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MCQs are upon us, and that means weekly competitive Standard tournaments are here to take us away from our families. This last weekend I had the opportunity to play in a 180 player MCQ in Berkeley, where I ultimately went 6-2 with a unique take on Sultai Midrange abusing Command the Dreadhorde. With all the tools available to out grind nearly any deck in the format, Sultai Midrange is a great choice for metagames dominated by midrange decks. With this in mind, I geared up my list for aggressive decks, relying on the inevitability of Hydroid Krasis and Command the Dreadhorde to win the slower matchups. I’ve broken down the card choices for the archetype below, and detail my thoughts on sideboarding.

The Threats

The Explore Package — As demonstrated by months of success, Wilgrowth Walker allows Sultai to sculpt its draws, smooth out land drops, and quickly bury opponents in tempo. In addition to representing a powerful curve, the explore package serves as an additional way to fuel Command the Dreadhorde. For more thoughts on the explore package and its place in Standard, you can check out our Bant Midrange deck tech here.

Seekers’ Squire — While often excluded from most explore decks, Seekers’ Squire serves as an additional compliment to this version of Sultai. With an emphasis on Command the Dreadhorde and no Find//Finality, Seekers’ Squire is an important addition for consistency, as a smaller body matters less than a density of bodies.

Thrashing Brontodon — Serving primarily as a nod to Nexus of Fate, Brontodon also holds back most aggressive creatures in the format and can act as an additional answer to Prison Realm and Conclave Tribunal. Against many of the planeswalker decks, Brontodon is an additional early game threat that can remove a Narset of Teferi.

Hydroid Krasis — The iconic top end for most Sultai lists, Hydroid Krasis packages both a late game engine and a mid-game threat into one card. While ordinarily paired with Find//Finality to create an inevitability, this version of Sultai uses Krasis mostly as an additional finisher, getting 4-of status mostly due to being a better early game draw than Command the Dreadhorde, as well as acting as an additional source of life gain.

Vivien, Champion of the Wilds — Taking the Standard format by storm during the early weeks of paper release, War of the Spark’s Vivien pairs perfectly with the Explore package, allowing these decks to consistently deploy threat after threat. The instant speed nature of threats, when combined with Vivien, lets Sultai mitigate the effectiveness of sweepers and other powerhouse threats like Hostage Taker. Vivien also shores up a traditional weakness to flyers, giving large Wildgrowth Walkers reach.

Vivien Reid — Few planeswalkers can snowball to victory as quickly as Vivien, and in a metagame without powerful six mana plays she represents the best late-game threat out there. With War of the Spark, Vivien now competes with a bevy of top end planeswalkers and is less able to snowball. For these reasons, as well as a shift away from creature heavy Sultai lists, Vivien earns her spot as a one of.

Command the Dreadhorde — The single most powerful top end spell since Emrakul, the Promised End, Command the Dreadhorde gives Sultai the ability to crush any Midrange matchup. By encouraging you to make trades you otherwise would not, Command the Dreadhorde is fueled both by the efficient rate of threats and the explore mechanic. Wildgrowth Walker mitigates most of the damage caused by Command and can be difficult for most decks to overcome. Command the Dreadhorde is the glue necessary for Sultai to compete in a late-game oriented Standard format.

The Removal

Tyrant’s Scorn — Replacing Cast Down in the main deck, Tyrant’s Scorn gives Sultai a flexible removal spell that is never a dead draw. Resetting on board creatures, or handling a Rekindling Phoenix for a turn, Tyrant’s Scorn is proving itself to be one of the more powerful additions for midrange decks.

Assassin’s Trophy — A catch-all answer earning consideration due to a propensity of both Wilderness Reclamation and planeswalkers, Assassin’s Trophy is an efficient removal spell with a relevant downside against opposing midrange decks. The ability to pair it with a threat on later turns of the game gives Sultai the opportunity to reduce the drawback.

Vraska’s Contempt — Similarly to Tyrant’s Scorn, Vraska’s Contempt is another removal spell that is rarely dead, even against Nexus of Fate decks. Exiling and gaining life are both relevant against other top decks of the format, and diversifying removal is beneficial in decks with this much card selection.

Ravenous Chupacabra — Earning a three of spot mostly due to being a creature, Ravenous Chupacabra is an additional way to capitalize on Vivien or Command the Dreadhorde, while serving as a midgame play against aggressive decks. Supplanting Hostage Taker in this list, Chupacabra’s guaranteed removal of a threat works better with Vivien and Command the Dreadhorde. In a more midrange or mirror focused metagame, I would switch to Hostage Taker.

The Sideboard

Duress — A staple among Black decks, Duress handles most noncreatures Sultai cares about (Lava Coil, Disdainful Stroke, and Teferi, to name a few). It also slows down Nexus enough when paired with early threats. I would not play less than three, and I’m considering a fourth copy.

Disdainful Stroke — Similarly to Duress, Disdainful Stroke serves as an answer mostly to powerful noncreatures but can serve as a counterspell for opposing Hostage Takers or Oketras. Three copies feel perfect, as it is narrow enough to be dead in some matchups.

Negate — Much like Duress and Disdainful Stroke, Negate rounds out the sideboard’s answers to noncreature cards, but with an uptick in Teferi, Time Raveler and Dovin’s Veto having a reactive answer is worse than a proactive one. For this reason, Negate earns a spot in the sideboard mostly as another answer for Wilderness Reclamation.

Cast Down — Serving as a compliment to Tyrant’s Scorn in the aggressive matchups, Cast Down earns a spot in the sideboard primarily as an early game answer to Tocatli Honor Guard or Thief of Sanity, but the decision not to run a Tyrant’s Scorn is mostly a concession to four mana creatures that need to be removed — notably Hostage Taker.

Vraska’s Contempt — As discussed above, Vraska’s Contempt is a powerful and efficient removal spell that earns extra value in a planeswalker heavy metagame. Easily the best removal spell in Midrange and Control matchups, the extra two copies of Vraska’s Contempt rest in the sideboard.

Thrashing Brontodon — With Wilderness Reclamation persisting in the metagame, an additional copy of Brontodon resides in the sideboard for this matchup. Overloading these Nexus of Fate decks is the best recipe for success for Sultai, and doubling as a threat can swing this otherwise poor matchup.

Vraska, Golgari Queen — With the introduction of powerful three mana planeswalkers, Vraska, Golgari Queen gains new relevance in this high powered Standard format. Coming down on Turn 4 and removing an opposing Narset or Teferi gives Vraska utility in the control matchups while serving as an additional answer to Tocatli Honor Guard and Tibalt.

Vivien Reid — As mentioned above, Vivien is a grindy card advantage engine that can double as a removal spell. The second copy resides in the sideboard, coming in against decks that play a slower, creature focused game plan.

Massacre Girl — Replacing Ritual of Soot and Cry of the Carnarium as a sweeper option, Massacre Girl gives Sultai an easy to find answer to boards that grow out of control. Like Chupacabra, being a creature is an upside in a deck with both Viviens and Command the Dreadhorde. One copy feels perfect unless more Azorius Aggro decks pop up.

Ugin, the Ineffable — Similar to Vivien, Ugin is a grindy card advantage engine that serves as an answer to a wide variety of threats. Costing six mana can be a big ask in many matchups, but in slower games, Ugin can be the perfect answer in board stalls. Coming down and removing an opposing planeswalker before generating insurmountable advantage is a hallmark of Ugin’s impact in grindier matchups.


Other Options and Notable Exclusions

Hostage Taker — With Command the Dreadhorde shoring up the lategame when compared to most decks, Hostage Taker can be replaced by Ravenous Chupacabra in this version of Sultai. If more Hydroid Krasis mirrors populate the metagame, then making the switch back to Hostage Taker is a good call.

The Elderspell — With Planeswalker Control a recent hot deck, The Elderspell gives Black decks a silver bullet sideboard card against what should be a good matchup. Never discouraged by how good a matchup is, The Elderspell is an important sideboard card if planeswalker decks pick up in popularity.

Kraul Harpooner — With a decline in Mono Blue due to Teferi, Time Raveler, Kraul Harpooner is less important than ever before. Only play it if Mono Blue and Izzet Drakes are decks to watch out for.

Finale of Eternity — A powerful sweeper against tokens and Azorius Aggro, Finale of Eternity was in early iterations of the list, but I cut it in favor of Cast Down. I wasn’t expecting much tokens at early MCQs, as I felt most players would gravitate towards war-97-liliana-dreadhorde-generalEsper Midrange.

Liliana, Dreadhorde General — With Command the Dreadhorde in the six mana spot, not much room is left for other late game options in the main deck. With the current iteration geared for an aggressive metagame, Liliana could earn a sideboard slot if more mirror matches or Carnage Tyrants make their way into the format.

Sideboard Guide

Mono Red

Out: 2 Assassin’s Trophy 3 Command the Dreadhorde 1 Vivien Reid 1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds
In: 3 Duress 1 Cast Down 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 2 Vraska’s Contempt

Bant Midrange

Out: 1 Seekers’ Squire 3 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 2 Thrashing Brontodon
In: 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 1 Massacre Girl 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 1 Cast Down 2 Vraska’s Contempt

Gruul — Green Based

Out: 2 Assassin’s Trophy 1 Vivien Reid 3 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 1 Seekers’ Squire 2 Thrashing Brontodon
In: 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 3 Duress 1 Cast Down 2 Vraska’s Contempt 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 1 Massacre Girl

Planeswalker Control

Out: 2 Thrashing Brontodon 3 Ravenous Chupacabra 3 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 2 Tyrant’s Scorn
In: 1 Disdainful Stroke 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 2 Vraska’s Contempt 1 Vivien Reid 1 Negate 3 Duress


Out: 1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 3 Command the Dreadhorde 2 Tyrant’s Scorn 3 Ravenous Chupacabra
In: 1 Vraska’s Contempt 3 Disdainful Stroke 1 Thrashing Brontodon 3 Duress 1 Negate

Azorius Aggro

Out: 2 Assassin’s Trophy 1 Vivien Reid 1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 1 Command the Dreadhorde
In: 1 Thrashing Brontodon 1 Vraska’s Contempt 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 1 Cast Down 1 Massacre Girl

Esper Control

Out: 1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 1 Wildgrowth 2 Assassin’s Trophy 1 Command the Dreadhorde 3 Ravenous Chupacabra 2 Thrashing Brontodon
In: 3 Disdainful Stroke 1 Negate 3 Duress 1 Vraska’s Contempt 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 1 Vivien Reid


Out: 2 Assassin’s Trophy 2 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 3 Command the Dreadhorde 2 Thrashing Brontodon
In: 3 Duress 2 Vraska’s Contempt 1 Cast Down 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 1 Massacre Girl 1 Vivien Reid

Esper Midrange

Out: 1 Command the Dreadhorde 1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 2 Seekers’ Squire 2 Assassin’s Trophy 2 Thrashing Brontodon
In: 2 Duress 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 1 Cast Down 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 2 Vraska’s Contempt 1 Vivien Reid

Gruul Warriors

Out: 3 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 1 Command the Dreadhorde 1 Vivien Reid 2 Thrashing Brontodon
In: 3 Disdainful Stroke 1 Cast Down 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen 2 Vraska’s Contempt


Out: 3 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 2 Assassin’s Trophy 2 Thrashing Brontodon
In: 3 Duress 2 Vraska’s Contempt 1 Cast Down 1 Vivien Reid

Thanks for checking out our Sultai Midrange deck tech, and as always, let us know what you think in the comments below. For updates to the archetype, or snapshots of what I’m testing, you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PariahPopular.