Where Midranges Dare

da | Ott 5, 2019 | English, Game Analysis

Article by Fabrizio Pucci

It is really hard to categorize a Midrange deck. I really like the following definition: “A midrange is a deck that adapts on the opponent’s deck and is able to switch from being the aggro or the control deck depending on which deck they are facing.” It’s not the best definition, honestly I don’t think there is one, but usually this works fine.

This kind of decks usually do not have a definite strategy like the Combo, aggro or control deck. They can close the game by winning damage races or by overwhelming the opponent with card advantage.

The evolution of midrange strategies in Pauper has started after Cloud of Faeries’ ban and the consequent disappearance of Esper Familiar.

The main paths this archetype has taken in the course of the years have been essentially three:

  • White based
  • Blue based
  • Black Based

In the beginning, the white based have been Boros and Jeskai Kuldotha. Both based on Kor Skyfisher, Glint Hawk + Prophetic Prism and Kuldotha Rebirth + Ichor Wellspring. Boros was more aggro oriented, Jeskai has always been the value counterpart. After Modern Masters 2017, Palace Sentilel joined the party and Boros Monarch has been the referring white midrange.

Blue Midranges have historically used black as the other color (UB Flicker and UB Alchemy exasperating the control aspect of midranges) but UR Snow Delver has been the most important blue midrange since Modern Masters 2017 where Augur of Bolas was downgraded.

MBC has been the first midrange ever played in the format (I belive) and later Orzhov Pestilence has been developed joining the black based team.

Before the downgrade of Foil, 2 out of 3 tier one were midrange decks. UR Faeries (Snow Delver) and Boros Monarch were dominating the format with Dinrova Tron. Then UB Delver started to devour the format and the Gush ban happened. Alongside the ban, Modern Horizon was printed.

With this new expansion, Ephemerate and Arcum’s Astrolabes joined the format. Rapdly, we have seen the Jeskai Ephemerate archetype rising and all the midrange decks merged into it.

Why this happened?
In my opinion there are several reasons:

 

  1. Ephemerate + Archaeomancer loop. It is basically a better monarch token. At the cost of being “disruptible” (you should know how easy is to defend the loop) you will draw two cards in your turn but instead of being a random card at the end of your turn, is a chosen card from your graveyard at instant speed.
  2. Ephemerate + Evoked Mulldrifter. 2/2 flyier that draws 6 cards for 4 mana allows the Jeskai players to play 1×1 the whole game, not caring at all about the resources they are giving up. Monarch had to manage for a long part of the game until the incremental advantage given by the token would take place, making the resource managing ability negligible.
  3. Ephemerate is not just an incredible value engine. It’s a one mana spell that is just recyclable against all kind of opponents (i.e. it saves your pieces from removals).
  4. Because Ephemerate is so cheap, the deck is able to play the strongest card advantage the format have ever seen in a midrange AND Boros had no cantrips to settle the draws but had Monarch, UR Faeries had the cantrips, but relied on a worse card advantage in the long run. Jeskai has a better card advantage than Boros and can use cantrips as UR Faeries.
  5. Flexibility. A lot of midranges decks are playable with astrolabe that speed up their paces and stabilized their manabase, but no other deck can play a 1 mana removal spell for any threat, a 2 mana counter for any spell, the card draw engine given by Kor Skyfisher and a super powerful value loop with Ephemerate + Mulldrifter/ Archaemancer/Spellstutter Sprite and no real way to be attacked by sideboards cards

The deck has rapidly become the deck to beat and warped the metagame around it. The deck has so much value that can handle Tron and a lot of players have switched to aggro (Bogle and Stompy) to try to close the game before the loops become relevant.

Various content creators (Alex Ullman, this very blog Pauperwave and others) have underlined with numbers how Jeskai continue to perform incredibly well in an hostile metagame.

Because of the metagame warping and the number of top8s and top16s this deck is able to do in a metagame full of decks that are suited to beat it, in my opinion, Ephemerate must be banned and it would open a lot this metagame.

Why just Ephemerate? I do not like to rush. I think that the main reasons Jeskai is so good are explained in the 5 points previously written. Of course, both Arcum’s Astrolabe and Tron lands are great card in the format (and AA is great in Jeskai and is the reason it can be played) but I don’t see any reason to ban them at this round. If they will cause any issue in the future they can be easily banned in future announcements. But what if those cards actually helps the metagame to be various and enjoyable? What if monarch midranges are so good and Tron can mitigate their influence? What if Arcum’s Astrolabe helps decks to stabilize their manabase that is usually an issue in Pauper due to the fact that we do not have untapped fetch lands?

I know how strong and influent are these cards but banning them without data from a new meta could be a mistake. The January ban is around the corner, in my opinion it’s worth the risk.

Now, I wanna start playing and try to speculate on the metagame without Ephemerate.

Frist of all. Would Jeskai disappear? I don’t think so.

The deck could be played like this.

Jeskay

Creatures (15)
Glint Hawk
Seeker of the Way
Kor Skyfisher
Mulldrifter

Spells (26)
Counterspell
Ponder
Galvanic Blast
Lightning Bolt
Journey to Nowhere
Preordain
Prophetic Prism
Arcum’s Astrolabe
Lands (19)
Ancient Den                                      
Ash Barrens
Azorius Chancery
Great Furnace
Seat of the Synod
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Plains

Once lost the value of Ephemerate I can see Jeskai deviate to a more aggro game plan. The cantrips give stability and consistency while Seeker of the Way is the star. Mulldrifter can still be played for value or it could be switched with some cheap permission spell.

The other midranges could be Boros, Rakdos, Orzhov Monarch and UB (Flicker and Alchemy). Not a thing I’m super happy with, I don’t personally like monarch, I think I a bad designed mechanic for 1vs1.

Boros could be the best deck among those and probably one of the best deck of the format. Don’t forget about Boros Bully that could be played again.

 

Boros Monarch

Creatures (18)
Glint Hawk
Kor Skyfisher
Okiba-Gang Shinobi
Palace Sentinels
Seeker of the Way
Thraben Inspector

Spells (22)
Alchemist’s Vial
Faithless Looting
Galvanic Blast
Arcum’s Astrolabe
Journey to Nowhere
Lightning Bolt
Prismatic Strands
Prophetic Prism
Pulse of Murasa
Lands (21)
Ancient Den
Bojuka Bog
Boros Garrison
Great Furnace
Great Furnace
Radiant Fountain
Secluded Steppe
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Plains
Snow-Covered Swamp

 

Rakdos Monarch

Creatures (15)
  Chittering Rats
  Crypt Rats
  Gurmag Angler
  Liliana's Specter
  Thorn of the Black Rose

Spells (23)
  Arc Lightning
  Chainer's Edict
  Duress
  Night's Whisper
  Raven's Crime
Unearth
Lightning Bolt
Terminate
Lands (22)
  Mountain
  Swamp
  Bloodfell Caves
  Bojuka Bog
  Rakdos Carnarium

Snow Pestilence

Creatures (17)
Arashin Cleric
Aven Riftwatcher
Glint Hawk
Guardian of the Guildpact
Kor Skyfisher
Thraben Inspector

Spells (20)
Journey to Nowhere
Pestilence
Doom Blade
Castigate
Chainer’s Edict
Arcum’s Astrolabe
Prophetic Prism
Lands (23)
Ancient Den
Mortuary Mire
Orzhov Basilica
Radiant Fountain
Scoured Barrens
Snow-Covered Plains
Snow-Covered Swamp

About Tron, the Stonehorn Lock without Ephemerate is slower and aggro are faster or more interactive with the new cards (Swipe and Goblin Granade). Don’t forget that Arcum’s Astrolabe gives the possibility to Boros, Jeskai and other midranges to be consistently fast in developing an aggro plan, that is usually the key against Tron. Moreover, Dinrova Tron suffers pressure plus disruption (i.e. Relic of Progenitus) way more than Jeskai. Despite all of this, the deck would probably be one of the tiers of the format.

Flicker Tron

Creatures (10)
Mulldrifter
Mnemonic Wall
Stonehorn Dignitary
 Dinrova Horror

Spells (25)
Impulse
Forbidden Alchemy
Mystical Teachings
Pulse of Murasa3 Moment's Peace
Counterspell
Dispel
Ghostly Flicker
Expedition Map
Arcum's Astrolabe
 Prophetic Prism
Lands (21)
Urza's Mine
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Tower
Snow-Covered Island
 Remote Isle

Stompy and Bogle would be the losers of the Ephemerate’s ban. Boros (and Rakdos) Monarch back in the mix is bad for those decks but stompy has always been a good strategy even when Monarch and Dinrova Tron were tier one, I don’t have doubt that these decks would be present in the format.

Stompy

Creatures (28)
Burning-Tree Emissary
Nest Invader
Nettle Sentinel
Quirion Ranger
River Boa
Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
Vault Skirge

Spells (16)
Hunger of the Howlpack
Rancor
Savage Swipe
Vines of Vastwood
Lands (16)
16 Forest

Snow Bogle

Creatures (15)
Aura Gnarlid
Gladecover Scout
Heliod’s Pilgrim
Silhana Ledgewalker
Slippery Bogle

Spells (28)
Abundant Growth
Ancestral Mask
Armadillo Cloak
Cartouche of Strength
Commune with the Gods
Ethereal Armor
Lifelink
Utopia Sprawl
Rancor
Lands (18)
Ash Barrens
Blossoming Sands
Khalni Garden
11 Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Plains

 

Delver would be back in town. The Insectile Abberration and the Faries could come back with Skred. Mystic Sanctuary that redraws an Accumulated Knowledge for 2-3 seems good to me.

 

Snow Faeries

Creatures (19)
Augur of Bolas
Delver of Secrets
Faerie Miscreant
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Spellstutter Sprite

Spells (23)
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Accumulated Knowledge
Lightning Bolt
Ponder
Preordain
Skred
Lands (18)
Ash Barrens
Evolving Wilds
Mystic Sanctuary
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain

 

And the others?

Elves could still be played, is a straight deck that suffers sideboard cards, but 4 Winding Way and 4 Lead the Stampede could keep this archetype around.

Elves

Creatures (38)
Birchlore Rangers
Elvish Mystic
Elvish Vanguard
Llanowar Elves
Lys Alana Huntmaster
Nettle Sentinel
Priest of Titania
Quirion Ranger
Timberwatch Elf
Wellwisher

Spells (9)
Viridian Longbow
Winding Way
Lead the Stampede
Lands (14)
14 Forest

Goblins, Burn and RDW have always been played and would be played as well.

Last but not least, Throne of Eldraine cards are now into the format and could help to have a wide and various meta as well.

Maybe I’m completely wrong, but without any numerical data we can just suppose what will happen. I hope R&D will intervene with a ban on Monday 7th to stop this Jeskai madness. Hopefully, they will ban just Ephemerate and wait to see how the format evolves.
Whatever they decide, no changes would be the only losing play.

For today that’s all! Hope you enjoyed the reading, if you want to interact with me you can follow me on twitter @Xardian7!

Great Pauper to everybody!

 

PS: All the lists posted are used exclusively to give an idea of the archetypes, they are not optimized and/or tested.