4-Color Control for U.S. Nats

Ruud has struggled through four countries and approximately one billion rewrites to bring you the story of his favorite deck in Standard that deserves one more spin around the block before 9th Edition evokes drastic changes on the archetype.

NOTE: This is an article I’ve written and rewritten way too many times. I lost it twice on various computers and e-mailed the wrong attachments once, all of this during or in between holidays. On the plus side, you could say that I worked on this for over a month in four different countries… or you could just say I should stop being so lazy and for once in my life finish what I start. For your additional entertainment I’ll provide you the following self bashing Tim Aten quote that hit me like a rock when I started a draft with him in London and tried to thrash talk him: “This is from the guy that once played the following turn: Play Indomitable Will on my guy, give it pro-White, Go.”

Anyway, what I’m actually trying to do here is get away with me being lazy and still present you with a deck that is outdated, even though I’m planning on testing it extensively for my Nationals. As we all know, 9th is rotating in and Plow Under is no longer legal then, hurting the deck significantly. At the end of the article I will go over what changes could be made in order to continue playing Etched Oracle in September…

Before London I’d been doing a lot of random drafts in preparation for the PT and found myself at a lot of local tournaments. At one of those I saw former World Champ Tom van de Logt play with a Standard deck I hadn’t seen before. Since it looked fun, I played some games with it and it performed really well. I just have a thing for unconventional control decks that tend to work, even though they look appalling on paper. This is especially true in Extended, where there’s a great deal of diversity. My outside-of-the-box approach seems to work out more often than not while deciding on a deck, even if it means playing cards other deem suboptimal such as Battlefield Scrounger, Lightning Angel, Slice and Dice and Sensei’s Divining Top… in Extended.

Back to Standard, the metagame shapes up with decks like Tooth and decks that beat it. Although there have been many versions of 5c Gifts decks, Regionals showed us that Tooth still is the deck to beat and slow 5Cdecks have a tendency to roll over and die to a certain 7/10. To compensate for that this deck only runs 4 different basics, so you can never lose more than 4 at a time. Right… just kidding, the real answer lies in the focus of the whole deck. Judge for yourself:

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Eternal Witness

4 Etched Oracle

2 Sensei’s Divining Top

2 Condescend

2 Mana Leak

4 Kodama’s Reach

3 Gifts Ungiven

4 Plow Under

3 Wrath of God

1 Final Judgment

1 Engineered Explosives

1 Revive

1 Crystal Shard

1 Rude Awakening

4 Tendo Ice Bridge

2 Elfhame Palace

1 Coastal Tower

2 City of Brass

1 Mirrodin’s Core

8 Forest

2 Island

2 Plains

1 Mountain


4 Creeping Mold

3 Viridian Shaman

1 Engineered Explosives

2 Sacred Ground

1 Ivory Mask

3 Circle of Protection: Red

1 Rude Awakening

This 4C deck takes maximum advantage of Plow Under in order to disrupt the assemblance of the Urzatron. On top of those Plows you have four counters to stop any nine-mana sorcery shenanigans. I’ll go over the matchup in a little more detail below. Another nice feature of this deck is it’s roguish factor, with people not expecting wraths or counters from most common 5cG builds. And when word gets around that you are sporting counterspells, people might try to play overly cautious of them, making it easy for you to punish them with Rude Awakening.


Tooth and Nail:

A very good matchup. Like I said, you just go nuts with Plows and there’s not really a lot they can do. They need a perfect hand even if you only get two of Plow/Gifts/Witness/Condescend/Leak. Just make sure they never reach Tooth mana or have a counter ready. Refill with Oracles and eventually lock up the game with Shard or Rude Awakening.

Sideboarding: -2 Wrath of God, -1 Engineered Explosives, -1 Gifts Ungiven

+3 Creeping Mold, +1 Rude Awakening

Post board you gain a little extra disruption in Creeping Mold and a faster kill in Rude Awakening. I would leave in the two Wraths in case they go with the beatdown plan. They might board in Plows against you but Reach, Elder and counters have you set up against them pretty good already.

Mono Green

This deck is a virtual bye. A deck that sports nothing but dudes is bound to lose to a strong control deck sporting Wraths. At first glance you might assume the equipment to be a problem but this deck blocks really well, with eight creatures you can sacrifice to prevent the triggers from triggering. I played games where equipment were just dead all game because of Orcales, Elders and Wraths, but if it might get out of hand, you can always get Explosives. Basically you just want to survive in this matchup until you can cast Rude Awakening for the win. Just be sure to hold on to your Wraths as long as possible in order to gain time and not lose to a surprise Beacon. I assure you that you can’t lose this matchup if you get a window to get an Oracle off, since you have all the answers.

Sideboarding: -4(3) Plow Under, + 3(2) Viridian Shaman, + 1 Engineered Explosives

With Shamans and the extra Explosives you won’t ever lose against equipment and are a bit better set up against Beacons as well. I like keeping in a Plow Under versus slower versions to be able to completely lock, them but against the fastest versions they should all go since they aren’t relevant there at all.

Mono Blue Control

Another great matchup. All your cards are either mana, counters or provide card advantage. MUC has tons of useless cards in Boomerang, Condescend, Chrome Mox and Mana Leak. You can easily play around the counters, having all the time in the world since they have no fast kill. The only way you could lose is through a fast Magpie, with you having no removal for it but that should rarely happen. In general this is a giant attrition war for which you are set up and they’re not.

Sideboarding: -1 Gifts, -1 Wrath, +2 Viridian Shaman

Sideboarding depends on their exact version. In short: the more artifacts, the more Shamans you want, but keep in mind they might pull their Shackles since they don’t do a whole lot. The Gifts you board out might actually be better than the Shaman but when players are running Spire Golem in the side (which is quite popular around here), then Shaman is your man.

Big Red

These decks can be tricky. You have answers for most of their stuff but you could lose to a lot of random stuff, you know, the way Red decks generally tend to win games. A deck like Flores Red they can easily burn you out if they draw enough, but cards like Molten Rain and Magma Jet that don’t do a whole lot, should leave you in good shape. Plow Under is still a very fine card but harder to rely on since they have shuffle effects and Sensei’s Divining Top. It still stalls their development, giving you more time to set up Awakening.

Sideboarding: -2 Wrath of God, -1 Engineered Explosives, -1 Gifts Ungiven, +3 COP: Red, +1 Ivory Mask.

Sideboarding, as always, depends on their exact version, but I’ll be nice and will state the obvious for the lazy. If they sport a high amount of LD you want to bring in the Sacred Grounds as well and can probably leave the Mask in the board. If they are artifact heavy (not counting Baubles and Solemns) then Shaman wants in as well. Pithing Needle on Oracle could be good but it still costs them a card and they might screw up saying something irrelevant. Or you might not even draw it, who knows?

Slighish Red

The first game can be pretty tough, with them throwing all kinds of threats at you and you needing all the answers. Elder is huge here, providing you time and mana to get the action going. Slith Firewalkers can become scary quickly and you’ll always lose to their God draws. They might not expect Wrath, so you might as well flat out win on turn 4 but that’s just lucky. Land Destruction could ruin your day, but 27 mana sources and some Tops go a long way. Your biggest problem is the amount of turns you give them to burn you out. You have a lot of card advantage though, so never get greedy and you should be fine.

Sideboarding: -4 Plow Under, -1 Final Judgement, -1 Gifts Ungiven. +3 COP: Red, +3 Viridian Shaman

9th Edition will change a lot and this sort of deck is best in a set metagame. Since most Dutchies have already been through a Colony to test for U.S. Block GPs, Nationals and the upcoming Extended PT, we have a rough idea of what the metagame will shape up like. Actually every little Billy-Bob could tell you that Tooth is still the dominant deck and that Red decks will be played. My idea for 4-Color Control is to fill the slots left open by the Plows with the fourth Gifts, an extra Top and 2 additional Mana Leaks. The sideboard should have some Cranial Extractions to battle Tooth a different way and maybe some extra counters to always come out on top post-board. Hey, if everything else fails, I can always pick up a Battle of Wits deck the night before Nats…