Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Buck Cube - update

I have updated the Buck Cube list for Ixalan, the intervening sets and based on testing results. The current recommended list can be found here;

I am very impressed with how it plays in general. It is as expected a cross between my unpowered cube and booster draft. It is slower pace game but it is still highly involved, diverse and interactive. It keeps all the things that make magic good and cube the best format and it lets you enjoy it a bit longer! Much is the same for the buck cube as with the conventional cubes with a pretty significant overlap of cards. The archetypes are much the same, just slower and less powerful. It was awsome fun getting to play with great cards that don't compete anymore in the conventional builds of cube. I got to smash face with a Spiritmonger! I got to appreciate more classically good cards, just a big flier or something with hexproof or regenerate is quite a big deal again! It felt very balanced and generally just a whole lot fairer. I would highly advocate it as a format for a whole load of different reasons. I got to sac a changeling that I was given from a Crib Swap to a Skeletal Vampire to make more bats! Many cube firsts in the buck cube.

The only issue I was having with the format is consistency stemming from the mana. All the dual lands come in tapped and there just are not huge numbers of them. Also, the more you pile on extra EtB tapped lands the weaker they and your deck become. Three colour decks are risky and rare. Mono colour decks have a noticeable two fold advantage too. They have all untapped lands and no chance of colour screw from fewer duals. Colour intense spells were very unappealing inclusions in two colour decks as well. Many of my refinements reflect these findings. I have cut a lot of the spells with double of a coloured mana symbol. I also added pain lands, they are sorely needed, more ideally, and they are the most budget option. There are plenty of ways to address and solve this mana consistency issue. One of which is reduced size, I advocate around a 480 cube for this format if possible so as to increase the effective number of lands. I also advocate deviating from the buck build idea on a few planeswalkers and a lot of lands.

It is way to early days to be calling the buck cube the best magic format or anything like that. I am obviously immensely biased and given that I think cube is the best magic format by a significant margin it is no shock I think formats within that group are going to shine. I will say it seems wildly better than pauper or peasant formats. I would also say it is the most magic you can get on a budget. You can spend a couple of hundred pounds and never run out of magic fun. You will get far more longevity from it than a boardgame, more than for twice your investments worth of boardgames! You cannot really play any constructed format, certainly not in an ongoing capacity, for anywhere near that amount of money. Constructed magic is very expensive and limited adds up quickly. You can just get a couple of dual decks or something and that is a cheaper way to play magic from nothing but that has nothing like the longevity of the other magic options. If you are someone who wants to play magic anything from several times a week to once every couple of months and want to find the way that maximises all of value for money, fun and longevity then the buck cube crushes the competition.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Energy (non-Aetherworks) .dec

Whirler VirtuosoWith all the recent success of Temur energy decks in standard at the moment I thought it was high time to design a cube version of the deck. I have used energy mechanics in cube before but in an Aetherworks Marvel build. While it was some of the most fun I have had playing cube I did get rather stomped. Marvel is too demanding and too narrow of a combo for cube. While you can get it just about workable it is very low tier and likely just a directly worse deck than multiple alternate combo options. While the non-combo energy cards are a whole lot fairer and less abusive than Marvel they are at least more redundant and work better with non-energy cards. Just having decent cards with an energy theme is likely the best way to use energy in cube. Most block mechanics fail in cube due to the lack of depth. I think the general high power level and reasonable stand alone ability of the cards in the energy deck give it a better chance than most. It certainly won't be an affinity but I expect it to be competitive. If you could run multiple Whirler Virtuoso and Longtusk Cube I think the deck would actually start to look good. They are clearly the best energy payoff cards being cheap, proactive, decent stand alone deals and able to spend energy at instant speed. I have tried to compensate for a scarcity in these cards as you shall see in the list.

Longtusk Cub25 Spells

Attune with Aether
Greenbelt Rampager
Thriving Turtle
Cloudfin Raptor

Birds of Paradise
Lightning Bolt

Harnessed Lightning
Longtusk Cub
Servant of the Conduit
Voltaic Brawler

Thriving Grubs
Aether Chaser
Rogue RefinerFire / Ice (or Coiling Oracle)

Shardless Agent
Aethersphere Harvester
Rogue Refiner
Whirler Virtuoso

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Volt Charge
Aethertorch Renegade / Architect of the Untamed
Rishkar, Peema Renegade

Bristling Hydra
Glimmer of Genius
Bloodbraid Elf
Tezzeret's Gambit

15 Lands

Aether Hub
11 More non-basic duals!

Attune with AetherI opted for a land light build as this deck has little in the way of mana sinks. Flooding out is going to be more damaging than being low on mana. There are certainly some cards you could add in that would improve your situation when flooding. Walking Ballista is an obvious example but there are many more. I looked at some of the energy Module cards as potentials but they are only good when you have excess mana, they are pretty weak prior to that point.

The cascade cards are an easy include for this deck which I would class as a tempo midrange deck. You don't have to hurt your build much to include them. You don't really want countermagic any way. They will often cascade into energy cards and feel like synergy plays. They do make pump spells worse which in turn makes a couple of things like Electrostatic Pummeler less interesting. Given that the cascade dorks are some of the best cards in magic I don't think we will miss the silly Pummeler which is more of a combo thing anyway.

Tezzeret's GambitThe thing that felt like it tied this deck together was the proliferate! It is cute that it gives you energy if you have one already but far more relevantly it pumps all your dorks with +1/+1 counters on them which is rather a lot of them. I was rather short on good energy playables, the deck was already a little bit mixed with cards like Voltaic Brawler and Glimmer of Genius. Adding in more energy cards was just going to turn into a random pile of cards with no direction. Just having "energy" on the card doesn't give you direction, you need to have a plan on your route to victory and your cards all need to work towards that goal. By filling out the last part of the deck with a couple of proliferate cards and a couple of good stand alone +1/+1 counter dorks I was able to keep a higher overall power level, keep the synergy between the cards looking impressive and all without going off theme from a midrange tempo build.

I did get a little bit excited with the proliferate idea to start with and was looking at Thrumming Bird and Hardened Scales! While this are very powerful synergy cards they both stink on their own and that is well worth avoiding where possible. This deck looks like it has enough to carry its own weight without having to lean on getting specific abusive card pairings on the go. Throne of Geth would be one of the most efficient proliferators on offer if you did want to go more down that route as you have a number of servos easily generated. Aether Swooper would very much come in if that was your plan.

Nissa, Voice of ZendikarEven with the good and on theme energy, +1/+1 counter and proliferate cards this deck was still a little bit short. I just padded it out with some generic gold "good anywhere" cards and some premium one drops. They help a little with the curve and power level and are fairly replaceable. I have offered up the best cards in those couple of slots but any of the less good one mana burn and ramp would be OK to. Ideally I would have more synergy cards I could use but it is rare to have many of those in the low CMC end.

One of my concerns for this deck is ability to close the game. It is fine when it just rolls people as it will with good draws or against bad ones as is that case with any tempo deck. The issue is when you get into longer games. As discussed, this deck already suffers from land being less use late game. This can be compensated for with creature and utility lands to some extent but it will hurt your speed or your consistency to do so and is especially dangerous to do so heavily in a 15 land deck. Fliers or a single dork getting excessively big are the ways this deck wins once the game goes longer. While these can and will get the job done some of the time they will also fall short sometimes too. Wrath effects will punish this list fairly hard. Having the bigger flier or an endless supply of chumps also fairly well counters this deck's win mechanisms in the mid and late game. Aethertide Whale is a really solid card to give you a lot of extra reach and game closing potential. It is super safe but it is also a six drop. To include it I would make this more of a slower value midrange deck and go upto 16 lands.

Aethertorch RenegadeAethertorch Renegade and Architect of the Untamed were presented as an option on either. These are my concessions to lacking a good finisher and to having too few Cubs and Virtuoso. I really wanted to throw in Den Protector style cards and Traverse the Ulvenwald simply to increase the time I would have access to such cards! Any way, both Aethertorch Renegade and Architect of the Untamed are rather unknown quantities, I have never played with or against either nor ever seen them being used. One is bigger, the other provides more energy right away. One has more early utility, the other more late game utility and value. I suspect the Renegade is the more useful overall despite being smaller and ultimately less value. While 6/6s are all big and fat they are not really solving any problems. Six in the face is reach and it is planeswalker control. Seems a bit weak but it also seems like it is probably what you need more. One issue is simply a lack of sufficient energy generation. Getting 8 or even 16 energy is not going to be an easy thing. It will be slow and take a lot of the utility away from your other energy cards. You could play more things like Puzzleknots and Empyreal Voyager but then you are putting in weak stand alone cards again. Perhaps Architect of the Untamed will be better in practice as it can generate a lot of energy over a long enough time.

The draw spells in the deck are a little out of place given that this is supposed to be a tempo deck. Glimmer simply seems too powerful to not play when we are short on energy cards. Gambit is also pretty cheap and could be a massive tempo swing should you have sufficient countered up dorks! Having draw effects does make up a little bit for lacking mana sinks. Perhaps more contained cards like Dack Fayden would be better. I shall certainly leave a comment once I get round to playing with this deck highlighting the stinkers and the bombs. I look forward to playing with it, lots of interesting cards which I have had very little experience with and that offer a wealth of options sounds like a lot of fun.

Friday, 13 October 2017

New Donate

Harmless OfferingFollowing on from my last article of trying to find combo decks that my particular friend might enjoy we have this little number. Rather than be a combo deck housed in a midrange deck this is one housed in a control deck. While it does still rely on winning with the combo in almost all cases this is not a problem in the same way as it is with speed based combo decks. Most combo decks try and win quickly and when they don't they are typically dead in the water. They often have no means of recovering bad situations. The combo control decks, of which there are a surprisingly large number, can recover games. They can play from behind and they can deal with things. You replace the conventional control win conditions like Aetherling with your combo and you have a fairly similar deck. The advantage of doing this is winning out of nowhere, you can win quickly or just before you die should your opponent let their guard down. It costs you a little in consistency but it gives you a big edge in a lot of matchups. Other examples of combos that can easily be worked into control shells are Splinter Twin and Erratic Explosion.

Demonic PactIllusions Donate was a bad cube combo. It had very little redundancy, it had useless individual cards and the combo was very slow and vulnerable. It also really struggled against people who manage to gain life as the combo didn't then win the game. All in all it was one of the weakest cube translations of a successful constructed combo deck. Fast forward a couple of decades and we have some new tools that feel like they propel the archetype into the realms of Splinter Twin quality. Harmless Offering is another Donate giving us a healthy amount of redundancy for half of our combo.

The more important new card is Demonic Pact. This works as another Illusions of Granedur except it is a far better stand alone card and a more reliable win. Donate being a weak card on its own is hugely mitigated by doubling the things it works with. Demonic Pact is actually a good control card in a lot of ways. I did a bit of experimenting with it when it first came out using it with flicker effects and in Replenish builds. The most success I had was in a pretty standard control deck with a few ways to bounce it. If you are not basically dead on the turn you pass having made Pact you will be pulling really far ahead over the next 3 turns. Having to make a 4 mana card and then wait three more whole turns before completing your combo is only something you can hope to do in a control deck. Illusions on the other hand doesn't do as much as you might think to protect you. Twenty life is nice but you have to pay upkeep for it next turn meaning your combo is either a nine mana total combo or a seven mana in one turn combo. It also doesn't kill them until they can't pay the upkeep. I have lost a number of games after Donating an Illusions away simply because they had a massive board able to attack me down from my massive life total over the few turns they had while able to afford the upkeep.

The addition of red for Offering means a three colour deck but red does help you out against cheeky players who manage to get just above 20 life. You can keep it to a light splash and you can also benefit from some nice high powered gold cards to aid you along the way. This is a Grixis control shell that uses four threat and top end slots for the four combo cards. The only other real change is a slight bent towards card draw, filtering and dig. Obviously more of such things shouldn't hinder the control plan, they should in fact help it. They will certainly help the combo element in a big way.  Any way, I am pretty sure my friend will be into this combo deck more than most as it was his idea and suggestion. He can just win with Creeping Tar Pit as his backup should that need arise!

Illusions of Grandeur24 Spells

Serum Visions
Fatal Push

Vampiric Tutor

Arncane Denial
Fire / Ice

Into the Roil
Baleful Strix
Kolaghan's CommandJace, Vryn's Prodigy / Snapcaster

Talisman of Dominance

Harmless Offering
Toxic Deluge
Kolaghan's Command

Dack Fayden / Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast

Demonic Pact
Illusions of Grandeur
Cryptic Command

Force of Will

16 Lands

DamnationThe deck is pretty standard. You stay alive, ideally you make a Pact, then you stay alive a bit longer and a bit easier. Then you Donate away the Pact when it has only the bad option left forcing your opponent to lose in their upkeep or should you fail to have found such a card, simply bounce it back to your hand and start again! There are tonnes and tonnes of options for this deck. Any removal, countermagic, draw or other control staples are easy to throw in. I would like to have some mechanism to recur my things from the bin but sadly there are not many good on theme options in these colours. Elixir of Immortality is very low value and very imprecise. This list doesn't have the mana to abuse things like Yawgmoth's Will and the various Time Twister effects are risky as well as pricey.

The Force of Will is a bit iffy in this list. Much as it is exactly what you want in control and combo decks I fear it lacks this to pitch. This list has more cards you don't want to exile than most control decks and less blue cards than most as well. This list is also a little light on big ways to refill compared to control. Short of the draw on Demonic Pact you have no cards that do much to increase your hand size. While not a big issue for the way the deck is planning to work it is more of an issue for the viability of the Force of Will. I am reluctant to cut it as free countermagic is super important if you are trying to combo off on curve with Illusions into Donate. You can't wait due to the cumulative upkeep and so you have no mana spare. Pact of Negation isn't a good option either as you are not winning on the spot. Thwart might be one of the better options! Hopefully either this or the Vizier list will appeal to my friend and let him enjoy the wonders of combo magic!

Vizier CoCo

Collected CompanyA friend of mine revealed to me that he didn't like combo decks. He likes playing good card not loads of dead and narrow stuff. Given that he is the only person to have ever build a "value" Aluren deck I should have worked it out... I love me a combo deck and feel like he is missing out. As such I have devised a more palatable kind of combo deck for him to have a go with. I do somewhat see where he is coming from, in a singleton format with lots of exile effects able to hit cards anywhere in the game a combo deck can be a bit dicey. He doesn't want to just pick up his cards because Ashiok/Gonti hit one of a couple of things in his deck.

There are numerous types of combo deck and most focus entirely on the combo (assuming it is a game winning or infinite one, otherwise it is just synergy in my books) with just a smattering of interaction and protection.  Lots of combo decks have a backup plan, either a worse version of their main combo or another different combo with some useful overlaps in the deck. For a number however the backup plan is simply being a deck and attacking with dorks. Melira Pod and all the versions and evolutions of that deck in modern is a good example of such a deck. When translated into the cube however that kind of deck (which recently did a deck tech on) has so many options and combos that you run out of space very quickly. You certainly can win on beatdowns but your dorks are mostly awkward combo ones and you have so many combo wins that your beat down backup plan is plan D or something.

Vizier of Remedies
This list cuts all bar one of the combos from the Melira Pod list making it super space efficient. It fits neatly into a Bant CoCo shell and leaves loads of room for high power stand alone cards many of which aid the combo indirectly. This list has disruption, value, high power level, good stand alone cards and a very good chance of winning by turning sideways should the combo be off the table. This deck will stand up to aggressive decks in a longer game better than most other combo decks. It will also threaten control decks conventionally and with the combo potential making it super hard to play around.

For those unfamiliar with the modern deck the idea is to get an active Devoted Druid into play alongside a Vizier of Remedies. That interaction provides infinite green mana as the Druid never kills himself in his devotion. You then use this mana to make a sufficiently lethal Walking Ballista. Duskwatch Recruiter is a good way to go and find it should you not have it. Here is my cube list for the deck;

24 Spells
Devoted Druid
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Mother of Runes

Swords to Plowshares

Vizier of Remedies
Devoted Druid
Walking Ballista
Duskwatch Recruiter

Fauna Shaman
Qasali Pridemage
Scavenging Ooze
Selfless Spirit
Walking Ballista
Coiling Oracle

Kitchen Finks
Spell Queller
Tireless Tracker
Eternal Witness

Recruiter of the Guard
Vendilion Clique
Champion of Wits
Nissa, Vastwood Seer

Reflector Mage

Collected Company

16 Lands (including Gavony Township)

Spell QuellerThere are lots of options for this deck, it turns out Bant has a wealth of tasty creatures for three or less mana. For generically high powered things you have True-Name, Courser of Kruphix, Rishkar, Thalias and so on. No shortage on options for power! The thing is this deck is restricted by the desire to play Collected Company. As such you want mostly 3CMC dorks or less giving you far less range than usual. Preordains, Remands and spot removal all sounds lovely but all decrease the value of the CoCo. It is only one card so you don't want to gimp yourself too much by pandering to it. The trick is simply to play a range of creatures that will help out with your problems. Clique is hand disruption, Spell Queller a counterspell, Reflector Mage a removal spell and so forth. This desire to have useful and diverse effects on dorks leaves less space for the generically good things. Once you have a tool box of utility and solution dorks the various ways to tutor and dig for creatures in your list gain in value.

Gavony TownshipOne of the main issues with keeping the deck as mainly cheap dorks is that it becomes quite hard to push through. You can stay in the game and even pull ahead but actually sealing the deal with these kinds of dorks is hard to do. The lands can help out loads in this area. Colonnade is a total bomb regardless of what Azorius deck you put it in. Gavony Township is equally dangerous in this deck and both are pretty free inclusions. Other man lands are fine too. Even Westvale Abbey could serve as an alternative to Gavony, or even as well as if you are happy with your ability to cast things. Less free inclusions would be something like a Venser, the Sojourner. He doesn't help the combo nor does he work with the CoCo. He is however a good value tool in a deck like this and a card very well able to break stalemates and even just win on the spot. Elspeth, Knight-Errant is a better and less narrow all round card that would do much the same sorts of things in the deck but this is the ideal Venser deck so it feels like a missed opportunity not playing him!

Duskwatch RecruiterPlenty of other good support card exist, tutors like Chord of Calling are played heavily in modern lists now. Spellskite and Sylvan Safekeeper are further protection options for your stuff. Renegade Rallier is a nice way to get back discarded or destroyed things. Fiend Hunter style cards give extra removal options for dorks. The aim of this list was keeping it streamlined and minimizing the weak cards so that it can function like a good midrange deck as well as a combo deck. All the cards I mention here go a little deep on the combo, you are starting to become narrow or sacrifice power and utility by playing too many. I considered a light splash into black for Viscera Seer and ideally also a Deathrite Shaman but this is the combo player in me pulling me away from the task at hand!

I did play Fauna Shaman and Recruiter of the Guard which are both low power level cards that are of great help in assembling the combo. You need some dedicated support in finding the combo and these two are the least painful inclusions. They work with the CoCo and your suite of rounded utility dorks and they are not the worst tempo plays.While my friend may turn his nose up at these tutoring dorks I think there is little point in running the combo if you strip out any more of the support for it. You could certainly replace either of these dorks with a Chord of Calling or an Eladamri's Call but not for something unrelated to the combo. The CoCo is plenty good enough in the list I proposed and so you can afford to weaken it slightly. Only the Swords and the Walking Ballista and the lands fail to be (usefully) found by it presently! The Nissa and the Tracker are the most easily cut from this list. Neither server any specific purpose, they are just high power level, good value cards.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Top 19 Black Targetted Discard

CoercionI always complain about how little black targetted discard there is. Turns out their is loads, quite a lot of it is good too. The issue is that there is not enough of the generally playable one mana options for one person, let alone two people in the colour, not that there are not enough total to have black fully covered for its potential needs in the discard department! I have done one of these before but it was a bit of a mess. It had all sorts of cards with all sorts of different kinds of discards ranging from Liliana of the Veil to Wheel of Fortune! As I have done more of these top X lists it has felt ever more pertinent to compare stricter categories as it is much more useful for cube design, deck construction and understanding the things that make those kinds of cards good. Trying to argue if a Hymn to Tourach is better or worse than a Vendillion Clique is hard to do and relatively pointless. Discussing the merits of Despise against Harsh Scrutiny however is more pertinent!

Discard is blacks main form of disruption. It is most akin to countermagic in that it can deal with anything, it is one of the few things than can stop instants and sorceries from happening and it suffers the drawback of being time critical. While black uses some generic discard effects to gain card advantage or punish certain strategies it is all about the targetted discard for disruption. It is one of the biggest pulls to black. It is also why black is the most common colour alongside blue in legacy and vintage where you need to have some interaction with spells and their potential to be cast so as to not get run over by broken things! Most modern or legacy black decks are over 10% one mana targetted discard cards. A turn one play of such a card will give you complete information and generally keep you safe to obnoxious things your opponent might do to you. In cube you can't really have 10% of your deck as one mana discard cards as their are not enough, the options become too weak too quickly and the good ones get hoovered up very quickly.

Inquisition of Kozilek
Discard is pretty simple to assess in terms of potency. You are really only looking at cost and range of targets. One mana cards can have a much lower range of hits than a two mana discard spell and still be a better card. The three mana plus discard spells have to come covered in bells and whistles to even get a look in. Another strong comparison to countermagic! The one big difference between the two is scaling. Countermagic stays good, it arguably gets better if it is the hard kind. Targetted discard gets worse. As such you get loads more value from discard cards with alternate uses than you do with countermagic. The cycling on Miscalculation does not make it better than Mana Leak on average. Just having your card do what you want it to do better is the most important thing. Consider Inquisition of Kozilek and a card that was basically the same but had cycling and could only take cards that had CMC two or less. Such a hypothetical card would probably be better in cube than the mighty Inquisition as it wouldn't have any scaling issues.

Mire's Toll19. Mire's Toll

This is bad. It is bad because it scales the wrong way. It gets better as targetted discard gets worse. In the late game this will be better than a one mana Coercion (as you can hit lands) but that isn't going to be much help against a lot of decks. This would be an OK sideboard tool against counterspell decks if it was not for the fact there are already enough of those for this to have never been needed even in singleton cube. I still strongly suspect I would play this over actual Coercion however. One mana is not a significant tempo cost which is important when investing in something that has no effect on the board. On turn one this is useless and that is really when you want to hit targetted discard against most lists. You might as well play Raven's Crime over this if you want a turn one play.

Blackmail18. Blackmail

This is the locked version of Mire's Toll. It is better upto the point where you would have three swamps in play and worse past four. Turns out that is a huge improvement. Lots of decks don't get much past three swamps, nor all that quickly. Lots of other decks rapidly empty their hands. This will typically hit most of players hand in the midgame. If you were on the draw against a player who made three one drops you would have full range on your turn two. The range on Blackmail is surprisingly good. It often has more targets than a turn one Duress or Despise, sometimes even Inquisition. The issue is not so much with the range when used as a turn one play but the fact that you don't get complete information. That and you get the worse half of the cards to discard. I would rather chose from two random cards than three chosen cards on turn one. Odds are you are going to get something more damaging from the randoms even with less information. Sneaky opponents can mislead you with what they show in a Blackmail. While this is a good card design attribute it doesn't help the power level. Blackmail does scale well with other discard more so than most and as such I have played it in Rack themed black decks before which want a heavy number of discard cards.

Despise17. Despise

I felt this should have performed better than it did. Most decks have targets for it and the range is fairly wide. It wasn't terrible but it just didn't do what you wanted it to. Creatures don't get held as much as spells. If they already have a dork in play taking away another is fine but it isn't good. You would be better off with spot removal. While planeswalkers are a nice addition on top of the original Ostracize it turns out not to be too much of a help. The average planeswalkers per deck is not much higher than one, if even that. On turn one you are rarely wanting to take away the walker either, you want to take away the curve play. The adding of planeswalkers to the target range helps a little against creature decks but it doesn't help enough against the creature light decks. Ostracize was always either OK or terrible and Despise has a slightly improved all round range but not enough to make it generally playable. Fundamentally you are still just better off in terms of tempo and consistency if you run spot removal instead.

Distress16. Distress

Two is the fair price for this effect, three is just bad and one is super strong. This card would be a whole lot more interesting at 1B, as it stands it is just a bit too fair for a card as narrow as the cost makes it. Only a heavy black deck can really run this and a heavy black deck has more appealing alternatives on offer like Hymn to Tourach.

15. Distended Mindbender

Super powerful but sadly super inconsistent. For those few times this comes out on the cheap saccing off something that has served its purpose like a Wood Elves and then going on to hit two things in their hand then it is pretty game ending. Mostly however this clogs up your hand in the early game and is too hard to cast before the cast trigger ceases to get good value. That isn't even the floor of this demanding card!

Lay Bare the HeartDistended Mindbender

14. Lay Bare the Heart

This was set to be the best two drop Distress for cube until they changed up the planeswalker legend rules. Now this misses far too many things. My cube has 43 legendary cards prior to the changes which is an impressively high 8%. I have 28 planesalkers which will take the number of things this misses up to 13% or so. That is a little too much for a targetted discard card at two mana. With just the 8% miss rate it would have been OK. Not too many of those cards were critical things to deal with, only really Jitte is super savage that you can't take it. A number of the bigger legends are puerly cheat in cards and putting them in the bin is helpful rather than disruptive! At 13% and with a lot of potent game ending cards in that group this is just too poor now.

Mardu Charm13. Mardu Charm

While a three mana Duress looks pretty bad when you put it on an instant that has other potent modes of use ensuring it is never dead then you have a surprisingly strong card. This card is a lovely disruption tool that is good in every matchup. A three mana one for one targetted discard spell does need alternate modes to carry it but it turns out that you have a pretty good card when that is the case. It is the colour requirement that really holds this back in cube. Not only is it narrow and hard to cast it is also in colours that are not commonly seen together.


12. Addle

Not far off Distress at 1B but enough that it isn't quite potent enough for cube use. It is pretty hard to miss with this, you know what you want to hit and what colours they are, often even what is the main colour and which the splash. Despite these things it is still lame when you see something you didn't expect to see and want to take it but can't. Or even more gutting, simply not being able to take than Ugin... So while Addle rarely misses it still doesn't hit the most relevant target as often as you need for a two mana card of this nature to be a big deal.

Transgress the Mind11. Transgress the Mind

Now this Distress attempt comes with a perk and a downside making it that little trickier to evaluate. The perk is the exile and the downside is that it doesn't hit cheap things. Cheap things make up most of the cube. This card cannot hit 65% of the things in my cube. While many of those are not so important late game they are still things you want to take on curve. If you are on the play you cannot take away a two drop with this and that is a problem. Also, most of the reactive cards are cheap, removal and countermagic are common targets for these kinds of cards and this misses far too many of those. While exile is lovely and very scary to play against this card is too ineffective at doing what you mainly want it to do. A potentially terrifying sideboard card but not something I ever want to run maindeck blind.

Mesmeric Fiend10. Mesmeric Fiend / Brain Maggot

These are the kind of Oblivion Rings of hand disruption. At their best they a Coercions at a 1 mana discount plus a free 1/1. At their worst they eat a ping and cost you tempo and often value too. The reason to play these cards is creature synergy. If creatures are that much more valuable than spells in your list then these are pretty good options. Maggot even has the enchantment tag for even broader synergy support. Even decks with removal struggle against these cards. They will force certain bad plays. Lets say I see your hand of Arc Trail and Vindicate, I will obviously take the Arc Trail and you will then be forced into Vindicating the 1/1 at a tempo loss if you want your Arc Trail. You might need the Vindicate for something else and so you will simply have to wait and hope to get it back some other way. Many cards are time critical in magic and so taking a card away for a few turns over its window of premium utility is nearly as good as getting rid of it. Ramp cards and other discard effects are prime examples of things that scale down and lose loads of value when sat under a Maggot or Fiend.

9.   Unmask

A fantastic card that was a staple back in the day in both cube and other formats. Before we had Thoughtsieze or Inquisition and back when heavy black decks were still tier one. Back when combo was a far bigger deal and back when Necropotence was a big name. When we had all those things this was kind of the black Force of Will. Deal with a thing for no mana but two cards. These days most decks don't have enough black cards to be able to comfortably pitch to this nor do they have enough reliable card draw to easily stomach the two for one. In constructed decks this is still a great and useful option but in the drafting cube I found it has become to narrow.

Cabal Therapy

8.   Cabal Therapy

One of my favourite cards of all time and something I have happily run in singleton drafting cubes where it is about as weak as it can be. There is little more satisfying than hitting with Therapy in the early turns of game one as good as blind. Getting a two or three for one blind in constructed with it perhaps! Therapy has great synergy with other discard as they give up the required information. It also works great with things like Gitaxian Probe. Most of where you see it getting used in cube these days is in combo decks where a sacrifice outlet is required or there are loads of graveyard synergies going on. A doubly great card in that it is good at doing what it was designed to do while also doing a load of other useful things.

Harsh Scrutiny
7.   Harsh Scrutiny

Unlike Despise this card wildly out performed expectation. It turns out that a look at their hand and a scry is all really good, especially on turn one. It is not the end of the world when you miss and it is still great when you hit a low value card. Just getting that much information and setup that early on a card neutral spell is fantastic. It is like Peek and Opt rolled into one. This card is much more about being quite consistently card neutral while yielding info and choices, it is not about disruption in the way most other targetted discard is. Sure, it will sometimes disrupt synergies or curving or value but that is not why you are playing it. It happens now and again and is a big perk but you don't need it for the card to be good. This is certainly more Opt than it is Force Spike and should be played in a less disruptive capacity. Great filler, great one drop, so so disruption.

Doomfall6.   Doomfall

This was another surprise performer. It has some major things helping it along. It is an edict or a Coercion for starters. Much like Mardu Charm this carries it a long way. The edict aspect is certainly worse than the other two modes on the Charm combined, often just worse than four damage alone, and it is sorcery. On the other hand the discard effect has a wider range and critically both halves exile. That exile aspect is really what pushes this from OK to good. Unlike Transgress the Mind this will hit any card it needs to making this far scarier to play against as anyone with key cards in their deck and far better against answer decks in a longer game. The exile also hurts a lot on the edict, it makes that Kitchen Finks no longer the obvious choice. While this is far too slow all round to be much good against quick decks on its own it still complements other cards very nicely. Deluge their weenies away and then edict the big threat they follow up with for example. While only OK against aggro decks the card has proven incredibly good against midrange, control and combo decks too.

Kitesail Freebooter5.   Kitesail Freebooter

This new addition has not had too much testing yet but early indications suggest it is a big winner. The lower range than Fiend or Maggot doesn't stop it being good disruption and info while the flying and 2 toughness make it a far more relevant body. This is just a nice rounded little card that does a lot of work at all stages of the game. The 1/1 bodies need creature synergies to make them playable, this has enough gas to be worth playing as a stand alone. It does most of what a Fiend/Maggot does with their EtB effects and then it is better at staying in play, far better at blocking, enables raid, controls planeswalkers and is generally a pain in the arse!

Duress4.   Duress

This card has gotten better and better over the last decade or so. Removal is more important for most decks as is threat diversity. Both of these things lead to far more non-creature cards being played in most archetypes. Green ramp decks now have Karn, Ugin, Sky Sovereign, Garruks and Nissas as well as card quality non-creatures at the low end. Against the creature heavy decks you typically want to be hitting the non-creature cards. While they may be fewer in number there are still usually enough to mean Duress rarely misses. They are more commonly held back or top end cards further helping Duress hit them. Duress has always been a premium anti control and anti combo card. Now it is also a fine tool against aggro and midrange decks so much that you are pretty happy running it main in most cases.

Collective Brutality3.   Collective Brutality

One card that has hurt Duress a little in recent years is this gem. They have a bit of an overlap in range and as such running both maindeck against a blind meta is can be a little too much. This is the card Doomfall wishes it was! Despite this being generally weaker removal and categorically weaker discard Brutality more than makes up for this with its own perks. You have the extra drain mode to increase the utility, you can do multiple modes at once, you can enable your own graveyard synergies, and most importantly Brutality is only two mana. This card gets it done. It is pseudo card quality, it is good in every matchup and it is comparably good in the early game to the late game. For actual discard this card is one of the weaker effects on the list but the combined package is so potent and versatile you just don't care. This is one of those cards I find I am happy running in any black deck, it feels more playable than Fire / Ice!

Thoughtseize2.   Inquisition of Kozilek

No real shock as to the top two on this list. Inquisition is actually closer in power to Thoughtsieze in cube than it is in modern or legacy. In cube life totals are more generally relevant (as in most matchups do make two life a cost, even if small) while in constructed there are far more matchups where it simply doesn't matter at all. Indeed Death's Shadow makes it a perk to nug yourself for 2 in those constructed formats! Also there are many more cards like Force of Will and Gurmag Angler and the like in the constructed formats which further empowers Thoughtsieze. Inquisition hits 3/4 of the non-land cards in my cube. More importantly it hits basically every relevant card you could play in the first two turns. If you take their only two drop play for one mana, one card and no life cost you have actually gained tempo! Inquisition hits basically all the spot removal spells and most of the counterspells. It might miss Force of Will but it is super hard, even impossible, to Force of Will something after being Inquisitioned. Inquisition is a cheap, clean and reliable disruption tool. It is the best discard tool against the aggressive decks and top three against all others.

1.   Thoughtseize

Still the big number one. It is just the reliability you desire. This will disrupt all strategies and it will do so from turn one. Opening with this card makes you feel super safe. You take away the scary thing, the thing you ultimately can't beat or their only early game. It is super hard to miss with this and most of the hits are brutal. Assuming you don't misplay this will take their best spell. You can win games basically with just this card if your opponent has a shaky keep. Arguably blacks best card ever and certainly the most widely played.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Ug Fish (Merfolk)

Kopala, Warden of WavesI always like to try and build as many new cards into cube decks as possible after a release. Ixalan has mostly had filler cards in terms of the stuff I added into the main cube. While Seeker's Squire is great it is hardly a card you can build around! Typically the more interesting cards are those which don't make it into a drafting cube. The most obvious archetype in cube that I could see changing as a result of Ixalan cards is merfolk. Not only did the fish get some cute new tools, their own Kira and a token generator, but they also got the potential for a new colour!

Green was the only support colour that you didn't really look at for your merfolk deck. The other three all offered minor perks, the odd fish and some juicy removal. Green had least fish and no useful removal to offer. Now with Ixalan green now offers some very appealing merfolk. Some good value and tempo cheaper fish and critically the first good tempo one drop merfolk ever! While getting a single one drop may not sound like it would make that much difference to a deck when it is a tribal deck like this it really can. One of the biggest weakness of the fish is how few decent one drops and disposable two drops it has on offer. Splashing for one drops is normally a weak plan but given what the fish deck most needs it might well be worth it.

Kumena's SpeakerThere are some issues with splashing green beyond those of consistency. It will also depower devotion cards and things that work with Island count such as Vedalken Shackles. It makes cards like Force of Will harder to pitch to. I have often used Grand Architect as another Lord in fish builds and he also gets less powerful as you include non-blue dorks. All in all Kumena's Speaker is going to have to do a lot of work to justify it with all the compromises you have to make to house it. One drops are the workhorses of decks and so it really could happen.

Adding green gives another psuedo Silvergil Adept in the form of Merfolk Branchwalker. It might only draw you a card a third of the time but it is a good value and tempo creature that once played is very disposable. Leading with a Lord is vulnerable to removal, leading with a dork like Branchwalker or Adept on turn two puts you in a great position. Cheap value merfolk are what you need for tribal empowering cards to shine. While not as big of a pull to green as Kumena's Speaker the Branchwalker is none the less a significant pull to green and far easier to house in the base blue build.

River SneakIxalan also brings a pile of evasion dorks to the table in the form of River Sneak and Shaper Apprentice. These empower raid style cards and the Lords and can combine with older cards like Gaea's Skyfolk and Triton Shorestalker to afford a bit of a theme and a good deal of reach. This deck is very good at getting past blockers. While I haven't gone extreme on exploiting that you can easily do so with Edric or Bident of Thassa if you wish.

Kopala is a nice upgrade on Kiora even though functionally the card is weaker in many cases. The extra synergies from Kopala make up for that power difference with ease. The last of the new fish tools is the big one - Deeproot Waters. This card is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand it is exactly what you want as a fish deck to get the most out of your Lords and to give you a healthy ongoing supply of disposable bodies. On the other hand it is a three mana investment that does nothing on its own. Fish decks typically fall behind on turns one and two and then start to pull back as they amass lords and mana. Getting the Waters out may just set you back too much at a critical stage. If you hold off and make it a couple of turns down the line you will have missed out on a couple of free merfolk and greatly reduce the cards overall value. It is also a little awkward in that it has bad synergy with one of merfolks greatest assets - the Aether Vial. A turn one Vial would solve all your early tempo issues and allow you to pull off some extreme swings in turns 3 and 4. Using Vial on your dorks means you miss the trigger on Deeproot Waters. You probably could get away with running both as Vial is so good on turn one and fairly useless later in the game, especially if you have some of the filtering tools I have added into this list.

Deeproot WatersAll in all merfolk got a lot of new tools to play with in Ixalan and while they offer a lot to the archetype none of them come without some cost. It is not just a case of inserting these new cards into the archetype as direct upgrades to older cards as is what usually happens when affinity, elves or goblins get a new toy. To use these new fish you will have to reconsider how you go about making your deck. Fish having several ways of building it in the first place makes this even more variable! Goblins has loads of builds but it is a fairly solved archetype in cube terms and so a new goblin will be pretty obvious if and where it fits. Fish decks have build options but being more of a tier two deck it is far less solved in the cube. New cards mean new potentials all over the place. At least Kopala is no fuss to add, she even makes it easier to play with equipment! The rest of our new toys however greatly complicate things!

Given how many of the more exotic and powerful non-merfolk cards seemed to have some lame interactions with the newer offerings I made this deck a very pure list. Rather than rely on Jitte or Shackles this list is very direct. It is one of the highest actual merfolk count fish deck I have done in cube. It doesn't bother much with removal or countermagic, the aim is simply to amass fish and kill them. It is probably most alike to a white weenie deck running mostly fliers like Suntail Hawk! This list has a bit more interaction and trickery up its sleeve than most white decks and it also has a bunch of value tools as well. This list will goldfish pretty well but may struggle a bit more in practice.

Merfolk Branchwalker25 Spells

Chrome Mox

Aquitect's Will
Triton Shorestalker
Kumena's Speaker

Noble Hierarch

Shaper Apprentice
Gaea's Skyfolk
Silvergil Adept
Merfolk Branchwalker

Master of Pearl Trident
Kiora's FollowerLord of Atlantis
Coralhelm Commander
Harbinger of Tides

River Sneak
Kiora's Follower
Chart a Course

Kopala, Warden of Waves
Deeproot Waters
Merrow Reejery
Merfolk Sovereign

True-Name Nemesis
Jace, Cunning Castaway

Master of Waves

15 Lands

Tropical Island
Breeding Pool
Misty Rainforest

Botanical Sanctum
Yavimaya Coast

Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta
5 Islands

Bident of ThassaThere is quite a lot of room to alter this list. Jace and Chart a course are nice value cards but I mostly put them in as they are new. Bident or Edric may well simply be better ways to get value in this highly evasive and creature heavy deck. There are plenty of merfolk you can shave as well if you wanted a higher individual card power level and more interaction at some cost to the power of your synergies. The evasive two drops are all OK but they are not powerful or exciting, just on theme and suitable. Green potentially gives you so many playable two drops that you really don't need them all! I am not used to having more cheap merfolk than I need and defaulted to playing everything and a little bit more!

Hierarch seems like a reasonable fit in the deck as the only non-fish. If I am splashing one drop green merfolk I can get away with ramp dorks as well. It is my Aethervial replacement in some ways. I don't think you want to go overboard on the one drop ramp however as it doesn't work amazingly with your curve. Mox is a far better ramp card as you want to skip the one drop rather than the two drops. There are only a couple of three drop cards you want to lead with compared to loads at two. If more decent one drop merfolk saw print I would replace green ramp with them for sure.

OppositionOpposition has always been a way to go with fish decks in cube. Part of the reason for doing so was that it was a good way to disrupt and interact with creatures as a mono blue deck. Typically the Ux fish decks just used spot removal instead. The issue with Opposition in earlier fish decks is that they had relatively low creature counts and relied on keeping some in play. When you are powering up your Opposition with cards like Wall of Omens and Eternal Witness you are pulling ahead if they are controlling your dorks. If you are going to use Lord of Atlantis to empower your Opposition you are in way more trouble when they kill it. Anyway, with this build being so creature heavy and having a token generator and still having the problems of the mono blue builds and their lack of creature removal the Opposition seemed like a great fit.

Jitte would probably be fantastic in this list as a better or additional way of controlling creatures. Hexproof or equivalent dorks go fantastically with Jitte as do evasion dorks. Kopala also helping out a lot. Kopala's ability helps your equipment avoid tempo blowouts which is obviously good. As Kopala takes the slot of Kira, Great Glass Spinner it is an even bigger jump in power as Kira had negative synergy with equips. Not only would it need double the mana to get something equipped it also gave your opponents a window to get in removal past Kira. The only reason I didn't run the Jitte in this list is that I knwo how good the card is and what it does. I want to see hoe the deck performs without that crutch. While the same is somewhat true of Opposition in that I know how it works I can at least more easily compare how it works in this list compared to older versions of fish I have tried. Opposition is a card that is much more build dependent than Jitte.

Beyond the cards covered this list includes all the merfolk classics and auto includes. All the lords, or all the good ones at least. All the actually powerful merfolk at 3 and 4 mana and all the playable ones at 1 and 2 mana. Aquitecht's Will I guess doesn't fall into any of these categories and has pretty much become a staple. It does a lot for a cheap cycler that empowers island walk, adds to devotion and now also triggers Deeproot Waters! I look forward to seeing how merfolk decks evolve and put the new tools to work.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

UW Treasure Control

Spell SwindleClassic style control decks have gotten a lot of tools recently to help them compete better in cube. This deck showcases some cool new Ixalan cards as well as some other things that greatly help this kind of deck. So what are the problems facing the classic permission style control deck in the current cube meta? It could be summarized broadly by saying it was stretched too thin and made too vulnerable. Threats offer more tempo (or more threat I guess) while being either more resilient or also coming with some extra value. Mass removal, spot removal and countermagic has not improved much over the last 15 years of magic, it has gotten a bit deeper, a bit more redundant and a bit more exotic but it has had nothing on the power creep of threats. Trying to control everything in cube as a blue white player has felt like juggling where each new set adds an extra ball (or whatever one chooses to juggle with, fruit?) into the mix.

With threats generally being better than answers it is a bad idea to try and react to things. The proactive strategies do better in magic now adays. Using your mana to be proactive greatly reduces the value of countermagic. For a good while tap out control decks using little to no countermagic were the only really competitive control decks. Several things have come together to ease this particular issue for the classic permission control deck. One is a healthy number of top quality threats that can be played at instant speed thus synergizing well with countermagic. Another is a couple of cheaper cards that can be sufficiently threatening despite such a low mana cost, either it is a gradual feed of mana that empowers the card or a period of time or some other stipulation like graveyard size. Ashiok is perhaps the best example of such a card although it is not in the classic colours. The last is access to burst mana that comes in a controlling guise. All these various things allow control decks to still rely on countermagic for a chunk of things while giving themselves the ability to be more proactive. Here is a list showcasing some of these tools. It is an amalgam of a deck I played and one a friend played against me but I think it takes the best aspects of both.

Search for Azcanta23 Spells

Swords to Plowshares
Thraben Inspector

Wall of Omens
Treasure Map
Cyclonic Rift
Search for Azcanta

Arcane Denial
Mana Leak
Baral, Chief of Compliance

Commit // MemoryNimble Obstructionist
Gideon of the Trails

Supreme Verdict
Settle the Wreckage
Commit // Memory
Restoration Angel

Spell Swindle
Fractured Identity
Mystic Confluence
Archangel Avacyn

Torrential Gearhulk

Ugin, the Sprit Dragon

17 Lands (including Field of Ruin)

Nimble ObstructionistSo lets take a look at some of the cards and what situations or problems they handle well. In this list I ran Nimble Obstructionist which is a nice all round utility card. It gives you a much bigger safety net against cards like Emrakul, the Promised End as you actually have a tool to stop them stealing your turn. Disallow can also help in this sphere but it is a much weaker card all round than the birdy. Obstructionist can be a surprise 3 damage to an attacker which is OK, most usefully however it can come down EoT and do a lot of work against planeswalkers in the early game. Planeswalkers have been a huge part of the problem for control decks as they struggle to deal with them due to lack of board presence and quality hard removal. Killing planeswalkers with removal is never good value so you really want to counter them or attack them where possible. Obstructionist is a card that doesn't weaken any aspect of your deck while at the same time making it more robust.

A good way to look at the permission deck is like a net trying to catch things. Playing against diverse threats means you need a bigger net however for the most part making a bigger net is akin to stretching the net you have which makes the gaps wider! This in turn means things will start to fall through the net. You had to choose weather you wanted a fine mesh that let nothing through but with a low area coverage or a deck that was full of big holes but that could potentially cover all areas. Obstructionist and several other new cards have enabled the control player to extend their net without having to increase their hole size!

Torrential GearhulkNext up we have a pair of cards that have combined to greatly help out in multiple ways again. Torrention Gearhulk and Commit // Memory do a tonne of work. While it may seem a bit over the top I have found most heavy permission decks really want a way to reuse their decks. A lot of games go long, many cards are drawn and milling yourself is a possibility. Further to that you may really need to reuse certain cards before the game is done. I have used a lot of Elixir of Immortality in UW control. I have splashed green for Primal Command and Bow of Nylea style things. I have even run Mistveil Plains all to give me that reshuffle. The issue is that all these cards and plans are not great outside of the reshuffle which comes late. Seeing such cards early hurts you. They are a dead card or at least a very low powered one for much of the game and many matchups. Memory is free, it comes on the back of Commit which is a very nicely playable and rounded card. Now, you don't often play Timetwister in control decks because paying mana to give your opponents a load of cards is pretty dodgy. Having the option free on the back of something is still nice and is still a lot better than milling yourself but it is only a mild help. What pushes it through the roof is the ability to fire it off at instant speed on the back of a Gearhulk. This way you get first go on the new cards with all your mana up and you have a massive dork in play to give you a leg up on the tempo side of things.

Archangel AvacynGearhulk itself is an all round win in control. It is arguably better than Snapcaster in the control builds even discounting the synergy with Memory. Snapcaster is never more tempo than playing the spell you give flashback to and using two mana to do something else than a 2/1. Snapcaster is value and utility and that is what makes it so good. It isn't bad tempo but it can be better. Gearhulk on the other hand gets more and more impressive in terms of tempo the bigger the card you recur. Past a couple of mana on your recurred spell and you are getting a huge swing. Further to that a 5/6 is pretty relevant while a 2/1 not so much. Gearhulk gives you everything! Tempo, value, utility, and a flash threat.

Spell Swindle is an interesting one. It works nicely with Gearhulk being a big instant but it isn't like Memory in that it isn't good enough with Gearhulk to make them any sort of combo you specifically want together. Spell Swindle gets it work done all by itself in a couple of ways. It allows you to have a big burst turn and stabilize. Mana at a given time is a big deal for control. Having access to an inflated ammount for a specific turn makes a huge difference. If you can slap down a threat or mass removal and still have mana up for disruption then game on. Another way the card helps is by being really awkward to play into. If you are facing five untapped mana of which two is blue you are a whole lot less keen to cast a big thing. Spell Swindle by itself doesn't do huge amounts to disrupt how your opponent can play however when you combine it with a multitude of other 4 and 5 mana high impact instant or flash cards it gets really uncomfortable. Trying to play around several fairly blowout big cards just leaves a lot of players without any good safe lines of play. A five mana counterspell seems horrible but a Gilded Lotus with flash on the other hand sounds amazing, try thinking of this doing the job of the latter rather than just being the former. This is a big card that enables other big cards rather than taking up the slot of a big card.

Settle the WreckageSettle the Wreckage has been another very useful tool. While the card is a lot less like a Wrath than I had hoped it is still a fantastic card for control. Careless players will simply run into it and it will be like a good Wrath. Others will play around it and as such will be greatly slowed down by it. Sure, you won't gain as much actual card advantage nor such a huge tempo swing in one go but you will get a lot of out just having the card in your deck. Generally they still need to offer you up a couple of threats to bait it out and you still come out ahead, just not as ahead as you would be to the careless player. It is most like Wing Shards but a little better so far even with the extra cost. It deals with all the same problem cards, monstrous Fleecemane Lions, manlands, vehicles, haste dorks and so forth but it also exiles them too which is nice and it will go as wide as your opponents attack regardless of storm count. Settle very much falls into the group of cards that mean your opponents lines of play become increasingly risky as you get to 4 or more mana.

Gideon of the TrialsGideon of the Trials is decent in control builds. He allows you to develop a bit of a board and he has great synergy with Wrath effects. You can slap him down and buy loads of time fogging their threats and force them to over extend into a wrath. If they diversify and flop down a planeswalker you can use removal on their dorks and use Gideon to beat down on their walker. Gideon is very unlikely to win you games but he does a good job of being like both a Wall of Omens and a Celestial Colonnade at the same time. He also provides a niche form of protection against some obscure combo decks.

Treasure Map and Search for Azcanta are some of the less obvious newer additions. Both are somewhat similar in that they are low impact cheap cards with a mild tempo cost that are able to generate a lot of value in a lot of areas over time. The cards have the feel of Sylvan Library or Divining Top combined with Ancestral Visions! Beyond that they start to differ more in how and where they are good. Azcana is lower impact but it is also less onerous of an inclusion cost. The big swing cards available now make two mana do nothings far more playable in control. Further to this the comfort of a graveyard reshuffle makes looting much more appealing in control. Azcanta drip feeds you card quality and potentially graveyard fuel for as long as you want it. Then it is a land that gives you a bit of extra burst mana in the mid to late game and finally some extra gas and mana sink utility. It helps a little bit at every stage of the game. For the low low cost of 2 mana and 1 card you will end up with a whole lot more far enough down the line. Four scry, five mana and a couple of cards isn't even that impressive of a showing for the card. It is like a safe mini planeswalker!

Treasure MapThe Map is a bit more costly but the payoff is a bit more swingy. You need to invest five mana and three turns in it to flip it and all you get in return for this is three scrys for one. The mana split helps but if you are trying to flip it quickly it isn't a negligible cost by any means. When you do flip it however you get a whole lot of power and options. Ideally you flip at their EoT so you get to untap with four extra mana or the extra draw with potentially two more mana. You can flip right away if you are desperate but that only generates 1 mana there and then and uses all your treasure. Flipping this EoT usually means winning, either a boat load of cards or mana as the situation commands will tend to get the job done.

Field of Ruin is another relatively fair card like Nimble Obstructionist that does a lot for this archetype. Short of playing Waste Lands the UW conrtol player is pretty cold to utility lands. Trying to beat a Kessig Wolf Run is a nightmare. Field of Ruin is a far better control fit than any other land control option and costs very little to add into a list. The top of library control it gives is not at all to be sniffed at either. Very useful card all round and likely one of the main go to colourless lands for control decks going forwards. The synergy this had with Out and Commit (and Unexpectedly Absent) was noticeable and relevant as was the synergy with Settle the Wreckage and thus presumably Path to Exile. Lots of decks simply run out of basics in my cube and so the more cards you have than will compensate your opponents with lands the less they collectively end up giving away.

Fractured IdentityLastly we have Fractured Identity. Pretty silly card that is terrifying to play into. What it does that no other card does is remove a planeswalker favourably. You both get at least one activation of the planeswalker and you both use one card. You however have an active walker and they don't. You might even be up a little bit of mana on them although you are still very happy with a one mana deficit when you have a four mana walker fighting for you. This card allows you to fall behind a bit enjoying luxuries like Treasure Map. It lets you make plays you otherwise might not because you really had to counter any planeswalker that might get made against you. It lets you be more flexible in how you use your other premium coverall removal such as Council's Judgement. It is exactly in the same group of cards that can wreck you and needs respecting.

Although I claimed this list was an amalgam of two decks I cut the Aetherling from it despite it being in both decks. Aetherling has been the most reliable control win condition for as long as it has been a thing. While it does a great job of ending a game it is a super hard card to play. You really want 8 mana and a Force of Will in hand or like 10 mana and a counterspell, that is when you feel safe dropping it down. In this list however it was a far far more rapid threat and felt more like Entreat the Angels in its threat level. The difference between this list and older builds are the Ixalan additions. The treasure generators and the things that flip into lands give you access to those 8-10 mana turns you need to get your Aetherling into play safely and they do so on or close to the turn six mark. While six mana is often a turn six thing for control decks 8-10 mana is very rarely a turn 8-10 thing. Past the six mana mark you start to frequently miss land drops resulting in an incredibly slow and clunky win condition. One you have the Aetherling in play you only need a couple of mana to have it remain nice and safe meaning treasure is a pretty good route to getting it out in a more relevant time frame.

As you can see, this list has a selection of terrifying things. You could be well up on the board againt it and have loads of gas in hand but facing into six untapped mana and a couple of cards in hand from this list and the wrong move will kill you. Your big walker might get Swindled or Fractured, your team might get Wrathed or Wrecked, you might run into an indestructible Archangel or a mere 5/6! There are no safe paths to tread. Blue white control decks finally feel like they have caught up to the various kinds of threats thrown at it. They have enough depth and range in their threats and answers that you can draft the archetype with reasonable confidence and have it be very competitive.