Sultai Midrange Guide in Historic

Arne Huschenbeth

Arne Huschenbeth

Introduction

Hello and welcome fellow Magic enthusiasts,

In this article, I will talk about my choice for the Arena Kaldheim Qualifier, the Historic format, and will end with a Sideboard Guide for Sultai Midrange. I was able to play a number of decks for my preparation ranging from Temur Paradox Engine, Rakdos Sacrifice to Azorius Control.

In the end, I chose to play the most flexible deck. The 55/45 deck. Sultai Midrange. Before we go into the deck, I want to talk about the other choices and what I think about them in the metagame.

My Impression of Top Tier Decks

Temur Paradox Engine

Kinnan, Bonder ProdigyKarn, the Great CreatorParadox Engine

Temur Paradox Engine is a sweet deck but has its weaknesses. The deck is able to have incredible starts and very broken turns on the one hand, on the other hand, some of your draws can be fairly awkward. Lots of legendary permanents and you have to have the right balance between lands, mana generation (combo enablers), and payoff. Creature Removal can be very strong against you as well as counterspells. I believe the deck is a good choice but struggles against interactive decks like Azorius Control, Sultai Midrange, and Rakdos Arcanist. With the deck gaining in popularity Sultai is gaining in power.

Rakdos / Jund Sacrifice

Priest of Forgotten GodsMayhem DevilWoe Strider

Rakdos or Jund Sacrifice is a good choice if you are expecting lots of Goblins. It is an overall solid choice against an unknown field, a strong proactive strategy with card advantage, and a good sideboard. The one weakness though is the matchup against Sultai. Another point for Sultai! Some might say that Jund is ahead against Sultai, but I believe if you board correctly, play a good list, and know-how the games play out, the Sultai player is ahead. You can skip to the Sideboard Guide if you can’t wait to see it!

Azorius Control

Search for AzcantaWrath of GodTeferi, Hero of Dominaria

Azorius Control won the Zendikar Rising Championship in the hands of Brad Barclay. The deck can have draws that make you feel like you are the king of the world. 《Search for Azcanta》 into 《Absorb》 into 《Wrath of God》 into 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 [+1] and keeping up one of your two mana spells will certainly be difficult to beat for anyone.

The problem though, your cards rarely line up this perfectly. Additionally, almost all of the decks in this format have ways to generate card advantage and use their mana in the long game through Escape creatures, Castles, 《Trail of Crumbs》 or Companion creatures. You rarely have a moment of relief and sticking a 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 can be difficult in some board states. Nonetheless, if you get to untap with Teferi, you are usually in a good spot.

In the head-to-head versus Sultai, I think Sultai is ahead again. Preboard the Azorius player can run-away with a 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》, but post-board it becomes difficult to resolve the Planeswalker. Another point for Sultai! Though if you are a die-hard control player and just can’t stop playing Teferi (I don’t fault you, it’s very tempting), here are the adjustments I made to Barclay’s list.

Goblins

Goblin MatronKrenko, Mob BossMuxus, Goblin Grandee

Goblins I did not actually play with, just watched VODs and talked to my good friend and Rivals Pro Thoralf Severin, who played the deck at the ZNR Championship. The deck supposedly beats up on Sultai and loses against the Sacrifice decks and Temur Paradox Engine. With Sultai increasing in popularity Goblins might be a solid choice yet again.

Herald's Horn

《Herald’s Horn》 is an amazing card for the deck and gets better the slower the format is. The most common hate against Goblins is creature removal and 《Aether Gust》, which Horn plays around with nicely. And of course, every red player should pack three 《Abrade》s in their 75 to combat Horn as well as Temur Paradox Engine, but this probably does not need to be said with 《Abrade》 being one of the best removals spells ever printed!

Rakdos Arcanist

ThoughtseizeDreadhorde ArcanistYoung Pyromancer

I was not able to test Red-Black Arcanist either, I believe the deck might be well-positioned again. I felt like it was performing similarly against the metagame as Sultai. I chose to just stick with Sultai because I had the reps already in and it is difficult not to play 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》. Red-Black Arcanist is definitely a deck I am going to try in the future.

Sultai Midrange

Growth SpiralUro, Titan of Nature's WrathNissa, Who Shakes the World

Now let’s talk about Sultai. I actually had a 1-3 record at the Kaldheim Qualifier this weekend losing against Azorius Yorion, Orzhov Auras, and Sultai Midrange. The games were very close, but my opponents were always a step ahead. In addition, my draws did not pan out well. As a competitive Magic player, you always have to be ready for setbacks.

This is part of the game and every time I feel bad or unlucky or angry about losing, I remind myself of stories about Alexander Hayne, who Top8’d 15 PTQs before winning his first and qualifying for the Pro Tour. Or Martin Juza, who did not Day2 his first seven Grand Prix. Many players that are on top of the game today had to grind through a lot of losses to become who they are now. Losing is an integral part of competitive Magic. Or as Reid Duke puts it, “Every loss is an opportunity to learn”.

Sultai or 4c?

Yasharn, Implacable EarthTocatli Honor GuardTeferi, Hero of Dominaria

Even though I lost at the event, I am confident about my deck choice and my list. One thing on your mind might be the debate if you play four colors for 《Yasharn, Implacable Earth》 or if you stick to just three. I think currently you just want to play plain Sultai.

The Sacrifice decks do not see an enormous amount of play right now and post-board they have plenty of answers for the 4/4 anyway. I am not a fan of 《Tocatli Honor Guard》 in the sideboard either. The human from Ixalan can be great versus Goblins, but you rarely have two mana on Turn 2 and it shuts off your own Uro ETB. It also does not stop 《Herald’s Horn》, 《Krenko, Mob Boss》 or the 《Goblin Chieftain》 from having an impact on the game.

All in all, I think splashing for white is a meta call you can make if you expect a lot of players to bring 《Mayhem Devil》 to the table. On the other hand, I wanted to try a 4c version with 2-3 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》, that might be a way to get ahead in the mirror match. Not sure if that is worth the splash. Sultai has most of the tools to beat the other archetypes already in those three colors.

Decklist

Here is the list I played at the Kaldheim Qualifier.

I was expecting a lot of Sultai in the event therefore I played a 《Narset, Parter of Veils》 and 《Doom Whisperer》 in the main deck to get a slight edge against the mirror in game one. I moved an 《Extinction Event》 to the board because I was expecting fewer Goblins and Sacrifice. Sultai Midrange is a deck where you have to adapt your 75 to what you are expecting to face. A card like 《Tale’s End》 is close to unplayable in some metagames and great in others. You have to stay flexible and rethink your card slots week to week.

Sideboard Guide

Next up, the one and only, the Sideboard Guide!

Vs. Goblins

vs. Goblins

Out

Doom Whisperer Hydroid Krasis Hydroid Krasis
Narset, Parter of Veils Tale's End

In

Languish Extinction Event Cry of the Carnarium
Disdainful Stroke Aether Gust

Use your early removal on 《Skirk Prospector》 and 《Conspicuous Snoop》 and pressure them as quickly as possible with Uro and/or Nissa. You don’t want the game to go long. The more pressure you put on them the better 《Aether Gust》 will be.

Vs. Temur Paradox Engine

vs. Temur Paradox Engine

Out

Extinction Event Doom Whisperer Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath Hydroid Krasis
Nissa, Who Shakes the World Narset, Parter of Veils

In

Negate Negate Scavenging Ooze Scavenging Ooze
Disdainful Stroke Fatal Push

Remove their legendary creatures, counter their business spells 《Karn, the Great Creator》 and 《Escape to the Wilds》. 《Tale’s End》 shines in this matchup. Sometimes you can even ignore 《Paradox Engine》 by just getting rid of their combo enabling permanents.

Vs. Rakdos / Jund Sacrifice

vs. Rakdos / Jund Sacrifice

Out

Tale's End Tale's End Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Nissa, Who Shakes the World Narset, Parter of Veils

In

Languish Extinction Event Cry of the Carnarium Fatal Push
Scavenging Ooze Scavenging Ooze

Be patient with playing out your creatures, 《Claim the Firstborn》 has to be on your mind. Do not just play 《Scavenging Ooze》 without something important to exile in the same breath. 《Doom Whisperer》 is usually good because they have a hard time dealing with it between 《Noxious Grasp》 and 《Claim the Firstborn》. Versus Jund Sacrifice with 《Bolas’s Citadel》 and 《Korvold, Fae-Cursed King》 you leave in the 《Tale’s End》 and board out the 《Doom Whisperer》 and one 《Hydroid Krasis》.

Vs. Sultai Midrange

vs. Sultai Midrange

Out

Maelstrom Pulse Maelstrom Pulse Fatal Push Fatal Push
Nissa, Who Shakes the World Extinction Event Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

In

Narset, Parter of Veils Narset, Parter of Veils Negate Negate
Shark Typhoon Shark Typhoon Shark Typhoon

The most important card in the mirror is 《Narset, Parter of Veils》, followed by 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》. The player who can stick Narset successfully, usually has the upper hand. The 《Shark Typhoon》s are there to attack an opposing Narset. Just keep both those Planeswalker of the board with 《Thoughtseize》, counterspells, and your removal. I am not the biggest fan of 《Maelstrom Pulse》 because it can be awkward with you having the same permanent as your opponent. In game one I mostly just slam Nissa when I can, post-board I play more patiently in the face of more counterspells.

Vs. Azorius Control

vs. Azorius Control

Out

Aether Gust Aether Gust Fatal Push Fatal Push
Nissa, Who Shakes the World Nissa, Who Shakes the World Extinction Event Eliminate

In

Narset, Parter of Veils Narset, Parter of Veils Negate Negate
Shark Typhoon Shark Typhoon Shark Typhoon Disdainful Stroke

Stop them from resolving Narset and Teferi and you should be fine. I keep in one 《Eliminate》 for Narset and their Shark Token. I like 《Doom Whisperer》 more than Nissa in this matchup because the demon dodges 《Aether Gust》, 《Dovin’s Veto》, and 《Tale’s End》.

Vs. Rakdos Arcanist

vs. Rakdos Arcanist (On the Draw)

Out

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Maelstrom Pulse Maelstrom Pulse
Narset, Parter of Veils Doom Whisperer

In

Shark Typhoon Shark Typhoon Shark Typhoon Fatal Push
Scavenging Ooze Scavenging Ooze
Extinction Event Aether Gust

vs. Rakdos Arcanist (On the Play)

Out

Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Thoughtseize
Maelstrom Pulse Maelstrom Pulse
Tale's End Doom Whisperer

In

Narset, Parter of Veils Narset, Parter of Veils Scavenging Ooze Scavenging Ooze
Shark Typhoon Aether Gust
Extinction Event Fatal Push

I am not the biggest fan of 《Thoughtseize》 in this matchup. Most of their cards are repetitive, there is no singular piece you want to disrupt and 《Thoughtseize》 can be a terrible topdeck in this matchup. I just want to have all the removal for their red creatures, card advantage, and high impact cards.

Conclusion

Sultai is flexible, powerful, and hard to interact with. The archetype will stay a powerhouse for the foreseeable future and can adapt to almost any metagame. If you like Midrange decks, this is the place to be in Historic. I hope you could take something away from this article. Write me a comment if you have any questions, I gladly respond.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Arne Huschenbeth (Twitter / Twitch)

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Arne Huschenbeth

Arne Huschenbeth Arne is an enthusiast for Standard and won GP Rimini which was held by exact his favorite format. He also achieved impressive 10-0 record at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. He has 3 more GP top 8s past seasons, and earned 41 Pro Points during 2017-2018 season which was good enough to become a Gold Level Pro. Read more articles by Arne Huschenbeth

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