I was really excited about Keranos, God of Storms when he was spoiled a few weeks ago. I thought the idea of having a personal Howling Mine that could also double as a finisher could be amazing in a control shell. When Tomoharu Saito posted about 18 decklists on twitter last week, I saw just the deck I wanted to try out.
【Standard】Deck17:UWr control^^ #mtg #mtgjp #SaitoWayfinder pic.twitter.com/aZeptxbMuj— TomoharuSaito/トモハル (@TomoharuSaito) May 2, 2014
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try out the deck at FNM last weekend but I wasn't surprised when I saw Saito's exact list make Top 4 of the SCG Open in Cincinnati in the hands of Christopher O'Bryant. Here's the list.
This list is pretty much your typical UW Control deck with a few burn spells thrown in and a Keranos for good measure. I did have to do a double take when I saw Firemind's Foresight in the list. At seven mana, there is no way this card is on the same level as Sphinx's Revelation, right? If I had seven lands in play, I'd much rather draw four cards and gain four life than net only three cards and gain zero life. When I actually thought about what Firemind's Foresight did, I began to feel differently.
At one mana, we can search up Quicken, Syncopate, Magma Spray, Dispel, or Wear // Tear.
At two mana, we can search up Turn // Burn, Last Breath, Deicide, Celestial Flare, Izzet Charm, and Wear // Tear.
At three mana, we can find a Sphinx's Revelation. In some cases we may also want a Dissolve, Counterflux, or Turn // Burn. I could see doing that if we already have a Revelation in hand. Honestly, if we are searching up three instant cards and are holding a Sphinx's Revelation, I'm not even sure how we could possibly lose.
Firemind's Foresight allows you to play a variety of one-ofs such as Deicide, Last Breath, Magma Spray, and Turn // Burn, making UWR Control more of a toolbox style deck. With twelve scrylands in the deck as well as four copies of Dissolve, we will be seeing most of the cards in our deck in each game. Firemind's Foresight makes all of our one-ofs feel like two-ofs without the downside of actually playing more copies of cards that could potentially be dead in some matchups.
After that, I was completely sold on Firemind's Foresight. The card is just bonkers, but that doesn't mean we'd ever want to play multiple copies. Unlike Sphinx's Revelation, Firemind's Foresight will always cost seven mana. If we are stuck on lands we can always cast Revelation for two or three. We can't justify playing more than one copy of this spell if we are also playing four copies of Revelation, but we'd always want to draw our singleton Firemind's Foresight in the late game when we're low on cards.
Journey into Nyx offered up a lot of cards for the UWR Control archetype. The first and most obvious inclusion for this deck is Banishing Light. Detention Sphere is arguably better but I prefer to run a few of each. I like that Banishing Light is easier on the mana. Both enchantments are easy to cast anyway, but there will be times where you will have six lands and want to play both Detention Sphere and Dissolve but only have two blue sources. Having access to Banishing Light solves that problem nicely. Banishing Light can also remove opposing Detention Spheres which means that we no longer have to clog up our sideboard with narrow cards like Revoke Existence.
Deicide is the next inclusion from Journey into Nyx. It's a huge upgrade from Revoke Existence due to its instant speed, and it's also great against decks that rely on gods such as Monoblue Devotion. There aren't many artifacts in the format worth destroying making Deicide almost strictly better than Revoke.
The addition of Temple of Epiphany made some previously unplayable cards much better. Before, any deck that wanted to play blue and red had to be really careful what spells it splashed because it was possible that you would not draw red mana until much later in the game. With the new temple, cards like Izzet Charm are actually castable on turn two, and I wouldn't be surprised if Ral Zarek made a splash in Standard now.The Manabase
Twelve scrylands is a lot of lands that come into play tapped, and is nearly half of the lands in the deck. Unfortunately, this means that some of our opening hands will be incredibly awkward. It's very likely that we will draw an opening hand of only scrylands as our lands, which means that we won't stand a chance against a faster deck because we are playing at a turn behind them. UWR Control makes up for its slow openers by playing cheaper spells, such as Izzet Charm to kill early creatures or two mana counters like Syncopate.
There are only six shocklands in the deck, which I actually like a lot. Most three color decks such as Junk or BUG are playing the full twelve Shocklands to give themselves the most consistent manabase possible. Taking a lot of damage from your lands will just kill you faster, especially if you're playing against aggressive decks. You may not even get a chance to cast a Sphinx's Revelation to gain some of your life back.
I definitely agree with zero copies of Mana Confluence in the deck. Between twelve scrylands and six shocklands, our manabase isn't perfect but it is good enough and we don't need more lands that Deal Damage to us. I'm not the biggest fan of Mana Confluence in general right now, especially with shocklands in the format. I like the card in three color aggressive decks like Naya Hexproof but that's about it. I'd imagine that Mana Confluence would get much better once Return to Ravnica block rotates out.
One land that I'm iffy about in this list is Mutavault. Three color decks are rough on the mana and Mutavault doesn't help us with any of our colors. While I've always liked Mutavault in UW Control, I'm not sold on it in this deck.
Overall, the Mutavaults aren't terrible. The color distribution of the lands in this deck is actually pretty good, with 17 sources of blue, 15 sources of white, and ten sources of red. With red being the least represented color in our deck, I think the manabase is actually great. However, the Anger of the Gods in the sideboard does concern me a bit. If we want to reliably cast Anger on turn three or four in the matchups we are siding them in, ten sources is definitely too few. I can see cutting one or even all of the Mutavaults for more red sources. I'd never want to run a basic Mountain in this deck, but additional copies of Steam Vents or Sacred Foundry are fine.The Win Conditions
Saito's list is running three Elspeth, Sun's Champion and one Keranos, God of Storms. There are more win conditions in the sideboard, but we'll get to those later.
Most control decks these days have been cutting AEtherling in favor of more Elspeths. I think that this is usually wrong, especially in straight up UW Control. Sometimes the Elspeths won't win you a game fast enough, or your opponent will have answers to it in the form of Hero's Downfall, removal, or attacking creatures. In most cases, once you drop an Elspeth, you will win the game four turns later (ticking it up every turn and then an ultimate once it reaches seven loyalty). With Counterspells and Sphinx's Revelations as backup, that is usually good enough. However, four turns is pretty scary when you are facing a deck with additional reach like Boros Burn or Monoblack Devotion. AEtherling on the other hand can usually close out a game in a turn or two, depending on how much damage your opponent has done to himself with Thoughtseize and shocklands. Most decks just scoop to AEtherling the turn he comes down, and that is definitely something I'm looking for when playing control decks.
The downside of running AEtherling is that it's just miserable to draw in the early game. You can never cast it before turn seven and even then it's usually vulnerable to removal. I never feel safe casting AEtherling unless I have at least ten lands in play (six for AEtherling, one to blink it, and three for Dissolve). Against some decks, you just don't have enough time to cast it. The UWR deck does play a copy of AEtherling in the sideboard and I think that's where it belongs. It's better to just not run the risk of drawing it in your opener against a burn deck or a deck running Thoughtseize.
Keranos, God of Storms is somewhat of a win condition. It can technically deal three to your opponent every turn until they die but that is not really a reliable way to kill someone. Between lifegain effects or just revealing lands with Keranos, dealing twenty damage with this guy is quite the challenge. Keranos will never be a creature, and if for some reason you are able to turn on Keranos by controlling a Jace and a lot of Detention Spheres, you were probably going to win that game anyway.
Keranos is capable of killing your opponent in combination with Elspeth, Sun's Champion. It can take a while to kill with Elspeth, especially if your opponent is finding ways to reduce Elspeth's loyalty or is dealing with the tokens. While the main purpose of Keranos is to draw extra cards or help clear the board, he can actually deal the final points to your opponent.
One card that I'm surprised isn't in this list is one of my favorite cards for control decks, Elixir of Immortality. Elixir is great against decks running Thoughtseize or Counterspells. You will likely get your important cards discarded or countered and Elixir can shuffle everything back in. Your deck will also contain much less lands after you reshuffle, making each of your Sphinx's Revelations and your draws in general better than your opponent's. This deck plays a large number of one-ofs, and Elixir will make it so you will be able to redraw those important situational cards. If I were to run this deck, I would definitely find some room for one Elixir.
Another card worth considering for UWR Control is Prognostic Sphinx. Prognostic Sphinx is not really on the same level as Elspeth or AEtherling, but it actually does a lot in this deck. Discarding extra cards to give him hexproof should never be a problem in a deck with this much card draw, but the main reason I like him is he has scry three when he attacks. This deck is a toolbox style deck with a lot of situational cards and scry three will help you to see more of your deck and find those key cards you're looking for. Plus, a 3/5 is pretty sizable and it's really hard to block, and unlike AEtherling, you will have no problem running this guy out there as early as possible.
There are more win conditions in the sideboard including Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Archangel of Thune. These guys are great against most midrange and control decks because these decks will be siding out most of their creature removal after game one. Spells like Doom Blade, Ultimate Price, and Rapid Hybridization don't do anything against UWR Control in game one and you can really catch your opponent by surprise by dropping a Brimaz on turn three after they have taken out most of their removal. It's possible that your opponent won't even have an answer to these guys and they can finish a game quickly for you.
The last finisher in the UWR Control deck's sideboard is Assemble the Legion. This card is there against the black devotion decks because they have zero ways to remove it outside of Thoughtseize. Some players like it against control decks as well, but with most control decks running both Banishing Light and Detention Sphere, Assemble is nothing but a five mana spell that dies the turn you play it. Additionally, you'd never want to tap out for Assemble against a control deck that could have follow-up plays such as Elspeth or AEtherling. I don't think this card is worth it in that matchup.Wrap Up
There are many ways to build this UWR Control and lots of options available that were not included in Saito's list. I won't be playing in a Standard event for a while, but I'm looking forward to trying out the different cards for this deck at FNM this week, especially Ral Zarek and Prognostic Sphinx. Thanks for reading and see you next week!
Melissa DeTorahttp://twitter.com/MelissaDeTora on twitterwww.facebook.com/melissa.detora on Facebook