Filling The Midrange Void After The Bans

Ross Merriam trusts the train of good green value creatures over the last few years! He’s looking for the next great midrange deck to take to SCG Dallas glory! So which of these will it be?

Well then. That was one way to do things.

Everyone expected a ban of at least one key card in the Energy decks given
how dominant they were. We got the top two choices, Attune with Aether and
Rogue Refiner, which personally is exactly what I wanted to see. But I
don’t think anyone expected Ramunap Red to take a similar hit, losing its
namesake land as well as Rampaging Ferocidon.

I’m not going to wax poetic about the justification behind the bans,
Wizards did an excellent job explaining their thought process, which you
can read here. All I’ll say is that I’m glad that the solution was as
heavy-handed as it was. Standard has been miserable for most of the last
year, and while consumer confidence is an important variable, it seemed to
me that we had reached the point where the health of the format required
significant change, and most players are excited for the opportunity to
brew with their favorite cards from Ixalan Block without the spectre of
Energy decks looming over them.

It’s my job to look forward and determine what this new era of Standard
will look like in advance of SCG Dallas and SCG Philly, since it will clearly
be the Standard head of each team that will have the greatest edge to gain.

But there will be one lesson from the past year that I carry forward and
that is a growing appreciation for the power of midrange strategies. I’ve
been a longtime advocate for proactive, linear decks as I like going into a
match with a clear game plan that isn’t dependent on my opponent’s deck.
However, there is great value to the versatility of midrange. Temur Energy
was dominant because it could punish an opponent who stumbles or put
control decks on the backfoot while retaining the ability to play through
significant disruption and grind with the best of them.

This advantage is further compounded after sideboarding, where midrange
decks like Temur Energy have the option to tune their deck in nearly any
direction, something that linear decks are wholly incapable of. This not
only makes them more adaptable to any metagame, but also difficult to
sideboard against, since the opponent has to be wary of and prepare for a
wide range of possibilities.

Temur Energy and its variants have been the only successful midrange decks
in Standard over the last several months. Without Rogue Refiner and Attune
with Aether, other midrange decks are free to fill the void.

The known decks going into the first week of this format are all either
aggressive (Ramunap Red, Mono-Black Aggro) or controlling (U/W Approach,
U/W Cycling, U/B Control), so there is a clear metagame to prepare for, but
the key to midrange success has always lied in finding the most powerful
advantage-generating green creature.

For the last four years, Standard has been dominated by these creatures. It
started with Courser of Kruphix. Then we had Den Protector and Deathmist
Raptor. Then Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Then Tireless Tracker. Then Rogue
Refiner. These creatures have formed the basis for many successful midrange
decks due to their ability to provide significant card advantage with no
corresponding loss in tempo.

Rivals of Ixalan has offered the next heir to this line in Jadelight
Ranger. It offers card selection and card advantage stapled to an efficient
body, much like Rogue Refiner. It’s not going to take over a game like
Courser of Kruphix or Tireless Tracker, so the midrange decks featuring it
will be a bit more aggressive, but the card is plenty powerful because of
its immediate impact on the game.

The next step in forming a top-flight midrange deck is finding the best
removal. Harnessed Lightning and Abrade have been the best in Standard thus
far, especially the former, but much of Harnessed Lightning’s power is in
its ability to function as a near Terminate in a deck that is packed with
sources of energy. The loss of Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner cut
into Harnessed Lightning significantly, not only because they are easy
sources of energy, but because they help energy decks stretch their mana in
order to fit even more sources of energy into their deck.

I foresee Harnessed Lightning remaining powerful, but not being the
versatile removal spell it has been, so I’m more interested in black’s
removal suite than red’s. Black has the best cheap removal spell in Fatal
Push and the best answer to Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God, the two
most powerful and difficult to answer threats in Standard, in Vraska’s

And then there’s the now infamous Ravenous Chupacabra. Midrange decks are
the ones most interested in stapling powerful effects to a reasonable body
since they want to maintain a certain threat density to pressure control
decks and a certain removal density to counter aggressive decks. Chupucabra
is perfect for this role and cements black as the support color of choice.

Of course, there is already a template for an aggressivley-slanted B/G
Midrange deck in Standard built around Winding Constrictor. Jadelight
Ranger slots perfectly into the deck since explore pairs well with the
Snake, so without further ado, let’s get to brewing.

The first list is one built with the most powerful options up the curve,
ignoring any synergies beyond those with Winding Constrictor:

Merfolk Branchwalker supplements Winding Constrictor and Walking Ballista
in the two slot as another solid value creature. I particularly like
explore in these decks because the primary weakness is in the manabase.
Enemy-colored pairs have only one good dual land in Blooming Marsh so you
have to resort to Foul Orchard in order to play a full two-colored deck, so
any way to dig for lands is a big help to the deck’s consistency.

I mentioned Ravenous Chupacabra above, but it bears repeating just how good
the body is in this deck. No one wants to use a removal spell on a 2/2
creature that has already served its primary purpose, but with Rishkar,
Peema Renegade and Verdurous Gearhulk to turn it into a substantial threat
they will be forced to do so quite often. You can also throw it into an
Aethersphere Harvester and take to the skies while staying on curve and
stunting your opponent’s development.

The ability to utilize spare bodies leads me to opt for Kitesail Freebooter
over Duress in the sideboard, although I could see the reliability of
Duress winning out. You’re likely to be bringing out some of the cards that
let you utilize those incidental bodies against control decks anyway since
you don’t want to be incentivized to overextend into a Fumigate or Settle
the Wreckage, further bolstering the case for Duress. I also would
entertain having more than four of that effect and splitting between the
two since you really want to draw them en masse against the control decks.

Golden Demise is a great sideboard card for this deck against aggressive
decks, especially now that the ban on Rampaging Ferocidon will force red
decks to go back to Ahn-Crop Crasher. Pirates and Vampires decks will also
contain plenty of creatures with two or less toughness, making this card an
all-star if players gravitate toward tribal decks.

I mentioned my concern about the mana in this deck, and the next variant is
mostly a means to alleviate that concern. B/G Energy became the dominant
version of the deck when it was played last year in part due to the mana
fixing it provides. We no longer have Attune with Aether, but I think there
are enough enablers to make it work.

The biggest move I made is playing Servant of the Conduit over Longtusk
Cub. The latter was one of the more powerful cards in Temur Energy, often
running away with games when left unchecked on turn 2, and the card plays
very well with Winding Constrictor, so why am I opting for the mana

Of course, Servant is a great mana fixer, but the bigger concern for me was
a drop in the power of Longtusk Cub in a post Attune with Aether world.
Having two energy upon casting the card helped it survive Shock and Magma
Spray and attack into the many other two power creatures in the format,
thus starting the snowball on its journey down the hill. If that snowball
doesn’t start rolling, then the card doesn’t do much of anything and will
get trumped by bigger creatures as the game goes on.

This deck lacks enough energy sources to play the card later and put a
bunch of counters on it immediately, so I sided with the card that provides
immediate value and still offers the potential to run away with the game if
left unchecked via its acceleration. Curving Servant into Chupacabra into
Verdurous Gearhulk is an excellent opening that puts you very far ahead and
forces the opponent to use their removal on your weaker threats.

Lastly, I think other people will gravitate toward black removal as I have,
leading to an increased number of Fatal Pushes in the metagame, a card that
matches up very well against Longtusk Cub.

The big draw to energy past Aether Hub is Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. It has
proven to be the most capable of the many Dark Confidant clones printed
over the years and is yet another two-mana threat that can run away with
the game if left unchecked. That kind of pressure to interact starting on
turn 2 is exactly what aggressive decks do, though the midrange threat
doesn’t literally end the game as quickly.

Unfortunately, the addition of Servant of the Conduit and Glint-Sleeve
Siphoner means that Golden Demise is too much of a liability for the
sideboard. Fortunately, Rivals of Ixalan offers another great effect
against aggressive decks in Moment of Craving. Essence Extraction has seen
some play and were Rampaging Ferocidon still in the format, I might lean
toward it instead, but now I’d rather have the cheaper option. The discount
is especially important due to the number of two-drops this list has, so
you can consistently cast two spells on four mana.

The last list I have is more of an aggro deck than midrange, but I couldn’t
help incorporating a little tribal-ness. I’m not sold on any of the
dedicated tribal decks I’ve seen, partly due to a lack of high-powered
payoffs but also due to the presence of great removal in the current
Standard format.

Fatal Push, Shock, Harnessed Lightning, Abrade, Settle the Wreckage, and
now Baffling End all make it difficult to assemble a battlefield of
synergistic creatures, but with Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger
already fitting well into a Winding Constrictor shell, you don’t need to go
much further to take advantage of some Merfolk synergies.

The main tribal payoff here is Deeproot Elite, another Merfolk that
generates +1/+1 counters, letting you generate huge threats without the aid
of Verdurous Gearhulk. To protect these threats, I’ve included not only
three copies of Blossoming Defense but also two copies of Swift Warden, a
card that bridges the gap between the desire to play protect the queen and
the desire to have value-generating creatures.

With the more aggressive stance this deck takes, the amount of removal gets
cut and the manabase skews toward Hashep Oasis rather than Ifnir Deadlands.
I’m including Chupacabra on power level alone, but cutting it entirely
would leave the deck without any double-black spells, which would really
help the manabase.

However, without removal beyond Fatal Push, the deck would likely have to
get more aggressive, playing weak cards like Jungleborn Pioneer or Jade
Bearer. I’m not interested in committing that much to tribal cards, even if
my list is a bit light on Merfolk for Kumena’s Speaker.

For the last year, every preview season has been met with well-deserved
skepticism because we all knew what cards and decks would dominate the
format. Right now, we have a few known decks and some very powerful cards
that are hard to interact with–Hazoret the Fervent, The Scarab God, and
Approach of the Second Sun all come to mind. But this is the first time in
a year that I can remember being hopeful that the format will remain
interesting in a month.

It’s been a dark couple of years for Standard, but I’m confident that we’re
through the worst of it. With Modern in a great place and Standard in a
state of flux, these upcoming team events are going to be awesome. I’m a
bit upset that I’m not going to Dallas this weekend so I don’t get to be a
part of release weekend.

Open New Tab. www.flights.google.com…