Magic: Frontier’s Boogeyman is not that difficult to play

Heads up Yugioh players, this is about Magic. Read on if you like, click an ad and move on if you’re not interested. A lot of people hate Frontier as a format simply because it’s not extended and it’s not official. Regardless of how you feel about Frontier, it’s picked up a lot of steam. There’s a lot of talk that the format is just 4-color midrange and that simply isn’t true. Atarka Red largely acts as the fun police making sure nobody is trying to get too durdly. If Atarka Red is the fun police, 4-color Rally is the boogeyman that everybody’s scared of, nobody wants to play against but yet, not many people are really playing the deck. Why is that?

There are two main reasons that I can see as to why people aren’t playing rally and both are because people are lazy. The first reason people aren’t playing Rally is because it’s too hard. The deck is a hard deck but it’s not that hard. Even if you’re playing the deck 90% optimally, the deck is still better than a 90% optimal deck that’s easier to play simply because Rally is a better deck. The second reason why people aren’t playing Rally is that they don’t want to update the deck to Frontier. That’s not any kind of excuse, just play the same 75 that you copied from KTK-OGW standard and call it a day. That build of Rally is still very potent, and what I’ve been playing isn’t too far off either. There’s also a third reason as to why people aren’t playing Rally and that’s cost. People who don’t own Jaces and all the fetches don’t want to buy them if they’re not going to be useful elsewhere. I’ve got a secret, fetches see play in Legacy and Vintage, especially the blue ones. Flooded Strand and Polluted Delta are both blue and see play in Miracles, UB reanimator and every flavor of BUG. Windswept Heath is cheaper anyways because it sees less play but will always see play in any GW deck in Modern/Legacy that isn’t a Leonin Arbiter deck.

Here’s a sample list from when Rally was in standard. This is Owen Turtenwald’s 4c Rally deck shortly before SOI came out.

CREATURES: 28

2 Sidisi’s Faithful
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
4 Zulaport Cutthroat
1 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
4 Catacomb Sifter
4 Reflector Mage
4 Nantuko Husk
1 Grim Haruspex

SPELLS: 8

4 Collected Company
4 Rally the Ancestors

LANDS: 24

4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
4 Windswept Heath
3 Evolving Wilds
1 Plains
1 Island
1 Swamp
1 Forest
2 Sunken Hollow
2 Canopy Vista
1 Prairie Stream

SIDEBOARD: 15

3 Arashin Cleric
1 Minister of Pain
3 Murderous Cut
4 Dispel
2 Duress
2 Despise

Don’t be fooled, this is a combo deck. Nantuko Husk plus a ton of creatures is a pretty good combo. When I first picked up the deck I was always a couple points of damage short for the combo kill but started getting more aggressive during the first couple turns and it made the Rally kill much more consistent.

Sidisi’s Faithful is just an Unsummon that you can hit with Collected Company and Rally. Elvish Visionary is an amazing card that sees play in Modern and Legacy, why not play it here? Jace doesn’t straight up draw cards but he filters your hand and lets you put extra creatures in your grave, which might be more important. Zulaport Cutthroat is part one of the combo, you just need a way to get a bunch of creatures on the battlefield and a way to sacrifice them that doesn’t cost mana. Ayli is cool but costs mana to sacrifice things and is the first creature I’d cut when adding in anything from M15 or SOI-forward.

Nantuko Husk is part two of your three part combo, it sacrifices other creatures to get +2/+2 until end of turn. With Cutthroat out, every creature you sacrifice also drains your opponent for one life. After that you just need a way to get a bunch of creatures. Catacomb Sifter isn’t quite a payoff for anything, just a good creature that’s always good. It ETBs and gives you a Scion and lets you scry every time something else dies, including tokens. Reflector Mage is a messed up Magic card and does everything you want no matter how you put it on the battlefield, then it’s just another 2/3 body that you’re fine trading in combat or sacrificing to Husk. Grim Haruspex is the last creature Owen played and just one is exactly enough. You can’t play less than one copy and still play the card and you don’t want more than one because you’re going to draw more than enough cards off of it. If your opponent uses a removal spell on Haruspex, great, that means one less removal spell when you attack with Husk.

Owen only played two different spells. One puts two creatures from your library onto the battlefield, the other puts all of the creatures in your grave into play. The consensus on how many Collected Company hits to play is 24 or 25, Owen’s list has 28. If you exclude the additional copies of any legends, he has 25, technically more because those three extra Jaces only aren’t hits when you hit two Jace or already have a creature Jace. Even then, you’ll sacrifice one to the legend rule and get to scry/draw/drain off of Sifter/Haruspex/Cutthroat. Rally is part three of your combo and conveniently puts Husk and Cutthroat onto the battlefield. Casting Rally for 5 mana with Husk, Cutthroat and 19 other creatures in your grave deals 20 damage but you get all those additional ETB triggers from Visionary, Reflector Mage and any other ETB creatures you’ve got. Don’t forget that Sifter counts as two creatures in the grave and that you can sacrifice Husk to itself if it would be exiled.

If you’re in doubt, just play this exact 75. It won a Standard GP and is a good deck but there are some really good cards not in the above list.

Satyr Wayfinder is the first standout card and I immediately cut Ayli, two Sidisi’s Faithful and one Visionary for four copies because it draws you a land and puts cards in the grave. I don’t know how to talk about how great this card is if you haven’t played with it.

Chord of Calling is a card from M15 that many people try to squeeze in their Rally lists. It’s just not worth the mana to get a 2 or 3 drop, even if you’re tapping your creatures for it. The only time I’ve wanted it was when I had Rally, a bunch of creatures in grave with Cutthroat/Husk and the other one in my deck but Sifter, Jace, Visionary and Wayfinder let you see enough of your deck that you shouldn’t have a problem finding Husk and Cutthroat.

Anafenza the Foremost is a great card. A 4/4 for 3 mana is pretty impressive and she puts counters on your other dudes, it’s just that you’re not trying to be super aggressive nor are you always able to cast her on your Turn 3, which is when she’s best because you often have to get basic Island for Reflector Mage or Jace.

Tireless Tracker and Thalia, Heretic Cathar are great cards from SOI block but they don’t ETB and get value nor add to our fill the grave and Rally for a ton of creatures plan. If you want to play these, just play Bant Company, with or without black for Anafenza.

Spell Queller is another crazy card, not quite as good as Reflector Mage but still quite good. I wouldn’t include any simply because this is a deck that wants to spend all of its mana on creatures, then play Rally or CoCo for more creatures. Something to not forget if you do play Queller is that you can Rally back your Queller, then sacrifice it to Husk with the exile their spell trigger on the stack and their spell will stay exiled forever.

Yahenni, Undying Partisan isn’t as crazy as Nantuko Husk because they’re legendary, don’t gain power when sacrificing and can’t sacrifice themself. Yahenni is good as Nantuko Husk number five and can be a threat in a deck with plenty of creatures to sacrifice to keep Yahenni indestructible.

Fatal Push looks like it’d slot right in with 15 fetch lands but the reason Murderous Cut is in the deck is to always be able to kill Anafenza the Foremost and Kalitas. Murderous Cut also kills Gearhulks, Ojutai after he attacked, Mantis Rider and even Kolaghan or Tasigur. Push NEEDS revolt to kill Anafenza, the main target for Cut. There’s definitely an argument for Push, especially with all the sacrificing and fetches. I’m not counting it out just yet.

The last card that I’d like to mention is Westvale Abbey. It’s colorless, which is the biggest downside, but it ETBs untapped and Wayfinder helps you get to it. I cut an Evolving Wilds from Owen’s list because there are already plenty colored sources in total and I thought about playing the deck at just 23 lands. If you mill Abbey with Wayfinder and get a different land, shrug, you’re not summoning Ormendahl that game. It’s just another dimension to attack on outside of Husk + Cutthroat Rallies. You can Rally a bunch of creatures back, then with the trigger from Rally to exile them, transform Abbey. You’re also draining them for 5, 10, 15 or 20 depending on how many Cutthroats you have, then you’re attacking for 9. Your deck is also weak to fast fliers and being able to flip Abbey into Ormendahl can really change a race, even if you’re using it as a blocker.

With these updates, my list for Frontier looks like this.

CREATURES: 28

4 Satyr Wayfinder
3 Elvish Visionary
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
4 Zulaport Cutthroat
3 Catacomb Sifter
4 Reflector Mage
4 Nantuko Husk
1 Yahenni, Undying Partisan
1 Grim Haruspex

SPELLS: 8

4 Collected Company
4 Rally the Ancestors

LANDS: 24

4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
4 Windswept Heath
2 Evolving Wilds
1 Plains
1 Island
1 Swamp
1 Forest
2 Sunken Hollow (or 1 Hollow and 1 Evolving Wilds)
2 Canopy Vista
1 Prairie Stream
1 Westvale Abbey (or Evolving Wilds/Prairie Stream)

SIDEBOARD: 15

3 Arashin Cleric (or Lambholt Pacifist)
1 Minister of Pain
3 Murderous Cut (or Fatal Push)
3 Dispel
2 Duress

From Owen’s list I cut Sidisi’s Faithful and Ayli, then shaved Elvish Visionary and Catacomb Sifter down to three each to make room for four Satyr Wayfinder and one Yahenni. Yahenni having haste is often relevant when you Rally during your main phase because you’re going to sacrifice everything else anyways, so just attack with Yahenni and try to get in for a little more damage. Yahenni is also just good to draw and cast. Yahenni is pretty similar to Haruspex in how it plays.

Sifter is an amazing card and I’m not happy about going down to three copies but I’ll often side one copy out if I need to make room. Elvish Visionary is another card I’m not too happy to cut down to three but I’m adding four Wayfinder, which is pretty similar in that it’s a 1/1 for 1G that draws a card. Wayfinder is better early to ensure land drops and set up Rally but Visionary is generally better during Rally turns to draw into another Rally if you don’t have lethal.

For the lands I cut anĀ Evolving Wilds for an Abbey. Like I said before, Abbey adds another dimension to the deck. If you mill it with Wayfinder, that sucks, any of your colored lands that you mill are also stuck in the graveyard and you’ll be playing the rest of the game without them. Rally is a fully four-colored deck that’s very hungry for colors and a colorless source isn’t ideal but there are 18 white sources, 18 blue sources, 13 black sources and 13 green sources. Ideally you would have another source of green, which is why Owen and other Rally lists include 3 Evolving Wilds but I wanted to move down to 23 lands with Wayfinder anyways. I might swap Sunken Hollow for Prairie Stream but Canopy Vista is also white and I find myself often needing BB to cast some combination of Husk, Cutthroat, Haruspex and Yahenni in the same turn. The deck has no red mana or red cards, so Sunken Hollow is the only black dual we can play. Also, Push and Duress after siding.

As for the sideboard, Arashin Cleric and Minister of Pain are for Atarka Red and decks that rely on 1/1 tokens to do their thing. Lambholt Pacifist is something I’m interested in trying over Arashin Cleric. Fleshbag Marauder and Merciless Executioner help against control decks that use something like Dragonlord Ojutai. Abzan Ascendancy is great against control as it turns every single creature into a 1/1 spirit after it dies. Sweepers that don’t exile are already bad against Rally and everything turning into a spirit sucks for control. It makes Hallowed Moonlight better but you’re not spending cards to make the spirits. I have three Dispel here, a lot of lists vary between two, three and four. I only want to side in four in the Rally mirror, which not a lot of people are playing because the deck is complicated. Murderous Cut is mainly to stop Anafenza and Kalitas from stopping you but also hit Jace, Mantis Rider, Gearhulks, tapped Ojutais and Kolaghan. I’m going to try Fatal Push in this slot for now. I’m a little afraid of Ojutai/Kolaghan flying over or Verdurous Gearhulk trampling through but being able to answer an Anafenza when they go Elvish Mystic into Anafenza when they’re on the play has to be considered. The last card I have is Duress, it’s almost never dead, is easily flashed back with Jace and hits counterspells, Hallowed Moonlight, targeted removal, exiling removal, sweepers, planeswalkers and everything else but Anafenza and Kalitas.

The deck is complicated with a lot of moving parts and bookkeeping to keep track of. Obviously practice the deck but if you can, write down all the cards that you know where they are in your deck. Keep track on paper or in a word document if you’re playing online. Here are some of the important things to keep track of.

  • How many fetchable lands are left in your deck and what can you get with the fetches you have
  • How many cards are in your library. The cards at the bottom effectively aren’t accessible through Wayfinder/Company or draws with Visionary/Haruspex
  • What cards are at the bottom of your library that you won’t see from Wayfinder/Company
  • What cards are at the bottom of your library that you want to shuffle back into your library with a fetchland
  • How much damage you will deal if you cast Rally and sacrifice everything to Husk. Catacomb Sifter counts as two creatures and two Cutthroat means each creature is two damage
  • How much damage Husk will deal if Husk isn’t blocked and you have Rally/Company
  • Can you flip Abbey and attack for lethal that way?

Obviously your goal is to win the game but you need to have a plan to do that.

The first couple turns should be spent getting your colors. Canopy Vista, Sunken Hollow, Plains is enough colors. Plains, Forest, Sunken Hollow, Prairie Stream gives you WW and UU for Rally and a U spell plus Dispel backup. It’s important that two of your first three lands are basics so that every land ETBs untapped later in the game. You have no one-drops except for Duress and Push in the SB, so play a tapland turn one, a basic turn two and a basic turn three. If your first tapland is Evolving Wilds, even better. If you draw a BFZ dual, try to get the basics that don’t share a color with it first.

While you’re setting up your mana, you should be playing derpy 2 and 3 mana guys that will have a long lasting effect on the game, which is all of them. Cutthroats gain life, which means trades and chump blocks give you extra time against decks that are trying to race you to your Rally.

Plan A is to survive, get incidental damage with Cutthroat and win by sacrificing creatures to Husk, either through Cutthroat damage or in combat. Not losing is more important than setting up Rally because if you lose, it didn’t matter that you had a lethal Rally the next turn. After you’re sure you’re not dead, start assembling Nantuko Husk and Cutthroat. Sifter and Haruspex are really nice to have too but not crucial. Finally, find Rally. Haruspex and Sifter let you dig through your deck for Rally, which is why early lists included four of each. I’d like a fourth Sifter but once one hits the battlefield, you’re generally fine. Visionary gets you one card closer and Wayfinder puts four into the grave for Jace to cast. It’s not easy to win without Rally so keep digging for it but Yahenni and Nantuko Husk aristocrats is certainly an option, which is why I added the one Abbey, which is plan B. It costs five creatures already on the battlefield and the same amount of mana as Rally and is almost as good as Rally a lot of the time. Plan C stinks and is to win by attacking with your creatures that aren’t Husk and hope that you have Cutthroat to drain their life a little.

If you want to beat Rally the best way is evasion. The only creatures that fly are Ormendahl and the 1/1 spirits from Abzan Ascendancy. The deck has no other evasion and is fairly weak to big dumb trample creatures. Managorger Hydra, Verdurous Gearhulk and Siege Rhino are all fairly good because 1/1s don’t effectively chump them and gain a life for extra padding.

The next most effective thing is Hallowed Moonlight and Dispel. Moonlight stops Company and Rally while cantripping. Dispel counters both of them, any creature kill spells and counters Rally’s own Dispels.

If I’m not UW, I want to have Anafenza and/or Kalitas. Anafenza is more effective because she exiles things Jace discards and Wayfinder mills but Kalitas provides creatures to chump the Husk and gains life against a deck that can typically only deal a few more points than their opponent has life.

The last sideboard card that people play for Rally is Tormod’s Crypt and it’s something that the deck didn’t have to deal with in standard. Tormod’s Crypt really is a safety valve that needs to exist because there’s nothing else like it. You put Crypt on the table and your Rally opponent can’t cast Rally ever again and they immediately become terrified of sacrificing their creatures. I suppose you can Disallow the ability but Disallow isn’t a card that Rally wants to play. I’d rather play Naturalize, to force you to sac the Crypt, then cast Rally.

Rally is a fun deck to play and actually fun to goldfish. If you want to learn the deck, you need to goldfish a bunch with it and practice remembering what’s where and get a feel for the triggers and the land fetching. If you’re serious about learning Rally, there are a bunch of videos and articles to check out.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading, click an ad, make sure you’ve got Reflector Mages because they’re always going to be good in Frontier. I’m sorry that this is mostly a pictureless wall of text. Ask me questions or let me know what you think on…

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