Deck Guide: GW Midrange

Introduction


MTG Arena’s metagame is really an odd one. Unlike the paper meta, where experimentation can often pay off in a tournament environment, the deck’s resolve is tested through endless series of bouts where high roll and surprise tactics tend not to work quite as well. The direct consequence of it is a polarized metagame, which especially in the Best-of-one tends to gravitate towards Hyper aggro and heavy control archetypes.

The equation to progress in such environment is rather simple at a first glance: Your win rate against the decks you are favored against needs to compensate for the win rate against those you are not. Add on to that the impact of RNG (e.g. mono-red has significantly lower chances of bad starting hands due to lower average mana cost combined with lower standard deviation, single colored mana base and linearity of its game plan, than say GB constrictor) and player skill, netting us multiple variables and very limited information.

What I generally like to do is find a deck I enjoy, doesn’t have an abysmal win rate to any of the most popular decks and try and set it up to best deal with as wide a range of decks as possible, relying on my piloting skill and familiarity with the deck. GW Midrange is that kind of deck.

The Decklist



Sideboard (15)
1 Heroic Intervention
1 Thrashing Brontodon
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 Settle the Wreckage
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
1 Aethersphere Harvester
2 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 Baffling End
2 Prowling Serpopard
1 Thopter Arrest
1 Blossoming Defense

: 7     : 21     : 16     : 4    





This deck has made an appearance in the recent couple live tournaments and made its way to the top 10 most popular lists in our last meta snapshot. I firmly believe this decks is severely underrated, and one of the major reasons it didn’t quite make the top finishes is its low meta share.

The deck is capable of withstanding early game pressure of red-based aggro decks and can create enough pressure and protects itself well enough to not simply fold to control. Its sideboard options can further aid in the endeavour, and while the deck might not be the perfect tournament one, its average matchups are great making it an amazing ladder performer.



Strengths


It’s incredibly fun to just play midrange. If aggro relies on threats and tempo to close out games, and control relies on answers and stabilization, one could say midrange decks try to stabilize and close out games by playing threats, and isn’t that what Magic is really all about? The main strength of GW Midrange is that it does that just efficiently enough to actually warrant running a midrange deck in this cesspool of a meta we’re in.

The only creature that dies to Chainwhirler are Llanowar Elves, and the amount of pressure it creates when up against every other deck warrants its inclusion. Ramp allows us to resolve large blockers and threats early on, forcing aggro decks to remove them and thus lose on tempo, or let us ramp. Either way, we find ourselves in the mid game, where our deck thrives.

Control on the other hand, has trouble dealing with our ramp, and allowing a single threat to slip through can be enough for us to bring them down. Shalai, Vehicles and Ajani are absolutely beautiful inclusions there.

Weaknesses


The biggest strength and weakness of this deck is the fact there are no significant strengths or weaknesses. The deck is just consistent and rewards good plays. That being said, GW midrange doesn’t offer a whole lot in terms of hand replenishment or fixing, so we’re prone to bad hands and can be blown out by mass removal if we overextend. It’s important to always carefully consider our options and weight the benefits of applying additional pressure against the possibility of a complete blow out.



Cards


The Ramp
One of the few reasons to actually run green in the current metagame, are Llanowar elves. This Dominaria reprint was at the very top of everyone’s list to shake the metagame. Little did we know Ed Gain will find an MTG card tribute in form of a RRR Goblin and drive all x/1 cards out of the meta. Servant of the Conduit helps us ramp and survives the Goblin, while Rishkar synergises beautifully with Walking Ballista and helps us ramp into our mid game even sooner. .


The Infantry
I don’t think you could find a more standard set up for a green-based deck. Jadelight Ranger helps us fix our hand and provides a formidable body to attack with. Thrashing Brontodon and his ginormous ass provide an excellent blocker that survives Abrade and Lightning Strike, snipes Heart of Kiran and can deal with pesky Cast Out or Ixalan’s Binding. Walking Ballista might just be the greatest tool at our disposal. It provides an early blocker that can kill Bomat Courier on demand, scales well into the late game and offers us another means of ending the games versus control.


The Airforce
If the Ramp and Infantry are what helps us get to the midgame, these girls and… ships are how we win. Aethersphere Harvester provides a great blocker against aggro, with the upside of lifelink on demand. It can be crewed by a 1/1 ballista or Llanowar Elves. Skysovereign is probably my favorite card in the deck. It delivers 3 damage to an opponent’s creature or planeswalker on ETB, and proceeds to carpet bomb your opponent’s defenses to oblivion with every attack. Lyra is a 5/5 flying, first striking lifelinker that can block Glorybringer, Rekindling Phoenix or Heart of Kiran and helps us climb out of kill-range very fast. Shalai is the star against Control and Aggro, as she prevents our creatures from being targeted, but more importantly, protects our face, preventing the opponent from burning us with bolts or even Settling our board.


The Support
Blossoming Defense and Cast Out are standard removal protection and removal respectively, and both come in handy against control and aggro alike. The more interesting inclusions are the two planeswalkers. Ajani provides insane value through his +2 ability and can help us deal with indestructible or recurrable creatures with his -2. Nissa on the other hand, is invaluable in control matchups


The Lands
The lands are the most boring part of the deck. Aside from the dual lands, we run the two utility lands in our colors that can help us close the game up sooner or force trades in our favor.


The Sideboard
White opens us a ton of removal option, which generally swings the matchup in our favor against aggro. The majority of the sideboard is aimed at improving our Control matchup as our mainboard favors aggro. Spyglass is a great way to see what we are dealing with and lock out Planeswalkers, Serpopard can render counterspells useless and Heroic Intervention is an excellent way to prevent Fumigate blowouts. We will discuss sideboarding more in the matchup specific control section.

Gameplay


Mulligan
Mulligan is fairly easy in Bo1. You want to see a nice curve with spells to cast on at least turns 2 and three. In Bo3 it really depends on your matchup. You want an aggressive curve against control, and you really want to see early blockers against aggro and midrange.:

  • - Your ideal starting hand has 3 lands or 2 lands + ramp
  • - It’s important to have enough creature spellss
  • - 3-4x four and five drop hands should be mulliganed away
  • - Double green is more important than double white

Aggro


Aggro decks are fairly straightforward to play against. Our game plan is to make it to mid game without board disadvantage and on a decent life total. To do that, we need to trade effectively and protect our blockers. Blossoming Defense is an excellent tool in doing that as it will not only keep our blockers alive, but often dissuade our opponent from attacking into a beefed up creature. It’s important to always be weary of the impact Chainwhirler (or worse, Chainwhirler with Soul-Scar Mage) can have on our board, and make sure we don’t overextend into it. Shalai, Voice of Plenty protects us from direct damage effects to face and keeps our blockers alive. Mind the synergy with Walking Ballistas, which can quickly blow out our opponents. The MVP here is naturally Lyra who will often single handedly win us the game. Cast Out is a handy tool in dealing with Hazoret, Phoenix and Ghalta, but don’t be afraid to cycle it away if you are in desperate need of mana early on..

We will bring in our removal ( Baffling End, Thopter Arrest) and our two best early blockers: Thrashing Brontodon and Aethersphere Harvester. The latter is excellent as it can block Glorybringer (make sure to crew it in response to exert so they can’t trade with it) and Rekindling Phoenix (use Ballistas to break the eggs). Settle the Wreckage is a great sideboard card vs aggro as well. The cards that are taking a breather against red aggro are Llanowar Elves (they die to Chainwhirler) and our planeswalkers. If you run into one of the rare non-red aggro decks, skip on the Harvester and Brontodon (unless they run a ton of vehicles) and keep the Elves in the deck.
Midrange


Midrange is really rare on the ladder right now, and we mostly run into mirrors and UB midrange decks. Mirrors will often come down to draws, but essentially we need to keep up the card advantage: Trade favorably, use life as a resource to build towards mid-game. When sideboarding, bring in Settle the Wreckage, Thopter Arrest and Skysovereign. They are great in creating the advantage we need, while Aethersphere Harvesters and a single Thrashing Brontodon get to warm the bench.

UB Midrange is a tougher matchup. They have better ways of maintaining card advantage, removal and the looming threat of The Scarab God. We need to play this matchup very aggressively and put them under a lot of pressure to close it out before The Scarab God can overwhelm us. The matchup itself will be similar to UB/Esper control, except we’ll bring in more creature removal. Thopter Arrest and Baffling End will help us deal with Glint-Sleeve Siphoners and Gifted Aetherborns, while the 4th Blossoming Defense will let us protect our creature from the removal. Sorcerous Spyglass is a card I tend to bring in on the draw (where I am almost certain to see The Scarab God) but generally take back out on the play in favor of Prowling Serpopard, which in spite of counterspells being scarcely run in UB midrange, provides us with more aggression. Skysovereign, Thrashing Brontodon and Aethersphere Harvester don’t help a whole lot in this matchup so they are the go-to sit-outs.
Control


The two (or three if you consider Esper and UB as separate archetypes) most popular control decks share the same basic approach to the matchup but two slightly different sideboard plans. In short, we approach both matchups as the aggressor and work towards killing them before they stabilize, and though that is not easy we arent as vastly unfavored as some other midrange decks, especially post-sideboard.

The UW control is arguably easier of the two, surprisingly more so with the Approach variant of the deck (tapping out for 7 is nearly impossible if we aren’t majorly screwed). They have three larges threats to play around of: Teferi, Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage - the few option in their arsenal to get a 1-up on us, and really, what the game comes down to is how we allow them to trade with us (ideally keeping it 1 for 1). Game one will be a toss up - either we kill them before they stabilize or we don’t. Make sure to keep attacking into Seal Away. If they have mana up for Settle the Wreckage, attack with two medium value creatures, making Seal Away less effective and Settle the Wreckage less devastating (it’s important to go all in into Settle if them untapping means we lose anyway - some games we’ll lose but they don’t get to hold StW every time). Always cast Shalai in pre-combat phase - if they counter it, they open up the attack for your creatures and if you resolve it Settle the Wreckage is not an option. Remember that Ballista is a fairly decent win condition in the late game by just pinging their face for one once or twice a turn.

The UB/Esper matchup is similar to the control, but runs board wipes less commonly. Instead they run a lot of spot removal and The Scarab God, who alongside Torrential Gearhulk provides a tangible threat we need to answer. Ajani Unyielding and Nissa, Vital Force are both invaluable assets when battling any control archetype, as they help us keep up with their card advantage, and the former provides another venue of dealing with The Scarab God.

Our sideboard has a ton of great cards to battle control. We’ll want to bring in Blossoming Defense and Heroic Intervention to really protect our board. Prowling Serpopards are a great inclusion alongside Sorcerous Spyglass, as they render a large portion of our opponent’s cards useless if resolved. Karn, Scion of Urza helps us stay in the game if our board gets Fumigated or Settled, and can creates additional pressure through the use of its third ability. Thopter Arrest is a card we might want to bring in against the UB Control, as it can help us deal with The Scarab God further. Aethersphere Harvesters are one of the cards we’ll never need against control and Jadelight Rangers can free up a spot for matchup specific cards as well. Thrashing Brontodons are amazing against UW control, but entirely useless against Esper/UB

Conclusion


If you are looking for a deck that is fun and doesn't really fold to anything (and is not red), this just might be the one you’re looking for. Ajani and friends take some getting used to and can draw blanks every once in a while, but they do so in style. I hope the guide helps shed some light on this beauty, and as always, I’m happy to answer any and all question on our discord channel.

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