Deck Tech: Rainbow Lich

Posted in Event Coverage on November 10, 2018

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

You have The Mirari Conjecture, Chance for Glory, Mastermind's Acquisition, Vraska's Contempt, Settle the Wreckage, and Lich's Mastery in front of you. Which are you playing: Standard at the Pro Tour, or Chaos Standard Sealed Deck?

  • The Mirari Conjecture
  • Chance for Glory
  • Mastermind's Acquisition
  • Vraska's Contempt
  • Settle the Wreckage
  • Lich's Mastery

The answer, of course, is Standard. The player, to the surprise of zero of his Twitter followers, is Zac Elsik. The godfather of Modern's Lantern Control deck has a penchant for cool control decks.

"I love control decks. I especially love control decks that have a combo finish," Elsik said. That's exactly what Rainbow Lich is: a control deck built to set up an infinite-turn engine and take over a game. It just takes some time to get there, which it's ready to do in a world filled with Golgari Midrange and Mono-Red Aggro.

"Coming into the Pro Tour, I took Ali Aintrazi's list he'd been playing. I gave it a few test runs but the mana felt clunky," Elsik said. "I experimented with three different color combinations in the deck. A lot of builds were running Chromatic Lantern since with it you can play anything. I settled on an Abzan version that splashed blue for The Mirari Conjecture and red for Chance for Glory."

The deck works by setting up Lich's Mastery, obviously. But in addition to its "gain life to draw cards" effect, the "you can't lose the game" text means Chance for Glory is just a free extra turn. With The Mirari Conjecture to help keep it going and Mastermind's Acquisition to find whatever is needed, it's possible to go deep.

But that combo needs time to set up, and fortunately life gain doubles as insurance and card draw all at once in the deck.

"The shell of Revitalize, Gift of Paradise, and Vraska's Contempt lets you relieve a lot of pressure from aggro decks," Elsik said. "They have to apply more and your wrath effects would take over. Another card that worked well was Discover // Dispersal. Discovery was great because in a combo control shell it lets you find what you need and it also 'gained life' for when Mastery arrives by putting cards into your graveyard."

When your life total suddenly switches from your life pad to the cards in hand, in play, and in your graveyard, you can afford to play cards differently, too.

"Shock lands," Elsik said, referring to Sacred Foundry and Overgrown Tomb dual lands from Guilds of Ravnica, "wouldn't matter since at some point you play Mastery and your resources become your life. A lot of strength came from this hexproof enchantment that let you stabilize in a unique way and recover."

  • Watery Grave
  • Steam Vents
  • Overgrown Tomb
  • Sacred Foundry
  • Temple Garden

So why was Elsik excited to see a metagame filled with Golgari Midrange and aggressive decks?

"There's no card in green or black that destroys Lich's Mastery," Elsik said with a grin. "You can clean up the board, play Mastery without worrying it will go away. Now your life gain draws you cards. You get to [play] The Mirari Conjecture and set up taking infinite turns. Chance for Glory, Mastermind's Acquisition, eventually tutoring for Nature's Spiral in the sideboard. Once you have infinite turns you can do anything. Aintrazi tested Banefire. I tried Zacama, Primal Calamity in MTG Arena and that was a ton of fun."

"Chance for Glory—that's what made this deck viable," Elsik said. "Without it you have to manually cast Lich's Mastery and just hope they don't have anything. Now, if they don't threaten to kill you, you can cast Chance for Glory on their end step to take two turns in a row. It's hard for them to pressure you while you're doing that since they have to respect Settle the Wreckage. If they overcommit beforehand you can cast Cleansing Nova. It's this back and forth game of pressure you eventually win because you have this combo deck."

"Experimental Frenzy and Runaway Steam-Kin make the red matchup better," Elsik said. "They're incentivized to play their burn spells out early, but it's better to hold and cast them after Lich's Mastery where you'd lose so many resources."

While Elsik needed to work on drafting ahead of the weekend—"Draft is my worst format," he explained about his 1-2 start—it was an unbelievable turn that finally knocked him out of the tournament. "The mono-red player attacked with two Runaway Steam-Kins into Settle the Wreckage mana. When I cast Settle the Wreckage, in response he used the Steam-Kins to play Lightning Strike, Lightning Strike, and Wizard's Lightning all at once. That was lethal."

Confident in his choice, Elsik was thinking over what he'd tweak in the future. "I should have played a third Moment of Craving." It's a change you can make to take this your local game store if control decks are sparse and Golgari is king.

Zac Elsik's Rainbow Lich

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