Going into Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad I didn't know what deck to choose, a dilemma that I'm sure many players are familiar with when preparing for a big tournament. In the end, a couple days before the event, I had narrowed it down to the Esper Planeswalkers deck I ended up playing and the Four-Color Rite deck, which was a total wildcard. My teammates ended up electing to go with the Esper Planeswalkers deck, and in my opinion it was the correct choice for the Pro Tour. I came to similar conclusions as my teammates on East West Bowl, as we had a tuned and polished 75 card deck in Esper Planeswalkers, while there still needed to be more work put into Four-Color Rites.
After the Pro Tour I was of course ecstatic about my finish, but still a little salty about losing to W/G Tokens in the semifinals. W/G Tokens is the most popular deck in Standard, so last weekend, I wanted to play a deck that has a positive matchup against it. I was able to flashback to preparing for Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad and the Four-Color Rites deck I was close to playing. A Grand Prix filled with Green-White Tokens, Bant Company, and B/G Company seemed like the perfect venue to see how good of a deck Four-Color Rites was. Here is my deck from Grand Prix Toronto:
This is one of the craziest decks I have ever played, and I do mean ever. Right after Shadows over Innistrad was released, my friend and teammate Tommy Ashton was very high on various Cryptolith Rite shells, and it was he that ultimately found this four-color version. I have been asked if the deck is better than the simpler and more straightforward black/green version of the deck. The two share many similarities but I do believe there is more power in the four-color version.
Going into the format after losing fetchlands, the perception was that four-color decks were dead. In fact very few people actually built any four color decks whatsoever. It is true that by playing four colors the deck loses some consistency, but the mana isn't as bad as it looks.
This deck is not only four colors, but it also has three copies of Westvale Abbey! How greedy is that? Well, the base color is green and the other three colors are less important. The color-fixing capabilities of Loam Dryad and Cryptolith Rite is extremely important. There are a bunch of painlands, which does mean there will be games where your lands inflict a large amount of damage. However, this means that you are more likely to have access to all four colors of mana, and activations of Eldrazi Displacer. The manabase is certainly wonky, but before writing it off, play a few games with the deck.
There has to be a good reason to go four colors in this format. Here, we get to have all sorts of crazy combinations with our creatures. Let's start with the biggest, nastiest combo in the deck, the kill combo. All of our creature combos involve Eldrazi Displacer, so you do need to find one of those, and alongside a Brood Monitor and Zulaport Cutthroat, your opponent dies to infinite Zulaport Cutthroat triggers. With an Eldrazi Displacer in play, it is possible to blink your Brood Monitor infinite times by using the three Eldrazi Scions created by Brood Monitor to activate Eldrazi Displacer. Since you are continuously sacrificing the Eldrazi Scions, those provide the necessary life drains with a Zulaport Cutthroat in play.
Zulaport Cutthroat plus Eldrazi Displacer plus Brood Monitor is the best-case scenario, but let's talk about some of the other combos in the deck. By subbing out Zulaport Cutthroat for Catacomb Sifter all of a sudden instead of infinite life drains we have infinite scries. With all those scries, it's easy to find Zulaport Cutthroat for the combo kill. Once Brood Monitor and Eldrazi Displacer are both in play, your chances of winning increase dramatically. Eldrazi Displacer is very powerful with many of the other creatures in the deck, as most of them have enters the battlefield effects.
Elvish Visionary, Reflector Mage, and Catacomb Sifter all have enters the battlefield effects. They aren't game-ending like Brood Monitor, but there will be games where blinking your own creatures is the best route to winning, and these all provide unique effects when they get blinked. Each creature works well with the idea of what this deck is trying to accomplish, as the deck rarely wins by simply attacking. A single Eldrazi Displacer can take over the game and provide a ton of card advantage. Cryptolith Rite is the card that makes all these synergistic creature combos possible, as all of a sudden with a Cryptolith Rite in play you become flush with mana.
There are so many mana sinks in this deck that it is rare for additional mana to go unused. This deck also plays Duskwatch Recruiter as a way to use all that mana generated off a Cryptolith Rite, and once flipped having your creatures cost one less is a huge boon. The deck has so many ways to find creatures that you don't actually need to play more than two Zulaport Cutthroat. You are able to find them when necessary, thanks to perhaps the most powerful card in Standard: Collected Company. While this deck doesn't have as many hits off Collected Company as some other decks, that is okay. The card is so absurdly powerful, and can provide wins out of nowhere. For instance with a Brood Monitor in play already, all of a sudden Collected Company finding Eldrazi Displacer and Zulaport Cutthroat can immediately end the game.
Going into Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, the maindeck was pretty much set as it is right now, and for those interested in playing this deck, I wouldn't recommend changing it too much. We tried playing more Zulaport Cutthroat, or playing Pious Evangel over Zulaport Cutthroat. We also tried making the deck straight Abzan by cutting Reflector Mage. While these are viable routes, it is my belief that this is the optimal maindeck.
The sideboard is where things start getting interesting. This deck wins a lot of game ones, but the question then becomes how to react to what the opponent is doing post-board. It took many talented minds in order to come up with a sideboard plan that makes sense. While the sideboard I ran in Toronto does vary slightly from some of the other sideboards, the ideas remain the same: have answers to your opponent's biggest trump cards. I will go over, matchup-by-matchup, what I recommend doing post-board.
-2 Elvish Visionary
-1 Brood Monitor
W/G Tokens is a good matchup, but the games can be close. Archangel Avacyn is their best way to beat you game one. Make sure to get an Eldrazi Displacer on the board as early as possible. That way if your opponent goes for the Archangel Avacyn plus play Hangarback Walker combo, you can blink the Archangel Avacyn in your upkeep before it gets a chance to flip. Otherwise you should have enough time to be able to effectively ignore their planeswalkers and search for your combo kill. Westvale Abbey is not that good against you as both Reflector Mage and Eldrazi Displacer trump it. After board expect to be up against Tragic Arrogance.
+1 Ultimate Price
+1 Enlightened Ascetic
-2 Elvish Visionary
This is the best matchup for us. The only way you are in danger of dying is when your opponent is able to assemble multiple Zulaport Cuttroat alongside Nantuko Husk. This is why it is important to be able to blink your own Reflector Mage with Eldrazi Displacer to keep those Zulaport Cutthroat off the table. Also, don't be afraid to move in on Ormendahl, Profane Prince, as the only way your opponent can try to defend is making their own Ormendahl, Profane Prince. Generally speaking though, there is very little attacking in the matchup, and your Cryptolith Rite is much more effective than your opponents'. After board you may be up against Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, but that isn't very scary.
Control decks are some of the more difficult matchups because it becomes much more difficult to get the creature combos going. These are the matchups where you may be forced to win by attacking. This isn't what the deck is built for game one, so it is necessary to be able to transform somewhat after sideboarding. The entire sideboard can come in other than Enlightened Ascetic. You want to be able to have permanent answers to opposing creatures, and Fleshbag Marauder is one of the best options. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Dragonlord Ojutai need to be answered. Since after sideboard we aren't planning on comboing, out come a lot of the combo pieces. This means cutting Brood Monitor, Cryptolith Rite, Zulaport Cutthroat, some amount of Reflector Mages, and Eldrazi Displacers. We don't want to be over-extending into Languish, and Reality Smasher helps a lot there.
+2 Transgress the Mind
-2 Elvish Visionary
-1 Brood Monitor
-1 Zulaport Cutthroat
-1 Reflector Mage
This is pretty similar to some of the other creature-based decks that don't have much interaction game one, and rely on Tragic Arrogance games two and three. Here though the Bant Company player may also be looking to board in Negate, which is a card I would keep an eye on.
This was initially a matchup we thought was bad but it is actually very winnable from the Four-Color Rites side. Reflector Mage is one of the best cards here, as it helps buy time. Any time you can make reasonable blocks, trading off creatures generally benefits Four Color Rites. After sideboard, having access to slight upgrades for blocking purposes, like exchanging Sylvan Advocate for Duskwatch Recruiter, is important. Also the single Enlightened Ascetic is fantastic, as blowing up an Always Watching or Stasis Snare can be game-changing.
This is another matchup that initially seemed bad before the sideboard plan was developed. We aren't trying to combo kill this deck, but rather we want to make Ormendahl, Profane Prince if possible, or just race with the other creatures. Reality Smasher is great here, and Negate can be useful to stop early spells as well as Chandra, Flamecaller. Boarding out combo pieces like Brood Monitor, Cryptolith Rite, Zulaport Cutthroat, and Reflector Mage is the plan. Sylvan Advocate, Transgress the Mind, and Secure the Wastes come in here as well.
Hopefully these sideboard plans help players looking to game with the deck. I will say the deck has a lot of subtle interactions, and isn't easy to play. Had I been on top of my game in Toronto I likely would have been in top eight, so I can validate that the deck is in fact very good. Even though this archetype just became known this past weekend, expect it to be a player moving forward.
Thanks for reading,