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A Basic Witches Guide To Post RTR Standard - Part 2: Midrange

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 A Basic Witches Guide To Post RTR Standard - Part 2: Midrange Empty A Basic Witches Guide To Post RTR Standard - Part 2: Midrange

Post  CardboardWitch on Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:55 am

Editor's Note: As previously mentioned this forum is set to "hide" active links unless you've logged in as a member. I don't even know if this is a setting, I suspect it may be a feature. In light of this I've included a second copy of all the links in this article in brackets under the hidden hot links. You'll have to cut and paste the actual address into a separate browser window but it's the best I could do under the circumstances. My apologies.

(Continued from: A Basict Witches Guide to Post RTR Standard Part 1: Aggro )


Before we start to talk about the Mid Range decks in the format I'd like to state for the record that I'm not going to waste all of our time describing what is and isn't a mid-range deck. There has been quite a lot of historical writing about this subject and not everyone seems to be capable of agreeing on a strict definition for this decktype. For the purposes of our discussion Midrange means = 8 Shocklands, Farseek and 3+ Thragtusks. While this is hardly historically accurate as you'll see below, the vast majority of the decks on this list are built around these cards at this moment in time.

Jund (GRB):

List: Top 4 Deleware States 2012


List: Top 4 SCG Cini


List: Top 8 California States


As you can see from the lists above there is an incredible amount of variety in this archetype. At this exact moment there appears to be a definite trend towards running less creatures in the build but otherwise virtually any top tier card with G/B/R mana symbols can and has appeared in Jund during this Standard.

In terms of playstyle Jund is actually fairly simple: it surrenders turns 1 and 2 to play a dual land and cast a Farseek. This in turn sets up back to back "must answer" creature plays on turns 4/5. Typically this will be Huntmaster/Olivia into Thragtusk but I'm personally also fond of cards like Vampire Aristocrat and Thundermaw Hellkite in these slots. Once the Jund player has established board presence he will begin unleashing a variety of 2 for 1 cards, one sided board sweepers and creatures with multiple lives. Jund doesn't really "beat" you so much as grinds you down under wave after wave of pseudo card advantage effects. What's more once the game does bog down, Jund excels at winning the "Late Game Scramble" because of Kessig Wolf's Run and Rakdos Runekey.

If this deck has a major weakness it's a very shaky first 4 turns against aggro. The simple truth is that despite cheap removal cards like Pillar of Flame, Mizzium Mortars, Dreadbore and sometimes Abrupt Decay the Jund player simply can not cast them and still develop his gameplan. Turn two virtually *must* be devoted to Farseek on all but the best draws and a turn 4-5-6 Oliva/Huntmaster/Thragtusk just isn't as dominant as the same card on turns 3/4/5 for example. This can sometimes force the Jund player into a completely passive control roll in the midgame because he took so much damage setting up his mana base he simply can not AFFORD to risk tapping out and playing a creature. The problem with this is that Jund is not a true control deck and unless you draw Mortars/Sever and the mana to play them both "big", the absence of real card-draw in the deck makes fulfilling this role "difficult".

Still despite this flaw Jund excels at fighting Control and other midrange decks and it's not like it *can't* beat aggro; it's just a little awkward/harrowing from time to time.

Bant (UGW)

List: Montana State Champion 2012


To be completely fair this deck could just as easily be (and often is) classified under the control heading as it can be described as Mid Range. The presence of cards like Jace, Architect of Thought, Detention Sphere, Syncopate and especially Terminus go a long way to making this deck *the* preeminent late game build in the format. Of course it still includes the staple midrange package of 8 Shocks, Farseek and Thragtusk so it's hardly like the deck is incapable of beating down. Of particular interest is the interaction between Restoration Angel and either Thragtusk or Centaur Healer; it is extremely easy for this deck to gain significant chunks of life turn after turn once it's set up to combine these cards properly.

Generally in order to beat this deck you are going to have to accomplish 1 of 2 things:

A) Outrun it. This isn't easy because of the aforementioned life gain cards and Azorius Charm but it can be done. In particular U/W Humans does well against this deck because Geist of Saint Traft plays through most of their early defenses so easily. Zombie does not fare quite as well however and Soulbond Aggro strategies will usually run afoul of Azorius Charm pretty quickly.

B) Outgrind it. To be perfectly honest this isn't as hard as it looks. The deck lacks trample, it's creatures are relatively unimpressive once they hit the table and a grand total of 2 counterspells (and mediocre ones at that) shouldn't be scaring anyone. The problem with this strategy is containing Jace/his other planeswalkers (Tamiyo fits here too), Angel of Serenity and Sphinx's Revelation. These are the cards Bant uses to win the long game and without them he's actually much weaker than Jund/Junk midrange builds. This is of course easier said than done as every card I listed is both powerful and fairly easy for the Bant player to cast for profit. It also helps to have a legitimate answer for Detention Sphere; preferably at Instant Speed (Abrupt Decay, Golgari Charm).

Junk Tokens

List: 1st SCG Providence


Once again this is a fairly new deck in the Standard mixer and as such there's a pretty huge spread of cards I'm seeing in it while testing on Trice. The decklist I posted just happened to be the one that won the SCG open and is therefore at least moderately reliable as a baseline. Other commonly included cards include Call of the Conclave, Restoration Angel, Midnight Haunting, Geist-Honored Monk and Garruk Primal Hunter. Frankly I've even had some players bust out Vraska on me in post sideboard games so literally any powerful W/B/G card that somehow involves tokens is a legitimate option here.

In terms of basic strategy this deck is pretty straightforward. It spends the early game spilling out a bunch of tokens and then seeks to go "over the top" with mass effect cards like Gavony Township, Sorin, Vault of the Archangels or Intangible Virtue. Throw in access to key Black "answer" cards like Sever the Bloodline, Abrupt Decay and Appetite for Brains and you have a fairly formidable grinding machine; albeit a hopelessly straightforward one with very little "play" to it.

This of course is the deck's major weakness; half of the cards in the deck are really only optimal if you have a bunch of tokens in play and an opponent who goes out of his way to neutralize these tokens (Sever, Detention Sphere, Supreme Verdict) can literally "turn off" huge portions of this deck. Additionally between key token generators, planeswalkers, Tusks and mana dorks it's actually *really* hard to fit a significant amount of removal into this deck design. What's more the removal spells Junk does have access to tend to be either expensive/slow (Sever the Bloodline/O Ring) or severely conditional (Selesnya Charm, Abrupt Decay, Ultimate Price). This can put the deck into a serious bind when facing an opponent he can not or does not want to block: say Zombies with a Blood Artist or two in play for example.

Despite these issues however Junk Tokens is an *extremely* powerful deck and a solid game 1 favorite against a surprising percentage of the format at the moment. In my experience for example I've almost always lost 1 before leaning heavily on SB cards to take games 2 & 3 simply because Junk Tokens is so hard to contain with "normal" cards.

Selesnya Midrange

2nd Deleware States 2012


I chose the 2nd place list from this tournament entirely because the guy used Armada Wurm and I'm pretty sure that card is a huge part of this deck's future. There are however a huge number of lists out there running more Silverblades or Wolfir Silverhearts in that slot so you should be prepared for both options going forward. I have also seen versions of this deck running 1-3 copies of cards like Trostani, Angel of Serenity or Sigarda, Host of Herons; all of which perform well in the design but cost enough to slow it down as well.

From a strategic standpoint this deck borders on comically simple. The entire plan here is to parlay a turn 1 mana dork into wave after wave of "big fat men" who intend to immediately turn sideways. This deck is certainly capable of playing defensively but typically it will decline to do so in favor of pressing larger and larger attacks while simultaneously gaining life. Gavony Township and Restoration Angel do a *lot* of work in this regard but it's not like you can ignore the various 3/3 Centaurs and 4/4 Elephants on the table while you're trying to deal with those cards either.

While it's hard to argue that this isn't one of the more powerful decks in the current format it does have some fairly debilitating weaknesses:

1) It's ponderous. That's not to say it's slow because it has just as many explosive draws as any other midrange + 8 mana dorks build in Standard. It is however pretty clunky on the mana, utterly dependent on playing a turn 1 mana dork and full of creatures who need to pass an upkeep phase before they can engage in battle. What's more it's extremely defined Mana Curve absolutely does not allow for missed land drops and it's almost impossible to play around Syncopate in this design.

2) There is no plan B or second gear. While I have seen a few versions of this deck maindecking Garruk Primal Hunter, by and large this build is exactly what it looks like: a bunch of chubby men and Gavony Township. If that doesn't beat your opponent you're going to lose. What's more if you fall behind on board there are an *extremely* limited number of cards in this deck that will help solve that problem (Armada Wurm, Thragtusk and in some situations Selesnya Charm/Restoration Angel). The deck's sheer ability to gain life can offset this problem somewhat however and over time I expect more and more players to shift towards 3-4 Centaur Healers in the build.

3) This deck is not amazing against Supreme Verdict but it can handle the situation if you've resolved cards like Thragtusk, Strangleroot Geist and/or Wolfir Avenger. It is however a complete "dog" to Terminus and what's more is typically SLOW enough that your opponent will legitimately be able to hard-cast any copies he has drawn for the full 6 mana.

4) 22 land, 8 Mana Dorks and roughly a million cards that cost 3+ mana is a very dangerous recipe. In my experience most opponents won't actively go after your mana dorks but if they do you will probably have 2-3 powerful cards trapped in your hand for several turns while you draw towards mana. That's not a good thing folks.

That's a lot of downside for one deck but ultimately the sheer power of the cards involved mitigate these problems somewhat. It's pretty hard to argue with 4/4 Elephants on turn 2 and Armada Wurms being fed by a Gavony Township however and as a result this deck remains a part of Standard based on it's raw potential alone.

4-Color (F)Rites

List: 2nd Florida States 2012


List: 2nd Place SCG Cinci


Expressed as simply as possible this deck wins the game as follows:

Step 1 - Cast Faithless Looting, Mulch or ideally Grisly Salvage and put a bunch of ridiculously powerful but expensive monsters in your graveyard.

Step 2 - Cast Unburial Rites and put one of those ridiculously powerful but expensive monsters into play for 4 or 5 mana.

Step 3 - Repeat as necessary/possible until your opponent dies.

This deck is very simple to play, very powerful and incredibly resilient. A careful eye will notice that every single potential reanimation target in this deck gains immediate value even in the face of removal. When you combine this with the flashback ability on Rites itself and various time wasting options like Lingering Souls, Mizzium Mortars/Rolling Tremblor you end up with a deck that can be harder to actually finish off than a nest of cockroaches.

The downside of course is a somewhat dicey mana base (although it's nowhere near as volatile as it looks on paper) and a SUPREME vulnerability to sideboarded graveyard hate cards. Cremate, Tormad's Crypt and Rest in Peace are all very good examples of what I'm talking about and they are EXTREMELY difficult for the (F)Rites player to answer/play around.

Despite this you can win a LOT of games by throwing down a turn 4 Angel of Serenity/Griselbrand and this deck makes a regular habit of going up 1-0 very quickly in tournament matches. All things being equal it's reasonable to expect to win one of the next two games post sideboard and frankly you'll be on the play if it does make it to a game 3 which counts for a whole lot in this Standard.

Junk Rites

List: 1st Georgia States 2012


While on the surface this may appear to be the exact same deck as the (F)Rites build above there are actually man subtle differences that cause this deck to play out somewhat differently on the table. First and foremost Junk Rites runs a LOT more creatures that (F)Rites does and although the above list doesn't contain them it's not uncommon to see an 8 pack of mana dorks in this deck. Additionally this deck eschews the various Red cards in (F)Rites; in particular replacing Faithless Looting with the absolutely marvelous Lotleth Troll. Finally *most* of Junk Rites decks I've seen will contain some number of Craterhoof Behemoth's to set up an easy "I just win" play as early as turn 4 against decks who can't stop the combo. In fact my least favorite kind of Junk Rites deck to test against runs 8 Mana Dorks, 4 Lingering Souls and a full 4 pack of Craterhoof Behemoth's simply to mise out games in exactly this manner.

Naturally of course this deck has some of the same problems with Graveyard Hate as (F)Rites does (Cremate, Rest in Peace, Tormad's Crypt) but at least Lotleth Troll provides a reasonable "out" to an Appetite for Brains that targets a key creature (but not Unburial Rites Sad ). The versions with 8 mana dorks are also vulnerable to board sweepers (including Golgari Charm) while those that eschew the Elves will most certainly stall on lands more often as a result.

As an important sidenote: Many players have begun to blend Junk Tokens, Junk Rites and even Junk Midrange concepts into the same deck. It's not hard to run Lingering Souls in a G/W/B reanimator deck, nor is it particularly difficult to throw Unburial Rites into a traditional Thragtusk/Centaur Healer/Restoration Angel shell. I'm not entirely sure that these hyrbids are better than more traditional Junk decks but it pays to be aware of ALL of the options available to your opponents in this match-up.

Naya Midrange

List: 2nd California States 2012


I am primarily including this deck for the purposes of completeness as thus far it hasn't been all that popular on Trice. The simple truth is that while this deck is absolutely loaded with powerful spells it's also hindered by a dreadful manabase. The lack of 8 shocklands makes it extremely difficult to use Farseek effectively and you have trouble getting value from/access to multiple copies of Kessig Wolf's Run.

When this deck hits it's mana just right it's extremely powerful/awe inspiring but it's not nearly as consistent as it's Jund/Bant counterparts.

Well folks, that concludes the Midrange portion of our discussion and since it's 3 AM we'll have to wait until tomorrow to talk about Control and weird Combo decks.


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 A Basic Witches Guide To Post RTR Standard - Part 2: Midrange Empty Re: A Basic Witches Guide To Post RTR Standard - Part 2: Midrange

Post  Maelak on Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:57 am

Bant, Selesnya mid-range and junk frites seems the most interesting to me. I really like frites, I just know how vulnerable it is to GY hate. That being said I know it blows up the room that doesn't have any.

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