Insider: Four-Color Standard & Rotation Tips

Mike-Lanigan QS Magic the Gathering MTG

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In a world with four-color mana bases, we need to develop some Sherlock Holmes instincts to differentiate between decklists. We’re almost to a place where we should call every deck Four-Color Shenanigans.

Four-Color Rally took first place this past weekend at SCG Columbus. That deck is green, white, blue and black. Abzan Blue lost in the semis, but that deck is the same colors! If you don’t like green, you can always go with the red as your fourth color and then you’d be somewhere in the realm of Jeskai Black. And if you don’t like any of those options, you can still pay green and cut blue for Mardu Green. Sheesh!

Basically, to sum it up, we are living in a world where you can play whatever you want. But there's still room for innovation, and not every combination has been tried.

Even if you start out with, say, the Bant Company deck that took second place, you could easily add another color to shift the deck in another direction. As an example, you could splash red off of Battle lands and insert Savage Knuckleblade, which I have found to be the best thing to hit off of a Collected Company. You could just as easily add black for Anafenza, the Foremost.

The other aspect of this format is that you can be in the same colors and playing a completely different deck. That’s where I want to start today.

Jeskai Prowess

Recently, I’ve been working on Jeskai Black. If you’ve read any of my articles you know that I forge my own path through the wilderness. It’s not my style to follow along behind someone and copy their Standard deck. Happily, I can say this is not Jeskai Black like you’ve seen before.

In fact, I wouldn’t even call the deck by that name except to relate it to you. Although it may be the same colors as Jeskai Black, this deck is a closer to U/R Prowess. Let’s look at the list.

Did you notice the first place FNM in the deck title? I added that as a funny little side note. It’s not that important, but I did go 4-0 with the first version of this deck and it was amazing.

The spark of this deck didn’t originate with any cards that are in the final list above. It all started with Goblin Dark-Dwellers. There is much to like about this card. Five mana is a bit more than I want to pay, but the reward is getting to rebuy burn spells that you can point at their creatures or their face.

I wanted to try Jori En, Ruin Diver alongside the Dark-Dwellers and Abbot of Keral Keep too. All of these things seemed so fun, but then I remembered Jeskai Ascendancy.

While I was working on this deck, I saw the coverage of SCG Atlanta and watched some games with the new U/R Prowess deck. That deck was so similar to what I was trying to do, but they were too focused on trying to be a Modern deck. What I mean is that the deck is full of cheap plays. That isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it also is a huge limiting factor since the card pool for Standard is much smaller.

Here’s that deck for reference:

This U/R Prowess deck was exactly the game plan I was looking for. Watching it on camera, though, I saw it struggle through many games. Often times if the opponent killed the first two creatures, the deck floundered for a while before catching up or being overrun. I thought adding Jeskai Ascendancy would give this deck the added boost it needed to filter through more cards and pump the creatures to a more lethal level.

I started out with too many creatures in my initial build. This was a result of wanting more threats so that I could avoid the problems I identified with the straight blue-red version. In addition to Monastery Swiftspear, Stormchaser Mage and Abbot of Keral Keep, I also wanted to fit in Seeker of the Way. Seeker gives you some much needed life gain as well as another able-bodied prowess creature to attack with.

You may note that I don’t have any Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound in my list. First of all, he isn’t really a creature for the purposes of attacking. Second, that slot is what became Jeskai Ascendancy, and I think it serves the deck better than Jace. You don’t have many good cards to flashback. Getting double duty out of any spell is great, but it wasn’t the best this deck could do.

Looking at my first draft, I knew sixteen attacking creatures were too many. I had to do something to keep a high threat count while also cutting some creatures so there would be enough spells to trigger prowess multiple times per turn. Enter Dragon Fodder and Monastery Mentor.

Dragon Fodder seems great because it’s a threat that also triggers prowess. Additionally, the tokens play extremely well with Ascendancy and get pretty big sometimes.

Monastery Mentor has been even better than I imagined. With less good removal in the format, he lives more and creates a bigger army. I had multiple games where I got to make more than one token. It’s almost never correct to play him on turn three. You want to wait until turn four when you can also get at least one token out of the deal. This way, it’s like casting Abbot and getting a Swiftspear.

So far I feel this deck has game against every deck in the format. I haven’t tested against Rally yet, but you should be able to kill them before they go off. Against decks with more removal spells, you can board in more Secure the Wastes and the additional Mentor to help power through the removal.

If you want to have fun keeping track of lots of triggers, this deck is the one for you. I will be working on this deck moving forward, so if you have any feedback, please leave it in the comments.

Eldrazi Black

If you're not interested in four-color nonsense in Standard, there’s a sweet new option in Eldrazi Black. This deck originated in Modern and then was brought back to Standard since most of the cards are Standard-legal. We can’t do any turn two Thought-Knot Seer craziness, but casting him on turn four is fine in Standard. This deck has a lot going for it. Take a look.

The first thing to note about this deck is that games can play out drastically different from one another. You can have games where you attack for four on turn two with Reaver Drone into Ghostfire Blade, but others you might sequence Transgress the Mind into Thought-Knot Seer. Decks with multiple lines of attack are great and this deck does a great job of being aggressive and controlling all at the same time.

Most of the time, this version will have aggressive draws, but Reality Smasher provides a potent midrange threat. I think that guy is nuts in every format. He’s big, hard to kill, and has haste. Now that’s a great combination.

The removal is great in this deck as well. Not only do you have the hand hate cards to disrupt your opponent, but you have one of the best cheap removal spells in Spatial Contortion. That card is efficient at killing things and you can even use it on your own creature as a pump spell in the late game.

Bearer of Silence adds a lot to the deck as well. Getting a flying 2/1 for two mana is great already, but you can kick it for a mere four mana so that they have to sacrifice a creature.

Even though the deck has a decent amount of removal already, I still want to try to include Silkwrap so you have another way to process for Wasteland Strangler. My friend won a GPT at my shop this past weekend with his version of Eldrazi Black. I’m not sure what all the differences were but I know he had at least a couple more removal spells.

This looks like an interesting and fun new deck. I’ve been so focused on building a R/B Eldrazi Aggro deck that I missed the possibility of the mono-black version.

Both Jeskai Prowess and Eldrazi Black are great choices for your next event. Just make sure to sideboard with Rally in mind. That deck seems to be growing the more it wins.

Rotating Cards to Keep

Although Oath of the Gatewatch just came out recently, now is the time when you should think about rotation. Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) releases April 8th, only two months away.

Hopefully you’ve traded your extra Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged cards into other more current staples to stem the rotation bleed, but today I wanted to mention what you should be keeping.

Don’t just think of rotation as a time to dump your old Standard cards before their price gets destroyed. Look at Polukranos, World Eater for example. That card was double digits multiple times while it was in Standard, but now you can get him for a dollar.

Rotation is also a time for acquisitions. I love making the buylist for rotation. I get to cut all the cards that are bad and still keep buying playable Modern cards at super cheap prices. Do the same for yourself.

Monastery Mentor

I mentioned Monastery Mentor above as the best card in my Jeskai Prowess deck. Even if I weren't planning to use it for events until rotation, I'd still hold onto my copies. Mentor has already proven itself an eternal staple. I’m not sure why he hasn’t seen play in Modern yet but he is good enough for that format as well as Legacy.

This card has big future possibilities. It pairs well with all the cantrips players like to utilize as well. If you don’t have a set, pick one up from someone trying to unload for rotation.

Rhino & Mantis

Siege Rhino is $2!? Mantis Rider $0.50!? What is everyone thinking? Mantis Rider is good enough for Modern. It hasn’t seen play yet, but it’s on par with the power level of the format.

Siege Rhino, though, is a well-played card in both formats. The fetchlands have certainly taken their toll on Khans, that’s for sure. It seems like a great time to be trading into more copies of Rhino. I doubt it can go any lower and it has a huge ceiling.

Tasigur & Anafenza

Tasigur and Anafenza already see some play in Modern as well, but they could still expand into other decks.

Grixis Control is getting a ton of value out of Tasigur but Anafenza is primed and ready for her time to shine. She would have seen lots of play against Birthing Pod decks, but her ability is still relevant---plus she's a 4/4 for three.

Soulfire Grand Master & Sorin

Soulfire Grand Master and Sorin, Solemn Visitor are two more cards that could see play in Modern. Naya Burn could easily board a copy or two of Soulfire for the mirror or to rebuy its spells in the late game.

Sorin is also amazing against Burn if you can get one activation to stick. The best part is that he grants lifelink for the turn you cast him as well as the other player's turn too. So, even if they Skullcrack your attack, your blockers still can gain you life. I have liked this in my sideboard in Modern for a while now and it’s an undiscovered gem waiting for more players to pick up on it.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Here’s an obvious one. The price of Ugin is going nowhere but up. It’s a little late to get these cheaply, but in a year we might be kicking ourselves for not getting in at the $40 it is now. We know it sees play in Tron decks, but the casual appeal of this card is enormous as well.

Players won’t be flooding the market with their unwanted copies anytime soon. If you want this card, I’d advise getting them now while they’re accessible in Standard.

Rally the Ancestors

Rally the Ancestors is down to a dollar. There is no point getting rid of it. At most, you could get $2 out of your playset. Don’t do it! This is exactly the type of card that in a couple years could easily be $5, but more importantly, it could break out in Modern.

I think we’re already close to a deck with this card paired with Geralf's Messenger as well as a couple other cards. You can run double duty drain life triggers with both A-Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat. All we are missing is a good sacrifice outlet and maybe another card or two. It’s possible that all the tools are there and the right version hasn’t been found yet as well.

This is the biggest card you should be stocking up on because they should be cheap and easy to find. Everyone hated Fate Reforged, and since less of that set was opened, the possibility for price jumps is greater. That’s one reason Ugin has a crazy price right now.

Commons & Uncommons

Do you normally sell your commons and uncommons upon rotation? I never do. Once I put together a set of the commons and uncommons from a set, then that stays in a 1k box in my closet. That way I have the basic cards no matter what deck I’m trying to build. This avoids me having to pick up cards like Gitaxian Probe or Lava Spike.

There will always be surprisingly pricey commons and uncommons that pop up from time to time. Do yourself a favor and plan to have those so you won’t have to reacquire them.


I was going to say, "fetchlands, obviously," but I’ve heard a couple players mention unloading theirs. Don’t make that mistake. Get more fetches, not fewer. Invest in real estate because that’s where the consistent money-making happens.

The price trajectory of this cycle will depend on what happens with lands over the next couple of years. If, for instance, we get the Zendikar fetches reprinted in SOI, the Khans fetches will take longer to increase in price. I think that is a real possibility because last time Innistrad had the enemy buddy lands like Isolated Chapel and Sulfur Falls. This time around we could swap one set of fetches for another in Standard.

If we don’t see that reprint, I expect this cycle to start gradually increasing over the next year. Keep an eye on the Battle lands as well. Cinder Glade and friends could become prime real estate depending on what happens with the lands in SOI.

It may take a while for these cards to increase in value, but you’ll have them to play until that happens. Don’t trade or sell your rotating Modern playables---getting them back later will only cost you more of your resources.

That’s all for me today. I hope you’ve enjoyed the sweet new Standard decks and the financial advice about rotation.

Until next time,
Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

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