Welcome back everyone, I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. This past weekend was a big one, we had Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad take place and the season premier of Game of Thrones! The latter was cool and all, but that's not why we are here.
At the Pro Tour, Jon Finkel swept through his opponents during the Standard swiss portion of the tournament. His weapon of choice? A control deck. Now this wasn't a traditional control deck with countermagic, removal, card draw, and a finisher, it was more tap-out style. The deck continuously tried to keep the battlefield clear with removal and hand-disruption. Finkel's deck had ways to gain card advantage but we'll get into all that once we dissect the deck and take it piece by piece. Today I intend to do just that for those looking to pick up the deck and play it and I'll offer suggestive replacements that I believe would be better suited for the deck going forward. First, let's look at this masterpiece.
I had been testing a similar deck, except it had many more bullets and played out like a midrange deck instead of a control deck. I believe Finkel's list is more refined and just an overall better build. I want to take this deck out for a spin, as I'm sure you are, so let's get into the card choices!
A great way to close out the game and a solid card advantage engine in its own right. Not everything is about drawing cards, and turning your opponent's dead creatures into Zombies is a fine way to generate card advantage. He does all this while gaining you life too. Kalitas can also grow bigger to buffer your life total or attack through a large creature.
A Borderland Ranger at its worst, and that card is great. A 2/2 creature that fetches you a land to ensure you hit land drops is great. The card is already a built in two-for-one, but if you manage to flip Nissa, Vastwood Seer you can then generate even more of an advantage by making a 4/4 Ashaya, the Awoken World or by using her plus ability to generate card advantage and/or ramp you up. This deck plans on going into the late game, so Nissa, Vastwood Seer is a fantastic role-player in this deck.
This is what stood out to me the most. I flip-flopped between one or two Dark Petitions in my lists but never thought of running the full playset. Finkel didn't even run that many bullets but he still ran four Petitions. This was either to set up a Seasons Past the following turn and use the Dark Ritual mana on a removal spell in hand or it was to get a specific card that. For instance, a Languish to clear the board, Infinite Obliteration to deal with Deathmist Raptors, Ruinous Path to clear out a creature or pesky Planeswalker, or maybe a Nissa's Renewal to gain some life and ramp up. The card is basically a Demonic Tutor if you can trigger spell mastery. The biggest reason I believe Finkel ran four is because he had a good amount of ways to trigger spell mastery and most of his cards are pretty cheaply-costed. Mine were not.
Duress has long been a staple in almost any format it is legal and this time it's no different. Duress is a great way to Clear a Path for your spell resolving, break up the opponent's tempo, or just taking a key piece to the opponent's deck. Here Duress also does something else in that it is a very good way to fuel spell mastery for Dark Petition so you can get full value out of it.
Infinite Obliteration: When I first saw the deck I wanted this card in the sideboard and not the maindeck, but after seeing it in action it made me see the deck in a different light. This is basically a mono-black control deck and reminds a lot of the mono-black deck back in Torment. Infinite Obliteration can strip away win conditions if your opponent is heavy on creatures. It's better to Infinite Obliterate Archangel of Tithes rather than be forced to continuously Ruinous Path her since she has five toughness. Same thing with Dragonlord Ojutai, I'd rather be rid of all of them in one fell swoop instead of needing to have to have a Grasp of Darkness ready. Another creature that is annoyingly painful for this deck is Deathmist Raptor. It is much better to be rid of all of them instead of trying to Languish them turn and turn again. The same can be said about Den Protector and the infinite loop it can create.
The best four-mana board wipe in Standard. I feel like this deck would love to have a Crux of Fate-type card or even an Extinguish all Hope-type card to have an unconditional board wipe, but alas, the one time we need it in Standard we don't have access to it. Languish is still a fantastic card early, and against some decks, Languish is all you need. Usually what Languish doesn't kill you can get Ruinous Path or Ultimate Price to kill for you.
A great way to buffer your life total and a fantastic way to ramp yourself up on mana. This deck requires a lot of mana and the more you have the better thanks to Dark Petition and Seasons Past. This deck can use all of its mana every turn once it gets going so having extra lands is never a bad thing. On top of all that Nissa's Renewal is a fine way to thin your deck out making your top decks better than your opponent most of the time.
This is the only raw card advantage the deck has without needing any other criteria and it's no slouch. Early on it can ensure you hit your land drops while in the late game it can push lands to the bottom so that not only do you not draw them but you also won't see them again unless you shuffle your library. Preordain is a fantastic Magic card and is banned from Modern for a reason. Read the Bones is no Preordain, but it operates on a similar wavelength.
What's better than removal that can kill any creature or Planeswalker? I'm glad you asked. Ruinous Path is a great way to kill a creature or Planeswalker, then double dip to make a 4/4 to pick away at your opponent's life total.
What a card. Not only does this card generate card advantage but it's basically multiple Demonic Tutors for your graveyard. By the time you cast it the first time you'll get a good amount of cards for your investment. However, the second, third, or even fourth time you cast it you're just putting the nails in your opponent's coffin. Seasons Past doesn't even exile itself upon resolution, instead it tucks itself on the bottom of your library so you can later dig it back up to your hand with Dark Petition. Seasons Past and Dark Petition uninterrupted will create a continuous loop where you can constantly rebuy all your cards from your graveyard. This is where all that extra mana you gained by just playing the game or casting Nissa's Renewal over and over again will be used. Don't forget lands are zero drops!
Similar to Duress, except it can hit anything that costs three or more. Another great way to turn on spell mastery, or to just give you information on how the next couple of turns will play out for your opponent.
Probably the second-best removal spell behind Declaration in Stone in Standard. Where Grasp can't kill things that have more than four toughness Declaration in Stone can. Grasp however can kill all the man lands except Lumbering Falls because it is an instant. Your opponent also doesn't get a clue off Grasp of Darkness. Both have their perks and drawbacks but I can definitely see why any black based control deck wants four of these. Keep in mind a Grasp of Darkness with Languish will kill a transformed Westvale Abbey.
Great against humans, Deathmist Raptor, or basically any creature deck. I like having a third in the board.
Dead Weight: Fantastic against Humans as a one-mana answer to basically any of their one or two drops. It's correct to have some number of these in the sideboard as long as Humans is a thing.
Clip Wings: Dragonlord Ojutai can be very annoying to deal with, especially if it's sitting behind an Always Watching. Clip Wings will solve that issue for you. However, I believe Clip Wings is mainly to deal with Ormendahl, Profane Price since it's very hard for you to get off the battlefield without shrinking it to oblivion. Good bullet to have access to against such an annoying creature such as Ormendahl.
Naturalize: I can see enchantments and artifacts to be a pain to deal with since we can't remove them outside Naturalize. Things like Pryomancer's Goggles, Sphinx's Tutelage, or even Fevered Dreams need to be dealt with as soon as possible and Naturalize does just that.
Orbs of Warding: This one has me a bit baffled. I love Orbs of Warding but have never found a place where it was good. Sure, it's probably fine against Pyromancer's Goggles and a bunch of 1/1 creatures, but I don't really see where I'd want it. Maybe you guys and gals can shed some light on it.
Virulent Plague: One-for-oneing tokens isn't where we want to be, and Virulent Plague ensures we won't be. It's also stops Gideon a little bit while neutering Chandra's Elementals completely. A needed card in the sideboard.
Sinister Concoction: This might be a better one of main deck over Dead Weight since it can deal with problematic creatures such as Reality Smasher and creatures with five toughness. It's also fantastic once you get your Seasons Past and Dark Petition engine going since it's a one drop removal spell that you can buy back.
Blighted Fen: I wanted one of these maindeck for a good land to buy back with Seasons Past. Maybe it's not needed since once the engine is going you have access to a bunch of removal already. It is a good one to keep in the back of your mind.
This card is fantastic if this deck starts to take off. It's also not that bad against opposing control decks.
Revealing Wind: Kinda sucks that the lowest costing Fog is three mana in Standard but against some decks you can keep them at bay or just straight lock them out with Season's Past and Dark Petition if you have enough mana. Something worth considering.
If I was going to play this deck this coming weekend this is what it would look like.
Keep in mind if you expect Bant Company you might want to Rethink your deck choice since this deck isn't that great against Bant Company. However it seems to be a monster against everything else. If you have any ideas on how to shore that matchup up, then by all means share them in the comments.
I feel like this is one of the best control decks in the format and I'm glad Finkel showed us its power. I hope you have a better understanding of the deck and how it functions. I know I'll be playing it when given the opportunity. It's funny how one of the best control decks in the format is a BG deck, I'm not complaining just find it a bit humorous.
As always thank you for reading.
Until next time,