I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time, and today I want to share my tricks.
About Midrange in MTG
Midrange is a type of deck that focuses more on exploiting the central phases of the game and filling the void that is formed between the aggro decks (which tend to play better in the early stages of the game), the control decks (which tend to play better in the later stages of the game) and the combo decks (which tend to play better during specific turns in relation to the combo used).
This type of deck therefore tends to play more as a control against aggressive and combo decks and as an aggressive deck against control decks. As a result, if it's well-constructed, this type of deck tends to have few negative match-ups, even against combo decks. Similarly, however, it does not have easy wins against certain decks like other archetypes can have.
The Famous Jund Midrange Deck in Modern
A very famous example in Magic history of this archetype is the Jund midrange deck of the Modern format. What caused that deck to be so important that it was a benchmark not only for the midrange archetype but also for the format in which it was played? (The Thoughtseize card shown above may be the answer, but I think the synergy also played a part.)
Flexibility and Versatility
Flexibility and versatility are the fundamental qualities to be developed in this deck archetype, and therefore the selection of the cards in our pool of available cards must respect this basic principle. A flexible deck needs versatile cards.
For this reason, the cards we want to include in this type of deck not only serve a specific purpose (such as the offensive or defensive phase) but must also be useful for a variety of scenarios. For example, the cards that are called "Silver Bullets" (cards useful only against a certain strategy or opponent) are not usually played mainboard (and, in some cases, not even sideboard).
Depending on the pool of cards available, it is therefore necessary to understand which cards are the best equipped to fulfill different roles within a game or which can interact to neutralize different threats from opponents. The main purpose is to accumulate small advantages over the course of the game that can work in our favor.
Planeswalkers are great examples of versatility. They're also examples of creatures with effects upon entering the battlefield or with effects that can be activated multiple times with excess mana (what are called mana sinks). They also feature modal spells, where you can choose the effect that brings the greatest advantage to better adapt to the game situation.
What Are the Best Instruments to Use in a Midrange Deck?
These are some of the best choices for your midrange deck.
These are large creatures that outperform the small creatures played by aggro decks (called weenies). Fatties can beat a control deck in a few hits if they're left undisturbed on the battlefield.
Mid-to-high-cost creatures can also have additional effects to provide more advantage when played, such as gaining life, drawing additional cards and/or dropping useful tokens onto the battlefield when they're removed. Life points are a small bonus against aggressive decks because they slow down their winning options. Drawing cards or creating tokens can prevent control decks from gaining card advantage over us and help us in the resource war.
Evasive skills (flying, trample, etc.) are highly sought-after, as well as the presence of a unifying theme that may involve additional digging (+ 1/+ 1 counters, food tokens, etc.) that can give us more advantage than the single creature alone.
There are cards of various kinds (spells, mana sinks, etc.) that can improve with the increase of the mana at your disposal. For example, these can be cards with kicker or with effects depending on the mana used to cast them (spells with "X" in the casting cost) or to pay for their abilities (as mana sinks).
Very often, but not always, cards are added to increase land drops or to generate additional mana just to help the task of the previous categories. If a card is strong in turn five, why not play it in turn four or even turn three? Well, the Tron deck manages to play a 7-cost card on turn three. Who wouldn't want to be able to do that?
Tempo and Partial Card Advantage
Midrange decks must master the concepts of "Tempo" and "Partial Card Advantage."
What Is Tempo?
"Tempo" in Magic is a measure that marks the pace of play. Proactive decks try to add presence on their side of the battlefield and speed up the pace of play (mainly attacking and dealing damage) so that the game ends as quickly as possible, while reactive decks tend to play in a way that slows down the cadence of the game so they can control it and win in the long run.
As mentioned above, midrange decks can play both roles, depending on their opponent, and it is absolutely necessary that they can use every turn to create a presence on the battlefield or to negate that of the opponent.
Example: Midrange vs. Aggro Deck
Let's look at some examples. First, an opponent who plays aggro plays a creature with haste and, by attacking, it deals 3 damage to us. On our turn, we play a creature that gives us 3 life as an effect of entering the battlefield.
What happened? We have seen an acceleration of the pace of play by the opponent until our play has "restored" the initial condition with the gain of life points and further reduced the advantage by putting into play a creature that could block in the next few turns.
Example: Midrange vs. Control Deck
Next, let's say we play this time against a control deck, playing the same creature as before and gaining 3 life points in the process. We have increased the pace of play and obliged the opponent to react to our play.
On their turn (or ours as well), they destroy the creature and bring the situation back into equality, right? Yes and no.
- Yes, because they denied our "Time" advantage.
- No, because we still gained a small advantage by gaining 3 life points.
Clearly, 3 life versus a control deck is a very small advantage compared to the same 3 life versus an aggro deck, but it's an advantage anyway.
What Is Partial Card Advantage?
In these cases, where the advantages are very marginal, we can speak of partial card advantage. Often, these small advantages do not change the fate of the game, but sometimes these small things can be added together and generate card advantage.
For example, let's say that we can use those life points in an advanced stage of the game to draw a few more cards or to enhance a spell that requires the payment of life points or to make a land enter untapped and continue to put pressure on the opponent.
In the simplest hypothesis, they could make us gain a turn (and an extra card drawn) when we are in difficulty, and the opponent will need an additional attack to bring us to zero.
The examples shown (and especially the images) refer to GB/X (green black + other colors) based decks, but this does not mean that they are the only possible option.
The options may vary depending on the format and the pool of cards available. However, there will always be conditions in which "gaps" are created within a format, and on those occasions this deck archetype manages to fit in and impose itself.
© 2020 Christian Allasia