1800 Or Bust!: Control Is Dead. Long Live Control!

Sure, control will take a hammering thanks to Flashback – but supplement counterspells with discard and a low number of quality Flashback spells, and you might get this.

One month to go and we can say goodbye to Masques. The new block, Odyssey, has lots of people claiming that control will be dead because it will be overwhelmed by the number of threats, given that a Flashback spell will need two counterspells to stop it, not just one.

I disagree.

Of all the colours, blue has the best card drawing and deck searching of the lot. Opt, Fact or Fiction, and Probe alone improve the quality of your hand and help to refill it. Probe’s secondary effect, forcing an opponent to discard cards, combined with Gerrard’s Verdict, help to decrease the number of counterspells needed – and Wrath and Rout will almost always net better than one-for-one card advantage.

All of this is the same as it was before Odyssey rotated in. Odyssey brings us Flashback, though… But realistically, how many Flashback spells are people going to play? Call of the Herd looks good. Roar of the Wurm looks good, too – but most people are engineering ways to get it into the graveyard quickly, nullifying its double threat advantage for pure speed. Firebolt will probably see some play, too, but it only comes back once – not nearly as nasty as Hammer of Bogardan at all!

One big loss for control is the seemingly ever-present Nether Spirit. No longer will they have a blocker after they’ve Wrathed. No longer will they have a creature that can keep blocking, get killed, burnt, fried and still make it to work in the morning with no mana needed at all.

So, control is not dead in my view. Sure, it’ll take a hammering, but have a look at the following deck list:

Post-Odyssey U/W/B Control

Creatures (5):

4x Spectral Lynx

1x Dromar, the Banisher

Spells (31):

4x Counterspell

3x Absorb

3x Dromar’s Charm

2x Syncopate

4x Fact or Fiction

3x Probe

3x Gerrard’s Verdict

2x Vindicate

2x Dismantling Blow

4x Wrath of God

1x Rout

Land (24):

4x Underground River

3x Salt Marsh

4x Coastal Tower

2x Caves of Koilos

2x Dromar’s Cavern

5x Island

4x Plains

This is heavily based on Tommi Hovi’s deck from Worlds. The deck obviously has lost the synergy between Probe and Nether Spirit, and Nether Spirit and Wrath. I’ve lost the Disrupt (for now) and the Tsabo’s Webs, because Port and Dust Bowl are no longer a threat. If Keldon Necropolis proves to be a big problem, the Webs might go back in (or the Vindicate numbers may rise).

Syncopates replace Memory Lapse, because they can be cast early to slow and opponent, just as Memory Lapse could – but they can also remove one or two Flashback spells from the game, making your life a little easier. They also have just one blue mana in the cost – the same as Memory Lapse – so the early need for double blue is kept on a leash.

In testing against a vanilla R/G deck with a little Flashback, this is doing just fine. The Lynxes hold off creatures until a Wrath or Rout comes into view, and Dromar is just as good a finisher as ever.

While playing around with this, I also spent a little time looking through Apocalypse. The idea of playing Pernicious Deed, Spiritmonger, and some counter spells stuck in my mind. I started with a G/B deck with a little less blue, but soon dropped the amount of green needed and increased the blue and black to make life a little easier.

Here’s the deck at the moment.

Post-Odyssey U/G/B Control

Creatures (3):

3x Spiritmonger

Other Spells (32):

4x Pernicious Deed

4x Counterspell

4x Undermine

3x Syncopate

4x Duress

4x Opt

2x Spite/Malice

3x Fact or Fiction

3x Probe

1x Yawgmoth’s Agenda

Land (25):

4x Yavimaya Coast

4x Salt Marsh

4x Llanowar Waste

4x Island

4x Swamp

2x Forest

2x Bog Wreckage

1x Underground River

I find the mana okay, but the Deeds seem a little slow, as you often have to cast them, protect them, and then use them the turn after. The Fact or Fictions, Probes, and Opts help you get to your answer cards quickly, whilst the Duresses and counters deal with your opponent’s threats.

Again, this is a control deck that can slow down, and often win against traditional beatdown deck, whether they have Flashback or not. Like any control deck, you have to miss out on your mass removal to be in trouble, although a Spiritmonger can often turn the tide in your favour.

The sad fact is that Odyssey isn’t offering much to these decks right now. I like Syncopate for the same reason I liked Power Sink… But I can see how the lack of Power Sink”tap your lands and empty your mana pool” can cause real problems when trying to counter spells if your opponent has a lot of land still untapped. They’ll often be tempted to just say”Okay, you got it” and play another spell instead!

The power of Apocalypse and Invasion shines brightly against the seemingly mediocre cards Odyssey has to offer – but are they really that bad? Is Odyssey as boring/awful/uninspired as people are crying out right now? Probably not.

Once again snap judgements about a new set are being made, before it’s even legal for Type II. I’ll reserve my judgement until after the Pros have had a play with it.

Cheers, Jim.

Team PhatBeats.