The Forgotten GBx

If you play in the Modern format, then you have almost definitely run into one of the popular Green-Black-based Midrange decks.  When I started, the big one was Jund (GBR), but that seems to have shifted to Abzan (GBW) in recent days.  There is, however, a third combination that seems to have been left out in the cold.  So, let’s throw some Blue in the mix and give Sultai a look.

The Base Package

The general plan of these GBx decks is to out-value our opponent with efficient threats backed up by efficient answers.  This means that, for the most part, the Green and Black elements of the deck are locked in until something more efficient comes along.

Goyf

If you are looking for an efficient threat, then look no further than Tarmogoyf.  For two mana, you get a creature that gets bigger based on the card types in all graveyards.  Our main deck alone can get this thing up to a 5/6 for {1G}.  There is a reason the Goyf is always so popular, and why we’re playing four in the main deck.

GrimFlayer

Taking a cue from our Abzan cousins, we’re playing Grim Flayer.  A 2/2 Trampler for {GB} is just fine.  When you add in the ability to smooth our draws and fill our Graveyard when it deals combat damage to our opponent it gets even better.  When you give it +2/+2 if Delirium is active, it gets four copies in the main deck.  The Flayer not only makes itself better by filling the Graveyard, it also makes our Tarmogoyfs and a couple of other things better, as well.

Scooze

Scavenging Ooze might seem like an odd choice for the deck.  The Ooze wants to eat Graveyards but we want to keep Graveyards stocked for Tarmogoyf and Grim Flayer.  However, Scavenging Ooze can be exactly what we need against any deck that wants to take advantage of their own Graveyard.  Snapcaster Mage is in nearly 25% of decks, and our Ooze can shut that down.  It also has another use, as well, but I’ll talk about that later.  We’ll run two copies of Scavenging Ooze.

Inquisition Thoughtseize

We’ve got the standard hand disruption package in Black.  Three copies each of Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize help keep our Goyfs and Flayers alive by keeping answers out of our opponents hand.  They also help to control any Combo decks we might come across.

FatalPush

Fatal Push is a relative newcomer to the base package, but it is a very good addition.  This gives us cheap removal for anything up to converted mana cost 4.  Our eight fetch lands ensure that Revolt will be active when we need it.  We’ll be playing three total.

AbruptDecay

Continuing down the removal path, we’re running two copies of Abrupt Decay.  This can not only handle enemy Goyfs, it can also clear an Ensnaring Bridge or Blood Moon, which can be fairly annoying for our deck.  This is a really versatile answer and shouldn’t be used carelessly.

Pulse

An even more versatile answer is Maelstrom Pulse.  It can destroy any non-land permanent and all other permanents with the same name.  That can be really useful against tokens or if our opponent plays out multiple copies of a card, like Aether Vial or Spreading Seas against Merfolk.

Always Remember: Do not Maelstrom Pulse when Abrupt Decay is enough.  Do not Abrupt Decay when Fatal Push is enough.  Don’t waste the versatility if you don’t need to.

Brutality

At the corner of hand disruption and removal spell, we have Collective Brutality.  Again, we have a versatile spell, but this one has the additional advantage of allowing us to fuel our Goyfs and Flayers by discarding cards with useful types.  We’re running two copies.

LastHope Liliana of the Veil

The last piece of the Base Package is four copies of Liliana between main deck and sideboard.  We’re running two copies of Liliana, the Last Hope in the main deck because of her ability to fuel our Graveyard plan and bring back the Creatures that can benefit most from it.  Liliana of the Veil is also amazing, but she is better against Control decks and doesn’t work with our Graveyard plan quite as well.  I went back and forth on the correct configuration of the Lilianas and I think, in a vacuum, that this is the way you should go.  However, if you find yourself in a meta full of control decks, then absolutely feel free to experiment with the split.

All right, that took a while to get through.  There are a lot of slots in this deck that are already spoken for.  Everything we’ve talked about is what you might find in a Jund or Abzan Midrange deck, now it’s time to take a walk on the Blue side and see what Sultai can do for us.

Sultai Broodings

Tasigur

What would the Sultai be without a Khan to lead them?  We’re running two copies of Tasigur, the Golden Fang, because he benefits so much from our Graveyard plan.  We can play him as early as turn three, with little problem, due to Delve.  He also has the ability to add cards to the Graveyard, and get something potentially useful back.  That is where the Scavenging Ooze comes in.  The Ooze can eat whatever we don’t want back in our hand, ensuring our opponent has to give us something we do want.  Also, as a 4/5 for seven mana, Tasigur dodges a lot of the most common forms of removal.

MurderousCut

We’ve got another Delve card in the deck, and this one packs punch.  Murderous Cut is simple, but effective.  “Destroy target creature.”  No other combination of three words sounds so good.  We’ve got one copy in the deck, as a way of dealing with creatures that our other removal can’t handle.

ThoughtScour

With so much relying on a fully stocked Graveyard, we need to make sure we have a way to keep the graves and our hand full.  Three copies of Thought Scour will do just that for a single Blue mana.  If you don’t have Delirium active or if your Goyf is a little smaller than you would like, then Thought Scour can also act as a high-variance combat trick.

Denial

Since we have a lot of potentially high powered creatures in the deck, we can take advantage of that.  We’ve got two copies of Stubborn Denial in the main deck.  If we don’t have a Creature with power 4 or greater, then this is just Spell Pierce, which is fine.  However, if we do have that 4 power or more Creature then this is Negate with a discount, and that is a wonderful thing.  This counters everything from removal spells to Planeswalkers.

Snapcaster

We’ve got four more spell slots left in the main deck.  What could we possibly be missing?  Could it be that we are forgetting the most played Creature in the Modern format?  Never.  Snapcaster Mage is here as a full set of four.  With us filling our Graveyard with removal, card draw, and counters there is every reason to run Snapcaster.  Leaving him out would be a huge mistake.

The Lands

Catacomb Delta

Our mana base is complicated.  We’ve got eight fetch lands spread across Verdant Catacombs, Polluted Delta, and Misty Rainforest.  We can use any of those to grab our two copies of Overgrown Tomb, or our singleton copies of Watery Grave and Breeding Pool.  We’ve also got two copies each of Darkslick Shores and Blooming Marsh for early sources of untapped Black mana.  For extra beats we have a pair of Creeping Tar Pit for a potential 3/2 unblockable creature.  Add in two Swamps, a Forest, and an Island for Blood Moon protection, and you’ve got our mana base.

The Sideboard

For our sideboard, we’re mostly worried about decks that can out-value us in less fair ways.

Fulminator Ceremonious

Tron is a worry, which is why we have main deck Stubborn Denials.  In the sideboard we have three Fulminator Mages to attack their land and make them fight fair.  We can also bring in some of our three Ceremonious Rejections, depending on the flavor of Tron.

EngineeredExplosives NaturesClaim Damnation

The Ceremonious Rejections are also great against Affinity.  In that match-up we can also bring in our single Engineered Explosives, our two Nature’s Claim, and our single Damnation.  All of these can attack their creatures alongside our usual suite of Removal.

Nihil Surgical Extraction

Lastly, we worry about other Graveyard decks.  We need a way to hit them without hitting ourselves at the same time.  We’re running two Nihil Spellbombs, which only exiles a single player’s Graveyard.  If need be, we can also hit them more strategically with one copy of Surgical Extraction, which will also come in against some Combo decks.

The Decklist

Creatures (16)

  • Grim Flayer x4
  • Scavenging Ooze x2
  • Snapcaster Mage x4
  • Tarmogoyf x4
  • Tasigur, the Golden Fang x2

Planeswalkers (2)

  • Liliana, the Last Hope x2

Instants and Sorceries (20)

  • Abrupt Decay x2
  • Collective Brutality x2
  • Fatal Push x3
  • Inquisition of Kozilek x3
  • Maelstrom Pulse x1
  • Murderous Cut x1
  • Stubborn Denial x2
  • Thought Scour x3
  • Thoughtseize x3

Lands (22)

  • Blooming Marsh x2
  • Breeding Pool x1
  • Creeping Tar Pit x2
  • Darkslick Shores x2
  • Forest x1
  • Island x1
  • Misty Rainforest x1
  • Overgrown Tomb x2
  • Polluted Delta x3
  • Swamp x2
  • Verdant Catacombs x4
  • Watery Grave x1

Sideboard (15)

  • Ceremonious Rejection x3
  • Damnation x1
  • Engineered Explosives x1
  • Fulminator Mage x3
  • Liliana of the Veil x2
  • Nature’s Claim x2
  • Nihil Spellbomb x2
  • Surgical Extraction x1

Conclusion

So the question that is now on the table is this: Does this deck compete with its Jund and Abzan forebearers?  The answer to that is…well…it depends on the day.  I think that as Jund gave way to Abzan when the meta shifted, Abzan could give way to Sultai if a more controlling Midrange strategy were to be favored.  The pieces are all here for greatness and I would love to see Sultai get some of the love that other three-color combinations enjoy in Modern.

This deck tech was a request from Ryan B, one of my followers over on Facebook.  If you want to suggest a deck, you can head over there or hit up the Contact Page.

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