Thursday 5 July 2012

UW Control

Blue white control stood for a long time as one of the best tier one decks and the best of the various control deck builds. It had all the best tools for control with great spot and mass removal. Then something happened and UW control stopped winning games around the time of Zendikar block. Since then I have been trying out loads of ways to make the archetype function without needing to dip into a 3rd colour. The reason behind why it was losing so much was that most decks were packing either threats in many different forms or late game card advantage engines. The deck was getting stretched very thin trying to be able to cope with all the things it needed to. Cards like Wrath of God were becoming an expensive half answer due to doing nothing to planeswalkers and man-lands. It felt like in order to win you had to draw exactly the appropriate cards for what your opponents were drawing which is a lot like how many control Rock decks have felt over the years.

Baneslayer Angel
I have come across a somewhat impure solution that seems more effective than I would imagine for a deck with so few one and two drops. I call it impure as it doesn't really function as a control deck from about turn five and instead makes powerful threats of its own. It also has Kitchen Finks which suited the deck well but does still feel like you are in 3 colours... The idea is to have sufficient high quality cheap control cards to ensure you make it to the mid game at which point you can start to throw powerful threats into the mix. The more agro decks won't be able to deal with the number and high power of your threats and will lose due to having to play very inefficiently with their cheaper and less powerful cards. The slower grind control decks with card advantage engines to support them late game won't be able to deal with your threats as you also have some cheap disruption for their thinly spread answers. Essentially you gain such a tempo advantage in the mid game that they cannot recover in order take it to the late game where they do have the edge. This means when playing most other control decks you have to assume the role of the aggressor from the outset.

Wrath of God
More classic versions of blue white control have run far fewer threats in favour of reliable and redundant answers. One of the main problems with this strategy was that as the format gained more and more tenacious, cheap and high tempo threats the deck needed to run more and more things like Force Spike simply to ensure it could maintain enough control in the early game. You never really want to just throw away a threat to equalize the tempo when you just have a couple of them and so you cannot afford to enter the mid game on the back foot too much. As you fill up your deck with great early plays you lose average card power level and your late game really suffers to the point of losing games in which you have stabilized but then failed to draw much of significance there after. This can be remedied with card quality spells to some extent however these are still extra cards that are neither threats or answers and that will cost you mana and tempo to make use of.

The main aim with this build was to minimise on the number of cards which scale poorly as the game progresses, are narrow in application or simply have low power. This mostly meant I had about 5 less one and two drops than I am used to running. This was also the first ever cube constructed UW control deck I have ever seen built without a Wrath of God.

Arcane Denial

23 Spells

Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Land Tax

Wall of Omens
Arcane Denial

Snapcaster Mage
Swords to Plowshares
Sea Gate Oracle
Vendilion Clique
Kitchen Finks
Oblivion Ring

Cryptic Command
Elspeth, Knight Errant
Restoration Angel

Gideon Jura
Timayo, the Moon Sage
Baneslayer Angel

Austere Command

TreacheryTemporal Mastery

17 Land

Celestial Colonnade
Hallowed Fountain
Adakar Wastes
Mystic Gate
Flooded Strand
4 Plains
7 Islands

Adarkar Wastes
I deliberately chose to play Actual Counterspell over Mana Drain and to exclude Jace, the Mind Sculptor despite both obviously being outstanding in the deck. The former was simply to see more of how the deck would work without the occasional free win you get from the early Mana Drain into big threat. The omission of Jace was to see how far you could push the miracle mechanic in terms of lack of support and still have it be worthwhile. It turns out a Brainstorm and a Snapcaster Mage with occasional card quality from Vendilion Clique are enough to make the miracles outstanding. Terminus in particular as it is quite affordable for its normal cost and so requires the support much less than Mastery. The 4-6 mana power cards don't really matter all that much and should all be able to do a great deal on their own. Generally you should just go for the best cards you can grab and worry a little less about making them overly synergic with the low end of the deck.

TimetwisterNormally counter based control decks need to have some way to recycle their deck and the reasons were three fold. Firstly you were always the most likely to deck yourself due to high quantities of card draw. Decking probably happens about one in a hundred games in cube which doesn't sound all that significant however plenty of games get to the point where libraries are running low which really forces you to play in certain ways to have a chance of winning in time. Simply having the security of a reshuffle allows safe optimal play for the control player. Reason number two is that you often only have one of two ways to deal with tricksy or awkward permanents and without access to wishes you can find yourself having used your answer on something else and lose as a result. Snapcaster Mage has helped with this recently, as you can see my list has only got Oblivion Ring and Austere Command to hit artifacts and enchantments, the former of which is best saved for planeswalkers. Should I lose my Austere Command in some way and find I need it later on I do have some security from the Mage. The third reason is simply that control decks have less threats and more answers meaning it is much easier to find yourself in total control of a game but without any way to actually win. The reshuffle cards like Timetwister and Time Spiral meant you could build a deck with just a couple of win conditions and play with confidence. This deck is so chock full of threats that you are not going to be very concerned about running out of them or struggling to end it in time and so gains another slot from not needing a reshuffle.

Not the hardest deck to build and not the most elegant of designs but it will give you a chance to play some good long magic. It will let you re-live the nostalgic days of counter-post (if that means nothing to you then you are too young to be retiring to the cube and should go PTQ some more) and not get smashed for trying it. The more you try to avoid playing creatures the more you struggle and old school control players seem a little slow in accepting this.
Kjeldoran Outpost

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