Last week I wrote about UWR Control, a deck that featured many new cards from Journey into Nyx. The deck was built by Tomoharu Saito and was piloted to a Top 4 finish by Christopher O'Bryant at an SCG Open in Cincinnati. This weekend, you may have noticed that there were no UWR Control decks at the top of the standings at all. What happened?
The control deck of choice for the weekend was Esper, piloted by Cam Adkins to a Top 8 finish at the SCG Open in Knoxville. Here's his list.
The first thing that stood out in this list was the lack of innovation. Other than Deicide, there are really no cards from Journey into Nyx in the deck. Cam decided to just go with what was working before the new set came out, which was good enough to finish in the Top 8 of the Open. He didn't even play any copies of Banishing Light! The only other new card present in his list is Nyx-Fleece Ram, a card that can buy you tons of time against deck like Boros Burn.
Most control players I know would have taken some time to brew some new decks with Journey into Nyx. I mean, two new lands were printed which opened the doors for decks like Grixis, BUG Control, and UWR. Sometimes you just have to go with what you know, and Esper has always been a solid choice for control mages.
If you're looking for something new to play this weekend, you've come to the right place. Today I'm going to present a new control list as well as my update to the UWR Control deck from last week. Let's get started.BantChantment Control
When Return to Ravnica was spoiled, one card that immediately caught my attention was Sphere of Safety. I have always liked playing decks with Propaganda and Ghostly Prison, and Sphere of Safety was arguably more powerful. Unfortunately there were not enough tools present to make the deck work back then. Journey into Nyx gave us some great new additions to the archetype, specifically Banishing Light. Here's my list:
The goal of this deck is to lock the opponent out with Sphere of Safety. We do this by casting a bunch of enchantments to either ramp us (Font of Fertility, Mana Bloom), or draw extra cards (Eidolon of Blossoms, Courser of Kruphix). We have disruption in the form of Detention Sphere, Banishing Light, and Supreme Verdict. Once the opponent is in a position where he can never attack us, we win with either Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Kiora, the Crashing Wave, or AEtherling.
Mana Bloom is our ramp spell. It nets us one extra mana a turn and never goes away. It can be a little awkward as a turn two ramp spell because unlike with Sylvan Caryatid or an actual Rampant Growth, you will get one extra mana on turn three (or whenever you decide to use it), but you won't get that mana the following turn and the Bloom will return to your hand. One cool thing about Mana Bloom is that if you cast it for more than one, you can use the mana on your own turn and use another mana on your opponent's turn, something that Rampant Growth and Caryatid can't do.
Mana Bloom has amazing synergy with Eidolon of Blossoms. You can cast it for zero just to draw a card and it will return to your hand each turn, giving you a consistent form of card advantage. It also is a permanent that stays in play, making our Sphere of Safety stronger.
Font of Fertility is our other Rampant Growth, but is costs an extra mana. It too can be a little awkward at times. There will be times you need to keep it around to power up Sphere of Safety and you won't be able to search for a land. It's great in this deck because it's a one mana enchantment that allows us to draw a card with an Eidolon in play and in those situations it's much better than a Rampant Growth or Sylvan Caryatid.
We have four Banishing Light and four Detention Sphere, two of the most important cards in the deck. These are our spot removal spells and help power up our Sphere of Safety. They are not the most reliable removal spells out there because they can just be Deicided or Revoked away, and that's why we have Supreme Verdict as backup.
It may seem counterintuitive to play Supreme Verdict in a deck with both Eidolon of Blossoms and Courser of Kruphix, but sometimes you just need a mass removal spell. Eidolon of Blossoms and Courser of Kruphix both gain you card advantage so destroying them is usually fine. They are not there to help us win the game so as long as we get one or more cards out of them, we won't mind killing them off.
Sphere of Safety is one of the strongest cards in the deck. There will be situations where our opponent won't be able to attack us with more than one creature, allowing us to set up winning board states with Kiora the Crashing Wave. If there is more than one Sphere in play, the amount of mana you need for each attacking creature is doubled, making attacking nearly impossible.
Our most important win condition is Kiora, the Crashing Wave. With all of our creature control in the deck, protecting her is very easy. Kiora can stop one creature a turn and our Banishing Lights and Detention Spheres can take care of the rest. You only need to protect Kiora for four turns and once she goes ultimate, the game will be practically over.
One thing that this deck is missing is a way to protect our enchantments. Sadly there is no Greater Auramancy or Privileged Position in the format meaning that a single enchantment removal spell could be game over for us, especially if we are in a position where we are relying on one Sphere of Safety.
This deck preys on creature decks but the control matchups are really rough for us. Any deck with Sphinx's Revelation is a huge problem. We don't provide a fast enough clock to kill control decks and we have too much removal that does absolutely nothing against them. We are also very weak to Counterspells because we don't play enough threats and it can be really hard to resolve one of our six win conditions.
Our sideboard helps the matchup tremendously. We bring in a total of six Counterspells to deal with their counters and Sphinx's Revelations, as well as some Jace, Memory Adepts as additional win conditions that are hard for them to deal with. We also side in one Mutavault because we want more lands in the control mirror and Mutavault doubles up as a threat as well.
Overall I like this deck a lot. It's still in the early stages but with some tuning it could be very strong in the Standard metagame. UWR Control
I actually had a chance to test Saito's UWR list and while I like the list a lot there were a lot of things I found that just didn't work. Here is his list:
I said last week that I couldn't wait to try out Keranos, God of Storms. Well, I tried him out and unfortunately he failed to impress me. On paper, Keranos looks like a personal Howling Mine that can kill creatures at will. You can set up your draws with scry lands and it seems like choosing what you want to do with Keranos is pretty easy. While that part was easy, Keranos just didn't impact the game as much as I thought he would.
The first problem with Keranos is he costs five mana. That is an entire turn's worth of mana and Keranos doesn't affect the board in any way the turn he enters the battlefield. Every other spell in the deck does something immediately, but Keranos just sits there and does nothing until your next draw step. You will hardly get a chance to play a spell that does nothing when you're playing this deck. Against aggro decks, tapping out to play a do-nothing card will just give your opponent a window to kill you and against control, tapping out to play Keranos will open up the door for your opponent to resolve an important spell like Jace, Architect of Thoughts, Sphinx's Revelation, or Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
At least your other tap-out spells do something right away. Jace draws cards or nullifies attackers. Elspeth makes guys. AEtherling blocks. Keranos does a whole lot of nothing, and let's be honest, drawing an extra land isn't that exciting anyway.
Besides the small Keranos problem, I loved the deck. One card that really impressed me was Turn // Burn. This card does just about anything you want it to do as far as dealing with creatures are concerned. Besides the fact that it can two-for-one your opponent, it's also a five mana instant removal spell that can kill creatures that this deck has a hard time dealing with, like Stormbreath Dragon or Obzedat, Ghost Council. Removing abilities is often relevant as well. For example, Boros Reckoner won't get its triggered ability if you Turn it. Obzedat won't be able to remove itself from the game at end of turn, allowing you to Supreme Verdict or Detention Sphere it on your turn.
I also really liked the Counterspells in the deck. A lot of control decks these days are playing only four copies of Dissolve, but the two Syncopates and two Izzet Charms were great. This format has really slowed down and we aren't seeing a lot of true aggro. The two and three color aggro decks are more midrangey than in past formats and Red Deck Wins isn't played much at all anymore. People are playing lots of scrylands in their decks which makes the entire format much slower. Slower decks give Counterspells a chance to shine, and both Izzet Charm and Syncopate are only two mana (well, sometimes).
Firemind's Foresight really over performed for me. Sometimes you need that fifth copy of Sphinx's Revelation and this card does exactly that. It's really hard to lose once you resolve one and most opponents just scooped once I showed them the three instants I searched for.
The last thing I want to discuss about UWR Control is the sideboard plan. I wasn't a fan of Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Archangel of Thune at all. The main reason for this is that UWR Control is not a tapout control deck. It plays more counters and instants than most other control decks and very rarely gets a chance to cast a creature. Against most decks, I'd rather keep up Syncopate or Dissolve than play a Brimaz on turn three. While I would still keep Brimaz in the deck against Esper or UW Control, the Archangel of Thunes do not seem necessary. If I were playing this deck in a Standard event this weekend this is the list I'd play.
That's all I have for this week. This weekend I'll be playing in Pro Tour Journey into Nyx in Atlanta. Be sure to follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/MelissaDeTora for round by round updates and check out live coverage of the event at Twitch.tv/magic. See you next week!
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