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By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
Feb 07 2018 1:00pm
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I believe that the best part about Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, besides it being Modern, is the fact that Standard is not completely broken as a result of the pros getting their hands on the format.  While there are of course, calls for bannings after the Pro Tour, it's nice to see those screams aimed at something that is not a Standard deck after the Pro Tour.  With the pros being away to work on Modern, the new bans coming in to effect and Rivals of Ixalan becoming more and more explored, we're seeing powerful strategies flourish in the field, but we're also seeing other decks have a chance to compete as well.

Conley Woods, pro player, incredible dancer, and all-around great person is one of my favorite people in the Magic community.  His streams are constantly fun to watch, but more importantly for someone like me, they frequently offer decks off the beaten path.  While Revel in Riches may have been one of my dream cards from Ixalan, Conley decided to not waste any time on that dream and went straight to work on a deck that featured another little played black rare, Marionette Master.  While I was trying to get rich quick, Woods was putting in work and finding success with what turned out to be an Esper take on a control deck with a comboish kill.  You can see that list here, as devoting any more space to a deck from 2017 does not seem to make sense, because while it started off as Esper, it's moved to the Grixis shard. 

Why move to Grixis though?  Why not stay in Esper or just keep it UB?  Well, it's not heavy Grixis, it's just for a small splash, but one that could prove to be a real bounty for you! 

Brass's Bounty is a game ender when it is following up a Marionette Master.  Following up the six drop with the seven casting cost sorcery should provide you with enough treasure to throw 21 coins at your opponent with a countered up Master.  Otherwise this deck plays like a solid UB Control deck, with the added benefit of winning the game out of no where. 

Let's look at the list!  

This list was reported as a 5-0 deck on the 5th, and normally I would embed myself playing the deck, but after going 2-3 with it in a league, where I somehow managed to beat the control decks and make a series of more and more impossible punts against the aggro decks, I decided against it.  What could me playing mistake filled Magic teach anyone?  Thankfully, Conley is a master, and streamed with the deck on the 4th, so I have embedded the video here.  It is from Twitch, so it will be up for a few short weeks, which is unfortunate for sure. 

Watch U/B Puppet Control #GetSwindled from Conley81 on www.twitch.tv

What makes this deck tick?  Well, at it's core, it's a Blue Black Control deck.  We've got a fistful of countermagic here, Disallow does wonderful work not only countering spells, but also shutting down abilities. In a match I played I was able to stop The Scarab God from returning a Champion of Wits for my opponent.  I was able to activate my own God and grab the same card.  The card advantage I gained from that was very helpful in putting the game out of reach, and while I was unable to take the match, Disallow did work as something besides a counterspell.  Censor, a card I am very much against playing in any format it is legal in can cycle, and Spell Swindle helps to power up our Master.  The treasures that our opponent's spells contain are very helpful for us.  Supreme Will can Impulse or Mana Leak (I'm sure there is a 3cc spell that does the same thing but I don't remember it's name and I am fair to lazy to look it up right now, maybe it's Complicate, I don't know.), whichever one we need at the time.  All of our countermagic does double duty, be it replacing itself, giving us treasure or countering more than one type of thing. 

To go along with our fistful of countermagic, we also need removal, and we have a ton of of that here as well.  Fatal Push might be the best removal spell in the Standard format, and is incredibly cheap at one mana.  Moment of Craving kills hard to kill creatures like Adanto Vanguard while also gaining us some life.  Vraska's Contempt deals with indestructible creatures, which is super nice because stuff like Hazoret the Fervent is a nightmare for the deck to deal with.  Heck the new phoenix, Rekindling Phoenix is a must answer creature as well, and having a clean out to in Contempt is great!  On top of the two life we gain, the flexibility to be able to exile a Planeswalker is a much needed feature for the deck, as Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a real bummer to see on your opponent's side of the board.  Bontu's Last Reckoning, while needed mass removal, is such a letdown, and I would really rather see Golden Demise in it's place.  It does, in theory, the same thing that Reckoning does against Mono Red and Vampires, but allows you to untap and have a play on turn four after they started to rebuild after the Reckoning.  Essentially Reckoning on turn three gives your opponent two free turns (the turn you Reckoning and the turn after), and sometimes you have to cast it on three in order to stay in the game.  With Demise you can at least start to answer their rebuilding on turn four.  I understand why Reckoning has the nod in the deck, but it was like the first time I watched Parks and Recreation, a real disappointment. 

The kill in the deck is pretty much Marionette Master and a bunch of treasures getting sacrificed.  We can get that from stuff like Spell Swindle and Brass's Bounty, but in order to find what we need, Treasure Map also starts off in the main.  The scry activation helps smooth out the early game, and when it's ready to flip into a land, we get three more treasures, which should translate into 9 damage with the Master.  Tezzeret the Schemer may not make treasures, but the Etherium Cells that he does make trigger Master all the same when it is time to win the game.  I did ultimate Tezzeret earlier, and let me tell you, sometimes attacking with a 5/5 treasure chest does the job just as well, especially when your Masters have been trapped with Ixalan's Binding.  The other win condition in the deck outside of Master and treasures or Tezzeret and treasures is a single copy of The Scarab God.  This God helps close out the game quickly, and you can turn your cashed in removal into 4/4 monsters thanks to its ability.  For value today I made Torrential Gearhulk, Regal Caracal, Champion of Wits and Cloudblazer join my team today. 

They were welcome additions! 

Glimmer of Genius rounds out the deck as a way to provide extra energy for Aether Hubs and find answers or threats.  While playing the deck today, I wondered if Mastermind's Acquisition may not be a good card for this deck. It was a lot better when I imagined that it could grab cards under an Ixalan's Binding and recast my stolen threats, but Twitter, and I guess more to the point, Gatherer told me that was not a legal play.  It was nice to dream though!  However, having a tutor or a wish, whichever one is more needed may not be the worst option for the deck.  I did find myself wishing for the ability to find Brass's Bounty often, or getting an extra piece of removal as well in the games that I played.  Having maindeck access to something like Lost Legacy or (Disposses) could be incredible as well.  It might be something to look in to, as I really like the idea behind the power and flexibility that this Diabolic Tutor variation offers. 

I love the amount of Field of Ruin in the deck.  Three feels awfully aggressive, but being able to deal with the flipped side of stuff like Search for Azcanta, Hadana's Climb and Legion's Landing is a really blessing.  Turning off the Arch of Orazca is great, and it can fix our own mana in a pinch while also making your opponent's mana a bit shakier.  I wonder if Crypt of the Eternals might be worth looking at at well.  I know it's a filter land, but the life gain, while very very small is not a thing to undervalue.  If it keeps you at 1 and allows you to win the game that is really important!  Hostile Desert could also playing nicely with used Field of Ruins, but we probably don't want another colorless only source. 

My only issue with the sideboard is something I mentioned earlier, with my desire to see Golden Demise in the main, but like I said earlier I understand why it is not there.  Hour of Glory might be worth considering as well.  Otherwise we have anti control options in Negate, Duress, Lost Legacy, and Dispossess.  Some more removal with Vona's Hunger as well.  Single copies of Tezzeret and Bounty round out the board. 

This deck was a ton of fun to play, and can lead to some really fun board states.  There are important decisions to make with nearly every spell, and tension built in with how to cycle or manage your treasure.  If you want a control deck, but want a quirky way to win the game, I would recommend this latest brew from one Magic's most well known residents of Christmasland.

Come back next time to see what I'm playing, and thanks for hanging out!