Control With Hour Of Devastation

Hour of Devastation is bringing a lot of sweepers to battlefields near you! Is this the set control players have been waiting for? Adrian Sullivan certainly thinks so! He’s breaking out the new builds here!

New cards, new cards, new cards!

As I write this, the previews aren’t even half in, and already I’m seeing things that are tickling my fancy and making me have visions about the future! While I’m still looking forward to upcoming events like Grand Prix Cleveland (over by the time you read this) and the SCG Tour’s Season One Invitational in Roanoke the weekend after that, I’m also looking forward further yet to the release of Hour of Devastation.

A lot of my focus has been on Limited lately, but I am always hungry for new ideas for Constructed, whether that is the emergence of something exciting from a recent major event – U/B Taking Turns was one exciting deck to come out of Grand Prix Vegas, for example – or things changing strictly from the existence of a new card.

New cards can do something fundamentally previously unseen, but as Magic has gotten older, more and more often, new cards are a return to an older, familiar time. It’s just inevitable, at this point, to, at least in part, retread the past. So, if you’ll indulge me…

I played this deck two years ago, and it is one of my favorites. A big part of why was simple:

At the time, it had just seemed that the risk of Detention Sphere had gotten too large, and it had become time to go in another direction. Planar Cleansing was an awesome card to play cleanup. Now, it isn’t just back, but it might be back…better than ever.

Blow. It. All. Up.

Archangel Avacyn might have something to say about the casting of an Hour of Revelation, and Amonkhet Gods do exist, but for the most part, very little an opponent might do is likely to stick around after this card hits. It will be fairly rare to be able to cast this card at a discount, but really what you’re looking at from this card is just a devastating destruction of the world.

What this card is particularly good at is playing cleanup on a mixed table of permanents. One of the most obvious offenders can be summed up by a decklist from yesteryear’s “best deck:”

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is a problem. But so is Heart of Kiran (or any other Vehicle), the sideboard planeswalkers, or even Oath of Liliana sticking around. Yes, Hour of Revelation is expensive, but it certainly takes the world and makes it a simpler place.

Outside of having few nonland permanents yourself, one might break the synergy of the card more actively as well. All of the current Standard Gideons can all make themselves indestructible before you mop up the board. This is especially exciting with a card like Gideon of the Trials. Gideon of the Trials plays naturally with sweepers like Fumigate, and the indestructible means it also plays naturally with Hour of Revelation.

My own take on the deck is basically wildly similar to one Patrick Chapin posted the other day.

Aside from a Gideon planeswalker, any of the Gods would make a nice indestructible card to pair with Hour of Revelation without even requiring extra work to make things work. While you could technically stretch into using a card like Cathar’s Companion, that seems like a lot of contorting for very little payoff.

Of course, one thing that is important: destruction is not effective versus many creatures in Zombies or our favorite friend Scrapheap Scrounger. Cards you might otherwise use to answer this problem, like Stasis Snare or Cast Out, don’t play well with Hour of Revelation. In this place, a card like Descend upon the Sinful might be worth thinking about, though it does start appearing like a “too many Wraths” situation. Thankfully Commit and Memory can both help out here.

Is Hour of Revelation answering a problem that doesn’t need solving? Maybe, but I’m still excited about being able to knock out a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar without feeling like I deserve a medal.

My version of the U/W Control deck didn’t include a card that Chapin did, Supreme Will. There is still a lot to be said for the card, however.

One of the cards that I’ve made use of in the past was Spell Shrivel, and Supreme Will feels like it has a lot in common with that card.

This is a return back to my Pro Tour Kaladesh Tamiyo Aggro-Control deck. I started out great at that event, 5-0, but just couldn’t keep the wheels on and ended at 6-4.

In this deck, Supreme Will feels like a real powerhouse. There were times with the original build of the deck that it didn’t feel like you were able to get into the right “stance” to be winning. Any aggro-control deck needs to first establish a clock and then control the time used by the opponent. A part of what makes a deck like this tricky, then, is to have the problem usually typified by “the wrong part at the wrong time.”

Supreme Will helps fix that problem. We might not think of a counter as “unnecessary,” but when we’re facing a better battlefield position, it is unnecessary. Finding action, either in the form of removal or in the form of a permanent, is critical. For the above deck, just making sure that you have a creature is huge.

Supreme Will works quite well with other cards as well. Torrential Gearhulk makes a great friend to Supreme Will, since you can have countered or searched early and then make use of whichever side you need later. On turn 6, if you only had a Disallow in your graveyard, you might be quite disinclined to drop a Torrential Gearhulk, but you get a payoff with Supreme Will. Yahenni’s Expertise is another example, working in much the same way.

I expect that the more I play the card, the more I’ll like it, and it may end up being a card very much like Hieroglyphic Illumination, which I’m just basically playing all over now.

When Gods die, it isn’t pretty, and it can be downright exhausting to deal with. I like to think of the “don’t untap” clause of these spells as a kind of “echo.” Of all of these spells, the one I like most is Bontu’s Last Reckoning.

This card can be cast so quickly. In some matchups, those first few turns and the damage that can be brought to bear can make slower responses like Fumigate or less powerful responses like Sweltering Suns insufficient to survive. In fact, Bontu’s Last Reckoning works so quickly and effectively, I find myself wondering if it isn’t potentially reasonable in Modern.

There is a strong likelihood that black control in general might be better, be it W/B Control or B/U Control (or even Mardu). Both of these decks have struggled to remove creatures from the game, making another card also worth paying attention to:

This is not an efficient card. However, it is marginally more reliable that Commit for doing the same kind of work. I don’t expect it to be working hard on too many Gods in hand, but it is another upside. I expect that Hour of Glory is going to remain a marginal card, but as an extra tool to help out black-based control, I’m beginning to believe that there is a future here.

Crook of Condemnation, the new Relic of Progenitus, might end up being that answer. It isn’t Relic of Progenitus, or even Nihil Spellbomb – you’ll always have the card invested in this effect, and you’ll never be able to turn it in to get a card back. Still, we’ve ached for graveyard removal, and perhaps this card will do the work we need done. If not Crook of Condemnation, we might see Scavenger Grounds be the card of choice for any number of decks looking for an answer.

We know the mana can work.

We know that the mana is even better now.

So, to me, it seems that we can expect to see a God-Pharaoh:

Seven mana is a ton of mana. At the same time, these abilities are just devastating. I’ve run control decks with multiple copies of Karn Liberated before, and so long as you can get the mana to work out, if the payoff is big enough, it has always felt worth it.

Is this a card that is going to make Dark Intimations worth it? Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is impressively powerful enough without an extra loyalty, but it does mean that Bolas could come down, hit for seven, and then hit for seven again on the next turn. That’s a pretty intense ability. Potentially going up to ten loyalty immediately while getting a free spell seems wildly frightening.

It will really be a simple proposition:

Can you stay alive using the most powerful anti-creature cards and countermagic in the format? If so, be rewarded by a Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, who will easily mop things up.

It’s also worth noting, however, that Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh makes an impressive end to the curve for some more aggressive decks. “Deal seven” is horrifying to an opponent who has had their life total under attack. Lest you think that this isn’t realistic, remember, Sorin, Grim Nemesis definitely saw play in Walking Ballista decks’ sideboards towards the end.

There were other cards I’ve been thinking about as well. Fraying Sanity seems like a much weaker version of Sphinx’s Tutelage – perhaps if more cards are revealed, this will be worth looking at, but for now, it seems a bit rough. Swarm Intelligence is awesome, but I expect I’ll prefer a card like Metallurgic Summonings.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is so good that it makes one think about Gideon’s Defeat. It is definitely powerful enough, if only for the sideboard, and it will be worth thinking about. Jace’s Defeat is intriguing as a sideboard card, fighting for space with Negate and Dispel, but certainly in the mix of cards we should care about. There is a lot to think about.

Altogether, there are a lot more cards to be seen coming down the pipeline. I expect I’ll be making many decks. Likely among them will be a Grixis Control deck, but don’t be surprised if I step back to aggro…and explore something red.