Welcome to the Mardu Midrange Primer! Mardu Midrange is a deck that goes big, with Demons, Dragons, Planeswalkers and/or Birds. It's main strengths are its multiple fliers and ways of gaining life. The deck is occasionally tricky, but fun to play. If any or all of that appeals to you, read on.
Mardu Midrange was in the minds of many people before rotation. Most people started thinking about it the second they saw Butcher of the Horde spoiled. Brian Braun Duin brewed a lot of Mardu Midrange decks before the set released. Jon Goss came up just short of winning the first SCG Open after the release of Khans of Tarkir. The deck won multiple state championships (seen below) but only had one respectable finish at Pro Tour: Khans of Tarkir. However, the Horde bounced back and recently Top 8'd GP: Los Angeles with Brad Nelson at the helm. This weekend, Mardu Midrange took the top 3 spots in the TCGPlayer MaxPoints Championship. I believe it's appropriate to call in a teir one deck at this point.
The main reasons to be Mardu
Know what's sweet to play after Rabblemaster? This guy. A 5/4 Flyer for four already reminds me of a Desecration Demon. Except instead of having downsides, this guy has THREE upsides. The mana is admittedly a downside, but this card just wins the game if it sticks. The main draw to this particular colour combination.
Another premiere creature removal spell, another reason to be in these colours. It pretty much always gets their best creature, and gets around hexproof and indestructible. And it damages them. This card has been very good.
Thoughtseize was one of the pillars of the format last season, and that isn't likely to change. With how much worse the mana bases are, the two life lost is likely to be a lot more important, but it's still too powerful to ignore. A lot of the more recent builds have been moving away from it.
Best removal spell in the format. These two go together like peas and carrots. It does compete with Crackling Doom a little. A lot of players have been moving away from this one a little.
While he's likely not as strong as Goblin Rabble Master, he is another aggressively costed token creating problem creature. Without Lifebane Zombie to keep him down, it may be time for the Lion King to reclaim his throne. Also very good against aggro. Lately I have not been impressed by this card, but if aggro comes back, I'll dust him off.
This guy is far better than I initially thought he was. The anthem + lifelink is huge and allows you to swing games you had no business winning. The minus ability is reasonable too, but the plus is the one we care about more.
Because you need to feed the butcher and this is the closest thing we've got to Spectral Procession.
Main deck cards worth considering
Stormbreath Dragon / Sarkan, the Dragonspeaker: Basically the same card. The meta will determine if Pro-White or Indestructibility is more relevant. After using Sarkan's ultimate, I am not super impressed with it, but the minus is also good. Stormbreath Dragon seems to be better in the current meta because it can't be charmed. A mix of the two is possibly correct.
Wingmate Roc: Competes with Stormbreath, meta dependent / Personal Preference which you run.
Bile Blight / Lightning Strike / Magma Jet: With no Doom Blade or Ultimate Price, these are our premium 2cc removal spells. They're good in different situations, so it's probably best to play the one that your manabase supports. Magma Jet also gives us some very welcome scry to help smooth our draws.
Elspeth, Sun's Champion: Not as amazing as last year, but still very strong.
Chained to the Rocks: A card that's near and dear to my heart. Brad ran it with 6 Mountains + 4 fetches, so I guess that's enough to play 3x.
Seeker of the Way: A card that can easily attack into hexproof plant and Courser. Also helps you gain life.
Chained to the Rocks: Not as good as it was at the beginning of the season, but still strong. Be careful targeting Siege Rhino in case they board removal for the chain, like Erase, Banishing Light, Utter End etc.
Sideboard Options worth considering:
Nyx Fleece Ram: Blocks all day and can trigger raid if needed. The lifegain is also useful with how much self inflicted damage you do over the course of a typical game.
Harness by Force: A long time favorite sideboard card, I like it in any sideboard that support it. With a bunch of midrange decks running around, this one should get you some value.
Empty the Pits: This card has been good in grindy midrange matches. When you're both on top decks, this card turns the game completely in your favor. Interacts well with butcher.
Liliana Vess: Best in midrange / control match ups. The +1 is what we're mostly concerned with, but the minus is also potentially useful.
Deflecting Palm: Hard to say if we'll want it in this list, but it's been very good in the Jeskai Tempo decks that have been doing well in open this weekend.
Banishing Light: It's a catch all. It's good.
End Hostilities: Sometimes you board into a full blown Superfriends control deck. That's when you want a Wrath effect.
Glare of Heresy: Good vs a variety of white threats.
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