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Insider: Breaking Down Four-Color Rally

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Four-Color Rally may not have the results of Jeskai or Abzan, but it's definitely a serious contender in Standard right now.

That was my weapon of choice last weekend at Grand Prix Indianapolis. I played a slightly modified version of Pascal Maynard's Top 8 list from the previous weekend.

I've heard that Matt Nass was actually the innovator of the deck and I have to give him props--the Rally deck is a thing of beauty.

On the one hand, this is just an Aristocrats deck capable killing people via normal combat damage. But it can also grind people out and win with a non-interactive combo kill (and at instant speed to boot!).

The deck presents the classic attributes of a good combo deck. It has mechanisms to prolong the game and stave off death, it can manipulate its library to find the right pieces, and it can draw a million cards.

I've been impressed by the Evolving Wilds-centric mana base. Who would have thought that Wilds was the best fetch land in the format? In this deck it is easily the card I wanted most in my opening hand.

The key is that a hand with Wilds, a fetch, and any battle land is able to produce a perfect combination of all four colors, while allowing us to play a two- and a three-drop.

Alterations

I played the deck quite a bit leading up to the event, and only saw fit to make a few changes.

The first was to cut the 25th land. I never had any issue finding the correct colors, whereas I felt like flooding was a problem. So Sunken Hollow got the boot--I didn't miss it.

I also noticed it was terrible to draw two battle lands, since that almost always meant you'd have to skip either a two- or a three-drop. The deck thrives on curving a two into a three and taking a turn off leads to really soft draws.

Making room for another creature is significant in a deck that crutches heavily on Collected Company. When a CoCo misses badly it can cost you the game on the spot. The difference between Elvish Visionary plus Anafenza and just Visionary can be the difference between a win and a loss.

I also trimmed the fourth copy of Grim Haruspex. While this card was awesome overall, it tended to be a bit clunky in multiples and was vulnerable to shock effects against Jeskai and Atarka decks.

In place of these cards I added two singleton copies of Anafenza and Mercilous Executioner. These are both great utility creatures that are pretty solid across a wide array of board states.

With Collected Company, there is a pretty big upside to powerful, narrow cards since you get to see a lot of your deck. The Executioner is one of the best possible cards against decks like Jeskai and Abzan, whereas Anafenza is at her best against Atarka Red and the mirror.

The other change I made was to replace all of the copies of Jaddi Offshoot with a full playset of Glade Watcher. Having played a ton of Atarka Red, I felt like an 0/3 would inevitably die to prowess triggers or be ineffective at blocking a horde of Goblin tokens. A 3/3 for two is awesome because it will almost always be a two-for-one early on, or halt their assault altogether.

I scoured set lists looking specifically for a cheap, big body, and Watcher was the best bang for the buck I could find.

I almost didn't get to play this awesome piece of technology because I couldn't find them on site the day of the tournament! Luckily the very last dealer I asked actually brought commons. It was pretty shocking to me that eight of the nine dealers on site wouldn't bother to bring random Standard-legal commons.

I actually beat Atarka in the Swiss (which I think is the deck's worst match up), largely on the back of an early Watcher. It was great to see my little piece of tech immediately pay dividends.

Anyway, after happily paying a buck each on Glade Watchers I was ready to battle. I got off to a great start of 6-0, but then the wheels fell off. It certainly didn't help that I had to play Seth Manfield, Owen Turtenwald, and BBD all in row!

If you're going to lose some matches at a Grand Prix, the best way to do it is against some of the best players in the game. It isn't every day you get to play against three of the best players on the planet.

Sequencing and Managing Triggers

My one criticism of the deck is that it's on the verge of being "too difficult." To be honest the deck is a real mind bender.

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Unless you have two Cutthroats, one Rally typically won't actually win the game, which means you'll need to set up and resolve a second one. It becomes important to maximize the number of scry and draw effects to ensure you can find another copy.

It's not uncommon to perform between twenty and forty actions from the point when Rally resolves to when it triggers on your next upkeep. Managing all these can be a challenge.

The other tricky thing is that everything triggers all at once, and you have to be careful not to miss anything. It's easy to get excited about one trigger and overlook another one that seems less impactful at the moment.

For instance, you may focus on the Cutthroat's drain ability in a close damage race and forget to scry. Or, you are really interested in drawing into something crucial and you forget to drain. I'd advise new players to slow down and make sure to check each card every time a creature dies.

Things get more muddied by the fact that each creature triggers under slightly different circumstances. Catacomb Sifter lets you scry when any other creature dies, but never off itself. Haruspex's ability triggers off other nontoken creatures. Luckily the Cutthroat triggers off everything that dies, so it's the easiest to remember.

Another thing you start to notice while learning the deck is that you always feel one damage short, because the Cutthroat can't sacrifice itself at the end of the chain. You'll always end up with either a Husk or a Shade on the board.

One cool trick to get that extra point is to combo off with a sacrifice trigger on the stack, either from Merciless Executioner or Sidisi's Faithful. After comboing most of the way, you can leave Cutthroat as the last creature and have it die to exploit for the final point.

Combating Rally


Anafenza is already, pound for pound, one of the best three-drops in the format. She is huge and her knack for embarrassing Hangerback Walkers is a big game.

It also helps that the card is the single best card against the Rally deck. An Anafenza in play prevents all the death triggers from happening. She also ensures any creature that dies won't be around to come back a second time off of Rally.

Anafenza is the reason there are four copies of Murderous Cut in the sideboard. She shuts down basically every angle of attack of the deck, so if you even suspect they have it I'd recommend loading up on Cuts.


Aside from pesky counterspells like Dispel and Negate, Hallowed Moonlight is a card to be aware of. BBD got me pretty bad with this card in our match. Once of the strong points of the Rally deck is that it absolutely crushes green-white decks without counterspells. Moonlight is a great way to shore that up from the other side.

Especially in the case of G/W Megamorph, there is nothing else available to interact with the combo. Moonlight is literally the only card that does it in those colors.

Even more so than counterspells, Moonlight is horrific because it actually exiles all of the creatures that would come back, nerfing your next Rally too! A typical play is to set up a Rally on end step, untap, and cast another one, either from hand or off of a Jace activation. This line isn't so effective when they respond with Hallowed Moonlight...

~

Do you like awesomely powerful combo decks? I know I do, and that is why I'm currently hooked on Rally. I'd suggest giving it a try. The deck is very skill testing, but also rewarding.

If complex combo decks that require performing dozens of operations in sequence isn't your thing, then be sure to bring some Anafenzas and Hallowed Moonlights along! This deck is sure to appear at your next event, so don't show up unprepared.

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