Highlander Archetypes part 1, Midrange/ 4C Blood with Mikael Heikinheimo.

Welcome back to Highlander! Last time we took our first steps in this format, and as promised now we take a deeper look into different archetypes of Magic, so this will be useful information to anyone really. For the first archetype it’s time to look into Midrange.

My friend Mikael Heikinheimo was kind enough to share his thoughts about his choice of Midrange deck, 4C Blood. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

What is Midrange?

Midrange decks tend to play “fair” game by Controlling the game with early interaction (Removal/Discard Spells), and a good curve of creatures (starting from 2 and up). This makes Midrange decks very efficient and consistent, thus many people like to play these type of strategies since you have a 50/50 chance against basically everything.

Now the general weakness of Midrange decks is that sometimes you play too fair game and thus Combo decks can adapt a game-plan that you can’t interact with. Good example we can take from Modern where the premiere Midrange deck Jund (BRG) struggles with Scapeshift strategies since your removal can’t interact with their lands or Scapeshift, also your discard is not that effective since they have a high threat density and even their lands can just kill you.

Sometimes your answers aren’t the right answer for those specific spots, for example you cast Inquisition of Kozilek and see some 4+CMC cards and you can’t take them. Also their manabase is generally pretty greedy in order to support all your colors, so attacking the mana with Blood Moon, Back to Basics or Fulminator Mage is a good plan.

Usually Midrange decks play some combination Green/Red/Black/White. This offers you Good Creatures from Green, Disruption from Black, Removal from Red and White for Good Removal and Hate cards. But we have seen stuff like Sultai (BUG) Midrange too, so there  are loads of options for your build.

Highlander 4C Blood

So now that you know more about Midrange, it’s time look at Mikaels current iteration of 4C Blood:

As you can see, this is exactly what Midrange is suppose to be. Good curve of powerful spells and solid game-plan, you have answer for different situations and very efficient means to grind your opponent out of resources.

However, since I’m no Midrange expert, it’s time to call in Mikael Heikinheimo. He is a good friend of mine, an expert player in multiple formats, he has won Finnish Highlander Champs in 2016 with this deck, has multiple top8s across different formats, multiple day 2s at GP level, and has even competed in Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. Truly a fierce foe, so let’s hear his thoughts about the deck!

Tell us about 4C Blood, what type of deck it is, and what game plan does it have?

4C Blood has been one of the cornerstone decks of Highlander for almost a decade. I would describe it as THE midrange deck of the format. The core build has also become surprisingly stabile and there are not that many flex slots in the proven stock list even though having all the options from those four colors.

Essentially 4C Blood is a classic kavu deck and relies on having a strong and early presence on the board. In every matchup (and in every game) you’ll have to recognize your role and adapt into it. I would say the default mode in the vacuum is to be the beatdown but one must always be ready to switch gears when needed. Keep in mind you don’t have any shortcuts to victory – games are won by dealing (mostly) combat damage.

Another important note to add here is that 4C Blood lives from its curve. Highlander has become more and more tempo intensive format and you don’t have that much time to struggle. 1-drop in a form of mana dork or at least discard is so crucial here that if the first seven does not include one, it will very likely be a mulligan. Manland into powerful enough 2-drop is also acceptable in some matchups but the best openings always land a turn one mana dork.

For example against aggressive strategies you are often forced to make an early decision: are you playing reactive or could it be possible to just race this? Because of Highlander there is a lot of variance and you just can’t jam with one pattern in every single game. Your starting hand heavily determines what kind of game you’re able to play.

Why did you choose 4C Blood as your deck?

When I jumped into Highlander ten years ago the format looked very different. Games were slower and the majority of decks were built to out value each other. Mulldrifter and Reveillark were the old nostalgic classics to be seen everywhere.

For me 4C Blood has been a career long journey. Abzan Junk Doran Midrange was my starting point for the format and I still remember how excited I was to get the first couple of Onslaught fetch lands to tutor for original shock duals. A poor high school student was not willing to invest 20 € for “a minor” upgrade: Bayou, Savannah or Scrubland.

As the years went by I updated the deck piece by piece and somewhere around 2014 finally added red to the mix. Meanwhile a local game store began to support monthly Highlander tournaments and fun casual piles had to be turned into serious competitive decks. Since those days 4C Blood has been my personal deck to go.

What strengths does 4C Blood have? How about weakness?

Due to a nature of midrange, 4C Blood has a possibility to play longer and grindier game when needed. 4C Blood is the 50-50 deck of the format. There are no heavily favored fair matchups but similarly you are never a big underdog either.

Control is a tricky matchup where you usually want a good mix of disruption, pressure and card advantage. Avoid going too wide against sweepers, rely on recurring threats and be ready to beat control in its own game by slowly mitigating resources.

Against what decks is 4C Blood good against?

Midrange mirrors and other Creature decks are the matchups where 4C Blood shines. You have all the best tools from your colors and the average effect of each card is likely stronger than your opponents. Make sure not to fall too much behind at any point. If the game goes long 4C Blood often has more card advantage and therefore a better endgame.

What decks are good against 4C Blood? Any specific cards you don’t want to see on the other side of the table?

If I could pick an archetype to avoid from facing, it would be all sort of Combos. 4C Blood has a limited amount of disruption against these strategies and the creature’s stats and efficiency in combat is often valued more than their hate or taxing abilities.

Therefore your game plan against pure Combos is pretty straightforward; the fastest possible clock and enough disruption to slow them down. Mulligan sensitivity is on a high level while you’ll be needing very specific openings. The form of disruption also varies depending on the Combo. Discards are always mandatory but for example against Tolarian Academy decks you’ll want your Wasteland and artifact removal as well.

I’m not saying Combos would really be unbeatable or that bad for 4C Blood. Those are just the games where you may not have that much chance to affect on the end result. Often it’s just a race whether you can kill them before they do their thing. I think Combo matches overall are somewhere between 50-50 and 40-60.

Needless to tell, 4C Blood is also vulnerable to cards like Blood Moon, Back to Basics and Price of Progress. Other sort of land hate shenanigans can also punish the deck really bad. Well timed (and well targeted) Wasteland or Vindicate is sometimes able to demolish your whole game-plan single-handedly. Sometimes you are able to play around these effects, sometimes not. That is basically the price you pay for playing this greedy mana-base and all the tools it enables.

Name your favorite card from your deck?

Naturally, 4C Blood is a collection of the best cards from its colors. Even though there are couple role players that I would like to point out. An unanswered Deathrite Shaman is the best possible turn one play and easily has the best rate of mana investment and efficiency. Meanwhile Saskia, the Unyielding is probably the best addition 4C Blood has got for the last five years. He’s just so game ending play in so many situations. Saskia is also the most tutored non land card in the deck.

Any advice for someone who would like to pick up the deck?

I think Highlander meta-game has become a bit more Combo-centric than before, which has put 4C Blood into a tougher position. In a “fair” environment the deck is still one of the most powerful options and certainly a fun and interesting deck to play. The long and shifty resource battles against Control or other Midrange decks are usually the best and most enjoyable games to play!

Closing Thoughts

I would like to thank Mikael for taking time to answer and share his thoughts and the deck-list too! So thank you!

So that pretty much covers 4C Blood and Midrange in general. For the next time we’ll be taking Control with..well Control archetype and will approach one of the cornerstone Control decks of Highlander, U/R Tempo/Blue Moon. So better get your basics out before you get Blood Mooned out of the game.

Stay safe and have fun grinding your opponents down with value!

– Juuso

One thought on “Highlander Archetypes part 1, Midrange/ 4C Blood with Mikael Heikinheimo.

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