Black-Green-X Midrange

April 20, 2018

Synopsis

A staple of Modern, BGx is the purest midrange deck the format has to offer. It seeks to combine efficient discard and removal with some of the strongest power-to-cost creatures and Planewalkers Modern has to offer. In doing so, BGx can effectively answer the most threatening cards its opponents present, while generating an on-board advantage with impactful permanents. To further fuel this game plan, due to having a relatively stable manabase, creature-lands give the deck additional value by allowing the deck to trade its land drops for meaningful cards from the opponent. All of this gives BGx the tools to have a chance against just about any deck it can be paired against, thus making it an excellent choice for any tournament.

BGx is mostly answer cards and can adapt to the format. Because of this, the card choices are presented as ranges to give guidelines for when tuning your BGx deck. 

Core Cards

2-4 Thoughtseize

2-4 Inquisition of Kozilek

Usually decks run 6-8 discard spells, and these are the cards that make BGx able to keep up with almost any deck. Being able to curve into threats by taking their answer and disrupt their ability to win the game is an incredibly valuable effect.  In the past, Inquisition of Kozilek would more commonly be played as a 4-of over Thoughtseize as a nod towards aggressive decks. These days, Thoughtseize is more impactful because a large number of CMC 4+ cards have been introduced into the format.


2-4 Fatal Push

1-3 Abrupt Decay

1-2 Maelstrom Pulse


The removal spells are highly variable and allow BGx to battle efficiently against any creature deck. Usually these are chosen based on an expected metagame, but there are a lot of good ways to distribute them. Fatal Push only costing one mana often makes it the frontrunner of the archetype. Abrupt Decay is very powerful, and the versatility is something this archetype is looking for, but costing 2 mana can be pretty clunky in the format. Maelstrom Pulse takes this even further, and is definitely the most awkward card in the deck, but the ability to kill anything can be incredibly valuable, so this is usually played as a 1-of.


4 Tarmogoyf

4 Dark Confidant

2-4 Scavenging Ooze


These 2-drop creatures are part of what gives this deck its identity. Tarmogoyf is good at all stages of the game, and can apply a lot of pressure early and put opponents in a pinch. Dark Confidant is the single best card to follow up a discard spell with, and if left unchecked, it can generate more card advantage than most opponents can deal with, all while attacking for 2. Scavenging Ooze is a bit more narrow, and isn’t excellent on turn 2 against every opponent which is why it is usually played in smaller numbers. However, the impact it can have has a very high ceiling. In most grindy matchups Scavenging Ooze can totally take over the game by swinging races and dominating the board in the late game by exiling all of the creatures. Against all-in graveyard decks, like Dredge, Ooze can completely shut down their game plan. Even against decks with light-to-medium graveyard synergies, like Snapcaster Mage decks, Scavenging Ooze can be a very important disruptive tool.


4 Liliana of the Veil


Liliana is the lynchpin of the deck, and is arguably the most powerful card BGx plays. It is good against aggro, control, and combo decks alike. It can completely warp the game on turn 3 by grinding down the opponent’s board and hand. It works in multiples because if one ever resolves, the spare copy can just be discarded, and if the first doesn’t resolve, you can just cast the spare. Occasionally, it might be too clunky to have an impact in a matchup, but the upsides are so high that it is usually worth it to play 4.

 

Support Cards

While there are a set number of core cards which define the deck, there’s a lot of variation in how the deck is built. This allows for the pilot to choose the direction that suits them the best and tune the deck to their personal preferences. There are three archetypes that are spawned from this core: Black-Green, Jund, and Abzan. Each of these place emphasis on a different aspect of the game and can be chosen accordingly for the appropriate metagame. However, these are all still part of the same archetype, and definitely share many of the same features and mechanics.

Let’s start with Jund:

Jund


4 Bloodbraid Elf

2-4 Lightning Bolt

1-2 Kolaghan’s Command

1-2 Terminate

2-4 Raging Ravine


This is the most aggressive variant of the deck. Lightning Bolt alone heavily slants the deck towards aggression. Having this in the deck means that it’s relatively easy to interact with creatures in the early game, but also that early attacks mean a lot more, and getting in random points of damage can be really meaningful in the late-game. Lightning Bolt pairs with Bloodbraid Elf really well, too, as it’s a removal spell for most small creatures, but it can always go to the face if it is a race situation. Bloodbraid Elf combines with Kolaghan’s Command to generate incredible amounts of card advantage and momentum.

On top of this, Terminate gives Jund an effective piece of unconditional removal, which really allows Jund to hold its own against creature decks at all stages of the game. To bring it all together, Raging Ravine is not only one of the strongest creature-lands, but also the most aggressive. A single attack can bring it out of burn spell range and after that it will likely be too large to block effectively.

Jund is definitely more suited for players who like attacking with creatures and casting burn spells. In a metagame like Modern, this proactive approach is usually a pretty strong choice, and so Jund is often the most popular version of BGx

Abzan




3-4 Lingering Souls

2-4 Path to Exile

2-4 Siege Rhino

0-4 Grim Flayer

1-3 Shambling Vents

1-3 Stirring Wildwood


This is on the other end of the spectrum from Jund and is the most defensive version of the deck. The basis of this splash is often driven by the power of Lingering Souls alone, and in fact, most versions don’t even play any other white cards. The amount that Lingering Souls does for this deck is incredible, and here is just a sample of what it can do:

  • Trades with Inkmoth/Blinkmoth Nexus
  • Trades with Glistener Elf
  • Blocks and buys time against large creatures
  • Races in the sky against a clogged up ground
  • Pressures Planeswalkers
  • Nerfs spot removal
  • Protects Liliana of the Veil
  • Gets discarded to Liliana of the Veil

And that’s just a few of the possibilities this card provides. It is essentially the perfect tool in any grindy matchup, and it certainly warrants adding a 3rd color for. On top of this, running Lingering Souls provides incentive to play Grim Flayer, which is a powerful 2-drop that helps with graveyard synergies.

Luckily, though, it is not the only good White card in the deck, and there are a few other good options. Siege Rhino used to be a staple in the archetype. It gives the deck some reach, is big and expensive enough to survive removal, and it can attack through most creatures effectively. However, with the return of Bloodbraid Elf, Siege Rhino hasn’t really had its day in the sun for a while, and isn’t the huge draw to the archetype it used to be.

On a similar note, Path to Exile has been mostly usurped by Fatal Push, but Path still has its place. In particular, with the advent of decks that play cheap, CMC 5+ creatures, like Gurmag Angler, Path to Exile can really shine. The creature-lands that white offers are a little weak, but the lifegain that Shambling Vents provides can be excellent in the right matchups.

Overall, this deck is more suited for players that like to play a longer game, and better in a metagame that is weak to 1/1 flying creatures.


Black-Green


 


3-4 Grim Flayer

2-4 Tireless Tracker

0-2 Kitchen Finks

1-2 Eternal Witness

1-2 Cast Down

1-2 Collective Brutality

1-2 Dismember

1 Liliana, the Last Hope

4 Treetop Village


This is a much less popular version because the third color usually adds more than it hurts, but with the printing of Fatal Push, it is a valid choice. While this version doesn’t have access to an extra color, it has the most variety in how it is usually built. This is because the other variants tend to include a third color for very specific, powerful cards. This makes coming up with specific numbers of cards that define the deck a bit more complicated, as a lot of different cards have to fill different roles.

To make up for the lack of another color, this deck expands on the value-oriented 3-drop slot to generate card advantage. Tireless Tracker is likely the best choice for the archetype. It can be clunky sometimes, but like Scavenging Ooze, the ceiling on Tracker is very high. If left unchecked, it can pull its controller way ahead on cards and completely dominate a board state. However, you won’t always have the time to use its abilities to the fullest, and sometimes it can be a real liability. Kitchen Finks is a little bit more efficient to use, as you can simply deploy it freely on turn 3 and it has its impact already. However, the impact it actually has can sometimes be very underwhelming, and it doesn’t really take over the board or generate enough card advantage to be the best choice. Eternal Witness pairs well with the all of the disruption that gets played, but a 2/1 for 3 mana is quite underpowered for the Modern format. Due to all of this, usually some mix of these cards are played, as none of them really meet the power standards of Jund or Abzan.

In terms of removal, not having access to Bolt or Path means that Black-Green needs to expand its options because nothing else is quite that good. The recent printing of Cast Down will probably lead to that being the default choice, as it will kill most of the creatures in the format that matter. Collective Brutality’s 3 modes are a little weak, but the versatility it provides can be a sought after effect. Dismember certainly comes with a steep cost, but the ability to be cast for 1 mana is definitely powerful. Liliana, the Last Hope rounds this out as a 3-mana removal spell/threat, and she is incredibly effective in this deck. She is a must answer threat that will usually at least get a card out of your opponent, or back into your hand. She’s cheap enough to easily be curved into, and her loyalty goes up fast enough to avoid Lightning Bolt.

Treetop Village is probably the most effective creature-land available in Modern, and this is the deck that gets to use it to its full potential. In a 2-color deck, the mana base is strong enough to support a comes-into-play-tapped land like this, and being a 3/3 trample for the low cost of 2 mana is huge. This stable mana base is definitely one of the biggest draws to the archetype. The deck also gets access to Field of Ruin, giving the deck a semblance of a strategy against Tron and extra answers to manlands. While both Jund and Abzan can play Treetop Village and Field of Ruin as well, the mana is usually not able to effectively support it.


The Mana Base

While these three decks do run different colors, and thus have different mana bases, the basic outline for the decks is pretty simple:


3-4 Basic Lands

4-6 Fast Lands

2-4 Shock Lands

8-10 Fetch Lands

4 Creature-Lands

0-2 Twilight Mire

0-1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

4 Field of Ruin (Black-Green only)


All of these decks want 2 Swamps and at least 1 Forest. Jund doesn’t usually play a Mountain, and Abzan usually plays 1 Plains. The fast lands are chosen based on their ability to cast the most amount of cards on turn 1. Blackcleave Cliffs can cast every 1-mana spell in Jund, so that has the edge there. Blooming Marsh can cast all of the Black spells in Black-Green and Abzan, while still providing untapped green mana on turn 2. If Path to Exile is being run in Abzan, Concealed Courtyard could be used as well, but usually the White mana commitment is less in Abzan so Blooming Marsh still ends up being better.

Regarding shock lands, 2 Overgrown Tombs are stock, and one of each supporting color in Jund and Abzan. Verdant Catacombs is the best of the fetchlands, and the ability to fetch Black mana is the most important feature of the other fetchlands (e.g. Marsh Flats gets the edge over Windswept Heath in Abzan. Each deck plays its preferred creature-land, which allows for some variability in the lands chosen (e.g. sometimes Jund plays 2 Raging Ravines and 2 Treetop Villages).

Finally, while Twilight Mire is an incredibly powerful effect in the deck, occasionally it can make the mana situation difficult for 2 color decks, so Jund and Abzan usually play 1 at most, while Black-Green usually sports 2, which is an advantage that it has over the others. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is similar, and Black-Green usually finds room to play 1. Another advantage that Black-Green has over the three color variants is the ability to support Field of Ruin. Having colorless producing lands in the deck isn’t a huge deal for a 2 color deck, and this greatly helps out against the big mana decks like Tron.

Land sequencing is usually pretty straightforward. Having 2 Black mana is essential in the early turns in order to play Liliana on turn 3. Later in the game Green mana becomes the focal point in order to use Scavenging Ooze to the fullest. Unless you are playing against a highly aggressive deck, like Burn, having access to all of your colors is usually more important than the 2 life from a shock. However, it usually isn’t worth shocking to represent something you don’t have. Finally, Blood Moon is relatively easy to play around if you expect it, so try to leave up mana for Abrupt Decay or get basics early, but watch your basic count against Field of Ruin/Ghost Quarter.

Sideboarding

This is where the archetype really shines. In the pre-board games BGx is built in such a way to hedge against everything. If they have spells that matter, discard helps. If they have creatures that matter, removal is good. However, these spells don’t always line up well against opposing decks and can leave you with dead cards. Luckily, you get the opportunity to cut all of the unimpactful cards in the deck for much for effective cards post-board, and these colors have a fair amount of cards that solve some narrow problems.

In general, this is one of the areas that Jund shines over the other 2 variants, because the Red sideboard options are a bit more effective than what White, Black, or Green have to offer.


Against Creatures:

Damnation

Engineered Explosives

Damage-Based Sweepers: Anger of the Gods/Pyroclasm/Kozilek’s Return (Jund)

Grim Lavamancer (Jund)

Liliana of the Veil


While BGx is very good at dealing with creatures on a 1 for 1 basis, sometimes swarm strategies can present problems for the deck. In these matchups, BGx can upgrade some of its weaker spells (like discard spells) for powerful board sweepers and repeatable removal effects. This is where the Red sideboard cards really shine, as Red offers the most cheap and effective options for clearing the board of creatures.


Against Big Mana

Fulminator Mage

Crumble to Dust (Jund)


While there are other options, these are by far the most effective, and Fulminator Mage usually gets the nod. Being easy to cast in this deck, impacting the board a little bit, and ultimately destroying a land on the most necessary turn (usually turn 3) makes this a well-rounded card when it comes to attacking mana bases.


Against Combo

Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek

Duress

Collective Brutality


Usually when it comes to upgrading cards against combo decks, BGx simply brings in more discard spells to try to stop them from assembling a kill. While this is a very effective strategy, it is worth noting that a number of decks bring in Leyline of Sanctity, completely negating this plan. In this case, it’s worth leaving in Maelstrom Pulse, or bringing in some other enchantment removal spell.


Against Artifacts/Enchantments

Ancient Grudge (Jund)

Shatterstorm/Creeping Corrosion

Stony Silence (Abzan)

Krosan Grip/Naturalize/Nature’s Claim


Both Abzan and Jund have the edge over Black-Green here, as Stony Silence and Ancient Grudge are incredibly powerful when facing down artifacts. While the Green options aren’t terrible, they don’t have the same impact that these two cards have, so having the third color is greatly beneficial here.


Against Graveyard Decks

Surgical Extraction

Nihil Spellbomb

Grafdigger’s Cage

Rest in Peace (Abzan)


All of these are powerful, valid options that serve specific roles. Surgical is less effective against all-in graveyard decks, but combines with discard and land destruction to disrupt opponents in other ways. Spellbomb gets the whole graveyard and cantrips, but only as a 1-shot. Grafdigger’s Cage completely ends most graveyard interaction, while also stopping Collective Company/Chord of Calling, but it can be removed and doesn’t impact Living End at all. Rest in Peace probably the most effective card against the graveyard decks, but it hurts Abzan, as well. All of these choices have their upsides, so usually some mix of them is preferred.


Miscellaneous Cards

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (Abzan)

Obstinate Baloth

Kitchen Finks


Gideon tends to be very powerful against other midrange or control decks, but Abzan is generally pretty good in those matchups anyway. Baloth and Kitchen Finks can be classified as  life-gain spells, but usually these are more anti-Liliana cards that occasionally helps in other matchups, like Burn and Eldrazi Tron.

Strengths

In general, BGx doesn’t excel against too many decks. It is solid against decks where both removal and discard spells are meaningful. BGx is not by any means a shoe-in against these decks, but the games will mostly be close, and BGx decks have the tools to manage what they’re presenting. With light sideboard adjustments, many of these matchups can be made even better, as well, without sacrificing too many sideboard slots. There are some bad matchups, but these get substantially better in the post-board games. With enough dedication, these matchups can all become very manageable and maybe even favorable.

Weaknesses

When facing redundant decks in which removal isn’t useful against, this deck can suffer. Big mana decks can be a huge problem for this reason because it is difficult to interact with their mana base. This deck can also struggle against faster decks if not enough removal is drawn, which creates a mis-match in disruptive pieces. On top of this, this deck can be prone to flooding because it is aiming to have the games go long, but doesn’t play any card selection, which can give other archetypes an edge over BGx, like UWx. Finally, the mana base can sometimes be weak to cards like Blood Moon because it only plays 3-4 basic lands.

Although some of thematchups are still tough post-board, BGx definitely has the tools to keep up with most archetypes. The goal is to hone in on an expected metagame and choose the sideboard cards very carefully. With a well-built 75 and a bit of luck, this deck is always a competitor in the modern field.


General Tips

Sometimes the decisions in this deck can seems somewhat linear: Use discard to take their removal spell, play a powerful 2-drop, and curve into Liliana of the Veil. However, because so many of the cards cost 1 and 2 mana, there are a lot of decisions in the early turns. One of the most critical decisions is in choosing which 2-drop to play. If it is definitely going to live, Dark Confidant is usually more impactful in the game. If not, Tarmogoyf might be a good enough lightning rod for removal spells. Often times it is better to play off curve to get the most mileage out of the cards. It is always tempting to play Liliana on turn 3, but she’s much more impactful on a relatively empty board. Don’t assume a 1-2-3 curve is always necessary.

When choosing to keep hands discard spells and 2-drops are premium cards. Almost any hand with at least one of each and the lands to cast them is keepable. In the blind, hands with a lot of removal should be kept, even if they could be playing a creatureless deck. The pre-board games are likely to result in these kind if mismatches, so it is often right to hope for the best.

Overall, BGx provides the player with a lot of good options in deckbuilding and playing, and can be tuned to fit each player’s needs.