New Control Lists, New Contenders

Rosum is on his way to SCG Worcester to battle Standard on behalf of his squad! So which archetype is he picking up and what decks does he expect to play against?

If you’re like me and in the Standard seat for SCG Worcester this weekend,
you’ve likely been brewing up lists all week with Core Set 2019
cards that are obviously very powerful. The two that come to my mind the
most are Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants.

I wasn’t overly impressed with Nicol Bolas when it was previewed. It’s
obviously a good value creature, but four slots is a lot in these midrange
decks that are already really clogged with four-drops. Having to compete
with cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Rekindling Phoenix, Glimmer of
Genius, and Vraska’s Contempt really makes you question if the card is
better than any of these options.

The addition of Nicol Bolas as a four-of and playing several copies of
Liliana, Death’s Majesty adds a complete new dynamic to the spell-heavy B/U
Midrange deck and allows you to quickly go over the top of your opponents.
I expect a variation of this deck to be a top contender and very popular as
the format continues to evolve.

The main appeal about W/B Knights that I was thinking about when looking at
the Core Set 2019 list is how powerful the curve of Knight of
Grace/Malice into History of Benalia into Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants is on
the play and how hard it is to a lose a game with that curve. The thing
about this variant of W/B is that it’s just an evolved variant of the list
that myself and several other Team Lotus Box members played at the last SCG
Baltimore, instead focusing more on the Knights package and less so on the
Heart of Kiran + Karn, Scion of Urza package.

I liked the direction that Matthew Foulkes took when building this deck as
he effectively traded card advantage for consistent aggression and having
cards like Toolcraft Exemplar (which was embarrassing at best) and the
Heart of Kiran + History of Benalia nonbo combo really dulls the power
level of the deck. I wanted to explore a variation that had access to four
copies of Heart of Kirans and three copies of Gideon of the Trials, but I
think that for a weekend that doesn’t have a pinpoint metagame like SCG
Worcester, consistency is king.

Well look at what decided to come back just before the powerful Amonkhet Zombies rotate out of Standard! The additional support
out of Core Set 2019 in Diregraf Ghoul, Graveyard Marshal, and
Death Baron gave Zombies the additional creatures needed to create a deck
that can put an absolute absurd amount of pressure on your opponents.
Liliana, Untouched by Death even adds a pseudo card-advantage engine that
is nothing to slouch at.

Right now, I can imagine what you’re thinking…

The article title references Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Rosum hasn’t
mentioned the powerful planeswalker yet.

I wanted to start by showcasing how many creature decks were popular this
week on Magic Online. And while these decks are powerful, they may not be
tuned in the right way to have the best game against the deck I’ve been
having the most success with right now.

Why play U/W Control right now? Simple…

Teferi can, and oftentimes still does, win the game by itself. I’ve written
about this card numerous times and if you want to see the format and deck
where the card really showcases how powerful it is, it’s this deck as being
able to easily protect it with Seal Away and Blink of an Eye on turn five
or even having access to Disallow and Settle the Wreckage on later turns
can make it an absolute nightmare for your opponent to deal with.

Settle the Wreckage is the card that rewards you the most for being
straight U/W Control as opposed to Esper because it’s easier on the
manabase and creates so many problems for creature centric decks. U/W
Control is primarily a deck that plays on your opponent’s turn, so having
access to Settle the Wreckage will often either:

  • Make your opponent play around it, giving you more time to get set
  • Play right into it, letting you destroy their battlefield

Even though it’s common knowledge at this point, I’m still very impressed
by how well Settle the Wreckage plays against aggressive decks because of
how difficult it is to try to play around. The threat of the card continues
to lead to multiple points of damage missed and that’s often the difference
between a win and a loss.

Torrential Gearhulk comes in from the sideboard in many of the matchups in
Standard and will often be your win condition in those games since it
doesn’t get hit by Duress or Negate. U/W Control often gets much worse
after sideboarding, but having access to multiple copies of Torrential
Gearhulk and Glimmer of Genius gives the deck a lot of topdeck potential
while also being able to drown your opponent in card advantage.

Fundamentally, I feel as though U/W Control has a huge edge on most of the
field by just being an established control deck that preys on decks that
are still somewhat untuned. Week one of a new Standard format might be an
absolute blast to test for, and control decks aren’t typically the best
pick, but U/W Control is so good at dismantling most of the midrange
strategies while also having a good Mono-Red matchup that it really puts
U/W Control in an interesting spot that most week one control decks aren’t

If I do register U/W Control, I’m pretty sure the above list will be within
73 of the 75 cards that I end up registering. One thing I really want to
find room for is an additional copy of Essence Scatter in the maindeck, as
this format revolves around people beating each other with powerful
creatures. If you examine at the most popular decks in Standard, the cards
that Essence Scatter counters that matter are plentiful:

The only card that Essence Scatter doesn’t trade up on mana with is
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. The rest of these creatures play into the gameplan
of U/W Control of just trying to play multiple reactive spells in a turn
before resolving a Search for Azcanta or Teferi.

The other Teferi, Hero of Dominaria deck that I have on my mind for this

Why play Esper Control instead of U/W Control?

With Esper, you open yourself up to a bevy of more efficient and less
situational removal spells than what straight U/W Control has to offer. The
thing I like the most about moxruby’s list is his complete exclusion of The
Scarab God. The games that I felt like I lost the most with Esper Control
when I played it at the Season One Invitational earlier this year were the
games that I drew too many copies of The Scarab God. I think building Esper
Control in a way similar to U/W Control with mostly instant speed
interaction other than Teferi. Hero of Dominaria is the best way of
building the deck.

Fatal Push continues to be a premium removal spell that often trades up on
mana. Having access to Fatal Push allows Esper to have two spell turns as
early as the third turn of the game.

Having a removal spell that deals with opposing planeswalkers and
problematic creatures while also fueling your Torrential Gearhulks is one
the biggest draws to Esper Control. I think Standard is still weak to the
combination of Vraska’s Contempt + Torrential Gearhulk and being able to
gain small increments of life while removing high impact permanents will
often buy Esper several additional turns.

This is the biggest upgrade that Esper has in the control mirror, as having
access to multiple copies of Duress allows you to have access to almost
perfect information while also sculpting a gameplan to beat your opponent’s
hand. The easiest way of winning these matchups is to strip your opponent
of all their permission, and Duress allows you to do that with ease.

Who Wins The Matchup?

This is where comparing U/W Control and Esper Control gets tricky. The
question you must ask yourself is whether you’re okay with exchanging
consistency for card quality. In game one, U/W Control doesn’t have the
premium spot removal options that Esper does, but having access to several
powerful sweepers allows U/W Control to play catch up much better.
Consistency is key in a format that revolves around powerful permanents
which is why I give U/W Control the overall edge in comparing the two head
to head.

The sideboard options that Esper has access to are much better than the
options U/W Control has mainly because of Duress. Duress is such a huge
upgrade compared to anything that U/W Control has to offer and if I was
playing against only control mirrors at SCG Worcester this weekend, I’d
rather be on the Esper side.

The other factor to consider is time. U/W Control often takes forever to
win, and having access to the maindeck Torrential Gearhulks that Esper
Control has makes it much more likely that a match is completed without
having to fear a draw.

This comparison, however, only works in a perfect world, but being able to
understand what equity you’re giving up in having more options is huge. The
splash Esper Control provides may feel somewhat free, but the consistency
you lose may not be worth the cost. I think that both decks are powerful
and are just trying to play the gameplan of getting to Teferi, Hero of
Dominaria and protecting him until the game eventually ends.

The reason why I’ve narrowed it down to these two decks for SCG Worcester
revolves around the power of Essence Scatter, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria,
and the countless removal options both decks have that make them quite
appealing against the predicted metagame of numerous creature decks. Now
I’m trying to figure out exactly which creature decks to prepare for. If,
for example, I want the best chance against a room full of Mono-Red decks,
I think U/W Control is the way to go.

Unfortunately, I’ve only got one day left to decide which of these two
decks I’ll be registering at SCG Worcester. If I had to choose right this
moment, I’d pick U/W Control, but you can never be so sure and I’m still
testing as I write this.

I hope I get it right!