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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Nov 12 2012 3:12am
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 Welcome to Building Lab: Control Edition! Please don't mind the mess.

 After the Combo article from some time ago, where I and Ayanam1 built an Argothian Enchantress tribal deck which he later played in the Tribal Apocalypse PRE, it's now the moment to try and see what building Control means. I use Tribal Apocalypse and the Legacy Tribal Wars format as a testing arena for these concoctions because a) it's a place quite familiar to both me and my guests, b) it provides a large pool of cards and interactions to have fun with, while at the same time doesn't hinder the creativity by asking for precise meta-answers or an accurate sideboard evaluation (which is beside the point of these discussions), and c) it poses a further challenge in the form of a required, high creature presence, something that was problematic for Combo, and it's even more of a conundrum for Control. Plus, the tribal approach transcends the specific format, as it's found pretty much as a subset of every other format and is a frequent subtheme within many MTG sets.

 My guest today is Mr. AJ Richardson, better known online as AJ_Impy, one of the senior writers on PureMTGO, a longtime tribal player, and a very recognizable voice in the community. One of the (many) AJ's trademarks is the control build, which he seems to be particularly fond of, making him the perfect man for the task at hand, that starts with a philosophic exchange about the true nature of Control. Please have a seat, put some cello music on, and relax: we're going to start.

Hope we'll be in control of everything


PART 1: THE DISCUSSION

 Kuma: So, Tribal Control from the master of Control. But what exactly we're talking about when we say "control deck"? Does it even exist an answer that's not awfully vague?

 AJ: Control is essentially “I have control of the game. What I want to happen will happen, what you want to happen will not”. A control deck is one that attacks the opponent's ability to do things, such as “play creatures”, “do damage”, or “win”. This may well be vague, but it encompasses a wide variety of things. At its broadest, Control is simply reactive.

 Kuma: Yeah, Aggro is proactive, Control is reactive. And Combo, in its purest form, is just removed from any interaction. The idea of trying to react to everything the opponent does seems to be the hardest approach to the game, though. Do you think it is? Is it Control the hardest Magic form to master?

 AJ: It depends on the player. Different people find difficulty in different things, and building or piloting a control deck could both be someone’s Everest or a gentle stroll in the hills. A lot also depends on the environment. Control is easiest in a matured format, where the tricks are known, and the threats you need to deal with are well established. It is hardest where there is no real established metagame and no real hints as to what people will bring.

 Kuma: That's exactly what I meant (and we’re uniquely discussing building, here; piloting is a different beast entirely). In a vacuum, building Aggro just boils down to choose threats that can dribble answers better, or gain tempo, or both. Control means choosing the right answers, and you can't even know what a right answer is if you don't know what you'll have to answer. Of course, educated guessing is possible. Also, even within an unknown meta, the possible Aggro strategies are a finite amount. But I mentioned tempo, and this brings us to what is the bread and butter of Control, instead: card advantage.

 

X-for-1, the wet dream of the Control player

 AJ: Card advantage is all about getting more bang for your buck than the other guy. If he fills the board with creatures, one wrath effect puts you ahead by the amount he invested minus the wrath card and the opportunity cost. If you can get rid of something that could cause you problems and get something that can cause your opponent problems in the meantime, all for a single card, then you've gone a fair way towards winning. This includes everything from Snapcaster Mage into a repeated Swords to Plowshares, or a straight up Nekrataal, all the way up to Reiver Demon, passing through Control Magic and the likes of Vedalken Shackles on the way.

  

Wash, Rinse, Control

 AJ: Card draw is perhaps the most obvious source of advantage: Cantrips can make nearly any effect worth considering. Utility from unusual angles also counts here: everything from unearth, flashback or buyback giving you extra from the graveyard, through to forecast type effects, or token generation from repeatable sources.

And you may also get a forecast effect AND a repeatable token generation on the same card!

 Kuma: I think the two general archetypes of Control that best define its different tools are draw-go and MBC. The former achieves control via permission (which is the ultimate answer, since in its highest form works as a preventive measure for any threat that tries to reach the battlefield) and card advantage via blue drawing spells; the latter mostly relies on super-efficient mass removals and some discard. Pure discard is also a form of control, but it’s tricky, because most of the discard spells, especially the modern ones, don’t provide card advantage and act more as spot removals: Thoughtseize is de facto a Vindicate that targets a different game zone.

 AJ: A fair way of putting it, although white remains the king of efficient mass removal and certainly diverse removal. Mono-Black Control can stumble up against artifacts and enchantments that mono-blue can counter, unless it gets there with discard or capping effects first.

MBC: The Golgari Mix
Extended format, circa 2006
Creatures
3 Helldozer
3 cards

Other Spells
4 Duress
4 Distress
4 Chainer's Edict
4 Putrefy
4 Pernicious Deed
3 Mutilate
3 Decree of Pain
3 Staff of Domination
2 Debtors' Knell
31 cards
Lands
4 Cabal Coffers
4 Polluted Delta
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Overgrown Tomb
10 Swamp
26 cards

Staff of Domination


 Kuma: Of course, MBC in modern Magic evolved and it’s not really mono anymore; it might splash for green, for instance, as it does since when Pernicious Deed existed. Anyway, I think we have defined the name of the game at this point. What we’re going to do, though, isn’t just to build a control deck, but a tribal control deck. And we immediately know what’s the difficulty here: 20 slots have to go to creatures, and classic Control is mostly devoted to noncreature spells. The key is clearly finding the tribe that will be less of a hindrance to the control strategy, and possibly an asset to it. When I did the Combo build with Ayanam1, we chose one particular archetype to port (one that we found was hard to “tribalize”), so we immediately knew what we had to deal with, and this allowed us to start from the concept, then search for the best tribal dressing for it. This time we are working with a broader mega-archetype, instead, so we’ll have to use more of a top-down approach.

 AJ: There are many tribes that spring to mind: For Mono-Black Control, Demon has a wide variety of options for mass and repeatable spot removal on creatures. Counter Control is epitomised by Wizard, with everything from Patron Wizard swarms with more in play than your opponent has lands, through to Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir comboing with Knowledge Pool or similar effects. Angel gives us Sunblast Angel as a wrath effect, Desolation Angel for Armageddon, and plenty of evasive strength besides. Assassin gives us an on-board means of keeping opposing creatures off as well as card advantage through Nekrataal effects. The question then becomes if we want to rely on tried and true methods, or move on to uncharted ground.

 Kuma: Of course you already know the answer: uncharted is the watchword. For starters, I’d say let’s skip the Top 16 most successful tribes of the Tribal Apocalypse Hall of Fame. They are: Elf, Human, Goblin, Wall, Wizard, Vampire, Cat, Kor, Ally, Spirit, Merfolk, Assassin, Construct, Shaman, Knight, and Kithkin [Editor's Note: since then, Werewolf made the list, Kithkin left it.] Some of these are too easy, too flexible, able to be the right base for everything. Other, like Assassin, are really too obvious: all the tribal members are control creatures there.

Killing Time
by mihahitlor – two 1st places and three 2nd places on Tribal Apocalypse
Creatures
4 Scarblade Elite
4 Guul Draz Assassin
4 Murderous Redcap
3 Garza's Assassin
2 Royal Assassin
2 Nekrataal
1 Kiku, Night's Flower
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Skinrender
28 cards

Other Spells
3 Go for the Throat
2 Corrupt
2 Profane Command
7 cards
Lands
24 Swamp
1 Bojuka Bog
25 cards

 
Scarblade Elite


 AJ: Aside from trying out unusual strategies such as mono-red Assassin, I'm going to have to agree. In any case, an Assassin-based control strategy relies on having creatures on the board, which is by no means guaranteed.

 Kuma: Especially if you face another control deck, which is always possible. I also think another rule should be about the wincon: control decks usually have some late-game wincon, like a big finisher (we can see control creatures that double as finishers in the classic MBC example up there, the likes of Helldozer and Visara the Dreadful). But we can't have an endgame combo, or it will be a Control/Combo deck. Similarly, if we rely on the tribal base too aggressively, it would become an Aggro/Control deck. Here's the challenge for you, then: a tribal deck which is purely Control, without any trace of Combo or (and that's harder) Aggro. Of course, the boundaries between the mega-archetypes are kinda blurred. We'll try to follow that path, but there might be games where a control deck just doesn't do what it should and play like an Aggro deck just because it doesn't have other options.

 AJ: Fair enough. So a deck that's midrange at best in its pacing, dedicated to preventing the opponent's strategy from working first and foremost. Not using the Top 16 tribes, nor the tribes best suited such as Angel or Demon. The field is still wide open under those constraints. If we want a broad option, we can go for Beasts.

   

Beast: the tribe of all these classic cards that we will NOT use

 Kuma: I like Beast because it’s massively green, and I love green; plus it’s the color least associated with Control, we couldn’t be less obvious. Let’s take a first look at the available members. Beasts are 281 online (5 missing). A big base to work. They encompass all colors but mostly green and red.

 AJ: Beasts were for years the catch-all category for generic strange creatures, and reached their zenith in Onslaught block as one of the main supported tribes. This gives us one of our best tools as a Beast deck, namely Contested Cliffs, a cheaper Beast-only Arena that doesn't tap its targets and puts targeting into our hands.

One of the most powerful lands that you never play

 Kuma: That's clearly the first card that goes in. How many?

 AJ: I'd say a full set, we want it consistently. The bigger question mark is over the rest of the manabase. Do we want Punishing/Grove? Seems a bit too pat.

 Kuma: You know I don't like it too much. But we also have to decide if we want to splash other colors. The Cliffs, and the general nature of the tribe, put us in red-green. A little blue gives us some interesting members, though

 AJ: It does, I was looking at some possibilities indeed.

 Kuma: The first thing that comes into mind is that Beasts have a strong lifegaining theme via Ravenous Baloth, Obstinate Baloth, and Thragtusk. Lifegaining is tempo and not card advantage, but still helps the control strategy by resisting Aggro.

  

They seem scary, but try them with some rosemary and garlic and they''ll be like the boars for Obelix

 AJ: Very much so, especially against aggro based on “the philosophy of fire”, such as Elemental or Goblin with a heavy burn quotient.

 Kuma: Which is something we know we may expect a-plenty in our meta. Doesn't this give us an Aggro wincon, though? I mean, those Baloths are big enough to win on their own. How do we consider this according to our rule? (Then again, Contested Cliffs needs something substantial to fight with.)

 AJ: Whilst the bodies are big, this is a hallmark of good green Beasts. I'd turn our gaze to the mana costs: Beasts like Leatherback Baloth or Woolly Thoctar should not be up for consideration. Any Beast we include must have merit as a controlling option.

 Kuma: Agreed. Which brings me again to blue and one of the few Beasts that kill stuff on their own: Trygon Predator, anyone?

Beware the disenchanting death from above

 AJ: Trygon Predator is an old favourite of mine, especially back when Kaleidoscope was a thing. Repeated artifact and enchantment destruction, even splashing a third colour to do so, makes it a useful control element and source of card advantage.

 Kuma: Maybe in tribal it wouldn't find targets as consistently as elsewhere (barring artifact tribes), but the ones he'll find might well be decisive.

 AJ: At the other end of the scale, a 7 mana 3/3 also seems a good fit: Phyrexian Ingester, a play on the old favourite Duplicant. We get rid of an opposing threat and gain a bigger one ourselves.

 

They have "Commander staple" written all over the place

 Kuma: Ingester is definitely a control-friendly Beast. I believe the other main way Beasts kill is via provoke, like in the case of Krosan Vorine or Feral Throwback.

 AJ: Actually, Beasts which kill is a surprisingly broad category, everything from pingers like Mawcor through to repeatable mass damage from Thrashing Wumpus or Ashen Firebeast. The one that most appeals to me is Crater Hellion, a 4-damage wrath effect.

   

The surprisingly many ways to the bestial murder

 Kuma: Double red, though. So far we were almost going to be blue-green and splash red for the Cliffs activation only. But it depends on what we're going to do with the support slots. Are you envisioning to use red for stuff like Pyroclasm here?

 AJ: I'm looking for some ramp, first and foremost! Four slots taken up with mana fixing, such as Coalition Relic or Chromatic Lantern.

 Kuma: I'd lke to do ramp with built-in card advantage. What about Nature's Lore?

 AJ: Colour-dependent ramp is a risk, and the only card advantage it offers is deck thinning, which is marginal. You pay a card, you get a card in play. With that as the case, we'd get more out of a more versatile ramp card, such as the fixing of Chromatic Lantern or the stockpiling of the Relic.

 Kuma: Allright, I feel we need to focus a little bit on our colors at this point. I'm essentially seeing a green deck with several splashes here. Don't you?

 AJ: I'm seeing a three-colour deck trying to hit double green, double red and single blue, fitting in a colorless land and trying to forsake the early game in favour of controlling it. To me, that cries out for one card that guarantees being able to cast any card we put in here.

 Kuma: In that case, I'm more in favor of Relic, we can have 1-2 Lantern if we're devoting 6 slots to this element.

 AJ: I concur: a turn 3 Relic gives us a 5- or 6-mana option on turn 4.

Control Beast – The Groundwork  
by AJ_Impy & _Kumagoro_
Creatures
0 cards

Other Spells
4 Coalition Relic
4 cards
 
Lands
4 Contested Cliffs
4 cards

 
Coalition Relic


 Kuma: Just to be sure we are properly considering all the big shots, let's briefly review all the mythic Beasts. Felidar Sovereign needs a dedicated deck, plus it's double white. Godsire: too unreliable as a wincon. Uril, the Miststalker: another build-around-me. Craterhoof Behemoth and Rampaging Baloths might make good finishers, though.

 AJ:  Felidar Sovereign has some support in Beasts, especially the Nishobas, but that's more of a combo, inherent in the creature itself. Godsire is just an 8/8 beatstick that makes 8/8 beatsticks. Uril, as you say, needs a dedicated deck, and more of an enchantment-centric one, which Beasts don't support well. Craterhoof Behemoth is a finisher for a swarm build: you need at least two other creatures to make it worth in Overrun's place. Rampaging Baloths does provide some advantage in threats on the board, but we'd veer towards the Aggro side in just having a big creature which makes things whose only purpose is to attack.

    

We don't need no fancy mythic

 Kuma: Let’s ignore all of them, then. So far, we’re preparing ourselves to fight Aggro, which is admittedly a good 80% of what a tribal deck should prepare to do. But since a good control deck should be ready to fight anything (especially one that can’t have access to a sideboard, which is actually a huge component of any control deck), let’s give some thought of what other control decks can use against us. For instance, should we consider some of the uncounterable Beasts (Scragnoth, Quagnoth, Spellbreaker Behemoth, Terra Stomper) to stop permission?

 AJ: In Tribal Wars, blue permission can be stymied by Cavern of Souls, which offers every tribe the chance to give draw-go a bad day if it is over-reliant on counter magic.

 Kuma: So, do you want to add some Cavern of Souls here? Keep in mind we already have 4 colorless-producing lands, Cavern might hinder non-Beast spells.

 AJ: Eight is about the maximum I'd risk on colourless lands, and Cavern fulfills our coloured quota for our Beasts, acting as further fixing. With the Relics, I'd go with the full quota here.

 Kuma: Do you fear permission that much? I don't see it as a big part of the meta, honestly.

 AJ: It's not just permission: it gives us much needed mana fixing on tribe. It doesn't have to be a big part to be a part: You never know what you will face each week, and an unprepared control deck is not worthy of the name.

 Kuma: I’m kinda sold on that. I just fear the possibility of a mulligan due to 2 Cliffs and 1 Cavern in the opening hand and no way to cast non-Beast colored spells, but then again, we have the Relics.

 AJ: Hence my emphasis on colorless ramp.

Control Beast – Even More Groundwork
by AJ_Impy & _Kumagoro_
Creatures
0 cards

Other Spells
4 Coalition Relic
4 cards
 
Lands
4 Contested Cliffs
4 Cavern of Souls
8 cards

 
Cavern of Souls


 Kuma: Let’s give some shape to the deck based on what we’ve said so far. As a core, I’d go with Obstinate Baloth and Thragtusk, maybe 3 and 3, skipping the Ravenous.

 AJ: I have a strong tendency towards 4-ofs, which makes my decks almost instantly recognisable in dispatches (and led to my half of the Grudge Match with NemesisParadigm). But this being collaborative, I can accept 3-of for both.

 Kuma: You'll be happy to include 4-of for Trygon Predator, then. It does too many things (including fend off fast flyers) and will possibly be our earliest presence on the board.

Control Beast – First Half of the Tribal Base
by AJ_Impy & _Kumagoro_
Creatures
4 Trygon Predator
3 Obstinate Baloth
3 Thragtusk
10 cards

Other Spells
4 Coalition Relic
4 cards
 
Lands
4 Contested Cliffs
4 Cavern of Souls
8 cards

 
Thragtusk


 AJ: I do have another card in mind, a source of card advantage which can also be present early: Hystrodon.

Exactly the kind of obscure, powerful cards you should expect to be reminded of when you build a deck with AJ!

 Kuma: An excellent choice, and a card that's mostly forgotten It’s also a good blocker.

 AJ: And with its morphing option, it renders the specter off of two Cliffs and a Cavern even less of a concern.

 Kuma: 4 of them put us at 14 tribe members, 6 to go. 3 Hellion and 3 Ingester? Or maybe it's better 4 and 2.

 AJ: I was going to suggest that indeed.

 Kuma: Also because a 7-mana card like the Ingester isn't a piece of cake to cast.

 AJ: Precisely.

Control Beast – The Tribal Base 
by AJ_Impy & _Kumagoro_
Creatures
4 Trygon Predator
4 Hystrodon
4 Crater Hellion
3 Obstinate Baloth
3 Thragtusk
2 Phyrexian Ingester
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Coalition Relic
4 cards
Lands
4 Contested Cliffs
4 Cavern of Souls
8 cards

 
Hystrodon


 Kuma: Looking at other options just to make sure we considered them, Simic Beasts have some other very strong members like Assault Zeppelid and Nulltread Gargantuan, that are probably too Aggro, though (although the Gargantuan can be seen as a formidable stopper). Plaxmanta is a good defense, too.

 AJ: Given our anti-Aggro ethos for this deck, I'd be leery of those options. Plaxmanta's shroud-granting is plausible, but Nulltread and the Zeppelid are basically just lumps of creature.

 Kuma: Plaxmanta is the good option here, but I don't see anything I'd take out for it, honestly. Its applications are pretty narrow.

 AJ: I concur.

 Kuma: We should at least acknowledge Molder Slug, which is a great creature for control, but artifact hate is already covered with the Predators, involving the Slug would be too much. Although, it does survive the Hellion.

 AJ: Indeed. The same goes for Woodripper, Indrik Stomphowler, and Mold Shambler.

   

Beast don't like shiny things, Beast smash shiny things!

 Kuma: Finally (at least for me), it's worth mentioning the classic Krosan Tusker, which should be read as an instant-speed Divination where the second card is always a basic land. Assuming we'll have basic lands. Will we?

 AJ: Good question. It's usually wise to have at least a handful for Path to Exile purposes.

 Kuma: Let's look at the current decklist: assuming 24 lands, we currently miss 16 lands and 12 other cards. We feature 21 green mana symbols, 10 red, 7 blue (including Cliffs activations).

 AJ: Those 12 slots I see as principally removal: we need to put Aggro in its place as we have said. We know our opponents will be running at least 20 creatures, after all. Given our colours, I expect a lot more red in our support cards.

 Kuma: So, those Pyroclasms are going in at last? Or else Firespout?

 AJ: Pyroclasm doesn't quite do enough. Firespout is the ideal card here.

 Kuma: And in there they go. What else?

 AJ: I'm leaning towards Mizzium Mortars: spot removal early, wrath late.

 Kuma: I like it very much myself

 AJ: Even better than a wrath, as it fills the gold standard of control elements: It only hurts your opponents and benefits you. Then, if money was no object, Bonfire of the Damned would be a shoe-in. Sadly, it is, so it isn't.

 Kuma: So, working on a quasi-budget build, maybe we can consider some other red X spell instead, like Comet Storm.

 AJ: We want something instant, that covers everything, and if needed can net us cards.

 Kuma: What are you thinking of?

 AJ: Starstorm. Cheaper in mana than Comet Storm, can be cycled if need be, and a perfect response to an unexpected game-changer. The essence of control.

 Kuma: Sounds perfect indeed. Let's add your best available combination of dual lands, and we are ready to go.

Beast of a Control
by AJ_Impy & _Kumagoro_
Creatures
4 Trygon Predator
4 Hystrodon
4 Crater Hellion
3 Obstinate Baloth
3 Thragtusk
2 Phyrexian Ingester
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Coalition Relic
4 Mizzium Mortars
4 Firespout
4 Starstorm
16 cards
 
Lands
4 Contested Cliffs
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Vivid Grove
4 Rootbound Crag
2 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Volcanic Island
24 cards

 
Contested Cliffs


 Kuma: Now I'm concerned again about the Caverns, with all these RR and RRR spells, but the soft combo with Reflecting Pool looks good, actually. Tests will tell. To the tournament field!


PART 2: THE TEST RUN

 And here we go, the deck was entered by AJ_Impy in Tribal Apocalypse on October 13, 2012 (Week 93), ending 9th place with a final score of 1-2. Let's look at the videos of all the games (except for Round 1, which unfortunately was unavailable) and read AJ's notes on them.

 Round 1 vs. Aggro/Combo: Knights by fliebana

 AJ: He conceded game 1 when I had some inevitability on the board. Game 2, he armageddonned with a Steward of Valeron in play. I had two reflecting Pools and a whole host of options in hand... and didn't draw another land for the next 10 turns.  Game 3, he used Arena and a Knight Of The Reliquary with Sword Of Fire And Ice to gain control and win. This was a bog-standard Knight of the Reliquary Knights build with Wastelands and Armageddon. Given our multicolored deck, this was going to be a problem, but the tiniest of differences in the draws in game 2 could have changed everything.

 Round 2 vs. Combo: Faeries by Malum (the deck ended 2nd place with a 3-0 score, decklist here)

 Splinter Twin shoehorn. Game one, Splinter Twin on Deceiver Exarch. Game two, Splinter Twin on Pestermite. You've all seen this deck before, the games were essentially goldfishes. Nothing to see here, no relevant information to glean. Would running counter control instead have helped? I could perhaps have Starstormed in response to the Cloud of Faeries to deny him the mana to protect the combo with his counters in game 1. 

 Round 3 vs. Combo: Bird by _Kumagoro_ (decklist here)

 AJ: Academy Rector combo toolbox/Venser, the Sojourner deck squeezed into a Bird frame. Game 1, Venser wins it. Games 2 and 3, our removal suite proves adequate to the task. It amuses me that the only person the deck can beat is its co-creator, the only other person at the event who was trying to innovate in some way.

   Final thoughts: Given that we set out to be a control deck that eschewed the usual control colours and tribes, forsaking Aggro for midrange, I'm not too surprised at our performance, losing to decks just trying to win, beating a deck that was trying to be clever. We built to best deal with Aggro and ran Aggro-Combo close, and lost to pure uninteractive Combo. I'm pleased with the way the mana base worked out: Reflecting Pool and Cavern of Souls is a winning combination and one I shall probably try again. 


PART 3: THE BUDGET

 The version of the deck played by AJ_Impy is worth (as of November 8, 2012) $137.90, which is a fair enough price. The big cost comes from the current price of Thragtusk, which recently skyrocketed and amounts to one-third of the whole deck. Working toward a more budget version, you can replace them with another copy of Obstinate Baloth and a couple Ravenous Baloth. More so, you might want to drop the Cavern of Souls/Reflecting Pool manabase in favor of cheaper fixing. Here's what a super-budget version of the deck for $23.38 would look like:


  Actually, there was room in the original deck to make it LESS budget-friendly adding both the very pricey Bonfire of the Damned and some choice dual and fetches. Here's a version whose price goes up to $349.70.


 And that's really a big spender's take on the whole Control Beast project.


PART 4: WHAT ELSE?

 We have made an attempt to build pure Control as a tribal deck without taking the more obvious routes. But of course, that has been in the end more an exercise in style than anything else. Both AJ and I have had past experiences with more conventional control tribes, with a good degree of success within Tribal Apocalypse. This recent deck by AJ, for instance, is the latest in his long relationship with of control Demons, fully exploiting the very powerful addition of Desecration Demon and the faster members of the tribe brought by Innistrad. I had a demonic first place myself with this build, here in a recently updated version:

 

 Heartless Summoning accelerates, Chalice of the Void stops the faster threats, Consume the Meek sweeps the opponent's side of the board, Ob Nixilis seals the deal.

 And while we're speaking of Demons, Angels can't be too far away. This is the very straightforward deck AJ piloted to first place last year:

Gideon the Moat
by AJ_Impy
Creatures
4 Serra Avenger
4 Emeria Angel
4 Indomitable Archangel
4 Sunblast Angel
2 Blinding Angel
2 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Wayfarer's Bauble
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Wrath of God
4 Gideon Jura
16 cards
 
Lands
4 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
20 Plains
24 cards

 
Gideon Jura

 

 Another interesting and more recent Angel build by AJ is this one, featuring some of the amazing legends from Avacyn Restored. And to remain in a more creative territory, here's what AJ did with colorless Gargoyle in the first Tribal Apocalypse event of 2012 (hint: he won):

 

 And that's all for this control-freak escapade. For the next installment we'll go Aggro! And since the Aggro's strength is (also) in the numbers, we'll have TWO guests at once. Stay tuned, and until then, have a good brewing while trying to control Magic.

10 Comments

Excellent Article by Rerepete at Mon, 11/12/2012 - 08:35
Rerepete's picture
5

I really enjoyed this article. It really gives would-be builders the basic tools on how to approach deck building, rather than net-decking (although this term is highly over-used by sore losers - some card interactions are so obvious). It also highlights the how-to aspect of building a stable mana-base; something important for every deck.

I look forward to many more of these articles. And thanks to your guest AJ for assisting on this build.

Thanks! Yeah, I think it's by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 11/12/2012 - 15:28
Kumagoro42's picture

Thanks!
Yeah, I think it's useful, regardless of the format, to look into the deckbuilding process. Some of the choices you have to make, like choosing a manabase, are roughly the same everywhere.

You guys did a great job but by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/12/2012 - 15:38
Paul Leicht's picture
5

You guys did a great job but I think my idea of Control in tribal has to include multiple angles because the way decks go you are going to face counters as well as bolts. You will see elves and assassins and probably vedalkens too. Wizards/Humans are ubiquitous. Both aggro and otherwise. Armageddon Knights was a strong contender for a long time. So just sweepers doesn't cut it. You need consider the counter angle, the exile angle, the recursion angel and the Anticombo angle. That's a tall order for a deck that isn't fitted tightly to a specific meta game.

I think that AJ did win a match is more testament to his deckbuilding and playing than luck but again pairings are everything. Against the right field your efforts could have netted an undefeated record. Against the wrong ones it could have been a complete disaster.

Nice to see this sort of thing from you Kuma. I feel like Ive let the interview thing slide too long and you are taking up slack. Please don't stop. I do plan to do something with a certain podcaster on this site but first things first I need to get back home and settle into my routine again.

Damn it, now I want to build by AJ_Impy at Mon, 11/12/2012 - 19:34
AJ_Impy's picture

Damn it, now I want to build a deck consisting solely of recursion angels...

yeah its funny that I typed by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/12/2012 - 21:14
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yeah its funny that I typed that, saw nothing wrong with it, posted and still didn't quite get it until after I reread your post. lol.

But Yeah, the recursion angle with the recurring angels could be a cool deck.

You always need to consider by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 11/13/2012 - 08:24
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You always need to consider the angel angle!

I'm trying not to do by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 11/13/2012 - 08:29
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I'm trying not to do interviews, though (except I'll do again next year after we'll have a new Tribal Champion and Number 1 Player in TribAP). These deckbuilding articles are fun but really time-consuming, so I don't think I'll be able do them too frequently. Possibly the next one will come sooner, though. Once me and my hosts will find a serious deckbuilding challenge involving Aggro.

About the answers of this deck, at least the counter angle was covered by Cavern of Souls. :)

This was very fun to read. by RexDart at Tue, 11/13/2012 - 12:35
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This was very fun to read. Having recently done a video about control builds in legacy tribal wars, I found much of the discussion section very familiar to things I was thinking about recently.

I completely agree with Paul about the deckbuilding for control needing to defend against multiple angles of attack. I've been pushing the idea for months (in comments threads here) that control decks need to consider how they can be built to control more than just the basic creature-based strategies. Countermagic is the most versatile way to answer a wide variety of threats, and I just can't imagine not taking at least a few counterspells with me into the event with any control deck. The main problem IMHO is that you don't have alot of deck space for pure card-drawing, which is part of what limits the effectiveness of 1-for-1 answers like countermagic.

And that is part of the reason for the overabundance of board sweepers in control lists in tribal wars, as it is an easily obtained form of card advantage in many matchups. But 12 sweepers seems like overkill (mitigated a little by 4 of them having cycling -- I actually think the choice of sweepers is excellent here). The matchup against aggro is good enough that you can shave a few percentage points there to fight along other angles. The lifegain guys have sligh decks handled, and surely 6-8 sweepers would be enough to take care of linear aggro? If you could improve your combo matchup from 25/75 to 40/60, would that be worth reducing your aggro matchup from 99/1 to 90/10? Those percentages aren't meant to be exact, that's just the kind of idea I'm talking about.

This kind of 12sweepers.dek list basically cannot lose to vanilla aggro decks. If you get lucky and face just aggro all day, you probably cruise to x-0 without breaking a sweat. But in this event when you did face an aggro deck, it attacked along an angle you weren't prepared for with Armageddon -- a sorcery that is crushing to control and can only be interacted with on the stack by countermagic. I would argue that all but the most brutally swift aggro decks should nearly always be built with at least one alternative angle of attack, like Armageddon or Manabarbs, precisely *because* control decks are overly-reliant on board sweepers and light on countermagic.

really liked the break down by Malum at Tue, 11/13/2012 - 09:38
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5

really liked the break down of this looking forward to more. :)

PureMtgo needs more articles like this by Rerepete at Tue, 11/13/2012 - 10:04
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I think it would be beneficial to the readership to have more deckbuilding articles and other how-to type articles such as how to analyze and build a sealed deck. most of the limited articles are mainly "pat-myself-on-the-back", I built an awesome deck and destroyed the field, with emphasis on the playing-not on the building (drafting) of said deck.