A few weeks ago, I came across a really sweet looking BUG Control list while playing in some two-man queues on Magic Online. It completely demolished my UG Devotion deck without any trouble and I was quite impressed. Since then, I've acquired the list and have been playing and tweaking the deck with Frank, and he even did a series of videos with the deck here. The deck was originally played on Magic Online by Pr0xies and he is still piloting it in Standard Dailies with good results. Today I'm going to discuss the deck in detail and explain the card choices, matchups, and sideboarding guide.
First, here's the deck:
This deck's goal is to control the board early and then win with either a Kiora, the Crashing Wave or Vraska the Unseen ultimate. We have lots of early removal and counters to help us to get to the later stages of the game. We have ways to deal with any type of permanents and lots of scry effects and card draw to help us find the right answers.
One common downfall of decks such as this one is having the wrong answers at the wrong times. A good example of this is UWR Control in Modern. That deck plays a lot of situational answers such as Spell Snare, Mana Leak, Lighting Bolt, and Path to Exile. There are times where you will have to deal with a large creature such as Tarmogoyf, but all you have in your hand are Bolts. There will be other times where you desperately need a Mana Leak, but the only counter you draw that game is Spell Snare. This is a common weakness in control decks and that's why scry effects are so important. This BUG deck plays a whopping thirteen cards with scry and other card draw such as Urban Evolution and Kiora the Crashing Wave. With all of these ways to filter through your deck, you will rarely have the problem of being stuck with the wrong answers in your hand.The Win Conditions
4 Kiora, the Crashing Wave2 Vraska the Unseen2 Sepulchral Primordial1 Sylvan Primordial2 Reap Intellect
BUG Control will generally win with creature tokens created by Vraska or Kiora. There is nothing more satisfying than getting a Kiora Emblem online and then casually saying that you're "Makin' Krakens." It's similarly satisfying winning with little 1/1 Assassin Tokens. They're so sneaky! The deck can win in other ways as well. There are two Sepulchral Primordial and one Sylvan Primordial that we have for finishers. Both creatures can gain us some card advantage, whether it's destroying a Planeswalker or Detention Sphere with Sylvan Primordial or returning a guy that we killed earlier in the game with Sepulchral. Seven mana is a lot and tapping out is scary, so we can't really rely on winning with those guys very often. The fact that they die to commonly played removal spells like Hero's Downfall and Ultimate Price makes them even more unreliable.
The win condition that I like best however is Reap Intellect. This card has been seeing zero play in Standard until now because it is just so slow and it's really hard to gain any value off of it because their hand will usually be empty by the time you can even cast it. However, when combined with Cyclonic Rift, Reap Intellect can rip your opponent's board, hand, and deck apart. The ideal play is to cast an overloaded Cyclonic Rift on your opponent's end step, then on your turn cast Reap Intellect for three or more. Your opponent's hand will likely be full of gas because we just bounced everything the turn prior and we can then strip their hand of all of their best cards. Reap Intellect removes all of their spells from their library as well, likely leaving their deck with very few threats. With most of their deck being removed from the game, the odds that they draw land will increase significantly. If anyone was playing back in Odyssey block, they may remember the Traumatize/Haunting Echoes combo which involved playing Traumatize on turn five and then Haunting Echoes on turn six. With half of your opponent's deck being in the graveyard, there is a good chance that they will have nothing but lands remaining in their deck once Haunting Echoes has finished resolving. While Cyclonic Rift/Reap Intellect is nowhere near as consistent as Traumatize/Haunting Echoes, it's the closest we can get to that type of effect.The Control2 Ultimate Price1 Essence Scatter3 Cyclonic Rift2 Abrupt Decay4 Dissolve2 Hero's Downfall1 Far // Away1 Gaze of Granite
We are playing a variety of removal spells to deal with anything our opponent throws at us. The most important spell in the deck is Dissolve because it can deal with anything, but more importantly it prevents our opponent from stopping us. They will have to deal with our Planeswalkers at some point before they go ultimate and Dissolve can put an end to that. Hero's Downfall is also very important in this deck. We really have no good way of dealing with opposing Planeswalkers because we are rarely attacking, so Hero's Downfall can help us remove a Planeswalker before it gets out of hand. Vraska is also good at destroying Planeswalkers and sometimes you will need to minus three her before you can start ticking her up.
Abrupt Decay is a spell I really like because it can stop any early creature regardless of color. I really like that it can also remove Detention Spheres with no worries that it will be countered. Our control opponent's will have a hard time stopping our Planeswalkers and will be relying on Detention Sphere to get rid of them, making Abrupt Decay a vital spell in the matchup.
Gaze of Granite and Far // Away are our "blowout spells." There will be times where either of these spells will just ruin our opponent's day. Sometimes Gaze of Granite will get you out of some rough situations and is a great reset button.
One downfall of this deck is it has a hard time dealing with Mutavault. Ultimate Price, Cyclonic Rift, and Abrupt Decay can't target Mutavault at all, making the only spot removal spell that can kill it Hero's Downfall. It may seem a little wasteful to use a spell like Hero's Downfall on a Mutavault but there will be times where you will have no other answer. If Mutavault becomes too much of a problem for the deck, we may want to play Doom Blade over Ultimate Price.The Support Spells
4 Sylvan Caryatid2 Read the Bones2 Urban Evolution
Sylvan Caryatid is by far the best spell in the deck after Dissolve. The mana acceleration and color fixing is very important in a deck as slow as this one. The best part about this card is it can't be killed outside of Supreme Verdict or Devour Flesh. I would even play more Sylvan Caryatids if I could. It's the only spell that I always want in my opening hand, regardless of matchup.
Read the Bones and Urban Evolution are our draw spells. Both can be very awkward at times, especially if you're playing against aggro decks. Sometimes you will simply not be able to cast them because you will need to use that mana to play removal spells. The life loss on Read the Bones can be pretty rough, especially when you are also paying life for your lands to come into play untapped. This deck does need draw spells and of course Sphinx's Revelation isn't an option, so they will have to do.The Sideboard
2 Gainsay1 Negate1 Dispel1 Gaze of Granite1 Bile Blight3 Thoughtseize2 Elixir of Immortality1 Bow of Nylea3 Nylea's Disciple
First, we have our counter package of two Gainsay, one Negate, and one Dispel. We need counters against control decks to help us resolve our important spells, and these are a great fit. Two mana or less Counterspells are exactly what we want and Gainsay can also double up for the Monoblue matchup.
Three Thoughtseize are in the sideboard for our control matchups or against any deck that is relatively slow, like midrange. Knowing what's in our opponent's hand is very important, especially in a deck with lots of scry effects.
We have additional removal spells in Bile Blight and Gaze of Granite to help us against Pack Rats. We will have a hard time beating Pack Rat without ways to kill all of the tokens at once.
Finally we have a bunch of life gain to deal with red decks. Red decks, specifically RW Burn, are our worst matchups so we have six sideboard slots dedicated to fight those decks.Matchups and Sideboarding
The sideboarding guide must be taken with a grain of salt as it's only a guide and will not always be 100% correct. Sideboarding really depends on what cards you see in the matchup and you need to use your best judgment when choosing what to swap in and out.
Aggro Decks (GW Aggro, Gruul Midrange, Monoblue, Monoblack Aggro, etc.)
+ 1 Bile Blight+1 Gaze of Granite
-2 Reap Intellect
Generally, you want to cut Reap Intellect against any deck that is going to be attacking us with creatures. You really can't afford to draw them at the wrong times. If you don't draw Cyclonic Rift, there is a good chance that they will be out of cards when you are ready to cast it anyway. If they are really fast, such as a Rakdos or Monoblack Aggro style deck, you will also want to bring in the Nylea's Disciples in place of the slow card draw because they do a great job blocking all of the 2/2s.
Originally I had Drown in Sorrow as a mini Wrath of God for the aggro matchups but I was always unimpressed with it. Most decks play creatures that can survive it (Frostburn Weird, Polukranos, Herald of Torment, Fleecemane Lion, etc). If the metagame changes to a format where little creatures are everywhere, you may want to consider adding it back in. As of right now, Gaze of Granite is a better wrath effect.
+1 Negate+1 Bile Blight+3 Thoughtseize+1 Elixir of Immortality+1 Gaze of Granite
-2 Dissolve-2 Kiora, the Crashing Wave-1 Essence Scatter-2 Cyclonic Rift
This matchup is pretty hard but overall favorable. Their best card against you is Thoughtseize because we play few threats and need specific answers and a timely Thoughtseize can make our hand go from really good to downright terrible. Counters get much worse when our opponent is playing Thoughtseize so I usually board a few of them out.
Their creatures are pretty easy for us to deal with, but it's important to not let something like Underworld Connections or Whip of Erebos get out of hand. This matchup will be long and grindy, so Elixir of Immortality helps tremendously by shuffling our spells back into our deck.
They have answers to Planeswalkers in the form of Hero's Downfall, so I like to use Kiora's -1 ability first before ticking her up. This ensures us that we get back some card advantage before Kiora gets killed. Additionally, I like to kill something with Vraska before adding counters to her. Vraska is one of our best ways to deal with their Underworld Connections.
Thoughtseize is great here. It can give us perfect information and lets us know when the coast is clear to begin casting our win conditions.
Midrange (BW, Jund, BWR)
-1 Cyclonic Rift-1 Essence Scatter-1 Gaze of Granite
Midrange decks are really easy matchups for us. They can't kill us fast enough and we have many ways to gain card advantage and board presence in our Planeswalkers and card draw. Additionally, they play lots of removal spells that do absolutely nothing against our creatureless deck. Thoughtseize is a great card here because it ensures us that we can play our win conditions without any fear of them dying. This is a matchup where the Cyclonic Rift/Reap Intellect combo shines.
Control (UW, Esper, etc.)
+2 Gainsay+1 Negate+1 Dispel+3 Thoughtseize+1 Elixir of Immortality
-2 Ultimate Price-3 Cyclonic Rift-1 Far // Away-1 Gaze of Granite-1 Essence Scatter
This matchup is unfavorable game one but gets much better after sideboarding. You will have too many do-nothing cards in the first game such as Ultimate Price and Cyclonic Rift and not enough answers to their key cards like Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Sphinx's Revelation. Additionally, they play more counters than us so we will rarely a counter war. They also play better card draw like Sphinx's Revelation and Jace, Architect of Thought.
The matchup gets much better once we cut the dead removal spells and add better cards like Thoughtseize and additional counters. Our Planeswalkers and creatures will have a hard time closing out a game because our opponents will have too many answers for them. Our goal in this matchup is to resolve a Reap Intellect. That may seem hard but these games will go long and you will easily be able to cast a Reap Intellect for three or four and have Counterspell backup. Once Reap Intellect resolves and you get all of the cards out of their hand, you will be able to resolve a Planeswalker or one of your creatures to close out the game.
+3 Nylea's Disciple+1 Bow of Nylea+2 Elixir of Immortality+1 Negate+1 Dispel+1 Bile Blight
-3 Cyclonic Rift-2 Reap Intellect-1 Gaze of Granite-1 Essence Scatter-2 Urban Evolution
This deck has been winning a lot and gaining more and more popularity and unfortunately for us, it's our worst matchup. Game one is practically unwinnable. They play more burn than we have counters and our removal doesn't do much against their recurring Chandra's Phoenixes. They also play four Mutavault, a card that we have few answers for, but we do bring in a Bile Blight as a way to deal with opposing Mutavaults.
The matchup does get better after sideboarding, but it's still really difficult. We need to gain all the life we can with Elixirs and Nylea's Disciples and it's important to play around their Skullcracks, especially when cracking our Elixir. We need to try to get a fast clock on them, something that's very hard to do with this deck, but it's possible if you are able to land a Disciple on turn three. Bow of Nylea is a very important card in the matchup because it can gain three life a turn and the burn deck won't be able to keep up. I'm even tempted to add a second Bow to ensure that we draw one.
Boros Burn is by far the worst matchup for BUG Control. Frank and I have played this deck a lot and neither of us have ever won a game one against it. Games two and three are not much better but are winnable at least. Well, at least most of the other matchups are good!
That's all I have for this week! I like this deck a lot and it's quickly becoming my second favorite deck in Standard (I still have a special place in my heart for Monoblue Devotion). It's really fun to play and I recommend you try it out. Besides, what's possibly more fun than Makin' Krakens?
Melissa DeTorahttp://twitter.com/MelissaDeTora on twitterwww.facebook.com/melissa.detora on Facebook