My U/W Control Experience at States

Aaron and I were entranced with the idea of our deck Sacrificial Bam!… But a week later after sweating over what cards to play, we were no closer to a winning deck. We had refined the original concept several times, unearthed tech, but our playtesting showed that, like many aggro decks, we lost to control. Honestly? Control owned us. And realizing that a lot of control was going to be played, a few days before States we both shifted into control.

Let’s see – I’m trying to figure out where to start this story. Let’s go with the old Type Two when 7th was still legal, shall we? Back then, a local store was going to have one last Type Two tournament. I didn’t have a deck for the tournament, and I had no desire to playtest anything, so I through together a Blue/White control deck, complete with Wrath of God, Akroma’s Vengeance, Counterspell, Complicate, Exalted Angel, Concentrate, Decree of Justice, and Eternal Dragon. This should sound familiar later.

So I played my old Type Two U/W Control deck at the local store tournament but I went 2-1 – not good enough for a final four appearance. I kept the deck together and played it occasionally on casual Fridays at my apartment. No big deal.

Fast forward to over two weeks ago when a good friend of mine, Aaron, and myself were looking for an idea for a deck for states. It was casual night, and I had cracked a preconstructed Mirrodin deck named Sacrificial Bam! I swung for eighteen on the fourth turn and killed one of the guys at the multiplayer table, thus increasing respect for Sacrificial Bam! No precon plays like that.

Aaron and I were entranced with the idea of Sacrificial Bam!… But a week later after sweating over what cards to play, we were no closer to a winning deck. We had refined the original concept several times, unearthed tech (in the form of Drinker of Sorrow, which played very well in our matchups), but our playtesting showed that, like many aggro decks, we lost to control.

Honestly? Control owned us. And realizing that a lot of control was going to be played, a few days before States we both shifted into decks that we were more comfortable with. Aaron moved into R/W Rift-Slide, and I morphed into U/W control. We playtested on Friday briefly against Goblins, each other, Sacrificial Bam!, and so forth, then headed away to the tournament on Saturday. Here was my deck build (which was not done until Friday afternoon).

4 Mana Leak

4 Rewind

2 Complicate

2 Decree of Justice

4 Exalted Angel

3 Eternal Dragon

4 Wing Shards

4 Wrath of God

3 Akroma’s Vengeance

1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath

4 Concentrate

4 Coastal Tower

4 Flooded Strand

10 Plains

7 Islands


4 Karma

3 Scrabbling Claws

1 Ivory Mask

1 Story Circle

1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath

2 Stifle

3 Sacred Ground

The card choices are largely obvious and have been explained numerous times before. I ran one each of the Mask and the Circle because I couldn’t find another Story Circle in the short time that I had, so I ran a copy of the Mask, which did me fairly well in some matchups.

I’ve always thought that States has been a particularly random metagame, so you should play a deck that uses a lot of control to stop any crazy stuff, or a deck that wins so quickly that your opponent doesn’t have time to do crazy stuff.

We arrived at Michigan States early enough to eat some breakfast at the local McDonald’s before registering. We had already filled out our decklists the previous night. It was the most well-attended Michigan States ever, at two hundred and sixty-seven people. Anyway, we get our parings and I head off to go play my first official round in the new Type Two.

Olena, from Davison, with U/W Control

Wouldn’t it figure that I’d draw the mirror match in the first round? It wasn’t so mirror, however, when my opponent threw out Raise the Alarms, Bribery, and Isochron Scepter. But the basics were there: Countermagic, Wraths, removal, and so forth.

In game one, I get hit with some Raise the Alarm tokens and a Silver Knight. I Wrath them away. After a short interlude of drawing and playing support spells, I slam Akroma down and swing for fourteen, which is followed by a Wrath from Olena. I gambled that she had spent her Wrath after previously allowed my Exalted Angel to be Wrathed away. Ah well. I cycle a Decree at the end of her turn and swing for twelve. She is finally out of Wraths and that’s game one.

Game two sees me hit with a quick Exalted Angel before she plays Bribery to take my Akroma and hit me with it. I make a mental note to side out Akroma after this game if I lose. I untap, and am forced to Wrath of God with just my Exalted and my Akroma out. Bad card advantage. We exchange removal and counters for a while, until I again get a cycled Decree at the end of her turn. I kept a Rewind back for her Wrath and two turns later, I emerge victorious.

Harold, from Flint, with Blue-Red Affinity

After I won in round one, I went to see what Aaron is up to. He’s still playing and it’s against U/R Affinity. We never playtested Affinity, and I remember reading on the ‘net that U/W is supposed to own U/R Affinity, so I never saw the need to playtest it. I get an idea of how it plays, as I watch Aaron lose in the second game only to rebound in the third. It was good practice, because I drew a virtually identical deck in the second round.

Harold just gathers too much steam in the first game. He slaps down a lot of artifacts and counters all attempts to Wrath while I desperately search for answers. I finally Wrath when I am at five life, and then he’ll later burn me out with a Shrapnel Blast.

In goes the Ivory Mask for a Complicate.

In game two, I draw and play the Ivory Mask, which will be out for the rest of the game. I establish control after some early beats from the Affinity deck. I then slap down Akroma and swing for six. My opponent plays a Broodstar – and instead of wasting my last counter on it, I allow it to resolve since he has five artifacts. He also has several cards in hand and a lot of mana available, and I’d rather pick a fight elsewhere.

I swing with Akroma again. He plays two artifacts and swings with the Broodstar. He is at eight, and I am at one. The Broodstar is 7/7, and it’s my turn. It doesn’t look good for me. I draw and sigh an inward sigh of relief. He can’t burn me out because of the Ivory Mask, so I know that he has to kill me with creatures. I attack with Akroma and knock him down to two. He figures to attack next turn, and I chump block the Broodstar with Akroma, then he kills me the turn after… Except for the card I drew.

After combat, I drop Exalted Angel and tell him to go.

His face crumples in disgust. He draws, stares at the board, and concedes. He knows that if he attacks me with his Broodstar, I chump with the Exalted, gain four life, and then swing with Akroma next turn. If he keeps the Broodstar back to block, I attack with both and he dies. Game over.

Round three is almost anticlimactic. He gets a bit of pressure, I Wrath, then we trade spells for a while until I let him play a Myr Enforcer, then answer it with an Exalted Angel. Two Frogmites follow after a Thirst for Knowledge. So we are essentially each taking four each round. I am comfortable with that, until I draw my eighth land while sitting on two very important spells. I take a look at the board, and swing with the Angel.

My opponent had four mana available and three cards in hand. I ask to look at his graveyard: One Mana Leak. I inform him that he’ll need two Mana Leaks in hand in order to stop this, and I tap six of my eight mana. Akroma’s Vengeance.

Now, every permanent he controls is an artifact except for two tapped Glimmervoids, which will go away without an artifact. He taps three mana before Akroma’s Vengeance resolves, two of it white.

At the end of my turn, he plays Second Sunrise. I Mana Leak it.

Later, he’ll show me the Override he held, but I’ll remind him that I had a Mana Leak for it.

Delm, from Ann Arbor, with White/Red Rift-Slide

A few things are important to mention here. Firstly, Delm sometimes will come over to our store tournaments and play, so I know him. He’s a good player with a good deck, and that’s just not good for me. However, Aaron has been playing R/W since block and I’ve played against it a lot. I know that my deck needs to stop the Rifts from hitting the table, Vengeance freely to destroy enchantments, and generally wins through Akroma or Decrees.

Delm gets a quick Eternal Dragon engine going, and I know that I’ve lost long before the game ends. In this battle, the one with more land wins. He’s recurring Eternals five or six turns before I am. I get in a few hits with an Exalted, but it’s no good. The game is very slow, however, and takes around thirty-five minutes, leaving us only fifteen minutes or so for the rest of the match.

I side in Akroma, Stifle, and Scrabbling Claws. Out go Wing Shards and Complicates.

We are both playing for a draw, but they’re different draws. He wants to draw game two so that he wins the match when I want to win game two so that we draw the match. I know that I have to be quick and aggressive.

He gets out a Slide, and my only response is a cycled Decree for about seven men. I swing, he Slides a few out, and then I Cycle for eight more at the end of his turn. I know that I have to win quickly, so my goal is to bum-rush him.

I Stifle a Decree of his, but he gets an Exalted Angel, so it’s slower going to hit him. I play Akroma to try and suck up some Slide targets. Slowly, the Astral Side and his Exalted take away my soldiers while he gains life. I do manage to counter a Wrath effect early. I try to play an Exalted, morphed of course, because the Slide will bring it back for me face up.

We run out of time in the extra turns, he is at seven and I am still at twenty from Exalted Angels, but most of my soldiers have died. I play a Wrath of God to sweep the board and declare a draw on game two, thus insuring that he wins the match.

I do remember looking around the tables and witnessing no quick aggro decks at the 2-0 areas near us. There was just a heap of control.

Matt, from Flint, with Mono-Black Control

Matt plays with and knows my first opponents for the first two rounds. Now, MBC uses a lot of rares and Aaron and I didn’t have the cards to test against MBC. Both Aaron and I lost last round, and we are both paired against MBC decks in round four.

I get quickly beaten down by a Grid Monitor after a few rounds. I counter, Wrath, and establish a bit of control. I am sitting on six lands with my opponent having no threatening permanents in play. I have five cards in hand, all white. Instead of bluffing countermagic, I decide to play aggressively and play an Exalted Angel.

He untaps, counts all seven his lands, and plays Mind Sludge. I lose my hand. Terror follows and my Angel bites it. From there, a Grid Monitor swings away.

I side in four Karmas and an Ivory Mask.

I draw my hand. One land. I Paris. Hand number two features a Karma, but one land. I am forced to Paris again. My five card hand features four lands and a Wrath of God and I keep.

Matt plays a Cabal Interrogator on the second turn, steals the Wing Shards I drew on the third, then I Wrath to kill it. A fifth-turn Mind Sludge follows, but it’s of no use to him, because I only had two cards in hand, two lands. He steamrolls me with Consume Spirits.

So I was thoroughly owned by MBC.

I was 2-2 on the day. Most of the other players in our group had dropped by this time, so I did so as well. We went and grabbed a late lunch at McDonald’s, before heading home and playing some casual Magic.

Some Of My Thoughts On The Day:

I wished that I had more Decrees. I won more games with Decree than anything else. If I didn’t have them main, I would have liked them in the board.

Those games that I didn’t win with Decrees were won with Akroma. Another maindeck would be handy.

Ivory Mask was more useful in these Control-on-Control matchups than Story Circle would have been.

I wished I had played Temple of the False God.

Complicate was an amazingly good counter, and I was never upset that I played one, because I could always just cycle it. Sometimes Mana Leak just sits in your hand later in the game against control decks.

Wing Shards was amazingly bad, with few decks featuring many creatures. I’d rather have had Wing Shards in the board, two more Decrees main, another Akroma main, and maybe a third Complicate.

With all of this control around, is it possible that a combo deck could emerge? I heard that the Proteus Staff/Goblin Charbelcher deck was around.

We had a lot of fun on the day, and we’re all glad that we went. I have seen that several blue/white decks Top 8ed around the country, so I continue to feel confident in the deck, but it needs tuning. I have every intention of continuing to explore the U/W deck and its matchups, and I’d hope that we’ll continue to see it do well in some tournaments.

Until later,

Abe Sargent