So this week I wasn't planning on talking about Blue/White Control again as I went over the deck a bit in my last article. With that being said I did attend the StarCityGames Open this past weekend, and finished second in the Standard portion of the event. I would like to go over the deck a bit more, and present a matchup by matchup guide for those interested in running the deck, before the cards rotate out.
My list for the tournament was actually only one card off from the list I said I would play in last week's article. Here is the deck I took to second place in D.C:
I ended up cutting the Elixir of Immortality that I had in the sideboard because it just didn't seem worth it. I wanted to be all in on the AEtherling and Elspeth, Sun's Champion plan of winning the game. I believe that the Elixir of Immortality and AEtherling plan are two fundamentally different approaches and both are viable.
When playing the Open I was happy with having my six mana cards be spells that actually can win the game. In this format it is very possible for the control deck to get ahead and even enter the later stages of the game, but still lose. With decks like Jund Planeswalkers, which has a ton of late game threats, I wanted to play cards that had the potential to close out a game on their own. Especially playing a tournament with 50 minute rounds, avoiding picking up drawing is quite important.
Right now I understand the initial thought that there are many decks being played that are specifically geared toward beating control, but that doesn't mean they actually do beat the deck. I am going to go over some of the big matchups, and how to sideboard.Red Aggro or Rabble Red
Game one the die roll is very important because if they have a good start on the play it can be very difficult to win. However these decks are often forced into over committing into a Supreme Verdict, and don't always play a ton of burn to finish you off. Aggressively killing the creatures and Mutavaults as early as possible is the gameplan. After board it becomes very difficult for these decks to win against cards like Nyx-Fleece Ram and Fiendslayer Paladin.
In: 4 Nyx-Fleece Ram, 2 Fiendslayer Paladin, 2 Archangel of Thune Out: 4 Dissolve, 2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion, 1 Jace's Ingenuity, 1 Jace, Architect of Thought Burn
The plan versus Burn is similar to the Red Aggro decks in that you need to deal with the creatures first. This version of the deck has a bit of an edge because of the Detention Spheres and Last Breaths which deal with the creatures. After dealing with the creatures Sphinx's Revelation, Azorius Charm, and Last Breath are important ways to gain life game one, to stay out of burn range. Like Red Aggro, game one isn't great but certainly winnable, and after board you get a bunch more lifegain. I will note here that in both matchups I have been keeping AEtherling in which may seem unconventional, as it is certainly possible to win with Fiendslayer Paladin or Archangel of Thune, but AEtherling gives you that lategame insurance.
In: 4 Nyx-Fleece Ram, 2 Fiendslayer Paladin, 2 Archangel of Thune, 2 Dispel, 1 Negate Out: 3 Dissolve, 2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion, 4 Supreme Verdict, 1 Jace's Ingenuity, 1 Jace, Architect of Thought Monoblue Devotion
This is probably the decks best matchup. The maindeck is full of answers to the threats Monoblue Devotion can come up with, and this is another matchup I'm happy to be on the Detention Sphere plan, rather than the Planar Cleansing plan.
In: 2 Dispel, 1 Deicide, 1 Negate, 2 Gainsay, 2 Archangel of Thune Out: 2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion, 2 Syncopate, 1 Jace, Architect of Thought, 2 Azorius Charm, 1 AEtherling Monoblack Devotion
I am going to clump together here any black based deck with Nightveil Specter. Last Breath is certainly better versus the Nightveil Specter decks and worse versus versions with Lifebane Zombie. As is typical game one is heavily favored for control, whiles games two and three become more interesting. I faced off against multiple versions splashing blue. In that matchup it is important to be aware of the presence of Notion Thief when casting a Sphinx's Revelation or Jace's Ingenuity, and to a lesser extent Azorius Charm. That deck also boards in Negate, but with that being said I still like the control side.
In: 1 Deicide Out: 1 Azorius Charm Selesnya Aggro
Selesnya Aggro seems to just be growing in terms of popularity. While this matchup can be tricky to navigate because of the instant speed and un-counterable threats, this version is in my opinion the best version of control to deal with the deck. Once again Last Breath shines as a way of dealing with Voice of Resurgence or any of the one-drop creatures. Detention Sphere and Banishing Light are also important ways of ensuring Voice of Resurgence doesn't remain in play for too long. Jace, Architect of Thought and Elspeth, Sun's Champion can be very vulnerable because of all the instant speed threats. After board the matchup is more in favor of control. Nyx-Fleece Ram is a very important card to have access to.
In: 2 Archangel of Thune, 2 Dispel, 4 Nyx-Fleece Ram Out: 2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion, 2 Jace, Architect of Thought, 4 Dissolve Jund Planeswalkers
It seems that Jund Monsters has lost a lot of popularity while the planeswalker deck has been seeing more and more play. This is one of the more difficult matchups, as this is a matchup where the Planar Cleansings are missed. The deck does play a ton of threats that are difficult to deal with, but the games often go long. When playing long games Sphinx's Revelation is your best friend. During the tournament I beat this deck all three times I played it, but the matches were very close. Having access to Mutavault, as a way to attack the planeswalkers is very important. Also, be aware that most versions board in four Mistcutter Hydras versus you.
In: 2 Archangel of Thune, 1 Negate, 1 Fated Retribution Out: 2 Last Breath, 1 Jace, Architect of Thought, 1 Azorius Charm Blue/White Control
This version is worse in the mirror because there are more slots dedicated to the aggro matchups. Game one is very difficult versus the Planar Cleansing version of the deck, but after board there is a ton of play to the matchup. I usually find that the person that wins the mirror isn't the player with the best cards for the matchup, but is the one who is able to play the actual games better, as there are lots of spots where it is easy to make a mistake.
In: 2 Dispel, 2 Gainsay, 1 Negate, 2 Fiendslayer Paladin, 2 Archangel of Thune Out: 4 Supreme Verdict, 2 Last Breath, 1 Banishing Light, 2 Detention Sphere Orzhov Control
Orzhov can be a bigger issue than Monoblack Devotion because of the presence of Obzedat, Ghost Council and some of the other white cards to a lesser extent. Obzedat, Ghost Council is hard to beat if put into play on turn five for instance, but that doesn't happen that often, as many versions just play a single copy of Obzedat, Ghost Council in the main. Sin Collector, Deicide, and Banishing Light are also pretty annoying versus this version of control. I think the matchup is about a coin flip, with sideboarded games being tough.
In: 1 Deicide, 1 Negate, 1 Fated Retribution Out: 3 Last Breath
Okay, while there are certainly other decks in Standard, I think I covered a lot of the top tier archetypes. I recommend this deck to anyone playing in the Invitational this weekend, the TCGplayer Open in Santa Clara, CA or a World Magic Cup Qualifier. As far as my actual tournament goes I was surprised by the amount of Jund Planeswalker decks in the field. This leads me to want a second Negate and Fated Retribution in the sideboard, though I'm not sure what to cut yet. This deck has a ton of game to it, and I felt like I chose a deck very capable of winning the tournament. Ultimately, the finals was a great match, and I was beaten out by my opponent Steve Rubin.
I know there are many players who are ready for Sphinx's Revelation to rotate out of Standard. Will there be a control deck that can fill the shoes of Blue/White Control? Without Supreme Verdict in the format I suspect to see more Blue/Black Control with Khans of Tarkir, and less Blue/White Control. Of course I am in the same boat as everyone else, waiting to see what Wizards will print to help control. For this version of control the vast majority of the deck is rotating out, so it seems that the new Standard format will be populated by mostly midrange decks. Sphinx's Revelation is a card that forces many decks into trying to be hyper aggressive because having the card Sphinx's Revelation in a control deck automatically gives you the inevitability.
The primary control deck in block was based Blue/Black, though the deck didn't fair particularly well in general. Here is a list played by Shaheen Soorani at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx.
Right now some of the most controlling cards in the format are Prognostic Sphinx and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. I expect there to be less true card advantage in the new Standard format, but even more advantage gained from scrying. Scying is one of the primary forms of deck manipulation in Theros Block, and the Temples are going to be very important for mana bases. Cards like Divination, Sign in Blood, Read the Bones, and Jace's Ingenuity will see play, but won't be able to fill the same type of roll that Sphinx's Revelation has.
One card that will remain in the format is Thoughtseize. This is a card that may get jammed into almost every black deck, and is even played as a four-of in the control list. I sort of wish Thoughtseize was rotating out, but that's wishful thinking. The Elspeth, Sun's Champion may seem a bit out of place, but it will be one of the defining cards of the new Standard. It such a powerful late game card, and it forces people to build there decks differently. Cards like Doomwake Giant get so much better simply because of how many decks Elspeth, Sun's Champion will fit into.
The general theme for the control decks, is the cards will be getting worse. The same can be said for the other archetypes in the format, but I have a feeling is more true for control than midrange strategies. Perhaps, there will be a sweet game breaking spell printed in Khans of Tarkir? Certainly players like Shaheen Soorani will do everything in their power to make control work, so it will be interesting to see how control decks develop.
Thanks for reading,