Are you out of Control? by Liam Casserly

Are you out of Control? by Liam Casserly

In my last few articles about decks I’ve looked at cheap aggro strategies. The All One-Drop RDW deck, the U/W Heroic deck and the Mono Black Aggro deck.  The low cost little guys’ plan has lasted longer into Standard after rotation than I would have expected. At FNM these decks have been doing very well and I will carry on playing them, or a version of them.

At the premium play end of things we are seeing the Abzan Menace it all its forms. There is a healthy dose of Temur and Red Green monster decks filling up the places in Gp Top 8s. However a deck archetype that seems to be out of favour is the control list. At the Pro Tour we saw the Blue Black version get into the Top 8 but since then it’s been a slightly underwhelming showing from the deck.

It might be that we are all suffering a collective hangover from the last Standard, where the U/W control list was spoilt for choice in what it was playing. As long as it had Sphinx’s Revelation it was all good. Now we have moved on, we have to look for other things to do with our mana.

I’m not going to give out a list, I’m going to talk about the group of cards that you might want to consider and then you can tailor it to your meta. As always I’m sure you guys will have some ideas of your own, feel free to tell me what bomb I left of the list in the comments. 


Stoke the flames banner

I’ve built a few control decks and I must say I’ve found them to be disappointing. I first had a look at a Jeskai control deck. I saw the Blue Black deck doing its thing on the Pro Tour and thought it would be too slow for the first few weeks in an FNM environment, so I wanted access to the Anger of the Gods. I thought people would be playing Bloodsoaked Champion so the exile might matter more than it had before rotation. It didn’t happen then but we are now seeing Mardu becoming more of a thing.

Also in Red are some decent burn spells. The Magmas, Jet and Spray, slightly different cards and you’ll almost always have spray in the board for when you need that extra exile card. Jet and Stoke the Flames along with Jeskai Charm can be aimed at the dome for a late game win. But I have convoked a Stoke the Flame to deal four damage to a Butcher of the Horde that my opponent had sacked his board to, to give haste and life link.

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is a great card. He can deal with a threat or become one himself. I would run more than 2 in the main deck but I can see why people might get a little greedy with him because if he goes unchecked for a few turns he will take over a game.


Pearl Lake Ancient banner

Ah the colour of anti-Magic. I was just going to… NO. But what about if I playe… NO. Can I at least… NO.

There are a few options for your counterspells here dissolve has the added scry which can be great, and sometimes it’s exactly what you need but when it’s not you might want to consider Dissipate. It costs the same three mana (one and two Blue) but instead of getting the scry gravy you can exile the creature instead. Great for getting rid of that Bloodsoaked Champion I mentioned but it also has the added value of not fuelling your opponents delve cards. It cramps the whip decks that have been cropping up in the last few weeks too.

Once you know what you’re up against it might be that you want to bring in the Disdainful Stroke, a very good counter spell against the right decks.

Blue also has the card draw spells; they are very good. Dig Through Time is especially good for making sure you get the card you need at the right time. Treasure Cruise and Jace’s Ingenuity are fine card draw and sometimes the top three cards are just as good.

Blue also has a few choices for your wincon. Prognostic Sphinx is a fairly robust creature that is hexproof when you need it to be. The double scry when it attacks is great, fixing your draws and getting rid of extra lands in the late game. Its only drawback is its three power. You are going to need quite a few turns to be able to finish off your opponent with this guy.

That brings us to the Pearl Lake Ancient. Weighing in at a 6/7 he’s cuts the clock down by half that of the Sphinx. He too has a sort of hexproof when you need it, with ability to bounce back to your hand. It’s a tough choice between the two but I think I would go for the Pearl Lake, even though it doesn’t have any sort of evasion. 


End Hostilities banner

White has a few useful things to add to this party. Banishing Light will get rid of anything but a Stormbreath Dragon. And just like Banishing Light, Suspension Field  will get rid of big threats, which is mostly what you want it for. End Hostilities is the sweeper in Khans. It costs five mana and it gets rid of all creatures and anything attached to them. So it will take care of that Boon Satyr  that your opponent bestowed on his Siege Rhino too.

White has the life gain you need to keep yourself in the game. The Nyx-Fleece Ram comes out of the board to frustrate aggro players and there might be room for the Resolute Archangel. Gaining 15 life on turn 7 or later is a blow out to some decks that have spent a lot of resources to get you down to burn range. Also a 4/4 Angel can act as your wincon in a pinch but gaining the life is its job.

White does have a genuine game winner in the form of Elspeth, Sun’s champion. She gets down and protects herself on board. if you think she might be vulnerable to a removal spell you might have to wait until you can get her down with counterspell back up but thats the sort of thing a control deck should be good at.

Gold cards

Keranos, God of Storms banner

When I first built this deck I didn’t even think off Mindswipe but, having seen it a few times, I think it has to be in the list somewhere. It can become a wincon late in the game and countering a spell and dealing a bit of damage in the early game can often mean that you can go into full-on burn mode with you Red spells. I think this might just shove the other wincons out to the board but I haven’t had enough testing with it to say either way just yet.

Keranos. I thought this card was great when it was spoiled. I tried it in a Blue Red brew that was ridiculously silly and won less than half its games, but whenever Keranos, God of Storms hit the table it was game over for my opponent. I saw this sneak into a few Modern decks at the Modern PTQ and that was when it dawned on me how good this card really is. If he doesn’t bolt your opponent or their creature he will draw you cards. If more card draw is what you want (and it is) Steam augury can be stuck in this deck and you will actually enjoy playing it. Sure it’s not Fact or Fiction but you can use that partial information to your advantage and mess with them a little bit.

Wrapping it up

Overall I liked this deck. It has some good things going on in its 75 cards but I don’t think its a great deck for higher rel events just yet. I built this list and my son played it to a GPT win. It was a bit of luck with the local meta and true enough when he played it the week after at FNM it was only good enough for 2-3. I am hopeful that a better mind than mine might find a card that I have overlooked and that will unlock this deck and push it into tier one. Until then I will tinker a bit more and see if I can’t figure it out.

It might well be that I’m looking in the wrong direction and the control list is not in Jeskai. The Blue Black deck has had a few more high profile finishes and there is the Sultai Whip list that has some very controlling elements. I have even heard whispers of an Esper deck out there but I have yet to see it.

Community Question: In your opinion, what is the best colour combination for Control in Standard right now?

In your opinion, what is the best colour combination for Control in Standard right now

Liam Casserly

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