Cruel Teachings in Modern by Dave Baldelli

Cruel Teachings in Modern by Dave Baldelli


Despite standard being one of the most interesting standard formats for a while (so Im told) you cant ignore that a qualifying season is underway and the format of the moment is modern. Modern is a fresh format what with the bannings of Punishing Fire and Wild Nacatl there is lots of room for innovation but very little data to go on, especially when building a control deck.

That said a meta game is beginning to emerge, we have a few tournaments firing online now and articles are springing up and the general consensus seems to be that Zoo is fine, just a bit less powerful overall. UR storm is a deck you have to be prepared for and if you want to play control, for heavens sake play Mystical Teachings. Mystical teachings is one of those cards you have to either have played with or against to truly know how powerful it is. The right teachings deck will literally have the right answer for everything you throw at it and will get card advantage while it does it. With the strength and depth of instants and creatures with flash in the large modern format, building a teachings deck is a joy and will enable you to adapt to changing meta games with one or two changes to your 75 for months to come. Here is mine.

Cruel Control with Teachings

3 Snapcaster Mage
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Vendilion Clique

2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

1 Consume the Meek
2 Cruel Ultimatum
2 Cryptic Command
4 Esper Charm
3 Lightning Helix
3 Mystical Teachings
3 Path to Exile
4 Remand
1 White Sun’s Zenith
1 Pact of Negation
1 Echoing Truth
1 Tribute to Hunger

4 Arid Mesa
1 Blood Crypt
2 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Marsh Flats
2 Mystic Gate
1 Plains
3 Reflecting Pool
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Swamp
4 Vivid Creek
2 Vivid Marsh
2 Watery Grave

Having initially built a Cruel Ultimatum deck, Teachings quickly found its place, while it can’t find the decks namesake it can keep you alive long enough and strong enough to find it and cast it without the need to run more than two and clog your hand.

Cruel Ultimatum is as good as ever to cast and with Snapcaster Mage to flash it back (something that happens nearly every game you win) you could argue its much stronger. Really though you dont have to run Cruel Ultimatum, Teachings decks can run what ever finisher you want (Cruel remains the coolest however).

The key to this deck is the white splash, the mana base while painful at times is stable and consistent and the white pays for its self with life gain offsetting the shock lands needed to run it. White also allows you to run two cards that I think every control deck should be running at the moment. Esper Charm is simply one of the best cards at the moment, being so versatile and an instant it smoothes your draws, allows you to make lots of decisions and when played right allows you to out play your opponent. The other card is a teachings target and alternate win condition. White sun’s zenith is repeatably tutorable due to its shuffle ruling and closes out games against decks not so susceptible to Cruel Ultimatum, its also a great defensive spell against creature strategies later in the game.

Many of the cards that go in a deck such as this are chosen because of personal preference and you can choose 1 of’s based on your individual play style, many people are beginning to play Echoing Decay instead of the Echoing Truth in the above list but in reality I think they do much the same thing whether it be killing Empty the warrens tokens or WSZ tokens, but that said I do like the versatility of the bounce effect in an unpredictable field. Elspeth Knight-Errant is a card I love playing with and love including it control decks; It provides the deck with a way to stall the game or close it out more quickly and again its versatility is something I really like having available.

The sideboard is a bit of a work in progress but attempts to shore up the gaps the deck has in some common matchups. There are the obvious cards against aggro, Wrath of god and [/card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] do a great job of getting you to the late game and are both Snapcastable. There are some additional counterspells for control matchups, a necessary concession due to my choice to run Remand over Mana Leak or Rune snag for consistency reasons.

UR storm should be respected and you should board in the Mindbreak traps, the graveyard hate and some counterspells to help combat their strategies. I am testing Fracturing Gust instead of Ancient Grudge and have found it similar in power level except the fact you only need to run 1, but I am undecided whether it is in fact better.

SB: 1 Extirpate
SB: 3 Mindbreak Trap
SB: 1 Ravenous Trap
SB: 2 Wrath of God
SB: 3 Timely Reinforcements
SB: 1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
SB: 1 Fracturing Gust
SB: 3 Dispel

This is a powerful, versatile and interesting deck to play, chiefly what I like about it is its potential longevity, in a years time this could easily still be a very powerful deck even in a different metagame and I like playing decks that I have plenty of practice and knowledge of, and with potentially a 5 colour mana base you can take advantage of any tech that other decks come up with.

Article Update.

Some changes since I wrote the article – out came the Plains and in went a Island – I have also changed the Marsh Flats to Scalding Tarns. drawing a plains when you are one 6 lands with a Cruel in your hand is horrible so I have made sure that can’t happen.

Timely Reinforcments and Fracturing Gust has come out of the SB and in their place are a single Volcanic Fallout, 2 Ancient Grudge and the Tribute to Hunger in the main deck. Ancient Grudge is better – its much stronger against discard and better in the early game when you want to trade 1 for 1. Timely is loosing favour, aggro decks are beginning to work around it a little with swarm strategies and often its better just to sweep the board. Volcanic Fallout seems good versus Empty the Warrens, elves, faeries and even jund to a degree.

A forth Lightning Helix replaces the tribute in the main deck, Tribute is needed in the 75 I think, but is awkward against a lot of decks, Lightning Helix is nearly always good.



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