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By: CalmLittleBuddy, Christopher M. Dansereau
Mar 04 2015 1:00pm
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The wisdom of Janet Jackson is something we can all benefit from in these end days.

"I'm in control
I'm in control
I'm in control
Don't make me lose it"

Everyone is playing a Control deck on MtGO. I figured I'd give it a spin, seeing as how my midrange has been slowly drifting over the past two weeks, further and further into the land of removal and card draw.

 

Now that GP Memphis is over, the wall has come down.

Wall of Wood
This is Berlin? I thought I went to Nashville?

The professionals are posting their Standard decks, and deck techs, and evaluations. Finally. There's some sweet ideas floating around out there. The format has Become Immense. Meaning it literally is now immense. Your Standard Format is so fat, its thinks your mamma needs a cheeseburger. Generally, when a format gets this slow and big, there's two ways to go. Play Control and make them cry, or play agro and make them die.

I've seen a lot of top level players advocating Control. Baskin Robins has less flavors of ice cream than Standard has flavors of Control. Sultai (BUG) Control, Mardu Control, UB Control, Abzan Control, WUB Control, the rare Bant and UW Control, basically any colors that have sufficient removal and/or permission spells can run control because... Ugin.  If you can make 8 mana before your opponent really slams you hard, you can win with Ugin. Some caveats.

Ugin does not remove colorless permanents. Manifest tokens, morphs, artifacts and anything else that does not have a color, including other Ugins are free to live. I learned this the hard way versus a Mardu Manifest party. I was getting a little smarmy with all the tokens popping out and thought, "My Ugin will handle this! They done gone blowed up good!" Drop Ugin, x = 4 to wipe everything. Yehaw! But the tokens, they live! Oh.

Oh, and Whisperwood Elemental manifests cards equal to the number of face up creatures its controller has that die on the turn it dies when activated. Those manifests are tokens, plus they drop after the removal, so even Crux of Fate and End Hostilities isn't super great against it. You almost have to have two sweepers, one of which cannot be Ugin, to deal with everything. Almost. I've managed to target it with Hero's Downfall on their end step, then sweep with End Hostilities on my turn. Oh, and about those tokens. You can put that Bile Blight back into your hand, as Manifest tokens are not named, and so it only kills one.

Bile Blight
Not In Control.

 

Speaking of the Whisperhood Hellandmental, he's everywhere. If you don't know, you better ask somebody. He manifests the top card of his owner's library every end step. It's now called The Manifest Lottery, because if that card is a creature, and they have mana up, basically they can play it as if it had flash. Say elemental manifests Siege Rhino at the end of their turn. You play through your turn, doing what you do, then on your end step, your opponent pays the 4 mana, flips it upright, bam, wham, their turn starts and the darn thing is staring you down, because it's not summoning sick! It's like every creature having the potential to be fricken Boon Satyr, for crying out heck!

I'm not saying if you play Green you have to play Whisperwood Elemental. I'm saying you absolutely need to be ready to play against it.  You'll get to see this guy vs Ugin a little later in one of the videos.I'm still looking for a good way to deal with it, as it can be sacrificed at instant speed for zero mana, triggering its super manifest ability. If you've got any ideas, shout at me in the comments section.

So, I've admitted I was wrong about Ugin being over rated. I've admitted that I was wrong about Tasigur's ability being nothing but an irrelevant mana sink. Can I at least get some credit about my archetype predictions? I told you agro would be hot the first few weeks, specifically RW aggro. Check. I told you Control was going to be popular. It is. I said Green Devotion was going to be the next candy-like splashy deck. It is. I told you Manifest was going to have a big effect on the early metagame between now and June. It seems to be. I said Abzan would continue on as if nothing happened. Check-a-decka-lacka---whatever. So what's next?

Well all this 'going big' is warping the meta. Don't believe me? I watched this deck pummel some unsuspecting weenies recently:

RG WTF?
Red Green WANT THAT FUN!
Creatures
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Voyaging Satyr
4 Courser of Kruphix
2 Hornet Queen
3 Genesis Hydra
1 Arbor Colossus
21 cards

Other Spells
4 Xenagos, the Reveler
1 Frontier Siege
3 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
4 Whisperwood Elemental
4 Polukranos. World Eater
4 cards
Lands
9 Forest
2 Mountain
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Wooded Foothills
23 cards

Genesis Hydra

 

This is a fun list! Hey, I can't always just show top tier stuff! We have to let our hair down sometimes.

What's this do? First off, ignore the sideboard. It's not really set for anything. Everything is about making mana for big mammas and Ugin. The idea is turn 1 Elvish Mystic into turn 2 Sylvan Caryatid into Turn 3 Xenagos, the Reveler for early pressure and mana ramp. Alternate lines are Elvish Mystic into turn 2 Courser of Kruphix for value, even a line with Mystic, followed by Mystic plus Caryatid into turn 3 Frontier Siege. You like-a da mana? I make-a- da mana. What do we do with all that crazy mana? Genesis Hydra, Mistcutter Hydra, Hornet Queen, Chord of Calling, a painful Crater's Claws, multiple threats, monstrous a dude, whatever you feel like. Don't forget to pack your Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx as both Xenagos and Frontier Siege turn it on for devotion mana.

RW Aggro is all in vogue now as well.

RW Aggro
Stark is the New Red
Creatures
4 Seeker of the Way
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Soulfire Grand Master
4 Hordeling Outburst
4 Wild Slash
3 Lightning Strike
4 Stoke the Flames
4 Chained to the Rocks
1 Valorous Stance
4 Outpost Siege
15 cards
Lands
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Battlefield Forge
3 Evolving Wilds
9 Mountain
4 Plains
24 cards

Sideboard
3 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
2 Arc Lightning
3 Erase
3 Mastery of the Unseen
2 Valorous Stance
2 Subliminal Messages
10 cards
Chained to the Rocks

 

Tony Stark's cousin Ben rode this deck to the finals and should have won. Unfortunately he was Fogled by another super popular deck, which we'll see next. The two major switches in this deck compared to the ones I have been advocating is the inclusion of 4 Soulfire Grandmaster in the main and pushing Stormbreath Dragon and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker to the sideboard. This gives the deck a fast game 1 to steal a win, then a chance to shove the big fat red dragons in for game 2 and 3 when the coast is clear. Mastery of the Unseen is another piece of tech that plays well with the long plan. Between that at Soulfire GM, there's enough lifegine to hang around if the beat down doesn't win immediately. The all-star of the deck is Outpost Siege, another card I totally missed on. It's played in Khans usually to gain the extra card per turn. Once on the board, the decks chances skyrocket.

Chained to the Rocks is still the most efficient removal spell in Standard. It's not the most resilient, plus it only hits creatures, but for one White mana, you can't expect everything. It's Path to Exile for Mountain decks that doesn't give the opponent a free basic land. This deck isn't going to disappear, so always be ready to play against it.

Chained to the Rocks

What beat this mighty deck down? A BUG. Black, Blue, Green, for you neophytes. A lot is being made about this Sultai Control deck. It has performed well in a few events and in GP Memphis. Let's take a look.

 

What's this do? Combines the best qualities of UB Control with Green mana for Sultai Charm, Satyr Wayfinder, and Rakshasa Deathdealer. The wayfinder is an accelerant for mana, almost insuring a land drop, plus bins cards into the graveyard to fuel delve for Dig Through Time or possibly Tasigur or Murderous Cut. The Deathdealer is a special package usually brought in for game 2 of a rival control match up. This trick may fade as other Control players learn to not board out their Bile Blights. I still think the card is strong late game and I have shown its power against control in one of my own videos. It has regeneration, plus can do tons of burst damage. A similar idea with Fleecemane Lion is showing up in some Abzan lists. I might still prefer the Deathdealer as Abzan can certainly cast it as well. The Sultai Charms do a ton of work, removing troublesome cards like Chained to the Rocks or whatever Siege or pesky enchantment is giving you the sass. It has a loot mode, so it's not dead in any match up. A 3 mana loot for 1 is not what you really want to be doing most times, but in game 1 at least it's half of a card. The removal is near useless in some match ups, but is fine against RG, RW and UW Heroic.

Sultai Charm

For purposes of shifting from clan to clan, Abzan to Sultai isn't a terribly massive jump. The lands take a bite out of your budget, but the cards you need are all pretty cheap. I'll have my eye on this, as I like the Blue options, and the instant delve with Satyr Wayfinder. I've seen a few folks cramming in white to play Siege Rhino, but I don't think that's necessary.

What about me? I'm playing Abzan Control this week (shocking!) and probably next week as well. It's more for the practice than because I think it's the well positioned in this Standard world. I'm not advocating control right now. I would probably recommend hyper-aggro strategies right now. I'm thinking of dusting off my Herald of Torments and running them with 4 copies of Fleecemane Lion, Rakshasa Deathdealer, and Warden of the First Tree. Playing Warden into a two drop or Warden ability, into a 3 drop, into Rhino, into Bestow the Herald looks like serious business. My theory being if you have 2 legit threats on the board on turn 2 that do not have the same name, they are one removal spell behind until turn 5, maybe turn 6. If you're playing against control you'll need a really fast start before that sweeper hits. I even have a secret weapon. In fact, I'm going to begin including it in a lot of my aggressive White Black/Abzan lists. Wanna see it in action? Too bad. You'll have to come back next week for the Abzan Blitz. But anyways

You know, the more I play Siege Rhino in my Abzan Control style deck, the less I want 4 copies.

**sound of record screeching**

Wait, what? Alright. Time to let the cat out of the bag. Here's my Abzan Control list:

 

Throw a Tasigur and Abzan Advantage in the sideboard as well. Too lazy to html at this point. I moved to Rhino's into the board for Read the Bones, or if you've seen lists where the Bones are being Read in the main deck, you could say it's for Garruk, Apex Predator or Liliana Vess. I was happy to see Garruk making a lot of appearances after months of this highly underrated card gathering dust. I think the more folks play with it in deck, the more likely they are to keep it in, even when Ugin's play-ability drops off a bit. Killing a creature and gaining life equal to its toughness is huge for these big 3 color decks without life gain. It can even be your own creature in a pinch. You're about to wrath? Eat your Tasigur if he can't get in for damage. I've been using Liliana to fetch him up to face an impending Ugin.

Garruk, Apex Predator

I have to say I really wanted to post a few videos of events. I wanted to. Sorry. I wouldn't force my own enemy to sit through 20 or so lousy control match ups. I mean this was brutal. Not only because I played poorly, but each game was half an hour long. Or it felt like that! I spent all day Saturday trying to catch something useful to show, and I came away with horribly long, boring games of Magic the Gathering.. It's like cooking for 7 hours only to find out the turkey had the plastic bag full of organs left in it (yes, that has happened to me!).

Some of you are smiling thinking you got out of having to listen to my sweet accent in another useless video. Guess again! I did do a deck tech, a quickie replay to show Ugin in action, and I'll also put up the only interesting match I played all day. Even that became a snoozer because I stopped talking at one point.

First up, here's the deck tech:

 

Of course, this is just my spin on the more popular list. It didn't perform very well in the events. Or, more to the point I didn't perform very well with it. We'll get to that. First, here's a quick game rewind showing off my Ugin. This was recorded days earlier during a practice session. This has a good Whisperwood Elemental bit, plus an example of how Ugin can end a game out of nowhere. It's a game replay not a live event so it's brief. Take a look.

 

Now, I said I wouldn't show off any of my matches, but I lied. I really did. I so lied. I'm putting this one up more to show a game against the Waste Not deck I'm facing. I've been in this matchup about 6 times over the last week and, oddly, lost only one match versus it. Not enough to declare the match favorable, but it's a good start. Here's the action as I record the match live.

WAIT: before you start watching I am going to warn you, I am not my usual ball of fire. I get caught up in thinking through the strategy for beating Waste Not and forget to talk to you all. I'd say enjoy, but... well, at least you get to see Waste Not in action.

 

Beating this deck is all about timing. You need to draw as many cards as you can before Waste Not hits the ground. RTFC:

Waste Not

There are many many powerful discard spells in Standard. Thoughtseize, Despise, Rakshasa's Secret, and the most harmful of all, Dark Deal. RTFC part 2:

ouch

Whatcha gonna do when you get out of jail? I'm gonna make you discard! So, a hand of 2 lands, 3 creatures and 1 other spell produces 4 Black mana (two for each land), 3 2/2 zombies (one for each creature) and draws 1 card (for the one other spell). The worst hand to have is 3 lands and 3 other spells. Opponent then draws 3 cards and has 6 mana to cast those new cards with. I had one dude chain 3 dark deals on me. I think he had the first two... or cheated. Online cheated. Bastid!

Once Waste Not comes down, stop drawing extra cards unless you know you can cast them. Don't hold creatures or Planeswalkers, waiting for your spot. You are going to discard them eventually. Cast them and get what you can. The really tuned version of the Waste Not deck has enough removal to deal with some, but not all of your threats if you can last past turn 5.

Choose carefully what you discard. If you have a sweeper, discard creatures. If your opponent has many cards don't toss too many lands. If your opponent has no cards, try to toss lands if you have enough mana on board already.

Last bit of advice, don't immediately toss your removal. Waste Not does pack some creatures. Usually delve creatures. Be ready. Plus, there's one hexproof Blue Black Dragon that frequents these decks.

As for the other matches, I recorded most of them, deleted a few of them, and simply stopped recording a slew of them whenever I saw those life lands drop. Some are just too embarrassing to publish. Most are way too boring. If you've ever watched a documentary on the manufacture of cardboard boxes, that was heaven compared to the stale suffocating boredom watching any of those matches would induce. Don't get me wrong, I like control matches when there's something going on. This was land, pass, land, pass, land pass, for the first six turns then Dig Through Time land go, Elspeth, Sun's Champion land go, Hero's Downfall Elspeth and Crux of Fate non dragon creatures the tokens land go, land, pass, pass, pass, land, pass, land pass, (Thoughtsize) go... etc ad nauseam.

 

Ad Nauseam
Not this Ad Nauseam. That's actually fun!

 

 I did take one fierce butt whomping by Abzan Aggro. That you should probably watch as it shows the power aggro decks can have versus control. Well, when the control is played by a less than average control deck pilot. Me. It was me. *sigh* I play terribly, and have to mulligan both games. But not as terribly as I did in a later game where my opponent felt it necessary to point out I had the game won, and tossed it away be playing a sweeper. I'm telling you, the mind does strange things when losing for 5 straight hours.

Anyway this one is quick and I lose, so enjoy.

 

Fun, right? This shows a bit of what I was saying before, that hyper aggressive decks will begin to come into their own, as the format has gone huge and slow. This guy wasn't even that hyper or aggressive, but he/she punishes my slow draw and land shortage. Pure autolose!

Okay, well that's enough for today. I'm busy ripping up a subfloor and fixing a ceiling. If ya'll have a favorite deck in Standard right now, shout it out in the comments section. Next week, we're going to play "Is this card any good?" You'll love it. I am going to take cards I think can be playable, and stuff them into decks to prove it. If you have any suggestions for "Is this card any good?" shout those out in the comment section as well. Peace!

Until next time.

CLB