I've been trying to find a shell for Chandra, Flamecaller because I know that card is very good and not too far behind Elspeth, Sun's Champion. My initial reaction was to play her in R/G Ramp. However, I could not abuse the cards I discarded with her in R/G Ramp. I looked elsewhere and the only other lists that jumped out at me were Dark Jeskai or Mardu Green. She was fine in these decks but I still wasn't content.
Dark Jeskai showed the most promise, especially in a deck with maindeck countermagic. I ended up cutting the white since it was mainly for Soulfire Grand Master, which hasn't been post-Oath of the Gatewatch since it pairs poorly against Sylvan Advocate, Warden of the First Tree, and Reflector Mage. Soulfire Grand Master provided an insane late game, but so does Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Chandra, Flamecaller. Crackling Doom is another loss, but that card gets worse and worse as people are ready for it. I also happened to lose many games just because I was missing a color, both in Mardu Green and Jeskai Black. By cutting the white, not only does the mana get better but we can play double-colored spells easier, and I really wanted to play Grasp of Darkness and Languish to combat the Collected Company and Eldrazi decks that have been popping up.
My list happened to be very similar to one that recently went 5-0 in a league on Magic Online. Today I would like to talk about USOKU13's list and break the deck down card-by-card, so you're new to control/midrange decks, you'll know the logic behind the choices. Let's get to the list, shall we?
I am going with USOKUI3's list over mine because I was still working on my list and he has already shown that his deck can put up results, and I want my readers to have the decklist that will provide them with the most success! So let's get onto the cards, shall we?
Chandra, Flamecaller: Basically why I wanted to play this deck, I wanted the best home for Chandra, Flamecaller and Grixis doesn't disappoint. Chandra, Flamecaller does everything from wiping the board, attacking for a bunch of damage, or just drawing a bunch of cards while filling your graveyard for Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and delve cards. Chandra, Flamecaller is a fantastic Planeswalker that will only get better after rotation.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy: Not much I can say about this card that hasn't already been said. Great at filtering your hand and taking over the game once it flips. This is another mythic that will only gain when Shadows over Innistrad comes out, especially if we have flashback alongside madness.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet: A great card that threatens to spiral out of control if left unchecked. It's kind of like a Monastery Mentor for black decks that can also gain you life. The bonus of exiling creatures that hit the graveyard from your opponent's battlefield is also very relevant since Rally the Ancestors is a pretty big deck in the current meta. Traitor or no, he'll always have a place in my decks.
Duress: Don't think this card is neccessary, but it is very good at fueling delve and spell mastery, and every deck has some number of non-creature spells. The only problem is, most decks have some way to recur the card you Duress, whether it's Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Den Protector, or Goblin Dark-Dwellers.
Languish: While underhwelming against Siege Rhino, it is fantastic against everything else. Very good against all the Collected Company decks, aggro decks, Dragon decks, Eldrazi decks, and Wingmate Roc. A solid one-of to have that can be recurred with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.
Painful Truths: I love Read the Bones, but Painful Truths is better if you're not playing Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Even if you're running Goblin Dark-Dwellers there is an argument for still running Painful Truths. Don't need four colors to play this card—three is perfectly fine and probably just better. Curving into this after Duress, Transgress the Mind, or Jace, Vryn's Prodigy can put you very far ahead.
Ruinous Path: These types of grindy decks usually struggle against Planeswalkers since if a Planeswalker is left unchecked, it can easily undo all the card advantage you've gained. Ruinous Path will nip that in the bud and will also give you a 4/4 body late.
Transgress the Mind: When this card was first spoiled I didn't think it would be maindeckable unless ramp decks ran rampant. I was wrong—this format has a lot of ways to recur things from the graveyard, and exiling a card permanently can be game-changing.
Clash of Wills: Nothing fantastic here, but it is a nice catchall. I just wish they were Syncopates so they exiled the card they countered. Very good early to mid-game and teeters off the longer the game goes since your opponent will have more mana to work with. A solid maindeck card to have access to.
Dig Through Time: Banned in every other format and restricted in Vintage. Play this card for as long as you can before it's gone. Dig Through Time is a very powerful card and can usually act as an instant speed Demonic Tutor as long as you're not looking for a singleton in your deck. The first Dig Through Time will put you back in the game or crush your opponent in card advantage/selection. The second, third, and fourth will end the game.
Disdainful Stroke: A fine one-of. Nothing exciting but it gets the job done. Since Disdainful Stroke counters spells that cost four or more it will usually counter spells that can warp the game. The only problem is so many decks have ways to draw more cards or to get cards back with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or Den Protector. countermagic isn't bad, but it's definitely weaker in Oath of the Gatewatch Standard than usual.
Fiery Impulse: Normally a four-of, but you really want this spell to hit for three damage. Playing less copies of Fiery Impulse actually improves the likelihood you'll have spell mastery when you draw it. We also aren't too heavy red in this deck; our main color is black. Which leads us to one of the best removal spells in Standard…
Grasp of Darkness: Premium removal. Like Languish in that it hits everything except Siege Rhino. However, unlike Languish, Grasp of Darkness is fantastic in combat. It allows a 1/1 creature to kill Siege Rhino, which is fantastic! Grasp of Darkness is one of if not the best removal spell in Standard that is less than three mana and will most likely continue to be so after rotation.
Kolaghan's Command: Less and less creatures have two toughness. This card has gotten a lot worse over the last couple of months and I can see why USOKUI3 only ran one, especially since we can't recur creatures like Siege Rhino or Goblin Dark-Dwellers.
Murderous Cut: Speaking of premium removal spells, Murderous Cut is right alongside all of them. However, you just can't jam a bunch of Murderous Cuts since they get much weaker the more you play. Luckily our graveyard should be easy to fill up thanks to our hand disruption, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and Chandra, Flamecaller.
The maindeck is very solid. I like all of USOKUI3's numbers and feel the same way about their card choices. I liked running an Ob Nixilis Reignited main but I can see the merit in not running it as well.
Before we dive into the sideboard I'd like to talk a little about sideboarding in general. I don't always board the same way against certain decks since they all can be very different. As silly as this may sound you want to just take out whatever is bad in the particular matchup you're playing against and bring in whatever is good or will be better than what is currently in your main deck. For example, against ramp you'd basically cut all your removal spells in favor of countermagic and hand disruption. However, you might keep some in if they are running mana dorks. Not too many but some, especially Kolaghan's Command. Try to keep that in mind when sideboarding.
Disdainful Stroke: Good against the midrange decks and very good against ramp, countering all the ramp spells except Nissa's Pilgrimage and countering all the threats.
Duress: Good against ramp, Jeskai Black decks that have a lot of spells, and a control deck if you run into one. I also like Duress more than Transgress the Mind against Rally decks since Transgress the Mind does not hit Rally the Ancestors.
Fiery Impulse: Good to have against hyper-aggressive decks.
Languish: Double up against decks trying to swarm you or Collected Company decks since it will usually kill every creature they have on the battlefield.
Transgress the Mind: Solid against Mardu Green and ramp, okay against Jeskai Black and the like. Gains a lot against Jeskai Black if they are on the dragon version, however.
Dispel: All the midrange decks are chock-full of instants.
Negate: Good against ramp and just decent against everything else. Just good enough to warrant a board slot.
Ob Nixilis Reignited: Against other grindy matchups you're going to want more Planeswalkers since Planeswalkers can dig out of any hole and put you right back into any game if left unchecked.
Radiant Flames: Another card against those hyper-aggressive decks that should easily put you right back into the driver's seat.
Roast: Great against the midrange decks with Siege Rhino, Goblin Dark-Dwellers, and Sylvan Advocate.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang: Another good bullet when you're up against decks that are very grindy. Since you have a good number of delve cards you can use Tasigur, the Golden Fang to its full advantage here.
And that's all she wrote, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you enjoyed this article and if you decide to play this deck, I hope it serves you well. It is a very powerful deck and I plan on playing it in weeks to come.
As always thanks for reading!
@AliEldrazi on Twitter