Removed From Game – The Twelve Decks of Christmas #11 and #12: Control

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Friday, January 8th – For the second week of his daily Twelve Decks of Christmas article series, Rich Hagon brings us Runeflare, Boros Bushwhacker, Vampires, and much more!

To finish this holiday series, it’s time to look at two very different approaches to Control. We begin with a deck that could only really exist in the here and now, since it runs off a card from Zendikar that presents a unique win condition. Here’s the list:

It’s hard to imagine that there’s room in a Control deck for a whopping 23 monsters, but that’s the case here. Running throughout is the idea that your guys are problematic to deal with. Both White Knight and Knight Of The White Orchid have First Strike, and that’s especially useful against things like Ball Lightnings and feeble 3/2s with Cascade. Guardian Seraph, Felidar Sovereign, and Battlegrace Angel, and Wall Of Reverence all fall outside the range of Lightning Bolt, and will tangle all day in the red zone.

In case your monsters are in danger of being overwhelmed, the deck makes room for plenty of removal, both point (Oblivion Ring and Path To Exile) and mass (Day Of Judgment and Martial Coup). The Martial Coup doubles as an outright win condition, since sticking half a dozen Soldiers into play is often the ballgame. In a way, though, this deck has a ton of finishers, because once you’ve reached the point that you’re not going to die, you’re going to kill them, and even a humble 2/2 White Knight can get the job done. In that sense, Battlegrace Angel and Guardian Seraph act as lightning rods for opposing removal, and there’s another reason you don’t mind your guys dying — Emeria, The Sky Ruin.

Unusually for a white deck, you get your guys back time and time again, giving you (technical term alert) Inevitability. Simply put, if you get to the late game, you just can’t lose, and the most elegant of routes to victory is Felidar Sovereign, seeing you safely to 40 life and game over. This is a really elegant deck, and I hope you enjoy playing it.

For our last of the Twelve Decks, I’ve gone for a nostalgic choice. When I started playing back in 1997, few decks were more powerful than blue/white Control. All the key elements are here in this 2009 version:

Counterspells? Plenty. Cancel to get rid of anything you like, Essence Scatter to remove some souls, and Negate for irritating spells without power and toughness. Point removal? Oblivion Ring and Path To Exile. Mass removal? Day Of Judgment and Martial Coup. Card draw? Well, not as much as some decks historically, but Jace Beleren is all you ever need if you can protect him sufficiently, and Sphinx Of Lost Truths comes with bonus cards attached. Threats? Two sets of Sphinxes, with Sphinx Of Jwar Isle next to impossible to kill, thanks to Shroud, something the super-irritating Wall Of Denial shares.

This is a real old school threat management kind of deck, and if you’re not sure of what a threat looks like, you might lose some matches thanks to casting the wrong counterspell, or countering the wrong threat. That’s fine, because there are few quicker ways to understand than when the thing you let through your defences destroys you unexpectedly. Whether your tastes run to many monsters or lots of counters, I hope you enjoy tinkering with these two highly entertaining Control decks.

And Finally….

Assuming that you read, you know that Jund is the best deck in Standard. If you’re one of about a hundred people who only care about trying to make a profit on Magic Online, you’re going to feel Standard is pretty miserable. But over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at a huge range of decks, all of which can succeed at a high level:

Jund, Mono-Red, Cruel Control, Spread ‘Em, Open The Vaults, Crypt Of Agadeem, Runeflare, Boros Bushwhacker, Vampires, Valakut, Felidar Sovereign, and UW Control.

And guess what? I could have chosen the GR Ultimatum deck. Or mono-white Tokens. Or a genuine old school white weenie. Eldrazi Monument and Elves, Naya decks, Bant decks, Rafiq and Exalted…

In the last month, more than twenty distinct decks have been virtually sleeved up and gone on to victory. That’s a lot of room for innovation, and entertainment, and fun. I hope you’ve learned some things as you’ve played along each day, or even if you’ve just taken the trouble to work out why certain cards belong in certain decks. It only remains for me to wish you a most excellent remainder of 2010. As Mark Rosewater might have put it, ‘may your formats always be healthy.’

Until next week, as ever, thanks for reading…