Rocky Road

Last time John was bubbling over for a B/W Midrange brew… which seems to have appeared in the finals of the SCG Standard Open at Cleveland. While he’s still excited, there’s another deck that has captured his heart…

Not the ice cream.

Actually, that does sound pretty good though.

Last week, after talking about my experiences with Theros limited I left you with a black/white midrange list. I got some good feedback from the list and you’ll be glad to know a deck very similar to the one I had posted made the Top 8 of the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Cleveland. This should at the very least solidify that Black/White Midrange is a competitor. Let’s take a look Andrew Morrow’s list:

Obzedat, Ghost Council vs Blood Baron of Vizkopa

There are a total of eleven finishers. One would expect (me included) that Obzedat should be the three-of and Blood Baron the two-of in this list. But the more I think about this, the more I believe Andrew is correct. While Obzedat has a great ability to avoid sorcery-speed removal and combos extremely well with Whip of Erebos, it still isn’t as powerful as Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Before you call me an idiot, let me explain why.

Generally, when you’re playing against U/W control you only get one turn to stick a threat. This happens usually either when they tap out for a Planeswalker or you hit their hand enough times with Thoughtseize and Sin Collector to open a window of opportunity. If that threat is Blood Baron, they have no real way to get rid of the threat other than tapping out again for Supreme Verdict. In fact, in most lists Supreme Verdict is the only answer they have. Compare this to Obzedat where those Azorius Charms they’ve been holding come in real handy. Then remember that non-Sphinx’s Relevaltion decks exist and you’ll understand why I believe Blood Baron is the better of the two.

If you’re playing against the G/W Aggro deck that Erik Finnegan used to win the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Cleveland, what can they do against a resolved Blood Baron of Vizkopa? Now consider what happens if that threat is Obzedat, Ghost Council instead. They’re going to attack us with their Advent the Wurm anyway, but Obzedat turns on Selesnya Charm where Blood Baron does not. Playing it out shows that Blood Baron is the better threat in this matchup.

When playing against Mono-Red Aggro, Blood Baron is again a very powerful tool. Having that four toughness means that outside of Mizzium Mortars it’s very inefficient for them to get it out of the way. The four power means you’ll be gaining that every turn for the rest of the game. If instead it’s Obzedat, you gain two life immediately but then can’t block if you plan on gaining more life. Against a red deck, consistently gaining life is the way to beat them.

What happens if we play against a black deck like Junk? All the removal is black, and they simply can’t get rid of Blood Baron. With Hero’s Demise being the go-to black removal spell from Theros, it’s just another reason why Blood Baron is more important than Obzedat.

Removal Suite

Doom Blade, Hero’s Downfall, Pharika’s Cure, and Devour Flesh are the cards we lean on to solve creature problems. Doom Blade and Hero’s Downfall are obvious choices as the restrictions on what they kill are few and far between. Pharika’s Cure and Devour Flesh need a little more explaining.

Pharika’s Cure is simply something to negate some of the life loss from Thoughtseize and Read the Bones that can be played in the early turns as well to clean up small annoying creatures like Ash Zealot. Devour Flesh feels like the weakest of the removal spells, and that’s true. It is however perhaps the most important. We’ve been talking about Obzedat and Blood Baron and how they’re hard to kill. Both are black which turns off Doom Blade, having more than two toughness shuts down Pharika’s Cure, and while Hero’s Downfall does kill Obzedat it can’t touch Blood Baron. Having three copies of Devour Flesh gives us answers to both of these in our maindeck. And in the early game against pressure decks, it will at least get something out of the way that’s dealing us damage.

Disruption Suite

Thoughtseize, Sin Collector and Blind Obedience are the cards we lean on to mess with our opponent’s strategy. Thoughtseize is quite possibly the best disruption card of all time. Picking the exact card we want to get rid of is well worth the two life. The only reason why this isn’t a four-of is that the card gets progressively worse against aggressive strategies the later the game goes, but we still have access to the fourth in the board against decks with countermagic.

Sin Collector compliments what the deck is trying to do very well. As both a body on the board and another way to pluck a valuable spell from the opponent’s hand, Sin Collector is extremely useful. The best part of both these cards, however, is they give us perfect information and allow us to sculpt the game to the best of our advantage. If you know what they have, you know what to play around, making it easier to win.

Finally, Blind Obedience is here more-or-less to be a nuisance. The red decks have a lot of haste creatures with Ash Zealot, Chandra’s Phoenix, and Stormbreath Dragon. These cards are a lot more embarrassing when they enter the battlefield tapped. Also, the added bonus of extort gives us a lot more value from our spells the longer the game goes on.

Everything Else

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Read the Bones, Desecration Demon, and Whip of Erebos round out the rest of our deck. There’s not much to say about Elspeth that hasn’t already been said. If you get to six mana and cast it, it’s pretty hard to lose the game.

Read the Bones gives us the card advantage we are otherwise lacking. It helps us find the cards we need to stay alive early, and it helps us find the cards to win the late game. Then there’s Desecration Demon. It’s the new “it”-threat that has emerged in the format, and is truly a powerhouse. A 6/6 flyer for 2BB is just a headache for most decks to deal with efficiently. It really fills the curve out nicely and is a great follow-up to Sin Collector.

Finally, there’s Whip of Erebos. The interaction with Obzedat, Ghost Council is strong enough by itself to really make us want to have the Whip in our deck. The bonus is that it’s also useful with Sin Collector and big creatures like Desecration Demon, granting them all lifelink and adding an extra dimension against beatdown decks.

Another Flavor

You’re probably wondering by now what Rocky Road has to do with any of this. I’ll be honest that when I first worked on B/W midrange I was excited about playing it. I just found after playing a couple of matches with the deck it’s not as exciting to play as I had hoped. My heart just wasn’t in it.

My heart is in another color combination. The one everyone loves to hate.


Originally I was testing out a Rock deck on Magic Online. It was putting up reasonable results, but felt lacking in the finisher department. After a lot of testing, I realized that was because it was lacking Planeswalkers. Right now B/W just don’t have the Planeswalkers that other midrange or control decks have, so I started working on a Jund deck.

Then I started to win.

A lot.

What truly excites me is that I’m winning with what is in my opinion a relatively-untuned list. I’m trying out new things that sound good in theory. As of today, this is my current list:

Some of the more impressive things I’ve done with this deck include beating Mono-Red Aggro when I mulliganed to four cards on the play and beating an Elspeth, a Jace, and four soldier tokens with just a Chandra and Sire of Insanity in play! I’m positive I’ve found the right deck and it’s just a matter of tuning the list to the metagame. I’ve already determined Mono-Red Aggro and Blue/White/x control decks are very favorable matchups. My only two losses I’ve incurred so far are against the Green/White Aggro deck that won the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Cleveland and the dreaded manascrew that cannot ever be completely escaped, and at least one of those things I should be able to fix. There’s a Standard tournament this weekend for a case of Theros that I plan on attending with some variation of this deck, but if you’re attending the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Milwaukee, I recommend giving this a try. I’ll let you know how it goes if you promise to do the same. Join me, won’t you?

John Cuvelier

Gosu. on MTGO

@JCuvelier on Twitter