What Is Four Color Blood?
Four Color Blood is an aggressive non-blue Midrange deck with a powerful removal suite. Four Color Blood originated in other formats, where the deck tops out with very few fours, traditionally including Bloodbraid Elf, the namesake card. While Four Color Blood tends to be slower than other Gladiator Aggro decks due to its manabase, it has a better midgame due to its powerful removal and incredibly high card quality.
Four Color Blood
Understanding The Manabase
Mana may seem hard for four colors, but there’s actually a lot of deck modifications that make the mana flow much more smoothly. Firstly, a very low number of double pips make it a lot easier to cast all your spells on curve. Secondly, committing to a slower manabase can be outweighed by the raw power of your cards.
The mana base is broken down into a few groups:
First, there are lands that always come in tapped. These are included because they have relevant land types or tap for multiple colors of mana. These include the triomes, the snow duals from Kaldheim, and the cycling lands from Amonkhet Remastered.
Secondly, some lands come in untapped conditionally. These lands are played because they either tap for multiple colors of mana or because they have very high upside as utility lands. This section is more varied with Fabled Passage, Castle Locthwain, Cave of the Frost Dragon, and Den of the Bugbear. To a lesser extent, this also includes the cycle from Kaladesh Remastered (though Blooming Marsh and the like come in untapped the majority of the time), and the checklands (Sunpetal Grove and so on). Due to the large number of lands with basic land types on them, check lands will come into play untapped after turn one over 85% of the time.
The last group of lands are the lands that essentially always come into play untapped. This group contains basic lands, the pathway cycle (such as Darkbore Pathway), and shockland cycle (Blood Crypt, Temple Garden, etc.).
Unfortunately, the mana will typically be a little slow, and requires a good bit of thinking ahead and sequencing your lands correctly to have them come into play untapped at the right time and guarantee you have access to the right colors of mana.
Secretly, there is an additional upside to playing a complex manabase: free access to Tainted Pact, a powerful tutor that can often find you the piece you need, given that Four Color Blood has such a wide range of answers and threats.
Aggro is probably the hardest matchup for Four Color Blood, due to the slow or painful starts with your mana base. Against Aggro, the most important thing to do is to find your efficient interaction early on, and then stick a hard-to-kill threat. Against Mono Red and Mono Green, a large enough creature can also help stonewall the aggression, like Rotting Regisaur or Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. Against Mono White, a deck that goes wider but smaller with unconditional removal, threats that swing the race in your favor are more important. Creatures with vigilance or lifelink can be particularly important- landing a Kunoros, Hound of Athreos or Questing Beast can be game-winning with the right cards to back them up. As always, casting Elder Gargaroth either on curve or earlier can be absolutely backbreaking for Aggro decks, and is usually a high value tutor target.
As always, there’s no distinct plan to fight against the wide range of Midrange decks. Focus on hitting all your colors of mana, and try to find interaction quickly. More removal-resistant threats are much more important in this match up than aggressive ones- for example, Hazoret the Fervent, Rotting Regisaur, and Immersturm Predator are all valuable in this matchup. Klothys, God of Destiny is also a great mirror breaker here, especially if the games go a bit longer. Additionally, cards that create some amount of value even if they are quickly removed are important- Orcus, Prince of Undeath or Dire Fleet Daredevil can help tip the matchup in your favor.
Getting a fast start is the name of the game against Control. Efficient threats followed up by hand disruption can be an avenue to victory, as is an aggressive start followed up with haste creature after a wrath. Again, Klothys, God of Destiny is an all-star in this matchup, forcing your opponent to either find a niche way to deal with it or to try to race you. Reidane, God of the Worthy is also powerful in this matchup, delaying a wrath enough to get in more damage.
Your game plan against Combo decks is rather similar to your game plan against Control. Getting an aggressive start is key, so try to find a hand with two drop and three drop threats. Hand disruption is also important, though sometimes not necessary depending on the speed of your start. Because the majority of Combo decks in Gladiator are hybrid Combo-Control decks, playing around sweepers is something to keep in mind when piloting the early turns- firing off a hand attack spell before they get to the critical mana needed for a sweeper, or trying to get your threats to a certain toughness.
As a deck that already plays one of each basic land, Tainted Pact is a freeroll with no cost to the efficiency of our deck. Tainted Pact is a powerful instant speed tutor that enables you to find any piece you need to disrupt your opponent or close out a game. Try to cast Tainted Pact on your opponent’s end step so you maximize the amount of mana you have to use and choices you have when grabbing a card with it.
When casting Tainted Pact, there’s often a few questions I ask myself.
- What’s the matchup?
- How much mana do I have?
- What card is hardest for my opponent to deal with?
In matchups against decks without black or white, Rotting Regisaur is often quite good, as their options to interact with it are very limited. Against a deck like Izzet Control, resolving a Rotting Regisaur in the correct window is often gamewinning.
Against Control, I try to either get Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Hazoret the Fervent if I have few enough cards in hand. Against Dimir Control specifically, Ranger Class can be a hard to deal with source of card advantage.
Against Combo, I just try to get the card that can close out the game most efficiently.
As always, there are niche cases and the deck is very flexible, so try to consider all your possibilities before casting a Tainted Pact.
Llanowar Elves may seem a strange inclusion in a Four Color Deck as it is unable to fix mana and the deck is so pip-heavy. For example, Llanowar Elves doesn’t really help cast a Minsc, Beloved Ranger nor does it help cast a Lightning Helix. On the other hand, Four Color Blood is a deck that benefits greatly from casting more than one spell a turn, which can help vault itself into the lead. Being able to cast a two mana threat and interaction on turn three is a strong play pattern that is especially important when trying to turn the corner in Aggro matchups.
Assassin’s Trophy may be a staple removal spell in other formats, but it’s one of the most contentious spells in Gladiator. On one hand, in Aggro matchups, giving your opponent a land is a real cost, and can help them accelerate their start to overcome your removal spell. Conversely, Assassin’s Trophy is efficient and can deal with almost every problematic permanent in the format. Ultimately, there are a few factors that lead to Assassin’s Trophy’s inclusion.
- The downside of giving your opponent a land exists but is not overwhelming. It tends to be more important to remove a particularly problematic threat than to be stuck with a less versatile or more expensive removal spell. With a deck as mana hungry as Four Color Blood, efficiency is king.
- Aggro decks have lowered their curves. This means that their fourth and fifth lands are much less relevant, and they dump their hand more quickly, so Assassin’s Trophy nets them little benefit.
Kunoros, Hound of Athreos
One of Magic’s best doggos, Kunoros is able to be an absolute headache for Aggro players. If Kunoros is able to stick on the battlefield, your opponent’s two power and one power creatures become mostly irrelevant. Kunoros is able to both block and attack, capable of creating a nine point life swing within a single combat. With menace, Kunoros will often be able to attack and trade favorably, not to mention the scenarios where you can blow your opponent out with a removal spell after blockers. The graveyard hate abilities on Kunoros are less valuable, but have some niche advantage. Against Black Aggro, Kunoros can remove the deck’s ability to go longer with its recursive creatures. Against Control, Kunoros can also help slow down your opponent by stopping their Torrential Gearhulks and their Cling to Dusts.
Dire Fleet Daredevil
A sleeper inclusion, Dire Fleet Daredevil can sometimes be the best card in the deck. With the addition of Strixhaven: School of Mages, which brought the Mystical Archives, as well as the addition of the typical Standard sets, the quality of instants and sorceries in Gladiator has greatly improved. In my personal experience, Dire Fleet Daredevil has been able to steal an opponent’s Demonic Tutor for the win. In another match, Daredevil took See the Truth, netting me some serious card advantage. Though these are, of course, outlier scenarios, a more average case like stealing your opponent’s Pillar of Flame and having a first strike blocker is still incredibly potent.
Relevant Card Exclusions
With a deck as flexible as Four Color Blood, there’s a lot of room for flex slots. However, some cards have proven themselves to be worse than others and not worth ultimately playing. Let’s break them down:
This card tends to put you down on cards in hand, and you lack ways to use the graveyard efficiently. Because you’ve got a high density of multicolored lands, Faithless Looting also is not needed to help filter for mana, and your deck is threat dense enough that finding more threats isn’t that important either.
Four Color Blood is not typically a deck that goes particularly wide. Embercleave tends to excel in decks that consistently have three to four creatures on board by turn four, which Four Color Blood does not. The double red cost is also a factor, making Embercleave hard to cast and ultimately not worth a slot.
Because Adanto Vanguard is in the list, you may be wondering why it was included over Seasoned Hallowblade. I chose not to include Seasoned Hallowblade because frequently you need every card in your hand, especially to turn the corner, which Adanto Vanguard can enable. Vanguard is also more powerful in the Control and Combo matchups, where your life total matters less.
Tips and Tricks:
Because a lot of your deck has you losing life incidentally, it can sometimes be worth it to pay some extra life to grow your Knight of the Ebon Legion. For example, if you cast Thoughtseize, consider paying two life for Temple Garden to come in untapped even if you don’t need the mana. This can help you increase your clock in Control and Combo matchups, where your own life total matters less.
In the late game, try to hold onto one land in hand if possible. This enables your Hazoret the Fervent to attack, but also allows you to discard the card to deal two damage to your opponent if you want.
Typically you will cast the Valentin half of Valentin, Dean of the Vein, due to the more restrictive backside cost, but the backside can often be relevant. With Gilded Goose pumping out Food tokens, you can often grow your board to push past a boardstall or to turn the corner.
Against Thassa’s Oracle + Tainted Pact Combo, you can let the Tainted Pact resolve. When the Thassa’s Oracle trigger is still on the stack, you can cast Baleful Mastery for two mana, forcing your opponent to draw a card with no cards left in their library, therefore killing them before their Thassa’s Oracle trigger resolves.
Four Color Blood is a powerful and very versatile deck. It has a game plan against a wide swath of different archetypes, and plays a variety of threats and answers that can be tuned to the meta. Four Color Blood also has the benefit of feeling very different across games, making the deck’s play patterns more interesting and engaging.
You now have all the tools you need to play and enjoy Four Color Blood. So get out there and play some powerful magic!
Gladiator enthusiast, constant brewer, and self-proclaimed premier UG tempo and blitz pilot of the format.