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By: DimeCollectoR, Jason Moore
Aug 14 2017 12:00pm
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Hi folks!

This wasn't my idea.


I simply cannot take credit for this article topic. In the comments section of his Pauper metagame article, SteveJeltz came up with the subject matter and requested that I write about it.


So here we go. Let's hope I can do the topic justice.


I tend to use the phrase “U/x control” quite a bit when classifying a cluster of Pauper decks I like to play. But why? What makes blue the nerve center of that archetypal equation, and how do each of the other colors supplement it?


What specifically does each “backup” color have to offer? To what degree are these colors interchangeable? Tangentially, what does control in Pauper look like without blue? We are going to address these queries here and now (though some we might not cover until Part Two)!


Short/Long, Passive/Aggressive


Before we breach the subject of colors and the color pie, I'd like to first explore what we control mages should be generally trying to accomplish in our games. My intention here is to provide a framework for us to operate with once we move on to assessing each of the game's colors and what they can do for us.


As far as Magic is concerned, there is little that I enjoy writing about more than the strategic objectives and considerations of the control archetype. Furthermore, I'm playing with some ideas that I don't believe I've written about before, so please bear with me if I slip up.


As the control deck, we are going to have short-term interests and long-term interests in a given game. These are exactly what they sound like: things that we're interested in now, and things we'll be interested in later.


Aside from anomalies like suspend, when we invest mana, cast a spell or activate an ability, we are doing it now, and the result of our action takes place now. However, some of the actions we take are investments in our future, or don't end up having much of an impact until later on in the game.


We are the control deck. This means that a long game is our aim. This, in turn, means that we can afford to neglect neither our short-term nor our long-term interests. Doing so will likely result in our annihilation.


So what do short-term and long-term interests look like?


A short-term interest typically represents our desire to solve an immediate problem. I don't want to be attacked by that creature next turn. I don't want my opponent to have that much mana next turn. I want to hit my land drop this turn.


Long-term interests represent our desire to solve an eventual problem. They also tend to be less concrete. I want to win the war of attrition. I don't want my opponent to drain me of resources that win the game. I want to deck my opponent this game.


Through understanding short and long-term interests we now see why blue is such a robust color choice, and certainly the staple color of most Pauper control decks. Blue allows us to accomplish both short and long-term goals!


Blue is the water that impedes our opponent's movement in the present, and it's also the water that ferries us to our future destination. Blue is the adhesive binding our Stage One to our Stage Two to our Stage Three.


I've ranted and raved about Preordain in the past, and it's for very similar reasons. There are few spells besides Preordain that save our opening hand from a mulligan and win us the game during a Turn 15 topdeck war. There are necessarily few colors besides blue that do both of those things, either.


Let's put that on the back burner for a moment and now talk about passive and aggressive processes.


Think of passive processes like passive income. Passive income is money that comes in incidentally, meaning it's not sustained by continual labor or expenditure on our part. It just kinda flows in.


A great example of this is the newer game dynamic known as monarch. When we become the monarch, we reap the benefits of a passive process: drawing an extra card on each of our end steps. We don't have to contribute anything additionally to acquire these extra cards. If anything our opponent now has to do something to stop us!


Blue is pretty good at facilitating passive processes.


Curse of the Bloody Tome


Curse of the Bloody Tome can mill as many cards as our opponents have upkeeps, times two, until the game ends. It does so while never requiring more from us than the initial 2U investment.


Rhystic Study


Rhystic Study can net us cards or tax the opponent on mana all game long.



Chronic Flooding


While it doesn't have a home in Pauper at this time, Chronic Flooding can potentially stack our graveyard for all kinds of kooky interactions. It can do so all game long, at no additional cost to us.


Aggressive processes are much more common. Here are just a few off the top of my head: removing a creature. Making the opponent discard two cards. Scrying cards either to the top or the bottom.


Again, we can observe that blue delivers when it comes to both of the above categories.


Here is where we get into the heart of our discussion, because blue is not always the best at satisfying certain interests or enabling certain processes.


Blue will sometimes be better at long-term or passive parts of the equation than it will be at short-term or active parts. Sometimes blue will not be good enough at specific parts of the equation, like the active process of removing an enchantment, for instance.


This is why most control decks require multiples colors, artifacts or both. U/x control is no different.


One last thing before we look at other colors. Blue can often use help, but only in certain departments. For instance, we're not going to splash a color primarily to help blue out with permission. Blue is the best at that already. Same goes for card draw. Where blue can often use help, however, is with managing permanents and with winning the game more rapidly.




I'm going to start with reasons we wouldn't opt to play white.


White currently ranks as the third best creature removal color in Pauper. This is because white lacks edicts to get around hexproof, does not hold a candle to red at 1 mana and has popular removal spells that are undone by Boomerang and Disenchant effects.


Even though white has access to a “sweeper” in Holy Light, the card is outclassed by equivalents in black and red.


White is also not a great color when it comes to control finishers. White can make 1/1 tokens with Battle Screech and Cenn's Enlistment, but in a deck with no other offense and no support for those cards, these token producers end up being either relegated to defense or outright slow to win a game.


Think of it this way: blue doesn't need a secondary color to provide slow finishers, because blue can already finish the game in a slow fashion on its own.



Guardian of the Guildpact


Guardian of the Guildpact tends to get mentioned when UW is up for discussion. This card trades down with permission and edict effects. In a format of 2 mana 4/4s, discounted 5/5s and 5/6s, a 2/3 for 4 isn't the most viable thing out there. Many UB decks play Agony Warp at the moment, too.


So I wouldn't look to white for control finishers, and it wouldn't be my first choice for creature removal either. That being said, white removal is still rather good and the color has a number of other things to offer.



Patrician's Scorn


White is the best color at removing enchantments, edging out green by a small margin. In a prospective metagame where Hexproof features heavily, UW will act as predator. Mass destruction options Leave No Trace and Patrician's Scorn can decide games on their own. White also has every Disenchant and Monk Realist variant you can think of.


If you're looking to deal with aggro that stays very low to the ground, white may be your best option. White provides many options for gaining life while stabilizing the board. God-Pharaoh's Faithful and Lone Missionary come to mind.


Life gain is something of a specialty ingredient. It usually sucks, but when it comes to regaining tempo it can be a godsend. Think matchups like Burn, RDW or Stompy.


I can easily see a future metagame where things are so cutthroat that speedy decks like Burn, Hexproof, RDW and Stompy are even more popular than they are now. This is the kind of metagame where UW Control will see success.


Putting it all together, UW Control is a strategy I usually only mess with when I want to test new cards. Gideon's Reproach was one back in the day, God-Pharaoh's Faithful is another one now.


A major downside is that white does not help blue considerably when it comes to long-term interests. Alternately, white can facilitate passive processes through incremental life gain. Short-term interests and active processes are aided through white's ability to remove permanents.


As a strategy, UW is reasonably good at removing creatures because Journey to Nowhere and friends exile threats regardless of their size. This can backfire at times when the opponent is able to bounce or break said Journeys.


The strategy is also good at fighting red decks like Burn, Izzet Fiend and more. It can lock both of these decks out with Circle of Protection: Red. Furthermore, UW Control can be geared towards smashing Hexproof.


Sadly, white offers little to combat the “bigger” matchups like control mirrors and Tron. It can also stumble due to not having elite kill spells like black or red. Keep in mind that white has no instant speed removal that can be used outside of combat. This is a subtle but meaningful drawback.


White also doesn't help the control pilot win games faster. This is also really key, because closing games out quickly is a great way to “steal” victories from bad matchups and outperform our foes during difficult situations.


A telltale sign of a great deck is the ability to steal wins or otherwise be gifted them for free. UW can essentially never do that (without sideboard card blowouts at least), so it's hard for me to call it a great choice.


Dime's Up


Went a little bit over today, so we'll have to save black, red and green for next time.


Hope you enjoyed this first portion! Let me know if you have any feedback.


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


Bye for now!