Thanks to the newest Anthology the classic Rock archetype has got a new powerful toy in Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. A ton of other tools for the deck already existed in the format. It’s the midrangest of all the midrange decks albeit a bit more creature focused. Elvish Mystic was another Anthology addition and it helps expedite the starts and essentially makes the deck begin casting three drops as soon as turn two.
As with every midrange deck, there is plenty interaction and threats.
As you may already recognise, the deck plays the classic eight interaction pieces that GB decks play in Pioneer, Historic, or Modern. Fatal Push is an excellent early answer to a creature onslaught, but also finds use against some bigger threats. Turning on revolt in this deck is mainly done through sacrificing Clue tokens. Push will cover small creatures like Rattlechains and bigger like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.
Thoughtseize is one of the most iconic Magic cards ever printed. You pick holes in your opponent’s hand which is especially effective when the opponent mulliganed. The cost of 2 life is largely irrelevant unless you have drawn multiple. The biggest downside is that you’re getting rid of a card that the opponent has not spent mana for. On the flip side, you might discard their only two-drop at which point you’re basically Time Walking them on turn two. It’s especially good against combo deck where you can take the key card.
In addition to the aforementioned, there is a bit more interaction. In this version, there is Heartless Act which is our Doom Blade variant, Assassin's Trophy as a catch-all, and Hagra Mauling. Last but not least, currently only one piece of main deck mass removal in Extinction Event. Mass removal is worse in this version as it’s very creature-heavy, but can still be good against certain decks.
This version plays a diversified suite of planeswalkers. Each has got its advantages and we do not really need to ensure drawing a particular one – hence the split.
Our 4 mana slot is occupied by Sorin the Mirthless and Vraska, Golgari Queen. Sorin has two main functions depending on the situation. It generates card advantage when we’re running out of resources and Sorin is safe or create a token to defend us or the walker. Sometimes you’ll need to make the token just to be able to connect and gain a bit of life thanks to its lifelink ability so that we don’t get burnt out. The ultimate might come up, but it’s largely going to be a removal spell with a lot of lifegain. However, the deck has so many creatures that if you navigated the game more aggressively, it might get the job done.
Vraska has a similar function to Sorin, but with a twist. Her card advantage ability requires you to sacrifice a permanent. However, you don’t lose life like you did with Sorin, but actually gain 1 and Vraska ends up at higher loyalty than Sorin after the plus ability. The defensive -3 is an Abrupt Decay which can be very useful against problematic permanents such as Roiling Vortex.
Our true top-end card advantage machine is Vivien, Monsters' Advocate which is our impersonation of Experimental Frenzy. The deck plays 21 creatures so you’ll hit them a considerable number of times. There will be games where you chain creatures off the top. What’s particularly key about Vivien is that our card advantage equates to board presence. These are not empty cards held in hand but actual progression of the game plan which can help stabilise or create a creature onslaught to go for the kill.
The deck takes full advantage of mana elves Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic. Not only does it allow you to play a more expensive card earlier, but also to multi-spell as soon as turn two which helps you win on the tempo front. However, the deck is not built in a way that it does not function without the Elves so should they get killed turn one, your overall game play does not suffer much.
The only creature two-drop is Scavenging Ooze. While a 2/2 for 2 does not inspire excitement, this card is a house. If played on say, turn five, it immediately stabilises you with life gain and grows to a 5/5 which at this point is pretty scary. You can somehow ensure that there will be creatures to be eaten by Ooze thanks to your discard and removal.
One of the most played three drops in black based decks is present here and I am of course talking about Graveyard Trespasser. It’s another way to gain life and mess with the opponents graveyard in addition to Scavenging Ooze. Its Ward ability ensures it’s always at least a two-for-one.
In order to have even more board presence and card advantage, we’re employing two adventurers – Tireless Tracker and Briarbridge Tracker. Their Clue tokens enable revolt for Fatal Push. Tireless Tracker especially is a must-answer threat as it spirals out of control pretty fast.
Our heavy top-end constitutes Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Elder Gargaroth. Kalitas is a new Anthology addition and it provides us with even more life gain and incidental hate. Its removal turns opposing creatures into our own horde of zombies. Elder Gargaroth on its own dominates the battlefield with, you guessed it, even more life gain, card draw, and Beast tokens. It requires an immediate answer. At this point, you will have noticed that we play a lot of must-answer threats which makes us put a lot of pressure on the opposing interaction.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+1 Scavenging Ooze||-1 Extinction Event|
|+2 Shapers' Sanctuary||-2 Heartless Act|
|+1 Chevill, Bane of Monsters||-1 Llanowar Elves|
We are the bigger midrange deck. Our incidental graveyard hate is going to make it very difficult for them to enable their otherwise best late game – Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger. In addition, our threats are much scarier. We play planeswalkers like they do, but also card drawing creatures like Tireless Tracker or Elder Gargaroth. Your best Thoughtseize targets are planeswalkers and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.
|+2 Shapers' Sanctuary||-4 Fatal Push|
|+3 Shifting Ceratops||-2 Heartless Act|
|+2 Duress||-1 Extinction Event|
|+2 Noxious Grasp||-2 Llanowar Elves|
In this match-up, we will trim on the removal and Elves as they are very bad top decks. We side in narrow tools which support out very powerful threat base. Their best draws include a flurry of counterspells, but if we slip anything under, they’re in trouble. Shapers' Sanctuary is our way to counteract March of Otherworldly Light as their premier point removal.
Biggest tip is not overextending into a mass removal spell.
Mono Red Aggro
We cut all the Thoughtseizes as they don’t affect the battlefield and are dead against a hellbent opponent. We want to control the game as much as possible. You should block at almost every opportunity. There is so much incidental life gain in the deck that long-term we should be perfectly fine. Don’t get greedy and keep interactive hands.
|+1 Scavenging Ooze||-2 Briarbridge Tracker|
|+2 Noxious Grasp||-3 Tireless Tracker|
|+2 Unlicensed Hearse|
Solid match-up for us. We have a lot of removal to kill the Greasefang instant speed. In addition, we employ a lot of anti-graveyard tools. On top of that, Elder Gargaroth can usually hold the fort against the first activation of Parhelion II. Don’t keep too creature-heavy hands, but if they include Scavenging Ooze and Graveyard Trespasser you might be good to go.
Mono Blue Spirits
|+1 Extinction Event||-2 Briarbridge Tracker|
|+3 Shifting Ceratops||-1 Vivien, Monsters' Advocate|
|-1 Tireless Tracker|
The games might be vastly different depending on how draws line up. We’re siding in Shifting Ceratops mainly and exclusively for its Reach ability to make no creatures break through. We want to kill everything at sight. Be careful not to walk into a counterspell with your expensive threats like Elder Gargaroth. Cast removal instant speed to make the timing awkward for them.
Tips and Tricks
Because this deck is a midrange deck through and through, most cards do exactly as they’re intended. There aren’t many cross-interactions, hence very few tips.
- When your card on top is not a creature for Vivien, Monsters' Advocate, you can clear the top by drawing a card with a Clue token or Elder Gargaroth.
- You can fizzle opposing Graveyard Tresspasser triggers with your Scavenging Ooze.
- Sorin the Mirthless Vampire tokens can be sacrificed to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.