Welcome back for the next installment of my wacky wild brews.
Today, we got another UW deck. This time though, we’re brewing some Midrange. If you caught us on Twitch, then you have already seen this brew. If you didn’t catch the deck tech, I highly recommend heading over to twitch.tv/riwhobbies and checking it out.
This deck is a call back deck for me. This is the deck that I played that got me my first ever, day 2 at an SCG event. Shout out to Raja for the original modern version of this deck. We used to play some Restoration Angels, Wall of Omens, and Blade Splicers backed up with some counter magic like Cryptic Command.
We don’t have any of those cards in Pioneer. In fact, I believe the only few cards that we have left from that 2016 list are some lands and a couple of minor spells.
This was my second favorite deck of all time (Right behind my beloved Psychatog).
So naturally, I decided that pioneer is at a power level low enough for me to try to build a similar UW midrange deck full of value.
Let’s get into this list so we can dissect it a little more:
Let’s dig in and discuss what is going on with this list.
The card that I wanted to build around here was Serra Paragon.
When I first saw this card, my eyes lit up. I fell in love. A 4 mana, ¾, flying, value engine! I felt at home. This card is everything I love about Midrange decks. We don’t have Restoration Angel but, boy, does this card come close when talking about value.
With this being the base of what we wanted to build around, I started thinking of all the best ways to utilize this card. Basically just all the Enters The Battlefield (E.T.B.) effects.
I looked at all of the best ETB creatures I could. This would ensure that we get a trigger every time the creature comes into play. This is especially effective if we are rebuying them from the graveyard with Serra Paragon.
At the 1 Mana spot, the best card that I could find is Thraben Inspector and I wasn’t super high on that card. I think we just want to go a little bigger. So I decided to skip over Inspector and move on. We will revisit the one mana spot later though.
At the 2 mana spot though, this is where things start to open up for us. We get access to Charming Prince, Ambitious Farmhand, and The Birth of Meletis.
Charming prince is the best of the bunch for 2 mana ETB effects. With access to 1 of 3 abilities, we get to gain 3 life, blink a creature we own (my personal favorite mode), or more often though, we just Scry 2 just to smooth our draws out.
I started the deck initially with The Birth of Meletis because it would fetch us a land, give us a 0/4 wall for blocking, and gain us 2 life. I really liked this card because it does all the stuff we want. When buying back with Paragon, we would actually gain 4 life when it leaves instead of just 2 life. The wall it creates was also a very effective blocker but, we’re a Midrange deck. We need attackers!
This is where Ambitious Farmhand comes in. This card is almost the exact same card as The Birth of Meletis except we get a creature right away and it also has the ability to become a 3/3 Lifelinker later. Also, we get to flicker it with Charming Prince if we want. We don’t have that option with Birth.
Now we get to look at the golden spot on our curve here. The 3 mana slot. The best ETB trigger spot in Magic.
This is where things start to get difficult. The 3 mana spot has so many options that it almost gets to be overwhelming. What I did was, I decided to focus my deck on one thing. I wanted fliers. This makes our attacks slightly better and only have to sacrifice a couple points of toughness on the creatures. However, there are a lot of options in this spot. Let’s discuss my decisions and look at some alternatives.
First and foremost, I wanted to play with Aether Channeler. This card does so many of the things that we want. With the ETB effect on this creature, we can choose: Draw a card, make a 1/1 flying bird, or bounce a nonland permanent to its owner’s hand.
This spot was reserved for Reflector Mage before but, now, we get a similar effect along with some other options. The body is a little smaller though. I could see playing either option or a mix of both.
The next card I looked at was Elite Spellbinder. This is my favorite “Vendilion Clique-esque” effect in this format. It also fits my parameters of being a flying creature. This card is replaceable however. Anointed Peacekeeper does a very similar effect with a bigger body but without flying.
The third card that I looked at was another flier that killed 2 birds with 1 stone for us. Spell Queller. Queller gave me some counter magic along with another flying body. One of the reasons why I think this card is very good in this deck is because of Spellbinder. Getting information on what you may need to Quell is very helpful.
The next card was Brazen Borrower. This doesn’t have the ETB effect but it gives us some more instant speed interaction along with the 3/1 flying body. This is particularly helpful if we bounce something at the end of turn and then Quell it on the way back down or Spellbinder it out of the hand to keep it off the battlefield for an extra turn or more.
The last spot goes to Gideon Blackblade. I know it’s technically not a creature but it is a 4/4 on our turn and doesn’t require an activation for it to become a 4/4 creature.
You’ll notice so far that our deck was constructed in such a way that we have different creatures up and down the curve but also, there is a lot of variation in their power. This was because we are trying to flip Farmhand at some point. I bring this up because Gideon topped us off with 4 power. Now giving us access to 1,2,3, & 4 power creatures in the 3 mana spot.
Speaking of planeswalkers, Jace, Architect of Thought….. If you follow my articles, you’ll know that last time I talked about how I didn’t think Jace was good enough in Pioneer.
I would like to formally apologize to my lord and savior, Jace. I will never disrespect your name again. You have proven me wrong time after time. When I think you aren’t good, you laugh in my face and exclaim “Watch this!”
Jace, Architect of Thought is still a pretty good Planeswalker. In this deck, we have lots of ways to protect him and we can utilize his mini Fact or Fiction effect pretty efficiently. Sometimes, his +1 ability just stonewalls our opponents’ attacks as well. This card has been nothing short of REALLY good whenever it resolves.
Getting back to that 1 mana slot though, I had one spot available. I sent out a text to a few different people discussing what I should play there. A few card names were thrown around but I ultimately decided on Spectral Sailor. This card seems so innocuous but it straight up won me a game against control by drawing 6-8 cards throughout the game. I highly recommend it.
The last spots in the deck I wanted to allocate to removal spells. March of Otherworldly Light and Fateful absence. I still believe that these are the best removal spells available to white and will continue to play them until I am proven otherwise. On that note though, once Brother’s War releases, I could see Soul Partition and/or Lay Down Arms taking a spot somewhere.
Lay Down Arms may require the number of Plains to be increased a little to ensure that it can be cast on curve. With Farmhand in the deck though, I don’t feel as if this would be an issue.
Soul Partition however, seems like a decent removal on rate but only temporarily deals with a problematic permanent. With this type of removal, you may want to consider moving to a heavier counter suite to counterspell the permanent on its way back down.
Before moving onto our lands, I would really like to cover some other amazing cards that could be considered for the deck.
Instead of the removal spells, counter magic could be played in those spots. Which ones to play though, is a different question. Some of the best ones are Protect the Negotiators, Dovin’s Veto, Make disappear, and maybe some number of Lofty Denial and/or Spell Pierce.
Alternative creatures that could be considered are: Extricator of Sin, Reflector Mage, Empyrean Eagle, Skyclave Apparition, Spirited Companion, Rafine’s informant, Extraction Specialist, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and/or Yorion, Skynomad + 80 card deck. These are among the best value creatures available but of course we are not limited to just these options.
The last thing I think I should say is, I like the planeswalkers A LOT in this deck. But I could see a world where adding Wedding Announcement in those spots could be correct. Getting more threats/cards and making our dinky creatures a little more effective in combat could be important.
So now that we have covered the basics of the spells, let’s look at the lands. If you know me, you know that I am a huge proponent of having good manabases. When I build my decks, I build out my spells first like everyone else but, I put a huge emphasis on developing the mana base while I design. Every decision I make when adding cards to the deck is based on how I eventually want the manabase to look.
This is one reason why our only UU spells in this deck in Jace and Borrower are at the top end of our curve or a card we can cast on delay.
With that said, we are playing 25 lands in this 60 card deck. We are heavy on 3 mana plays so I wanted to make sure we could double spell as soon as possible. 25 lands allows us to hit our land drops every turn. I could see dropping to 24 lands but that probably makes our mana less reliable.
Being able to fetch out basic Plains with Farmhand allowed me to feel better about playing 5 basic Plains and 3 basic Islands. Remember we are also playing Field of Ruin as well. 9 times out of 10, Field of Ruin will fetch our basic Islands.
On that note, I am starting to think 2 Field of Ruin is correct. I think we should consider going to 2 Field of Ruin and adding a 6th Plains to the deck.
Eiganjo was also not very relevant in many games. I could see this being replaced by another land as well. It might not be correct to remove it from the deck but it should be considrered.
We are playing the full suite of Hallowed fountains because we rarely need W/U mana on turn one so having them ETB tapped is not a huge issue. This is also why we are playing some Deserted Beach as well. Both of these are the best dual lands as far as I’m concerned.
We also have Hengegate Pathway just for the ability to use these as a blue source when we need it or a white source in the early turns.
The rest of the lands are good in different matchups. Castle Ardenvale helps us against control and aggro. Castle Vantress helps us dig for more threats in the control matches. Cave of the Frost Dragon is just an extra white source that also becomes a threat in the “removal heavy” matches. Otawara, Soaring City and Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire have utility in many different matches.
The last thing we need to look at is the sideboard.
This sideboard plan for me was not super well thought out in numbers but I believe the card choices are correct.
The big Angels synergize with the Paragons and are also just massive, hard to deal with threats on their own.
The extra counter magic just helps us slog through those other tight matchups. Aether Gust helps out in the R/G and Mono G match and Mystical Dispute helps in the Spirits and UW control match.
Lion Sash is just our answer to any of the graveyard strategies. We have tons of white mana in our deck and can dump a lot of it into this card. Turns out, Scavenging Ooze is still just a good card even without the life gain.
Damping Sphere is still for the big mana decks or combo decks. It’s also pretty good against the Izzet Phoenix decks as well.
Pithing Needle was just a card that I felt like I was missing. I never know exactly when I am going to need it but, everytime I board it in, I’m glad I have it.
Settle the Wreckage is in here because I really wanted a sweeper effect for the decks that go wider than us, but also not hurting us. I could see this being replaced with a non-sweeper card though and hedging for other specific matchups.
Now that we have covered just about everything, I want to express that this isn’t just a value deck. It’s a Midrange deck that has value engines in it. It may not be top tier but it is a ton of fun to play. If you are looking to break up the monotony of the Rakdos Midrange deck and want to try something a little fresh, I feel like this deck is a good alternative. Play with the numbers and make the deck you own.