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Under the Hood – Orzhov Midrange

For the last several weeks, my home FLGS has been running a Standard MTG league.  For almost as long, I have been trying to get our nearly undefeated champ to give me his decklist so I could do a write-up on it.  Finally, now that the league is winding down and he is experimenting with builds ahead of The Brothers’ War, Collin has given me the sauce.  Orzhov Midrange.  The deck I have only beaten once, and then only because it got mana screwed and I had Delver of Secrets on turns one and two, and they both flipped on the next upkeep.

In the beginning, there was mono-black.

Sleep sweet, my prince.

Prior to the Meathook Massacre ban, Collin ran mono-black.  Once that was gone, he splashed white.  Adding the second color gave access to Sorin the Mirthless and The Wandering Emperor.  Oh, and my nemesis, the card that haunts me even as a one-of in sideboard: Archangel of Wrath.  He easily proved that Meathook’s demise was no great loss to our local meta.

Show me the sauce!!

The decklist is pretty straightforward, if expensive.  It combines early threats like Evolved Sleeper and Tenacious Underdog with her Phyrexian Majesty Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.  The pressure is ON from turn one and only gets worse into mid and late game.  Cheap early removal with Infernal Grasp and Cut Down deal with Delver of Secrets and small-bodied red hasty boys.  With Reckoner Bankbuster as a one-of for card draw and Graveyard Trespasser to eat things in the yard, there isn’t much the mainboard can’t do.

How does Orzhov Midrange handle against other decks?

Her eminence, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse

In case you didn’t guess from my last Under the Hood post, I play Mono-blue Delver of Secrets.  Going up against Orzhov Midrange, the problem I most often run into is protecting my Delver while also keeping mana open and counters/removal in hand to keep Trespasser, Liliana and Sheoldred off the field.  The Orzhov Midrange list is heavy on value, and every card it runs is a threat worth countering.

This Orzhov Midrange deck and the copycats it spawned in our league drove me to experiment with Gruul Werewolf Aggro.  On paper, that deck is solid, and it even performs well against the lower and middling decks in our meta.  But against the tougher decks, I need to hit hard and fast.  I hope for a quick night flip or an early Unnatural Moonrise.  The goal is to hit Orzhov Midrange hard and fast, keep ahead of the removal, and kill it before it stabilizes.

Needless to say, that pretty much never happens for me.

Graveyard Trespasser
Graveyard Trespasser (flipside)

What about the sideboard?

Even when the stars align and you do manage to win game one, the sideboard for this Orzhov list has pieces to answer whatever trick got you the game.  Was the issue Haughty Djinn?  Board in Hero’s Downfall and Unlicensed Hearse.  Fast hits?  Archangel of Wrath and more removal.  Is the opponent swinging wide with tokens?  In comes Toxrill, the Corrosive.  What you board out for those depends on the match, but often Liliana of the Veil is a first choice.  She draws a lot of hate and rarely is allowed to hit the battlefield, let alone use her ultimate ability.  She can be a good trade for more custom-tailored threats.

Orzhov Midrange is good now, but will it stay good?

Looking towards the future, I doubt we’ve seen the last of Orzhov Midrange.  The Brothers’ War spoilers have revealed incredible removal with Go For The Throat and hand hate with Dreams of Oil and Steel.  In white, we have seen awesome graveyard removal on Calamity’s Wake.  A silence effect plus graveyard exile?  Yes please!

Go for the Throat (Reprint)
Dreams of Oil and Steel
Calamity’s Wake

If there was any doubt about the power of white/black decks, it is gone now that the World Championship has wrapped up.  Over half of the decks played in the event were Esper, and all but a few used some combination that included black.

What do you think?  Does dropping the blue help with consistency?  How much more dominant can this and other black decks get?  Drop a comment or hit me up on Twitter and share your thoughts!

About the Author
Silver has been playing Magic: The Gathering and other trading card games off and on since 1999, and is a lifelong roleplayer. They believe in Rule 0 and The Rule of Cool, and that the gaming table should be a safe space for everyone.

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