’s obviously metagame dependent, but right now I lean towards yes. This makes your matchup versus Sacrifice decks meaningfully better while making your matchup versus everyone else slightly worse, which I think is a worthy trade-off right now but might not be in a couple of days.

In the end, you can tune Sultai to beat almost anything, but you can’t tune it to beat everything at once, so there’s some guessing you will need to do and adjustments to be made after every weekend. Regardless of which build you choose, though, it’s the kind of deck that will rarely fall too far below 50-50, so I think it’s a good choice for this currently undefined metagame. 

Todd Anderson — Izzet Goblins

With the release of Kaladesh Remastered and a focus on Historic for online tournament play, I have been digging into the format quite a bit over the last few weeks. The addition of so many cards from Kaladesh and Aether Revolt has given new life to a format that was a bit stale. There are so many viable archetypes at the moment that it can be pretty hard to pick just one! For now, I’m going with Goblins, but with a little bit of a twist.

The blue splash in Goblins might look weird since it’s basically just for Negate, but the spells it lets you answer are just so powerful and expensive that I find it hard to not splash for it. If the manabase were an issue, I could see staying Mono-Red, but the printing of Riverglide Pathway has given us a bunch of free blue sources that don’t deal us much damage and offer a helping hand in a pinch. Stopping your opponent’s sweeper effect or combo chain is absurd in a deck that usually just slams a bunch of dummies onto the battlefield and hopes for the best.

My buddy Scooter222 tells me pretty often that you have to treat Goblins like a Muxus combo deck in the first game. After they have a ton of interaction post-board (like Aether Gust or Grafdigger’s Cage), relying on Muxus too much will get you killed but it’s no secret that a resolved Muxus is usually lights out in the first game.

I highly expect Sultai Midrange to move away from Aether Gust in the maindeck in the coming days/weeks because so many new archetypes are popping up that don’t play either Red or Green. Because of this, Muxus is more likely to resolve and win games that you would normally lose. If Aether Gust as a 4x is the norm, perhaps it might be time to move on, as a Nissa, Who Shakes the World into a protective Aether Gust from Sultai or Four-Color Midrange is not exactly beatable.

Ari Lax — Four-Color Midrange

4 Uro, 4 Thoughtseize. They just make it too easy these days.

I don’t know why Thoughtseize randomly got added to Historic, and I don’t know why Uro hasn’t been removed from the format or really the majority of Magic, but I’m just gonna keep playing those cards together until I’m told to stop.

I do want to experiment with the mix of cards here a bit. This list is basically pre-boarded for Goblins, but I can see going a bit further even and swapping the third Hydroid Krasis for an Elder Gargaroth. Krasis exists to overwhelm attrition matchups, Gargaroth exists to close out games, and in a metagame of small creature decks with minimal removal I don’t see Krasis being so crucial you need all three.

Ryan Overturf — Azorius God-Pharoah’s Gift

Piper Powell is powerful. She’s been crushing it this year and has demonstrated that she has chops across all Constructed formats. I love the look of her Historic God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck that she used to Top 8 the SCG Tour Online $5k Kaldheim Championship Qualifier last weekend, and would happily endorse playing her 75. 

Refurbishing back a God-Pharaoh’s Gift is an old Standard hit, and Champion of Wits, Chart a Course, and Minister of Inquiries are as good of a supporting cast as ever. It’s rare that a Standard deck can be ported directly into Historic without any upgrades, and I’ve gotta say that Skyclave Apparition as an early-game play or as a God-Pharaoh’s Gift hit is a better upgrade than a lot of decks get. 

What I like most about this deck is that it employs a powerful graveyard engine while still being able to utilize sideboard Grafdigger’s Cages against other graveyard decks in addition to hosing Goblins and Collected Company strategies. Both Refurbish and God-Pharaoh’s Gift get around the powerful symmetrical hate card, which gives the deck a huge advantage in these matchups. Further, the looting effects offered by Chart a Course and Champion of Wits allow the deck to mitigate the diminishing returns of such effects and happily register the full four copies of Grafdigger’s Cage.

Corey Baumeister — Four-Color Midrange

Week one of new Historic, I would have said that Four-Color Midrange wouldn’t be a great choice. Now that we have some results to go off of, I think Four-Color Midrange is ready to reclaim its place as the best deck in Historic.

When the format is wide open it is hard for a deck like this to be the best deck. You just have far too many threats to think about and only about 7-10 flex slots in your maindeck to play with. Luckily for fans of this type of strategy, the metagame is shifting back to what it was pre-Kaladesh Remastered with a few minor exceptions. Auras decks increasing in number is really the only reason you don’t want to play maindeck Aether Gusts but I don’t think those decks are going to be good enough to see a ton of play. And outside of exactly that matchup, Aether Gust is just an all-star in this format once again.

Bryan Gottlieb — Rakdos Sacrifice

I was extremely impressed with Tristan Wylde-Larue’s second place deck from this past weekend’s SCG Tour Online $5K Kaldeim Championship Qualifier. The addition of Scrapheap Scrounger to the archetype adds a lot of aggression, and I’ve always been a believer in the Mayhem Devil/Witch’s Oven core in Historic. Tristan had a super clean list that I found immediate success with on the Arena ladder.

However, there’s always room for improvement. I had some gripes regarding the density of three-drops in the original list. I was also frustrated by the ineffectual nature of Stitcher’s Supplier. In Rakdos Arcanist, Stitcher’s Supplier usually felt like my best card. Here it felt like my worst.

Imagine my joy when Gerry Thompson messaged me with a list that arrived at the same conclusions and addressed all my concerns. Gerry is going to write about the list this week, so I’m not going to steal his thunder. I’ll just say Bomat Courier is the absolute truth here and it beats control opponents single handedly. If the deck has a flaw now, it’s a weakness to Yasharn, Implacable Earth. I’m mostly okay with this, as people have recently been playing Sultai Midrange over Four-Color Midrange. If that trend changes, maybe some Chandra, Torch of Defiance can end up in the maindeck.

The specifics will always be in flux, but Rakdos Sacrifice is gearing up for a long run as the best deck in Historic. Get in now.

Shaheen Soorani — Azorius Control

Rory King knocked it out of the park with his take on Azorius Control.  This strong finish at the SCG Tour Online $5K Kaldeim Championship Qualifier is on the back of control synergy that is new to the Historic format.  Gideon of the Trials perfectly pairs with Pact of Negation to imitate Force of Will well.  This combined with the power of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria offers a control shell that can take on the best decks of the format.

Supporting that disruption and planeswalker package is Wrath of God, the most iconic sweeper in Magic’s history.  This is a required cog in the machine, handling the red-based aggro that has swept through the format for months.  Wrath of God can handle the brunt of threats alone, but King decided to get Shatter the Sky into the party as well.  I am skeptical that the split for card draw is worth it, but I’m willing to test it out to make sure.

This version of Azorius Control is suited to take on the format after a Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath victory had just occurred.  King uses three copies of Narset, Parter of Veils in the maindeck to thwart the killer package of Uro and Hydroid Krasis.  The planeswalker package, supported by a Torrential Gearhulk and Disallow, brings enough disruption to handle the midrange/control decks at the top of the metagame, while not losing percentage points to the faster decks. 

I recommend this list for your Historic events moving forward!

Patrick Chapin — Four-Color Midrange

Uro decks are overruning Historic; and while Sultai used to be the top dog, I’d splash white like more and more players are:

This is basically the same as the Sultai list, except for the Yasharn, Impacable Earth splash, which stops quite a few popular cards right now:

Skirk Prospector Cauldron Familiar Witch's Oven Priest of Forgotten Gods Woe Strider Phyrexian Tower Selfless Savior Alseid of Life's Bounty Neoform Tormod's Crypt Bomat Courier

It’ll be interesting to see how far things are allowed to go, as this strategy is already about 30% of the top tier metagame. As long as it’s legal, however, I think we’re going to see more and more attempts to level people’s attempts to level people’s attempts to level.

Dom Harvey — Azorius God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Watching the SCG Tour Online $5K Kaldeim Championship Qualifier this Sunday, I was consistently impressed by Azorius God-Pharaoh’s Gift in the hands of Piper Powell. Like some other Standard favourites that have made their way into Historic, I expected this deck to be fine for amusing yourself on the ladder but firmly below the bar set by the likes of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Muxus, Goblin Grande; instead, Powell was able to cleave through a field of Sultai Midrange and Goblins en route to the elimination rounds

Skyclave Apparition isn’t just the best white card printed in years, it’s a great fit for this deck — a speedbump against faster decks, a way to interact with the battlefield using God-Pharaoh’s Gift when Angel of Invention won’t cut it, and a solution to Leyline of the Void or Scavenging Ooze that isn’t unacceptably narrow. Seasoned Hallowblade hasn’t made the impact many hoped in Standard but a free discard in white is a rare find; seeing it in Powell’s list was a surprise but one that immediately made sense.

My suggested list here cuts sideboard cards dedicated to Mono-Red Aggro, which failed to deliver on the hype this weekend, in favour of shoring up matchups like Goblins even further. Cataclysmic Gearhulk is here as a fifth Refurbish target that has a unique effect on battlefields that can’t be dealt with one card at a time. It’s never quite as good there as it should be, but having one copy opens up a lot of lines.