This past weekend was the first ever Mythic Championship, and it was truly one to remember. We had an amazing top 8 of players as well as a diverse number of decks (3 Mono Blue Tempo, 1 Esper Control, 1 Azorius Aggro, 1 Izzet Phoenix, 1 Mono Red splash Green, and 1 Simic Nexus).
In the end, it was Autumn Burchett and their Mono Blue Tempo deck that took down the whole event. Mono Blue was a deck on the rise leading up to Mythic Championship Cleveland, and I was fairly settled on playing it before I arrived. I had tested the deck a lot on MTG Arena and put up a top 16 finish with it at the StarCityGames.com Open in Dallas a couple of weeks prior.
However, at the last minute I changed my deck choice and decided to register the one deck that was suprisingly missing from this top 8 in Sultai Midrange. This was the deck that I first picked up when Ravnica Allegiance was released, so I knew more or less how to play it. I made the change because I was losing post board vs Sultai as Mono Blue, and felt that with Sultai being the most popular deck, I didn’t want to face a bunch of Sultai decks with hate. Also, while Sultai was a deck that is generally unfavored preboard, it’s a much better postboard deck vs the field so I felt pretty confident in my decision to play it.
In the end I posted an 8-2 finish with the deck and this is the list myself and most of my teammates played.
4 《Breeding Pool》
4 《Overgrown Tomb》
4 《Watery Grave》
4 《Woodland Cemetery》
2 《Drowned Catacomb》
1 《Hinterland Harbor》
1 《Memorial to Folly》
-Land (24)- 4 《Llanowar Elves》
4 《Hydroid Krasis》
4 《Merfolk Branchwalker》
4 《Wildgrowth Walker》
1 《Incubation Druid》
4 《Jadelight Ranger》
3 《Hostage Taker》
1 《Carnage Tyrant》
I was fairly fortunate with my pairings as I faced 2 Mono White Aggro, 1 Mono Blue Tempo, 1 Temur Reclamation, 1 Nexus Gates, 1 Sultai Midrange, 1 Esper Control, 1 Esper Midrange, 1 Azorius Aggro, and 1 BR Midrange, with my losses being to Temur Reclamation and Azorius Aggro.
The match vs Temur was pretty unfavorable and I was quickly defeated by 《Niv-Mizzet, Parun》 + 《Expansion // Explosion》. The Azorius Aggro match was close and involved a thrilling game 3 vs Shuta Kuribara where I mulliganed to 4 but my turn 2 《Wildgrowth Walker》 + turn 3 《Jadelight Ranger》 got me into the game. In the end I got him down to 1 life but he stabilized and took the match a few turns later. It was easily the most fun match of the tournament for me even though I lost it in the end!
I’ll go over all the matchups you should expect to face going forward and I’ll give you some tips and tricks for the matchups as well as how I was sideboarding vs them. Before I do that though, I want to discuss the sideboard and the reasoning for some of the choices.
Sideboard Card Choices
With Mono Blue putting up more results, this card has found its way into many green deck sideboards. While the card is mostly there as Mono Blue and Izzet Drakes hate, it also serves as your way to get aggressive vs the Control and 《Reclamation》 decks.
While this is a powerful card, the one matchup you don’t want to give your opponent extra mana in is the mirror. However, this card comes in vs many matchups as you don’t care to give the linear and Control decks extra mana. The one matchup that you do care but have to bring it in anyway is vs the 《Wilderness Reclamation》 decks, just too many threats that you must answer.
Some sideboards have 《Negate》 in this spot or have a 1/1 split, but 《Stroke》 just deals with so many problematic creature cards for the deck such as 《Rekindling Phoenix》, 《Hostage Taker》, 《Hydroid Krasis》, and 《Biogenic Ooze》 while also dealing with most of the non-creature spells you care about such as 《Wilderness Reclamation》, 《Nexus of Fate》, 《Experimental Frenzy》 etc.
One interesting interaction that came up in the Mythic Championship was when my Gates opponent drew an 《Expansion // Explosion》 while I only had two mana available. So they cast their 《Reclamation》 with 《Expansion》 backup to copy a 《Negate》, but they can’t use 《Expansion》 on 《Disdainful Stroke》 in this situation which won me the game as a result.
1x 《Cast Down》:
Great vs all the creature decks and quite important in the mirror as well.
Mostly here for 《Rekindling Phoenix》 but also comes in vs most aggro decks and in the mirror.
1x 《Ritual of Soot》:
We included this one in our sideboard to have a card that could singlehandedly bring us back into a game or seal the game up for us. 《Finality》 is often too slow vs Mono Blue to come back from two 《Tempest Djinn》, but 《Ritual of Soot》 is the only card that gets you out of those situations and it also gets around some of their protection like 《Dive Down》 and 《Siren Stormtamer》.
1x 《Carnage Tyrant》:
We have one main as well for the same reason we have it in the sideboard, it’s there to close out games vs the mirror, other midrange decks, Esper Control, Mono Red, and Mono Blue. 《Carnage Tyrant》 is very difficult to answer, and playing the mirror without it is a losing proposition.
While 《Thief of Sanity》 is a solid card, we decided to not include it in our sideboard even though there are many players across Sultai and Esper with multiple in their decks. I think the only card you could consider cutting for it is 《Kraul Harpooner》, however that would make your Mono Blue matchup significantly worse. I don’t think there’s any room for it at this time, but a shift in the metagame away from the mono colored linear decks and more towards Esper and Sultai could change this.
Now that we’ve gone over the sideboard, it’s time to go over the matchups!
This is the worst matchup but is rather simple to play actually, you’re racing your opponent to their “lock” of 《Wilderness Reclamation》 + 《Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin》. So you want to get on the board as fast as possible and pressure their life total before they can stabilize with their combo. This strategy also applies vs the Temur Reclamation matchup as well as those decks function in the same way against us. Post sideboard be on the lookout for 《Biogenic Ooze》!
Mono Blue Tempo
This matchup is of course another bad matchup, but postboard it gets a lot better. The games are mostly about stopping them from being able to protect a creature with 《Curious Obsession》 so racing them with 《Wildgrowth Walker》 doesn’t really work as they will eventually bury you in card advantage and their 《Merfolk Trickster》s and counterspells allow them to manage your 《Wildgrowth Walker》s with relative ease.
While 《Vraska's Contempt》 and 《Vivien Reid》 serve as removal spells, they’re just too expensive and getting them countered by a 《Dive Down》 or 《Spell Pierce》 is just too much tempo to lose. The same goes for 《Find // Finality》 however we like to leave 1 in post board to be able to 《Find》 back our 《Kraul Harpooner》s.
Mono White Aggro/Azorius Aggro
This matchup I found to be fairly close but slightly in Sultai’s favor. I found that the card I lose to the most in this matchup is 《Venerated Loxodon》 and it usually involves me having a timely 《Finality》 to be able to come back from it. If you can stabilize the board in the first few turns and start chaining your 《Hydroid Krasis》 then you can quickly close out the game.
Postsideboard they become a bit slower as they bring in 《Tocatli Honor Guard》, but the card is a must answer as it shuts down one of the main ways you defend yourself against their draws (《Hostage Taker》/《Wildgrowth Walker》).
Another close matchup, the game normally comes down to 《Experimental Frenzy》. Game 1 is slightly worse for Sultai because we only have 《Vivien》 as an answer, but postboard we get to bring in 《Duress》 and more answers to try to keep 《Frenzy》 in check.
I also got to see a great match at the MC between Jeremy Dezani and Oscar Garcia where Oscar while on Mono Red chose to draw post sideboard and Dezani chose to draw in game 3 as a result. I haven’t played the matchup nearly enough to know if this is correct or not, but it’s something you should try to keep in mind when playing this matchup.
Didn’t play against this deck at all during the tournament, but I don’t think the matchup is too difficult. 《Goblin Electromancer》 has to be killed on sight as it allows them to snowball pretty fast which is difficult to come back from.
Postboard you further reinforce your plan and bring in 《Duress》 and more removal to keep their Drakes in check.
Game 1 is tough as you have a lot of cards that are weak against them such as 《Wildgrowth Walker》 and 《Hostage Taker》. You basically just want to jam your creatures and try to close the game as fast as possible. Of course, you run the risk of over extending into a 《Kaya's Wrath》, but you want to punish them on the draws where they don’t have it. A play you can make to add to the board but not get punished by a 《Wrath》 is to 《Hostage Taker》 one of your own creatures so that it would come back if your opponent has the 《Wrath》 which allows you to continue attacking the following turn.
While 《Cast Down》 is a card that you’d normally not want vs a Control deck, it’s important here because they will bring in 《Thief of Sanity》 as well as 《Hostage Taker》. The important interaction being that when you 《Cast Down》 a 《Hostage Taker》 with its trigger on the stack, the creature is never removed thus effectively working as a counter. So keep 《Hostage Taker》 in mind before you decide to tap out for your 《Hydroid Krasis》, especially if you’re ahead and 《Hostage Taker》 on your 《Krasis》 is the only way for your opponent to get back in the game.
This deck was popularized by Jody Keith who piloted it to some impressive finishes leading up to MC Cleveland which included winning GP Memphis 2019 the week prior.
《Rekindling Phoenix》 is the most problamatic card in the matchup but I think Sultai’s answers lineup quite well vs all the threats that BR throws at you. You have 《Vivien》 for their 《Treasure Map》 and 《Theater of Horrors》, 《Vraska's Contempt》 for their 《Rekindling Phoenix》, and 《Hostage Taker》 while not a clean answer to 《Treasure Map》 and 《Rekindling Phoenix》, you can safely run out as they have few answers for it in the form of 《Lava Coil》.
I’d say overall it’s a favorable matchup for Sultai, just be aware of 《Dire Fleet Daredevil》 on your 《Find // Finality》 as well as 《Angrath, the Flame-Chained》 on your 《Hydroid Krasis》. Also, while 《Siege-Gang Commander》 can be problamtic, the tokens don’t really affect the game much. So destroying 《Siege-Gang》 with 《Cast Down》 while its trigger is on the stack is the most effective way to deal with it. If you can cover all those angles, then I don’t think you should have too many issues facing this deck.
The mirror is easily the most difficult matchup to navigate in my opinion. Sometimes you’re lucky and the game ends in the first 6 turns, usually involves someone running over the other with a bunch of unanswered 《Wildgrowth Walker》s and 《Jadelight Ranger》s, or one person slamming down an early 《Carnage Tyrant》 and quickly closing the game.
But most of the games go rather long, and those games all usually boil down to 《Hostage Taker》. For that reason, 《Cast Down》 is very important in the mirror, and even more so postboard if they also have 《Thief of Sanity》, the same as what we discussed earlier vs Esper.
One play with 《Hostage Taker》 that you should keep in mind is casting your 《Hostage Taker》 on their 《Hostage Taker》, then casting their 《Hostage Taker》 and taking your own with it (assuming there are no better targets for it). What this does is it forces them to have to answer the 《Hostage Taker》, but since the one under it is your own, it’ll come back to play under your control and you’ll get another trigger. If they don’t answer then you just have a looming 《Hostage Taker》 just waiting to be cast later in the game when you need it which makes it really difficult for them to play a 《Hydroid Krasis》 into it unless they have 《Cast Down》 backup.
The one important thing I learned from my teammates was realizing when it’s correct to not cast 《Hydroid Krasis》. If you assess that you’re ahead in the game, and you have no answer to 《Hostage Taker》, then it could be right to not cast your 《Krasis》 so that it doesn’t get taken and bring your opponent back into the game.
That concludes my article on playing Sultai at MC Cleveland. I was really happy with the deck choice and I’m very thankful to my teammates for helping me a ton with the deck. I think it’s still the best choice to play as post sideboard there are very few matchups you’re not favored in.
As far as changes to the list post MC goes, I considered possibly moving the 4th 《Cast Down》 from the sideboard to the main deck in favor of a 《Merfolk Branchwalker》, but not something I’ve been sold on in the games I’ve gotten to try it out so far. If you do make that change you can have the 4th 《Kraul Harpooner》 in the sideboard as Mono Blue is the clear deck to beat at the moment having put multiple players in the top 8. I hope you enjoyed the article and that you have a good time playing this deck!
Thanks for Reading,
Christian Calcano @CCalcano on Twitter