Welcome to a deck primer on my Omnath Good Stuff midrange deck. The deck is part of the value midrange archetype in 7 Point Highlander, drawing on all colours bar black. The deck emerged March 2022, following the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty points update, at which time I started iterating the list publicly while making drafting notes on Moxfield. I wanted to provide others with an opportunity to observe and ponder for themselves the reasons for my iterations. With COVID-19 and the rigours of family life, I mainly play highlander causally, but still love designing decks and thinking about the application of magic theory to the format. Daniel Stoney has had tournament success with a deck based upon this one.
The deck was built to prey upon tempo and midrange decks, and to have strong main deck answers to Underworld Breach combo, which I expected might turn out to be the dominant combo deck post CanCon22. The deck’s generic ‘good stuff’ approach lends itself to being updated as new powerful cards are printed, provided you don’t overly mess with the curve or the quantity of Blue and Green spells (which underpin the pitch spells). This article will give you some insights into key design elements of the deck.
At times I struggle to place this deck on Patrick Chapin’s archetype wheel, but it’s probably pure midrange. In some ways, its lineage comes closest to the four-colour cascade deck. That deck played all the best value cards going, and supported that with cards designed to keep the deck afloat against combo. The deck also takes inspiration from recent RUG tempo decks, James Arthur’s excellent 4C zoo deck, Isaac Egan Time-Walk midrange decks and Beckett Wolfe’s Junk, particularly the insights in his article. I’ve also learned a lot from watching Brian Coval pilot Dark Bant Control on Youtube (see BoshNRoll).
With four colours at its disposal, Omnath Good Stuff can draw on many of the best fair cards that the 7ph points list has to offer. I tested many configurations before settling on Oko Thief of Crowns (2), Lutri the Spellchaser (2), Wrenn and Six (1), Uro Titan of Nature’s Wrath (1) and Force of Will (1).
Oko, Thief of Crowns is the most broken planeswalker ever printed. It turns the game into a game about Oko. Wrenn and Six shores up the deck’s weakness to mana attack and provides an engine with cards like Territorial Kavu, and recurring interaction with Boseiju, Who Endures, particularly against combo and artifact decks. Uro is a value and life gain engine, and a perpetual threat against control. Force of Will provides protection against combo decks that midrange decks can suffer against, while allowing you to continue to tap out on your own turn, as all good midrange decks should.
I think the question people are most likely to ask is, why Lutri, the Spellchaser? Surely it’s not worth two points? You don’t have that many targets. You don’t play Gush! In his article about his four colour Zoo deck, James Arthur rightly observes that Lutri is unique. Once you’ve played with it it’s hard to say goodbye. I often look at it and ask myself, how is this even good? For so long I thought to myself, why the hell would anyone pay three mana to put this in hand? But the results at the top tables at CanCon 2022 provide some hard evidence that there’s just something about those companions that cannot be denied.
There’s so much I think Lutri has to offer this deck. You can pick it up so you’ve always got something to pitch to the two Forces. Lutri is always there to invest the Omnath ‘blacker lotus’ mana in (i.e. mana generated by Omnath’s second effect). But, to my mind, the most powerful thing it offers is doubling removal, particularly with the white removal spells. When combined with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, you effectively have a one-sided sweeper, copying and replaying a single card so you remove three targets. One-sided sweepers are so powerful Wizards rarely prints them and when they do the mana cost is astronomical. In that way, Lutri helps you clear a path against go wide decks and in the midrange mirror. And with Lutri you’ve always got some late game when everyone is living and dying from top decks. Sure, sometimes you don’t use it, but other times it gets you out of a pickle. There’s something about it that neither wins more, nor loses less. In addition, the card quality is so high in four colours, you can afford to spend a couple of points on Lutri without significantly weakening the main deck.
There are a variety of other potential points configurations you could consider. I tested all kinds. This is what I found:
- Dreadhorde Arcanist can be useful for refilling the graveyard for Uro by replaying Thoughtscour and Mental Note. With white removal it also functions as a sweeper. But, I’ve found that Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is a more than adequate replacement, and helps more when taking a controlling stance. JVP really comes into its own after sideboarding, providing a second shot at impactful spells that cost more than one mana (e.g. Force of Vigor, Hurkyl’s Recall and Submerge).
- Umezawa’s Jitte can be game ending in midrange mirrors and against aggro and is another Stoneforge Mystic target. But, it’s shocking tempo and is straight up bad against combo, bar Goblins.
- Karakas is a fantastic card for protecting your legends, but I found it was a bit too greedy in a four colour deck, and it made it hard to find the right mana to escape Uro. When I played Karakas I found I was pushed toward a lands strategy including Elvish Reclaimer and Knight of the Reliquary which in turn pushed me toward Wasteland. However, I took a step back and asked myself whether I wanted to push the deck in a lands direction and the answer was no, given Lands hasn’t been that successful lately. I hope it will be again. My first ever Highlander deck was Sultai lands and I love Jund versions as well.
- Wasteland tended to set me back more than my tempo opponents. The deck isn’t fast enough for Wasteland to be good, and opposing utility lands can now be destroyed by Boseiju, Who Endures.
- Deathrite Shaman and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer provide awesome fixing and Deathrite provides graveyard hate utility, but you really do need black mana to make it really good and that’s not ideal for the mana base. That said, the idea of cutting Lutri for these two cards continues to roll around in my mind.
- I would love to play Gush with Lutri, but there isn’t room. The deck is already dripping with value-oriented cards.
- I found Green Sun’s Zenith to be great for the toolbox creatures but tempo negative. I found I didn’t need it to find Omnath when I moved away from mana dorks towards cantrips and included multiple ways to gain life.
- Birthing Pod – I prefer to think of Pod as a combo card. The tempo is poor, so you need to design with game-ending chains in mind to recoup the life loss and the mana investment.
Omnath Good Stuff’s Game Plan
The deck started out as an effort to defeat RUG tempo. It is loaded with value and life gain, making it difficult for other decks to win a damage race against you. The quantity and quality of life gain that has emerged over the past few years is so exceptional I gave up playing fair for at least a year and instead played Oracle-Breach so I could win on an axis that side-stepped damage. Having piloted UR based Fish and Aggro-Control decks a lot in the past, I knew life gain, a high creature count, and creatures with four toughness could provide a real headache for RUG’s tempo-oriented answer suite (mainly due to the format’s efficient counter magic being best against non-creatures, e.g. see Spell Pierce and Force of Negation).
I think my deck is strongest when taking an early defensive posture, operating as a board control deck that turns the corner in the mid-late game. You play to survive early and then leverage mana and card advantage engines to pull away once you have control. Once you establish a lead, you aim to protect that position using counter magic and cheap, flexible removal to clear the way for your threats, and to ‘time walk’ the opponent. In this way it’s something of an inverse to RUG tempo, which often looks to stick a threat early and play aggressively, backed up by a larger suite of permission spells. But, you need to pilot the deck differently against combo. You need to leverage early pressure, cheap interactive threats and pitch counters to apply pressure and disrupt the opponent before they can kill you. Many of the threats provide the benefit of defensive and anti-combo utility; they protect and attack. In this way, the deck applies many of the lessons you can find from the article I wrote with Drew Carter on Aggro-Control.
At this point I want to stress the importance of the mana curve of this deck. If you look closely, you’ll see that the deck sports a much lower mana curve than many midrange decks you will find on Moxfield. Generating and leveraging mana advantages (ie. tempo advantages) is crucial to deck design. There are only two genuine three drop sorcery-speed spells (Oko and Teferi, Time Raveller – Uro is a 4 drop), because the deck only runs two accelerants. You can invest three mana in some of the other spells once you get there, but they have alternate costs of zero or two (the Adventure Cards and pitch spells, for example).
If you want to play a bunch of sweet three-drop threats you need to run a critical mass of acceleration (i.e. mana dorks). Otherwise your opening hands will be clunky. I personally think the format is now too fast to support the kind of upward curve that featured in 4 colour Yidris. The problem is that you won’t have sufficient impact on the second turn and you will stumble. Your hand will be filled with spells you can’t cast until it is too late. You won’t be able to double spell on the same turn until you have six lands in play (if you ever get there) and you will be out tempo-ed by deck builders with tighter curves. Combo decks, in particular, will crush you if you can’t apply pressure to the board quickly and hold up interaction simultaneously. Please resist the temptation to fatten the curve too much if you are playing around with this list.
Key cards in Omnath Good Stuff
- Omnath, (Stoneforge Mystic into) Batterskull and Uro: These are the sources of life gain that allow you to monster tempo and aggro decks if given enough time. Life gain is central to the deck’s strategy and I wouldn’t cut them. Omnath is particularly important. For reasons set out below, Omnath is how the deck achieves something approximating brokenness and is the namesake card not just because of its mana cost.
- Sylvan Library, Wrenn & Six and The Reality Chip: Sylvan Library is busted with all the life gain, and if you have Uro, Omnath or Batterskull you’ve really got a one-sided Howling Mine, allowing you to pull away. In designing the deck I found myself asking, ‘what am I doing with all this life gain’? I need to convert that life into resources. Similarly, Wrenn & Six plus Omnath is an obscene life gain and card drawing engine. The Reality Chip is a tutorable Future Sight that can block early and be pitched to Force of Will. Mother of Runes is important for protecting the turn you equip (so is Teferi, Time Raveler), so you should think twice before cutting it.
- The two drop creatures: I’ve tried so many two-mana creatures in this deck and there are strong reasons for the ones I’ve picked and the quantity. I love having both Tarmogoyf and Territorial Kavu. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw Kavu. In the early game it can be better than Goyf because of the added utility it provides, especially in looting. Many of the smaller creatures can be used to interact against combo decks while also providing early pressure. I hadn’t rated Outland Liberator that much until I realised that it is useful against almost all of the format’s principal combo decks; it kills Urza’s Saga, Time Vault, Underworld Breach, Bolas’s Citadel and Lich’s Mirror, and Animate Dead (and friends). It also ices opposing equipment, which is critical in the midrange mirror. Outland Liberator can be cast under Blood Moon with a basic forest and then used to kill the Moon. I ultimately resolved that it’s better than Spell Pierce against combo at present. I also particularly like Malevolent Hermit which is like a Mana Leak on legs and almost like having a second Teferi, Time Raveler. I’ve been testing Ledger Shredder as well (like Territorial Kavu, it provides an engine with Wrenn & Six) and I think it’s promising.
- Interaction: It took me a long time to settle on the counter magic suite. Generally, I want anti-combo effects to be bolted onto threats. The counter spells here are meant for the mid-late game, after I get ahead, to stop the big trump spells that would get the opponent back in the game. I upped my blue count for Force of Negation and Force of Will, and you should be wary of lowering the count of blue and green spells (for Endurance and Force of Vigor). Spell Snare is, I think, the best anti-combo permission spell in the format at this point (it stops Underworld Breach, Thassa’s Oracle, Time Vault, Goblin Recruiter, Hermit Druid, most of the reanimation spells and Channel). I don’t like two mana counters on tempo grounds in tap out decks so I cut them all. The deck wants to tap out, not hold up mana. I really wish there was another better zero or one mana counter spell for the late game. When I played Oracle-Breach a lot I found Spell Pierce pretty easy to navigate around. Oh, and Endurance is a powerhouse, basically a third pitch-counter. The power of Teferi, Time Raveller probably goes without saying, allowing you to bounce big delve threats and counter late without a worry of any counter back.
- The right balance: Over time, and with much experimenting, I moved away from having lots of one drop mana dork creatures in favour of running some additional cantrips to support Murktide Regent, multiple Uro escapes and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. This was crucial. Uro looks like a green card, but it’s a blue card. What I mean by that is that it favours cantrips over mana dorks to enable multiple escapes. At the same time, I wanted the deck to have lots of threats, like a typical midrange deck. The Thought Scour and Mental Note are there to push the graveyard as deep as possible while keeping the threat count high. They also enable turn two Murktide Regent. The balance of two mana dorks and cantrips is the stuff of practical wisdom. Dorks carry equipment, and cantrips don’t. Cantrips support Uro escapes and dorks don’t. I think this configuration gets the balance right. The exalted on the two Hierarchs is helpful in winning combat.
One of the more critical design elements is the ability to turn cheap threats into big mana bombs once you get to the late game. A lightbulb went off the first time I cast Omnath, played a fetch land and jammed a Batterskull off a Tundra. I immediately knew I wanted more of that. In Next Level Deckbuilding, Patrick Chapin observes:
“When a Pure Midrange deck can do something that’s at least somewhat unfair (even if that thing is worse than what a really unfair deck might try to do), it can have a leg up in the metagame. A good example might be blowing up all the opponent’s lands.” (p. 258)
People may think Omnath’s life gain is broken (and yeah, it is), but it’s the card’s ability to create mana that wins games. With that in mind, if you look closely the deck has a range of ways to pay more mana per turn for effects in the mid-late game. These five-mana effects are like ‘double spells’ that can be cheated in if Omnath is in play.
Think Bonecrusher+Stomp, Petty Theft+Brazen Borrower on the same turn, cast and equip Reality Chip, play and escape Uro, play Batterskull from hand or re-equip it, or pump up Hexdrinker out of harm’s way the same turn as playing it. There’s also a Titania in the board for midrange mirrors. Fetchland to cast Titania with Omnath is gross. Think about the devastating impact of playing Winds Abandon overloaded only tapping two lands against a midrange or artifact deck with a full board of creatures. When people see Bonecrusher Giant I know they will be tempted to cut it for Unholy Heat, but you can’t sink 5 mana into an Unholy Heat to kill something and then also land a 4/3 threat.
The Mana Base
The mana base was a trial to develop but I now feel confident in it. It is conservative, and I like that. It has 16 untapped sources of blue and green, and 14 each of red and white. At 22 land, it can also run a basic Forest and a basic Island main, providing resilience to Blood Moon. You want to keep hitting lands in this list. Horizon Canopy is a late game engine with Wrenn and Six. The Boseiju is fantastic, particularly for killing Urza’s Saga, Karakas, Blood Moon and Underworld Breach. Boseiju Who Endures allows the deck to play 22 lands without flooding out. As Drew Carter would observe ‘it provides mana early and business late’. The mana base is expensive, but it is central to the deck. I can’t imagine playing the list without the original duals. As a result, the deck is not budget friendly.
The Sideboard Guide
The sideboard may look a little funky, but it’s been very carefully thought through. I think it’s well-adapted to a national metagame, based on how I’ve observed the format ebb and flow over several years now. Against combo you want to go low to the ground, taking out slower threats for cheap interaction. Against aggressive decks you want to take out clunky spells and counter magic for tempo-positive removal that buys you time to get your life gain plan going. Against control you want early pressure, and sticky threats backed up by cheap interaction. In the midrange mirror you need to jam, reach a stalled board state and then find a bomb that breaks the tie. You have to be the control deck against artifact decks, defending with removal and sweepers and winning with flyers once you have stabilised.
Against combo: With the exception of Oracle, almost all combo decks rely on artifacts and enchantments for the win. I’ve resolved that there is much to gain from prioritising enchantment and artifact interaction in the sideboard to fight combo, given I have main deck graveyard hate and cards that can deal with reanimated threats (in testing my deck has performed fine in that match up). Don’t forget that blue blasts are great against Underworld Breach and Storm (counter the red rituals). Veil of Summer is also excellent for countering Brain Freeze or Tendrils of Agony. Red blasts come in against Oracle if you do face it, including in Doomsday. I like that Lion Sash can be tutored up with Stoneforge Mystic against Reanimator or Dredge.
Against Midrange: I’ve thought long and hard about mirror breakers and the main deck has some of them, particularly Mother of Runes and the equipment package. Beckett Wolfe uses Parallax Wave out of the sideboard to great effect because he knows games will go long enough. I’ve picked up new technology in Winds of Abandon as both early removal and a one-sided sweeper for six mana in the late game. Titania off Omnath’s mana ability is also game ending. You can buy time with Submerge as well. Just wait until you use Lutri and JVP to triple Submerge and sweep the board.
Against Control: The control matchup is already strong, but I’ve included a couple of red blasts in the sideboard. You can board out the blue Forces for those to avoid the card disadvantage. Veil of Summer is strong against the Mind Twist/Mana Drain decks.
Moons: The sideboard is stacked with artifact and enchantment kill because the deck is worried about moons and Back to Basics. The sideboard answers to Blood Moon can be cast under Blood Moon. To fight Moons the deck has mana dorks, basic Forest and Island, some bounce, enchantment interaction and 5 elemental blasts after sideboard. You can board into a sort of RUG deck by taking out white cards, making it less of an issue to fetch your basics.
Shops: The artifact lists can go bigger and faster than this deck, so you need tools to deal with that, and quickly. You also need to be able to wipe the board. One-for-one interaction will only get you so far. Hurkyl’s Recall is excellent, being a one-sided instant. I’ve also added Seeds of Innocence. Serenity is another option. Collector Ouphe is dissynergistic with equipment, and is also a bit anaemic against aggro shops. If it comes down late you are still toast. Force of Vigor is important for stopping the artifact deck’s early development, like an early Sol Ring or Mana Crypt. You need to be able to stifle their mana development early if possible so they can’t cast the payoffs.
Aggro, Elves, Goblins, Prowess, Tempo: The sideboard also has all the elemental blasts to buy you time against tempo, prowess decks (you win that match up by killing everything on sight), to kill red threats and goblins. I highly respect Goblins and Prowess, having been destroyed by both on various occasions when playing blue-based control strategies. As a bit of a ‘fun of’, I’ve included Arachnogenesis for go wide token decks like Elves. And it plays against Prowess on that big turn when they look to do 20. One day someone will attack me with a billion hasty goblins and I’ll block with a billion spiders and kill them on the crack back. That’s living the dream.
When to play this deck
I think this deck is a powerful all rounder. It’s fun to jam such sweet cards, generate heaps of life and value your opponent into submission. The games I’ve played with it are enjoyable and interactive, which is a welcome contrast coming off of a year of playing combo exclusively. I think it has what it takes to be competitive in most metagames, although it can flounder against fast artifact decks and Blue Moon. Such is four colours. I also think it has a good shot against contemporary combo decks, unlike many other midrange decks I’ve seen over the years.
There are plenty of flex slots. Just don’t mess with the curve! Avoid the tempting three-drop! Have self-discipline. I’m sure people will be keen to cut Bonecrusher Giant for Unholy Heat, cut Path to Exile (and then die to a recurred Uro, Lurrus or to a Murktide Regent), cut the Stoneforge package and include cards like Questing Beast, Jace the Mind Sculptor and/or Klothys, God of Destiny, or replace the mana dorks with more cantrips and cards like Spell Pierce. I personally feel happy with my configuration, but I’m sure people can take the deck in all sorts of interesting directions. Particularly if they print a bunch of busted cards in Modern Horizons 3!