2005 Championship Deck Challenge: Doctor Mox and the Evil of Control

Welcome to the 2005 Championship Deck Challenge!
The right admirable Dr. Mox tackles this week’s 2005 Championship Deck Challenge assignment with his customary gusto, producing a solid control deck in spite of the fact that he is the most diabolical hater of control archetypes this side of the Mississippi.

Aloha, my admirable admirals! Avast ye, splice the various main-braces and keel-haul ye a lollygagger! Climb aboard the Good Ship Mox, and come dine at the Captain’s Table!

Why, you may ask, am I regaling you with nautical jargon? Have I become an old sea-dog with a wooden leg and one-eyed parrot? Or am I simply stuck, groundhog-stylee, in Talk Like a Pirate Day?

Of course, the answer is neither. I am simply adopting the colloquialisms befitting my current station: aboard a cruise-ship off the coast of Egypt!

When last we talked, some two months ago, my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta and myself were bound for a cabaret life on the ocean wave. Little has changed in the interim. Of course, there was an unfortunate fracas involving Jetta, a midden-mast and one of the higher-ranking officials on the ship… ropes were swung, and cries went unheeded. Such nautical acts of “accidental penetration” are not without precedent, yet one can hardly blame Jetta for the incident: after all, had the officer in question deployed a more conventional, not so wide-reaching stance, the whole debacle could’ve been avoided. Suffice to say, I can no longer look at the poor Rear Admiral without tears springing to my eyes.

Thankfully, our double-act is proving a great success, despite the early hiccups. We’ve finally rid ourselves of the bilious aroma from our costumes: we’re now only too aware that hi-impact aerobics and seasick passengers is not a match made in heaven.

On the downside, I am a martyr to my allergies: the sea-air has seeped into my fingers, ballooning them to cartoon proportions. But the show, as they say, must go on, and I am currently typing with the aid of sporks duct-taped to my elbows. It’s not ideal, I assure you, but one must try. Today, I brave my salt-water swellings to answer a call from the Great One Himself…

Heed me, oh piteous Mox!

I am the Formidable Ted Knutson, Editor of StarCityGames, Predictor of Metagames, Destroyer of Worlds, Ravisher of Queens (and a King, once, when I was drunk and curious), Purveyor of Filth, Killer of Swans, Bracketter of Beans and High Poobah of the Holy Cheesecake, hereafter known as The One True Knut. Bow down before your God!

States doth approach, and I need fresh articles to placate the gaggling neophytes that make up our ‘readership,’ though I doubt that many of them can actually ‘read’ at all.

I task you, Mox, with a Holy Quest: bring me a Control Deck, fit for the new Standard, packed with juicy technology and unsurpassed brilliance, able to take on all comers and devour the world in a relentless ascent to victory.

And make sure you do some play-testing, yeah? The forums will have my guts for garters if you don’t.

The One True Knut, Heaven.

Thanks for the letter, Ted.

A control deck for States?


The most infamous shunner of the Dirty Cards since Paskins himself?

To tell the truth, my fabulous friends, the good doctor was rather daunted by the task.

Luckily, I had my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta to confide in. She has a wonderful shoulder upon which to cry. For the record, it is the left one, as her right has a pronounced calcium build-up that shapes it something akin to Ayers Rock. It’s nothing too shocking, though sometimes we must ward off migratory birds in search of nesting space.

After laughing heartily for nigh on thirty minutes, Jetta comforted me with the following snippets of wisdom:

Just because a deck is controlling, it doesn’t mean it has to be Evil.

If you try to touch my happy sacks, I'll kill you.

By acquiescing to Ted’s demands, I would place myself in a position of a Control Master, something regretfully lacking from my day-to-day life.

Even if Ted is technically a giant, one swift kick to the happy-sacks and he’ll crumble like a wet sandcastle.

Thoroughly emboldened by her stirring refrain, I set about the task with gusto. So much gusto, in fact, that the ship began to rock as if buffeted by high winds. Upon inspection, however, it became clear that the buffeting was actually caused by real high winds, but I’m sure the gusto played a small part therein.

The first question I asked is…

Just what is a ‘Control Deck?’

After a bout of frenetic mental masturbation, I came up with the following criteria:

  • A Control Deck should negate an opponent’s game plan.

  • A Control Deck should be versatile enough to handle or ignore anything that it faces.

  • A Control Deck should win via a focussed victory condition.

  • A Control Deck should, ideally, render vast swathes of the cards in the metagame redundant.

So, then, is this a Control Deck?

Reddy For Anything.dec

“>Hunted Dragon

“>Glacial Ray

“>Lava Spike



“>Guerrilla Tactics

“>Volcanic Hammer



“>Flames of the Blood Hand

“>Hidetsugu’s Second Rite

“>Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

“>Sacred Foundry

13 Mountain

“>Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion

Does it measure up to analysis of my supposed criteria? As my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta often says, let us go through the motions.

  • The deck negates an opponent’s game plan in a singular fashion. It aims to win the game through direct damage as quickly as possible. Fling Red to the head, and soon they’ll be dead. Unless the opponent’s game plan is “shaft the honorable Red mage at every turn, consequences be damned,” packing their lunchbox with maindeck CoP: Reds and other such feculence. This deck should reliably win game one of any encounter. Games two and three? That’s what the White is for, and Terashi’s Grasp from the sideboard.

  • The deck is versatile enough to handle the majority of creature strategies, having burn by the bundle, and can largely ignore anything else while sending stuff to the dome.

  • The victory condition of this deck is uber-focussed. Red spells to the face. Nothing more, nothing less. The Hunted Dragons should be classed as six-point finishers, or even twelve-point finishers should the Sunhome hit town. Double Strike is a wonderful mechanic, one that my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta is particularly enamoured with. And not just in Magic, I hasten to add… when we get frisky, her “double striking” can get rather vigorous.

  • Many cards are found wanting against this Red behemoth. Creature kill, such as Putrefy and Plague Boiler? Weak. Hand destruction, land destruction, slow and ponderous Gifts recursion? Also weak. So you’ve made me discard? Even if it’s not a Guerrilla Tactics, I’ll still topdeck burn for the win.

Reddy For Anything.dec, like so many Decks of Honesty and Truth, controls the game by controlling the clock. Get that right, and the rest can go hang like Charlie.

And while we’re at it, is this a control deck?

Black-Green Whack-Machine.deck

“>Sakura-Tribe Elder

“>Elves of Deep Shadow

“>Dark Confidant

“>Hypnotic Specter

“>Kokusho, the Evening Star



“>Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni



“>Plague Boiler

“>Last Gasp

“>Diabolic Tutor

1 Consume Spirit

“>Llanowar Wastes

“>Overgrown Tomb

“>Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers

“>Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

“>Miren, the Moaning Well

“>Svothgos, the Restless Tomb

7 Forest

3 Swamp

Again, we must scrape off the mildew and gobble it down like so much reconstructed ham.

  • The deck negates an opponent’s game-plan by killing all his creatures, destroying all his lands, stripping his hand of all cards, gaining card advantage, knocking down his life total, pissing into his gas-tank, stroking his mother’s milky-white thighs, smashing his cell-phone with a little girder and squirting tart lemon into his eyes.

  • The deck can handle creatures, artifacts, tricksy lands, counterspells, life-loss, enchantments… almost anything. And it has fifteen cards from the sideboard to shore up the holes. Sure, four of them will probably be Umezawa’s Jittes, but that’s just a bonus.

  • The victory condition, while not as focussed as some, is still pretty straightforward. Indeed, it is essentially the Control Player’s mantra: deal with threats, gain card advantage, deplete their resources and just win, baby.

  • While the deck, in running with stock threats and answers, will face many threats and answers of a similar nature, the card advantage available should render their mutual trade-off advantageous. I am forever reminding my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta that Card Advantage Wins Games. Then again, she is quick to point out that I am usually disadvantaged in many important areas, so maybe I overate the luxury of Having More Than One Can Handle.

Armed with the following decks, I approached my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta and revealed the fruits of my labors. To be frank, she wasn’t impressed, a state of affairs that is happening more frequently than I care to admit. Recently, I tried to impress her with some extreme limbo-dancing on the poop-deck of our ocean liner. What I failed to remember was that she was once an All-States Limbo Champion, winning countless trophies nationwide before disqualification and disgrace due to her illegal double-jointed spine. When I attempted my personal limbo best, almost causing myself a mischief in the process, she simply hunched down and scuttled underneath me like a Fiddler Crab.

Jetta was quick to point out that the above decks are not Control Decks, at least not in the way that the One True Knut was angling for. She accused me of wasting valuable time and efforts, and even went so far as to claim I was simply including them to pad out the article from my usual Star City Daily length of 1000 words!

I assure you, fair Mages, that this is not the case.

I am including them to give examples of my peerless academic rigor.

Yes, that’s it.


With a heavy heart- or, to translate an oft-used Swiss phrase, “with my balls fair swelled and swinging”- I resigned myself to a life down the Space Lizard’s Smegma Mines and picked up the Blue cards. Pairing them, as is the modern way, with some boys from the Black stuff, I came up with the following.

Cue the strange formatted box-type thing:

Please God Kill Me Now.dec

“>Jushi Apprentice

“>Dark Confidant

“>Meloku, the Clouded Mirror

“>Sensei’s Diving Top

“>Mana Leak


“>Rend Flesh

“>Consult the Necrosages

“>Threads of Disloyalty


2 Dream Leash

“>Underground River

“>Watery Grave

“>Tendo Ice-Bridge

“>Miren, the Moaning Well

“>Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

“>Orobo, Palace in the Clouds

7 Island

4 Swamp

This is not my final decklist. After much testing, I made substantial changes, most of which can be found in the decklist at the foot of the article. Feel free to skip down and read it. Though frankly, if you’re here for deck tech, you’ve obviously never read one of my articles before.

My Swiss ladyfriend Jetta was placated by the above list, and agreed to be my opponent in some vigorous testing. Though she usually loathes the archetype, complaining that she gets enough of it in real life, she happily played with White Weenie. The list is by a certain Mr. Mark Young, who does not look like a Mark but certainly looks Young. It can be found here, or I can send you a list if you post me $35 in unmarked bills to the usual address. Or if you fancy a thrill, try rooting through the garbage in Mark Young trashcan. You never know what you might find.

However, before we begin in earnest, a few notes on preliminary card choices. After all, I presume this article is Premium. You’ve paid for nothing less.

4 Dark Confidant, 4 Sensei’s Divining Top

There is much proclaiming in the media over Bob Maher’s Invitational card. I for one believe it will live up to the hype. Coupled with a Divining Top, this guy is card advantage personified. And he beats down for two, all for one-and-a-Black, therefore he isn’t too controlly. Maybe there’s hope for my soul yet.

Having examined the artwork for Dark Confidant, it is clear that there are two figures yet only one (or maybe two or more) Bob Mahers. At first I was unsure about which was the great man himself. My Swiss ladyfriend Jetta informs me, however, that Bob is not the slavering blob in the background, but the “dashing young buck” in the foreground (her words, not mine). I fear Jetta may have taken a shine to the winsome Mr. Maher. I think he looks like a ginger Disco Elvis, but it takes diff’rent strokes to move the world.

4 Consult the Necrosages

This is my card-drawing spell of choice for a number of reasons. While it’s a sorcery, it still offers value, as it can reverse the lovin’ to strip cards from the hands of anyone within range. Four does seem a little overboard, however- maybe Telling Time or some other goodness can be used here.

For reference, try not to use the phrase “overboard” while on a ship, within earshot of paranoid sailors. It can cause all manner of discrepancies.

3 Threads of Disloyalty, 2 Dream Leash

White Weenie is still a force. As is the new hybrid Green/White beatdown deck incorporating Watchwolf and the like. While largely redundant against control, a wide and diverse metagame such as States will have a plethora of creature decks, with targets for Threads aplenty. Even if you only snag a Birds of Paradise or an Elves of Deep Shadow, it’ll serve a valuable purpose.

And the Dream Leash? Good for what ails ya.

If anything Big swings, nab it.

3 Rend Flesh

This is a versatile kill-spell for any occasion. Unless the occasion is Spirit-based, of course, when it’ll simply sit in your hand like a bird with a broken wing.

So, onto the testing!

I’ll level with you early, folks: unlike my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta, it wasn’t pretty. I pulled out a number of games, but Jetta (as usual) had the upper hand. Most of my wins were on the back of a miraculous Meloku on turn 5 or 6. Often, even that wasn’t enough, as Otherworldly Journey rendered him mute. Indeed, my most memorable win wasn’t Magic-related at all. While Jetta swang for lethal damage, I unzipped and placed my Little Doctor in the Red Zone. While Jetta dashed off to vomit, I simply shuffled her creatures back into her library, reset my life to 20 and stacked my deck for optimum performance. Even after her return, it was still perilously close.

The above build was flawed. That much was obvious. Some cards were proved to be useless, some were proved to be stars. Here is some analysis, before I move to my changes (and some control testing)

4 Dark Confidant, 4 Sensei’s Divining Top

Against White Weenie, and logically against other Aggro decks, these were absolute rubbish.

With a Divining Top out, the Dark Confidant tied up valuable mana, smoothing the draw and supplying options while my face was caved in under the White Weenie Jackboot.

Without a Divining Top out? The life-loss was hideous. I’d forever draw Meloku, or Dream Leash, or even Hinder, and my life-force drained as fast as my enthusiasm for Control decks. My Swiss ladyfriend Jetta delighted in my dismay, forever singing about the “wonderful Bob” and his “piercing gaze of pure lust.” In fact, at one point we took a break in testing so she could have a little lie down.

Against a more controlling strategy, he may be brilliant.

Against aggro? Scrotum.

2 Dream Leash

Again, this card proved less than stellar. To be honest, it was more of a speculative replacement for Bribery than anything else, another card that was weak against a Weenie strategy. The leash never nabbed anything more than a Suntail Hawk. A sideboard card at best.

3 Rend Flesh

The weakness of this card? I doesn’t kill Hokori, Dust Drinker. Luckily, there are plenty of options available to us in the Black creature-kill department. Dark Banishing, Last Gasp… choices, choices.

The Land Base

Even with a plethora of multicoloured options, I was often found lacking for one color or another. Jetta, of course, had no such problem. In fact, her partial color-blindness allowed me to cast a number of spells without the correct mana to legally do so. In one memorable game, I convinced her that all her lands were Forests. She was too busy mooning about her new beau Bob Maher to notice, however. Strangely enough, she still managed to win that game.

After being thoroughly thrashed left, right and center, I retired to the ship’s cocktail bar for some much-needed tweaking. I downed a number of stiff Martinis, threw some more cards together, and came up with the following.

Please God Kill Me Now.dec, Version 2

Again, a few words on the card choices.

4 Dimir Cutpurse

I decided to replace the rancid Maher with the new Finkel. While I realize that this guy wouldn’t be stellar against White Weenie, due to their unnatural love for the pro-Black Hand of Honor, he is a possible house in control matches. At the very least, he’s a target for removal that is otherwise destined for Meloku.

Avert your eyes!

Happily, while this card is indeed the “new Finkel,” it doesn’t bear a likeness to Johnny Magic himself. This, I feel, is a bonus, as if Jetta went do-lally over Mr. Maher she’d be whipped into a frothy frenzy when presented with the chiselled good looks of the Poster Boy himself.

2 Drift of Phantasms

Another sop to the power of White Weenie, the Drift of Phantasms may likely be a sideboard card. However, the Transmute ability is relevant here, fetching Hinders and Consult the Necrosages and Threads of Disloyalty. And to be frank, I think I weighted the deck toward beating Jetta: I couldn’t face another session of her smug grin and patronizing insults.

4 Last Gasp

In the end, I plumped for the Last Gasps over the Dark Banishings. However, I can see a call for both, and it’s strictly a metagame call. Banishing, after all, deals with opposition Melokus and Keigas and the like. However, Last Gasp still puts paid to the majority of threats in the format as I see it.

4 Boomerang

I upped the Boomerang count to four, for a number of reasons. First, they are an excellent catch-all card, able to return any permanent for counterspell action on the way back down. Second, they are good defence against Hands of Honor, and can even be pseudo Recoils if the Dimir Cutpurse is in effect. And thirdly, I love the idea of bouncing a freshly played turn 2 Golgari Rot-Farm or similar. That is so deliciously wicked, it must be straight from the Devil’s Playbook.

Revitalized by tweaking and Martini, I returned to our cabin to face Jetta anew. She too had been busy in my absence: the walls of our tiny abode were now adorned with makeshift “I Heart Bob Maher” banners. It’s quite sad, really. She’s old enough to be his grandmother.

This time, the testing was rather more pleasurable: for me at least. I feel I had finally kicked the ass out of the matchup. Jetta lost game after game, her only triumphs coming from mana issues on my part and super-draws on hers. Eventually, she stormed off in a self-righteous huff. I say stormed: in fact, as she rose, her prosthetic leg came adrift at the couplings and she hopped out with my victory song ringing in her one good ear.

Here are some thoughts on the strengths of the cards post-testing.

Last Gasp

Simply incredible against White Weenie. Coupled with Boomerang, I no longer feared Hokori. In fact, I no longer feared Glorious Anthem, a usual must-counter spell, as the Last Gasps could still reach all targets. Other than Hand of Honor, of course, but that’s a given.

Dimir Cutpurse

Not as shabby as I thought he’d be. Yes, he’s blocked all day by Hand of Honors. However, when coupled with a Drift of Phantasms, he’s often enough to keep the 2/2 pro-Black guy (and the rest of the air-force) at home. And when he does start swinging, he’s fantastic. I can still see a possible replacement in Thieving Magpie.

Drift of Phantasms

While he may be a board card in the final reckoning, he definitely earned his wings here. I’d love to see another two hit from the sidelines. The Transmute function was useful too, able to fetch up a discard spell when necessary.

Consult the Necrosages

The discard option of this spell surprised me with its usefulness. Many a time, the White Weenie player hoards that Shining Shoal, hoping to eke out a win when the game looks lost. Strip their hand, break their heart, laugh at their pain. It’s all good.

With Jetta gone exploring, it was time to test the deck against a Control-style deck. I planned to run against Quentin Martin freshly-pimped Thug Gifts deck, that can be found here, or tattooed on Sam Gomersall left buttock (if you have access to that particular sweetmeat).

Alas, being at sea, I was lacking a formidable opponent. Jetta herself refuses to play any version of Gifts Ungiven, as she has a long-standing feud with her sister Hana and dislikes being reminded of her name. I maintain it’s more to do with the fact that her mother bears a striking resemblance to Kagemaro, but I digress.

I ran my deck against Thug Gifts a number of times, playing both sides of the table. Even with my tweaked-for-aggro control build, I managed to win every single game.


Because I have no idea how to play Gifts.

I’m hideous at it.

I wish it were different, but it ain’t.

In piloting Gifts, I make ill-informed choices one after another, until I’m hoist by my own substantial petard and fall screaming to the floor with a burst of impotent rage.

In the end, I disbanded my testing session as redundant. I’d like to offer some insights here, but frankly they’d only serve to confuse matters.

The above list is not without flaws, I grant you. I never claimed to be an expert in such things. Only once have I claimed to be an expert in things beyond me, and I’m still paying the price today: the Center for Nudism Research still refuse to answer my calls, despite my profuse apologies.

Some other cards of note for inclusion, both maindeck and sideboard, are luminaries such as Kagemaro, Kiega, Hideous Laughter, Hero’s Demise, Ink-Eyes, Muddle the Mixture, Exile into Darkness, Sickening Shoal, Telling Time, Dimir Guildmage, Shadow of Doubt… the list is literally endless. Hell, with a little tweaking you can even slot a Plague Boiler in there.

So there you are, oh Great and Glorious Tedster. My take on a Control Deck. I hope it is sufficient to placate your unholy Wrath. If you still insist on the smiting, I hope your aim is as off as it was last time… the Ferrett’s eyebrows have yet to regrow after your last misdirected Lightning Blast.

Well, my oscillating vagabonds, it is time for me to depart once more. My cabaret act is due to start in thirty minutes, and I’ve yet to don my spangled costume. Hopefully, the sporks on my elbows should be easier to remove than last time. The sticking property of duct tape is second to none, and my last removal wrenched with it a flap of skin so thick it resembled a partially cooked breakfast waffle.

I can hear my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta warming up her singing voice in an adjoining cabin. Her dulcet tones never cease to inspire me, yet I suspect her lilting rendition of the Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston classic “I Will Always Love You” shall be dedicated to someone different tonight…

I’m a jealous man, Mr. Maher.

Watch your back.

Until next time, don’t play Control.

Doctor Mox

NB: If you have a question for Doctor Mox, he can be contacted at [email protected]

Available for birthdays, anniversaries and Bar Mitzvahs.