Why I’m Playing Sultai Midrange At Mythic Championship Cleveland Tomorrow

With all decklists for Mythic Championship I, Cleveland locked in, Patrick Chapin reveals his list of choice and the close-but-not-quite decks he considered along the way!

With the relatively recent change requiring Pro Tour Mythic Championship decklists submitted by Wednesday night, rather than Thursday night, the die is cast. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be rocking Sultai Midrange here in Cleveland.

I was a fan of Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance has led to a pretty good world, too. I do believe Wilderness Reclamation is problematic and was the increased power needed to push Nexus of Fate over the edge of acceptability. There’s no denying that Nexus of Fate / Wilderness Reclamation is a Tier 1 strategy, and while I’m sympathetic to not keeping the best-of-one and best-of-three banned lists the same, the strategy is not exactly a good time to play against in paper Magic, either.

Regardless, I’m not calling for it to be banned (or not). Obviously, for this event, the strategy is very much in play. However, after consideration, I determined I didn’t want to play it, not feeling like I had any new tech for it, nor being particularly skilled with it. Frankly, the prospect of playing it in the tournament really dampened my enthusiasm for playing in the event. Maybe it’ll be busted. I can live with that. I didn’t have anything for it, though.

The Wilderness Reclamation deck I would have been interested in exploring more was definitely something in the more “fair” space. For instance, maybe something along the lines of:

The most likely scenario is that this approach is flawed for some reason I do not yet understand, given that it’s not putting up any big finishes and isn’t exactly some table flip of technology. With the time I had available, I determined I would not be able to gain enough confidence in such a path.

Everybody seems pretty set on Shock, even in control decks, but Shivan Fire seems really good to me in Wilderness Reclamation at the very least. With lots of extra mana, the option to kill bigger threats seems much appreciated, and having more ways to deal four takes some of the pressure off needing so many sorcery-speed Lava Coils.

Another frontrunner for me was, not surprisingly, Esper Control. The strategy has put up plenty of results and is definitely one I’m proficient in. While Esper Control remained on my shortlist until the very end, I just don’t believe in the current builds to the degree to which they’re popular. I have no doubt Wafo-Tapa will show up with a finely-tuned Esper Control (or Jeskai Control) list updated to improve the Mono-Blue Aggro matchup, but I just wasn’t feeling it this time.

I actually also entertained the notion of Esper Midrange for a while, as I really like the above four-pack of creatures. Not surprisingly, I started with Hero of Precinct One; however, it was surprisingly unimpressive, which was a really unfortunate finding, given how much the strategy’s Achilles heel seemed to be a shortage of good one- and two-mana options.

Thought Erasure is awesome, but we need a lot more than that. Besides, there are a lot of matchups where we really don’t want to wait until Turn 3 to start impacting the battlefield. Cheap removal could be an option, I guess, but I really didn’t want to fill my list with a bunch of Cast Downs with how much Nexus of Fate and Esper I’m expecting to face. Besides, it’s not like drawing Cast Down was even swinging the fast matchups much.

So far, the best I’ve come up with is Adanto Vanguard and Tithe Taker. Both are respectable-power-level threats that have some resiliency against reactive strategies while also having some functionality against fast aggression.

With time expiring on the clock, this is as far as I got, which seemed promising but still too speculative and unfinished:

Maybe going to literally zero Mortify, let alone Cast Down or Vraska’s Contempt is too extreme, but I really didn’t think this mix of threats was well-suited for dealing with drawing the wrong removal in the wrong spots.

I know a lot of people are down on this card, but it still seems fine to me. I think it might be getting a bad rap. I’m a little concerned about the mana in this list, however, and History of Benalia doesn’t help matters. There’s a good chance I actually just can’t get away without more Discovery // Dispersals. They would provide more permanent interaction as well, albeit at a premium in mana.

Maybe too fancy, but we’re desperate for one-mana plays and Spell Pierce just seems dope in the format, particularly in a deck that can quickly put opponents on the back foot.

Ben Lundquist told me he thinks the card is very underplayed in the format, for how strong it is, and I’m inclined to agree. The only reason I don’t have more is my lack of respect for red aggro this time around.

While I don’t think highly of red aggro at the moment, I’m a lot warmer on blue aggro and white aggro (with my preference leaning towards blue). I think Mono-Blue might be the best deck in the format, and I expect it to be quite popular, but the best (hopefully) technology I had come up with was geared at making Sultai Midrange stronger against Mono-Blue. Sultai seems like a top three deck to me, and my hope is that my gamble pays off and maindecking Kraul Harpooner looks amazing tomorrow morning.

Kraul Harpooner has already been gaining popularity as a sideboard option, particularly against Mono-Blue and Izzet Drakes, but when I realized how much I liked Thief of Sanity in the format, and how frequently I thought it could get its money against white aggro, I was sold. A big theme for my exploration this time was the desire to maindeck fewer reactive cards than other people. Kraul Harpooner is definitely a nod to that philosophy, providing not-embarrassing beatdowns even when not actually killing anything. My hope is that this addition will help shore up Sultai’s weakness to Mono-Blue while giving me some points against Esper and Nexus of Fate and not losing too much ground against the mirror and red.

Maybe it’s crazy not maindecking Cast Down, but that’s kind of the chance I’m taking. Here’s the 75 I’m running tomorrow at Mythic Championship I, Cleveland:

For starters, this is blatantly low on removal, with Assassin’s Trophy and Vraska’s Contempt obviously getting the nod for their extreme flexibility. I’m a little concerned that Assassin’s Trophy is going to come back to bite me with how many of my opponents will put that extra land to good purpose. Still, I really wanted the flexibility, and while another Vraska’s Contempt was a close consideration, in the end, I wanted to err on the side of speed.

I originally planned to play the full four Hostage Takers and zero Ravenous Chupacabras; however, after fleshing out sideboard plans against all the major decks, I found myself really wishing I had one Ravenous Chupacabra instead against red and Izzet Drakes. Maybe I’m sacrificing too many points in the mirror, but from what I can tell, everyone else seems to make similar hedges.

While not everyone uses Wildgrowth Walker, it seemed like one of the key selling points to me. It’s not like the floor is even that bad, and between how it singlehandedly demolishes red decks and how nice it is for racing other aggressive decks, I’m willing to suck it up against Esper and Nexus of Fate.

As mentioned above, I really like Thief of Sanity in the format. It just runs away with so many games, and it’s actually a surprisingly good blocker against some fliers. If other people want to pull back on removal like I do, they may be more vulnerable to it (assuming they don’t also get to Kraul Harpooner), and if they try to block with fliers of their own, Kraul Harpooner is just that much better (particularly with explore giving me lots of ways to power it up early and open up the possibility of killing X/4s).

While I was originally only sideboarding Thief of Sanity, I eventually picked up a spot for one maindeck when I decided on starting just three Harpooners rather than four. The second Harpooner in the spots where it’s good wasn’t necessarily worth the second one in the spots where it’s not.

Potentially in support of Thief of Sanity, I considered Thought Erasure, but I just don’t love Thought Erasure and Llanowar Elves in the same deck. I want to play Forests for the Llanowar Elves, and that’s a tough way to do it if you also want to Thought Erasure on two. I’d rather just Duress after sideboarding.

Instead of more discard, I wanted to round out my interaction with a little countermagic and ended up on the 1/1 split after fleshing out my sideboard plans and just seeing where I had room and where I didn’t. The biggest thing Disdainful Stroke does is counter Hostage Taker, which is a highly compelling option in the mirror, whereas Negate was definitely my preference against Guildgate decks.

Flores was telling me I really should have a couple of these, but eventually I ran out of room after dealing with a full playset of Thief of Sanity and the various forms of anti-spell interaction. Maybe I’m just punting big-time, but people have Mortify, and besides, spending the mana isn’t trivial.

While it seems most people play only about ten blue mana sources, I really want Thief of Sanity early, so I’m only playing one Memorial to Folly and only four Forests in order to make room for twelve total blue sources.

I had three Find // Finality up until yesterday, but after seeing just how frequently I was sideboarding some or all of them out, I decided to trim one for an extra Thief of Sanity main, giving me room for a Vraska, Relic Seeker in the board, as kind of a hedge against everything.

Besides, with so many little choices costing me percentage against the mirror (one less Folly, one less Find // Finality, not maxing Hostage Taker, maindecking Kraul Harpooner), I wanted another heavy hitter I could bring in to potentially recoup some of the lost edge.

Going into the event, I don’t have that crazy of tech or anything, but I do have a gamble I like that might pay off nicely if the field breaks the right way. Maybe somebody broke it with Wilderness Reclamation, tuned the perfect Esper list, or just realized that one of the monocolor aggro decks is the best place to be. For my tournament life, I guess I’m gambling on good games and hoping “fair” is the best spot this time around.

Wish me luck!