After nearly two years of playing Magic, the grip of control has started to take a hold on both my board-states and me. After being something of a control hater pre-Khans, this was an unusual deck choice for me to play.
My problem with control was that I felt it wasn’t very interactive. If you weren’t playing aggro, you were going to be sat doing nothing for 25 minutes, or get your opponent down within death’s reach, only for them to Sphinx’s Rev all the way back up to a restart. I want to have fun playing the game, not be bored.
So why am I playing control now? Because it’s more player interactive. It feels like a little more of a challenge to play, and it becomes more rewarding when you win (which is most of the time). Crazy talk, many would say, but the reason I like it is the reason I like Magic: it’s fun, and social.
Anyway, here’s the decklist:
Now, if you watched the Khans of Tarkir Pro Tour, you’d notice there were 2 versions of this deck floating about. This is more similar to Ivan Floch’s version who placed 5th overall, playing no Perilous Vaults mainboard. It instead plays 3 planeswalkers, but only 2 creatures, as opposed to the 4 Prognostic Sphinxs Floch did. My reasoning for this is that Ashiok is an extra threat for your opponent to focus on, while struggling to get their cards down through counters and removal. I’ve more often than not milled my opponent out with Ashiok – usually robbing them of their creatures. Despise and Thoughtseize early game can remove threats that would kill Ashiok off, and you can –X him to pull out a blocker if necessary.
The deck plays only 8 counterspells mainboard. In the current meta, this is totally fine. The Disdainful Strokes are fantastic – 2 mana for a counter that stops fatties and planeswalkers. There’s a sweet satisfaction of using two mana to stop something your opponent emptied their mana pool for.
More of the deck revolves around removal. A lot of decks in the meta are creature heavy, without haste – green fatties that are big targets for Hero’s Downfall, and Silence the Believers, or smaller red/black/white creatures that are ripe for Bile Blights/Drown in Sorrow. Even powerful, cheap cards like Mantis Riders are vulnerable, and Rabblemaster becomes nothing more than fodder. However, this leads to the deck’s biggest disadvantage, Mono-red always has been a problem for control, and that hasn’t changed. You want to draw Drown in Sorrow in your opening hand for even a chance at victory. You’re not going to be able to kill anything until turn 3, by which time you’re probably in trouble. It’s a big ask to be able to stabilize against the deck, but not impossible. Just don’t expect a walkover.
Landwise, 8 fetches for deck thinning, and 6 Temples for scrying. Scry is a very important mechanic for this deck, especially with cards such as Dig Through Time and Jace. You want to be able to have as many answers as possible waiting for your opponent, dependent on their decks (Downfalls for mono green, Dissolves for Jeskai etc.). Dig Through Time is currently my favourite card in Standard. Immediately giving you a choice of answers at instant speed, and castable for very little mana later in the game. Just make sure to do it at the end of your opponent’s turn, if possible. Jace is also a key part to cast this cheaply, with his +1 helping the Delve mechanic of Dig and Murderous Cut.
Your win condition is either milling through Ashiok or beating with Pearl Lake Ancient/Sphinx later in the game. Both creatures are hard to kill, and can usually get through unblocked (Sphinx is flying, and you should have killed any creatures able to block Ancient already) You can even bounce Ancient, and replay Dismal Backwaters for some lifegain if necessary (the deck has very little lifegain compared to UW or Esper control, so be careful when it comes to burn).
Mono-Green, Abzan, Temur – Anything with big creatures is a great matchup, as a lot of your cards will be able to deal with them very easily – just counter/kill anything that can become a problem. Hornet Queen and her tokens die easily to Drown in Sorrow. Don’t be afraid to take some damage from creatures if necessary.
Control: Mirror matches are a decent match due to Pearl Lake Ancient. It’s a 6/7, meaning they don’t trade, can’t be countered, and has flash. Get it down first for the advantage.
Mardu Walkers – a painfully slow deck, Disdainful Stroke is the card you’ll need. You can set up your land/hand well in advance before they play their first card.
Jeskai Wins – While it has aggro tendencies, it’s not quite fast enough to topple you, and you can usually get a hand on the game around turn 4. Watch out for early Rabblemasters and Mantis Riders, and only counter burn if you’re in death’s reach.
Mono Black – The creatures may be small and fast, but a lot of them come in tapped. Use this as an advantage to play Bile Blights and Drown in Sorrows. Most of their removal is useless. Ashiok is a game winner, if you can repeatedly steal their creatures.
Mardu Aggro/Midrange: Like with Jeskai, if you can get to turn 4, you’re in good shape. Tri-colour decks are slower by nature, so you should be able to gain card advantage pretty easily. Again, watch for Rabblemasters/early attacking creatures.
Mono-Red: The speed of mono-red, whether it be burn or creatures is the biggest issue. You’re going to have to hope they’re out of steam by the time you play Drown in Sorrow, or you’re dead. Sideboard in Omenspeaker/Returned Phalanx for blockers, and Negates for burn.
What is your thoughts on UB Control in Standard right now?