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MTG archetypes: Midrange

I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time and today I want to share my tricks

Midrange is the archetype that aims to dominate the central stages of the game with a mix of Aggro, Control and Combo (intended as Synergies) elements.

Midrange

The midrange is a type of deck that focuses more on exploiting the central phases of the game and fills the void that is formed between the Aggro decks (which tend to play better in the early stages of the game), the Control decks (which tend to to play better in the later stages of the game) and the Combo decks (which tend to play better in specific turns in relation to the combo used).

This type of deck therefore tends to play more as a control against aggressive and combo decks and as an aggressive deck against control decks, the result that if well constructed this type of deck tends to have few negative match ups, even against Combo decks.

Similarly, however, it does not have easy wins against certain decks like other archetypes can have.

A very famous example in Magic history of this archetype is the Jund Midrange deck of the Modern format.

What made that deck so important that it was in many ways a benchmark not only for the midrange archetype but also for the format in which it was played?

Many say the reason is this card, I think it was also synergistic to the deck.

Many say the reason is this card, I think it was also synergistic to the deck.

Flexibility and Versatility

Flexibility and Versatility are the fundamental qualities to be developed in this deck archetype and therefore the selection of the cards in our pool of available cards must respect this basic principle. A flexible deck needs versatile cards.

For this reason the cards we consider to include in this type of deck not only serve a specific purpose (such as the offensive or defensive phase) but must be useful for a various series of scenarios.
For example, the cards that are called "Silver Bullets" (cards useful only against a certain strategy / opponent) are not usually played Mainboard (and in some cases not even Sideboard).

Depending on the pool of cards available, it is therefore necessary to understand which cards are the best equipped to fulfill different roles within a game or which can interact to neutralize different threats from opponents.

The main purpose is to accumulate small advantages over the course of the game that can work in our favor.

Planeswalkers are great examples of versatility as well as creatures with effects upon entering the battlefield or with effects that can be activated multiple times with excess mana (what are called mana sinks) or modal spells, where you can choose the effect that brings the greatest advantage to better adapt to the game situation.

What are the best instruments to use in a Midrange deck?

Fatties
They are large creatures that serve to outperform the small creatures played by aggro decks (called weenies) and that can beat a Control deck in a few hits if left undisturbed on the battlefield.

Mid-to-high cost creatures can also have additional effects to provide an additional advantage when played, such as gaining life or drawing additional cards / dropping useful tokens onto the battlefield when removed. Life points are a small bonus against aggressive decks because they slow down their winning options while drawing cards or creating tokens can prevent control decks from gaining card advantage over us and help us in the resource war.

Evasive skills (flying, trample, etc.) are highly sought after, as well as the presence of a unifying theme that may involve additional digging (+ 1 / + 1 counters, food tokens, etc.) that can give us more advantage than the single creature alone.

Scalability
They are cards of various kinds (spells, mana sinks, etc.) that can improve with the increase of the mana at your disposal, they can be for example cards with Kicker or with effects depending on the mana used to cast them (Spells with "X" in the casting cost) or to pay their abilities (as mana Sinks).

Mana Ramp
Very often, but not always, cards are added to increase land drops or to generate additional mana just to help the task of the previous categories, if a card is strong in turn 5 why not play it in turn 4 or even turn 3?
Well, the Tron deck manages to play a 7-cost card on turn 3. Who wouldn't want to be able to?

Versatility: Can Hit the hand and the battlefield too

Versatility: Can Hit the hand and the battlefield too

Versatility: Beef + Lifepoints + even more Beef

Versatility: Beef + Lifepoints + even more Beef

Tempo and Partial Card Advantage

Midrange decks must master the concepts of "Tempo" and "Partial Card Advantage".

"Tempo" in Magic is a measure that marks the pace of play. Proactive decks try to add presence on their side of the battlefield and speed up the pace of play (mainly attacking and dealing damage) so that it ends as quickly as possible while reactive decks tend to play in a way that slows down as much as possible the cadence of the game to be able to control it and win in the long run.
As mentioned above, Midrange decks can play both roles depending on their opponent and it is absolutely necessary that they can use every turn to create a presence on the battlefield or to negate that of the opponent.

Let's take some examples:
An opponent who plays aggro plays a creature with haste and by attacking it deals 3 damage to us. On our turn we play a creature that gives us 3 life as an effect of entering the battlefield.

What happened ? We have seen an acceleration of the pace of play by the opponent until our play has "restored" the initial condition with the gain of life points and further reduced the advantage by putting into play a creature that could block in the next few turns.

Let's say we play this time against a control deck, playing the same creature as before, we have increased the pace of play and oblige the opponent to react to our play.

Let's say we play this time against a control deck, playing the same creature as before and gaining 3 life points in the process, we have increased the pace of play and oblige the opponent to react to our play.
On their turn (or ours as well) they destroy the creature and bring the situation back into equality, right?

Yes and no.

Yes, because they denied our "Time" advantage.
No, because we still gained a small advantage by gaining 3 life points.

Clearly, 3 life versus a control deck is a very small advantage compared to the same 3 life versus an Aggro deck, but it's an advantage anyway.
In these cases, where the advantages are very marginal, we can speak of partial card advantage.

Often these small advantages do not change the fate of the game but sometimes these small things can be added together and generate card advantage.
For example, let's say that we can use those life points in an advanced stage of the game to draw a few more cards or to enhance a spell that requires the payment of life points or to make a land enter untapped and continue to put pressure on the opponent.

In the simplest hypothesis they could make us gain a turn (and an extra card drawn) when we are in difficulty and the opponent will need an additional attack to bring us to zero.

Versatility: Beef + Trample + Lifedrain

Versatility: Beef + Trample + Lifedrain

Conclusions

The examples shown (and especially the images) refer to GB / X (Green Black + other colors) based decks but this does not mean that they are the only possible option.

The options may vary depending on the format and the pool of cards available but there will always be conditions in which "gaps" are created within a format, on those occasions this deck archetype manages to fit in and impose itself.

© 2020 Christian Allasia