Peebles Primers — U/W Control at States

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Benjamin Peebles-Mundy planned on running a White Weenie build at States this past weekend. However, a few lost rounds at a pre-States tournament made him change his mind, and his deck. Instead, he ran with a U/W Control build that completely dominates aggro decks, on paper at least. Was this last-minute change enough to propel him into the Top 8? And is the U/W Control deck a serious contender in the new metagame? Read on to find out!

It’s three days before States, and Mr. Nice Guy Games is hosting their weekly Wednesday tournament. Five of us are running the decks we plan to play on the weekend, but the important matches will be those that Steve and I play, since we’re the least sure about our deck choices.

I lose the first round in the White Weenie “mirror” because he has more Thoughtweft Trios and Soltari Priests than I have Goldmeadow Harriers. I get a bye in the second round, and drop to draft.

Steve wins a round with Red/Green, but then drops the next two to Elves.

We’re both very disheartened. The event is won by Elves, with a roommate of mine doing very well with his almost mono-White control deck, only losing one round (and only then because he didn’t see a play to seal a game up before Prowess of the Fair got out of hand) to the winner. I start to think about whether or not I want to try to cram a bunch of evasion creatures into my maindeck, and Steve starts considering an audible to Pickles.

Fast forward to 1:30am on Saturday: I’m still trying to pin down the numbers on my evasion creatures, and Steve is trying to come up with a good anti-aggro sideboard plan for his new choice of Pickles. We’re driving back from FNM when Steve mentions that the U/W control deck our friend was playing looked very strong. I say that I agree, but that I only have the Core Set and Coldsnap cards for it. Steve points out that he has everything else. Suddenly we’re scrambling to find the cards we need for this deck just eight hours before the tournament starts.

When we find out that our roommate is skipping the tournament to study for law school, we make sure we can pull two copies of his modified deck together. We show up and sit down to play with…

This deck is almost purely anti-aggro. Since all we saw at the Wednesday tournament were aggro decks, and since the Star City Open had been won by an Elves deck, we decided to go after aggressive decks as much as we could.

The White spells are all creature control. Eight Martyrs, six Wraths, and eight spot removal effects give you the time to start dropping your bomby creatures into play. Each of them does different things, but the overall goal is the same: to stabilize the board and then hit hard. Purity is the best at doing this against a non-swarm deck, since it will almost certainly be the biggest thing on the board. Crovax can completely shut down an Elf army on his own, and he’ll also take out Mogg Fanatics, Mogg War Marshals, and other assorted Red creatures that your opponent might want to feed to Greater Gargadon. Adarkar Valkyrie is the quiet one, but Vigilance allows you to start to end a game while still staying on defense, and her tap ability can do a host of strange but deadly things. You can recur Martyr and Triskelavus, you can save a huge guy (either your own or your opponent’s) when it’s time to Wrath the board, and you can simply discourage swarm attacks with the threat of adding another blocker to your army.

The Blue spells give you a little bit of extra punch. When the board is relatively safe, either because you just Wrathed or because you have a Story Circle and a bit of extra mana, Foresee and Chronicler can break the game open, giving you the threat you need to end the game.


Non-White Aggro:
Coming into States, the big deck on everyone’s mind, at least around Pittsburgh, was the Elves deck from the Star City Open. The other big contender in the non-White aggro category is the standard Greater Gargadon Red deck. Both of these decks are very susceptible to Wraths, Story Circles, and Crovax in game 1, and you have a lot of those. One of the best cards that you can draw, though, is obviously Martyr of Sands, since that will give you a few extra turns to make sure you can straighten everything out. Decks with burn are definitely scarier than those without, but you have four Martyr, three Circle, and two Purity to help with that.

In my opinion, there are three cards in the maindeck that you don’t really want to draw in the various aggro matchups: two Aeon Chroniclers and one Sacred Mesa. Since there are only two sideboard cards specifically for these matchups, you’re going to have to decide which of the two you’d rather leave one of in your deck. Personally, I like to leave in a Chronicler instead of the Mesa. For those two cards, you bring in Crovax and Story Circle. If you’re curious, the deck has so few sideboard cards for aggro matchups because of how good the maindeck already is in these cases.

White Aggro:
This is essentially the same thing as the non-White aggro matchups, but you’re going to want to make sure Crovax isn’t anywhere near your deck after boarding. I cut the Mesa and both Crovaxes for two Triskelavus and the fourth Story Circle. Trisk is slow, for sure, but it’s very good at holding a massive army at bay once it’s in play, and it’s a heck of a lot better than Crusading your opponent’s side. Keep your eye out for potential (though rare) Triskelavus/Valkyrie interactions: you can remove all of the counters from the Trisk, target it with the Valkyrie, and then ping it down with one of its children to build a freshly-loaded Trisk. Note that you are not able to re-use Triskelavite tokens with the Valkyrie’s ability.

Non-Counterspell Control:
In a world without counterspells, this deck does very well. If we’re talking about something like Turbo Fog, you can avoid decking forever by recycling your two copies of Purity and by rationing out your Austere Commands and Oblivion Rings to make sure you’re never in a draw step where you need to draw three cards. Against other decks, like Mono-Black Control, things often come down to persistent effects (such as Urza’s Factory, Sacred Mesa, and Purity if you’re lucky) since both sides generally have more removal than their opponents have threats. Crovax can help here if you’re primarily interested in avoiding removal spells, since the two life is often much less valuable than a solid threat.

Here you’ll want to bring in a portion of the sideboard cards dedicated to improving control matchups. The Triskelavus package will give you another very good threat and a second way to find Urza’s Factory if you need to, and Sacred Mesa can take over a game by itself. There are plenty of cards you might want to take out, such as Martyr, Condemn, Oblivion Ring, Wrath of God, etc, so the cards you see in game 1 will dictate how you board exactly, but I usually cut the Martyrs, one Condemn, and one Story Circle for these cards. If you decide that you want to fit in Take Possessions or Disenchants, then you can continue to prune the anti-aggro cards.

Counterspell Control:
Unfortunately for this deck, counterspells pose a serious problem. Your best threat is Sacred Mesa, and you’ll find it hard to resolve that when so few of your other cards are true issues. Your best hope in these matchups is to get Scrying Sheets working overtime so that you can try to out-mana your opponent to the point where you can sneak something through. Aeon Chronicler can also help, since you should be able to suspend it for a large amount and try to get something done in the turns where you’re drawing extra cards.

After boarding, you’ll likely want all thirteen non-aggro sideboard cards in your deck. Martyr, Story Circle, and Condemn give you eleven easy cuts, and then I usually cut the Austere Commands. Take Possession will help you win Factory wars, as well as potentially allow you to steal a Teferi and then resolve a Sacred Mesa. The Trisk package will give you a way to pose a strong threat every single turn, and Disenchant is often better as a Stone Rain on their Lens or Relic than a Condemn would be against a deck that plans to win with Factory or Teferi. If I were playing in a tournament where I expected to face multiple counterspell decks, I would probably choose a different deck.

The Tournament Report

Round 1 — Mono-Red Aggro
I sat down for my first-ever match with my new deck, and drew an opening hand that was essentially the best I could ask for. I had lands (including Sheets), I had Condemn and Wrath, and I had Foresee and Sacred Mesa. My opponent started with a Suspended Rift Bolt and a Mogg Fanatic, and then upgraded to Keldon Marauders. I Wrathed when I was at ten life, and then followed that up with a Story Circle and Crovax.

-1 Aeon Chronicler, -1 Sacred Mesa
+1 Story Circle, +1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero

Game 2 looked extremely grim when I mulliganed to four cards, keeping Scrying Sheets, Mouth of Ronom, Story Circle, and Martyr of Sands. My opponent Suspended Gargadon and played Keldon Marauders, and then Rift Bolted me. I hit my White source on turn 4, and revealed Story Circle and three Wraths to go back up to 21. My opponent played another Marauder, and I drew another Martyr. When I went up to 32 life and drew a Boreal Shelf to start playing my double-White spells, he conceded.

1-0 (Steve 1-0)

Round 2 — Elves
I mulliganed again, keeping a hand with two lands, two Wraths, and a six-drop. My opponent started with a Llanowar Elf and then a Wren’s Run Vanquisher, while I played two lands. He dropped a Champion and hit me to thirteen, and I topdecked a third land. He hit me for eight, played two more creatures, and I topdecked my fourth land: a Boreal Shelf.

-1 Aeon Chronicler, -1 Sacred Mesa
+1 Story Circle, +1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero

My opponent’s first play was a second-turn 3/3, while mine was a third-turn Story Circle. That held the ground while my opponent loaded guys into play to try to break through my three White sources, but I had a Wrath and followed it with Crovax. I played Purity and he conceded.

My opponent had another somewhat slow opening, with just a Thornweald Archer and a Harbinger in the first three turns. I had another Story Circle, but this time it got nuked by Naturalize and I took a hit. I played a Martyr of Sands, and took another hit, but then I went up to 28 life and dropped a Purity. It wasn’t able to start attacking immediately because my opponent had another Archer, but I eventually found an Austere Command and Wrathed away his side of the table.

2-0 (Steve 2-0)

Round 3 — WW + Gaddock Teeg
He started with two Soltari Priests, while I started with Martyr of Sands. On turn 4, he hit me down to fourteen and played two more guys. I cashed in my Martyr for fifteen life, revealing two Wraths and Purity, and he conceded right there.

-2 Crovax, Ascendant Hero, -2 Aeon Chronicler
+2 Triskelavus, +1 Academy Ruins, +1 Story Circle

This time he started with Gaddock Teeg, which was fine since I had a Condemn in hand. I played a Coldsteel Heart, and he dropped Wizened Cenn and hit me for three. On his fourth turn, though, he only swung with the Cenn, and I realized I was essentially drawing at Oblivion Ring. He played out two more creatures, I gained 12 life with Martyr (holding back Condemn to try to get him to attack me), but he refused to attack with Teeg, and I died.

I mulliganed and kept a hand with Martyr, Valkyrie, Triskelavus, and Wrath, but only two lands. I Wrathed on turn 4, but I was already at ten life. I wanted to slowroll the Martyr to try to reuse it with Valkyrie, but I had to cash it in when he played out two guys after my Wrath. I dropped the Valkyrie to try to stabilize, but he had Oblivion Ring. He didn’t have another Ring for my Trisk, though, and that held him off long enough for me to find a Story Circle with Foresee. I eventually Oblivion Ring’d his Oblivion Ring on my Valkyrie, and started creating extra Triskelavites and swinging for the win.

3-0 (Steve 3-0)

Round 4 — Elves
I found myself playing a good friend this round, but I was somewhat happy about it because I had a good matchup against his deck. I took some fast hits game 1, but got to hide behind Condemn and an Oblivion Ring. I eventually got Crovax into play when I was at eight, but I got hit down to two by his Champion-pumped team. I Foresee’d into an Oblivion Ring to take out his whole side, but he just untapped and Profane Commanded me out.

-1 Aeon Chronicler, -1 Sacred Mesa
+1 Story Circle, +1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero

I got an early Story Circle that didn’t get killed, and took only a few hits before I could Wrath the board. I Wrathed somewhat early, when he killed my Story Circle, fearing both Prowess of the Fair and Profane Command. He unloaded a couple of guys into play, but I had Purity to hold them off. When I played a Martyr to go up to 25, he conceded.

My hand for this game was somewhat slow, but it had Coldsteel Heart, Foresee, Purity, and Austere Command. My opponent didn’t make a play in the first three turns, so I didn’t run Story Circle out there, fearing that he would have an easy opportunity to Naturalize it. Instead he put Garruk into play, and then Profane Commanded me three times for the full 20, one turn before I could kill him with Purity.

3-1 (Steve 3-0-1)

Round 5 — U/W Control
Another matchup against a friend, and this time I was nearly 0% to win the matchup. His deck was very similar to my own, but he had Careful Consideration instead of Foresee, Cryptic Command, extra Mesas, and Jace. Game 1 was essentially horrible, and lasted the entire round. I spent most of the game thinking I was going to win by decking him, since I continually discarded Purities to keep my deck size high. He dropped Jace into play, and I still thought that I was fine, because he’d already cast his three Careful Considerations, so I only had to weather his Sacred Mesa by drawing an Austere Command before the tokens killed me (which was likely, since I had Story Circle and 16 white sources in play and a life total over sixty), but eventually he Jace’d me and then cast a fourth Consideration to deck me, which took me completely by surprise.

I boarded out thirteen lands for the anti-control cards in my board, because there were only four minutes left on the clock. We didn’t even make it past his mulligans when the round ended.

3-2 (Steve 3-0-2)

Round 6 — Mono-Red Aggro
My opening hand was somewhat awkward, featuring two lands, three Coldsteel Hearts, and Purity. I kept, and cast Purity on turn 4 with a mana left open for Condemn. I was already down to six, but I had a Story Circle to lock the game up right there.

-1 Aeon Chronicler, -1 Sacred Mesa
+1 Story Circle, +1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero

Goofing off a little bit due to playing yet another friend, I decided to keep a borderline hand: Boreal Shelf, Coldsteel Heart, three Martyr of Sands, and two Wraths. I drew Scrying Sheets on turn 2, and played the Heart. On turn 3, I went up to 34 life. On turn 4, I went up to 49 life. Seeing that I still had another Martyr, two Wraths, and a Story Circle, my opponent conceded.

4-2 (Steve 4-0-2)

Round 7 — Black Disruption
Game 1 started off with my hand taking a vacation thanks to Thoughseize and Distress, but I had a Scrying Sheets to help draw out of it. My opponent played a Korlash and then a Shadowmage Infiltrator, which I Wrathed away. He dropped another Infiltrator, and I had Oblivion Ring for it. He put Tombstalker and Korlash into play, and I played Story Circle. It soon became an Urza’s Factory fight, but it was even until he played Loxodon Warhammer. I cast an Austere Command that took out his fatties and all the artifacts in play (including three of my own Coldsteel Heart). Crovax showed up to abyss his Factory every turn, and I eventually drew Sacred Mesa and made ten pegasus tokens.

-3 Story Circle, -1 Condemn, -2 Martyr of Sands
+2 Triskelavus, +1 Academy Ruins, +1 Tolaria West, +2 Sacred Mesa

He led with a Hypnotic Specter that I luckily had a Condemn for, and then he Thoughtseized away one of my Mesas. I played a Martyr to regain some life I lost to four-point Korlash swings, and eventually Wrathed his Korlash. I dropped a Trisk and it got Tendrils’d, so I regrew it with Academy Ruins. My opponent killed it over and over again, but eventually he ran out of gas and died to the Construct.

5-2 (Steve 5-0-2)

I was thrilled with the deck we’d chosen, as it had put Steve into the Top 8 easily, and had won all of the matches I’d meant for it to win (except the one involving three Profane Command). Steve cruised into the finals, where he lost to a Green/Black deck that looked similar to TarmoRack but without the Racks. I can’t really complain about a 12-3-2 record between the two of us, and if you’re looking for a deck to play in the upcoming City Champs, I strongly recommend this one.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM