Tuesday, 7 February 2017

UW Control Archetype Breakdown

So far with these archetype analysis articles I have looked at primarily mono coloured and/or aggressive archetypes that are direct and have a typically linear game plan. These kinds of decks are pretty easy to do as they are so redundant and proactive that the best cards are well known. For a control deck that is two colours the number of options on cards and ways to build the deck are vastly greater than with the aggro decks. I tried to cover as much as possible in regards to the various options for the aggressive decks. For this I intend to be much more selective and only talk about the more common and better cards.

With control you are able to mold your deck a lot more than with aggressive decks. There are more options on alternate ways to do things. You can vary your ratios of stuff much more than with most archetypes and provided you know what and why you are doing it it will all be fine. Very roughly I want about 17/40 lands. I want about 10% countermagic although less is better than more. I want my average CMC to be about 1.6-1.75 although anywhere in the 1.5 to 2.0 range is easily manageable. I want a couple of proper threats however this is very dependent on how heavy and reliable they are. Overall I probably want a total of 20 or so CMC of threats, any card which is part threat and something else probably only contributes half its CMC to this total. It is easier to reflect what proportion of my deck I want as threats in total CMC rather than as a % makeup of the deck in card numbers as you will struggle to get the job done with only 10% threats in your deck if they are all 3 and 4 drops however if they are all Aetherling levels of threat then your deck will be far too weighty. The rest of the deck wants to be removal and value. I like a couple of card draw effects, at least the same again in cycling things and ideally a bit of card quality into the mix. The removal is one of the more flexible aspects of the deck. You can replace it with either more threats or more countermagic if you wish. To an extent you can replace anything in the deck with more cycling and cheap draw effects. It is much harder to say with control exactly what you want as everything is so dependent on the other cards you play. You expect to see most of your deck each time you win and so changing just a single card will have a much larger impact on a control list than it will for the aggressive decks which expect to see under half their deck whenever they win.

There are two good ways to deal with a deck that is on the high end of average CMC. Either you can play much more card quality and filter effects or you can play some ramp. You can also do a bit of both which works out well too. If you don't get much cheap cycle, draw and card quality then 17 lands is going to be dodgy unless you have a very low average CMC deck. Control decks thrive on being able to lay lands every turn and will often roll over and die if they miss one of their first four or so lands. If you are forced into playing 18 or 19 lands then be sure to pack a lot of heavy cards that have a big impact. A higher threat count and more blowout removal effects are called for so as to ensure you can compete even when you are on the flooded side.

Wrath of GodUW control is the classic control build. It is far better against creatures of all sizes than other Ux control builds and far better against the super aggressive strategies as well. Where UW struggles a bit more is against other control decks, in particular planeswalkers. Short of countering them UW has pretty inefficient ways to deal with walkers. The best possible UB control deck likely has better matchups across the meta than the best UW control deck but the average UW control deck is a lot stronger than the average UB one. UW has more redundancy in the tools it wants than UB. Ubw is a common control build as well, as is UWr but for the sake of not actually writing a book on the subject I will be saying little about those.

Control in general is one of the weaker viable archetypes in my drafting cube. Threats are so good these days that being the reactive player is super tough. Threats are cheaper, more powerful, offer more value, utility and late game. They come in all forms and require a super diverse removal package to cope with them. I have found that I have much more success in cube with my "control" decks when I move away from what one classically thinks of and build more like a midrange deck or a ramp deck. The best way to deal with threats that are too good to answer is just to make your own better ones. These more tap out style of control decks do away with some countermagic, removal and draw to play more threats. I have seen this kinds of decks doing well with no countermagic or no mass removal at all.

Ancestral VisionOne of the misleading things about control is how many cards that you can play in it that have a really high rating. There are loads and loads of bombs you can play, loads of incredibly powerful stuff. Blue players in rotisserie events, even unpowered ones, look like they are still making fist picks when they are nearing double figures of picks. The hard part with control is not getting good cards, the hard part is getting the right mix of good cards so that they function together well. Choosing which of the super high power cards you are going to cut for the seemingly average two drop that the deck needs. A 40 card cube control deck won't have the space to include all the bombs you see, try and focus on a few bombs and then picking cards that will support those bombs and allow you to win with them.

Control decks beat aggro decks with cheap defensive cards, developing the board a little and lifegain. Control decks beat the midrange  decks with huge tempo swings and more potent and effective top end. Control decks beat combo decks with well placed disruption. Lastly control decks beat other control decks through more efficient use of mana and a better allocation of answers to things. A good control deck should be able to do all these things. It means playing a spread of stuff, not too much of any one thing. Don't go over board on countermagic or card draw. Ensure you play some card quality so that you can feel like you have more of the specific things you need each game and less of those you don't!


Force of WillForce of Will 10

Lets just start with the best shall we. This is the control card. Not only is this the ultimate safety card but is also blues best tempo tool short of a Time Walk or lucky Mana Drain. When you have Force of Will you can afford to do things, take minor risks and actually start to get ahead much earlier than you otherwise could without ever even having to use your Force. You can just tap out, play something busted and know you or it won't immediately die as a result of having tapped out. This is the card that most often sends me down the control path in a draft. It is the card that makes me want to have blue as my main colour so I always have plenty of things to pitch for it.

Counterspell 8

Nice and safe and cheap and solid. Double blue can be a little awkward for early use and land drops but it is well worth it for such a reliable card with such good scaling and no real drawbacks. There is some redundancy for this effect and so it is not a super urgent pick but it is very much a backbone card of the deck and one of the best options in that role.

Arcane DenialMana Drain 10

You only find this in powered cubes these days and sensibly so. This card was oppressively good with mana burn, without the potential downside this card is a no brainer. Play this if you can, counter anything that costs 3 or mana mana as soon as you can and then flop out the most powerful thing you can. Free win.

Arcane Denial 8

The other two mana hard counter! Everyone forgets about this and seems to underrate it. Noone balks at the card disadvantage from Force of Will yet apparently it is the end of the world for Arcane Denial. In most matchups you drawing one is better than them drawing two. As a control player you aim to make a lot of their stuff irrelevant or deal with multiple things in one go. Each card for you is working towards your goal while this is rarely the case for other decks against control. Odds on there are very few cards in their deck as annoying as the thing you Arcane Denied. When you use it early you greatly increase your odds on laying lands each turn which is more important for you than it is for them. Late game you are aiming to give them two limp cards, replacing yours with a useful card and dealing with something annoying of theirs. Great little card. Versatile, efficient and convenient.

RemandRemand 8

Early game this is one of your best disruption tools. It is like a Time Walk anytime your opponent uses their whole turn to make something big. Sadly this isn't really a counterspell unless it is hitting something with flashback, or better still, something stolen with a Gonti! You play it so that you have useful stuff to do in the early game that helps you get to the late game. You don't play it because it will stop you dying to Armageddon. Really this should be in a section of cards called stall or delay cards or something. It buys you valuable time in a cost effective way to that you are better placed to take control of the game.

Mana Leak 6

Great early and midgame counterspell. A bit dodgy late game. Fine enough replacement for a lack of other cheap counterspells and pretty good if you have ways ot make use of a dead card late game.

Spell PierceSpell Pierce 8

As one for one counter magic goes this card has about the highest countering power for its mana. This card counters a lot, specifically the stuff you are most afraid of. It is hard to play around and stays relevant for about as long as a Mana Leak does. A card I am always super happy to play, generally I play it over Negate. You don't want to overload on cards with similar restrictions if you can help it but it isn't too big a deal.

Force Spike / Mana Tithe 6.5

Tithe is actually a little better than Spike (when you don't have Force of Will) as it reduces your demand on blue mana, particularly in any sort of counter war. Both cards are super good early and allow you to safely start the game however both fall off rapidly in power. Having ways to make use of dead cards or just a tonne of card advantage is the best way to play with these kinds of card.

AbsorbCancel and Co. 4.5

There are loads of three mana hard counters. The new one, Disallow, is likely the best and the scry one was nice. Absorb looks and feels lovely too! Forbid could be brutal with the right support as well. You can play one of these if you are short on hard counters but they are not really up there with the power level of cube. If you are trying to control a game with three mana counters you are going to struggle. You would struggle even if I didn't do anything till you had three mana up! I will happily play a three mana counter if I am short of actual hard counters but never more than one.

Cryptic Command 9.5

Answers basically everything and every situation. It usually does so in a tempo or value favoured way too. Recursion effects go super well with Cryptic, the first stabilizes you, the second pulls you very far ahead. It is a pricey card and makes you focus blue in your mana base as well. Cryptic Command is the definitive blue card, it does all things blue. It is the complete control tool. By being a little bit of everything you need as and when you need it a Cryptic Command in a deck makes you vastly more consistent at doing the things you need to survive.

Memory LapseGlen Elandra Archmage 7.5

Quite a hefty investment either as a bunch of Negates or as a chump blocker. If you can get this out with mana up it is pretty oppressive against most decks. In its most effective role it is essentially a five drop. You should always get a two for one with it as well as a pile of disruption on their ability to do what they want at the times they want. It can be useful to threaten or defend planeswalkers as well. Great mid level value and protection, really really good in the mirror. Sadly a fairly limp chump against a lot of aggro decks a lot of the time.

Memory Lapse 6

A good solid stall card but sadly one that doesn't deal with anything. In general Remand is better than Memory Lapse despite being highly comparable and exactly the same card economy overall. This is because you want to maintain your resources and options more than you want to deny your opponents. The control deck denies specific things in efficient ways rather than reudcing the overall economy of a game which is what Lapse does. Being a control deck you assume your stuff is more powerful and thus a both draw effect is more beneficial to the control player and a both discard effect is more harmful to the control player overall. Memory Lapse is a very punishing card, if they miss a land drop Lapse is one of the most brutal things you can do. Lapse is brutal on suspend cards and on things important to lay at a specific time such as ramp. In a deck with a lot of draw I like a Lapse. I am happy to fill out my two slot with a Lapse as well. I consider it stall more than a counterspell but you do want stall in control decks and you will likely have to play some that doesn't also cycle!

NegateNegate 8

This is pretty near to another Counterspell in the deck. As dorks are so resiliant and diverse you have quite a spread of removal to deal with them. As such you typically want to allocate your dork removal on dorks and save your counters for stuff you don't have as many answers for. Negate is cheap, easy to cast, has great scaling and is a pretty underrated card. The times I lose because this is not a Counterspell are very few in number. I have lost games where the double blue on Counterspell has cost me the game. The issue with a lot of the better counterspells in cube is that they are not hard. Negate is a hard two mana counter with a good range including all the things you most want to have counters for. Big win.

Mystic ConfluenceSpell Snare and Mental Misstep 5

Both very very strong counterspells but both are also a little situational without knowing what you are up against or if you are on the play or draw. These are cheap hard counters that can reliably get you a mana/tempo advantage when you use them. It is rare for a good cube deck to have less than a thirds of its cards costing 1 or 2. These things will have targets. The issue is the value of those targets and what the spread is. If they only have four one drops and past turn one you don't really care about them then the value of Misstep is pretty low. Bring in cards like this to hedge against certain specific cards or unusually high numbers of cards on that part of the curve. Snare is a good card to bring in on the draw as well.

Mystic Confluence 7

No idea where to put this card, it is countermagic, removal and draw! It is the other Cryptic Command but it compares pretty poorly to the mighty Cryptic. Only bouncing dorks and only Mana Leaking spells makes this no where near the safety or security of Cryptic, not to mention being a mana more to play. The card is powerful and versatile but it is late in day for those sorts of effects. Commonly this is a mild disruption effect on the back of a significant draw, say draw two and bounce your 3/3 beast token. It is nice, versatile and a good way to pull ahead. Exactly the sort of things control wants but as said, harder to fit in as fairly high on the curve.

Spell QuellerSpell Queller 7.5

An incredibly potent little dork. This counters the majority of things in the cube and it does so in a brutally tempo gaining way. The body is great and can put in work without too much risk of death and giving them the card back. The relevance of many cards destined to return can be negated too in the time the Queller is alive.

Daze 3

You don't want to bounce lands in control decks and so this is rather the awful Force Spike. Nice in that it makes life really hard for your opponent when they know you have it but very damaging to have to use early.

Supreme Verdict
Wrath of God / Day of Judgement 7

Wrath effects used to be the thing control decks did. Wraths, counters, card draw and a way to win, that was all they needed. Now Wraths only do a small amount of the work they once did. It is not uncommon to see Wraths clearing out under half the total value of threats it is facing. Wraths are still decent enough removal, you can get good value and tempo with them but most importantly they keep people honest. Without the threat of mass removal your opponent can go ham and just murder you with tempo a lot of the time. The cheap Wraths are even more important than before as you so often need to do other things as well to survive.

Supreme Verdict 7.5

A nice four mana Wrath with some reasonably relevant perks.

Swords to PlowsharesSwords to Plowshares 10

This gets a 10 along with Force of Will however I do rate the Force slightly above this. This is a 9.9 I guess.. You give no shits about giving away life at all. This is therefore just the very best removal spell in the game by a long margin. Kill their turn one BoP or their turn six Wurmcoil with equal effectiveness and no drawback. One mana, instant and exile. All the things you want from removal. Plow kills all the things your mass removal wont. You need cards like this to stay in the game. When you fail to get this or Path you end up having to play about twice as much spot removal so as to have a hope against the many various threats you might face. You might get some instant removal from Wingshards, some exile options from Council's Judgement and still realize you are light on cheap removal and have to find something else as well. All the best control decks have Plow or Path or both and they lean on them pretty hard.

Path to ExilePath to Exile 9

Much much more painful to use this early as a control player. As such it is significantly worse than Plow. Sadly it is still significantly better than everything else. You can use it early if you need to, at least the decks that force an issue early don't scale too well with bonus lands. And whenever you use it it is still a one mana instant speed exile removal effect that deals with all your biggest problem cards. You want to hit their cheap things with your mass removal and save these things for their resilient dorks and man lands and so despite its drawback Path is still very on theme for a control deck. The way you want to use it is how it works best yet you still have the option to use it however you need to.

Wing ShardsWing Shards 8.5

Super high value in control. Pretty much what Wrath effects wish they were. This thing takes the sting out of haste dorks, it hits man lands and vehicles and if is easy enough to get two or three things dead with it. Much wider range than a Wrath, cheaper than a Wrath and generally gets slightly more value than a Wrath. Great card but the more people realise how good it is the more people will play around it and keep the average kill count at least below 2!

Terminus 8

TerminusThis has a bit more of a swing in rating depending on the support you have than most other mass removal. If you can reliably trigger the miracle this is the best dork removal tool in the game. The mere 8 rating is assuming an OK level of support. The benefit of mass removal is that your opponent has to respect it and play around it somewhat. Playing round mass removal that can happen at one mana is not something you can do easily and get a win. The quality of Terminus isn't just that it is potentially one mana but also that it deals with everything you could hope to deal with.

Cyclonc Rift 8

Cyclonic RiftAnother one of these non-Wrath cards that seems to out perform the actual mass removal these days. Rift is an OK bounce spell for 2 that can disrupt a little or buy you some tempo. You don't want to use it for two but you can and that is a big help to a card that would otherwise be a 7 drop! The real strength of Rift is that it is pretty much an instant one sided mass removal spell for everything. It kills midrange decks so hard. It is a great solution to planeswalkers and other threats that evade more conventional removal like vehicles. In a midrange cube this is an incredibly valuable asset.

Council's Judgement 8

Council's JudgmentThree mana sorceries are a bit uncomfortable but this is too valuable to pass up on specifically in UW. This is your answer, be it to a massive hexproof dork, a planeswalker, something indestructible, whatever your problem, if it is in play and not a land the Judgement will deal with it. With retrospectively dealing with planewalkers being the biggest weakness in Azorius control decks this cover all is what you want. If you have black then Vindicate and Anguished Unmaking offer a lot of redundancy in this area and reduce the importance of Judgement. Without black this is your best answer to a lot of things by a long way. You never want to have to rely on Oblivion Ring style cards if you can help it.

Unexpectedly Absent 6

While this is cheap and versatile it has some issues as removal. The main one being it isn't all that good at removing this in a permanent way. This is basically a Memory Lapse equivalent spot removal card. You don't lose card advantage but you don't deal with the thing, you just stall and lower the economy of the game. As the control player you don't overly want to lower the economy of the game. While vastly better than using a card like Cyclonic Rift when played for 2 mana the Absent just isn't all that on theme with the game plan of control. Fine to play if you lack any rounded answers, it does a better job of a Council's Judgement than the dreaded Oblivion Ring as far as I am concerned. Also find to play if you have a lot of card advantage effects, by a lot I probably mean a little too much! When you are super flush with resources trading 1 for 1 with cheap and versatile spells is massively to your advantage.
Unexpectedly Absent

Declaration in Stone 6.5

Really sad that it fails to hit man lands and offensive vehicles. Oh to be an instant! If you are light on spot removal, particularly exile effects, then play this. It is cheap enough that the sorcery speed isn't too painful beyond not being able to kill the vehicles and man lands. One very nice aspect of Declaration is that it can wipe out all whole array of like tokens without even cluing up the opposition. It is a great answer to Lingering Souls, a planeswalker that has made too much board and that sort of thing. Declaration can do a bit of mass removal work which combined with the exile makes it one of the top five spot removal spells for dorks that you can play.

RepulseRepulse 5

Great filler, and fine tempo. Mostly this will just stall but that is all you need it to do. When it gets extra value like a disrupted equip or something then the card goes from fine to good. I typically like my filler of this style to cost a little less, this is far too slow to do much of much against white weenie or RDW when they open fast on you. Best against midrange decks.

Crush of Tentacles 5

With good support for the surge this is pretty potent, without it is clunky and mediocre. The best enablers are Mox and Gitaxian Probe although one mana cantrips and Talisman/Signets are pretty reasonable. When you clear a board out you have gained a lot of time. When you also make an 8/8 you greatly reduce theirs! This is the Cylconic Rift than comes out cheaper and is also an actual threat. Another card that it best against midrange strategies. Crush is still pretty useful in other matchups just a little less good.
Crush of Tentacles

Martial Coup 5

This is the other Crush of Tentacles style card. It is worse removal (mostly for being slower but also for hitting less things) but a little more stand alone and surprisingly more effective at ending the game. Spreading stats out is usually better than clumping them, five 1/1s are likely as good as one 8/8 octopus. Martial Coup scales as well making it ever more dangerous.

Treachery 6.5

Pretty varied all told. Against quick decks you can be dead before you even get to play this. Against control decks this is also a liability, you are asking to get yourself tapped out if they counter it or just blown out as they deal with it an an inopportune moment. Another card than punishes midrange more than anything else. Midrange will almost always have a target, it is always going to be a fairly high value card compared to the aggro decks and it will represent a much more valuable tempo swing. I find Treachery to be overrated. Very powerful and situationally completely unbeatable but not nearly as reliable as just killing a thing. I have won a lot of games burning my own dorks down in response to a Treachery, that five mana lock down hurts.There are a surprising number of dorks that can kill themselves or sac other dorks floating around in the cube too, these all wreak the value of Treachery.

Detention SphereDetention Sphere 4

The best of the Oblivion Ring style card but never something I want to play. The blue is an advantage to this card in this archetype and the mass removal aspect like Declaration in Stone is not irrelevant either. The reason this is bad is that it is a total liability on top of being a three mana sorcery. Any mass bounce you might have is worse, not to mention any enchantment removal they might have. If you know it will be safe somehow then it goes from really dodgy to very good but that somewhat curtails it to the realms of SB material or emergency stop gap for me.

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage 7.5

A very potent and underrated planeswalker. I would generally want Tamiyo over a second Jace, Elspeth or other commonly occurring walker you might play in this deck. Tamiyo is an answer, a threat and some potential value. She is all the things you want rolled into one. Her lock down is very oppressive, it deals with all the things that are typically a nightmare for planeswalkers like vehicles and man lands. It forces out mass over extensions which can be punished with mass removal or just by going -2 on Tamiyo! The ultimate is also just game over if you get it in a control deck.

Vedalken ShacklesVedalken Shackles 5

Very hard to play in Azorius control decks for mana reasons. If you can craft your deck around it from the outset then great but you can't just pick it up and jam it into an already UW deck and have it perform. There are two modes you can use Shackles in, the Threads of Disloyalty stick or the Control Magic stick. For the latter you need at least 75% islands in your deck, ideally more and some things to put even more out like Myriad Landscape. To in turn have at least 75% islands you are going to have to be very sparing on your use of white mana. Double white spells will mostly have to go and all the mass removal you play white for is WW. You greatly reduce the value of you white inclusion if you go heavy Shackles. For the Threads of Disloyalty stick you can get away with less than 50% islands but it is only really worth playing such a card against things like white weenie. It is more of a sideboard tool. Super powerful card but one that isn't easy to include or that need when you have white.

UnsubstantiateUnsubstantiate 6.5

I am impressed with this card thus far. It costs you a card on your opponent which is the big downside for this card, beyond that it is all upsides. This is never dead and usually winds up doing what you need. When you most need it as a spot removal card it stands in fine and the same for as a counterspell. The best Remands are still very good even if you didn't draw a card. You can even bounce your own stuff with this if you really don't wan't to lose and value. I will happily play this as rounded generic cheap filler if I need it. I will quite want this card if I have a lot of card draw effects.

Karn Liberated 5.5

The old seven mana Council's Judgement! Karn is a powerful card and he will greatly calm most situations. I don't love playing such heavy cards without some ramp but you don't need much. Karn is a threat of sorts but a tediously slow one. He tends to just grind people down safely. A reason Karn is a little better in the deck than he might look is his synergy with Wraths. He deals with the things they don't deal with, Wrath's make Karn a more likely and safer play and Wrath's are great against the decks Karn isn't good against and vice versa.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon 5.5

Eight is hard to get to, you need ramp, probably three bits of it, before Ugin becomes a wise control addition. I guess a lot of potent card quality like Lat-Lat's Legacy and Brainstorm could offset the need for as much ramp but still, you get the point. Remember in control you often need to cast stuff with some mana up to remain safe, this can make Ugin a 10 drop! Where Ugin shines over Karn is that you can just lay him into quite an overwhelming board and have both him and you live. Karn is a mild threat and a good removal and value tool. Ugin is a great mass removal and value tool as well as a decent threat.

BalanceBalance 7

Quite the chaotic card. Often this is a two mana wrath that you have to discard some cards to. Early game it is kind of one for one mass removal! It is pretty good in this area as a lot of the aggro decks just do critical damage before four mana wraths come online. Late game Balance gets a bit weaker against the aggressive decks as you will hurt your lands in some way as well. To make Balance all round good you need to have a selection of permanents that evade the Balancing (artifacts, enchantments, planeswalkers) or have effects like Lat-Nam's Legacy that can reduce your counts of things for a period and mitigate some damage. Super strong card but also one requiring a lot of build attention.

Valourous Stance 5.5

Kind of the white Terror at present in cubes. It doesn't kill everything but it is cheap and instant. This kills a lot of the scary stuff and keeps you nice and safe in the mid and late game. Not great in the early game sadly. Last Breath is probably the best card in that role but the poor scaling on that means it isn't that common of a cube card. The indestructible on Stance does come up in control but isn't a super relevant part of why you play it.


Phyrexian MetamorphTime Walks 5.5

Broadly I mean the five mana ones although you can include the miracle one in this group if you have the support. It gets pretty tasty when your support for it is good. The powered actual Time Walk is obviously a 10/10 card, pick it over everthing. including Ancestral Recall for control. There are loads of ways to draw cards but very few to just pull you ahead. Time Walk scales so well with a lot of the things control wants to be doing. A big part of that is laying lands and having more mana. Five mana Time Walks are no use early but they can allow you to skip from turn four to turn six if needed and much beyond that they are getting a lot closer to Time Walk itself in terms of value. Certain cards make you want extra turns in control. Planeswalkers, suspend cards, creatures!

Phyrexian Metamorph 5

Dig Through TimeVersatile and powerful card but not one I ever want to play. You don't make much stuff so you rely on what your opponent makes for a copy target. This isn't useful early, even if you make it on turn three you are super unlikely to be copying anything better than a three drop. It isn't super useful against aggro decks and those are the ones control struggles with most in cube at present.

Dig Through Time 8.5

For my money this is the best card advantage spell you have in this archetype. It is comparable value to Fact or Fiction, slightly less cards on average but slightly more choice to comfortably make up for that. Being instant it isn't the end of the world when you pay four or more mana for the Dig however when you can cast it for two it is utterly unreasonable. One of the most undervalued things about Dig in cube control decks is that it puts five known cards on the bottom of your deck. This means you can know you have five turns at least to win with one of your threats. You can get away with just running an Aetherling as your only win condition if you have a Dig or comparable effect to ensure you will have sufficient remaining time to win before you deck yourself.

Treasure CruiseTreasure Cruise 6

Significantly weaker than Dig in the deck. Being sorcery you really need this to be cheap to be something you can cast. A Dig can be cast at 5 or 6 quite painlessly while Cruise cannot, it makes it a much later game effect on the whole. Cruise is good value but it isn't always getting what you need. Dig has over twice the chances of getting you to your outs. Not only do you need Cruise to be your only delve spell in the deck you ideally need a lot of things that easily go to the yard that you are happy to remove from the game. Cruise makes your Snapcaster effects a lot worse if you fail to consider them when building. In a suitable deck I am very happy running Cruise as it is a very powerful card but I really don't want to warp my build for it much at all.
Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction 4

It is stunning how much this has fallen off recently. It was falling off before Tarkir block but Dig did pretty much kill it. This only ever sees play now as the replacement draw. With tempo being so relevant now and with so many cards offering both value and tempo you are greatly disincentivized from playing zero tempo pure card draw spells. It is rare that you can afford to play a FoF on curve, you typically have to be ahead or at least even before you can cast it. Most commonly it is played at six mana with a counter/removal backup or at four mana because you are desperate and have no other options!

Sphinx's RevelationSphinx's Revelation 7

Super heavy card draw but single handedly able to put the game out of reach for a lot of decks. You typically want this to be one of the last things you play, you hold out as long as you can so as to get the biggest Rev off. The card is so heavy that it actually has a pretty small window of utility unless you support it with other cards. Leave it too late to Rev and all it is doing is putting you on clock for decking yourself. Rev too early and you waste a lot of your card draw potential and may well run out of gas in the late game. The issue then becomes drawing it to early where it is dead for ages or drawing it too late where it will deck you. Ideally you want one of two things to go with your Rev so that it functions appropriately in a 40 card singleton format. Lots of card quality is one way to go. You can shuffle it away early and dig towards it in the mid game. It has to be the right card quality effects tho. Things like Lat-Nam's Legacy, Brainstorm, Impulse and even Mystical Tutor are some of the best to support a Rev deck. Preordain and the like will help a little but not enough. You end up playing too many such cards to support clunky things like a Rev and suddenly you are at risk from decking yourself even without the Rev! The other solution is to play Elixir of Immortality (or at least some other way of recycling your deck). This means you can Rev as a late or early as you like and repeatedly, each subsequent Rev being more brutal than the last. Rev is actually very like the Aetherling of card draw. It is so effective and potent in its role that you don't need much else in the way of what they do to fulfill your decks desired quota. This is good in terms of space economy however it is more probelmatic for consistency in terms of not having those effects when the time is right for them. The space you save by using them often ends up just being used to support them properly. The higher potency my card draw effects are the more I will swap other card draw cards into card quality effects.

Land TaxLand Tax 4

Playable but really needs things to turn it on. You don't want to miss land drops as a control player so if you start then you ideally won't ever be in a position to trigger this. As such it is something you don't want in any sort of normal control deck that curves to six with mainly lands. If you have Azorius Chancery and Path to Exile or other ways to sensibly alter the land ratio without you having to miss land drops then the Land Tax becomes a lot better. Should you be able to turn it on yourself then the card is an obscene amount of value and it is very easy to turn that value into even more value. Remeber a certain standard format where Squadron Hawk and Jace got all abusive? Well Land Tax does that in cube really well with a number of cards you can play with it. Land Tax is usually not the thing but when it is it is pretty nuts. I have run it with as few as 7 basics and it is still great. It gets a lot harder to play a Land Tax in a 3 colour deck, certainly in my cube with loads of dual lands. Most two colour decks can play enough basics for it though.

Jace, TMS 9
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
A little overrated but still stunningly good. Likely still the best walker you can have in such a deck too. Lots of options, lots of power, lots of synergy! We all know how and why Jace is good. Why Jace isn't a patch on Force of Will or Swords to Plowshares in the list is because it is very replaceable and a fairly hard to lay sorcery speed four drop. There are loads of Jace variants, loads of planeswalkers in general of which most are value and threats. There are other value and threat cards as well as far more top end than you could hope to play. Jace is great but it will mean you don't play some other great card. Plow is great and without it you will be playing something woefully poor in comparison.

Jace Beleren 6

Usually outshone by the more potent Jace's you can play. This is a card draw tool almost entirely and only very mildly a threat. It has no way in which you can use it as a tempo play nor can it disrupt at all. Either you cash it in for 3 cards, or you cycle it and absorb some damage, or you use it for ongoing card draw at a 3 to 1 rate in your favour, or you purely ramp him and aim to ultimate or simply absorb vast amounts of damage. This sounds like a lot of options but it gives your opponent a lot of control over it and the options are all very samey. I prefer my card draw to come with a more controllable tempo aspect or be less sorcery and slow. Despite all my complaints this is a three mana walker and not even a bad one. Early or well timed it can easily win a game.

Jace, Architect of ThoughtJace, Architect of Thought 7

A nice solid value walker. Either he takes a massive load of sting out of an opponents onslaught or he gets you value. Taking out a 5 loyalty walker with all your dorks reduced by one power can take some doing. I have seen this Jace absorb a truly unreasonable amount of damage. Going -2 back to back is totally fine too. Architect of though is one of my favourite "2nd" Jaces as it is so easy and convenient to cash him in. The ultimate isn't great but it is at least a threat that can win. This card is another huge reason FoF is so much less good in cube. When you can FoF this guy does it a little better for the same cost but when you can't FoF this guy still does a lot of work to keep you in it.

Donvin Baan 4.5

This is just a bad Architect of Thought. In some ways it looks good but they are a little deceptive. Lower loyalty and weakness to several small dorks hurts Dovin the most. Slow to cash in and less digging in cards is an issue too. Fine enough filler, this is still a walker that does on theme things. If you want such a thing this will do it is just that there are many more powerful alternatives.

Jace, Memory Adept
Jace, Memory Adept 6

This is really a threat and not a value card. You can hit the +1 draw button but it is bad. It probably means you are imminently dead and desperate. The 0 is just so much more powerful that it is all you want to do with the card. This needs killing the turn it is made in 40 card decks, two goes at the 0 and you are almost always running out of gas before you can close the deal. Three hits from the 0 is game unless they have reshuffle effects like Emrakul, the Eons Torn. One turn of response time before you lose to something is a little rough. Memory Adept is a potent threat but it needs some protecting itself while offering none to you. It is also a very tedious threat that I don't think improves the fun or skill of cube enough to deserve a slot.

Narset TranscendentNarset Transcendent 3

Super narrow planeswalker but if your deck supports it well it does have some interesting utility. The +1 draws a card less than 50% of the time blind even in a deck heavily focused on things that work for it. Most control decks will be 30% or lower on targets. The -2 is not only limited on the targets like the +1 but also by the effect of the card in question. Countermagic is of little use to rebound, it is only really removal, Time Walk effects, and draw that works with it well and Narset already has a draw mechanic. Time Walks are uncommon and hard to fit in and removal, particularly mass removal should have diminishing returns. The advantages Narset brings are a huge loyalty buffer which makes killing her not only hard but just some thing a lot of people won't even bother trying. The ultimate is also game over for a number of archetypes. It might not win the game for you but you are going to be super safe from everything there in and will be able to win with the simplest of things, some utility dork or whatever. Library manipulation effects improve Narset but too put too much effort into trying to polish a turd. If she fits with your deck consider her, don't fit your deck round her. Miracle style decks have seemed like the best fit for in cube despite Narset not being able to trigger miracles herself as they have such a naturally high spell count.

Wall of Omens

Wall of Omens 8

One of the total work horses of the deck. You almost always want to see this in your opening hand. There are a lot of matchups where I will happily tap out to make this early as it will do far more work than counter magic would. It absorbs tempo and syphons value from your opponent to you. It is painless in the matchups where it isn't super relevant and simply one of your best cards in the ones that it is. It has nice synergy with flicker and bounce effects. There are not that many good proactive tempo negating plays the archetype is capable of and so Wall of Omens is most welcome on that front too.

Sea Gate OracleSea Gate Oracle 6

Three is a little uncomfortable to pay for what is just a speed bump but the Oracle remains one of the best cards in this area. Court Hussar is clearly better should you have the colours but most cubes won't support it being such a marginal gold card. Three toughness stops a lot of chaff and one power threatens a reasonable amount of it too. The card quality aspect of either card is a real boost as well over purely cycling stall options like Repulse. The more counter magic you have the weaker this is due to it being so hard to play when you want it it and remain safe with counters up.

Soulfire Grandmaster 6

This one is a bit of a mixed bag. A bit of life and trading with a small dork is what this does a lot of. Eating removal is another thing this is good at. Neither of these outcomes is that bad for you, indeed it can be pretty good. This card also wins the game if you get to about 8 mana with it and have one of a selection of appropriate spells. Cryptic Command is one of the favourites! Grandmaster does typically work better with red spells than white or blue. White has few and fairly limited ones, blue has loads but they don't always do what you need. Red spells typically do exactly what you need and with a Soulfire out they usually gain you life as well! When you start to chain cast Lightning Bolt or Lightning Helix with Grandmaster you win.

Jace, Vryn's ProdigyJace, Vryn's Prodigy 9

The Smugglers Copter for the creature light mage! We all know how good this Jace is and control is a pretty good home for him. He is no good for reusing counter magic but he is still plenty good for reusing removal and value stuff. He can win games with his ultimate, he is capable of controlling the tempo well too once flipped. As just a 0/2 looter he gives you a lot of card quality, some defensive utility and all the rest. He is very nice to sneak out with counter backup so as to have a much safer midgame planewalker you didn't have to tap out to have in play.

Snapcaster Mage 9

A second go on your most appropriate spell that you have cast this game with a free chump. Snapcaster is a midgame card rather than an early card although I have seen it thrown down on two to trade with something. A known powerhouse in all formats but in cube control he is at his best. There are a lot of premium keys spells that a second go on is game breaking.

Torrential Gearhulk
Torrential Gearhulk 7.5

This feels like it should really be in the threats section as it seems to win every time it is played. You don't need that many targets nor for many of those to be high value for this to be bonkers. Just a counterspell is back breaking when it comes on a 5/6. The same goes for a spot removal or card draw effect. There is some very mild anti-synergy with other cards that play things from the graveyard as well as the delve cards but you are happy enough playing all the premium recursion stuff if you have the support, you can usually toss a delve spell into the mix as well and still be fine. It rather does the role of Consecrated Sphinx better in this deck. Both big dorks with a value aspect. Gearhulk is much more tempo on the spot and trades quantity of value for quality of value and as such is far more suited to the spell heavy control lists.

Linvala, the PreserverLinvala, the Preserver 7

Not super powerful but very on theme for control. This is very much the white Thragtusk. What hurts this card most is the cost, you would much rather a lower powered card of similar effect that cost 4 or 5 but still, this gets the job done mostly. When you need it most it performs, two bodies with 8/8 total stats, all flying and a bonus five life is a tonne of value for the mana. It does a great job of stopping you dying to conventional aggression and is a fairly potent win condition once it has stabilized for you.

Thraben Inspector 8

Thraben InspectorWhile typically seen as a good support card in the aggressive lists this is a fantastic Wall of Omens. It has 75% of the stats for half the mana and has some ability to trade. It can even nibble away walkers in the slower matches! It is a touch slower to redeem your card but it can be done at instant speed or just whenever you have the mana spare. It is another permanent until that point and may provide safety against a Tangle Wire.

Teferi, Temporal Archamge 5.5

Teferi, Temporal ArchmageGreatly underrated card but still quite a hard one to fit in. Once you get to six mana this is like a two drop, it is a great tempo boost, incredible value and utility. Prior to that it sadly does nothing. The difficulty in playing it is that you have to endure a dead card for so long in a mana slot that you really want a heavy threat card in. Having a Teferi in play is very much like having your pick on Future Sight or a better Gilded Lotus as you need each turn. Playing him and untapping four lands so you can cast a Cryptic Command is such a huge swing that it hard to lose. Time Walk effects are another great thing to play off the back of Teferi. One of the most expensive walkers that doesn't win the game but that is a bit missleading. Teferi is very much more like a Serra Avenger, a two drop you just have to wait, in this case, till turn 6 to play.

Brainstorm 7.5

A very overrated card in the deck. The value of Brainstorm is very much dependent on your scry, shuffle and other synergies with it. It is not uncommon to only have a couple of things that work really well with your Brainstorm and at that point you get more value from Opt and Peek. When you have miracles or when you are flush with shuffle and scry effects then the Brainstorm does deserve the hype and is super valuable.

OptQuicken / Opt / Peek 7

These cards are all very underrated in general and they are all basically at their best in UW control decks. Just an instant one mana cycler is pretty good. It lets you thin your deck thus increasing the quality of your stuff, it powers up your delve, surge and storm cards and all this is before we get to what the cards do! Opt is a nice bit of card quality. It is about 20-25% less powerful than a Preordain but it is instant and so you are able to leave up your full mana and wait till you are best informed before firing it off. Other than Brainstorm the Opt is my favourite one mana card quality spell in decks with counterspells in them. Peek is just a Gitaxian Probe you have to pay mana for. The thing is, as you want to leave mana up you only Peek with spare mana and as such it is even more free than Gitaxian Probe - a card that just got banned. Information is huge in magic and Peek gives you full information for no cost. It lets you apportion your answers well and time your threats optimally. The value one gains from a scry relies a lot on player skill, this is even more so the case for Peek. Quicken is the most specific in use. Usually it does nothing but when it does do something it can be game breaking. Mostly it is used for casting removal effects at instant speed. Control decks try and avoid sorcery cards on the whole and so this rarely has more than 3 or 4 cards it does any thing for.

Reflector MageReflector Mage 7.5

Good enough to get banned! The same name clause is a lot less relevant in cube. Not only will you only ever have one copy of any card but cube curves are also lower than standard ones and so you will have more options on other things to do when you cannot remake your thing. A 2/3 body, a bounce and the security of that specific thing not being a problem again right away are well worth the three mana this card costs. One of your best tempo plays.

Ancestral Vision 4.5

A good turn one play but a painful card to use later. Those turns without any return value feel like an eternity. I have seen far more games lost in between suspending this and it resolving than I have seen this resolve outside of cascade. Improved in value with Timewalk effects, looting and other pitch effects. Much more playable than something like a Fact or Fiction due to cost but the effectiveness of Visions is rather more limited.

ImpulseImpulse 7.5

The mini Dig Through Time. This is just over half a Dig but it is always just two mana. It has good odds on find the thing you are after compared to other cheap card quality. Being instant rather negates the two mana price tag. Nothing is nicer than sitting on a Counterspell and an Impulse, you know you are safe and you know you will have something good to be getting on with. I like to spend my mana and Impulse is good for that. I like to have the answers I need in hand and Impulse is great for that too. A very solid way to tie a deck together. Anticipate is equally playable and only slightly weaker overall. It deserves a 6.5 or so.

Lat-Nam's Legacy 7

Great card, a self contained mini Brainstorm. See two new cards and put something hefty back in the deck for later use. Great with miracles and heavy cards like Aetherling and Sphinx's Revelation. Not the highest impact card quality spell but some synergies combined with instant speed keep it in the top 5 of card quality effects for control.

Think TwiceThink Twice 3

A bit costly and clunky. Two mana cycling stuff is nice when you get a free 0/4 wall with it not just for the sake of cycling! You play this because it is convenient card advantage, you get some payback right away and don't have to pay the full cost till you can afford it. The thing is the full cost is five mana for two cards and that is very sucky. A bit improved with loot effects but really you shouldn't be playing cards because they are good when you ditch them. Best in slow control mirrors where spending your mana is good but representing counters each turn is also  a thing.

Compulsive Research 2

I almost prefer Council of the Soratami to this. When you don't have spare land to ditch it is the nut low. Draw in control is most useful for digging into continued land drops. The instances of me having no land to lay and me playing draw effects are heavily overlapped. This is super weak card quality when you need lands and only slightly above average draw when you have the spare land. As an instant this would be far more appealing, you would simply build a little land heavier when playing it. At sorcery it is painful spending three mana in your turn while having no effect on the board.

Thirst for KnowledgeThirst for Knowledge 5

This isn't the worst card quality effect without artifacts but still, that is not why you play it. When you have a selection of occasionally disposable artifacts, typically mana producers, Thirst becomes a very potent card draw tool. It is instant and digs deep. This gets a lot more love than Fact or Fiction these days as low tempo loss is so important in the draw department. Great card when you can play it but you really want at least four artifacts before it is something you can expect to get card advantage from.

Preordain and Co. 5.5

This is the group of one mana sorcery speed card quality. They all have pros and cons over each other but they are generally about the same. Sleight of Hand is a chunk below as it offers little synery but still, it is fine filler and a decent way to fine tune your ratios. Generally I only play these to avoid playing a weak card, to make up numbers, for some fine tuning or because I have miracles and not enough proper support! I don't think any optimal cube control list would contain any of these cards. Unless you have very few instants indeed the easy of playing the instant card quality is just so much greater.

Soldier of the PantheonKytheon / Soldier of the Pantheon 3.5

These are not control cards, you don't want them in your deck but they are common cube cards you see and they can be used to plug holes. Both are good cheap defensive cards. They can trade with a lot, they come out fast and they either scale well or counter certain things very well. If you don't have good early plays or seem weak to aggro then by all means grab something like this to patch up the holes. These are stall cards not value cards, I should have made a separate category for them but all the good stall cards are also mild counter, removal or value so I left them in those groups.

Isochron Scepter 4

Isochron ScepterOverrated card for sure. In control decks it is mana intense, high risk and unreliable. Planswalkers do what it does better for the most part now. Scepter is best used for specific combo like roles and not as an ongoing source of value. A lot of control cards are OK to fine on a Scepter but you need to have several of the nuts things before you should even consider this. If you do go the Scepter route you want a lot of support for it. Perhaps more tutors and dig, things like Spellskite to help protect it, Mox to speed it up and so forth. The premium cards for the Scepter are Orim's Chant, Fire / Ice, Lightning Helix, Unexpectedly Absent, Memory Lapse, Boomerang. You will want a number of these premium cards to abuse it as well as many more conventional control cards that you can imprint if needed. 

Counterbalance 4

CounterbalanceHuge need of support and build attention. You need Divining Top as well as good tutor effects for both. On top of that you need a good curve with a range of things you can hit. A lot of work for a very soft lock. It does more to make your opponents choices hard than it obtains you actual card value. If you have the support it can be a good inclusion but it is not enough in cube to build around it alone nor anywhere near enough of a card to be played without the appropriate support. Often thrown into Miracle or Scepter decks due to the overlap in support cards those things also need.

Renewed Faith 4

Total filler but a nice hedge card with some options. Against burn this is one of your best cards, you will forgo the draw to get the extra life. Against all else it is just a tiny little buffer for very little cost. A bit low impact to be in most cubes but a card I find I would often be playing if I could. 

SpellskiteSpellskite 6

Some defense and often a kind of value through the disruption and inefficiencies this thing causes. The main issue for Skite is that it costs you a card and has quite a subtle or low impact range of effects. Unless he is protecting vital permanents he is just a bad Wall of Omens. At its best with high value creatures like Baneslayer Angel or in decks with a lot of card advantage where it offsets their tempo loss and they offset its card loss.

Sensei's Divining Top 6.5

Tedious as all hell in the control decks and frequently misplayed and misused. There are reasons to play Top in your control deck but it is far from an auto include card. With miracles it is. Beyond just miracles you need a couple of reasons to be wanting Top. Perhaps you are light on card quality and you also have a lot of shuffle effects. Perhaps you have some mild artifact synergies you want to boost as well as enough ramp to mean you want a little bit more ways to sink mana. Unless you are really confidant in your abilities with both cube control and the Top itself I would simply just advise avoiding the thing all together unless you have miracles to use. The gains it gives take a lot of work to get at and it is neither that easy to do yet very easy to cock up. Relatively low returns for potential high risk.

Elixir of ImmortalityElixir of Immortality 4

This is a bit of an odd ball card. It kind of does nothing, five life, not even that cheaply, something in play perhaps. The purpose of the card is to gain inevitability. It lets you play a lot more filter and less of the various things you need. You can make one or two spot removal cards, a single mass removal spell, a couple of threats and perhaps a tutor effect go a really long way indeed with Elixir. It is a great way to support the kinds of deck looking to use Sphinx's Revelation. It is technically a threat in and of itself assuming your opponent has no built in decking protection. That does mean you need to survive everything which can take some doing. I only play this when I know exactly why I want it, it is not a good card you can just play to make up the numbers. Sure, five life is good against one deck but play a better lifegain card that does other things you want right away. Outlasting the red deck is one of the hardest things to do!

PredictPredict 6

This card is a little off radar, I doubt you will find it in many cubes at all. It should not however be underestimated. It has a lot of value and potential utility and is surprisingly often something I want. Worst case the card cycles, best case it is an instant speed 2 for 1 that either mills a good thing of theirs or a bad thing of yours. There is loads of stuff that gives you information on yours and their tops of library. Even in singleton it is not super unlikely to hit blind. You can essentially milk this card for draw two and a bonus loot for the bargain price of a two mana instant!

Maze of IthMaze of Ith 0

It's a trap! It really is, Stone Rain yourself to get a single target Fog each turn. Just playing a real land and casting better spells each turn should get you more value than this. It may look like a control effect but not tapping for mana makes this not a control card at all as far as I can see.

Library of Alexandria 6.5

Library is quite nice in control, you can fairly easily maintain a large hand size and you play effects to recover tempo loss early. Library is greatly improved with ramp cards like Signets as so much of your stuff is reactive you end up looting with it rather than getting actual card advantage if you don't have cheap stuff to put onto the board. The best thing about Library in control is that you can use it in their turn and thus leave up mana to represent disruption.
Rishadan Port

Rishadan Port 6.5

The next best colourless land after Myriad Landscape I think for control decks. Port is a good answer to man lands and can really help you setup your big turns. You don't want Wasteland style cards as you don't want to reduce your own mana potential and so Port is the only sensible option control decks have to interact with lands (other than Balance).

Brimaz, King of Oreskos / Blade Splicer 6

High value things you can put on the board for not much mana. When under fire you can lay these on curve and they will do a lot of work. They become active to make safely quicker than most other cards you have too. These are fulfilling the role of True Name Nemesis rather. They are just powerful dorks that force the issue. They block very well, can offer value and are able to apply pressure. These kinds of cards are surprisingly good in the mirror as they do so much for the mana. You can force them to find an answer and you can get a lot more done with planeswalkers. These kinds of cards are another way control decks are coping with the reduced effectiveness of Wraths. You play these because they are better, cheaper, more powerful and more versatile board control tools than Wrath of God. You still need the Wraths but these often do more work.


Wurmcoil EngineWurmcoil Engine 6

This is either a great value card or a near unbeatable threat depending on the matchup. All the aggressive decks fold pretty hard to this so if you can survive long enough to make this that is often all you have to do. Wurmcoil is relatively good life gain, although not the most reliable or immediate it is a lot of life on top of a very powerful card! In the slower control and midrange matches you cannot expect to win off the back of a Wurmcoil, it will buy a lot of time and perhaps get a two for one or more but actually killing people with it is not that likely and as such it is rather a mid level threat in terms of what it achieves. As such it is rather on the expensive side as you will need to also play more reliable finishers as well. Good card but slightly over rated I would say. Much more polar in performance based on what you are against that people realise too I think.

Consecrated SphinxConsecrated Sphinx 5.5

A super strong card, one I often call the blue Titan however I find it performs best in midrange decks rather than control ones. A 4/6 flier is a good body, it blocks most things, is hard to kill and should be able to get four damage through most turns. Despite all this it is a very slow threat indeed. By the time you kill someone with this you could have drawn 15 extra cards just from draw steps. Assuming you made it turn six, then you will be 28 or 29 cards through your deck without any other draw or thinning. Sphinx is best when you make it, get like 4-6 cards out of it, kill a planeswalker and make your opponent scramble around desperately trying to deal with it only to do so very inefficiently. For a control deck it is too slow to be able to win and is too much in the card draw department. It would be a much better control card if the draw was scaled back a little and the resilience or damage output of the card was increased. You need other more reliable threats to go with this. It works well in decks with more ramp as well as the more midrange ones.

Baneslayer AngelBaneslayer Angel 6.5

Baneslayer is far from the card she once was. She is not as powerful by comparison due to power creep but she is also the victim of power creep in creatures with much more removal on offer. Removal really is the only way to beat a Baneslayer however. While easier to kill than a Wurmcoil Engine it is a much more reliable win condition as it is super hard to block in any ongoing capacity. It is not something you can race lightly either. While Baneslayer is vulnerable to removal it is best placed to be proteced in a blue control deck. Waiting till turn seven to make a safe Baneslayer isn't a bad option. Baneslayer with Force of Will backup always feels like game!

Restoration Angel 8

Cards with flash make some of the best threats control decks can play. They let you leave up mana to represent countermagic. They also let you sneak some value out of combat potentially and aid greatly in the removal of planeswalkers. Resto Angel is especially good at taking out planeswalkers with flying and good stats. Resto Angel gets really really good when you have a selection of EtB effects you can flicker with it. You don't need them for it to be good but that extra value is always welcome.

Vendilion Clique
Vendilion Clique 8

Much like Resto Angel this is a 3 power flying flash creature and it is even a mana less. Clique is one of your best anti planeswalker cards short of a counterspell. Clique also gives good information and protection against awkward cards. It can even give you some card quality. Versatile, powerful and exactly what the deck needs to compete in cube.

Archangel Avacyn 7.5

The more I see this the more impressed I am with it. As we have seen over the last few cards flash flying creatures make for really good mid level proactive control cards. Avacyn fairly reliably stomps something out in combat and leaves behind a good body. She then represents a potential Wrath effect for further value. It is a little harder to pull off in control as you have fewer dorks to trigger it with but it makes your opponents life very hard trying to play around it. You don't need it to flip, you usually get enough value from in on the turn you make it to be worthwhile. It can still kill people as a 4/4 quite effectively. Avacyn is a substantially easier card to include and play in a control deck than Baneslayer despite the equal cost mostly down to the flash but a little also from the short indestructible period.
Archangel Avacyn

Dragonlord Ojutai 5

I like this more than Consecrated Sphinx for the deck in theory but it is rather awkward in its own way. A 5/4 body is not great defensively. Only having hexproof when untapped and only getting value when attacking make this card quite difficult to milk for value. You can't sit back safely and get ahead. Due to how awkward this card is I would try and split it out and play different better threats and different better value cards.

Bribery 2

Wildly overrated card. You are the control deck, you should beat the cheaty fat man decks and ramp decks which are all Bribery is good against. It is the nut low against aggro decks and fairly meh against midrange. Just play a threat that does a thing you want. A sideboard card in my eyes and nothing more.

ÆtherlingAetherling 8

This has fallen a little in value recently. There are a couple of other cards now that are similar in their persistence to this card that offer some nice things as well. That isn't really the issue for Aetherling, it remains by quite a significant margin the most reliable and effective win condition. Once in play it is near unstoppable. The lengths you have to go to deal with it are unreal. Split second effects or Pithing Needle, stuff you don't maindeck. Basically you are racing once Aetherling is in play against you. The reason Aetherling has fallen off is that it is such a concentrated threat. You only need it, you can play no other win conditions and provided you have ways to draw the card on time it will get the job done. You have to be secure against discard effects too but this is all doable. This issue is this is all a bit too much work, you might as well just play 4 cheaper threats and be able to toss two in the bin with no worry if needs be. Aetherling costs at least seven mana, for every removal spell you suspect they could have beyond one you need another mana. If you are fighting through potential countermagic then you likely need two additional mana per counterspell they might have, this could all end up leading to a 12 drop card! Doable but as you can see, a lot of effort when you can just spread your threats out a bit more. Aetherling has some defensive utility but it is worse than most of your other threats for keeping you alive.

Aethertide WhaleAethertide Whale 6

Very strong alternative to Aetherling. This quicker to come online and offers better defensive utility. What is really convenient about the Whale is that it has a more appropriate level of threat density to Aetherling. Aetherling is so reliable at winning you don't need much in the way of other threats. Playing them is basically just wasting space but this means you will have more timing consistency issues. With Whale you want to play a spread of other threats as it is not so effective at winning the game. You may tie up more deck slots with this route but you will have greater flexibility in how you use those cards and they will be there when you need them much more often.

Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull

Supremely powerful and effective pair if you can get them both. A bit of a rough choice for control decks as a Stoneforge is a wasted pick if you don't get the Batterskull in control. You just really don't want any other equipment at all. Batterskull is a card you can play on its own at least and so is a more acceptable pickup. I don't rate it that highly however, I wouldn't want it in a list without a Stoneforge. If you get both, play them both and enjoy the free wins. Pick up either if you see them and have no other cards you would play. The reason Batterskull isn't very exciting when it always costs 5 sorcery speed mana to put into play is that it is a poor threat. It costs so much mana to abuse and offers fairly low initial impact or threat level. Good against weenie aggro decks if you survive long enough to get it out but really it is just a bad Baneslayer Angel.

Elspeth, Knight-ErrantElspeth, Knight Errant 8

Nice solid Elspeth. She isn't super on theme with a control deck but she is so powerful that she is still great in them. Elspeth is such a chore to deal with, she grows, floods the board and started with a high loyalty count. She is very good against most other planeswalkers with her ability to send to the sky. Elspeth will drain your enemies tempo and resrouces. If she isn't answered she will win the game. She is one of the things you can just make on turn four and tap out to do so as it puts them on the back foot. Proactive and dangerous yet impressively defensive. One of the cheapest things that is a resonable threat you can play. Even more brutal on the play and with Talisman/Signet draws.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Elspeth, Sun's Champion 8

One of the best all round top end cards for any control deck. Much like the four mana Elspeth you can usually tap out to make this and be pretty assured of safety. The value this churns out each turn is hard to keep up with. You have a lot less time in which you can ignore her than you can with any other walker control decks play. The ultimate isn't exciting or very "control" seeming but it does work with the +1 and it does end the game very fast. Having a kind of Wrath for big dorks thrown into the mix is perfect. Between the +1 and the -3 you can lay Elspeth productively into most board states. She will gain you a lot of value and tempo and may well just win you the game.

Entreat the AngelsEntreat the Angels 7

I think this is the best threat you can run but you need all the support, or at least a lot of it before it is a sensible route to go down. This is powerful defensively as well as offensively. A board full of 4/4 flying angels can block an alpha strike and then swing back for the kill. When cast for miracle and value of X = one or greater is good value increasingly till about the 5-8 region where diminishing returns will start to set in. Great scaling and potential instant speed combine with the insane kill speed and defensive potency of this card to make it the ultimate control win condition. This is like Decree of Justice but about five times more powerful! No instant spot removal will save you and you can avoid all the sorcery speed mass removal with this if you end of turn cast it. The only real answer to this is a counterspell but being so efficient on mana you can force it through better than most things. Don't play this if you can't set it up. If you can you very much should, you wont need to worry much about other threats then either.

Decree of Justice
Decree of Justice 3

So painfully slow. Uncounterable instant speed tokens with a card draw is amazing but the return on mana is pathatic. Five mana Raise the Alarm doesn't do much of much to protect you. You need like 12-15 tokens to win with it through a developed board too which makes it far too slow to be considered as a reliable win condition. Secure the Wastes is an all round better card than this now.

Thing in the Ice 5

True-Name NemesisMore of a speed bump than a threat but it is both. It is another Wall of Omens except rather than a card you get the option on a 7/8 with an Evacuation. Quite a big tempo swing but not the most threatening threat. Even if you get this flipped on like turn four it could easily lose a race or just be chumped and ignored for the rest of the game without being too problematic. This is a stall and tempo card and that is how you should look at it when building. It is nice in that it makes your deck a lot heavier without increasing the mana cost at all. You can afford to go a tiny bit lighter on threats should you be playing this. The main issue with this card is that it is not disposable like the Wall. It need to live to get the value and so you are less happy when it eats removal or when you have to chump with it. You do need to be able to support it with enough spells as well. The tap out versions of control often support too many dorks and planeswalkers for this to be viable.

True Name Nemesis 7.5

Celestial ColonnadeMore of a wall than a threat but the ability to stop being a wall and do 3 to a planeswalker is super handy. True Name forces the issue, they have to somewhat over extend to get around it. If they play too much around it then you can just attack and kill them with it but it is super slow. If they over extend too much then you are much more able to land that brutal mass removal spell. True Name eats a lot of friendly fire in control but that is generally OK. The effectiveness with which True Name can shut down a lot of early aggression is what makes him good in control decks.

Celestial Colonnade 9

Really one of the best cards in the deck. Probably now has the most wins under its belt for the archetype too. A more reliable threat than a lot of those you might actually play. This kills people, Wurmcoil Engine regularly doesn't. The really huge thing about Colonnade is how good it is at controlling planeswalkers which are your man weakness. It is basically a threat that works very well with your mass removal, is uncounterable, hard to kill and doesn't even cost you a card. Costal Tower is an acceptable enough card for fixing!


Knight of the White OrchidKnight of the White Orchid 4

A bit naff in control. The double white makes it awkward to play early. You don't want to miss land drops so Knight has poor scaling into the late game, unless you make it early odds on it isn't getting lands. Knight is nuts when you make it turn three on the draw and get to ramp, put bodies on the board and still leave up two mana. Other than this Knight is unreliable. It is improved with Path to Exile, Azorius Chancery and the like but overall I would steer clear. Nice enough for SB to bring in and out depending on who starts.

Talisman 7

I am not very good at building my control decks with ramp so it is something I am less practiced at and so the cycle continues! Ramp in control, as with any deck, is a way of making your deck heavier, higher average CMC without it becoming bad. You get to cut a cheap thing and a mid level thing and replace them with a heavy card and a ramp card as a very rough example. The power you can command from a top end control spell cast before curve is pretty nuts. You are happy to tap out for an Elspeth, Sun's Champion on turn five as it will dominate the game so much at that point. The value of ramp goes up the more the cube you are drafting is top heavy.

Azorius SignetSignet 6.5

One of the places where Talisman and Signet are closest in power as you often hold off making them till turn 3 anyway so as to leave up some counter magic. You still can't cast UU counters this way with Signet but that is fairly minor. No pain is a bigger deal for control decks as well. Signets are still worse just not as much worse as they usually are.

Chrome Mox 7

The quickest ramp you can find. It can make you fully protected from your first turn. I am pretty happy with Mox in my control decks. Typically you will have some cards that are weaker in any given matchup that make for pretty painless imprint targets. You will also ideally have a bunch of card advantage that will later offset the two for one you imposed on yourself with the Mox. In a lot of decks the value of a Mox drops rapidly past the first turn. For control decks this is less the case, it is often about having enough mana on a critical turn. I have had loads of games where I draw what seems to be a dead Chrome in the midgame however events come together such that I gladly imprint the Mox in the late game so that I can do all the things I need to be safe in a big and critical late game turn. Chrome is a great card and can be one of the best pickups possible. I only rate it as a 7 because it is easily something you can do without. Mox requires build attention and is hard to draft, build and play, it is one of the all time hardest magic cards. Without obvious synergies or a dire need of things like it I think you incur a lot of unnecessary risk with random Chrome Moxen in your deck. Play it if you know what you want it for and how you are going to use it and offset it.

Chrome MoxMox Diamond 5.5

Much weaker than Chrome in most kinds of control decks. Being in 3 or more colours does give Diamond a lot more value in the fixing department but for your typical two colour control builds you need pretty specific things to merit Diamond. You need card advantage to offset the two for one like Chrome but you also need far more card quality effects as well. Chrome can far more effectively replace a land, control like land so I might want 16.5 and play 16 and Chrome. You cannot do this with Diamond at all. In that same situation you would likely have to play 17 land plus the Diamond which would make your ratios a long way off your optimal. You need the card quality to remedy this wonky late/spell ratio. Cards like Land Tax and Balance make me happier to play Mox Diamond in my control deck. While it is about as powerful as Chrome Mox it is harder to build around and generally narrower.

Myriad LandscapeMyraid Landscape 7.5

Really top quality everything. This is both a EtB tapped land and a colourless land meaning you can't play too much more of either. Despite this it is my favourite colourless land for the deck and my second faourite EtB tapped land. Most 17 land control lists can get away with two colourless lands and 3 EtB tapped lands or so. Less is obviously better and so you have to be getting quite a lot from you land and Myriad Landscape does just that! Ramp, card advantage, fixing, thinning, shuffle. So so much and for a bargain cost at that. To fix two colours with any reliability you need about 7 basics or you can forgo fixing and just run four Islands and it will be great ramp and value. The total cost of the effect is 4 mana which you can split into 1 and 3, the three is payable at instant speed. The effect is pretty much a Rampant Growth plus a card draw. The price is roughly what you would expect to pay in green where this is very much a colour pie thing. On a land it is a joke! This card is slow and subtle so you often miss quite how above the curve it is for value and power. This is pretty much the best archetype for the Myriad Landscape too. I will always try and play this assuming my curve doesn't stop at 4 (which wouldn't really be a control deck then).

Temple of the False God
Temple of the False God 6

Another very strong free ramp card. This is always colourless, it offers no fixing and isn't even a useful land drop until the mid game. Once online however this is immediately able to produce mana with no drawback. You can make a 6 drop on turn five without any card investments (like Mox) or mana and tempo investments like with Signets and Myriad Landscape. If your deck is so consistent that you can expect to hit your first four land drops even with a dead card in hand in the high nineties percent of the time then Temple is likely a good inclusion for you. Most control decks thrive on loads of mana. You get nearly as much utility of out each extra mana all the way up to nearly double figures.

Solemn SimulacrumSolemn Simulacrum 4

Slow and low impact. The ramp is nice and relevant but it is expensive and slow for ramp. The value is OK but a little unreliable. Just going -2 on Architect of Thought is better value and likely more tempo than you get with Crum. I like Crum a lot more if I have a bunch of other ramp. If I can make him in place of a three drop I am super happy about it. The vale from Crum also offsets the loss of value from Talisman and Mox style cards preceding him.

Gilded Lotus 3.5

I don't overly associate this with control decks but it is pretty good in a number of them. As you can tap it right away for mana it is ultimately a two mana investment. You can tap out to make it and still have mana back to counter the stuff they do in their turn. Once you untap with a Lotus you have all the options. Massive threats with counter backup, huge card draw effects with the ability to make follow up plays. It is all good stuff but you need a top heavy deck to benefit from it properly, or at least one with a lot of high scaling cards. It is also another example of being quiet a concentrated effect. You can't just play this and assume you can get away with cramming in Ugin and Elesh Norn. When you don't see your Lotus these big cards that support it become weak. As such you have to think about running other ramp cards to smooth the ratios and up the consistency. Pretty soon you are playing some cube form of a Tron deck. Some bastardization of a control deck and an non-green ramp deck. Such decks do work, impressively well in fact but getting the balance right is super hard. Control decks already have a hard time getting the ratios between their answers, threats and value right, adding ramp into that mix is substantially increasing the complexity.

Grim MonolithGrim Monolith / Mana Vault 6.5 and 7

These are a great way to support heavier cards and they work nicely with things like Gilded Lotus. These are ultimately a lot like playing a Chrome or Diamond in your deck. These provide less mana but it is far more burst mana which is valuable in control decks. I try and avoid too much ramp in my control decks as a preference thing but there is no denying that ramp is a potent way to go with control and these are two of the most potent ramp spells. If you want to play things like Gilded Lotus and Solemn Simulacrum then these are great ways to support them as well as the cards they will be supporting too.

As a two colour deck I should briefly talk about the value of the dual lands. Colonnade is the best, after that it is fairly standard for the most part. The best duals are mostly still the best ones and the weak ones are still weaker. Glacial Fortress is generally a little better and Sea Chrome Coast a little worse, they likely exchange places but it is pretty minor. Mystic Gate is probably the second biggest mover after Colonnade. There are a lot of colour intense spells you want to play and Gate is the best land for such cards.

Lastly, before the example lists, I feel the need to drop a disclaimer. I have read through this essay a lot and added lots of little bits in yet I still feel this "Archetype Breakdown" isn't as complete as the others. I would like to think simply by reading the others through you would have most of the information needed to make and play a very solid version of the archetype in any given cube. For the control deck not only do I feel I have barely scratched the surface in terms of directions and options but I feel like there are still a lot of other important factors surrounding control decks that relate to how to build and play them that are absent from this article. I am not even sure what they are, only that they are not accounted for properly here. I think those of you who are naturally drawn to control will likely already know most of these things, if only subconsciously! To those not naturally control players I think playing, trial and error is the best way to gain a more complete understanding of control. Following my guidelines isn't enough, you have to understand the guidelines as well. I have a suspicion that in control decks the various styles of play are most born out. In an aggro deck there is generally one correct line of play. In control it is certainly much easier to argue for various lines of play. This entire article is based on what works for me more than anything else. I have observed things working for other people, tried it myself and found it really to not work for me. Some players work magic with cards I barely rate at all or don't think of as control cards. What works for me might not work for you. Just because it is right for me does not make it right for every play style. To master control you need to understand what works for you.

One obviously more difficult thing about translating this list into success in cube is that you cannot easily pick blindly according to the out of ten rating I have given each card here. With something like RDW there are really only two types of card you are picking up, threats and burn. You can literally pick according to the rating and odds on you should get pretty near the right ratios of those things. For control decks the value of each thing varies far more with each other pick you have made. If I first pick an Elspeth, Sun's Champion then I have instantly reduced the value of other threats, planeswalkers and six drops on the list quite substantially. The longer I don't pick up more of these things for the more their values will return to their starting value. You have to be super mindful of your CMC and threat/answer/draw ratios while drafting control. It makes drafting it significantly more challenging than for the proactive decks.

Mana Leak

Classic Control (less good in midrange cubes)

23 Spells

Swords to Plowshares
Spell Pierce

Cylonic Rift
Wall of Omens

Mana Leak
Snapcaster Mage

Cryptic Command
Wing Shards
Vendillion Clique
Spell Queller
Renewed Faith

Wrath of God
Supreme Verdict
Cryptic Command
Restoration Angel

Jace, Architect of Thought

Force of Will
Archangel Avacyn
Mystic Confluence

Torrential Gearhulk

Temple of Enlightenment
17 Lands

Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Temple of Enlightenment

Celestial Colonnade
Mystic Gate
Adarka Wastes
Galcial Fortress

Port Town
Seachrome Coast
Prarie Stream
Temple of the False God

Sensei's Divining TopMyriad Landscape
4x Island


24 Spells

Chrome Mox

Sensei's Diving Top
Mystical Tutor

Lat-Nam's Legacy
Lat-Nam's LegacyTalisman of

Arcane Denial
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

Trinket Mage
Thirst for Knowledge

Supreme Verdict
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Force of Will


Temporal Mastery

Dig Through Time

Entreat the Angels

16 Lands

Mistveil Plains
Ancient Den
Seat of the Synod
Rishadan Port

Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Mistveil PlainsTemple of Enlightenment

Celestial Colonnade
Mystic Gate
Adarka Wastes
Galcial Fortress

Seachrome Coast
2x Island

Sphinx's Revelation

23 Spells

Elixir of Immortality
Declaration in StonePath to Exile

Lat-Nam's Legacy
Wall of Omens

Arcane Denial
Declaration in Stone
Cyclonic Rift


Wing Shards
Council's Judgement
Vendilion Clique
Temporal Manipulation
Wrath of God
Supreme Verdict
Cryptic Command

Temporal Manipulation

Teferi, Temporal Archmage

Marshal Coup

Sphinx's Revelation

17 Lands

Mystic GateFlooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Temple of Enlightenment

Celestial Colonnade
Mystic Gate
Adarka Wastes
Galcial Fortress

Port Town
Seachrome Coast
Prarie Stream
Temple of the False God

Myriad Landscape
4x Island

Tap Out Control (best with black for targetted discard effects)

Preordain24 Spells

Ancestral Vision
Thraben Inspector
Gitaxian Probe

Wall of Omens
Declaraion in Stone
Talisman of
Azorius Signet


Blade Splicer
Brimaz, Kind of Oreskos
Talisman of ProgressCouncil's Judgement
Reflector Mage

Restoration Angel
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Wrath of God
Glen Elandra Archmage

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Baneslayer Angel

Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Crush of Tentacles
Consecrated Sphinx

16 Lands

Restoration AngelFlooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Temple of Enlightenment

Celestial Colonnade
Mystic Gate
Adarka Wastes
Galcial Fortress

Port Town
Seachrome Coast
Prarie Stream

3x Plains
2x Island


  1. I love this reviews :)

    Wishing for new material

  2. I love this reviews :)

    Wishing for new material