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Sultai Midrange in Historic

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Hi everyone!

Last weekend the SCG Kaldheim Championship Qualifiers featured the Historic format.

It has been a while since I played the format, but Sultai was my weapon of choice in the past.

There was a possibility the format changed enough for me to have to learn a new deck thanks to the release of Kaladesh Remastered. Plenty of hits from the past are now legal such as Heart of Kiran, Aetherworks Marvel, Scrapheap Scrounger, Fatal Push, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. If possible, I would like to play a midrange deck because Historic rewards you for archetype dedication.

After searching for recent Historic results on mtgmelee it was clear Sultai was still one of the top decks in the format.

Another layer of complexity of evaluating Sultai is the White splash for Yasharn, Implacable Earth. The big pig is great in metagames dominated by Jund and Rakdos Sacrifice. It has an added benefit against Goblins as they are unable to sacrifice Skirk Prospector and treasures from Wiley Goblin. This may seem unimportant, but casting Muxus the hard way is much slower.

It's possible the White splash for Yasharn is the correct choice given the rise in popularity of Rakdos Sacrifice. I'm currently favoring good ol' Sultai because there are fewer lands that enter the battlefield tapped. I don't want to play Plains in my Thoughtseize/Uro deck if possible. I also don't like the White splash because the slower mana base hurts the mirror match. In addition, Castle Locthwain is a tough sell in the four color version.

I played the SCG Satellite event with a theorycrafted version of Sultai. I wanted to get a feel for the deck if I were to qualify for the main event and learned a few important concepts.


Fatal Push is a big upgrade to Sultai's removal suite, but it already had great options for early interaction in Aether Gust, Eliminate, and Heartless Act.

I found four Fatal Push to be too many because killing three and 4-drops requires revolt to be active. This isn't impossible to achieve; hardcasting Uro and sacrificing Fabled Passage enable revolt. If you want to get tricky hardcasting Hydroid Krasis for zero and cycling Shark Typhoon for zero causes a creature to go to the graveyard. I can also legend rule a Nissa to achieve revolt. There are too many hoops so I would favor a split of Heartless Act, Eliminate, and Fatal Push in the future.

I was once again impressed with Thought Erasure as the flex interaction against Blue decks. Goblins can be a dicey matchup so I would like to have the discard and counters to line up well against Muxus, Goblin Grandee, too.

Maelstrom Pulse is better with Kaladesh Remastered because it can destroy Chandra, Torch of Defiance against Red decks. The pulse used to be weak against Goblins, but it's now an important part of the matchup to destroy Chandra and Herald's Horn.

I was happy with two Aether Gust in the main because Azorius and Orzhov Auras have picked up in popularity; I don't want to draw too many in Game 1. The Rakdos Sacrifice deck plays more Black cards, too. Four Gusts in the seventy-five is still strong because of Gruul Aggro, Red Burn, and Goblins.

Castle Vantress underperformed. I tried swapping castles because I valued an extra Blue source to escape Uro. The draw ability was so much stronger than scrying in the mirror that I would not leave Locthwain on the bench in the future. A single Locthwain shines in mirrors where the game goes long; this is common in Game 1 as both decks are filled with removal.

Two Fetid Pools were solid because they enable Castles, Drowned Catacombs, and Hinterland Harbor to enter the battlefield untapped. I can cycle it cheaper than Zagoth Triome, too. This is important because Triome being a Forest for Nissa will pay dividends in the mid game.

The sideboard could use a revamp, too. Negate was strong against Sultai mirrors, but was weak against Goblins. Tale's End once again overperformed and actually countered more than one Muxus last weekend. I did find myself wanting exactly a second Negate versus Jund and Rakdos Sacrifice. It can hit Collected Company, Claim the Firstborn, Thoughtseize, Noxious Grasp, and Bolas's Citadel. I have time to get value out of the Negate because the opponent won't overextend into my numerous sweepers.

A fourth Extinction Event is a good sweeper against Auras, but not much else. I already like my Auras matchup so I wouldn't skew my deck. A Witch's Vengeance helps against Goblins, but Cry of the Carnarium already kills the same creatures except Krenko, Mobb Boss. I would prefer a third Cry because they are so strong against Rakdos and Jund Sacrifice. The opponent needs to sacrifice their Cauldron Familiar on their turn to play around the exile effect. Watch out you don't hardcast an Uro on the same turn as casting Cry of the Carnarium as it will be exiled.

Many Sultai decks play Grafdigger's Cage in the sideboard, but I prefer not to. The Cage stops Goblins from running wild with Muxus at the expense of not being able to escape Uro. Most large events are open decklists which means the opponent will be ready with Goblin Trashmaster and Goblin Cratermaker and tutored with Goblin Matron.

I already like my Sacrifice matchups so I would not play Cage in my sideboard for additional help. The sacrifice decks naturally play a more fair game after sideboard because Cage is so popular so it may hurt me more. This is the case when Jund boards in a big threat like Korvold.

Scavenging Ooze is also played as a singleton in some Sultai decks. I don't like it in the mirror Game 1 because it gets hit by Fatal Push. The only value gained from Ooze in the mirror is hitting an Uro in the early turns. This plan is thwarted easily if you see Ooze in hand with Thoughtseize. Just wait until you have the mana to cast and escape in the same turn. It also doesn't do much against Goblins and Auras which are the premier aggro decks.

I finished 5-1 in the SCG Satellite with the above list despite the large amount of subtle changes I wanted. My loss was to Mono-Red Goblins. Since a good chunk of removal didn't kill Krenko I lost to him the fair way. If I had played better I could have mitigated this.

Here's the deck I registered for the SCG Qualifier the following day:


A 5-1 finish in the satellite netted me a bye in the nine round qualifier event. This is a triple elimination tournament.

Round 1: Bye

Round 2: Sultai mirror 2-1

The mirror is about gaining value as it's hard to win with damage thanks to Uro. It's also a frustrating matchup because when you feel things are locked up a timely Hydroid Krasis or Uro can get the opponent back into the game. A stumble can lead to Nissa quickly ending things. Land light hands can be very punishing, but flooding out can be a concern, too.

Round 3: Rakdos Sacrifice 2-0

Round 4: Sultai Mirror with Torrential Gearhulk 1-2

Torrential Gearhulk was replaced by Hydroid Krasis in an attempt to play more instant-speed interaction for the mirror. The games were decided by the die roll and stumbling which is the same as a traditional mirror. I wouldn't advise swapping Krasis for a more targeted mirror threat- especially since a ? doesn't line up well against Uro.

Round 5: Rakdos Sacrifice (Sam Rolph, the streamer) 1-2

I drew a Negate to counter Bolas's Citadel in Game 3, but he had the second copy the following turn.

Round 6: Sultai Mirror 2-0Round 7: Red Goblins (TheMightyLinguine) 2-0

Round 8: Sultai with Torrential Gearhulk (Abe Corrigan) 2-1

Once again each game was decided by stumbling and fast starts. This was a grudge match as I lost to Abe when Team RIW faced off against Lotus Box last month in team Constructed.

Round 9: Sultai Mirror with four Hydroid Krasis (Jan-Moritz Merkel) 1-2

The second half of this event was a murderer's row of opponents despite the buy-in for this event being $5. Jan won Pro Tour Kobe in 2006.

I finished 6-3 in the qualifier which is a fine result given the skill of my opponents. This was also my first foray back into the Historic format. In the next Historic event I would play the same seventy-five.

Sideboard Guide

Sultai Mirror

-3 Fatal Push -3 Extinction Event -2 Maelstrom Pulse -1 Heartless Act

+1 Aether Gust +1 Tale's End +2 Negate +3 Shark Typhoon +3 Narset, Parter of Veils

This isn't a comprehensive board plan as the opponent's list affects the last few slots. It's also acceptable to board up to 61 cards on the draw as Growth Spiral and Uro filter through your deck. I might try playing 61 cards on the play and draw and swap a Typhoon for a second Castle Locthwain in the sideboard.

Sultai is a classic mirror match where there isn't a single point of the game to focus. The matchup is very dynamic. This is why I don't want to skew my deck too much for the mirror. Castle Locthwain has a higher chance of swinging a game than anything else you can do with the deck.

Growth Spiral and Thoughtseize are the best cards on rate; I think of it like drawing more of the power 9 in this matchup. They're not only cheap, but can be cast proactively in order to fuel an escaped Uro or pave the way for Nissa.

Thoughtseize ends up taking Hydroid Krasis the most often as Nissa, the other haymaker, can be answered by all of the 2 mana counters.

Nissa is allowed to resolve and remain in play for the first game because the 3/3 lands can be answered by removal spells. After sideboard Nissa is facing off against more Blue interaction that is worse at beating resolved threats. This plan can backfire if the opponent casts a huge Hydroid Krasis. I'm more willing to take the line of killing their lands if I recently cast a Thoughtseize and the coast is clear.

Shark Typhoon is a more proactive answer to Narset, Parter of Veils than Eliminate. I can't run Nissa into untapped mana post board because most Sultai decks have three Negates in the sideboard. If you tap out of Nissa only to have it countered you run the risk of immediately losing to their Nissa. For this reason, it's good to have instant-speed threats. I play Typhoons over the fourth Hydroid Krasis in the sideboard because of Narset, too.

Tale's End is better than Negate because it counters planeswalkers, Krasis' draw ability, Uro, Shark Typhoon's draw or shark-making effect, Fabled Passage, and also stifles your own Uro sacrifice trigger. Most of the time Negate will target a planeswalker anyway. If you expect more Goblins and the mirror, but less Sacrifice I would play two Tale's End and one Negate.

Goblins

-2 Fatal Push -1 Hydroid Krasis -1 Thought Erasure -2 Thoughtseize -1 Growth Spiral

+2 Aether Gust +1 Tale's End +3 Cry of the Carnarium +1 Heartless Act

The first game can be challenging. Goblins has the inevitability thanks to Muxus which makes Sultai need to be the aggressor. An early Nissa can quickly close the game backed by an Aether Gust or Thoughtseize.

I don't care for Fatal Push against Goblins because it mostly kills Skirk Prospector without revolt. They also transform into a grindy card advantage deck after sideboard so I don't want too much removal. This is accomplished by Chandra, Goblin Ringleader, and Herald's Horn.

Auras

-2 Aether Gust -1 Hydroid Krasis

+1 Heartless Act +2 Cry of the Carnarium

The sweepers are very powerful in the matchup, but creatures can get out of range of Cry of the Carnarium quickly. It's a great sweeper that is able to exile Eidolon and Selfless Savior; this is relevant against Lurrus.

I like this matchup because Sultai has a good time against decks that are afraid of both hand disruption and creature removal.

Burn

-4 Thoughtseize -1 Thought Erasure -2 Extinction Event -1 Hydroid Krasis

+2 Aether Gust +2 Negate +1 Heartless Act +3 Cry of the Carnarium

Cry of the Carnarium used to not pick off every creature against Burn until Burning-Tree Emissary was unsuspended. This is now the premier sweeper. Burn is a good matchup because Uro gains so much life, but you don't need to mulligan aggressively to find it.

Rakdos Sacrifice

-4 Thoughtseize -1 Thought Erasure -1 Hydroid Krasis

+3 Cry of the Carnarium +1 Heartless Act +2 Negate

Jund Sacrifice

-4 Thoughtseize -1 Thought Erasure -1 Hydroid Krasis

+3 Cry of the Carnarium +1 Heartless Act +2 Negate

I board out Thoughtseize against Sacrifice decks because they play so well from the graveyard. The best card you are able to discard is a Claim the Firstborn to protect your 3/3 lands and Uro. I also have a hard time breaking up their curve because they play so many creatures of similar mana costs. A Game 1 strategy is to use Thoughtseize to leave creatures that allow Extinction Event to get a 2-for-1.

As a rule of thumb, Nissa can be vulnerable to Claim the Firstborn if the opponent has one of their many 3-power creatures on the battlefield. If you play Nissa in this spot be ready to Fatal Push your own land or remove their creature. You can also animate your own Fabled Passage so it can be sacrificed in response to Claim the Firstborn.

That's all I have for today. Sultai is still one of the top decks in Historic. It has the tools to fight any deck. Uro will remain as the control end boss until it is banned.

Thanks for reading!

-Kyle

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