Hello and welcome to what is hopefully becoming kind of an article series: 8 Cuts.
Cutting 8 cards out of an existing deck and replace them with other cards.
1. 100 Cards are a lot and identifying the weakest links is challenging and interesting.
2. I believe it’s hard to be immune to what I call „Staple-Blindness“ – some cards have been part of Highlander decks for many many years and we are just used to them being there – but do they still deserve to be there?
3. Can you replace 8 cards without changing the fundamental core of the deck too much? Can 8 cards maybe give a deck a completely new angle?
4. I enjoy when people look at lists of mine and tell me what they would replace – after all it is highly unlikely that any of our lists are perfect lists (the absolute correct 100 cards) – different perspectives can be helpful for anyone.
Please note: I choose good decks from successful players since those lists are already tuned very finely. I want to make it hard on myself. I respect all these lists and their deck builders highly and this series is not meant as a try to teach anyone or claim that I can improve those lists. This is my personal opinion and it’s to be seen as „deck-alteration“, not „deck-upgrade“. This being said, let’s go.
4cBlood is an „Aggro-ish Midrange-Deck“ with a lot of Planeswalkers and no blue cards in it. It is basically 4c Goodstuff but for some reason we are now calling it 4cBlood, which I am absolutely fine with. I chose the version Tom F. piloted to a first place finish at the last Metagame Masters Tournament (#5). His list is a bit different to some other lists I have seen (for example: no Xenagos, the Reveler and instead Chandra Pyromaster, a choice I like alot) and he seems to be running super hot with this configuration. He won the event and did not drop a single game in the Top8. Impressive! Let’s look at the list:
Green Sun’s Zenith
Hymn to Tourach
Inquisition of Kozilek
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Liliana of the Veil
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Anafenza, the Foremost
Birds of Paradise
Butcher of the Horde
Courser of Kruphix
Doran, the Siege Tower
Elves of Deep Shadow
Knight of the Reliquary
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Thrun, the Last Troll
Voice of Resurgence
If I HAD TO cut 8 cards, those cards would be the ones to go:Lotus Cobra – I am not a huge fan of Lotus Cobra for a couple of reasons. It’s power level depends highly on whether you draw Fetchlands, so in my opinion it’s a case of „hit and miss“, which I would like to avoid in in a deck that thrives of strong topdecks and only plays one 5-Drop. And in a deck with so many Elves (this list has even more than most) and often 3 available Mana turn 2 it’s not the card I want as a turn 2 play. Every Draw of Elf into Lotus Cobra into Fetchland into 3-Drop is neither „more explosive“ nor „more powerful“ than just Elf into 3-Drop. You got an additional 2/1 Creature that might continue to give you mana/fix your mana but that is not worth a card. Also Red is getting stronger and stronger and Elf into Cobra answered by Fire // Ice or Electroylyze sets you back on Tempo AND Cards. If I saturate my deck with so many Elves, I want to reduce my „bad topdecks“ to a minimum. Sylvan Caryatid – I interpret and see 4cBlood as a low curve Midrange-Deck that wants to be attacking, that wants to pressure. If 4cBlood does not pressure you by turn 3 or 4, blue based midrange decks are favored. „But Caryatid into 4-Drop Walker is very aggressive!“ – it sure is, but if something goes wrong with that play, your walker gets countered or dreadbored, you are very depended on drawing gas to turn Caryatid into a card. In a deck that wants to „skip turn 2“ with Elves and deploy one of the 12-13 extremely powerful three drops, i think „playing a wall and skipping turn 3“ is anti-synergistic. You are also overpaying for this creature in Blood, cause you spend a good amount of this 2 Mana for the keyword „Hexproof“ – against Blood, a deck with so many Creatures that can win by themselves, every high skilled opponent would not have interest in killing your „2Mana-Mana Dork“ anyway. Would you play a 2-Mana 0/3 Mana Dork without Hexproof in Blood? If not, I believe cutting Sylvan Caryatid is correct. Also Magic is in a state, where a lot of games are decided by racing, or by solitairing (vs Storm – are you able to deal 20 before Storm Player wins turn 4/5?) Caryatid just does not fit the bill here. It found it’s way into Blood and has been a staple ever since then – unrightfully so in my believe. Reclamation Sage – I believe this was a Metagame-Call by Tom F. (in the end he IS the current Metagame Master) and his concession to the probably scariest deck in the room „4c Artifacts“. I respect this, but I have no problem cutting this card. This Disenchant that is Sorcery Speed, cost one Mana more and brings a 2/1 Body with it is in my opinion neither impactful enough nor needed as Toolbox Target (Green Sun’s Zenith) when your Deck has access to the much better Qasali Pridemage. Also, Equipments are on the decline – actually Tom Fischer himself plays zero. Often Reclamation Sage will not have a target and rot in your hand and 4c-Blood has Maelstrom Pulse, Abrupt Decay and Vindicate to deal with problematic permanents (Also Tutors, and Discard, and Everything!). Sin Collector – Again it seems like this was a Metagame-Call to fight the „unfair“ decks that are going rampant in Berlin from time to time. I still doubt that this card is a necessity in this deck. As mentioned, Blood attacks from so many angles that it does not need a 2/1 Body that works as a additional Duress. It also sounds like this deck could suffer from draws that are too reactive and that go against the decks‘ „nature“. Every Hand with Reclamation Sage AND Sin Collector seems subpar, every hand with Duress AND Sin Collector seems questionable vs an unknown opponent, and so on so forth. Sprouting Thrinax – This is a card that most 4cBlood don’t play and I actually kind of like this innovation. Still, I think it appears here at a time, where „Value-Ground“ Creatures are not at it’s best. It does not hit hard, nor have utility. It does not fare well vs a lot of other 3-drops and is embarrassing vs. most 4 drops. The Token have some synergy with cards like Falkenrath Aristocrat and Butcher of the Horde and they protect Blood’s Planeswalker well – so while I would cut this card and think there are better suited and positioned options, I understand why it’s in the deck. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad – This 4-Mana Sorin to me looks like „Pushing the Planeswalker-Theme a little too far“. I understand Planeswalkers are an essential part of this deck, but lately there have been printed some really impactful and strong 4-drop creatures that I think are a better fit here. Sorin creates a 1 Toughness Creature and goes to 4 Loyalty, so it protects itself a little worse than Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (2 toughness while on 4 Loyalty) and Elspeth, Knight’s Errant (1 Toughness while on 5 Loyalty) and in my experience this difference is what makes the other Walkers good and him a little subpar. The Lifelink is not essential in this deck and the minus Anthem ability, while nice, needs support to actually be worth its cost. Garruk Relentless – I simply do not believe Garruk Relentless is a strong enough card for Highlander except in Pattern Rector, where the ability of tutoring creature often means GG. While 4cBlood can act as a Toolbox-Deck, it does not NEED to act like one. It smashes the Opponent with it’s insane Card Quality and insane Garruk Relentless is not. His stats and his overall value is just not enough in my opinion. He has fragile loyalty, needs to flip to actually be good and if you can flip him is dependent on what your opponent does/have. He also suffers from the Xenagos, The Reveler Sickness – the 4ManaWalker 3Loyalty Sickness- that newer staples like Mantis Rider and the older Burn spells exploit too hard. Dromoka’s Command – The Ceiling of this card is super high for a 2-Mana Card (Potential 2 for 1 Trades, potentially Countering Price of Progress + killing something etc.) and I do not hate it’s inclusion. Though I must say Dromoka’s Command for me is also a case of „Hit and Miss“ – 4cBlood is a deck that is not pressured to play those cards, 4cBlood can only play Hitters (unlike Selesnya, where this Card would be a staple) – it has the luxury to remove all potentially situationally bad and unwanted cards and work with the absolute best of the best. Dromoka’s Command especially vs. UxMidrange Decks can often lead to „I held my 2 Mana Open and Nothing happened“-Turns and this is the last thing that Blood wants to do in my opinion: to not use it’s Mana.
Cutting 8 Cards was not easy. 92 card decks aren’t a thing, so let’s stuff some power back into this monster.Forked Bolt – I am a big fan of Forked Bolt in Highlander. I would like either this card or Arc Trail in 4cBlood (I prefer Forked Bolt) since it deals efficiently with old and new threats that mostly cost more mana. Also I believe the average cost of a generic Highlander Deck has been declining since 2014, decks are cutting 5-drops to a minimum – also due to the fact that we got some incredibly efficient creatures for little mana during the last 3-4 years like: Young Pyromancer, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Deathrite Shaman just to name a few. Forked Bolt very often gets you a 2 for 1 for 1 Mana and almost single-handily deal with Decks like WW and Elf-Heavy Draws of Green based decks. And unlike other removal spells, it deals at least 2 to the opposing Storm or Artifacts Player. Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim – I am not super confident about this choice, but I’ve grown very fond of Ayli and think this card deserves testing in Blood. When you have a 2-Mana card that trades with almost every creature and has a super relevant ability in a Meta where creature-heavy Decks actually cut removal (1: bad vs. unfair decks) and play more creatures (2: removal got worse over the years, creatures got better) – this leads to thicker and more crowded boards and Ayli become an absolute Race Machine. Turn targeted Creatures into Life, prevent lifelink from opponents creatures by “block/sac!” – a2-Drop that trades with 4 and 5 drops, can attack into everything and has additional utility is exceptional. I think Ayli is underrated and I would love to see her do work. (also it gets +1+0 from Doran, the Siege Tower) Sylvan Advocate (+ Needle Spires) – I wanted another more aggressive 2-drop and was deciding between this and Fleecemane Lion.I was looking for a 2-drop that is not embarrassing drawn off the top after turn 5 or 6. A 2/3 early that later turns into a convenient sized 4/5, with vigilance and the ability to make your manland (chances are, with 6 lands on board, and 6-7 manlands in your deck, that one is in play) is worth testing I think. I feel like Vigilance is a little underrated and something not many playable creatures offer in Highlander – 4/5 vigilance works overtime on all fronts. (also it gets +1+0 from Doran, the Siege Tower) Rith’s Charm – I love this card and think it’s incredibly well positioned and incredibly underrated. Lands have become more relevant – Karakas is getting better and better and is a Nightmare for some hands, Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale can ruin your creature heavy Blood-Draw, Dark Depths might be looming, we just got 5 more manlands, and most importantly Tolarian Academy might produce 6 Mana Turn 3 – soo an instant speed stone rain seems incredible. Especially in a deck that often skips turn 2, you have another“ Vindicate Your Land“ turn 2 in your deck. Instant speed land destruction is unheard of! This card breaks Windows open to drop your 4 Mana walker – Eot Turn3 destroy their Land is a play most blue decks need to counter – your walker is then free to come down! Oh, it’s also an instant speed Hordeling Outburst, that has (like I mentioned with Sprouting Thrinax) multiple Applications in this deck. And after we cut Dromoka’s Command we got our Price of Progress Counter back! 4cBlood does not want to get priced. I have trouble imagining a scenario where this card is not worth 3 Mana. Absolutely love this card and the inclusion of Wooly Thoctar makes me think we can cast this card (same mana cost). Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet – I think Modern Jund decks are good decks to look at when you want to find the „Modern Version“ of 4cBlood. It operates in a similar way and when something is becoming a Force in Modern, it is meant to be Force in Highlander (vacuum power level) – Kalitas has become a staple in Jund as a 1 or 2 of. I think this along with Restoration Angel is the strongest 4-Drop Creature in Highlander. It does so much, it hoses Creature Combo Decks like Pattern Rector, it blanks their Hangarback Walker, it makes their Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks so much less problematic. It’s the definition of a „can win the game by itself“ card – an unchecked Kalitas WILL win you the game in a creature based matchup. The Lifegain in addition to the tokens in addition to being able to pump Kalitas, during combat even. This card is strong and 4cBlood is a pretty Removal heavy deck, which Kalitas approves of. (also it gets +1+0 from Doran, the Siege Tower) Pia and Kiran Nalaar – Same as Kalitas, Pia and Kiran Nalaar have found their way into Modern Jund. They replaced Huntmaster of the Fells. That’s due to the Thopter Tokens being well positioned vs the boogeyman Affinity but it’s also because Pia and Kiran do not need to flip to be very impactful. Tom Fischer does not play Huntmaster, but I would like to see Pia and Kiran instead of Garruk Relentless. Pia and Kiran’s shoot ability make Combat awkward for the opponent, threaten Planeswalkers better than Huntmaster, 3 relevant bodies (1/1 flying seems always relevant in Highlander) often gain you more Life in a Race than the 2 Life you gain from Huntmaster. It’s overall an impressive creature that fits nicely in this archetype I believe. Restoration Angel – I am very surprised that Restoration Angel is not in this list but I am sure there is a reason. While 4cBlood is a Tap-Out deck and cannot profit from this flash Angel like Ux-Midrange decks (they can decide if they “Resto” or Cryptic Command or Fact or Fiction) I believe Restoration Angel is overall too strong and flexible to not be included. Yes, when Blood-Player X passes turn 4 it is very likely he has Resto (and I think this is the Reason why Tom F. cut it), but Blood has good Etb Creatures (Eternal Witness, KitchenFinks, Reset Tidehollow Sculler, Siege Rhino) and I think an inclusion is still justified. (also it gets +1+0 from Doran, the Siege Tower) Painful Truths – I think this card drawing spell is made for 4cBlood like it was made for Modern Jund (has become a staple there as well). 4cBlood has enough Lifegain too cast this comfortably and drawing 3 for 3 is too strong in a deck that has no access to blue. I know 4cBlood likes to pressure the opponent every turn with on-board threats and wants to gain Card Advantage on Board by activating Planeswalkers, so casting Painful Truths might feel like „taking one turn off to refill“ – which is true but I think that is worth it, it is too strong. Like generally in Magic, drawing 3 for 3 is too strong to not play, as long as you have 3 Life to give.
8 Cuts – 4cBlood Summary
This was fun! We replaced Cards of a total Mana Cost of 23 with Cards with a total Mana Cost of 23 so we are not upping the Curve, which is good! Again, I cannot stress enough, that this is (obviously) my personal opinion and I believe this 4cBlood Deck is already very well built. But this series is called “8 Cuts” so 8 Cuts got to be made. Until next time, if you want me to do a “8 Cuts” of your deck, something that has done well in the past, write me! Thanks and cheers.