Hey everyone. Last weekend I managed to finish in the Top 4 of the TCGplayer Open 5k in Orlando with UW Control. As many of you know, I've been playing UW Control in Standard for a while now and have been very happy with it. I wrote about UW Control last week but the deck I played at the 5k was slightly different. Today I'm going to discuss the tournament, the changes I made from last week's article, and how I'd build UW Control going forward.
For reference, here's the deck I wrote about last week:
And here's what I played at the 5k:
The first change I'd like to discuss is Font of Fortunes over Divination. I really like Divination in UW Control decks. It's great at helping you hit land drops, recovering from Thoughtseize or digging you to your Sphinx's Revelation. The awkward thing about Divination is its sorcery speed. If you are holding Dissolve, you will rarely want to pay three mana for a Divination and run the risk of your opponent resolving something you can't deal with. If you only have three lands in play and none in your hand, it's really important to cast that Divination so that you don't miss that fourth land drop.
Font of Fortunes solves all of the problems that Divination couldn't. You usually won't have very much to do on turn two except maybe cycle an Azorius Charm, so playing the Font for two mana is a perfect use of mana in the early game. You can keep three mana up on your opponents turn for Dissolve and if they don't cast anything worth countering, you can draw your two cards. If you end up Dissolving something, you can draw the cards on your turn if you need to hit lands while still having mana available to cast Azorius Charm or Syncopate for one. If you hit your land drop, you can just keep counter mana up and draw the cards on your opponent's turn if you wish. Later in the game, the extra mana you pay to draw two cards with Font is usually irrelevant. Overall Font of Fortunes gives you more options of how and when to spend your mana.
If you need the two cards right away, Font of Fortunes is slightly worse than Divination. For example if it's turn three, you are about to miss your fourth land drop, and you draw Font of Fortune, you are going to wish it was a Divination. However, missing your early land drops does not often happen. With seven scrylands plus four Azorius Charm to cycle, hitting our land drops is fairly easy. Of course it happens sometimes but overall I think it's worth it to play Font over Divination.
The next change I made to the deck is adding an AEtherling. I added this card strictly to win games faster. I don't think the deck needs AEtherling at all but the fact that you can cast one on turn seven and win the game two turns later does make for quicker matches. AEtherling is clunky and slow and very hard to protect if it's before turn ten. In my Top 4 match against Kit Chinlund, I played an AEtherling with three mana untapped. Seems pretty easy to protect with three untapped lands, right? I was at five life and was facing down an Obzedat, Ghost Council and a Desecration Demon. I needed to block Obzedat with AEtherling and blink it out, plus tap a land to activate Mutavault and sacrifice it to the Demon. I also could sacrifice the AEtherling to the Demon and cast Azorius Charm on the Obzedat. Kit played an Ultimate Price on my AEtherling and I was forced to just let it die. If I blinked it out, I would not have the necessary mana to cast Azorius Charm and sac the Mutavault. If my AEtherling was a different win condition, like Elspeth, I could have easily stabilized that game.
AEtherling is a necessary evil and I'm glad I played it in my deck. It tremendously helps the monoblack matchup which can be a pretty one. Monoblack has zero ways of killing one once it resolves and it can close out a game in a turn or two. AEtherling is a great card to play once you have stabilized but if you are behind in any way it is usually uncastable.
As further evidence of why AEtherling isn't necessary, Reid Duke made Top 8 of the Starcity Games Invitational last weekend with a very grindy UW Control list. His only win conditions were three copies of Jace, Architect of Thought and an Elixir of Immortality. While I have nothing but respect for Reid Duke, I don't agree with his choices. While I'm pretty confident that I can win games without AEtherling and Elspeth, it would take a very long time. Even if I play at lightning speed, there is no guarantee that my opponent will play at the same pace and I would be very worried that games will go to time and end in a draw. Winning game one and going to time in game two is a reasonable way to win a match but if I ever lose game one then I would be very worried that I couldn't win the match before time runs out. Here's Reid's UW list.
I ended up cutting the 27th land from my deck for the AEtherling. While I really like hitting land drops, I was torn on what card to cut. I didn't want to cut an Elspeth, a Counterspell, or a Detention Sphere, and after mulling it over I decided that the only cards that were actually cuttable for the AEtherling were a Detention Sphere effect or an Azorius Charm. I really didn't want to cut any of those and decided to just play 26 lands. I think it was actually wrong because the only games that I ever came close to losing were games in which I had mana issues. You never want to be mana screwed with this deck but being mana flooded is just fine. If I were to play the deck again, I would add the one Azorius Guildgate back to my deck and cut a Banishing Light. There were times throughout the tournament where my hand was clogged up with Banishing Lights and Detention Spheres and I don't think I really needed six of them.
The final change I made to my deck was a minor change to the sideboard. I swapped out one Gainsay for one Negate. I think Negate is a fantastic card and it's a no brainer to side it in against control but you also really want it against decks that play a lot of Planeswalkers and Rakdos's Return. Both Gainsay and Negate can counter most of UW and Esper's important spells but Gainsay can't counter anything in the Jund Monsters and Black Devotion decks. I really wanted some insurance against those Planeswalkers so I added the extra Negate.
As for the actual tournament, most of my matches were pretty easy. UW Control preys on midrange-y decks such as Naya, Junk, Green Devotion, and Black Devotion without Abrupt Decay. Monoblue is a great matchup and I was fortunate to get paired against it twice. I went 7-0-2 in the Swiss and the only deck that gave me some trouble was the round I faced Jund Monsters.
Jund Monsters is a very difficult matchup for UW Control, especially game one. Most of your answers are in the form of creature removal and they play four Xenegos, the Reveler and four Domri Rade. If you don't have an immediate Detention Sphere for those cards, they will get really far ahead. Our Planeswalkers are terrible against them because they play a lot of haste creatures and Ghor-Clan Rampager to sneak through trample damage. I got very lucky to win the first game against Jund Monsters due to my opponent drawing a few too many lands and me drawing exceptionally well. Game two was where things got interesting. I boarded like this:
-3 Font of Fortunes-1 Elixir of Immortality-1 Deicide-2 Azorius Charm
+2 Blind Obedience+2 Negate+1 Fated Retribution+1 Pithing Needle +1 Reprisal
I landed an early Blind Obedience and a Pithing Needle naming the Domri Rade that my opponent already had in play. The Blind Obedience was very clutch in the match. It made it so Mistcutter Hydras and Stormbreath Dragons were not surprises and I had an extra turn to deal with them. I was very slowly dealing with my opponent's permanents while draining my opponent with extort every time I cast a spell. My opponent dealt with all of my Elspeths and I was dangerously low on win conditions. I was slowly losing control of the game due to an unanswered Xenegos and my opponent drew a decent amount of Stormbreaths and Hydras that I was forced to answer on my turn. He committed a lot of stuff to the board and I ended up getting him with Fated Retribution taking out Domri, Xenegos, and a bunch of creatures. From there I was forced to cast spells with extort to deal my opponent a few points a turn. I ended up dealing 16 extort damage and finished him off with Mutavaults. Blind Obedience was never better for me.
In the Top 8 I faced off against Kyle Holland piloting Monoblue Devotion. I knew that Monoblue was an excellent matchup for me so I kept a loose hand with a couple of Jace, Architect of Thoughts, an Azorius Charm, and a bunch of lands. The bad keep ended up catching up with me because while Jace's +1 is usually game winning against Monoblue, I was so far behind that I had to -2 him just to find answers. I ended up stabilizing at four life and if at any point my opponent was able to turn on Thassa, the game was over. I had an AEtherling in play and got my opponent down to eight, which meant that I would win on my next turn. My opponent had a Thassa and a Judge's Familiar in play and zero cards in hand, which meant that he needed to draw exactly Nightveil Specter, of which there were only two left in his deck, to kill me with an unblockable Thassa. He scryed his top card to the bottom and drew…a Nightveil Specter. So I lost a very close game one.
I can't say very much about games two and three. Monoblue needs a lot of things to go wrong for me and right for him in order to win, and I was able to Deicide his Thassas away in both games. I played around his countermagic and resolved my Sphinx's Revelations and my opponent fell further and further behind. It didn't help him that he can't even counter Supreme Verdict, one of the best cards against him. It was still a great match and Kyle definitely put up a strong fight.
I played against Kit Chinlund in the Top 4 with Orzhov Control and the matchup was very difficult for me. In game one, he resolved an early Underworld Connections. I answered it plenty of times with Banishing Lights and Detention Spheres but he had lots of ways to answer my answers including his own maindeck Deicide. The card advantage overwhelmed me and he eventually resolved an Obzedat, Ghost Council and I died a few turns later.
I won game two by keeping his Underworld Connections in check. Without card advantage, Kit was unable to deal with my Sphinx's Revelations. He cast plenty of Thoughtseizes, Duresses, and Sin Collectors throughout the game but a Sphinx's Revelation for seven pretty much canceled out all of that discard. Font of Fortunes was very helpful too. Game three my opponent curved out perfectly with Thoughtseize, Sin Collector, Desecration Demon, and Obzedat, and I lost the game on turn six. While the third game was really one-sided, it was a fun match overall.
Frank Lepore won on the other side of the bracket and ended up facing Kit in the finals. It would have been fun to play against Frank in the finals of the 5k but it wasn't meant to be. Congrats to Frank on a very well deserved win.
Overall I liked UW Control a lot and would play it again in a heartbeat. The deck played out really well and the only change I would make as I said earlier would be to put the 27th land back in. I am unable to make it to GP Chicago this weekend but good luck to everyone going. If you are still on the fence on what deck to play in Chicago, I couldn't recommend UW Control more. It has some excellent matchups and you get to play Sphinx's Revelation, the most fun card in the format! Thanks for reading and see you next week.
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