Last updated on May 6, 2022

Valki, God of Lies - Illustration by Yongjae Choi

Valki, God of Lies | Illustration by Yongjae Choi

Preparing for the Alchemy portion of the Neon Dynasty Set Championship was an exercise in solving a puzzle with incomplete information. Nobody really knew what was good. My teammate, Henry Mildenstein, won an early PTQ with Runes and Simon Nielsen won another PTQ with the same deck the next week, so the only thing we could be sure of was that players would play Runes or a deck that beats it.

Once we started playing games against Runes we realized it doesn’t get beaten idly. The deck is too powerful to try and go over top, and all the decks we built to try and out-pace it failed because of its ability to generate powerful trample-haste lifelinkers out of nowhere. We needed to find a way to fundamentally disrupt their plan.

Enter Archon of Emeria. Runes is powerful because it casts Showdown of the Skalds and is able to chain free runes thanks to cost reduction creatures. Showdown allows them to build giant creatures with haste from Rune of Speed in tandem with Generous Visitor. Archon turns off their ability to explode, which fundamentally disrupts it when combined with exile effects and instant-speed removal.

Upon discovering the key to beating Runes, we started brewing various Orzhov () control decks with sweepers and planeswalkers but found the decks to be generally weak. Despite thrashing Runes, there just weren’t many playable 2-drops, and it’s important to get on the board attacking early. The Orzhov “Sewer” deck as we were calling it got put into the brew archive and I moved on to look at ways to make Runes playable vs all the hate.

The great benefit of a large team is that it’s easy to expand on ideas. Nico Bohny was working on Rakdos () and started looking for ways to splash Archon technology, so Triumphant Adventurer got thrown into the mix. Matthieu Avignon ran into somebody playing Fable of the Mirror-Breaker on the ladder in tandem with Citystalker Connoisseur, the card we’d identified as one of the strongest in Alchemy, and an idea started to form:

What if we combined the successful top end of the Orzhov Sewer deck with an aggressive lower curve? Enter Mardu Midrange (a.k.a., Mardu Sewer).

The Deck

Wedding Announcement - Illustration by Caroline Gariba

Wedding Announcement | Illustration by Caroline Gariba

The Strategy

1-Drops

Duress

Duress isn’t exactly a card I’m excited to main deck, but we didn’t know what the metagame would look like and we were under the assumption that players would bring control to beat Runes. It also strips Runes’ most important card, Showdown of the Skalds.

Bloodchief's Thirst

Bloodchief’s Thirst is a flex slot as well. Other players on the team used Power Word Kill instead, but I value the ability to interact at one mana and was scared of angels and dragons.

2-Drops

Vanishing Verse

Vanishing Verse is one of the most efficient removal spells in the format. It hits a wide swath of problem cards and is the best tool for cheap interacting.

Tainted Adversary

Tainted Adversary is here for stats. 2/3 makes it a profitable block against most early threats, and deathtouch lets it trade up with midrange threats. The “kicker” enter-the-battlefield ability generates a ton of power, especially if you have Wedding Announcement.

Triumphant Adventurer

Triumphant Adventurer is an impressive 2-drop. I admittedly didn’t see how powerful it could be right away, but 2-power deathtouch first strike with incremental value stapled onto it adds up quick.

Valki, God of Lies doubles as a way to peek at your opponent’s hand and get on board early and as your most powerful finisher, Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter.

3-Drops

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is the engine that makes the deck purr. It generates 4/4 in stats, lets you rummage away dead cards and excess land, and is a powerful late-game finisher that lets you copy Citystalker Connoisseur, Skyclave Apparition, and Tainted Adversary to recreate their powerful ETB effects.

Wedding Announcement lets you get on board early and is effectively a 3-mana planeswalker. It increases your board presence without casting spells, which is important when you play Archon of Emeria.

Archon of Emeria

Archon of Emeria is a concession to how powerful Runes is if left unchecked. It’s the most effective way to shut down their plan A.

Skyclave Apparition

Skyclave Apparition is a catch-all for enemy threats. It combos with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and is excellent at dealing with planeswalkers, Key to the Archive, Rakdos’s various problem artifacts, and any cheap creature.

4- and 5-Drops

Sorin the Mirthless

Sorin the Mirthless is one of the most effective ways to close the door on your opponent once you stabilize. The 2/3 lifelink fliers can help you stabilize, and the extra cards per turn plus an accessible ultimate that deals 13 damage makes it one of the deck’s best finishers.

The Wandering Emperor

The Wandering Emperor is a fun new tool to give your opponent a headache. No longer can players wantonly attack into four open mana. The Emperor combos with your deathtouch creatures by giving them first strike, exiles problematic attackers, or helps you go wide by making vigilant bodies.

Citystalker Connoisseur

Citystalker Connoisseur is the best card in the deck. One of the early lessons we learned is that the nature of the format encourages you to try and go over the top of Runes by meeting their threats and then winning with big haymakers. Connoisseur strips your opponent of those big expensive threats before they can cast them, giving you a 3/3 deathtouch to police the board and a Blood token to smooth your hand.

Lolth, Spider Queen

Lolth, Spider Queen is another great way to stall the board. This deck has a powerful late-game with Reflection of Kiki-Jiki copy combos and planeswalker snowballing, and Lolth gunks up the board extremely well to prevent your opponent from being able to damage you and your super friends.

Tips and Interactions

Archon of Emeria - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Archon of Emeria | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

  • Don’t just cast Duress or Valki, God of Lies every time you have them. It’s only good against some decks and it might be more valuable to loot away later or in the case of Valki, save it to be Tibalt.
  • Tainted Adversary, five mana, and a final-form Wedding Announcement creates 10 power.
  • Vanishing Verse only hitting mono-colored permanents is a good reason to prioritize using your other removal on multicolor instead of mono-color targets when possible.
  • You have to set a stop on the end step if you’re casting Wanderer and want to use it. Arena auto-passes the turn if you don’t.
  • If you have two Reflection of Kiki-Jikis in play they can make as many copies of each other as you have mana. This is useful to do on your opponent’s end step because that way they don’t sacrifice until the end of your turn.
  • One of the best ways to use Reflection of Kiki-Jiki is to set a stop on your opponent’s draw step and copy Citystalker Connoisseur after they’ve drawn their card for the turn but before they enter their first main phase. This way they have to discard the card they drew for the turn before they get a chance to cast it.
  • A general rule is if you can cast Fable of the Mirror-Breaker or Wedding Announcement on turn 3, cast Fable first since you usually want to get it online right away. It’s usually better to try and draw cards off Announcement than it is to get bodies.
  • Prioritize your mana so that you have white first, black second, and red last. You only ever really need one red source, but you need and to cast your best spells. Sequencing lands to make sure you can cast all your spells down the line is very important.

Mulligan Rules

Mulligans are relatively basic:

  • If your opponent is aggressive, you want hands that get on board early and interact.
  • If your opponent is controlling, cards like Wedding Announcement are at their best and removal-heavy hands are weak.
  • Your best hands have something to cast every turn.

Sideboard Guide

Runes Matchups

In

Out

Rakdos Anvil Matchups

In

Out

Mono White Aggro Matchups

In

Out

Orzhov Venture Matchups

In

Out

Mardu Sewer Matchups

In

Out

Wrap Up

Vanishing Verse - Illustration by Chris Seaman

Vanishing Verse | Illustration by Chris Seaman

Mardu Sewer was our team’s answer to a Runes-dominant Alchemy metagame. The core of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Citystalker Connoisseur offers a lot of build-around potential. We missed the mark a little bit on our meta prediction thinking Runes would be played more while Mono White Aggro ended up being the most popular deck choice, but we still managed to put Zach Dunn and Zhi Yimin into the top 8 (and Worlds!) regardless.

The main deck Duresses were overboard. If you want to tune this deck going forward I recommend putting those in the sideboard in favor of more Triumphant Adventurers or other interaction. It’ll be interesting to see how these cards fare in the future of the format. The deck was a meta call designed to prey upon Runes, but since Runes is no longer a big presence in the meta it could make this deck worse going forward if grindier strategies prevail.

What do you think of the deck? Is it less relevant since Runes isn’t as prevalent, or do you see another reason for it to see a resurgence? Let me know in the comments down below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.

That’s all from me for today. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!

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