Many people are fans of playing Four-Color Rally. But many, many people are not fans of playing Standard. This article is for the latter group. Special thanks to Drew Magary. I'm including this at the top of the article because the denizens of the comment section refuse to acknowledge that I've already acknowledged him and this writing format. Your comment section sucks.
Did you read the title?
Your deck sucked.
As in past tense.
As in it's rotating.
As in it's about to not be legal anymore.
Do you know what the best part is? No one cares! Was this a deck you enjoyed playing? I bet you're really upset that it's about to be gone, aren't you?
I gotta drink your suffering in. It's…delicious. Absolutely delicious.
Now you're probably like: “But why aren't you doing something about Siege Rhino? Everyone is way happier that it's rotating! Why are you victimizing me?”
You win every Standard Open on The SCG Tour®. You're winning Grand Prix, too. Owen Turtenwald is so confident with this deck he actually made a Twitter post telling everyone else to stay home because he was going to win the entire event…and he did. When does that happen? How was that a thing? Why didn't they emergency-ban the deck once he did that? Owen is an actual Memory Jar. Occasionally another deck wins, but then you decide to do this:
The sadness is that an interesting deck, Grixis Control, finally emerged that boasts a reasonable win percentage against Four-Color Rally, but we successfully discovered it a week before Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are gone. Cheers, Standard. Your cruelest joke finally has its punchline. Everyone was really excited when you won Indianapolis, by the way.
And by excited, I mean that everybody hates you.
- 4 Catacomb Sifter
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Grim Haruspex
- 4 Nantuko Husk
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 2 Sidisi's Faithful
- 4 Zulaport Cutthroat
- 1 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
I'm only choosing this version because Funkhouser is probably the best last name a human can possibly have and it's not even remotely close. If I saw I was paired against Andrew, I'd scoop to him on principle alone.
Me: “Is your last name seriously Funkhouser?”
Me: “Congratulation. You 2-0'd me. I ain't even gonna try to step to you.”
I bet that's how he won the tournament.
So anyhow, let's talk about why I and so many other people hate this deck. Right off the back you're hit with multiple layers of Draft trash, cards that are pulled from other archetypes, and all of it is held together by these two little engines that can:
Blue creatures being good? Ch'yea. No way, right?
This deck is literally blessed with a Vintage-playable Jace that might actually just be better than Jace, the Mind Sculptor. This isn't hyperbole or exaggeration, and I played with JtMS extensively. I won tournaments with that planeswalker. I brought that guy to U.S. Nationals! I only played decks with him because he was clearly the most busted card they had printed in ages, and then this Merfolk Looter wannabe shows up and completely turns a once-Tier 2 or 3 contender into an absolute monstrosity. Four-Color Rally became very, very good, but it wasn't completely oppressive.
Enter Reflector Mage.
Man-o'-War was good, but it needed an extra toughness and the ability to disallow the creature or any that share its namesake to be cast next turn. That's what tempo decks needed! Time Walk on a stick!
But nah…nah…it shouldn't just be available at normal speed, because that's stupid. We need faster. We need instant-speed Collected Company Reflector Mages that blow out any measure of creature combat, bounce creatures, and then block to prevent even more damage! Hell yes, kiddies! This is the Thunderdome. I hope it dies in combat, because then you can just cast Rally the Ancestors and get another instant iteration of Reflector Mage. Then, on your upkeep, loot with Jace and flip him into a planeswalker! Minus it to flashback Collected Company!
Does any of this sound fair to you? People are trying to cast spells and you're just over there peeing in their cereal. That was good cereal, too. Waffle Crisp. And now it's ruined.
Your Best Cards
Oh, hey, look, there they are again. All of those cards we just talked about that made up the core of your oppressive deck.
Your best cards.
What's New That Sucks
Nothing! That's the beauty! There are a lot of cards that remain once rotation happens, like Catacomb Sifter, Jace, Reflector Mage, Zulaport Cutthroat, Nantuko Husk, and Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim. Rally may be leaving, but it still has Collected Company. Sure, it's losing Grim Huraspex, but most versions are almost completely cutting her. Losing a couple of Sidisi's Faithful isn't the end of the world either, and the natural predator of Anafenza, the Foremost is leaving.
Only, guess what? None of that matters! Shazam! Decks that are four colors won't be around much longer, because fetchlands are on their way out. No sac shuffle sac shuffle sac shuffle anymore! Games will be faster! Most Rally decks played about twelve fetches, and without them, I'd say we're looking at one dead deck. I really like talking about how this deck isn't going to exist anymore. It's like I can binge-watch misery.
What Has Always Sucked
It's the best-deck syndrome that a lot of us suffer from. In truth, Rally was a complex deck that rewarded right play and mastery. The problem with that is that a lot of people tried to play it and failed because they couldn't learn the intricacies of it.
But that's not just it. The problem a lot of people had with Rally is that hating it out was nearly impossible because of how multi-faceted it was. I love the past tense words I get to use here. Sorry, I got off track again. Anyway…
There was a point where Abzan or Mardu Green decks were playing Hallowed Moonlight; Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; and Anafenza, the Foremost in the same deck to beat Rally…and they were still losing! Can you imagine bringing in that many cards all meant to disrupt your opponent and still getting your butt kicked? Jeskai Black was Obi-Wan. Our only hope. They'd try to contain Rally and then Rally would cast a Dispel or Reflector Mage their Mantis Rider. Some people tried to go wide with Atarka Red and multiple token-makers. Cool. Guess we'll just start sideboarding in Minister of Pain.
Seriously. Minister of freaking Pain.
Four-Color Rally was able to stay on top for so long because it was disgustingly consistent, powerful, and above all else adaptable. Whenever the metagame shifted it was always able to go along with the flow, and that makes it all the more infuriating. It has all the hallmarks of a best deck with very little downside. On multiple occasions people said that they had good matchups against it, and they were probably only speaking to personal experiences rather than broader-spectrum ones. Playing against the best pilots in the world wielding Rally is a humbling experience.
An interesting phenomenon with Rally, though, is that not everyone could just play it, unlike decks such as Mono-Black Devotion, which gave free wins with Pack Rat or Grey Merchant of Asphodel. That creates a pretty neat dichotomy between playing against Four-Color Rally and being crushed by it because the player using it really knew what they were doing when they smashed you. That's all sorts of demoralizing.
What Might Not Suck
As much as I think this deck is booty and took Standard in a direction it probably didn't want to go, I can say that it made things very compelling for a few months and that didn't suck as much as I'm making it out to.
However, for as diverse as the format was, it still rotated on a very particular axis where, no matter what deck you were playing, you had to keep Rally in mind and sideboard for it appropriately, lest they be beaten by the boogieman. Going even deeper, decks began adopting various maindeck strategies to take it on, like Dispels or even Hallowed Moonlights in their initial 60. This is, as a whole, unhealthy. So while it may seem that there are a wealth of options to pick from, in reality they all revolved around one deck and what it was capable of doing.
The removal of Rally from the format will absolutely not suck.
Yes, a new best deck will take its place. One always does. Before this we had Abzan and Esper Dragons, Devotion strategies, Caw-Blade, or U/W Delver. This isn't a new concept, and one we've come to understand.
What will make this different, however, is that those formats weren't extremely healthy whereas this one, if a Rally deck didn't exist, could have been extremely vibrant. Chances are that we'll have a vastly impressive Standard once Shadows of Innistrad becomes legal, supplementing the four remaining sets to help usher in a welcome era of deckbuilding.
Let's get a few facts straight. Jace will be incredible, and so will decks utilizing ramp and Dragonlord Ojutai and a host of other cards. What won't be boring, though, are the possibilities that open up when every deck isn't four or five colors and we're actively forced to build solid two- and three-color decks again with the mana we're given instead of the ease we've had thanks to fetchlands. This should promote a different kind of healthy.
At any rate, it's time you all got used a word without Four-Color Rally…a world with puppies, kittens, rainbows, and no reason to play maindeck graveyard hate.
Until we go to Innistrad again.
And you probably have reasons to play maindeck graveyard hate.
God, I love Magic.
As always, I look forward to the people in the comments who don't get the joke or hate my guts. Bless your hearts, you incorrigible creatures, you.