They say blue-based control decks are dead. That they've kicked the bucket. Their days have been numbered and it's time for them to go.
Well I won't hear it!
As long as control decks don't go by the name Aeris we have a shot. We're going to use a Phoenix Down on blue-based control decks and bring them back to life. Let them take a deep breathe of that fresh air then lie back and relax as they exhale "no sirs" all day to any relevant spell being cast. What better way to play Magic than to just say "nope" all day? Just because they haven't seen much play as of late doesn't mean they are down for the count. Quite the contrary it's time for control decks to make a resurgence, especially since many a deck have cut some if not all of their hate cards against control decks. You can see GR Devotion decks with one or zero Gaea's Revenge in the sideboard. Other blue-based decks have shaved some number of Negates. It's time we start saying "NO!"
I got this list from Magic Online user Pschutte25. He went undefeated with it in a Daily Event. We can see that it's very stock built with many playsets of the normal cards. It forgoes exiling things by not running any Perilous Vaults or Ugin, the Spirit Dragons. Instead it goes straight for the jugular with all four Ashiok in the main. Ashiok is amazing in this world of GBx nonsense. Ashiok is ready to take over many a game by beating your opponents with their own creatures or just simply milling them out. We also have the full package of Languish to protect Ashiok so Ashiok can do Ashiok's thing.
Alongside Ashiok we see playset of the best planeswalker in Standard, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, doing the best Merfolk Looter impersonation in history while flashing back the strongest sorcery in Standard, Thoughtseize. Not only can Jace filter your hand and flashback crucial spells, he can very easily just win you the game with his ultimate and this deck protects Jace extremely well. It's good to keep in mind that running singletons like Ultimate Price and Jace's Ingenuity not only makes your deck more versatile, they also push Jace further since he can basically make any one-of sorcery or instant a two-of at least. I honestly believe he is best in solid UB decks, mostly just because of the power of Thoughtseize since you can cast it early to not only flip Jace, Vryn's Prodigy but also flash it back. It's part of the main reason why Abzan control is so strong right now. That recursion of Thoughtseize is huge, except they have Den Protector as their Jace.
While the maindeck is pretty stocky we can shake things up after board.
Annul: Does a number on any Sphinx's Tutelage deck or Ux Thopter strategy deck.
Crux of Fate: Excellent against Dragon decks or just more wraths against decks that Languish won't Wipe Away completely.
Dragonlord Silumgar: This card is fantastic against the GBx decks. He just does so much work and they usually cut most if not all of their removal against you so he usually just sticks.
Drown in Sorrow: "Mrrrrglrlrlglglmlrlr." That's the sound Murlocs make and what your monored opponents will make when you cast this spell.
Duress: Good against control decks and I actually like this against monored decks that are heavy on burn spells over creatures.
Murderous Cut: A good card to have against GR Devotion, Monowhite Devotion, or basically any midrange creature deck. It gets even better since we're running Jace!
Perilous Vault: So this is where the catchall has gone! This card is obviously good against GR Devotion, Sphinx's Tutelage, Constellation, and Heroic decks. An insane sweeper against decks that try to win by flooding the battlefield with a lot of permanents.
Pharika's Cure: Mrrrglrlgelgmrmrmlr; AKA good against red decks.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang: Shines when you're playing against decks that are trying to out attrition you. He returns very powerful things here. The worst card you'll usually get back with him is Thoughtseize. Unlike Abzan decks we can delve those away not only with Tasigur but also with Dig Through Time.
UB Control is a solid choice. It has game against every deck and can abuse Jace more so than non UBx decks.
I don't know why but I always viewed UW Control as one side of a coin where UB Control is on the other. While not opposites per se, they can however do vastly different things and attack from similar-but-different angles.
This list here is JB2002. Another list that went undefeated in a Daily Event. I've tested all these lists to make sure they are good enough for my readers and this list didn't disappoint. While Jace is definitely weaker here than in UB control he is still very powerful. I actually ult'ed Jace more in UW then UB partly due to not having or needing to flashback spells so I would just tick him up. You have more access to Jace in this deck since Ojutai's Command can just Reanimate him at instant speed. I was a little skeptical with Ojutai's Command but it's actually really good. Against midrange decks it's mostly a Dismiss with an option of putting Jace into play instead of drawing a card. Against aggressive decks you can counter a creature and gain four life, which is basically the same as countering two spells since they all run Stoke the Flames. It's not that strong against control decks but you'd also be surprised at how much work it can actually do. Something that seems as small as reanimating Jace and drawing a card in reality can actually be astronomical! Jace is not only a win condition against control decks, but he also gets rid of all the dead garbage you have game one, and sometimes that's all you need him to do.
Enough about Jace though. Another key card that looks minor is Last Breath. It's very nice against aggressive decks, opposing Jaces (sorry he just keeps popping up), and Hangarback Walker. Last Breath doesn't kill a Hangarback Walker with more than two counters on it, but let's be real: they can't pay six mana to cast him against us since we can just counter it and basically Time Walk them. They usually have to grow it with an Abzan Charm or kill it themselves with a Hero's Downfall or some other removal spell, which is also okay for us the majority of the time.
We all know what Elspeth is capable of but one card that hasn't seen much light since it's been out is Narset Transcendent. I believe this card will do a mini Jace, Architect of Thought impersonation when rotation happens. This card is very good. When it's not drawing you cards it's rebounding Dig Through Time or breaking your opponent's heart by rebounding End Hostilities. Rebounding End Hostilities does great things for your planeswalkers by the way as it just lets them keep doing their thing! I know Cast Trough Time saw basically no play, but Narset does what Cast Through Time did and so much more. Get them while they are $6.
One thing that looked a little odd was Mastery of the Unseen in the sideboard. Let me tell you though, play it one time against any control deck and you'll never look back. It can take over a game extremely quickly and most of the time Ugin can't deal with it since he can't exile manifest permanents. It doesn't even matter that you'll rarely if ever hit a creature off it. Four mana for constant 2/2s is good enough against control/midrange decks.
One last control deck! This is another one that went undefeated in a Daily event. Piloted by Blaze66. I've never been a huge fan of the dragon control decks, I usually prefer having a better mana base and not being forced to play five to six dragons in my deck just so I can play Silumgar's Scorn. That being said the deck is still extremely powerful and you shouldn't disregard it just because I'm not the biggest fan.
Anticipate does make the deck run so much smoother than previously when it didn't have access to the card. It's also worth noting that Blaze ran Dissipate over Dissolve. Is losing scry 1 worth your opponent not being able to return that Siege Rhino with Den Protector later? Or having one less card to scry with for their Dig Through Time? Maybe? I'm honestly not sure, but it's definitely worth looking into. Scry 1 can be completely game changing or have no effect on the game. Can you really afford to miss that land drop though? That's the only thing that makes me want to play Dissolve over Dissipate: the fear of missing my land drop because I couldn't scry 1.
When I played this deck it did very powerful things and when it won it won handily, but when it stumbled you were basically doomed. You don't have Jace here to help you filter your hand; instead you rely on Anticipate to get the job done. Which makes it play more like a strange midrange deck with control spells. The addition of five dragons just pushes it more towards midrange as well. Again this deck is very powerful but not really the style I look to when I want to play a control deck.
I would recommend any of the above three decks if you want to play control. I just personally like Jace in my lists. To each their own though. If you plan to build your own control deck, I believe you need to play four Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or four Anticipate. You need ways to continuously hit your lands drops and if you're running neither you're hurting yourself more than anything else. Some decks can afford to miss land drops or stumble here and there. Control decks don't usually have that luxury. Miss one land drop and you're so far behind...miss two and you're assuredly dead. So make sure to pack either Jace and/or Anticipate.
So we've used our Phoenix Down on control decks. Now it's up to you to dominate with them!
Make sure to check out Freshly Brewed, my podcast with Frank Lepore where we discuss many things Magic while having some fun banter in between! It's the best podcast out there when Frank has time to record... :)
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
@Alieldrazi on the twitter
P.S. Poor Aeris.