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By: Mundisv, Raimundas Vitkauskas
Nov 19 2014 12:00pm
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This deck managed to Top 8 the last Pro Tour. Regardless, UB Control was very unpopular to non-existent in MTGO meta after the PT. I don‘t know the true reasoning behind this, maybe it‘s just hatred towards pure control or insecurity to play such a reactive deck, which plays 9 mana wraths. When Oven Turtenwald chose to play the same deck in the Grand Prix following the Pro Tour and Adrian Sullivan continued to champion Blue-Black in his articles, I was convinced the archetype is playable.

I‘ll repeat Owen‘s words, but they were true for me in pratice – this deck has most match-ups across the board favorable. Abzan (non-aggro) match-up is slightly favored, against Jeskai we are a slight underdog, Devotion decks just crumble against us and all the other „durdly“ (read: bad) decks usually can‘t beat us. Sultai Delve player online complained that it‘s because of players like me running UB, people can‘t have nice things. The only truly bad opponent for me personally was Temur Aggro/Monsters. I have only won once against that deck in a Daily Event. It‘s aggressive early game followed by counters, flash threats and deadly fireballs is usually enough pressure to end the game. Adding everything into account, we have more good match-ups than bad ones and it is a nice position to be in. Especially now, when Abzan is getting more popular and numbers of Jeskai are dwindling.

Before you commit to a deck like this, you must be sure, you feel fine playing removal and counteres most of thye time and waiting 30 turns to win. The games you lose with this deck feel like you never really had a chance and just got overrun. The game you win are usually still a struggle, we don‘t have Sphinx‘s Revelation to just put away games, there‘s always a risk to flood out or never draw an answer to a specific resilient like a God or a planeswalker. These situations are not too often though, Dimir  usually wins after dragging the game out and that is the main reason to play it.


Choosing a build is the first decision you need to make when playing UB Control. The first one you should come up to is likely to be the one, which topped the Pro Tour. Unfortunately, it is commonly agreed that this build play by Ivan Floch is not the best available.



It feels unpolished and lacks the best mass removal card for a control deck right now.

I prefer Turtenwalds‘ build from the Pro Tour and he was only one win away from reaching the Top 8.



This version of the deck feels much more powerful than the previous one, but it still has room to improve. Adrian Sullivan recently published his build, which worked out very well for me.



I‘m not sure yet, how I feel about the „fun“ cards like Interpret the Signs and Liliana. Without preparation (a scry or Liliana‘s -2) Interpret the Signs was mediocre to me, usually – scry 3, then draw 3.



Cranial Archive is another card in the deck, which feels weird. It is a replacement for Elixir of Immortality in control decks from previous format as an ultimate finisher. Archive's primary function is to win long and grindy games, but I prefer more „reliable“ finishers (or should I say quicker, not more reliable. Nothing is more reliable than a deck out for control). Ashiok is a decent card, less a direct finisher and more damage absorber. It‘s brilliance heavily depends on your opponent incorrectly evaluating Ashiok‘s importance. Sometimes they waste too much resources to get rid of it when it‘s not a threat at all. What‘s the best about Ashiok, is the fact that a few activations will guarantee that your opponent will deck out ahead of you. The finisher I like the most is Pearl Lake Ancient, I put one copy in Adrian‘s list and never regretted that decision. It‘s synergy with utility lands is just an icing on top of the cake, but comes very handy in tight games. The last one available, Prognostic Sphinx, in a Perilous Vault deck feels wrong for me. Yet it‘s place in sideboard is well deserved. In aggressive match-ups like Jeskai, Mono-Red or Mono-Black, Prognostic Sphinx is miles better than Pearl Lake Ancient, because it has an impact by the time it still matters. Perilous Vault also usually goes out in these match-ups, removing our little nonbo. Flying on Sphinx is also very important when you need early defence to stop important threats like Mantis Rider and Ashcloud Phoenix.

It might seem that Cranial Archive could be great in control mirrors but they actually come down to Pearl Lake Ancient and removal spells to „fog“ it. In other cases, Prognostic Sphinx steps in to finish the game, but it is much more difficult to resolve and is prone to Perilous Vault. In these cases, where Control mirror ends up in a deck out, unopposed Ashiok is usually the reason and Cranial Archive are not much help there, because most of the deck is in the exile zone.

Radiant Fountain and manabase

Our deck is colour-intensive and need double-coloured mana as early as turn 2 and 3. Like all control decks, it is also mana hungry and hitting 5 lands consistently for Vault and Ingenuity is crucial. Despite strict requirements, mana is quite consistent, and these fountains ruin the day only once in the while.

Here‘s a shortcut for deploying your lands (which can be marginally important at times):
Gainland > Scryland >Fetchland > Urborg > Basic Land > Radiant Fountain (If you are sure you will play Bile Blight on turn 2, Urborg or Swamp get ahead of Polluted Delta)

Playing a dual on turn 1 is the best case scenario, allowing us to cast spells like Bile Blight and Dissolve on turns 2 and 3. If you want to Despise on turn 1, it is better to lead with Urborg than Swamp, because we can‘t have access to Downfall and Dissolve on turn 3 from a Swamp and 2 Islands, while we could from Urborg and 2 Islands.

The main checkpoints for our mana are:
BB on T2, double B and U on T3, 5 mana on turn 5.

Don‘t forget that bouncing Fountains, gainlands and scrylands with Pearl Lake Ancient is superior to bouncing random lands! Furthermore, there‘s a chance to go into clean-up steps after bouncing lands. In that case, we want to take back Swamps as the lowest value lands in the late game.

Delve, Digs and greed

These tips are pretty basic, but from time to time we all fail to follow them. First of all, when delving for Dig Through Time tap as much mana as you can, if you are not planning to cast anything that turn. Also, casting Dig on your turn, if you haven‘t made a land drop is reasonable, especially when you have no counters in your hand. Picking a land when Digging is also a solid play, don‘t get too greedy and send these powerful spells to the bottom when the situation requires. "Pro Tip": consider what you want to delve away, when Cranial Archive is in the deck! "Pro Tip" #2: Holding „M“ button, taps a land you click for the first (left on the card) type of mana it produces. Holding that button with Urborg in play saves tons of time and UB Control is one of the decks, which values their clock.

Sideboarding and gameplan

All of this is based on Adrian‘s build of UB Control.

Like always, these numbers might be skewed due to small sample size and variance. Unfortunately, I had a little downswing against Abzan in my last few matches, which can be seen in the table. Everything else is pretty much true - Temur is awful. Devotion, Midrange and Dredge are good. Combo match-ups should be very good too, I just messed up in the one highlighted there.

Against Abzan Midrange (few targets for Bile Blight)
+2 Disdainful Stroke, +2 Thoughtseize, +2 Negate, +2 Prognostic Sphinx
-2 Drown in Sorrow,  -3 Bile Blight, -3 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Our deck is well positioned (match-up is close though) and additional discard helps to get rid of resilient threats like planeswalkers in advance. Negate is great against planeswalker-heavy builds (and if they are not aggro, they WILL be planeswalker-heavy) and Nissa is conterspell target number one because it‘s animated lands are immune to Perilous Vault. Our opponent will have plenty of removal for our Pearl Lake Ancient and Ashioks. That means games can drag out and deck out is a real win-con game 1. Because of that, I prefer to counter threats instead of draw spells 100% of the time. Life is a spare resource in the early game, but don‘t go low enough to get Rhino‘d out of the game.

Against Abzan Aggro
+1 Disdainful Stroke, +2 Prognostic Sphinx, +2 Thoughtseize
-2 Drown in Sorrow, -3 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

We want to keep Bile Blight in this match-up for their two drops and we don‘t need Negates so much. Playing against this breed of Abzan can be painful, because Fleecemane Lion and Rakshasa Deathdealer are so difficult to deal with. Luckily, Midrange build is much more popular and it keeps the numbers of Aggro low.

Against Jeskai
+2 Prognostic Sphinx, +4 Negate, +2 Pharika‘s Cure, +2 Drown in Sorrow
-3 Ashiok, -1 Liliana Vess, -1 Interpret the Signs, -1 Aetherspouts, -4 Perilous Vault

I like keeping Lake Ancient here because we are always interested in quickly closing the game out against the burn deck. As long as we can keep the early rush of creatures at bay, winning the game is not too difficult. If we slip and can‘t deal with them all, a single guy will deal more damage than any other spell and likely win them the game. Jeskai usually sideboards into a more controlling deck, which play to our strengths. Their main threat post-board is Keranos and I would advise to keep some Perilous Vaults in the deck, if you saw Keranos.

Green Devotion
+2 Disdainful Stroke, +2 Thoughtseize
-2 Drown in Sorrow, -1 Liliana Vess, -1 Interpret the Signs

The match-up is very good for us and we just make a few upgrades to leave them with only mana and no threats. Nissa is public enemy number one like always and everything else is easily dealt with. Notable exception goes to Genesis Hydra, which require more resources to deal with than other threats.

Red Aggro
+2 Drown in Sorrow, +2 Pharika‘s Cure, +2 Prognostic Sphinx
-1 Pearl Lake Ancient, -3 Ashiok, -1 Liliana Vess, -1 Interpret the Signs

We are not as dead as it might seem against Red and a timely Drown in Sorrow is usually what it takes to win the game. Post-board games are, of course, infinitely better than game 1 and we have a real chance there.

Temur Monsters
+2 Disdainful Stroke, +2 Thoughtseize
-2 Drown in Sorrow, -2 Bile Blight

This is what I run for now, although, it doesn‘t help to win.

Other Control
+2 Disdainful Stroke, +4 Negate, +2 Thoughtseize, +2 Prognostic Sphinx, +1 Cranial Archive
-4 Bile Blight, -2 Drown in Sorrow, -1 Aetherspouts, -3 Despise, -1 Silence the Believers

We want as many threats and counters as we can get instead of our dead cards. Games are very dynamic and different cards can move in value drastically. Control mirrors right now are unique, because removal spells still possess value as ways to „fog“ Pearl Lake Ancient, kill Ashiok or Prognostic Sphinx. Don‘t play your Ancient too early or multiple removal spells will force you to decide between keeping it or not setting your mana back to the ice age.

Summing up, UB Control is definitely a viable and competitive archetype right now. It can win against any deck, punish slower draws and has a favourable match-up against the most popular deck. If you feel good playing Control,  I would not hesitate equipping with this bad boy! In longer games this deck gives you real control over the match and your decisions are usually the ones, which decide the outcome of the match.

P.S. Black is getting a sweeper in the next set! Join #Control before it starts reigning supreme!
Or maybe it won't...

See you,


Would Adrians list be by Rerepete at Wed, 11/19/2014 - 14:12
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Would Adrians list be stronger with 2x Weave Fate instead of the singletons Interpret the Signs and Divination? The fact that it is an instant should be more important for a control deck.

I like the article - I have by country hillbilly at Wed, 11/19/2014 - 14:38
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I like the article - I have actually just moved into standard and this deck has been my archetype of choice.

I have found favorable matchups across the board - however, as you stated - I find myself in the worst positions against straight red sleigh or UW heroic when they overwhelm you before you have a chance to reset or have unlimited god's willings...

I much prefer sullivan's build, however early on I adopted a singleton Font of Fortunes over Interpret the Signs.

I'd rate the deck very highly - I began with Abzan Midrange (Ari Lax's build) but I have found much more success with this.

Look forward to your next article.


I couldn't disagree more that by Psychobabble at Wed, 11/19/2014 - 17:23
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I couldn't disagree more that this deck is well positioned. There's a reason why it's sub-2% of the online meta and has barely made an appearence in the top tables of paper events since the pro tour, it just gets run over by so many decks in the format so easily. And it's late game is bad enough, and the threats that it has to prepare against diverse enough, that it's frequently the case that the deck manages to stabilise but still loses the topdeck war becuase it's stuck with a disdainful stroke in hand when getting beaten down with Anafenza or you have the downfall but are facing a whip or something.

You can certainly win some games because variance and when your opponent stumbles and you fire you feel like a god, but across the board it needs far more tools to be able to compete with the variety of decks in the format. This deck is certainly not a 100% favourite against RW heroic across a sufficient number of games though, it's more like a 30/70 unfavourable.

Thanks for reading guys! In by Mundisv at Thu, 11/20/2014 - 13:08
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Thanks for reading guys! In regards to the card choices, I'm currently trying different options in the places of Liliana and Interpret, just didn't want to propose my (not certainly superior) choices over Adrian's. A maindeck copy of Disdainful Stroke or another Jace's Ingenuity were working quite well. I'm not sure about Weave Fate and how much better is it than Jace's Ingenuity, probably should test it out. Also, difficult aggro match-ups are always a concern, but good midrange match-up balances it out.
To Psychobabble, for some reason people dislike UB, but they don't give this deck enough credit. It looks underpowered on paper and can possibly lose a long game, but it can win enough to be a viable choice. Maybe, you should try it out to see it, or maybe I just got lucky and became biased.

Weave Fate is marginally by MarcosPMA at Fri, 11/21/2014 - 05:55
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Weave Fate is marginally better than Divination, although I don't think Divination is good to be honest. You never really want to tap out on turn 3 unless you have to, most of the time you want to hold up Dissolve/Disdainful/Removal. Then again, it's only 1 copy, so it's more of a late game spell than anything, so I think it's better than Weave Fate just because you can save 1 mana.

The Interpret the Signs is cute, and the nature of the 1 of copy makes it so when it's bad, it's only 1 out of 10ish games (just a random number there), and it's good about half the time. It feels like it's trying to be the "Revelation" of the deck, but it's probably more often than not just a worse Dig Through Time. I feel in the late game you don't care so much about card quantity, but rather card quality, which is why it plays Dig over Cruise.

I think the biggest reason UB isn't popular is because Perilous Vault is in some instances strictly worse then End Hostilities. Sultai Charm, Utter End, Reclamation Sage, Banishing Light are all cards that can deal with a Vault, making it a less reliable option over End Hostilities. Having your Vault blown up and waiting at least 2 more turns to blow everything up might just leave you dead. The way UB looks, it feels like you have to enough things in the first couple turns in order to make Vault actually do anything. I haven't played UB at all, but for now I see no reason to move from UWR to UB. However if the deck is working for you, then go for it and keep playing it! I think in this Standard you should just play whatever you feel you have more experience with and use that to your advantage.

I've been playing it a while by Wikki at Fri, 11/21/2014 - 21:19
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I've been playing it a while too and find it quite good. I don't do planeswalkers in my brew, but have been toying with putting Ashiok in as he can nab some pretty powerful critters if you can protect him.

Divination is usually played by Mundisv at Sun, 11/23/2014 - 07:21
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Divination is usually played in two scenarios:
1. It's very late in the game, so you can spend 3 mana and leave enough open on your opponent's turn.
2. You are stuck on mana or need a specific answer as soon as possible.

In neither case Weave fe fits better, I think. I haven't played other control decks this format, but UB has advantages against other control decks for sure. And Vault gets blown up less than you would think. In the early game, our opponent needs to use mana/skip a turn to Utter End our Vault. In the late game, we can afford to play on 9 mana and crack on the same turn.

I wouldn't bank on Ashiok to steal strong threats. It is more likely to win by milling your opponent. Even more likely, Ashiok will die very soon and it will just make sure that you are not behind on library count and win on turn 40. :)

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