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Liesa, Forgotten Archangel Art by Dmitry Burmak

Bo1 Standard Mardu Midrange Deck Guide: The Potential Secret Tier 1 Deck

Everyone thinks Standard's metagame has solidified, but DoggertQBones thinks otherwise! Find out what makes Mardu Midrange so threatening in Bo1 and why could it potentially be a Tier 1 strategy?

Hello everyone! A lot of us, including myself, are very busy people. As much as I love to play Magic, there are some days I can’t carve out a lot of time to do so. When that happens, being able to play Bo1 is a godsend if I have patches throughout the day I can play. Since I love Bo1 so much, I dedicated a whole Premium article to it a little over a month ago!

As you may be able to guess, Mardu Midrange was on that list. As of writing that article, I had a decent amount of games with Mardu and it felt like a strong contender for the article. It didn’t blow me away at the time, but it was solid and giving me wins. However, since I’ve written that article, every time I’m playing for fun I find myself coming back to Mardu over and over, even when I have time to play Bo3. Why? The deck is really, really good. What I first thought was just a fine option, the more I play, the better and better the deck feels. It’s actually one of the few decks I’ve been using to help me climb and I very rarely use Bo1 as a tool to ascend the ladder, that’s how good it’s been for me. Let’s take a look at the list that’s been working wonders for me.

Bo1 Mardu Midrange
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $480.35
best of 1
7 mythic
44 rare
4 uncommon
5 common
Planeswalkers (4)
Instants (9)
Voltage Surge
Vanishing Verse
Hagra Mauling
Sorceries (1)
Emeria’s Call
Lands (24)
Haunted Ridge
Sundown Pass
60 Cards

For those who didn’t know, right at the tail end of Kamigawa Standard, prior to New Capenna coming out, Mardu Midrange was a deck starting to make rounds on the tournament scene:

The combination of excellent threats and removal made it a big hit, but then New Capenna dropped and Esper took over. However, I think that this deck has stark advantages over Esper, especially in Bo1, that makes it such a good option right now.

Let’s start off with the threats, and for this deck, our curve starts at two. One of the advantages of Mardu is that we get to play the two best two drops in Standard which is a big deal.

Luminarch Aspirant is always a huge threat as it needs to be killed extremely quickly or the value it will accrue is very hard to come back from.

Bloodtithe Harvester, on the other hand, is a lot more versatile in it’s applications. It can pressure well, it can defend well, it can be a removal spell, and you can use the Blood to cycle if you need to. Having access to both of these has been a huge boon for the deck, but those aren’t the only all stars in the deck.

Not only do we get the best two drops in the format, I would happily argue we get to play the best three drops as well!

Everyone is well aware of how good Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is by now, but it’s even better here when we have powerful two drops like Luminarch Aspirant and Bloodtithe Harvester to copy.

Similarly, I think everyone knows Wedding Announcement is a good card, but not aware of how good it is. This card is certifiably insane and I would put it right up there with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker in terms of power level. Getting multiple bodies or cards and then a permanent anthem is an obscene rate for 3 mana and is amazing against aggressive or controlling decks alike.

Finally we reach our top end. Although it’s not as strong as our earlier cards, I don’t think we’re lacking in card quality here.

While it has lost a bit of popularity, The Wandering Emperor is still an amazing card that can apply lots of pressure or remove a key threat at a moments notice. It’s such a rough card to deal with as it having Flash makes it so unclear whether you don’t have a play or you’re about to be blown out which can frequently make the opponent play suboptimally.

While not typically in slower decks, Showdown of the Skalds has been a great two of for me thus far. There will be games where you’re fighting at parity and drawing a copy of this will easily boost you ahead and can seal the fate of many opponents.

Finally, Liesa, Forgotten Archangel is our Baneslayer Angel analog for this deck. While the static abilities on Liesa are certainly nice, just having a large lifelink flier that’s hard to kill has been awesome for me. Couple that with the buffs you can get from Luminarch Aspirant, Wedding Announcement, or Showdown of the Skalds and you have a huge threat on your hands.

Personally, I think the best reason to pick up Mardu is the threat suite is probably the strongest out of any deck in Standard. I mean look at that card quality! However, that isn’t to say that the interactive suite isn’t excellent as well!

Like the threats, having access to three colors gives us an amazing selection for our interaction.

One of the best Shock variants in a long time, Voltage Surge has been putting in a huge amount of work in this deck. Dealing 2 damage will kill a large amount of early game threats, and if we need to kill something bigger, we generally have a Blood or Treasure token lying around to sacrifice.

On the other end of the spectrum, Vanishing Verse is our catch all card that will remove a vast majority of the threats you’d be worried about in Standard. This of course can miss some important cards like Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, but between this and Voltage Surge, there shouldn’t be a threat that you can’t kill.

As our final safety measure, we play two copies of The Meathook Massacre more or less because we can! We do play a good amount of removal, but having two of these helps make the aggressive matchups even better than they already are. I have played so many games where the Boros player is barely hanging on, and the second Meathook comes down, their avatar explodes. Having a catchup mechanism like this, The Wandering Emperor, and Showdown of the Skalds is just a nice feature to have for a deck.

All in all, what makes this deck shine is that the card quality is just higher than everything else in a vacuum. I’m not saying this is the best deck, but if you look at the average power level of each card in it, it’s just simply higher than most other strategies. To that end, the deck has performed so well for me as I’ve simply overpowered the competition. The aggro matchups have been great as we have plenty of interaction and amazing threats to grind them out which is a big plus in Bo1. However, the slower matchups have been surprisingly good as well since our threat quality is so high. While I’m the only person that I’ve seen play this deck, I really do think it has the potential to be a tier 1 strategy on power level alone.

Tips and Tricks

Wedding Announcement Art by Caroline Gariba
Wedding Announcement Art by Caroline Gariba
  • It doesn’t come up super often, but when you flash in The Wandering Emperor, you have until the end of the turn to use an ability. I’ve done this before me opponent’s combat to dissuade them from attacking when I really wanted the Samurai token from the -1.
  • Unlike most other White decks, Luminarch dying is not nearly as big of a deal. You still want it to live if possible, but trading it off isn’t that crazy either.
  • Try to not use the Blood token from Bloodtithe Harvester for as long as possible to give Voltage Surge a boost when needed.
  • Don’t forget the backside of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker (Reflections of Kiki-Jiki) is a nontoken creature and you can get back the saga if it dies with a Liesa, Forgotten Archangel on board!
  • Playing an offensive The Meathook Massacre is extremely reasonable against decks that don’t play a lot of creatures. A turn 2 Meathook can accrue a lot of damage over the course of a game.
  • Most of the time you want the 1/1 token from Wedding Announcement so you don’t want to attack, but if you’re really flooding out, you can prioritize the card.
  • Be careful with what you loot away with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. The deck needs a good amount of lands and spells, but realistically, you rarely need more than 5 lands so if you already have land 5 or even land 4, you can consider pitching those.
  • Generally I like holding onto Showdown of the Skalds as long as possible to accrue the most value, but this isn’t an aggro deck. Playing Showdown out earlier, even at the risk of not using all the cards, can be better as it can let you use removal from that and hold onto the copies in hand. The last thing you’d want is to have the opponent with an empty board, you play Showdown to get ahead, and you only get interaction and lands.

Thank you for reading!

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Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on
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