Four color decks in Standard still aren't any of the top archetypes, but they have been seeing more play recently. Most decks are still three colors right now, but the reason to add an additional color is that the mana fixing is pretty good right now, and it is possible to up the power level of a deck with a fourth color. The fixing is good because of the existence of the tri-lands as most of these four color decks run six or more tri-lands, and Sylvan Caryatid. Let's start by looking at a non-blue list piloted by Brad Nelson to a top eight at SCG Richmond, as this was one of the first four color lists that had major success in this format:
These decks pretty much all tend to be based green, and for that matter most opt to play Abzan plus either blue or red, as the power of Siege Rhino seems to be overwhelming at the moment. The creature base in the deck is interesting as Satyr Wayfinder provides an additional bit of mana fixing, yet besides the two Murderous Cuts there is no incentive to fill up the graveyard. Thus the reason to play the two copies of Satyr Wayfinder is access to additional lands but also having a creature that can easily be sacrificed to Butcher of the Horde. Besides the Satyr Wayfinders and Butcher of the Hordes the other creatures are pretty standard, as Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix, and Siege Rhino provide a solid creature base for many of the midrange decks in the format.
There are some planeswalkers to add additional threats, much like we see in Abzan Midrange. Since the deck does have red in it you can play Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker in addition to Elspeth, Sun's Champion and the singleton Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. At the moment I think Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is underplayed, perhaps because of how poorly it matches up with Siege Rhino. However, in this style deck which also plays a number of removal spells Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker really shines. The cheap removal makes it more likely you can set up a position where you play a planeswalker and don't have to worry about it being killed on the next attack from the opponent.
Yes, this is a four color deck with Chained to the Rocks. There are effectively nine mountains in the deck because of fetchlands, which still feels a little greedy, though maybe having Satyr Wayfinders also makes it okay. Chained to the Rocks may be the best removal spell in the format, which is why any deck with both white and red in it will often contort its mana a little bit to be able to play the one mana hard removal spell (though of course you always need to be aware of enchantment removal when playing Chained to the Rocks). If Chained to the Rocks isn't the best removal spell in the format perhaps Crackling Doom is. This is a card that is a Blue/White Heroic decks worst nightmare, and is just very good in general against any deck with Siege Rhino in it.
Rounding out the decks there are a few more removal spells in four Lightning Strikes and a couple of Murderous Cuts. Right now Abzan Aggro is one of the top decks in Standard so having a card like Lightning Strike that can trade with a Fleecemane Lion is quite important. The two Murderous Cuts are also reasonable, as some potentially very cheap additional hard removal spells. So is the deck able to get away with playing a combination of both Abzan and Mardu? For the most part yes, though Brad is playing a couple Mana Confluences which is just a necessary evil sometimes. This is a deck that may be from a few weeks ago but it actually seems quite good in the current format. Not only is there a ton of removal maindeck, but there is a lot of mass removal in the board. This is to help against stuff like Mono Red and token strategies. Perhaps the list could be updated a bit, but the power level is certainly high enough.
Okay enough of the non-blue dour color decks. I want to talk about the four color archetype which has impressed me the most, and that's Four Color Delve. Here is the list Chris Anderson made top eight with this past weekend at SCG Open Columbus:
The deck is similar to both Abzan Whip and Sidisi Whip yet there are not any copies of Whip of Erebos in the deck! This archetype takes some of the graveyard elements which have already been proven effective and uses them to create something completely new. Why choose between Siege Rhino and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant when you can just play both? Since the deck runs both four-drops it makes having one on turn three that much more lethal. This is part of the reason why that, in addition to Sylvan Caryatid, Chris is playing the often neglected Elvish Mystic. This is the type of deck where Elvish Mystic generally misses the cut but the lategame is so powerful that I can see wanting more acceleration.
The creature that basically allows the deck to come together is Soul of Theros. This is a card that has seen some play in Abzan Whip, but very rarely as four-of, as Souls aren't generally targeted by a Whip of Erebos activation, and Soul of Theros is a different way of providing lifelink. This deck absolutely wants all four copies of Soul of Theros as it is one of the center pieces of the deck, and the card you always want to mill of Satyr Wayfinder or Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Having small creatures and tokens in the deck is nice as well, as alongside Soul of Theros those creatures suddenly can become legitimate threats.
The one time activation of Soul of Theros from the graveyard can oftentimes be enough to win a game, but there are other times where you can just hardcast it and the opponent doesn't have the removal spell, so it becomes game over immediately. It is worth noting any type of effect that does Remove Soul of Theros from the game is good against this deck, but it is ultimately still just a one-for-one trade. Perhaps the biggest advantage to playing Soul of Theros is that it IS NOT an enchantment. When playing against this deck oftentimes opponents will be expecting stuff like Doomwake Giant and Whip of Erebos, and I have seen people boarding in cards like Back to Nature. This may look like a Whip deck, and one of the biggest advantages is opponents won't necessarily know what you are doing until it is too late. Having only Courser of Kruphix as a target for Erase, Reclamation Sage, Back to Nature, and other enchantment hate is great when those are cards present in a lot of people's sideboards.
Besides the aforementioned creatures, this a deck that Wingmate Roc has found a home in. The Satyr Wayfinders, Elvish Mystics, and Sidisi tokens, provide plenty of fodder to enable the raid on Wingmate Roc. This is just another large value creature, and the deck plays enough white sources to reliably cast it on turn five. This deck is primarily large creatures that provide additional value in one way or another, though there are a few spells as well. Much like in the Whip decks there is a playset of Murderous Cuts to go alongside a couple of Thoughtseizes and Commune with the Gods. Commune with the Gods has been getting cut from some of the graveyard strategies in the format, or played as a one of, but I like having two here. Finding a Soul of Theros is just that important, and it makes the Murderous Cuts better.
Alright how about one more four color deck? Here is a different take on how to best utilize the Abzan/Sultai Combination. Joseph Neuman made top eight SCG Atlanta with this list: DECKID=1222986
What a surprise! The creature base is Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix, and Siege Rhino. These creatures are the default midrange creatures of choice. Moving on from that it becomes obvious that this is very different from the delve interpretation of these colors played by Chris Anderson. Where Chris had zero planeswalkers, Joseph has eight! This is a superfriends deck, and I'm glad to see Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver here, as that is a card that is very well positioned in the current format. Having planeswalkers like Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is perfect against other midrange decks that have a bunch of midrange creatures and very little removal for planeswalkers, as many of the graveyard decks run a large number of Murderous Cuts, in place of Hero's Downfall.
Besides Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, there are also three other different planeswalkers in Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Liliana Vess, and Elspeth Sun's Champion. I like having planeswalkers which go up the chain in terms of mana cost, to help the curve. Sorin, Solemn Visitor can provide more creatures, as there aren't very many in the deck. Liliana Vess can be seen in a deck like this because of its ability to tutor for one-ofs which may be lurking in the deck (like End Hostilities). Of course Elspeth, Sun's Champions really needs no introduction, and this is the card that is likely the best win condition in the deck, as generally the opponent will spend their removal early and Elspeth, Sun's Champion will come down unanswered.
So how about the spells that aren't planeswalkers? There are plenty of different types of removal these colors have access to, both spot removal and mass removal make their presence felt in Joseph's deck. The only removal spell which is a four-of is Abzan Charm because of its versatility, and the fact it can Remove big creatures from the game is relevant in a field with a bunch of copies of Whip of Erebos floating around. The Utter End provides some additional versatility and being able to Remove artifacts and enchantments is the reason you do want one. There are also Hero's Downfalls so whatever the opposing threat this deck generally will have access to an answer.
Drown in Sorrow isn't a card that is making too many maindecks, but it is one of your best cards against the token decks. Having both Drown in Sorrow and End Hostilities gives the deck an additional dimension to it, which opponents will have a difficult time anticipating. Joseph was obviously very aware of needing cards against the token decks and other aggressive strategies as he also has four Bile Blights in the board. For players looking for a deck with a lot of different angles of play, I would definitely look into a deck like this. The four color decks simply have access to more cards than the other decks in the format, and this makes it hard for opponents to be ready for what you are doing, and sideboard correctly.
Thanks for reading,