Crucible of Words – Thundercats Ho!
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love Red-White control. From the humble Martyr of Sands and Lightning Helix, to the exuberant Ajani Vengeant and Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Every standard season I make some form of Red-White control, some times quite successfully in the form of the Barbed Halo deck(Manabarbs and Runed Halo) and Conflux era planeswalker control, whilst other times not so much. This year, we have the perfect metagame for a Red-White control deck with some excellent tools for the job.
Why is the metagame so suited for a Red-White control deck?
First off, there is a decent amount of aggro in the format, and these aggro decks tend to be quick, but fragile. Perfect prey for a deck packed with removal and sweepers. There is also a lack of midrange decks, which means that the sweepers the archetype plays are generally going to be netting card advantage, since there aren’t decks that can sandbag lots of different creatures, each one demanding an immediate answer. Combo as a strategy is almost dead, the closest thing we have is Valakut, The Molten Pinnacle, which require specific cards to beat, fortunately white has access to one of these in the form of Leyline of Sanctity. Lastly, we have the control side of the metagame, usually a problem for Red-White control, as they invalidate a lot of removal by playing few creatures and their counter spells stop the threats. However, control in the current metagame is quite creature orientated, Squadron Hawk and Stoneforge Mystic being principle cards in the UW strategy, and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is making a splash with 5/5 creatures. This makes removal a lot more relevant, and what pushes the Red-White strategy into a competitive position is the printing of an incredible instant speed win condition, White Sun’s Zenith, giving the Red-White player the ability to force a counter spell at end of turn in order to resolve sorcery speed threats like planeswalkers.
Let’s see the list:
As we can see, White Sun’s Zenith is a key player in this build, with 26 lands and four Everflowing Chalice, powering them out for lethal amounts is not a problem. Supplementing this win condition, we have Gideon Jura and Elspeth Tirel, both cards that can play offensively or defensively. Lastly, rounding out the win conditions, we have Luminarch Ascension, a card a lot of people have begun to leave out of white decklists. Here though, there is plenty of removal to let it tick up nicely, and the planeswalkers can protect you enough to achieve one of the most powerful things in the format, an active Luminarch Ascension, and this deck has enough mana to make it well worthwhile.
Removal wise, we have four powerful catch all sweepers, Day of Judgment and Phyrexian Rebirth. The Phyrexian Rebirth is a fine option for a deck with this much mana, and once online, it’s almost always a better spell to cast than a forth Day of Judgment. More sweepers include Pyroclasm, a tried and tested answer to small aggro decks, giving you an ideal sweeper for Kuldotha Red and Monowhite Quest decks, as well as a card that can hit UW control creatures, making it rarely dead in game one match ups. Then we have 8 one drop burn spells, these are great for taking out Signal Pests before they can do much battle crying, and are just generally excellent for taking out small creatures, especially when they are about to be equipped by Sword of Feast and Famine. Lightning Bolt is still able to hit Squadron Hawk’s holding the swords, and having the ability to burn planeswalkers is always worthwhile. Red Sun’s Zenith is just another removal spell that can take out pesky Bloodghasts and Vengevines permanently, but can also be aimed face-wards in the late game after you’ve built up masses of mana.
Crystal Ball is a card most people overlook, and I agree that most of the time, you don’t want it in your deck, however it shines here, because this deck plays the long game, each turn you have a Crystal Ball on the field, the better off you are. Since you are not interested in winning the game at great speed, you can generate amazing card quality over time, which often leads to drawing multiple White Sun’s Zenith’s, usually resulting in winning you the game. I’ve tested the Ball in several decks, and never been happy with it’s contribution before, yet in here, the conditions seem to be exactly what it demands, cards you want to find at different times of the game, a long term game strategy and plenty of mana to keep using it.
In terms of the sideboard, we have some obvious cards, Leyline of Sanctity is a great tool against Valakut decks, combined with the main deck Tectonic Edges, it’s just about enough to move this match up along. We also have some singletons to round out the three-of’s in the main deck, an extra White Sun’s Zenith and Luminarch Ascension for the control match ups and two sweepers with a wall for the aggro match ups. There’s also answers for equipment and Tezzeret decks in general to finish off the fifteen.
Cards I’m not playing, and why.
Slagstorm, an incredible card that is well worth inclusion in many decks, however the double red casting cost is too problematic, and it’s speed left me wanting Pyroclasms when I originally tested it, as Day Of Judgment is a better sweeper and only costs one more. It’s ability to hit planeswalkers is more of an afterthought and rarely comes in handy, so I swapped it out for Pyroclasms which made the manabase more reliable and gave me the early removal that is more necessary. Chandra Nalaar, a card I really like, especially in a world with far fewer answers to planeswalkers than previously. It’s a card that gives you removal for Titan’s if necessary and a strong clock, but the double red was too much, and the white planeswalkers at the same cost were much stronger. Sun Titan is a proven win condition, and it’s easily cast-able in this build, however at six mana, he’s very expensive and is generally only bringing back things that aren’t that integral to the scheme of things, as a win condition, White Sun’s Zenith has the instant speed factor, and generally more power, making it a superior choice. The Stoneforge Mystic-Squadron Hawk package has made it’s way into a lot of decks, and it has been suggested to me that I should have it in here, however I feel this is definitely the wrong call. This deck is taking advantage of the fact even control decks are running early creatures, and to squeeze them in, would skew the whole purpose and effectiveness of the deck.
So there we have it, my love affair with Red-White control continues, and for now, it seems like a perfect opportunity for it to blossom.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.