Control of the Board

September 24, 2016

Alessandro Lippi

30 years old
Travel Agent, Italy
TOP 4 GP Utrecht and Turin

More Posts (9)

Hi guys!

Theros is out, now it’s time to go ahead and start thinking about new standard.
I usually tend to play control or combo decks, so since I don’t see much space for comboing people out of the game, today I’ll talk about the future of control decks.
Let’s start with a list of “no longer Standard legal cards” that will affect control decks as we used to know them.
Snapcaster Mage
Restoration Angel
Augur of Bolas
This magic trio has been ruling over Standard since they were legal. Snapcaster/Resto, in particular, are so powerful that they’re still playing a great role in Modern as well. They were the spine of Standard UWR Flash, which was the most played pre-M14 control deck. Then Burning Earth appeared, and all of a sudden playing a 20+ non basic-land deck was no longer a good deal. So people started switching from UWR to UW (as well as from Jund to BG) to reduce the impact of the powerful enchantment to the minimum (playing 12+ basics). Those deck are no longer playable due to the loss of the above mentioned power trio and key cards like Think Twice. We lost dual lands like Clifftop Retreat or Glacial Fortress two, but I think there’s room to fix this problem with the tapped-scrying lands from Theros. Esper version lost their main winning condition (aka Nephalia Drownyard) and need to be completely revisited in order to stay competitive. We can look at the RTR Block version, which was quite successful.
Not everything is lost, though. We have a new power trio to build our control decks on: Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict, Aetherling. The fuel, the sweeper, the finisher. If you want to go control, and your goal is winning, you can’t avoid these, no matter what version of UW(x) you choose. Whatever card they will print, we know we can win a game by staying alive until we can cast a huge Revelation into an Aetherling. So, let’s take a look at what these kind of decks gain from Theros.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: probably the most amazing card from the new set, a good complement to Aetherling as a finisher. We can cast her and wrath the fatties or just chumpblock until we can play Supreme Verdict or a huge Revelation (into wrath). She’s pretty good at killing our opponent, too.
Last Breath: it’s clearly not as good as Doom Blade or Magma Jet are, but in the straight UW version we could see a couple of them to go with Azorius Charm as pre-wrath solution to early threats.
Soldier of the Pantheon: at first glance is an aggro card, but if you think he can stop threats from Rakdos Cackler to Boros Reckoner (gaining life on his way), you’ll try to make a room for it in your 75.
Dissolve: a good replacement for Dissipate in a non-flashback format, to go with Syncopate and Essence Scatter
Hero’s Downfall and Thoughtseize: the Esper version, which has Doom Blade and Devour Flesh as cheap removal, can add this versatile removal and the (arguably) best 1 mana discard spell ever (sorry Duress) to its squad.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver: another good finisher for Esper versions, which is insane in mirror matches if left unmolested. Don’t waste your Detention Sphere if you suspect him to be around.
Magma Jet and Anger of the Gods: the Red version, which can count on Izzet Charm and Boros Reckoner, plus the “new Fact or Fiction” Steam Augury, can use these as tools against aggro decks.
Now we just have to try and build a decklist. Building a control deck is way harder than an aggro one in an unknown format, because as the Sage said, “there are no wrong threats, only wrong answers”. It’s impossible for us to know how the format will look like, so we just don’t know how to answer what. We can just try to set up a sketch of possible weapons in our UW.

-Card drawing
Sphinx’s Revelation
Azorius Charm

Essence Scatter

Azorius Charm
Last Breath
Detention Sphere
Supreme Verdict

-Planeswalker and finisher
Jace, Architect of Thought
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Take 26/27 lands (I wouldn’t go to 25 because of the absence of Think Twice, and hitting land drop every turn as you should know is too important for a deck like this), choose the right number of each spell, shake, and we have a brand new UW control. If you want to set it against aggro, you can splash red. If you want to have access to Thoughtseize and Sin Collector (plus more removal) you can go Esper, although those versions have weaker mana and are way more vulnerable to Manabarbs. Let’s spend a few words on Scry lands. They’re obviously not as good as shocklands or Idontknowhowtocallthem-Glacial Fortress style lands, but RTR Block Constructed showed us that Guildgates were a decent replacement, so I wouldn’t mind playing their upgrade, especially in a control deck which can afford to play a tapped land on turn 1.
Best additions in the UWR version: Magma Jet, Steam Augury, Anger of the Gods, Boros Reckoner, Warleader’s Helix, Assemble the Legion, Izzet Charm, Turn // Burn
Best additions in the Esper version: Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, Hero’s Downfall, Thoughtseize, Sin Collector, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Doom Blade, Devour Flesh, Far // Away
We definitely need time (and a large amount of testing) to study the format and answer correctly to the new threats in order to build a good control deck, but I think here we have a good starting point, and I look forward from the cards to be on MTGO to start trimming some games.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this

See you next time on this screen

Alessandro Lippi

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