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By: DimeCollectoR, Jason Moore
Jul 31 2017 12:00pm
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Hi folks!

 

This one is for all of my fellow control freaks out there.

 

Part One and Two of my Hour of Devastation studies have directed me down a path I should have seen coming a mile away.

 

U/x Control.

 

At this point there's a few possibilities for us to consider. Either you're not very familiar with this archetype in Constructed, or you are familiar with it and you dig it, or you are familiar with it and you don't dig it.

 

I'll say right off the bat that if you're in that third category what follows probably isn't going to be your cup of tea. However, if you fall within one of the two former groups, I hope you'll stick around and read about what I've been doing with (Tragic Lesson) in Classic Pauper!

 

A quick disclaimer before we dive in: it's nothing groundbreaking. But it is value. Marvelous, marvelous value!

 

We begin with the list:

Before we get to scrutinizing this list and discussing its moving parts, allow me to first provide you with some of the broad spectrum objectives associated with my creation of this deck.

 

First and foremost, one of my primary goals was to compose a suitable control shell to facilitate the usage of Hour of Devastation's (Tragic Lesson:hou) and (God-Pharaoh's Faithful:hou). While I haven't played an insane amount with this list, I do believe that I've succeeded in that regard. More on these cards later.

 

Next up was the objective of composing a suitable control shell which not only won matches with a dominant Stage Three endgame, but also possessed ample means of surviving the Stage One aggression of many popular opposing decks.

 

In my eyes this point is quite key. You'll notice that many attritive decks in the Pauper format lean very heavily on late game resource generation, Stage Three engines and something I've referred to in the past as “repurchasing.”

 

To borrow from myself, here is a definition of Pauper repurchasing.

 

For all intents and purposes, repurchasing is the ability to garner additional utility from a previously harvested resource. This often occurs when permanents are bounced back to their controller's hand or "blinked" (exiled and then returned to the battlefield). If you want to think in broad terms, you could consider repurchasing merely as a distinct avenue for gaining card advantage.”

 

Late game repurchasing has only become a bigger deal over time in our format. Some of the very top decks right now repurchase creatures with Ghostly Flicker, Ninja of the Deep Hours, Pulse of Murasa, Reaping the Graves or Soul Manipulation, repurchase spells with Archaeomancer or Mnemonic Wall, and repurchase other permanents with Glint Hawk or Kor Skyfisher.

 

These methods tend to have the same thing in common. They equate to powerhouse plays in the late game, but sacrifice early game tempo and somewhat diminish the robustness of our opening hands and early draws. This is where UW Control differs philosophically.

 

Take a brief look at our repurchasing methods. Azorius Chancery, Deprive, Kor Skyfisher, Mortuary Mire, Oona's Grace, (Tragic Lesson). They're all one-ofs. Essentially what this deck provides is a number of late game value options at a slightly lower volume. This means that our late game is not as devastating, but consequently our early game is more secure.

 

The logic here is that we should be winning against our foes in the extreme late game anyway. Do we need to beat our opponent 120% as badly in Stage Three? No. A 100% victory is all we'll ever need.

 

Oona's Grace

 

With that being said, let's look at what this deck actually does to cultivate late game inevitability. One of our biggest “finisher” elements is Oona's Grace. This deck plays a lot of lands (24!) for a Pauper deck, and feeds Grace by bouncing some with Deprive, Kor Skyfisher and (Tragic Lesson). What's more, (Tragic Lesson) can put Oona's Grace in the graveyard when maintaining tempo is a priority. Throw in (God-Pharaoh's Faithful) from the sideboard and we now have a life gain engine fixed to our card drawing.

 

But why merely bounce things to power up Oona's Grace? The presence of Mortuary Mire in the deck greatly increases the power level of Azorius Chancery, Deprive, Kor Skyfisher and (Tragic Lesson). Radiant Fountain functions similarly, but usually doesn't come close to Mire, which equates to Mulldrifter copies five and up.

 

To those immediately thinking about cutting lands, I wouldn't recommend it unless extensive testing validates your logic. This deck feeds off of lands, and wants to make several key drops at different points of the game.

 

It needs enough basics to outweigh the potential early game clunk of a Chancery or Mortuary Mire. It needs enough blue sources to enable Counterspell and Deprive (hence the 18 blue as I've advocated for years). It also doesn't want to skimp on white, because the vast majority of our white spells want to be playable early in the game.

 

To oversimplify a bit, this strategy wins the game with flying beats after clearing or invalidating the opponent's board and shutting down his outs with countermagic and superior resource bearing via our repurchasing methods. A winning game state will often see us playing the part of overfed slob while our opponents succumb to starvation and anemia.

 

I agree. Sounds fun.

 

I am far from opposed to upping the Tragic Lesson count in the future. The card has been very pleasant to draw into around Stage Two and Stage Three, while not causing much issue during the early half of most games. We have Oona's Grace and Think Twice to discard to it, not to mention pieces of removal or permission that simply won't apply to all of the opposition running around in Pauper.

 

Journey to Nowhere

 

Before we get to the sideboard I'd like to talk briefly about removal. This deck's success is often going to depend on our opponent's ability to cope with our removal spells.

 

Izzet decks like Delver and Fiend cannot remove our Journey to Nowheres, Oblivion Ring or Spontaneous Mutation. The same goes for Affinity lists not running Ray of Revelation. The same goes for Blue Delver and most Boros lists.

 

Gleeful Sabotage out of Stompy and Dinrova Horror out of various decks is where we start to run into trouble. Unless the game is already well in our favor, these cards can be a nightmare if they target our Journeys. I'm not yet sure if there is a solution to these two problem cards.

 

 

Okay. Sideboard. The first card for us to talk about, naturally, is (God-Pharaoh's Faithful) (also from Hour of Devastation). I'm liking this card against Stompy, Burn and RDW. The bulk of my experience with her has been against Stompy, so I'll mainly talk about that.

 

Best-case scenario, Stompy simply can't kill her. They have a hand that doesn't include pumps, or the pumps they do have only boost power by 2 and we opt to block their 1/x creature. This scenario is usually devastating as you might imagine.

 

Next is the scenario where they can kill her, but need a pump to do so. In those scenarios we have a one mana creature that ties up their turn, makes them spend mana, costs them a pump spell and lets us virtually gain something like 6 life (2 power creature plus 4 damage worth of pump). We might even gain more life by casting a blue spell before that happens! That is a lot of functionality squeezed out of a single mana.

 

Faithful is starting to fascinate me more and more. It is a Turn 1 creature that can run away with the game late. It's something of a Soul Warden that's harder to kill, that pairs well with our flashback and retrace mechanics, and our ability to bounce blue creatures and replay them. In multiples it gets even nastier, and as an 0/4 wall for W (is there even a playable equivalent to that in Pauper?) it can warp the enemy's sequencing and slow them down quite a bit.

 

By no means is the card an absolute game-changer, but it's something I'm looking forward to testing a whole lot more.

 

The other facets of the sideboard are a work in progress. Circle of Protection: Green defends against Stompy and Hexproof, but has the same vulnerability to Gleeful Sabotage that our Journeys do. Curse of Chains is a removal spell intended for large Affinity threats, but occasionally underwhelms against Kor Skyfisher and Quirion Ranger decks. The Spellbomb and Relic split likely needs to be altered, since our own graveyard can be critical to our success.

 

That about sums up the sideboard for now. I wouldn't be surprised to see some major changes their in the near future.

 

Dime's Up

 

Thoughts on the deck? Did I forgot to mention something? Would you like a follow-up? You can always chime in!

 

You can also follow me on Twitter (@DimecollectorSC) for MTG-related updates and info!

 

Bye for now!