Know Yourself: Good, Clean Deck Building

Today in Know Yourself, we are going to be taking a look at a classic archetype that has been hiding under the surface in modern for some time now. Referred to often as “the roc”, green black midrange has been a magic staple for years, appearing in virtually all formats. While in modern it often appears as Jund or Abzan, recently those two decks have fallen out of favor for the more classic style of Green Black. Today I will be going over Elliot Smith’s version of the deck that placed 22nd in the most recent modern open, and why I feel this return to the deck’s origins is overall more advantageously positioned in the meta currently. Here is the list we are discussing today. I won’t be talking too much about the sideboard, (it’s a fairly standard sideboard as far as G/B/X decks go) but there is enough content in the mainboard worth discussing that I find it worth it to review.

G/B Midrange by Elliot Smith

Creatures (14)

4x Dark Confidant

4x Scavenging Ooze

4x Tarmogoyf

2x Tireless Tracker

Spells (17)

4x Thoughtseize

4x Inquisition of Kozilek

4x Fatal Push

2x Abrupt Decay

2x Maelstrom Pulse

1x Dismember

Planeswalkers (5)

4x Liliana of the Veil

1x Liliana, the Last Hope

Lands (24)

4x Blooming Marsh

4x Verdant Catacombs

2x Overgrown Tomb

3x Field of Ruin

1x Tectonic Edge

3x Swamp

2x Forest

3x Treetop Village

2x Hissing Quagmire

Sideboard (15)

3x Nihil Spellbomb

4x Fulminator Mage

1x Obstinate Baloth

1x Choke

1x Thrun, the Last Troll

2x Collective Brutality

1x Creeping Corrosion

1x Damnation

1x Flaying Tendrils


Here are all of the reasons I love this version of the deck.

  1. 4 thoughtseize / 4 inquisition / 4 Liliana of the Veil

For a very long time there has been a practice in most black decks to play exactly 6 hand hate effects in the mainboard to not flood out of them. The usual split is four inquisition and two thoughtseize being the practice. However, I really like the implementation of having the full set of eight. Much on how I refuse to cut merrow reejerey from my merfolk decks, I love seeing all eight seize effects. The M.O. is this: If you’re going to be the “X” deck, be that deck. If you play merfolk, you are the lord deck. So do NOT cut lords. Here, it’s the same. If you are the thoughtseize hand hate deck, be that deck. Don’t trim and skimp hoping you don’t draw one on turn twelve, just accept that these are the cards that make you function. These twelve cards are the backbone of your baseline interaction of your deck, and the information you gain is one of the big reasons this deck can live in modern.

  1. 4 fatal push / 2 abrupt decay / 2 maelstrom pulse

Much in line with what I mentioned earlier, the one mana removal spell that black got in fatal push makes the removal suite so good in these decks. Fatal push is the universal spell, and the decay and pulse cover the two time frames of the game (3 or less, instant, and any CMC, but as a three mana sorcery) the clean eight removal spells here make the draws you see with this deck superbly consistent. Following that, the 1 dismember taking up the rear as a “modular” spell (anywhere from 1-3 mana) and makes it that much more easy on the user.

  1. 4 tarmogoyf / 4 dark confidant / 4 scavenging ooze

This point of “play 4 of” is starting to feel redundant now, so I’ll keep it short here. 4 of all the best creatures at 2 mana make your deck incredibly consistent, and keeps the deck lean and powerful, and keeps the mana costs down, which synergizes well with my next point, and the rest of the deck. Two tracker to draw cards also helps.

  1. Everything involving this mana base.

If you want a masterclass of how to build a manabase in conjuction with your spells, this is it. The three treetop village synergize well with the eight and disruption spells, given how resource light you are often going to be, and the fact that playing a tap land such as the village or your other creature land, hissing quagmire, makes sure you never skip a beat on tempo. Along with this, a 3 power attacker is great on offense, but the two deathtouch lands make sure you have a land to trade with any creature, since you run more lands than most typical modern decks. Following this, the land has the 4 fast lands as a given, but the 4 fetches coincide with my favorite rule of having more lands to fetch than fetchlands you have, so the 7 possible targets for the catacombs make sure that you never draw to many fetchable lands. And finally, the 3 field of ruin and one tectonic edge being able to destroy the lands you care about but not putting you behind on mana makes it a crucial piece for the tougher land based matchups, especially in game one seeing as there are 4 fulminator mage in the sideboard. All in all, this is top tier land distribution.

  1. 1 Liliana, the Last Hope

This is a special mention for me, because I feel this card really doesn’t get the love it deserves. The 5th Liliana slot with the new planeswalker rule means that this card can hit the board easily, and raise dead that has to be dealt with or it will continue to ruin combat AND has a chance to with the game is nothing to scoff at. In the future, I do expect that this card will see more play, and seeing it pop up even as a one of makes me excited.

In conclusion, I have long been a proponent of more consistent decks in virtually every format I play in, and this is just the crème de la crème for someone like me. If I ever pick up a deck like this for tournament, a list like this is where I will be starting. Congratulations on the top 32, Elliot, and hats off to you for such a well built deck.

But what do you think? Were my points really the reason for success, or was it something different? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you all next week!


-Forrest W.


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