Hello ladies and gentlemen! This past weekend was Grand Prix Charlotte and I was able to meet some of you there. While Grand Prix Charlotte had a lot of technical difficulties it was still overall a good experience. Mostly because I didn't have to travel anywhere and it was basically in my backyard. That and I got to see and hang out with friends.
I ended up settling on Lantern Control for the main event but didn't do too well. I got paired against Jund one too many times and that matchup is pretty tough for the deck. I ended up dropping from the event feeling defeated. Luckily the next day I got to play some Standard with a sweet deck and ended up Top 8ing the Standard Super IQ Plus without ever dropping a match. I did concede in the top eight however since all prize was the same except first and second got invited to the SCG Invitational. Since I already had the invite and my opponent did not, I gave him the win.
Before I get to the deck though I want to say I've never really played a deck like this. I've played plenty of aggro/control decks (tempo), control/combo decks like Splinter Twin, even counter-burn decks, but I've never played a control/ramp deck with actual countermagic. Sure, I may have played a couple of Counterspells in my sideboard or maybe two big ones in the main deck but the deck I played had a whopping nine counterspells maindeck and had three Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. It was awesome and so very fun! I guess that's to be expected of an Izzet deck. Very strange, fun, and most importantly, awesome!
I really liked the deck and will probably continue to play it for awhile. It seemed to have game against everything and the only time it struggled was when my opponent had large creatures, otherwise I felt like I was always in the game. This deck might seem a little complex with all the counter magic, ramp, and unique lands. Don't worry though, I will break the deck down for you card-by-card so you understand the deck and can play it well at your next event.
I'm sure we all know how good Chandra Flamecaller is by now. She's great at drawing cards, clearing the board, and winning the game. One thing that's different about her here though is you don't have to be too careful with her. I'm not saying just play her whenever without thought. I'm just saying that if you have to play her and minus four to wipe the board right away that's okay. She's not the top end like she is in other decks; there's still Drowner of Hope and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. That being said it's obviously best if you think your plays through and aren't too rash with her, but that can be said about anything.
No Jace, Vryn's Prodigy here since you can't really flashback Counterspells and we don't have much else we really want to flashback. Jace, Unraveler of Secrets does a lot here. Mid to late game, the deck can hit a lot of "fluff," and Jace, Unraveler of Secrets helps overcome that. It's awesome just sitting back and controlling your draws as he ticks up towards his ultimate, which is hard to overcome. Opponents can't just throw away a cheap spell to trigger the emblem then cast the spell they wanted to without worry since we can counter the second spell and have a great two-for-one.
Drowner of Hope is so much better during game play than he is on paper. He buys you so much time by making three bodies and can even tap down big guys if Drowner of Hope isn't big enough to block it for you. Drowner of Hope also ramps you so keep that in mind. I had a game where I cast Drowner of Hope and left an Island untapped. My opponent cast a spell, not realizing I could sacrifice both my Scions and counter his spell with Spell Shrivel. Keep plays like that in mind. It also works well with Spawning Bed.
This is where our curve stops. A great finish for a control deck but control decks can't usually play a ten-drop as a finisher, but this deck can, thanks to Drowner of Hope, Hedron Archive, and Spawning Bed. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is always devastating when he's cast, but he is even more so from a control deck since he will come down on a nearly empty board thanks to our countermagic and removal spells.
Anticipate: This is a good way to hit land drops and dig for big spells later in the game. Try not to cast this spell right away if you don't know what you want. Casting this later in the game is much better since you know what you need and what you really want for the current board state. Otherwise you're most likely guessing or ensuring you hit land drops. I wasn't 100% sold on Anticipate and might look to shave some or all of them entirely.
Clash of Wills: A good Counterspell for Standard. Great early game and usually falls off late game but thanks to Hedron Archive it doesn't tank completely like it can in other control decks.
Instant speed Pyroclasm is great in this format. Especially one that you can replay after casting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to wipe the board completely. I know it can easy to forget this spell is in your graveyard after a couple of complex turns and thinking about what to counter but try not to. It's a devastating affect when triggered off a 7+ drop.
Hard counter + Jace's Ingenuity over time? Sign me up. Confirm Suspicions has been great mid to late game countering any spell and then refilling your hand when you have spare mana. Don't be afraid to fire this off on a mediocre spell your opponent may cast, especially if your opponent doesn't have a spell that will swing the game heavily in their favor. The three clues and three new cards are just that good in this deck. I countered a Loam Dryad with Confirm Suspicions; it was the last card in his hand but still I had so much mana and just wanted to find a threat, and the three clues did not disappoint.
Spatial Contortion: A solid removal spell for this deck. It's nice to cast Hedron Archive on turn four and then still have mana to still cast Spatial Contortion. It can also be used a Giant Growth on one of your big creatures to close out a game if you need that. Don't do this unless it will kill your opponent. Otherwise it's much more valuable to have the conditional removal spell.
Spell Shrivel: Mana Leak for three mana! Not too exciting but it does the job. I had many people ask me why Spell Shrivel over Void Shatter. That answer is simple.
I hope that is enough convincing to play Spell Shrivel over Void Shatter for you.
Hedron Archive: The ramp spell that does so many things for this deck. Normally control decks don't run ramp spells but this one ramps you up by two mana and can be cashed in later for two cards. This is the reason this control deck can get away with it. A fantastic card.
Mage-Ring Network: This land allows you to store mana when you don't counter a spell or cast Anticipate. The land is fine but I don't think we need four of them in the deck.
We have plenty of colorless spells to justify the full playset of Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. I wouldn't shave any of these if the core of the deck remains anywhere remotely the same.
Spawning Bed: A good way to go from seven mana to casting Ulamog the following turn. Works great with Drowner of Hope and the 1/1s are a fine threat themselves. This last was the second best land in the deck in my opinion.
Arguably the best or second-best creature-land in Standard. Wandering Fumarole trades with any other creature-land and closes out games fast, all while providing both blue and red mana. The best land in the deck.
Drowner of Hope: This should just be maindeck.
Anything grindy or controlling Fevered Visions is fantastic against. Drawing you extra cards and killing your opponent. One of my favorite cards in Standard.
Fiery Impulse: Good against decks with tiny creatures trying to kill you.
Negate: Control and ramp decks are where you want Negate. I don't think you need three though.
Just a solid card against control and small aggro decks.
I want Reality Smasher for ramp, midrange, and control decks. However, I think Thought-Knot Seer might just be better.
Roast: For creatures with big butts like Thought-Knot Seer, and more importantly, Reality Smasher.
As I mentioned when describing some cards, I wanted to shave some numbers or cut some cards entirely. This is where I want to start when testing the deck in the future.
This is what I want to test after the Grand Prix. I wanted a way to draw more cards and I think the first Ugin's Insight is better than a third Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, especially if you have a Hedron Archive, Jace, Unravler of Secrets, or a Drowner of Hope in play since you'll be able to scry a bunch and set up your draw. I added the fourth Drowner of Hope because it was just so good when I played him that I just wanted the full four.
I cut two Mage-Ring Networks for an Island and a third Spawning Bed since they work so well with Drowner of Hope and they ramp us while applying pressure or chump-blocking. The fourth Spawning Bed over the sixth Island might be correct but testing will tell. Spawning Bed isn't cheap to activate.
Well ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for tuning in and I hope you crush with this deck as well as have fun with it. Thank you so much for reading and I'll catch you next Tuesday. My articles will be coming out Tuesdays now instead of Wednesdays.
See you next time,