Last weekend, the first part of the Players Tour Finals took place, and it’s not hard to argue that Wilderness Reclamation decks dominated the conversation, with over 50% of the competitors choosing to play a version of it. Of the different Wilderness Reclamation lists, the Four-Color version performed significantly better, which has me kicking myself a bit since I came very close to playing it before ultimately opting for Bant Control, with not-so-good results. Several of my teammates did end up playing it (including Ben Weitz, who is in the Top 8), so today I will talk about our list and the thought process behind our choices.
For people who don’t follow Core Set 2021 Standard closely, it might feel like Four-Color Reclamation suddenly exploded onto the scene, going from a deck that was almost never even talked about to arguably the breakout deck of the weekend. Those who were focused on the Players Tour Finals, however, knew that the storm had been brewing for some time, and expected a lot of the best players in the tournament to bring the deck. It is quite unusual that a deck like this is publicly available for a while and doesn’t make any waves before crushing a tournament, but the reason this happened at exactly this moment and not at any other point is because the Players Tour Finals finally had the right metagame for the Four-Color version to shine.
And what is that right metagame, you might ask? It’s quite simple — Wilderness Reclamation decks were over half the field. The way I see it, Four-Color Reclamation is, as a whole, an inferior deck to Temur Reclamation, with one exception — the mirror match. Having access to Dovin’s Veto and Teferi, Time Raveler is a gigantic boon that is worth any amount of mana problems in the mirror, but that is not worth the mana problems in any other matchup.
When you add a fourth color to the deck, you’re multiplying the number of things that can go wrong in a given match (I like to think of it as increasing the entropy of the deck). Now, all of a sudden, you’re more likely to have games where you can’t cast Expansion because of Temple Garden; or games in which all your lands enter the battlefield tapped; or games in which you can’t cast and escape Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath in the same turn; or even games in which you cannot cast Explosion despite having nine lands on the battlefield. None of these things is particularly likely to happen, but there are a lot of them and they add up, and they do result in losing games that a regular three-color version would not have lost.
The overall win-rate of the deck in preceding weeks seems to reflect this. At the most recent Red Bull Untapped International Qualifier event, for example, Four-Color Reclamation had a 71% win-rate in the pseudo-mirror while having a 51% win-rate overall. Temur Reclamation, on the other hand, had a 55% win-rate (but only 29% versus the Four-Color version). Because of this, the decision to play the Four-Color version cannot be made lightly — you have to be really confident that there will be enough Reclamation decks to justify the loss you take literally everywhere else. For the Players Tour Finals specifically, there were enough Reclamation decks that this was the case.
If this is the case, you might also be wondering why I played Bant Control instead of Four-Color Reclamation myself. The reason was that I expected the number of Four-Color Reclamation decks to be even higher than it was, and I thought that matchup was actually good for Bant (unlike the Temur Reclamation one which is basically even). In hindsight, I definitely regret my choice and wish I had played Four-Color Reclamation instead.
The decklist is fairly standard, except for the fact that we had four Teferi, Time Ravelers and an extra land in the form of a Blast Zone. Teferi is an incredible card in the mirror, as it can beat all the possible gameplans (Reclamation, Uro, Sharks, Commence the Endgame), and if you’re going through all the trouble of adding a fourth color for it, then I think you should play four copies. There were people who had white in their deck and zero Teferis, which I admit I don’t understand as Teferi is to me the reason to play a fourth color to begin with.
The Blast Zone is a concession to other Teferi decks. We found that, without Blast Zone, you were simply too weak to planeswalkers — both Teferi and Narset make the game very hard to win and Blast Zone is just the best card to deal with them. Having a 30th land isn’t as problematic as you might think because you have eight more Triomes, so you’re less likely to flood.
VS Temur Reclamation
In this matchup, I believe you’re heavily favored. There are certain versions of Temur Reclamation that can be better or worse versus you, but overall nothing they can have is going to match Dovin’s Veto and Teferi, Time Raveler, which are cards that you simply have in addition to what they have. When you play this pseudo-mirror, you can win all the games where a regular Temur Reclamation deck would win (such as by sticking an early Wilderness Reclamation) or you can win games with Teferi, even if they managed to land their own Reclamation first. On top of that, Teferi simply trumps some of their alternate gameplans, such as flat-out embarrassing Commence the Endgame. This gives you more avenues to win the game which translates into a good win rate.
Out (on the play):
In (on the play):
Out (on the draw):
In (on the draw):
After sideboarding, not much changes. If it did there would be something wrong, as these decks are supposed to be pre-sideboarded for each other. Teferi is still great and still trumps most of their post-sideboard plans.
We found out Jolrael was good on the play but not on the draw, as it exposes you to an early Wilderness Reclamation (this will be a theme in blue matchups moving forward — you usually want Jolrael on the play but not on the draw). If you’re on the play, you can just cast it and sit back; sometimes you can even make a token at the end of their turn by casting a Growth Spiral and cycling a land, for example. The key is not being greedy to make tokens; you don’t need a lot of them, so it’s not worth tapping out and making yourself vulnerable to just get a token early on.
VS Four-Color Reclamation
This matchup plays out a bit differently from the one against normal Reclamation because both players have the potential to invalidate each other’s gameplans with Teferi. It’s the most important card and you should try your hardest to make sure it doesn’t resolve.
Out (on the play):
In: (on the play):
Out (on the draw):
In: (on the draw):
There are some differences between sideboarding versus Four-Color and Temur Reclamation. The first is that Aether Gust just isn’t a good card versus the Four-Color version and I would never keep it since it’s a counterspell that doesn’t fight over Teferi (yours or theirs), which is just unacceptable since Teferi already does a lot of what it’s trying to do. I don’t think Aether Gust is even very good in Temur Reclamation mirrors, but I always want to have at least some answers to Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Nightpack Ambusher; Teferi happens to be an answer (or at least a semi-answer) to both these cards, so you need Aether Gust less and I would rather not have it in my deck.
The second difference is that Spectral Sailor is actually good. It can pressure Teferi a little bit, which is not irrelevant, and, most importantly, it lets you use your Wilderness Reclamation mana even if they have Teferi on the battlefield. I usually like a more aggressive plan in Temur Reclamation mirrors (for example I’d rather have Nightpack Ambusher than Spectral Sailor) but in the Four-Color mirror specifically I think Sailor is great. If they have multiple Sailors, you can consider having one or two Glass Caskets on the draw as well, where Jolrael is a liability.
VS Bant Control
The Bant Control matchup gets significantly worse if you’re playing Four-Color instead of Temur (which is part of why I chose to play that deck). This is for a couple of reasons. First, you will lose some more games to your manabase, but that happens in every matchup. Second, you miss out on Blast Zone. We opted to play one Blast Zone as our 30th land to diminish this, but you see a lot of cards, and Blast Zone is literally the only card that gets you out of many situations, so having access to one or two is a big difference (it’s not uncommon for the game to hinge on whether you can scry into a Blast Zone over the course of two or three turns).
Third, this deck plays a bit more of a tap-out game than the Temur versions, which hurts you against Bant because they’re better at the tap-out game. If both players stick Teferi, Time Raveler, that’s going to favor the Bant player since they have Elspeth Conquers Death; Nissa, Who Shakes the World; Narset, Parter of Veils; and potentially more creatures. In this matchup, it’s vastly preferable to have a Negate for their Teferi than to have your own Teferi to match it, and you’d also prefer having cards like Brazen Borrower that at least help in that fight.
Out (on the play):
In (on the play):
Out (on the draw):
In (on the draw):
After sideboarding, things improve. Spectral Sailor is excellent against Bant Control, since, much like in the Four-Color Reclamation mirror, it pressures planeswalkers and makes your Wilderness Reclamations threatening even if they have Teferi. It’s not easy to threaten planeswalkers with it, as Shark Typhoon can just ambush it every time, but sometimes you have to attack and they don’t have it, so it helps.
VS Mono-White Aggro
This matchup isn’t good, but it isn’t as bad as people made it out to be. You’ll lose some games due to being a clunky deck, and some because they will just have a great draw, but sometimes you resolve an early Uro and it just runs away with the game. It’s also important to note that Negate effects actually aren’t bad versus them.
After sideboarding, Jolrael and Glass Casket are both quite good, but in this matchup I believe you’d rather have Bonecrusher Giant instead of Casket, since the 4/3 is actually a good blocker (though it does die to Giant Killer). It’s possible to make this matchup better by having Deafening Clarion, but given that it’s not actually good versus some of the other aggro decks, I prefer having the more generic Solar Blaze. It might seem like Solar Blaze isn’t that effective, since a lot of their creatures have rebuys, but it still resets their pump spells (plus you can copy it with Expansion to clear the battlefield), so it’s still good.
VS Mono-Green Aggro
All the aggressive matchups are kinda similar in how you play and sideboard, with some obvious exceptions (such as Aether Gust being either excellent or horrible). Solar Blaze is very good versus Mono-Green Aggro — keep in mind that it kills Stonecoil Serpent even though it has protection from multicolored, as the Serpent is the card doing the damage and not the Solar Blaze.
Teferi is not the best versus them, but it can still stall them for a while and draw a card, so I think it’s good enough. Bouncing your own Glass Caskets also comes up a lot, especially if you targeted Stonecoil Serpent or a token.
VS Mono-Black Aggro
This matchup plays very similarly to Mono-Green Aggro, even though they have a lot more potential disruption.
Having Glass Casket really helps in this matchup as opposed to any of the red removal, since some black creatures like Rotting Regisaur have very high toughness. They might be playing a version where Solar Blaze doesn’t kill many things; if that’s the case, then you should consider not bringing it in and having another Expansion // Explosion and another Wilderness Reclamation instead.
VS Mono-Red Aggro
This is also the same as the other aggro decks, except that, unlike the other options, they have literal zero ways of beating Uro.
You might want to sideboard differently depending on the version. Teferi is good versus the slower version of the deck (since it stops Embercleave), but it’s not good versus the Cavalcade version, where I’d rather have Spectral Sailor as an early blocker. Keep in mind that Solar Blaze will not kill Torbran, as it only works on opposing permanents.
VS Jund Sacrifice
Teferi is a card that’s hit or miss versus Jund Sacrifice. Usually it’s bad, but sometimes it’s very good if you manage to snipe a Food token or something like a Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. All in all, it’s still a good matchup for you.
Moving forward, the one change I would make for sure is to remove the Aether Gust from the maindeck. I think Teferi and Brazen Borrower do a lot of heavy lifting on the things you’d potentially want Aether Gust against, and Mono-Black Aggro and Mono-White Aggro have both emerged to challenge the Mono-Green dominance in that department, so the risk of having a dead card is too big. I’d much rather play an extra Dovin’s Veto, as it’s better in the mirror and has more applications against some of the aggro decks (though obviously it’s much worse versus both Mono-Green and Mono-Red aggro).
In the future, whether I’ll play Temur Reclamation or Four-Color Reclamation will depend on what I expect the competition to be. If I’m playing an important tournament with high-level competition, I’ll expect players to gravitate more towards both versions of the Reclamation deck, and I would play Four-Color as I believe it’s significantly better there. If I’m playing on ladder or a small tournament, however, I think Temur’s consistency is superior, as these metagames never skew that much towards one deck (i.e. Reclamation decks will never be 60% of ladder, but they were 60% of the Players Tour Finals).