Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan has come and gone. For me it didn't go as planned, but I really liked the deck I had.
How did I end up playing this?
Basically I just rarely ever lost with it while testing, which is a rare thing to find in Modern. Most games with the deck are very close though, and you're often on the razor's edge of having to play perfectly to win. In Modern there's a lot of variance and you just need to plow through the patches of bad luck as best you can, knowing eventually it will turn around. Meanwhile there are plenty of games that may appear to be unwinnable, but with tight play you can barely scrape out.
Unfortunately at the Pro Tour I didn't quite play tight enough or run well enough to put up a substantial result. I still think B/G Midrange is one of the best decks in the format, if not the best, though. Today I'll discuss my choices for the deck while going over it in terms of matchups.
VS Five-Color Humans
A solid matchup since your deck is mostly removal and creatures that draw cards. You can usually deal with their threats that matter before they can make a substantial run at your life total, although their best draws can just run you over (which is true of most decks against B/G Midrange.)
The way you lose usually revolves around Mirran Crusader, and a lot of your decisions in sideboarding and gameplay should take Crusader into account. For example: I like Thoughtseize a lot more and Tarmogoyf a lot less specifically because of Mirran Crusader. If they stick Mirran Crusader, you're probably losing; if not, you're probably winning.
Damnation is your best card since it deals with Mirran Crusader and any sort of situation where they snowball out of control. Ideally you want to be careful before just jamming Damnation, you don't have to save it for Mirran Crusader, but you also don't need to just always pull the trigger. Do so if you're on the ropes and it puts you in a great position (it usually does).
A matchup that might seem good on paper but ends up being surprisingly tricky. The sideboard plan I came up with might look a little odd, but I think it's the way to go.
Affinity empties its hand really fast, which makes Thoughtseize a bit undesirable, sometimes even less so than against Burn since once your opponent is out of cards it's worse to discard to Collective Brutality against Affinity, and more detrimental to not be another piece of creature removal. Thoughtseize is better on the play and can sometimes take a key piece of their hand, but it's actually difficult to win a war of attrition a lot of the time against Affinity if you're not built to do so, and having Thoughtseize in the deck doesn't help in that regard.
Similarly, Dark Confidant doesn't actually help you win the late game as well as you would expect, especially since Affinity functions as a Burn deck a lot of the time. I used to side out Tireless Trackers instead of Dark Confidant. but Dark Confidant can't close out a game let alone even attack profitably most of the time. It also deals you damage and you're usually casting removal on turn 2 anyways.
Liliana of the Veil may seem like a card that isn't great here, and that's true, but even as just a Cruel Edict, it's kind of fulfilling what we're trying to do: trade our cards for theirs when we can. It's also capable of killing Etched Champion and occasionally sticks around for a few turns.
VS Jeskai Control
First of all, you may be wondering: why didn't I play Jeskai Control? Jeskai is a reasonable choice in Modern and in my wheelhouse.
For a few reasons:
1. I really like B/G Midrange.
2. I didn't want to go to time every round.
3. I expected more combo and control in the metagame than there turned out to be.
4. I hate losing to Lantern Control.
As for the matchup, four Tireless Tracker is absolutely essential here. It's the main card that makes the deck shine against control and midrange. It really ties the deck together. In a deck packed with four Thoughtseize and four Inquisition of Kozilek you need cards that can start getting you an advantage if left unopposed. Before that was Dark Confidant and Liliana of the Veil, but you now also have access to the fantastic Tireless Tracker and Liliana, the Last Hope.
Tireless Tracker is also a good argument for not needing any splash colors. Why bother playing more colors if you aren't playing a full set of Trackers first? I think Tireless Tracker is that good, especially with Field of Ruin boosting its effectiveness.
It's easy to sculpt a winning line after you get to take a couple cards from your opponent's hand. Thanks to Fulminator Mage and pressure from Liliana of the Veil, it's difficult for Jeskai to do anything truly scary to climb back into a game, like Sphinx's Revelation, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and sometimes even just Cryptic Command.
Just be patient, cast a bunch of discard, slowly put Jeskai on the back foot by deploying threats they can't deal with, and get into a position they can't come back from.
Things get much much better after sideboard since Collective Brutality destroys Burn and you have four copies. Meanwhile, the terrible part of your deck is replaced with "not so bad" parts.
Tron is actually a matchup I like, with their fail rate and stumble rate being a big factor, and then Fulminator Mage, Field of Ruin, and Liliana, the Last Hope giving you plenty of land destruction after sideboard. B/G Midrange is very much a deck that has a lot of great matchups after sideboard while still being capable of stealing game 1s even against bad matchups like Tron.
Surgical Extraction is not a card I like, generally speaking, since it's often less impactful than Nihil Spellbomb against dedicated graveyard decks and doesn't draw a card when there's nothing else to do. The nice thing about Surgical Extraction is it essentially wins the game on the spot if you extract an Urza's Something or Other or a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle against Scapeshift.
At the Pro Tour I played against Tron and had a great hand in game 3 that would've nicely curved out Thoughtseize into Tarmogoyf into Fulminator Mage. I said would have, because I Thoughtseized my opponent and saw double Karn Liberated and natural Urzatron. B/G Midrange is a deck that can struggle against excellent draws since it isn't doing anything too degenerate.
Grixis Shadow can be tricky. They play a similar game to where we are, but have more access to early card selection and Snapcaster Mage. They're playing a more high-risk, high-reward strategy, whereas we're more "slow and steady wins the race."
You have plenty of answers to Death's Shadow, which makes Gurmag Angler the scariest card you can see early. If you can dodge a big delver on the second turn, then your goal is to just grind them out.
The nice thing is you have Tireless Tracker and they don't, which can allow you to snowball. Liliana of the Veil is also great since most of their creatures are big and vulnerable to sacrifice effects.
VS Eldrazi Tron
You have some decent disruption and decent removal, but you're pretty much banking on them having a slower start.
Matter Reshaper is incredibly annoying because it blocks a Liliana of the Veil from being incredible and you don't really have an efficient answer to it.
You're kind of playing playing the aggro game if you can and the control game if you can't, but Eldrazi Tron is usually capable of outclassing you if they get a good mana start.
VS U/R Gifts Storm
U/R Gifts Storm's best bet is to catch you off guard with Empty the Warrens, so that makes Maelstrom Pulse a necessary hedge. Be careful they don't just Lightning Bolt the Goblin token you're targeting with Pulse if you can help it.
Ideally you just draw bunch of discard and land a Dark Confidant or Liliana of the Veil and never give them a chance to assemble the perfect storm. Once they're in topdeck mode the game is usually over, which means you want to get them to that point as quickly as possible.
VS Lantern Control
Lantern Control is usually one of my least favorite matchups to play against, but with B/G Midrange it's actually kind of fun.
After sideboard you'll often get into a situation where they have soft locked under Lantern of Insight and Ensnaring Bridge, but you're able to get a bunch of Tireless Trackers and Dark Confidants on the battlefield and just need to wait until you find a crucial Maelstrom Pulse (or possibly Abrupt Decay) on the top of your library that will topple Lantern's house of cards. At that point your Lantern opponent will try and mill it, and in response you try and draw it by cracking a Clue, then they try and mill it, and you try and draw it by cracking a Clue again… until eventually one of you can't anymore. Thrilling!
Overall I'm still really happy with B/G Midrange, I'm not sure if it's the best deck right now, but I think it's certainly a viable option. I hope you enjoyed reading and will consider trying the path of making your opponent discard their relevant cards and then draw a bunch of cards with Tireless Tracker!