3 Deck Building Lessons from B/W Midrange, Winner of Yesterday’s Grand Prix

December 9, 2013 | Posted by Dee

Marlon Gutierrez traveled from Mexico City and took down yesterday’s Standard Grand Prix in Dallas-Fort Worth with Black/White Midrange. The deck may look unfamiliar to you but it actually first showed up in high level play two weekends ago at Grand Prix Vienna. It was played by Andreas Ganz and he finished in the top 16.

Marlon’s main deck is exactly the same as Andreas’s. Marlon changed the sideboard slightly by adding 2 Dark Betrayal and 1 Pithing Needle and removing 2 Last Breath and 1 Wear // Tear.

Check out his decklist along with three deck building lessons you can learn from it.

B/W Midrange
Creatures (13)
Spells (22)
Lands (25)
Sideboard (15)
Deck Price Tag: $442.47

1. Winning Decks are Often Under the Radar

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The player base mostly focuses on the first and second place decks but many times the best deck for the new, upcoming metagame did not finish in the top four.

For example, let’s go back 12 weekends ago when Theros first became legal. There were two major tournaments. The winners were Mono Red Aggro and U/W Control. In the aftermath, G/W Aggro did not receive much press at all because it didn’t crack the top four. It won the next big tournament.

In the days following Pro Tour Theros, everyone was talking about Mono Blue Devotion because it took the top three spots. There were only a few mentions of the seventh place deck, Mono Black Devotion. The next weekend, it won Grand Prix Louisville and put two other players in the top eight.

Two weekends later, the tier one decks were pretty clear. You had blue and black devotion and UWx Control. Yet, Ben Lundquist won the Starcitygames Open with W/r Aggro. The deck was under the radar because its only recent major finishes were ninth at Grand Prix Louisville and two top eights at the previous weekend’s TCGplayer Open 5K.

And now we have B/W Midrange as another example of an undervalued deck that wins a huge tournament. It finished in the top 16 two weekends ago so hardly anyone talked about it. But it turned out to be the deck of the tournament as Marlon dispatched two Hall of Famers to win the trophy.

Here’s the takeaway: Look more closely at the decks that finish between 5th and 16th place. You may find the next Grand Prix winner. You won’t find a lot of people talking about those decks but that’s actually a good thing for metagame purposes. Less talk equals less hate.

A tier one deck gets a lot of buzz but that puts a big bullseye on its back. Players will spend more time and effort in playtesting and include more sideboard cards to beat tier one decks because they are always on the spotlight.

2. Upgrade the Weakest Links

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B/W Midrange has many of the same cards as Mono Black Devotion. You’ve got full sets of Pack Rat, Desecration Demon, Hero’s Downfall, Underworld Connections, and Thoughtseize. But instead of playing devotion cards (Nightveil Specter, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and Erebos, God of the Dead), it has Blood Baron of Vizkopa and more discard and removal.

Blood Baron and extra discard spells (2 Duress and 1 Sin Collector) improve your matchup against Sphinx’s Revelation decks like U/W and Esper and Mono Black Devotion. Blood Baron is a much better five-drop against these decks than Gray Merchant because he dodges Azorius Charm, Detention Sphere, Hero’s Bladehold, and Ultimate Price. With the extra discard spells, you can protect him from Supreme Verdict, Devour Flesh, and Far // Away.

Duress is decent against blue devotion because it can snatch a key Jace, Bident, Rapid Hybridization, or Cyclonic Rift.

The extra removal spells are good against devotion decks because they keep Gods from turning into creatures and they weaken the abilities of cards like Master of Waves, Fanatic of Mogis, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. By adding white, you can play Last Breath, which is pretty good these days because it exiles Master of Waves, Nightveil Specter, Frostburn Weird, and an early Pack Rat.

Cutting Nightveil Specter and Gray Merchant was a genius move because those creatures are not that great against the three major archetypes: blue devotion, black devotion, and UWx Control.

UWx Control has enough removal to kill those creatures especially with the move towards Last Breath in U/W Control. Blue devotion has answers with Rapid Hybridization, Cyclonic Rift, and Domestication. Also, it has flying blockers to keep Nightveil Specter from connecting. Black devotion plays the same cards so you don’t have an advantage.

Without Nightveil Specter and Gray Merchant, you then have to remove Erebos because he’s not effective without a critical mass of devotion enablers.

This brings us to the second deck building lesson: Figure out the weakest cards against the tier one decks and upgrade them with cards that are better suited to beat the metagame.

How do you find better cards? Well, if you have a monocolored deck, sometimes adding another color is a great idea.

3. Monocolored Decks Can Gain a Lot by Adding Another Color

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Sometimes the best way to upgrade weak links is by adding another color especially if your deck is monocolored.

This deck building strategy often works well because monocolored decks have a very consistent mana base. It will still be pretty consistent when you add a second color. The consistency you lose can be outweighed by the power level gains you get from the second color. Your options are restricted with one color but another color gives you access to a large set of cards.

Along with upgrading the power of your main deck, you’ll also upgrade your sideboard. For instance, Marlon played 2 Sin Collector in his sideboard to give him even more discard against control and Mono Black Devotion. Andreas had 2 Last Breath and 1 Wear // Tear in his sideboard. Wear // Tear destroys Detention Sphere, Bident of Thassa, Domestication, and Chained to the Rocks for the low cost of one white mana.

Plus, with Marlon’s deck, you get more value from the scry land than Mono Black Devotion because you can cast spells with the other color of the land.

You see the evolution towards two colors in red devotion decks. Mono Red Devotion finished in the top eight at Pro Tour Theros but the versions doing well today are splashing white or green. Also, look at the best performing aggro decks right now. Whether it’s W/r, W/b, G/B, or R/w, they all play two colors.

(I see Mono Blue Devotion as a tempo/midrange deck. When you’re playing a 1/4 two drop and a 2/3 three drop, your deck is not aggro in my book.)

In a diverse metagame like current Standard, it’s often a good idea to go with two colors instead of one to increase your card options to beat a wide variety of decks.

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Deck Price Tag ($442.47)

Click the links below to buy the cards on eBay.

QTYCard Name Avg PriceTotal Price
4Pack Rat$3.40$13.60
1Sin Collector$0.42$0.42
4Desecration Demon$9.72$38.88
4Blood Baron of Vizkopa$17.21$68.84
4Devour Flesh$0.23$0.92
2Ultimate Price$0.46$0.92
2Last Breath$0.14$0.28
4Hero’s Downfall$11.00$44.00
4Underworld Connections$2.51$10.04
4Godless Shrine$9.21$36.84
4Temple of Silence$4.99$19.96
1Doom Blade$0.34$0.34
3Pharika’s Cure$0.15$0.45
3Lifebane Zombie$7.66$22.98
2Sin Collector$0.42$0.84
1Pithing Needle$1.45$1.45
3Dark Betrayal$0.25$0.75
Total Deck Price:$442.47