This article was supposed to be my Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir report, but as many of you know the Pro Tour did not go so well for me. I had a poor first draft and my Constructed deck (Mardu Planeswalkers) didn't really work out for me. Instead of a recap of an event I did terribly in, today I'll be discussing the deck that I had been working on before I met up with Team Revolution in Hawaii.
Team Revolution decided to meet in Honolulu about eight days before the Pro Tour. I decided to meet up with everyone a few days later so that I could attend GP Orlando. Although extra testing would have been helpful, I really wanted to attend GP Orlando for personal reasons and because it seemed really silly to skip a local GP. In the end it worked out; I finished second in Orlando and felt that I had the Khans of Tarkir draft format down for the Pro Tour.
Before GP Orlando I put together a UB Control deck and began testing it and tweaking it with the hope of it making our Standard testing gauntlet. While I didn't have enough time to get the deck to where I wanted it to be, I was pretty happy with it so far. Unfortunately, I didn't really get a chance to work on the deck at all while in Hawaii. Our team loves red decks, and I couldn't beat our Red Deck Wins deck at all. After realizing that it was an unwinnable matchup, I tossed the deck to the side and began working on something else.
After the Pro Tour I realized that I probably shouldn't have thrown in the towel so quickly. There were plenty of UB control decks at the Pro Tour, and one of them even made Top 8. My version was much different from the successful UB Control decks from Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, but if I had another week or two to work on the deck perhaps I could have discovered a list that was close to the winning UB decks. Red Deck Wins isn't even really a big part of the Standard metagame anyway, and I should have tested against other decks before dismissing it completely.
Here's my list:
The big difference between this list and the lists that were successful at the Pro Tour is that the Pro Tour lists played a draw-go game while this version is more of a tap-out control deck. We have no Counterspells in the maindeck and not much to do on our opponent's turn besides play removal and card draw spells. Instead, we are casting most of our spells during our turn, whether it's a creature, a planeswalker, or Read the Bones, and we use removal spells and Thoughtseizes as necessary to protect our win conditions. Here's a rundown of the card choices...The Mana Base:
The four Polluted Deltas provide us with manaxifing but also give us some fuel in our graveyard for Dig Through Time and Murderous Cut. I even added a Bloodstained Mire to provide us with a fifth land that can hit our graveyard. I thought about adding cards such as Evolving Wilds for additional delve fodder, but with a deck that wants to play everything on curve, you really don't want another land that comes into play tapped. Owen Turtenwald played some Evolving Wilds in his version of UB Control but our decks are doing much different things. Owen is countering and killing everything while we are tapping out for threats, so it doesn't matter all that much that he has more lands that come into play tapped. He can cast his Pearl Lake Ancient on turn twenty and not care but we really need to cast our Prognostic Sphinx on five. I found Bloodstained Mire to be slightly better. The life loss hurts a little but the Dismal Backwater makes up for it.
We have five Islands in the deck which are incapable of casting Bile Blight. The one Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth helps greatly when we need to cast multiple Bile Blights or other black spells in one turn. With an Urborg in play, Islands become the best lands in the deck. Additionally, Urborg allows you to tap your fetchlands for mana for those times when the loss of life is relevant. Sometimes Urborg does help your opponent out but overall it will help you way more than your opponent.
Dismal Backwater is an amazing land in Limited but I found the lifeland to be fine in Constructed as well. The mana fixing is crucial in a deck with double blue and double black spells and the downside of coming into play tapped is totally fine.The Creatures:
I played Omenspeaker at Pro Tour Theros in my Monoblue Devotion deck and I always liked this little guy. He helps you find land when you need one and he digs you to your important spells. The 1/3 body is very relevant in this format. He blocks Coursers and other small creatures and helps protect your Planeswalkers from opposing attackers. He's also cheap and in this format you really need something to do in the early turns, especially against the burn and aggro decks.
4 Master of Waves
When I first started testing this deck I was playing mostly against Jeskai Burn and Mardu Aggro and Master of Waves was a powerhouse. He isn't as strong as he was a year ago, but he is still capable of winning games by himself. On average you will make between two and four tokens with him, which is nothing compared to when he was in Monoblue Devotion, but is still totally reasonable.
Master of Waves isn't amazing against the Abzan decks because every removal spell they play can kill him and he isn't big enough to get through their big dudes. He also matches up poorly with Siege Rhino. Master of Waves is definitely a questionable card here but when he's good he's good, and you are usually happy if your opponent wastes a turn killing this guy anyway. Luckily the Abzan matchups are already favorable for us so having a card that isn't great in the matchup is okay.
3 Prognostic Sphinx
Prognostic Sphinx is very good in this format. He's a great blocker and can even stop one of the format's powerhouses, Siege Rhino. He can block and kill everything in the Jeskai Tempo deck and can hit pretty hard as well. In the late game you will usually have extra lands in your hand (This deck really doesn't need more than six or seven in play) to protect him and those discarded cards can fuel Dig Through Time pretty nicely. The Sphinx is a fantastic win condition and I'm surprised there aren't more of them in this format.The Removal:
It's pretty clear that we're going to play a full set of Thoughtseize, Bile Blight, and Hero's Downfall. These spells provide us with ways to take down both creatures and planeswalkers. Thoughtseize is one of the best cards in the format and gives us something to do on turn one or even turn two if our second land is a comes-into-play tapped land.
It may not look like it, but Bile Blight is actually the most important removal spell in the deck. It can't hit things like Courser or Siege Rhino, but it's absolutely crucial to have spells to cast on turn two. If we don't start playing Magic until turn three we will fall extremely far behind. We really need to kill things like Seeker of the Way, mana creatures, and Fleecemane Lion before our opponent develops their board further.
Finally, we play a one-of Murderous Cut. I really wanted to add another removal spell to the deck and Murderous Cut has been excellent. It can be cast on turn two with the help of Thoughtseize and fetchlands, and late in the game it can be cast for one mana or more depending on what else you need to do for your turn. It's a great feeling to cast a planeswalker with one mana up with the option to cast Murderous Cut. If we didn't play Dig Through Time I would not hesitate to add more.The Support Spells:
4 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Ashiok is great in this format. Against the slow decks he can just tick up and steal win conditions, and against burn he usually has to soak up two spells before he dies. Either way, he will stick around for a few turns. He is even decent against Jeskai Ascendency combo. They have no pressure and therefore really can't kill him, and you have a chance to mill their crucial spells. You can even steal a Sylvan Caryatid, which allows you to Bile Blight all Caryatids in response to a Dragon Mantle or a Retraction Helix. Caryatid is very difficult to Remove which is why the Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck is so strong, and Ashiok gives you a way to Remove their hexproof creature.
3 Jace, the Living Guildpact
Jace is a card that I really like but is getting no respect in this format. Jace is good in this deck for a few reasons. One, this format is pretty slow. You can usually cast a Jace and minus him to Time Walk your opponent. Then after they replay their creature, Jeskai Ascendancy, or whatever it was that you bounced, you can control their board with your removal spells while fixing your draws with Jace. Against midrange decks, it's not unlikely to actually ultimate with Jace. Sure, there are Utter Ends and Hero's Downfalls in the format but you really don't mind a one-for-one. It buys you time as you continue to set up a board with Sphinx and Master of Waves.
2 Read the Bones2 Dig Through Time
Between Temple, Omenspeakers, Jaces, and Sphinxes, we scry a lot with this deck. We see so many cards throughout a game that we almost always find what we need. There are times however when we just need more cards and Read the Bones and Dig Through Time can help with that. They not only offer card advantage, but they also provide card selection, which is very important in a deck like this.
I don't like playing four Dig Through Time in this deck. I can see playing four copies in a deck such as Burn or Jeskai Ascendency Combo. Those decks want to cast as many as possible because they are simply trying to find key pieces to kill the opponent. Our deck really doesn't want to play four Digs. Double blue can be tough and we really don't want expensive card draw in our deck. We are tapping out for big things and won't often have time to play a threat and cast a Dig in the same turn.
I love Read the Bones in this deck. Playing blue gives us access to Divination, but I think Read the Bones is a better card for us. Divination is better in a true control deck because those decks just need as many cards they can get their hands on and need to hit a land drop every turn. Our deck doesn't need to play any lands after turn six or seven. Therefore it's much more important to draw specific cards rather than draw random cards. The two life really doesn't matter against midrange, combo, and control, but the two Read the Bones are the first cards to side out against burn decks.The Sideboard:
Planeswalkers can be tough for us to deal with at times, especially ones that you can tick up to five such as Elspeth and Chandra. Playing more discard certainly helps with that. Sometimes Despise can also hit an important creature, which is less relevant with all of our removal spells but sometimes you can get a Siege Rhino or another creature that is hard to deal with.
1 Dissolve3 Disdainful Stroke2 Negate
The Negates and Dissolve are for control and combo, while the Disdainful Strokes are for control and midrange. Disdainful Stroke is a very important card in the deck because it counters those hard to deal with planeswalkers, as well as the draw spells out of the control deck like Jace's Ingenuity and Dig Through Time.
4 Drown in Sorrow2 Pharika's Cure
We have a hard time against red-based aggro, token strategies, and burn, and these cards improve the matchup tremendously. It's very important to kill Goblin Rabblemasters before they get out of hand, and Hordeling Outburst, another card that we have a hard time with, has been increasing in popularity lately. Pharika's Cure gains us life which is huge against the Rabblemaster decks and I would be tempted to add more if red-based aggro is popular in your local metagame.
1 Empty the Pits
This is a one-of trump card against control. These games are long and grindy and with all of your card draw you will have a lot of lands in play by the late game. Empty the Pits does not play nicely with your other delve cards, so be careful about when you are removing cards from your graveyard. Empty the Pits is an instant and very easy to cast in response to your opponent's Dig Through Time and Jace's Ingenuity and with very little mass removal in the format, the tokens will be hard for your opponent to deal with. I'd never want to draw two Empties in a game so one is definitely the correct number.Conclusion:
This deck may not be the most powerful deck in the format and it definitely has some weaknesses, but I'm really excited that I found a deck where Master of Waves is actually playable. This deck has a lot going for it and is great against certain strategies. It shines against midrange, especially against decks like Abzan Midrange which won the Pro Tour. The deck has been successful for me in local tournaments and is really fun to play.
This week I'm enjoying my time in Hawaii and then I'm taking a short break. I'm skipping GP Los Angeles but will be at the TCGplayer MaxPoint Championship in Indianapolis the following weekend. Be sure to say hi if you're there. Thanks for reading.
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