Lately, the deck everyone has been talking about in standard is Caw-Blade. A UW control deck built around Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk and Sword of Feast and Famine. A lot of people having been trying to find the new “tech” for the deck that beats the mirror match, some opting for splashing red to enable Cunning Sparkmage and Lightning Bolt whilst other people toy with Sun Titan as a curve topper. However, there is another way. There is a deck with the avaliable tools to take on this latest dominant force, and that deck is RUG control.
RUG control has been around for a while and been posting good numbers, but quite often seems to be forgotten about it. In January this year, RUG control made the highest amount of top 8’s, tied with UB control (Information taken from TC decks), and in this month it’s second only to Caw-Blade, which is of course a much more popular archetype.
So what’s so different about RUG control? Unlike other control decks, it has the ability to explode onto the board thanks to Lotus Cobra, Explore and sometimes Oracle of Mul Daya, dropping game changing cards like Jace, The Mind Sculptor on turn three can completely overwhelm opponents, and the deck does have the ability to drop one of it’s many high end threats like Inferno Titan and Frost Titan as early as turn three which is often game winning. However the deck is not just about accellerating out threats, it interacts with it’s opponent using cards like Mana Leak, Lightning Bolt, Forked Bolt and suchlike. So it doesn’t have to just play it’s own gameplan and hope it works.
But why is RUG control good? Aside from ramping out to win Jace Wars, it’s high threat density takes advantage of the fact that control lists are running fewer counterspells than before, making it easier to drop a win condition. The choice of win conditions is also important, Inferno Titan is great against aggro, being able sweep away goblin tokens and Signal Pests, Frost Titan on the other hand can lock down a single big threat, so between the two, they have the ability to stop an opponent’s large creature like Primeval Titan or Wurmcoil Engine as well as stop aggro swarms, and both of them clock rather quickly. Lightning Bolt in the lists makes for a great tool, taking out an early creature, or hitting a planeswalker, it allows the RUG player to kill a Stoneforge Mystic on the draw and still untap to have two lands to cast and accellerant. Caw-Blade being unable to kill Lotus Cobra without casting Day of Judgment means thr RUG player gets to play unfairly and reap the benefits without much fear of reprisal. But the real workhorse in current RUG lists is Acidic Slime, who happily takes out Sword of Feast and Famine, Celestial Colonade or just about anything in a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas deck, whilst detering attacks and blocks thanks to deathtouch. This card combined with the tempo boost from Lotus Cobra can really stall an opponent’s gameplan.
Whilst the RUG lists are still a little less finetuned than Caw-Blade lists, they are making an impact, with three of them featured in the top 16 of the latest Star City Games open. It’s a deck that I expect to see gaining more popularity and becoming a deck you have to plan around for any standard tournament.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.