American Control 2: The Sequeling

What’s almost as American as apple pie with melted cheese on top? U/W/R Control, that’s what! Mark Nestico and Keranos, God of Storms tag-team in an article featuring wrestling, Magic, and more.

You’d think after my gushing and patriotic exposition last week about
U/W/R Control that I’d be done talking about it, but I just watched Kurt Angle wrestle three matches at King of the Ring 2001, so I’m pretty sure the red,
white, and blue is calling to me. The man won an Olympic gold medal with a broken freaking neck! There aren’t many things more American than that…except
apple pie with cheese melted over the top of it.

That’s way more American than I’m willing to invest in.

Last week
we got a pretty solid start on what a U/W/R list is going to look like going forward. I worked with several of my friends who were attending various
Invitational Qualifiers or other local events on what builds would be most pertinent and I’m happy to say that most of them did very well!

One of the more interesting takes on the U/W/R that I was able to see came from none other than Tomoharu Saito on Twitter early on May 2nd. This was what
we were made privy to:

Saito's UWR

Look familiar?

It should. This weekend Christopher O’Bryant was able to finish in the Top 4 of #SCGCIN in impressive fashion, putting on a show with U/W/R Control. Saito’s
maindeck seemed to serve Chris well as he carved through the field, proving that the good ole USA has what it takes to compete at the top tables.

Cards like Firemind’s Foresight might seem gimmicky and ridiculous, but I assure you this card is the real deal.

Being set on one lets you search up Quicken or Syncopate. Not bad. Instant Supreme Verdict or a counter isn’t something to laugh at.

The two is set on Deicide, Izzet Charm, Turn//Burn, or Last Breath. Again, these cards have applications in all matches, so they aren’t to be sneezed at.

Lastly is the three function, and that’s where things get really filthy. Tutoring up your own Sphinx’s Revelation at instant speed is going to completely
screw up your opponent’s gameplan.

Remember that: instant speed. Firemind’s Foresight is an instant. Go ahead. Read it and come back. I’ll get some ice cream while you’re gone.

Mmmm…chocolate peanut butter…

Let me indulge you with a conversation I had with a reader on Facebook earlier today.

Him: Foresight seems so bad. Why would you ever tap out for seven just to draw a few situational cards?

Me: It’s an instant.

Him: No it isn’t.

Me: Go read it.

Him: This card is bananas!

And that’s where babies come from.

One of the best parts of a new format is trying out some new cards, even if they’re old ones that no one thought were good before. I’m sure Christopher’s
opponents weren’t laughing when he drew a counter, a removal spell, and a Sphinx’s Revelation at their end step. If you’re casting Firemind’s Foresight,
that means you can cast a Revelation for at least four, and usually that’s more than enough to end the game.

Christopher and Tomoharu’s list both maxed out on Temples, which was something I was hesitant to do at first but many of my testing friends assured me was
safe. I worried a lot about early format decks jamming Burning Earth, which is still a serious concern, but at this stage the full boat of Temples is most
likely correct. Going forward, you should continue to not shy away from them.

I was also hesitant to play three Elspeth because I was still stuck on a single maindeck Aetherling, but my tune has changed. Watching Eric Rill and
Christopher beat people without access to Aetherling in their 60 was a nice surprise; in every matchup throughout the weekend, whenever they cast Elspeth,
Sun’s Champion and untapped with her, the games were pretty much over. Leaning on her as the primary win condition should continue to be the norm.
Regulating Aetherling back to the board is safe for now.

One thing I really dig about Christopher’s list is the toolbox sideboard. On one hand it gives you a lot of cards to interchange depending on the matchup,
which is inherently powerful any way you look at it. Having access to Magma Spray for the G/W decks out there is invaluable, as is Celestial Flare and
Anger of the Gods. U/W/R was always very good against just about every aggro deck out there, but this incarnation seems to be the saturation point for
never losing to creatures. I love his odds in a fledgling format. Mono-Blue Devotion is punished by Archangel of Thune. Mono-Black Devotion can’t stand to
see an Assemble the Legion resolve.

On the other hand is the ridiculous power he gets in control and midrange matches. Firemind’s Foresight gains some new toys when you can search for Dispel,
Wear//Tear to blow up their Banishing Lights, and Counterflux to ensure you never lose the Aetherling war. There’s literally something for everyone out
there. This deck has it all.

While Christopher was busy almost winning a nearly 500-player SCG Open, a friend of mine and Open Series standout Rudy Briksza was able to win an
Invitational Qualifier with U/W/R as well!

We talked about the deck and shared lists throughout the week, and I was really happy to see him take down the event so that he can continue his point

Rudy was able to beat R/W Burn, B/G Devotion, B/W Aggro, and B/R Devotion before a double-draw earned him a Top 8 berth. After that he dispatched
Mono-Black Devotion and a B/R Aggro deck before splitting in the finals. This sampling shows the ability to not only defeat aggressive decks like Rakdos,
Orzhov, and R/W Burn, but also the diversity to beat B/G, B/R, and Mono-Black Devotion! Navigating those extremes and not losing a single match gives me
great confidence going forward with this deck.

I was told by the several friends who piloted my build and others last week that Keranos was easily the best card in their entire deck. Rudy was able to
stabilize the board against R/B Aggro and simply kill him with five Lightning Bolts from Keranos while drawing four extra cards against his Mono-Black
Devotion opponent. Nice Thoughtseize, bro! If you want to see just how powerful Keranos is, check out his semifinal match against Eric Rill in Cincinnati.
His Keranos goes active and a game that was looking bleak all of a sudden became not even close. This card is the real deal!

You live in a world where Keranos is a thing!


Nyx-Fleece Ram was apparently as good as it has been advertised to be, which makes me feel like playing a couple in the sideboard might not be a terrible
idea. Ral Zarek is a very interesting card with the dual applications it has, depending on the matchup. Against aggressive decks I can see taking out some
of your counters and bringing him in. Two activations of a three-damage ability on a couple of creatures might be pretty big game, and against control,
taking multiple turns in a row theoretically will win you the game if you can use those turns to get far enough, not to mention sometimes just bolting them
over and over can kill Planeswalkers or make managing their life more difficult.

Obviously the neatest inclusion in Rudy’s sideboard is Stormbreath Dragon, which appeals to the small child in me better than any other card could. There
are a plethora of decks out there that are going to take out every removal spell they have, save for maybe one or two in order to deal with a potential
Brimaz or something of the like. The removal they usually keep is going to be enchantment-based (Detention Sphere or Banishing Light) which means that
Stormbreath Dragon’s protection from white just shrugs them off and lets him keep attacking. Short of an Elspeth -3, Stormbreath is going to be like a Cake
song: he’s going The Distance.

Having seen several decks come out of the woodwork, I think that some amalgamation of these two lists seems like the right place to be, but if I were to
sleeve up a deck for a tournament this weekend it would be Christopher’s list with some minor changes, because I think it’s doing as many powerful things
as a deck like this needs to do to win.

One thing I would drop is the third Mutavault, but that’s entirely because I’m a scaredy-cat and I will undoubtedly draw an opening seven that features
three copies and immediately curse my life. Two seems like the safest number.

Not seeing any copies of Mono-Blue Devotion in the Top 16 is also a strong indication that the deck might be on a decline as more control strategies open
up. This weekend saw three Sphinx’s Revelation decks take their place in the Top 8, and usually those matchups aren’t great for Master of Waves decks,
especially when they all seem quite dedicated to crushing creatures. With that being said, cutting Archangel of Thune might be a possibility. One win
condition I think is highly underrated but made its presence known in a big way this weekend is Jace, Memory Adept. For a long time I’ve included at least
one copy of big Jace in my control decks and he never seems to disappoint. If that’s not your cup of tea, doing what Rudy did and playing a second copy of
Keranos, God of Storms is always an option.

I think I’d like a sideboard that looked something like this:

1 Jace, Memory Adept

1 Aetherling

1 Dispel

2 Counterflux

1 Assemble the Legion

2 Anger of the Gods

1 Magma Spray

1 Wear//Tear

2 Celestial Flare

1 Keranos, God of Storms

1 Gainsay

1 Reprisal

The Reprisal is a hedge to Jeff Hoogland’s awesome Junk deck packing Obzedat, Ghost Council. I expect this kind of good-stuff deck to jump in popularity
because of all the awesome cards that it gets to play, especially Timmy and Spike favorite Advent of the Wurm. The single Gainsay is a good way to deal
with other spells that control decks will be packing, especially things like Aetherling and both Jaces. Eric Rill built a very good U/W Control shell, so
because of the extreme degree of consistency it brings to the table I’d venture a guess that we’ll be seeing a lot more of it.

The card I’m not terribly impressed with is Brimaz coming out of the board. Mostly there were games where we’d play it and it would meet a Syncopate or a
Jace +1, which always made things awkward. I’d love to hear about Christopher’s experiences with it, because for me it was always kind of “blah” in this
deck, but I’m assuming he had a great reason for including it.

I couldn’t think of a better way to start my vacation to one of America’s most patriotic cities than talking about this awesome deck. As you can tell I’ve
found something new to latch on to for a little while.

You know what I’m going to do before I go off to bed? I’m going to watch the 1988 Royal Rumble.

Can you guess who wins that?

Jim Duggan