Control is back! Tell a friend!

Alright, I know U/W Approach was played a significant amount last Standard, but that deck played a bit different from traditional control, by being centered around removal and playing barely any counterspells. This U/B Control deck that took two slots in the top 4 of the World Championship has a ton of counter spells, removal, and a few large threats, which is just how I like to play!

The first thing to do with a Standard Control deck is to figure out the best list. The World Championship top 4 featured two similar, but not identical, versions of the deck. Lets dive into the strengths and weaknesses of each.

U/B Control by Kelvin Chew at 2017 World Championship – 3rd

Creatures (5)
3 The Scarab God
2 Torrential Gearhulk

Non-Creature Spells (29)
3 Censor
Vraska’s Contempt
Essence Scatter
Fatal Push
Glimmer of Genius
Supreme Will
Essence Extraction
Disallow
Aether Meltdown
Search for Azcanta

Lands (26)
Drowned Catacomb
Fetid Pools
Island
Submerged Boneyard
Swamp
Field of Ruin
Evolving Wilds

Sideboard (15)
Essence Extraction
Negate
Gifted Aetherborn
Doomfall
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Arguel’s Blood Fast
Duress
Bontu’s Last Reckoning

U/B Control by Josh Utter-Leyton at 2017 World Championship – 4th

Creatures (5)
The Scarab God
Torrential Gearhulk

Non-Creature Spells (29)
Fatal Push
Censor
Essence Scatter
Disallow
Essence Extraction
Vraska’s Contempt
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Glimmer of Genius
Search for Azcanta

Lands (26)
Fetid Pools
Drowned Catacomb
Evolving Wilds
Island
Swamp
Field of Ruin

Sideboard (15)
Essence Extraction
Field of Ruin
Duress
Negate
Arguel’s Blood Fast
Treasure Map
Contraband Kingpin
Vizier of Many Faces

First, let’s look at the differences between these two decks. In the creature section, Josh opts to shave the 3rd God and go up to 3 Torrential Gearhulk. This change gives the deck access to flashing back more spells, but does exchange the raw power of The Scarab God for versatility. Personally, I think the meta will move towards a place where Torrential Gearhulk is simply not as good as The Scarab God, and would chose to play the extra God. However, if the meta shifts towards Control decks, I believe Torrential Gearhulk will be the better choice, and if you expect a ton of Control in your meta, I would consider adding a Gearhulk to the sideboard.

In terms of spells, Chew played only three Censor to Josh’s four. This is good if you expect Control in your metagame, as the card rarely serves its primary service of actually countering spells, but often is just cycled. While this does fill the graveyard for Search for Azcanta, it just isn’t good enough to play against other Control decks. I would stick with three copies. A change that Chew makes is to cut a Disallow, which I do not personally like. I think Disallow is good against the current metagame, other than Ramunap Red if too many copies are drawn early, and also shines against rogue decks. I believe Josh was correct to play four.

One of the most interesting differences between the decks are the draw spells. While Chew decides to play four Glimmer of Genius and two Supreme Will, Utter-Leyton plays four Hieroglyphic Illumination and a single Glimmer. Immediately, I am drawn to the Supreme Will, as it functions as both card selection and as a counter spell. The copies of Hieroglyphic Illumination do help smooth out your draws early, but it seems that they serve the dual purpose of flipping Search for Azcanta, which is extremely powerful in the mirror. I like playing the four Illuminations, but would try to find space for Supreme Will.

Speaking of Search for Azcanta, the card has proven to be insane, and did so much for everyone who played it at Worlds. I believe Josh’s choice of three is correct, as the card is just so good against any non-aggro deck that I believe it warrants at least three copies (with the fourth one being excluded because of the Legendary rule applying on both halves of the card). I don’t like Kelvin’s choice to play Aether Meltdown, because even though it is good against aggro, it is lackluster against the popular threats of The Scarab God, Walking Ballista, and Hazoret.

The last thing to look at in the main is the landbase, and personally, I think there is not contest. Utter-Leyton’s choice to play three Field of Ruin was fantastic, and I think him and his team knocked it out of the park with this one. Search for Azcanta is one of, if not the most powerful card in the Mirror match. Having the possibility of destroying it without actually using a spell is fantastic. It also serves the dual purpose of sacrificing it to trigger revolt, allowing you to get rid of a pesky Rogue Refiner or Whirler Virtuoso. I think three is the correct number to be on, as the card can also do work against Ramunap Red in corner case situations.

Overall, I think both players had amazing decks, and played them even better, and I was very lucky to see two masters play these decks live. In my opinion, the best deck is a sort of amalgamation of both. Here is my list:
U/B Control by Riccardo Monico

Creatures (5)
3 The Scarab God
2 Torrential Gearhulk

Non-Creature Spells (29)
3 Censor
4 Disallow
4 Hieroglyphic Illumination
3 Vraska’s Contempt
2 Supreme Will
2 Essence Extraction
4 Fatal Push
4 Essence Scatter
3 Search for Azcanta

Lands (26)
4 Fetid Pools
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Evolving Wilds
6 Island
5 Swamp
3 Field of Ruin

I am not currently well versed enough on the format to provide an exact sideboard, but I know for a fact that I want 4 Duress, 2 Essence Extraction, 2-4 Negate, and some number of Vizier of Many Faces. For the rest of it, we will have to wait until the Pro Tour, where we will get a much more detailed view of what the Control deck needs to fight against. There may be some crazy new combo deck, or some graveyard based decks that make us play Scavenger Grounds. Personally, I hope it is dominated by Control, because Control mirrors are the best games of Magic, unless you are truly into some messed up stuff  like I am.

Until then, tailor your sideboard to whatever your local meta is, and I hope that you, like me, will have fun denying everybody else their fun!

See you all next week!
Riccardo Monico

If you’re looking for some analysis on Ixalan limited, read this article from Jonah Gaynor, where he sifts through and analyzes all the cards from Ixalan and analyzes the archetypes that have emerged as contenders. 

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