Making Control Great Again in Standard

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
5/5/2017 11:01:00 AM
submit to reddit » Print «

Right now, all eyes are turned towards Mardu Vehicles and how to beat the top deck. Control is a great answer to Mardu Vehicles. Censor is a huge upgrade in any blue based control deck, as it means you are much better set up in the early game. Many games in Standard are about who controls the first few turns of the game. If a control deck is able to stabilize there are still many ways to take over the late game.

At the moment, of the various control options Blue-Red has been putting up the best results overall, so let's start there. During the first few weeks of a new format Magic Online can be ahead of the metagame, which is what we are seeing now with this undefeated list from a league.

Clearly there are a number of new cards here, and remember that Blue-Red Control was already seeing some play even before the Amonkhet additions to the deck. The removal spell Mardu Vehicles hates to see is Magma Spray, and there is a full playset here. This deck can cast Magma Spray on turn one consistently, which is what makes it at its best. Taking out an early play with a removal spell like Magma Spray provides enough time to then sit back with your counters. Scrapheap Scrounger is the juiciest target for Magma Spray since that is the most annoying creature to deal with for control in general.

This deck is going to make good use out of its mana early, with Magma Spray or even cycling a Censor making sure that happens. There are still many of the more traditional countermagic we are used to seeing, like Disallow and Negate. The deck wants to deal with the first couple plays the opponent makes, as once you reach the point where it is okay to sit back on countermagic it is very difficult for the control deck to lose. Essence Scatter adds to the suite of countermagic as well. This is another way to have cheaper spells, as there are more universal two mana counters.

Mid
Low
 Commit // Memory
$0.53
$0.20
Store QTY Price  
BobbysWorldCCG 2 $0.20
Desert Keep Games 1 $0.20
Canvas Studios 1 $0.20
Apex TCG 2 $0.20
Thorner's Gaming 1 $0.20
Exiled Gaming 1 $0.24
Overflow TCG 2 $0.24

>> View all Prices for Commit // Memory <<

Store.TCGplayer.com allows you to buy cards from any of our vendors, all at the same time!
Shop, Compare & Save with TCGplayer.com! - [Store FAQ]
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Commit // Memory Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card


Commit // Memory can serve as a counters of sorts or a removal spell, making It very versatile. You can also use Torrential Gearhulk to use the aftermath side of Commit // Memory, is an interaction that certainly isn't intuitive. If you do need a way to refuel, Memory is an option, but you would prefer to use Pull from Tomorrow to gas back up, as it means the opponent isn't drawing cards as well. Pull from Tomorrow is a new Sphinx's Revelation of sorts. Having a card draw spell that is good in the middle of the game, but insane with lots of mana is great. The fact that you need to discard a card to Pull from Tomorrow isn't much of a drawback.

A control deck that both has better early game and more mana sinks later in the game is scary. The energy theme isn't as prevalent now that Dynavolt Tower is gone, but instead it becomes easier to bury the opponent with your card advantage. Torrential Gearhulk is still an easy way to close out a game, and Wandering Fumarole is the backup option. After sideboard, there are more win conditions as well. Dragonmaster Outcast and Thing in the Ice have both proven they can be great once the opponent boards out a lot of their removal after game one. These cards can win the game by themselves if not answered properly.

The sideboard plays cards that have proven to be effective in the past. Release the Gremlins is still just as good versus Mardu Vehicles as ever. Mardu Vehices typically will keep in artifacts like Heart of Kiran, since they already need to board out lots of removal versus you. Sweltering Suns is another removal spell that is huge in the right matchups. Tribal strategies based around Humans or Zombies are popular, and Sweltering Suns is the sweeper you want there. Rounding out the sideboard, we have more countermagic. Dispel is the sort of counter that isn't universal enough to main deck in general, but after sideboard can be great for the right matchup.

This Blue-Red Control deck is pretty typical, and is a deck you should expect to run into if you aren't playing it yourself. But there are other directions control can go in; look no further than the gem Aaron Barich used to make Top 16 of the latest Classic.

Now we are departing away from the classic control shell we are used to of Glimmer of Genius plus Torrential Gearhulk. In fact, there aren't any copies of Glimmer of Genius, and only a single Torrential Gearhulk. Instead, the deck has a full playset of Pull from Tomorrow for card draw. Without Glimmer of Genius, you need some other source of card advantage. There are other card draw effects though, and they come in the form of cycling. Of course, there are four Censor but then there are also Cast Out, Forsake the Worldly, Curator of Mysteries, and Irrigated Farmland.

Mid
Low
 Cast Out
$1.25
$0.50
Store QTY Price  
BMT Games 1 $0.50
Bizzys Collection 1 $0.50
MTGShepherd 2 $0.70
DMs Cards 8 $0.75
Clone Atog 1 $0.80
Top Shelf Magic 2 $0.90
JohnnyBCardsComics 1 $0.90

>> View all Prices for Cast Out <<

Store.TCGplayer.com allows you to buy cards from any of our vendors, all at the same time!
Shop, Compare & Save with TCGplayer.com! - [Store FAQ]
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Cast Out Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card


Cast Out is the all-purpose removal spell in the format, as you can use it to dig for lands and then it can take out planeswalkers like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar that are traditionally hard for control decks to answer. Curator of Mysteries is a primary win condition which makes all of the cyclers that much better. Getting to scry in a 26-land deck late in the game to ensure you draw gas is pretty great. I'm surprised we haven't seen more of Curator of Mysteries in other decks.

Forsake the Worldly is yet another answer to annoying permanents, and we know that exiling artifacts is definitely better than just destroying them. All the cyclers make the copies of Spontaneous Mutation that much better. Spontaneous Mutation can become a one-mana hard removal spell once your graveyard starts filling up, which is perfect. You can also run it out early and then Shrink the opponent's creature as you play more spells. Without cheap removal that red provides like Harnessed Lightning and Magma Spray alternative options are necessary, and Immolating Glare serves as a great spot removal spell here.

Besides the spot removal, we have mass removal as well! Fumigate is back to being in a prime position with black-green decks becoming more popular. Having a sweeper against Zombies is huge since that deck tries to jam as many creatures into play as well, and don't forget about the lifegain aspect of Fumigate. When this deck gets the chance, it can start to make tokens with Westvale Abbey, which is actually the ultimate way to close out the game once you take full control.

The sideboard contains some additional threats, as sometimes you don't want to take 20 turns to close out the game. Regal Caracal is both a win condition and an extremely annoying threat for aggressive decks. The Cat Tokens having lifelink makes the tokens problematic even if Regal Caracal itself gets hit by removal. There is also a Sphinx of the Final Word, which is the ultimate closer. This one is almost impossible to answer so it will get the job done almost every time once it hits the battlefield. Kefnet the Mindful is here as a way to grind out other control decks, as having a threat and card advantage engine all rolled into one is sweet.

Mid
Low
 Kefnet the Mindful
$1.80
$0.72
Store QTY Price  
Sunshine Games 3 $1.00
EMG Marketplace 1 $1.12
MagicCityMagic 1 $1.14
Triple Towers 1 $1.15
StompingGround Games 1 $1.15
cool stuff daily 1 $1.15
ManaVault 1 $1.20

>> View all Prices for Kefnet the Mindful <<

Store.TCGplayer.com allows you to buy cards from any of our vendors, all at the same time!
Shop, Compare & Save with TCGplayer.com! - [Store FAQ]
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Kefnet the Mindful Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card


Gideon's Intervention is an all-purpose answer to whatever the most annoying card the opponent has is. Say an opponent draws multiple Scrapheap Scroungers – Gideon's Intervention will completely Nullify them. This answer works great over the course of the game because it can also blank future draws the opponent might find. There are also some of the usual suspects here, with a suite of countermagic and even another sweeper in Descend upon the Sinful.

Next up is three-color control, and Sultai provides some attractive options.

This deck is trying to hit delirium as soon as possible. The four copies of Vessel of Nascency and Traverse the Ulvenwald should be a good indication of that. The creature package also contains a lot of singletons, which is smart when you have four Traverse the Ulvenwald to search up whatever you need. Since this deck is base black-green it isn't playing a card like Disallow which requires double blue on the third turn. In fact, you won't be seeing as many counters in this type of deck as you might expect.

Censor is the only actual counter, and isn't a hard counter. This means that you must be prepared to deal with any potential permanent the opponent might have on the battlefield. Censor does help fuel delirium as you can always simply cycle it to put an instant in the graveyard. Commit // Memory is another counter of sorts, but it is once again not a permanent answer. Having the split cards in this deck become free value if you ever mill them into the graveyard with Vessel of Nascency.

The deck not only has singleton creatures, but the removal is very diversified as well. There is even a Flaying Tendrils in the main deck because of how many small creature decks are seeing play. Liliana, Death's Majesty stands out as well, as a big planeswalker which can win you the game very easily. You can return any of the creatures that get milled into the graveyard as well, which is a pretty absurd interaction. We see that Liliana, the Last Hope isn't seeing as much play any more because of Liliana, Death's Majesty.

Mid
Low
 Liliana, Death's Majesty
$6.99
$4.01
Store QTY Price  
Cardtasia 1 $4.01
MTGShepherd 1 $4.70
Long Haul Cards 2 $4.75
Coachs Manna Dungeon 1 $4.86
DMs Cards 1 $4.90
Card Penguin 2 $4.99
Turn Two Emrakul 1 $4.99

>> View all Prices for Liliana, Death's Majesty <<

Store.TCGplayer.com allows you to buy cards from any of our vendors, all at the same time!
Shop, Compare & Save with TCGplayer.com! - [Store FAQ]
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Liliana, Death's Majesty Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card


Some of the creatures are a bit unusual, like the one copy of Shefet Monitor, but the interaction of cycling it and then bringing it back from the graveyard is quite nice. I'm actually surprised to see three copies of Torrential Gearhulk, and I think you may be able to shave one. There aren't that many good instants to target with them outside of spot removal. The Gearhulks and Walking Ballista do help add another card type to the graveyard when milled, which is a big deal. Ishkanah, Grafwidow is still the big payoff for being a delirium deck.

This deck may not need as many one-ofs as it is playing, but when a new set comes out sometimes trying a lot of different cards is helpful. The sideboard actually looks very good. Dispossess is a perfect answer to Aetherworks Marvel, one of the most annoying cards to play against in the format. Flaying Tendrils is positioned well against Mardu and Zombies as well. The Manglehorn seems like a great target for Traverse the Ulvenwald, and the same can be said for the other sideboard creatures. Overall this is a good choice for those looking for a control and delirium deck all rolled into one.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




submit to reddit » Print «