Modern Deck Spotlight: UW Midrange

Hello everyone, my name is Richard Phillips and I am excited to share a different take on a classic archetype, UW Midrange.   In fact, UW Midrange was the first “real” modern deck that I owned.  It had great matchups against other fair decks, but struggled mightily against combo decks.  However, with the meta shifting in the wake of the recent unbans of Bloodbraid Elf and Jace the Mind Sculptor, now is a great time to reexamine this archetype.  At first, many players assumed that jamming some number of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in their UW shells was the correct way to face the new meta.  This approach appears to have had only limited success, and player are beginning to cut back on the number of Jace they are playing.  Instead of trying to shove some Jace in an old deck, we are going to look at a deck that moves away from Jace and towards Gideon instead.


Richard’s UW Midrange Decklist [March 2018]

Spells (8)
Path to Exile
Serum Visions

Enchantments (6)
Spreading Seas
Detention Sphere

Creatures (16)
Wall of Omens
Kitchen Finks
Spell Queller
Snapcaster Mage
Baneslayer Angel
Restoration Angel

Gideons (5)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Gideon of the Trials
Gideon Jura
Lands (25)
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Mystic Gate
Plains
Island

Sideboard (15)
Settle the Wreckage
Runed Halo
Rest in Peace
Stony Silence
Negate
Vendilion Clique
Blessed Alliance
Geist of Saint Traft


Philosophy

First, it is important to determine why this deck, which was previously not well positioned, is viable once again.  In short, the answer is Bloodbraid Elf.  The inclusion of Bloodbraid Elf turned Jund from a Tier 3 deck into the boogeyman of the format once again.  This resurgence has caused a metagame shake-up.  There has not been a major Modern event since the ban announcement and decks are still trying to adapt to the new decks that are being created in its wake.

This brings us to UW.  With its popularity and success over the last year or so, players are forgetting that UW is fundamentally a metagame deck.  For years, UW decks lurked in the background, keeping tabs on the metagame and tuning itself to be as successful as possible.  UW doesn’t necessarily do anything broken or exceptionally powerful.  Instead, it relies on having efficient answers and hard to deal with threats against a majority of the field at large.  To most people, that means a lot of counterspells.  However, with the metagame fluctuating so much, I would argue that counterspells are a lot worse than usual.  With decks trying to maximize their card equity by playing more copies of cards like Kolaghan’s Command and Bloodbraid Elf, the value of cards like Logic Knot and Mana Leak are at an all-time low.  Instead, a proactive game plan is rewarded when facing an evolving format.   Therefore, I present to you UW Midrange.  A deck that packs answers to the expected threats, and a proactive game plan that can close fast.

Card Choices

Fundamentally, this deck relies on the three to five mana spots on the curve.  This is where the high impact spells exist.  However, the deck needs to be able to survive to this point.  UW Control decks that rely on counterspells can easily fall prey to a hyper-aggressive strategy that can get under their game plan. Wall of Omens is a very powerful turn two play against such a creature heavy format as modern.  It effectively blocks most creatures in the format now that Death’s Shadow decks are seeing significantly less play.  In addition, Wall of Omens synergizes well with Restoration Angel and can provide two- and three-for-one exchanges in our favor.

Another way that opponents can dispatch our strategy is by quickly going over the top.  The combination of Spreading Seas and Field of Ruin can provide significant disruption to decks like Tron that are trying to assemble a lot of mana very quickly, and allow the UW deck to begin deploying its threats.

Kitchen Finks was once an auto-include in most UW strategies, but has fallen out of favor in the last couple of years because of combo and Death’s Shadow decks.   With Burn, Jund, Hollow One, and Humans being some of the most played decks now, Kitchen Finks is incredibly well positioned again.  The life gain is relevant in all these matchups and is almost always a two-for-one in our favor.  It also combos incredibly well with Restoration Angel, can provide an insurmountable advantage on board against decks like Jund and Burn.

So far, all the cards we have discussed are effective against creature based strategies, but are not necessarily all-stars against combo and spell based decks.  To hedge against these strategies, we have a full four Spell Queller.  Against decks with little interaction, Spell Queller is an absolute bomb.  It provides a counterspell effect and also an evasive clock on the opponent.  In matchups where the opponent has interaction for the Queller, it can still be a reasonable tempo play or just a flash blocker.  In addition, Queller can be flashed in at the end of your opponent’s turn and then targeted with Restoration Angel later to exile a spell.

   

Now, on to the fun part!  The Gideon suite is the most powerful part of the deck and the real pull to playing this strategy over other others.  Since the change in the Planeswalker rules, stacking Gideons has been incredibly appealing because of Gideon of the Trials’ emblem ability.  Decks like burn must fight through all 20 life points as well as each and every Gideon you play.  Some decks are even stone cold to the emblem game 1.  Other than giving the deck game against unfair strategies such as Ad Nauseum and Mill, all the Gideons provide a quick clock and shine in creature matchups.  Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can provide an army of 2/2s that taxes an opponent’s removal and creatures to their breaking point.  Gideon Jura is a classic control finisher that can act as a fog, removal, and a clock all in one card.  It can even force opponent to make bad attacks into cards like Baneslayer Angel and Kitchen Finks.

To round out the deck, we have six main deck removal spells.  Path to Exile remains one of the premier removal spells in the format and is good against almost every deck that can be registered.  This deck, more than most does not really care about the mana advantage an opponent can gain off of an early Path to Exile because it is playing objectively more powerful spells than the opponent.  Detention Sphere is an excellent catch-all answer to anything problematic an opponent can play.  The ability to get an easy two-for-one with it makes it significantly more appealing than something like Oblivion Ring.   The deck only plays one Snapcaster Mage because it only has eight spells in the main.  However, the effect of Snapcaster Mage is strong enough to warrant at least one copy.

To filter all these draws, we have four Serum Visions.  Visions helps the deck search for sideboard hosers and fix the mana.  It also pairs really well with Spreading Seas and Wall of Omens.  Instead of drawing a random card off their can trip, you can set up the top of your library first and draw into the card the same turn.  This is especially helpful if you are on turn four and need to set up a land drop for the turn.

In order to cast spells on turn three that have WW mana constraints, we play a very interesting mana base.  Filter lands are very good at turning our high number of basic lands into perfect mana.  The high basic count means that a Blood Moon effect is really ineffective against our deck.  With access to a single U and WW, we can cast every spell in our 60.   In addition to Field of Ruin which we discussed earlier, Celestial Colonnade is a star in this strategy.  After emptying our hand and gaining a large advantage on the board, Colonnade can provide the final four or eight damage to kill an opponent.

Sideboard

Like any deck, the sideboard can be tuned to your local metagame.  Some good cards to consider for inclusion are discussed here but there are many that are justifiable.  Negate is incredibly important to have access to for post-board games.  It is an all-star against lot of UW’s weaker matchups and incredibly strong in the mirror.  Play at least two copies.

Next, lets discuss some hate cards.  White has access to some of the strongest hate cards in the modern format.  Stony Silence can wreak havoc on strategies such as Tron, Affinity, and Lantern.  The effect is strong enough and unique to the point that two or three copies is recommended.  Similarly, Rest in Peace is a powerful effect that can simply annihilate opposing decks like Storm, Mardu Pyromancer, Jund, and Snapcaster Mage control decks.  Fortunately, our deck is not built in a way where the symmetrical effect of Rest in Peace is a major hindrance to our strategy.  The only thing it shuts down is the persist trigger on the Kitchen Finks and the one Snapcaster Mage.  Two copies should be good for most metas.

The one glaring issue with the main board of the deck is the lack of sweepers.  The rationale for this is that cards like Supreme Verdict are incredibly poor with Spell Queller.  In general, we are favored against creature decks.  However, for hyper-aggressive decks such as Humans or Zoo, we need a mass removal spell.  In general, I have found Settle the Wreckage to be the best of these.  The fact that it is one-sided is very relevant with Spell Queller and Restoration Angel.  However, I would not fault anyone for playing Supreme Verdict in its place.  You should have two to three of these effects in the board or find some room in the main.

Finally, the remaining spots are flexible based on your meta.  Some good inclusions could be, Blessed Alliance (Burn, Infect, Humans), Vendilion Clique (Control, Combo) Timely Reinforcements (Humans, Burn), Dispel (Control, Company Decks), Crucible of Worlds (Tron, Control), Surgical Extraction (Dredge, Storm, Tron), Baneslayer Angel (Eldrazi, Humans, Midrange), Celestial Purge (Red and Black based decks) and Ceremonious Rejection (Affinity, Tron).

Thank you for taking the time to read about this new take on a classic archetype!  Be sure to follow me on YouTube (Richard Phillips) for more excellent Modern gameplay videos.

UW Midrange League Play