Standard Orzhov Midrange Deck Guide: Obliterate the Creature Decks
Hello everyone! Today I’m bringing you a great deck fresh off the presses and already putting up very impressive results. This was one of the best strategies in Standard 2022, so it’s not terribly surprising to see it translate well into Best of 3 too If you like mercilessly crushing creature decks, then this deck is one of the best ways to be doing it: Orzhov Midrange.
The deck was initially made by CovertGoBlue featuring a lot of value creatures that curved up into planeswalkers and removal. Before I continue, let’s look at the initial base.
This base was clean, streamlined, efficient, and very good. However, to transition over to Best of 3, I needed to add a sideboard and generally speaking, lessons and having an ample sideboard are at odds with each other. I had to remove the lesson creatures and craft a board that can be good against both creature decks and control alike. Here was my first attempt at that.
I talk about this build in the Top 5 Decks Going into Innistrad Premium article, but I’ll recap. I wanted to keep the base as close as possible to get a feel for how it would perform in Best of 3. Whenever I see a deck, I make an effort to change as little as possible at first to get a feel for what the creator was going for and then work from there.
However, with the introduction of a new set, getting rid of the Learn cards, and adding a full sideboard, that wasn’t the easiest feat, but I think I did a reasonable job. I opted for Loyal Warhound and Elderfang Disciple as my new cheap, value creatures of choice. Furthermore, I added 2 Liesa, Forgotten Archangel as she just seemed really good. Then of course, I added a full board. It’s a pretty basic, but it hits the major matchups.
I played this list for a few matches, thankfully won them all, and got to work on what I could improve. The base was definitely great so all it needed was some fine tuning. With many small adjustments, I got a solid 8-2 record with this list and I’m happy with where it’s at.
I thought the main deck was really close to spot on, but the only issue I had was with 4 Kaya, the Inexorable. Kaya is great and all, but she suffers from a major issue: she’s very bad on a completely empty board. Considering our deck is really good at clearing the whole board state, having a planeswalker that isn’t good in that scenario is far from ideal.
The issue I had is I would run her out, +1 for no value, then she would get killed by a removal spell, a Faceless Haven, a haste creature, and so on. Kaya is still great and I’m happy to play her, but I wanted another power card that was good on a clear board (and ideally everywhere else). The first card that came to mind was Lolth, Spider Queen and after just one game I knew it’s what the deck needed. She’s excellent in pretty much every situation whether you’re behind, parity, ahead, you name it.
For the sideboard, I felt like I had the right idea, but I needed a few adjustments. For starters, Skyclave Shade and Duress absolutely over performed for me. It was no real surprise, but they are so vital for beating up on the Control decks as this deck isn’t necessarily geared for that game 1. I think it’s pretty even, but definitely not the matchup I want to see. However, these 8 cards make it infinitely easier.
Second, per usual, Soul Shatter overperformed. It kills Goldspan Dragon cleanly and functionally anything else you could ask for. Initially I split slots between Soul Shatter and Borrowed Time as Oblivion Rings have historically been good, but Borrowed Time felt like a sorcery speed Soul Shatter, which led me to cut it.
The card I was most surprised by was Crippling Fear which I am very high on, but it performed rather poorly for me. Especially versus green creature decks, the opposing threats can quickly outscale the -3/-3, and if you’re not clearing the board with a Wrath, you are very likely to lose. I liked how I could position myself to wipe the board and potentially leave one of my threats alive, but that seemed way less relevant than having a guaranteed Wrath. With that, I shaved 2 Fear for 2 Doomskar.
With those small changes, the deck has been absolutely thrumming, however it’s so early in the format it would be foolish to say that all the work is done. Let’s take a look at cards that could potentially make their way in and notable exclusions.
POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS / NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS
If the format becomes more about small creatures/permanents, I would definitely play some amount of Portable Hole in the 75. generally a 2 of card.
An interesting option to kill the Class cards, gain life, or hit something important in the graveyard. It isn’t great, but it’s versatility may make it worth a slot or so.
Personally I think this card isn’t good, and not just in Control deck. Giving the opponent a resource while killing one of their resources just isn’t a good deal in a deck looking to attrition opponents out.
Mini Timely Reinforcements is a solid card, but more so against Monored and Monowhite aggro decks and not the Green aggro decks I’m expecting. If that changes, play a copy or two in the sideboard.
I really like Reidane as it’s versatile between his front side being good against Control and the Valkmira side being good against small creature decks. If more small creature decks and control decks pop up, definitely something to think about.
An interesting Planeswalker that I could see being a 1 of or something Works pretty poorly against haste creatures and Faceless Haven which is very awkward, but could potentially be decent even without the Monk of the Open Hand.
Similar logic to Portable Hole, but instead the versatility of hitting other permanent types, you can kick it to kill any creature or planeswalker which is solid.
I’m not sure if you want to take this deck towards the direction of more discard, but it’s certainly an option.
Deadly Dispute worked to great effect in the original build, but without Eyetwitch I think the deck lost the sacrifice fodder it was looking for. It still synergizes well with Skullport Merchant, but realistically I wouldn’t know what to cut for it as the main deck feels super tight now.
I’ve been facing a lot of creature centered decks and I wouldn’t be surprised if Flunk main deck is correct right now, not even accounting for any meta adjustments. If it were, I would cut some Loyal Warhound or Elderfang Disciple for room.
This is unlikely to be good enough in most metagames, but I want to keep this card on the radar in case some weird graveyard shenanigans become relevant. This still has some ok utility otherwise so it’s not embarrassing to play main deck if you needed to.
If Green aggro continues to be very popular, there’s consideration to play some amount of these in the 75. They make racing so difficult for any creature deck and are generally at worst a kill spell that gains a bunch of life.
Depending on how popular Arlinn, the Pack’s Hope is, you may need to run some of these, but I’m not happy about it!
I think Doomskar is going to mostly be better, but if the exile matters, than this could be good.
Pretty unnecessary and we can’t trigger the Passive easily, but the card is quite strong anyway. I wouldn’t play her, but I wouldn’t be against it.
This could be a neat 1 of as a means to drain the opponent early, an early small wrath, or a late game full clear that gains some life.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
Although it’s early in the format, there’s still a few decks that have stood out so I can talk about boarding even now! A quick note before I continue, if you’re on the play and in a matchup where the 3/1 may not be the most exciting, boarding out some Loyal Warhound over one of my suggestions can be very reasonable. On to the matchups!
|+4 Skyclave Shade||-2 Kaya, the Inexorable|
|+4 Soul Shatter||-4 Shambling Ghast|
|+4 Duress||-4 Skullport Merchant|
|-2 Blood on the Snow|
You have two primary plans for this matchup: don’t get buried in card advantage if you can help it and absolutely don’t let a Goldspan Dragon attack profitably. The second point is more important than the first as you can definitely run them out of relevant threats. This matchup may seem difficult game 1, but game 2 we completely flip the script with a bunch of relevant interaction, a solid clock, and Skyclave Shade to be an absolute pain. Keep the pressure on, hold up removal on the Goldspan turns, and keep being aggressive and this is more than winnable.
MONOGREEN AGGRO / GRUUL AGGRO
|+4 Soul Shatter||-4 Shambling Ghast|
|+1 Crippling Fear||-1 Elderfang Disciple|
|+2 Doomskar||-2 Elite Spellbinder|
Like any other aggro deck, the goal is going to stay alive and cast enough wraths that they consider uninstalling Arena. Shambling Ghast isn’t great against the green creature decks generally as they tend to have mostly threats with 3+ toughness which makes it a mediocre chump blocker.
Elderfang Disciple is at least more exciting as you will always nab a card out of it (barring they’re Hellbent), and it can chump to save you some life prior to wrathing. Elite Spellbinder can be very hit or miss so adjust the numbers accordingly. If you can nab important cards and it blocks decently, keep them all in and pitch more Elderfang Disciple, but if not, then you can cut into him even more.
|+4 Soul Shatter||-4 Shambling Ghast|
|+1 Crippling Fear||-3 Elderfang Disciple|
Pretty similar boarding to the Green decks as they are a creature deck at heart. Try to keep their board clear and land a large threat as they don’t have too much interaction for high impact permanents. Tread carefully around Negate and Disdainful Stroke if possible.
SMALL CREATURE DECKS
|+3 Soul Shatter||-2 Kaya, the Inexorable|
|+1 Crippling Fear||-4 Elite Spellbinder|
This is general advice, but the assumption is that you need to live through the first couple of turns and if you can Wrath them before they kill you, you’re likely to win. With that, cutting two of the clunkier cards for more interaction is the plan to keep our blocker density as high as possible. Make changes as you see fit, for example, Elite Spellbinder could be better than Soul Shatter against some decks.
SLOW CONTROL DECKS
|+4 Skyclave Shade||-4 Shambling Ghast|
|+4 Soul Shatter||-4 Vanishing Verse|
|+4 Duress||-4 Blood on the Snow|
When I say slow control, I’m envisioning something like Dimir which plays few threats and a lot of interaction. You still want answers to their threats hence the Soul Shatter, but beyond that you’re looking to peck them down. Stick a small creature or two, keep attacking and making land drops until they answer them, rinse and repeat. Skyclave Shade is the absolute nightmare for strategies like these so value hands with it very highly.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Like I said in the article, be wary about running out
Unless you need to find a very specific card to win/not lose, I will -3 Lolth, Spider Queen 99% of the time.
I try to avoid sacrificing the treasure to Skullport Merchant‘s ability unless I’m flooding out. This deck is quite mana hungry so keeping it around longer than it may seem relevant could yield unexpected dividends later on if you need to cast double expensive spell to win.
Liesa, Forgotten Archangel is nuts with Skullport Merchant. You can keep casting creatures to sacrifice, net a card, and get it back to do it again. This is a really easy way to grind opponent’s out in board stalls.
Keep a close eye on the amount of Snow lands you have for Blood on the Snow. Drawing 2+ Pathway can mess up your turns so hold on to the Pathway as long as you possibly can.
Thank you for reading!