The Aggro to Control Spectrum in Blue-White Standard Decks – Shared Discovery with Rob Wagner

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Geist of Saint Traft

The Aggro to Control Spectrum in Blue-White Standard Decks

Hi guys, the more astute among you will have noticed two big trends of Magic: The Gathering articles recently – definitions of Aggro-Control, and how to gain an advantage in the UW Mirror in Standard. I believe these two topics are actually pretty well-related to one another.

Michael Flores’ classic article Who’s the Beatdown? taught us that one of the most important things to assess when playing a game is whether we are the Aggro deck or the Control deck in the matchup. Some later patches to this article upgraded the assessment not to figuring out which deck you are in the matchup, but literally in the game at hand. Knowing which you are likely to be in the matchup is helpful because you know which one you can expect to be a lot of thing, but you really do have to know not only your limits but also what is happening in the game you’re currently playing.

Aggro decks are the ones who most often are the Aggro deck in the match they’re playing, and would be against most conceivable decks in the format. Control decks are the ones who most often are the Control deck in the match they’re playing, and would be against most conceivable decks in the format. This is a slightly uninstructive definition since it doesn’t actually tell you an Aggro deck looks like or what a Control deck looks like but it should at least be correct 99% of the time (I’m imagining some strange format where all the decks look like what would normally be Control decks, and an Aggro deck would be a bit weird by this definition).

So we can really define where a deck lies on the spectrum from Aggro to Control by considering how it would position itself on average. However, this doesn’t take into account the range of positions it can adapt to.

This is important because certain decks, like Faeries or Cawblade can very easily move themselves up and down the Spectrum without turning bad at any point. Other decks, like current Standard Black-White tokens are pretty solidly midrange and find it very difficult to speed up or slow down as they need to depending on what the opponent is doing.

*****

So, how do you get an advantage over another deck in general? Well, this is going to be a massively broad statement that if you understand will help you to know how to position yourself in a metagame but won’t help you to pick individual cards to play. You will stop showing up with Zombies decks in a field full of Timely Reinforcements and you will start playing Show and Tell in a field full of RUG Delver in Legacy, however. In general though:

1) You should aim to be slightly more Controlling than your opponent.

-or-

2) You should aim to be greatly more Aggressive than your opponent.

If you can manage to position yourself like this on average, then you will find yourself winning a lot more of your games. This isn’t a promise or anything, but you should find it helps you in the long run. How exactly do you aim slightly more Controlling than the other guy? This really isn’t something I can help you with I’m afraid as it very much depends on the cards in the format and how they interact.

What I can do is show you some Standard decks which use many of the same cards and show you how to get an advantage in each mirror as it comes, would you be interested in that?

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Super Aggro

There isn’t really a deck from a tournament I can pick up to show you here because the Standard format recently has been all about a little deck called UW Delver, perhaps you’ve heard of it? However, there has recently been a version of UW Delver which pushes towards being Super Aggro. Yuuya Watanabe’s deck from Grand Prix Manila takes this form, as having turbo-powered Runechanter’s Pikes means he can often just kill out of nowhere.

4  Glacial Fortress
8  Island
2  Moorland Haunt
1  Plains
4  Seachrome Coast


19 lands

4  Delver of Secrets
4  Geist of Saint Traft
3  Restoration Angel
4  Snapcaster Mage


15 creatures

4  Gitaxian Probe
3  Gut Shot
3  Mana Leak
1  Mutagenic Growth
4  Ponder
3  Runechanter’s Pike
4  Thought Scour
4  Vapor Snag

 

If I were to try to construct a deck from scratch which was on the extremely aggressive side of things I would probably look towards last year’s Worlds where we had decks that lined Delver of Secrets and Champion of the Parish together to reasonable effect. I don’t actually like this sort of thing though, and wouldn’t recommend it in today’s Standard. Take this, for example, from the top 8 of Grand Prix Minneapolis:

2  Cavern of Souls
3  Glacial Fortress
5  Island
2  Moorland Haunt
5  Plains
4  Seachrome Coast


21 lands

4  Champion of the Parish
4  Delver of Secrets
2  Elite Vanguard
3  Geist of Saint Traft
1  Gideon’s Lawkeeper
4  Snapcaster Mage


18 creatures

4  Gather the Townsfolk
2  Gut Shot
1  Mass Appeal
3  Mutagenic Growth
1  Negate
4  Ponder
1  Runechanter’s Pike
1  Sword of War and Peace
4  Vapor Snag

 

Aggro-Control

So how do we get an advantage over this? Well, clearly whatever we do is going to want to be able to trump the Pikes on some level – whether strategically or simply with answer cards. I would be playing something like this from the same Grand Prix Manila, only I would be looking to find room for Divine Offering or similar:

2  Cavern of Souls
4  Glacial Fortress
9  Island
2  Moorland Haunt
1  Plains
4  Seachrome Coast


22 lands

4  Delver of Secrets
4  Geist of Saint Traft
4  Restoration Angel
4  Snapcaster Mage


16 creatures

1  Dismember
2  Gitaxian Probe
2  Gut Shot
3  Mana Leak
1  Mutagenic Growth
4  Ponder
3  Sword of War and Peace
2  Thought Scour
4  Vapor Snag

 

UWb Midrange:

Talk recently has been around a more Midrange version of the Delver deck, where you go bigger by cutting the Delver of Secrets and adding high end like Sun Titan, but really the breakthrough is having actual removal like Doom Blade over Vapor Snag when you’re not trying to rely on killing your opponent in some short amount of time.

Creatures
Blade Splicer
Phantasmal Image
Restoration Angel
Snapcaster Mage
Sun TitanInstants
Doom Blade
Forbidden Alchemy
Go for the Throat
Gut Shot
Mana Leak
Thought Scour

Sorceries
Gitaxian Probe
Lingering Souls
Ponder

Basic Lands
Island
Plains
SwampLands
Cavern of Souls
Darkslick Shores
Drowned Catacomb
Evolving Wilds
Glacial Fortress
Seachrome Coast

By playing these trumps up the curve for what your opponent is trying to do you will always remain one step ahead of them.

Where do you go from here?

Well, the obvious next step for me is being able to step up the game on the Sun Titan wars, so you can begin adding more of those plus Phantasmal Images. This can be supplemented by adding more Forbidden Alchemy also.

Where you’re going to start finding another strategic trump is in Day of Judgment which can not only be used to retain the lording over the less Aggressive decks  (but not too much more aggressive I hope).

After that you can start adding bigger and bigger things, but for now I’d advise against it because of rule number 2. People aren’t going that high up the chain just yet so if you try to go too high you will lose to those people that aren’t aware of how things work.

I hope this helps you to figure out where to position yourself for any upcoming Magic event, and if you’re particularly looking for information to help you with any Blue-White mirrors you have coming up then this should be extra-helpful. See you at the PTQs!

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing,
@DrRobWagner on Twitter
The Aggro to Control Spectrum in Blue-White Standard Decks - Shared Discovery with Rob Wagner
Hi guys, the more astute among you will have noticed two big trends of Magic: The Gathering articles recently - definitions of Aggro-Control, and how to gain an advantage in the UW Mirror in Standard. I believe these two topics are actually pretty well-related to one another.

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