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By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
Feb 24 2017 1:00pm
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If you follow me on Twitter (and you should, you can find me @JoshuaClaytor)  you'll see that I will talk about a wide variety of things.  From Kentucky basketball to the Pokemon Trading Card Game to the marching arts and Magic I have a passionate opinion about a lot of stuff.  You'll also notice that I sometimes subtweet people.  I do that for a couple of a reasons, I guess the most being I am a coward and hate confrontation, but another reason would be I lack confidence in myself, and want to talk about it, but who cares about what a person on the internet, who hasn't done anything of note recently in Magic would have to say? 

It allows me to get my opinion out, and I guess not get my feelings hurt at the same time.  Which is why recently after Shaheen Soorani tweeted that, and this is a paraphrase, that control doesn't exist in Modern, and that Jace, the Mind Sculptor should be unbanned, I started up my subtweet machine. 

I care about Modern, it's my favorite format, and while it is priced out of my participation right now, I actively watch events and keep up with decklists.  I want to be up to date when I triumphantly return to the format.  When I see stuff talking about the bannings and unbannings of my favorite format I want to participate but am hesitant to do take part because I don't want to be glossed over or talked down to. 

Consider this my response to the Modern and Jace discussion. 

Jace I feel would be safe in the format.  With Infect, Death's Shadow Aggro, Affinity, Burn, and a host of other decks, I don't think the card would be incredibly oppressive to the format.  The aggro decks are still incredibly fast, and they could still kill before Jace became a factor.  I would think of this as the Bloodbraid Elf effect.  Jace did not blow up in Standard until the elf rotated out of the format, and when the cascading hasty beatdown machine rotated out, the format slowed down, and aggro decks did not have a lot of replacements for it.  Standard was slower as we ramped up to Rise of the Eldrazi and giant monsters, even with stuff like Lotus Cobra in the format.  The lack of an immediate answer to the walker allowed Jace to take root in the format, and Squadron Hawk did not make things any better.

So while the format is incredibly fast still, I think Jace would be safe to come off the ban list.  If he did, I would like to see Bloodbraid Elf come off the list as well, mainly because I'd like a fail safe for GR decks in the format, and because I think the elf would be fine in the format.  In a format where turn two, three and four kills are common, the elf might be safe.

Is there anything I would like to see banned?  Off the top of my head no, but I see people calling for Simian Spirit Guide to get the axe.   If the decks that featured the card were actual competitors in the format I would agree (and this is gonna come off as hypocritical as the past two Grand Prix have shown a slight uptick in the Guide) but for me the card is just too fringe to matter.  Now if the Expertise deck really blows up, ok, ban the guide then, but there are bigger issues than Guide in the Expertise deck.

Spirit Guide is a Lotus Petal, and I think it's important to keep in the format if it's going to be as fast as it is now.  It allows them to temporarily keep up with the breakneck speed of the aggro decks in the format. 

Other than guide I can't see anything really needing to be removed from the format, so with that I say, bring on Jace. 

That leads me in to the next subtweet topic, that being there is no such thing as control in the Modern format.  Jace would make a 4 deck type format (aggro, combo, midrange and tempo) in to a 5 deck type format.   What if I told you that Modern already has representation from Control as well as the other types in the format? 

Control exists, it's just not the type of control that people mainly associate with control.  People think of control as decks filled with cheap permission and removal, and Modern started with a set that saw Counterspell removed.  Counters are slower now, a bit more expensive, and removal is getting worse.  Day of Judgment is no Wrath of God.  We don't have those resources in Modern because the design philosophy of the game changed then too.  Wizards figured out that people want their spells to resolve and their creatures to beat face, and things have been going swimmingly for the game since then.  Yeah we do get powerful countermagic still but instead of costing two they cost three, and that does put a damper on things.  Card draw is another thing that has been weakened as sets march forward.  What used to be cheap, cost effective instant speed draw is now a cumbersome sorcery that costs a ton of mana.  So the traditional blue control deck does not exist.

But control still does. 

Let's see what won the SCG Classic this past weekend.  Jeskai Control. 
How about Grand Prix Brisbane?  Lantern Control. 
What about Grand Prix Vancouver?  Death's Shadow Aggro.

Well 2 out of 3 ain't bad to quote Meat Loaf.

Let's take a look at some of these control decks in the format.  We can start off with Prison decks. 

A Prison deck is deck that looks to lock the opponent out of playing the game.  This in the old days was usually a Stasis based deck, but in Modern we're looking at a deck that looks to attack the resources of an opponent, like the hand, or in some cases, looks to take away a fundamental part of Magic. 

Lantern Control attacks the hand, mills the opponent, and takes away the combat step with Ensnaring Bridge (It doesn't skip the combat step for clarity, creatures just can't attack when the Lantern player has no cards in hand). 

By playing a lot of cheap artifacts that interact well with each other, the deck slowly grinds away at the library of the opponent while keeping themselves safe behind a bridge.  Outside of Collective Brutality and Abrupt Decay there really is no removal here, as the deck just looks to quickly empty the hand and take full advantage of the Bridge. 

Lantern Control is not the only prison deck in the format.  Another deck in the top eight of Brisbane highlights a different prison strategy. 

Tetsu Kawaguchi's Red White Nahiri Control controls the game through two different angles.  The first is Chalice of the Void.  The format is filled with cheap threats and spells, and making it impossible for your opponent to resolve anything makes it impossible for them to win the game.  The second angle that Tetsu attacked the opponent was through Blood Moon.  Blood Moon is a hated card in the format, but in a format without Force of Will and nearly perfect mana, the enchantment plays a huge role as a safety valve in the format.  It punishes players that build poor manabases, and while that leads to a feel bad situation every so often, it's needed. 

Red White Nahiri Control
Tetsu Kawaguchi, Top Eight GP Brisbane - 75 Cards Total
4 Simian Spirit Guide
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
5 cards

1 Blessed Alliance
4 Lightning Helix
5 cards

3 Anger of the Gods
3 Wrath of God
6 cards
4 Chalice of the Void
4 cards

2 Banishing Light
4 Blood Moon
6 cards

1 Ajani Vengeant
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
4 Nahiri, the Harbinger
2 Gideon Jura
10 cards
4 Arid Mesa
2 Gemstone Caverns
4 Rugged Prairie
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
8 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Temple of Triumph
24 cards

2 Blessed Alliance
1 Anger of the Gods
3 Rest in Peace
3 Stony Silence
1 Boil
1 Crumble to Dust
3 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
15 cards

After locking the opponent out of casting spells, the deck starts to cast the hard to remove Planeswalkers, and rides them to victory.  There is some mass removal here, to help clean up the early drops that got through the early defenses, but after dealing with those stragglers, the advantages you gain from the walkers should lead you to the win. 

A third prison deck, this time a mono black control deck, finished in 11th place at Grand Prix Vancouver.  8 Rack, as it's more commonly known, uses The Rack and Shrieking Affliction to deal damage to the opponent.  This of course, comes with some work.  Before those cards can kill your opponent, you have to empty their hand.  And wow, there sure is a ton of discard here!  There are 18 spells that discard cards, and of those 18, 6 of them can pull double duty of sorts.  Smallpox is a symmetrical card and makes each player discard a card, sac a creature and sac a land.  This is not huge for you, as the 8 Rack deck is designed to break this symmetry.  There is 11 removal spells in the deck as well, so anything that comes into play off the top of the deck can be handled.  Liliana of the Veil can remove other creatures or help keep the opponent empty handed. 

8 Rack
Michael Penner, 11th GP Vancouver - 75 Cards Total
3 Fatal Push
2 Dismember
2 Funeral Charm
7 cards

4 Smallpox
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Thoughtseize
1 Blackmail
3 Wrench Mind
3 Raven's Crime
17 cards
4 The Rack
4 cards

4 Shrieking Affliction
4 cards
4 Liliana of the Veil
4 cards

4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Mutavault
4 Concealed Courtyard
1 Godless Shrine
2 Verdant Catacombs
2 Bloodstained Mire
7 Swamp
24 cards

3 Death's Shadow
1 Disenchant
1 Flaying Tendrils
2 Fragmentize
2 Fulminator Mage
1 Leyline of the Void
2 Lingering Souls
3 Surgical Extraction
15 cards

Briefly, Dylan Brown took a version of Esper Planeswalkers to a 21st place finish at Brisbane.  I feel that this is a variant of Prison, we have hand control, board control, and the walkers to win the game while providing small bits of incremental advantages.  I liked the list, and just wanted to present it, because I think it looks super cool! 

Prison decks are not the only control decks in the format.  Scapeshift has a counter based variant, that's not all about chucking out Primeval Titans.  This version, by Evan Robinson finished in the top 32 of Brisbane, and packs 8 pieces of countermagic.  Remand delays the spell and Cryptic Command outright counters it.  These protect you combo finish, which is successfully resolving Scapeshift and chucking Mountains at the head with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

It may be a bit of a stretch to call this control, but with the counter magic and removal I felt safe enough to just vaguely lump it in here.  It's probably closer to just an outright combo deck, but this is my article and my definition, so I say that it is in! 


The final deck that I want to touch on is Grixis Control.  This is Corey Burkhart's deck of choice, and he's mastered it.  He's finished in the top eight of three Modern Grand Prix over the course of three years, and was close to another one at Vancouver.  Corey recently played in the quarterly MOCS with the deck and recorded the games here, though it was without Aether Revolt, and not having Fatal Push was an issue, but at least the Modern bans had happened!  He did finish in the top 2 which you can see here.  He also streams here, so check him out when he goes live to get the best stuff about the deck directly from one of the best players to play it. 

Here is his GP list. 

So I managed to talk about Jace in Modern, and presented 6 control lists for Modern, I feel like this was a pretty good article, and hopefully you all did as well!  There are control options, and I recommend the RW Control deck highly!  Magic is great, and so is Modern.  I hope I presented a list that you might enjoy!