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Four-Color Whip

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Hey, everyone!

It’s been a while since I wrote about Standard, but I bring you this article because I have a unique and fun deck. It also wins a lot, so I guess that helps.

It’s no secret that Whip of Erebos decks contain the most powerful thing you can be doing in Standard, but we can’t seem to agree on much else. One week, there is an abundance of Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, while the next week features a crash of Siege Rhinos. Then once you think it’s all been figured out, Brad Nelson goes and wins the StarCityGames Player Championship with Sidisi Whip, putting us at the beginning again.

The one thing that everyone has been wanting to try is a hybrid between the two popular Whip decks. I have seen plenty of streams on which the opponent is playing some sort of hybrid, but I don’t think the mana has ever been something would be happy to play with. There are also a ton of possible builds of the deck, so it will be tough to find an optimal list.

Here’s an example of a hybrid running around on Magic Online:

This deck has a lot of fetch lands, which means it needs a lot of basic lands. There’s no way I want so many monochromatic lands in a four-colored deck.

As soon as I found a list with consistent mana, I knew I was on to something. I wanted to dive right into the PreTQ system with my Four-Color Whip deck, but I played Sidisi the first weekend, and I played Abzan Whip the next weekend just to get a feel for the established builds. Once I knew the power of both lists, I was comfortable going all-in on my own deck.

Here’s what I played at the latest PreTQ:

Andy Polzin and I played this seventy-five at the PreTQ at Warriors 3, and we both made the Top 8 with eighty players in attendance. The results were good enough that I thought it was worth sharing this list because I still think it’s strong enough for the PTQ/PreTQ season.

Going over the list card by card seems to be bad value at this point because Whip decks are so popular, so I’ll just explain the logic behind my choices that go against the grain and answer some of the questions I hear.

Why Siege Rhino and Sidisi?

The short answer is, “Because I can.” This deck is basically Abzan Whip that splashes Sidisi because it’s the most powerful way to fill the graveyard. Eidolon of Blossoms is the next-best 4-drop that happens to be stronger in the mirror match, but it doesn’t hit hard with Whip of Erebos in play, and it is also weak against aggressive decks.

Siege Rhino
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
Sylvan Caryatid

Doesn’t This Deck Have Inconsistent Mana?

Nope. Brad Nelson showed up that it’s possible to play a four-color midrange deck thanks to the tri-lands. I’m playing four blue cards, and I have four tri-lands and two Yavimaya Coasts to cast them. In addition, Sylvan Caryatid, Satyr Wayfinder, and Courser of Kruphix help me cast Sidisi. This deck is basically a B/G deck that is splashing Sidisi, Siege Rhino, and Soul of Theros; the tri-lands all add black and green to make the mana consistent. The reason everyone isn’t doing this already is that you have to trim the scry lands in order to make room for the tri-lands.

Is Soul of Theros Worth the Splash?

Yes. This card combos very well with Sidisi because you are milling yourself heavily while making more creatures. Sidisi can have the problem of not being able to attack when cards like Siege Rhino are able to block, so the Soul allows you to be more proactive. The first strike is also very effective against Hornet Queen and racing Whip of Erebos in general. It’s also very difficult to play the control game against W/U Heroic because your five main-decked removal spells are met with Gods Willing, Feat of Resistance, Stubborn Denial, and Ajani's Presence; the combo of Sidisi and Soul of Theros gives you a more proactive avenue to victory.

Soul of Theros
Whip of Erebos
Chord of Calling

Why on Earth Is There a Chord of Calling in Your Sideboard?

You see, there are a lot of dedicated hate cards you need for the Whip mirrors, such as Reclamation Sage, Pharika, God of Affliction, Doomwake Giant, Anafenza, the Foremost, and Soul of Theros. As with most mirror matches, each of these hate cards is only good in specific situations, so the Chord of Calling is a way to tie the room together. I don’t want to load my sideboard with Pharikas because they aren’t what I want in the early game. Anafenza is great against opposing Sidisis, but I don’t need it when we are in the late game and I would rather search for a Soul of Theros or Hornet Queen.

I also like Chord of Calling against Jeskai Tokens because there are two key creatures in the matchup: Doomwake Giant and Reclamation Sage. I don’t want to flood my deck with Sages because they only kill Jeskai Ascendancy, so the Chord gives me a little bit of flexibility. It’s also pretty nasty if you play a Doomwake Giant during combat.

Sideboarding

Whip Mirrors

These matchups come down to who can do the most grindy and flashy things. For this reason, I like to cut mana from the deck to avoid flooding out. I choose to cut Satyr Wayfinders because Whip of Erebos is less effective in Games 2 and 3; there are more copies of Pharika, Disdainful Stroke, and Reclamation Sage you face after board. Milling yourself is less effective when the graveyard is being attacked, and the 1/1 body isn’t relevant. Some players like to board out Sylvan Caryatid in the mirror, but I need four different colors of mana, which makes the 0/3 more effective at color-fixing rather than being used purely for ramp.

I try not to go all-in on multiple Hornet Queens at once because a single Doomwake Giant can undo a lot of my progress. It may seem at first glance that the mirror is full of powerful cards that will end the game, but most of the threats can be invalidated because most players know the powerful hate cards. All of the most powerful threats in the mirror can be undone, which means you don’t want to rely on one threat too much. It has often been the case that being aggressive against a stumbling opponent lands me in hot water because it’s difficult to close a game quickly.

Pharika, God of Affliction
Here’s how I sideboard for the mirror:

+1 Reclamation Sage

+1 Chord of Calling

+1 Pharika, God of Affliction

+2 Anafenza, the Foremost

+1 Doomwake Giant

+2 Abzan Charm

-3 Hero's Downfall/Murderous Cut (Downfall kills Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver out of B/U/G Whip)

-3 Satyr Wayfinder

-2 Sidisi, Brood Tyrant

I cut so many removal spells because I add Abzan Charm, which can be used as a kill spell against the big threats. Abzan Charm doesn’t kill Courser of Kruphix, but I gain a second Reclamation Sage and Chord of Calling to destroy them. Courser is an important threat in the mirror because card advantage is the name of the game.

Jeskai Tokens

There are fewer nuances to this matchup than there are to the mirror, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. There is only a single Doomwake Giant and a single Reclamation Sage to interrupt the token-rush plan. Sidisi can be effective, but watch out for Lightning Strike, Jeskai Charm, and Stoke the Flames.

Reclamation Sage
This feels like a close Game 1, but the matchup improves greatly after sideboard:

+3 Drown in Sorrow (kills tokens, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Hushwing Gryff)

+2 Bile Blight

+1 Doomwake Giant

+1 Reclamation Sage (the deck is much weaker without Ascendancy in play)

+1 Thoughtseize (take Disdainful Stroke from the opponent’s hand)

-3 Murderous Cut

-2 Hero's Downfall

-3 Satyr Wayfinder

I really don’t like playing Satyr Wayfinder, and I find that I win more games when I just ’board them out against everything. It could be the case that they are good in Game 1 but are then replaced with more specific cards for Games 2 and 3. In this matchup, I need to be weary of Disdainful Stroke because Jeskai Tokens will slow down the Jeskai deck. Rather than worry about being burned out, I have to play around countermagic, Erase, and End Hostilities. If I leave in all of my mana, I will flood out as the opponent trades one-for-one with me.

Since Lightning Strike doesn’t hit many of my threats, it will probably end up in the sideboard; that means you only have to worry about Disdainful Stroke for Sidisi. Be aware the opponent can play a Flash-style game that involves Raise the Alarm and Hushwing Gryff so you can’t play around opposing counters forever.

W/U Heroic

On the surface, this looks to be a classic aggro-against-control matchup in the first game, but the deck doesn’t have enough removal spells to play that role. It seems tough to do, but you actually need to race Heroic—beat Heroic at its own game. This feat can be accomplished with Whip of Erebos, Siege Rhino, Sidisi, and Soul of Theros. Lifelink is key because you can’t count on blocking with a horde of green creatures against Gods Willing. You also can’t count on blocking with ground creatures against Stratus Walk, and Aqueous Form can be tutored for by Heliod's Pilgrim.

In this matchup, Sidisi is your best card because you can mill Soul of Theros; the Zombie tokens give you enough of an army to gain a boatload of life. The Zombie tokens are also black, so it makes it more difficult for the opponent to use Gods Willing to make his or her creature unblockable.

Abzan Charm
I would sideboard against Heroic like this:

+2 Bile Blight

+1 Thoughtseize

+2 Abzan Charm

-1 Doomwake Giant

-1 Reclamation Sage (Ordeal of Thassa falls off the turn the opponent plays it)

-1 Hornet Queen (don’t cut them all so you have enough creatures to win with)

-2 Whip of Erebos

It may seem strange to cut Whip of Erebos, but I think it’s the way to go. W/U Heroic will ’board in Stubborn Denial and Erase, which makes it risky to lean too heavily on an enchantment to win the race. Once you are able to play additional removal spells and Thoughtseizes to take the opponent’s Gods Willing, you can play the control game more effectively.

Changes

This deck is difficult to play correctly, but it rewards dedication. Even after having a great weekend with the list, there is still much to be improved. I was frequently boarding out Satyr Wayfinder, so I wonder if I can make a Four-Color Whip list that leaves them at home. It seems that it would be a fantastic card for the deck, but there was never a point in time when it impressed me.

I would like to try to fit a third Soul of Theros into the main deck to make Sidisi better at attacking against opposing Siege Rhinos, but that might not be right for this exact list. Abzan Charm was a card I was frequently boarding in, so I wouldn’t mind playing some in the main deck; it’s another way to pump up Sidisi.

Here’s the next iteration of the deck I want to try (and maybe play at a PTQ this weekend):

The main changes I want to try include adding Anafenza to the main deck to make Whip of Erebos stronger; having a big bruiser makes the lifelink part scary. Anafenza also happens to be great against Sidisi Whip decks because the creatures never go to the graveyard, and that shuts off the Zombie trigger.

Anafenza, the Foremost
I cut down to two Whip of Erebos because it takes some time to form a good setup with the card. Due to the large amount of enchantment-hate in the format, Whips grow weaker after sideboarding. I cut the third Whip for a Commune with the Gods because Satyr Wayfinder was a way to fill up the graveyard. If you are a Wayfinder fan, you can cut the two Anafenzas for two copies. I went down to two Murderous Cuts because the Wayfinders filled up the graveyard; a Commune with the Gods will help fill up the graveyard, but it also finds a useful spell instead of a land.

I kept ’boarding out Murderous Cuts, so I wanted to try Abzan Charm in the main deck. This version is more all-in on making Sidisi good in Game 1. After ’board, I can cut Sidisi for Ashioks in the mirror match.

Utter End is my removal spell of choice in the sideboard because it hits Ashiok and Pharika, which can be difficult to remove. I can also take out Murderous Cut and Hero's Downfall against Abzan Whip and still have another good kill spell in place. I also like that it can stop a Soul of Theros or Soul of Innistrad from growing out of hand.

Nissa, Worldwaker
Nissa, Worldwaker is my trump card against control decks when Doomwake Giant isn’t effective. I cut down to three Thoughtseizes because I only want the fourth copy against blue control decks, which are not very popular at the moment.

I swapped the Drown in Sorrow and Bile Blight for a few reasons. Mono-Red is the only deck you need three Drowns for, and the deck isn’t very popular at the moment. Bile Blight is good against the cheap aggro deck of choice: W/U Heroic. Bile Blight is able to take down Raise the Alarm at the end of turn—as well as a Mantis Rider. I also want to be able to interact with Hushwing Gryff out of Jeskai Tokens’s sideboard. Last, Abzan Aggro can be a tricky matchup without an answer to the swarm of 2-drops.




I hope this article was informative; Whip of Erebos isn’t going anywhere, and there’s plenty of room to innovate. Give one of these versions a shot at your next FNM or PreTQ.

Thanks for reading!

-Kyle


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