Shared Discovery – 4 Colour Control in Standard by Rob Wagner

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Hi all, how’re you enjoying the current Standard format? I mentioned in my last two articles here and here that I believe the format is relatively-underdeveloped. While not necessarily the best deck in the new Standard, I have a bit of a brew that I believe has a lot of potential. I have been spurred to write this article by Mike Flores posting similar but primitive versions of this strategy on Star Citys (premium content). I believe that the motivation is clear – a Control deck which makes use of the best Control cards (Forbidden Alchemy, Snapcaster Mage, Dissipate which doesn’t die to any old permanent type.

So, a current potential list:

4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Garruk Relentless
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Grave Titan

2 Geistflame
1 Dismember
4 Mana Leak
4 Think Twice
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Go for the Throat
1 Doom Blade
4 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Tribute to Hunger
2 Brimstone Volley
3 Dissipate
1 Blue Sun’s Zenith

4 Darkslick Shores
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Hinterland Harbor
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
6 Island

2 Drowned Catacomb

4 Sulfur Falls
2 Stensia Bloodhall

1 Ancient Grudge
1 Dissipate
2 Negate
1 Nihil Spellcomb
2 Olivia Voldaren
3 Slagstorm
1 Stensia Bloodhall
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Tribute to Hunger
2 Wurmcoil Engine

What are the important strategic elements?

  • 4 Snapcaster Mage – Literally the best creature in Standard, Tiago Chan is extremely versatile in this sort of deck, with many different cards to make a second use of. He really is a great deck space-saving device, since we can play X Removal Spells and X Counter Spells and have access to X+4 of whichever one is most relevant in the individual matchup (to put it basically, though every game will bring its own problems).
  • 7-9 Counter Spells – I haven’t been a fan of the card Mana Leak ever but it is a necessary evil. Dissipate is really quite something against the field and I can see this being an important card for a year or two due to it answering Titans and being randomly good against things like Chandra’s Phoenix.
  • 2 Stensia Bloodhall – What looks like the worst of the lands to many is actually my third favourite (RG>WU>BR>GW>UB) but they really are all excellent cards. I win a very large proportion of my games having done 10+ damage with this land, even against decks like Red Deck Wins where if you can trade one-for-one and keep your life total high then you get to draw a Shock each turn while your opponent very well might not.
  • 4 Think Twice, 4 Forbidden Alchemy – The ability to sift and draw through your deck is powerful, and these cards suit a draw-go strategy perfectly so we are happy to build our deck around them.

Which colours are important?

Clearly this is a blue deck, due to the strength of Tiago, the draw spells and the counter spells. After that we have some leg room. I believe that Stensia Bloodhall is so strong in a draw-go deck that we really want to be Grixis colours, and the Red removal spells do not do the same thing as the Black ones anyway.

Green is certainly a colour which is not completely determined but I believe that gaining the flashback on Ancient Grudge and access to Garruk Relentless is worth it. We currently have access to a lot of good dual lands in Standard, which make for a good mana-base if you are content to not use too many spells which require more than one coloured mana symbol. Most of the spells I’ve listed above (i.e. the non-Blue ones) fall into this category, but if you feel as though you want to have more colour-intense cards then by all means feel free to cut Green. White has some nice options, but it can be quite colour-intensive and I really believe that the Grixis base is strongest.

What other cards have I tried?

Quite a lot, to be honest. A selection:

  • Beast Within – A nice answer to troublesome Lands such as Gavony Township. Unfortunately, we run into tense moments with the 3/3 creature that we give them which wants us to look for better options elsewhere. The White utility lands are the only ones we really worry about, as we can outrace Nephalia Drownyard easily and Kessig Wolf Run decks find it hard to connect with a creature of relevance, made especially worse when they tap out to pump their guy and you kill it before damage (Time Warp!)…
  • Druidic Satchel – I tried this a few times a couple of weeks ago, partly at the insistence of Manaleak’s own Joe Fletcher (beat you to it Flores) but I gave it up due to it being really un-good. It’s a surprisingly large mana commitment in the context of how much you have going on and going all-in on activating it, hitting an untapped land, and flashing back Forbidden Alchemy was too risky to try too many times.
  • Consecrated Sphinx – In a draw-go deck, the option of making 6 drops arises when you believe that nothing the opponent can do will be better than what you just did. Sphinx will likely draw you 2 more cards against a lot of decks (we already draw a lot of cards) and then they remove it and you lose. Drawing cards and making use of Snapcasters at instant speed is such a more elegant and efficient game plan. This happened almost without fail every time I cast it, so I cut it. The card is powerful though, so look to add it back in when the meta changes.
  • Liliana of the Veil – This card really pointed out to me that I wanted single coloured-mana-cost cards in the deck, and she just wasn’t as good as Tribute to Hunger in this style of deck.  Being able to ultimate her was very relevant as it meant you had an out vs non-creature permanents that are in play. She also dealt with your opponents Lilianas that are about to ultimate. Sadly, she just doesn’t do enough in the deck.
  • Mayor of Averbruck – I tried the beatdown approach with this card and even Daybreak Ranger at various points of the deck’s development (when I was experimenting with RUG, and BUG). These creatures were poor in the control mirrors (turned on their removal and underwhelming late game) and not that effective against aggro so I was not interested in them at all. It also created a lot of awkward situations where you want or had to cast more than 2 spells per turn. For those who have watched Brian Kibler’s videos, his deck has a large problem with its manabase and casting its spells (he keeps mentioning how unlucky he is) and also many of his favourite creatures just don’t seem to take over the game. Garruk is a very powerful card which can make that style of deck look better than it is, but I don’t see why Garruk, Inferno Titan and Dissipate are possibly in the same deck with the available mana.
  • Black Sun’s Zenith – This card doesn’t fit if you’re playing Green, but if you’re happy to  cut that colour then this card is suddenly eminently castable and quite powerful (it will single-handedly win games). It is pretty expensive to take down a lot of things but the conflict with being in a draw-go deck disappears as the times you are casting it are not the times you are playing draw-go.
I really like this style of deck and I believe that adding (at least) Red to Blue-Black shores up a bunch of the holes in the deck as well as giving you the edge in control mirrors (you outrace Drownyard nearly every time). Stensia Bloodhall is a lot more powerful than you think and is easy to build around with a draw-go style of deck using very powerful cards. If you have ever enjoyed Draw-Go then please give this deck (or sort of deck) a try as I am sure you will enjoy yourself!


Rob Wagner


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