Hasn't it been awhile? I can still hear the snap of my Reflecting Pool as it joined my pool of Vivid lands and Filter lands alongside it. One minute you were casting Bant Charm to take out an opposing Swans of Brynn Argoll while the next you were resolving Identity Crisis to clean things up. Or maybe you were casting Cloudthresher to take out an opposing swarm of Fae and then untapping for the Cruel Ultimatum in your hand.
Yes. These things really did happen and they weren't even all too uncommon. Oh, and if you think I am talking about old Extended or Legacy, think again. This was Standard after Shards of Alara joined Lorwyn for what was the best mana fixing in a Standard format that I have ever seen. Granted, it needed to be. People needed to be able to cast those Demigods of Revenge and Cruel Ultimatums or else the Fae would have ruled even harder and more ruthlessly than they already did.
But that was five years ago. Not that we should be able to play five colors very often or anything, but now might be the first time in five years where it is possible once again. Not only possible, but good might I add!Outside The Box
Like most deck ideas, this came from a patchwork of thoughts and observations. Usually, you don't take and translate those things literally by having access to all colors though. For example, if over time I observe that Rakdos Return and Sphinx's Revelation are both very strong, I might choose to play one of the two along with a deck that could support it, as well as a way to answer the other. So something like Negate in our Sphinx's Revelation deck might make sense. We have learned something about the format and then applied that knowledge in a way that fit within our boundaries.
When you build Five Color Control, there are no boundaries.
So, rather than settling for playing one of these awesome spells and answers to the other, we get to just actually play both! Five Color Control is certainly more than just a collection of good cards of course, but it does benefit from having access to the most powerful cards available, should it want them.
The best way to construct a five color deck is to think about its weaknesses. So, obviously on the surface we know that having the best spells of all five colors is better than having only the best spells of one or two colors. And yet, we also do not play five color decks very often. What is it that keeps us restricted to two or three colors? The answer lies in your mana. Mana restricts you and therefore when you look to be unrestricted, you tend to encounter problems.
So, if we translate this over to deck building, it makes sense that a strong five color deck would have a core color or pair of colors supporting it, with touches of other colors for other areas. You would probably not see an equal 20/20/20/20/20 split across all five colors because that would require the same thing from your mana base which would lead to very inconsistent draws.
If instead, we built say a Blue/Black foundation, with the majority of our cards being in those two colors and then flashy or especially powerful cards like Sphinx's Revelation and Rakdos's Return were our splash to get to five colors, we have a much more sustainable model for an otherwise inconsistent concept.Lessons from Bant
That thinking is what got me started on the idea of five colors in the first place. If you have taken a look at Standard decks recently, you might be familiar with Bant control becoming a more popular deck. If you haven't seen any Bant lists, check out the list John Kassari ran this past weekend. John has played his fair share of Bant decks, so this is a reasonable starting point:
John utilizes a core green engine to fuel his control deck. Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix both allow the deck to more consistently have access to its mana while also being great at playing defense, even actually gaining you life in the case of the Courser. From that core engine, John is able to play all of the big boy stuff that comes with a lot of mana. Planeswalkers, Sphinx's Revelation, and AEtherling are what you will see ending all of Johns games.
However, hidden away within the list are some places where I can't help but see opportunities for improvement. Plasm Capture is an awesome card and I love the idea of it, but it seems pretty inconsistent for a control deck like this. In the late game, it will often just be an overcosted Counterspell, which, while passable, is not exciting.
And even if we look past any weak cards in the deck, what about weaknesses the deck might have? For example, outside of the countermagic and Revelations, this deck plays almost exclusively at sorcery speed. That is fine some of the time, but what happens when a Stormbreath Dragon resolves or a pair of Mutavaults get active. You have lines that can minimize damage here, but they are not the type of sturdy plans that a deck like Esper might have for them, for example.
And yet, Esper has its own weaknesses. Because it lacks any source of life gain or early defense against burn decks, it can often be Overrun by Ash Zealots and Boros Charms. Bant is well suited here, with Courser gaining you life and blocking and Caryatid doing the latter as well. It's a matter of strengths and weaknesses that a five color deck looks to take the best of both worlds from.Just Add Color
I wanted to take that same core shell and spread it out to each color for late game perks and, of course, the ability to cast Chromanticore! Here was where my brew began:
While I started here, I quickly moved away from here because I noticed a few glaring things. First and most importantly, the mana base was basically terrible. I had not given the deck a sufficient number of red sources and it was being felt. The list also felt a little mana light, which I tend to start on the low side with anyway, so I also bumped that number up a bit. Beyond just that, my deck construction philosophy that I pointed out earlier was very poor.
If you take a look at this deck, you see the core Bant control deck emerge. There are four copies of Hallowed Fountain, Breeding Pool, and Temple Garden to support things like Sylvan Caryatid, Supreme Verdict, and Sphinx's Revelation. That much I did right. But if Bant is the core of the deck, why does my two mana removal spell contain none of those three colors? I was avoiding Hero's Downfall because I thought double black would be too difficult to hit consistently, but my alternative was Dreadbore, which was only slightly easier to cast and with only three red sources, I am not even sure that much was true.
I needed to figure out what was essential to the strategy and what cards I was testing out. Gild was one of these cards. In theory, it leads to the best plays the deck can make.
Let's say you are on the play and you lead with a turn two Sylvan Caryatid. Your opponent takes their turn and plays a Pack Rat. You untap, cast Gild on the Pack Rat and turn that into a turn four Elspeth, Sun's Champion! You ramped ahead two full turns while answering the scariest two-drop in the format. Kiora, the Crashing Wave can do a similar thing, only without the answering Pack Rat part.
Beyond just questioning some of the cards in the deck, I also was running into some problems. Mutavault was proving to be difficult. I had some answers, like Warleader's Helix, that dealt with the pesky land, but outside of those and Far // Away, my deck was having issues. On turn two, Caryatid could play defense on that thing forever, so that was no problem. But eventually, the board would fill up and I would need to cast Supreme Verdict, taking out my Caryatids in the process. Now their Mutavaults have free reign on my life total until I could redeploy defenses.
Another thing that came out of my playtesting games was an understanding of just how the control match up presented itself. Cards like Negate were actually much worse for me as I had no way to chain multiple Counterspells. I have more threats than them and I need to leverage that. I made sure to address this with the new sideboard.
All of that lead me to making a few changes. This list is still far from final, but it is at a place where taking it to your FNM or battling in eight-mans on Magic Online is more than acceptable.
The deck is still far too new and relatively untested to present any sort of a sideboard plan as of yet, but most of the cards should make sense as to when they come in. The tough part is figuring out what to cut, but I am experimenting in that department just as you will be.
And things are certainly not locked into place when it comes to the spells either. I am still giving Gild a small chance, but it might just be a less efficient version of the fourth Detention Sphere and I need to accept that. The mana fixing and acceleration have come up a few times, but at least in regards to the fixing, I have to question how much of that was a bad mana base's fault.
I have been consistently making the finals of eight-mans on Magic Online with the above list or slight variations of it though, so it definitely has what it takes. Tuning it to figure out the right numbers on everything is a different story though, as with all of the variations available to this list it could take quite some time. Still, the list is quite fun and has outs to most decks. I have found Burn to particularly be both popular and an easy match up online, so you have that going for you!
Oh and when you bring in the second Chromanticore, there is a challenge for you. The challenge involves bestowing one of those bad boys on to the other Chromanticore forming the superior beast known as the Chromantitron. Screenshot and hashtag that bad boy for retweets, etc. Enjoy the deck. Standard has a lot of unexplored territory!