The Components of Multi-Colored Control

In this continuing deck primer on one of the oldest decks in Vintage, Steve takes a look at all of the components that make Multi-Colored Control successful, and includes a tournament report from a recent event where he put his updated build to the test and landed squarely in the finals.

I. The Obvious

I am going to be brief in this section, but I wanted to include it for the sake of completeness. If including these few inches of text will give just one person some basic understanding, then I will consider the three minutes I spent writing it worth it. In case you missed part 1, here’s your link_.

Dual Lands, Fetch lands, Black Lotus, In-color Moxen, Sol Ring – These are the cornerstones of a successful manabase in any deck in Vintage. Playing semi-powered isn’t advisable, though not impossible. Also, the dual lands should always generate blue mana for consistency.

Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, and Mana Drain – Again, playing semi-powered is never advisable. You really wouldn’t want to fight fire with a half-empty lighter, now would you? Mana Drain in particular is crucial to making the deck operate to the level of competitiveness of the rest of Vintage.

Fact of Fiction, Balance, Yawgmoth’s Will, Demonic Tutor, Mystical Tutor, and Force of Will – These are the cornerstones of any Multi-colored control deck. The most alarming exclusion from many beginners lists is the lack of Force of Will.

II. The Fantastic

Skeletal Scrying

This is easily the strongest stand-alone, unrestricted draw spell in Vintage right now. Does the life-loss amount to anything during matches? One might think so, but it’s not true. This is Vintage where life-totals barely get a glance until the finishing blow. If you’re in a position where your life total is going to matter, it’s because you failed to properly control the game.

Decree of Justice

Instead of describing the obvious advantages of using this card, I figure I would answer the questions that are actually on peoples mind:

On TheManaDrain, Nether__Void wrote:

“Have you found that DoJ performs that much better based on the criteria that you used in deciding to abandon Angel?

– Combo decks that win in the first few turns

– Decks like Slaver that don’t care about life totals

– Decks like Stax that stunt mana growth

I would think that DoJ would be too slow to be of much use against Combo, it falls victim to the same weakness vs. decks that don’t care about life totals, and any deck that can limit the amount of permanents you have in play would severely minimize the usefulness of Decree because you’re not going to get many men (if any).”

Against combo and Stax, there isn’t a single cheap win condition for multi-colored control that can race the speed of combo nor land before a prison lock. However, against Stax Decree gets around a Tangle Wire/Smokestack lock during your upkeep by increasing the number of permanents on the board. Against combo, Decree is going to win just as well as an Angel (or Morphling, or anything else that Tinker won’t dig up), and still allows you to keep two Blue mana open during their main phase.

The big advantage is against Slaver where you can take a gamestate where you’re doing what you’re supposed to do and function as the control deck, then flip it around during the end of your opponents turn and be on the aggressive without losing handsize or tapping out during your own turn. Even those builds with Echoing Truth need to spend one card to get rid of the army you unloaded for free.


There was a time when Duress was decidedly not worth the card slots in Keeper. Of course, the last time it was discussed, the fundamental turn was closer to 3-4. Duress provides very little for the long game, but is very powerful in the short game which is what the developing Vintage format is fundamentally based around currently. From a design standpoint, it originally came into being as a Red Elemental Blast substitute in the sideboard. After it eventually made it to the maindeck, Duress became a natural fit that was great against everything out there. Duress is to hit your opponents Oath, Intuition, Lotus, Dark Ritual, Draw Seven, Ancestral, or whatever turn one so that they are stunted. It’s not meant to cripple your opponent, but to slow them down to the speed of 3cC’s game.

Justin Walters, a.k.a. Saucemaster wrote:

“To add to this, one of the deck’s biggest strengths is the way that Duress and Scrying interact. Scrying, for all its efficiency, is still relatively expensive in Type 1 terms. You want Scrying in the mid-game, typically on turn 3 after Drain or on EOT turn 4. With Force/Drain alone, you will sometimes stunt your opponent’s game plan enough for this to still be relevant to the game in many matchups. With Duress/Force/Drain, I’d go so far as to say that you usually stunt your opponent’s game plan enough for it to be relevant. Duress is great at giving you a slight disruptive edge in the early midgame. Past builds of 4cC weren’t really built to convert that temporary advantage into a permanent one, and in a number of games it would slip away before you could convert it into a game win, which typically made Duress a suboptimal choice. This 3cC build, however, is much better geared to convert that temporary early game advantage into a lasting midgame advantage.”

III. The Highly Situational


I pack Wastelands in the sideboard now. Before Bazaar became a rising star again, I was using the Sacred Ground/Serenity. Now that Trinisphere is gone, it just makes the decision between the two that much better. Do I miss Wasteland as a maindeck card? Absolutely not. The only time I would have felt any sting from that decision is game one against Cerebral Assassin or Dragon.

Exalted Angel

Exalted Angel was the entire reason 4cControl did well this past summer. It made the deck closer to aggro-control so that many of the opportunities that allowed for Exalted Angel to hit the board were a no-brainer. You didn’t want to hold on to it, as it’s never going to do you any good in your hand. If you had the mana (either via Mana Drain or just having an excess of mana), you could just play the morph creature and flip it over at your leisure. The field was also much more dedicated to the attack phase, with decks like Food Chain Goblins. 5/3, and Fish in prominence. However, while the Angel made the deck easier to pilot (that is, you didn’t have to really play around things when you could just play Angel and win), it became pretty horrible against decks that win before it hits play (Combo), decks that don’t care about life totals (Control Slaver), and decks that made WW2 extremely prohibitive (TrinisphereAndCrucible.dec).

IV. The Sideboard

Phyrexian Furnace

The biggest debate over this card is why to use this over Damping Matrix. The problem with Matrix is that it costs 3 mana and Goblin Welder is a turn 1-2 play. Furnace also cycles in those situations where you draw multiples (and don’t need to chew through the opposing graveyard). Furnace also stops random cards like Deep Analysis, as well as slows down Yawgmoth’s Will.

Serenity/Sacred Ground

These cards were used for Stax mainly. The original list omitted these completely since Stax was showing far fewer numbers than Bazaar-based decks. In testing, Sacred Ground became a powerhouse in that the only cards that really affected 3cC would be Tangle Wire.

V. Is this the right color?

What a 3cControl deck would look like in Red

The biggest problem with running Red over White is that you’re better off just running Welders and Welder-targets. Without just giving you a Rich Shay list, that’s honestly the best answer I can give you.

What a 3cControl deck would look like in Green

4 Force of Will

4 Mana Drain

4 Brainstorm

4 Duress

4 Skeletal Scrying

4 Oath of Druids

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Akroma, Angel of Vengeance

1 Ancient Hydra

3 Phyrexian Furnace

1 Gaea’s Blessing

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Jet

1 Black Lotus

1 Sol Ring

1 Lotus Petal

4 Forbidden Orchard

4 Polluted Delta

2 Wasteland

1 Strip Mine

3 Tropical Island

2 Underground Sea

1 Swamp

2 Island


2 Ground Seal

4 Chalice of the Void

3 Oxidize

2 Wasteland

1 Platinum Angel

1 Pristine Angel

1 Woodripper

1 Pernicious Deed

This list, minus the three Phyrexian Furnace is the version of Oath I designed before Meandeck as a whole decided to run a more “mono-bluesque” Meandeck Oath that you know and love today. Alarmingly, only a few weeks after the U/G Oath’s debut, Team BHWC released a similar build called “DOA (Duress Owns All)”, which contained only three Skeletal Scrying (where I had four), 2 Cunning Wish (I was actually using Pernicious Deed before going to Furnace), and the Meandeck Oath creature regiment of Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Spirit of the Night (I always had Ancient Hydra and constantly flip-flopped on the other creature slot).

VI. Report from Myriad Games on February 19th 2005

I’m trying to stay more away from being cute with my tournament report since I just want to illustrate some of my experience with the deck. I could mention the post-tournament Bickfords restaurant run, the brownie sundae that defeated me, or my trip to the event, but I’d rather not take that distracting route in this article. In any event, here is the decklist as I played it that day.

3cControl, Steve O'Connell

4 Force of Will

4 Mana Drain

4 Brainstorm

4 Duress

4 Skeletal Scrying

3 Decree of Justice

1 Old Man of the Sea

1 Balance

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Mind Twist

2 Swords to Plowshares

2 Cunning Wish

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Mystical Tutor

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Emerald

1 Sol Ring

1 Lotus Petal

4 Polluted Delta

2 Flooded Strand

3 Tundra

3 Underground Sea

2 Island

1 Swamp

1 Library of Alexandria


3 Phyrexian Furnace

4 Chalice of the Void

3 Sacred Ground

1 Gush

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Disenchant

1 Coffin Purge

Round 1 – Control Slaver

Game 1: He plays a turn 1 Goblin Welder, then later manipulates his artifacts (including Black Lotus) to hardcast a Platinum Angel, since I countered his TFK. I start digging with Scrying for Balance, I instead hit Brainstorm and found Old Man of the Sea. Old Man takes his Welder and I ruin his lead.

(-1 Decree of Justice, -1 Mind Twist, -1 Cunning Wish, +3 Phyrexian Furnace)

Game 2: I get Phyrexian Furnace working and he’s trying hard to get the means of getting something big and ugly into play. He tries either a Platinum Angel or a Triskelion, which I Drain, and sink it into a large Decree of Justice.

Round 2 – Meandeck Oath

Game 1: He Intuitions for Accumulated Knowledge. I counter the Accumulated Knowledge he finds, but he had Accumulated Knowledge #4 in hand. We do a lot of draw-go after that while I look to build a decent mana base up. He gets Oath on the ground and seals the game with Time Walk before I could untap.

(-1 Old Man of the Sea, -1 Balance, +1 Swords to Plowshares, +1 Disenchant)

Game 2: I Duress one Oath of Druids, then Disenchant another. I win via Decree/Orchard tokens and him only being able to block only a few at such short life.

Game 3: I’m ruining him, as his whole card draw engine is in the graveyard and none of it resolved. Meanwhile, I’m casting good-sized Skeletal Scryings and Decreeing up a storm.

Round 3 – Control Slaver

Game 1: He’s running me down with Triskelion and Welder. I desperately search with Brainstorms and Skeletal Scryings to find a Swords to Plowshares and Mystical Tutor. The Plow only makes him lose a swing, but it buys time for the Mystical to get Balance and wipe the board. He drops another Welder (no artifacts in play) and starts swinging as I’m only at 4. I’m at 2 and he swings, but I have Decree of Justice in hand and make some surprise-soldiers and block. From there, I eventually fight my way back and win.

(-1 Decree of Justice, -1 Mind Twist, -1 Cunning Wish, +3 Phyrexian Furnace)

Game 2: He opens with Volcanic Island, Black Lotus, Mana Crypt, Jester’s Cap. Unfortunately, I had sided out a Decree of Justice so he hit all 3 win conditions he could find in my deck. However, he doesn’t know this and assumes that I still have a Decree of Justice in hand (I used all 3 game 1). I’m briefly thinking about just going to game 3 when I realize he still has Mana Crypt. Between that and fetches, he died as I had an active Library all game and prevented any digging/tutoring so he couldn’t Tinker it away.

Round 4 – Meandeck Tendrils

Game 1: He was able to go off through my Force of Will before I could get to two Blue.

(-1 Decree of Justice, -2 Cunning Wish, -2 Swords to Plowshares, +1 Vampiric Tutor, +4 Chalice of the Void)

Game 2: He gets disrupted pretty severely by Chalice for 1.

Game 3: We’re 1 game a piece and my opening is very good if he doesn’t try for a turn 1 kill. He doesn’t and I play a land and Duress him, with the intention to drop a Chalice for zero right after. To my dismay, he has a really hard hand to hit. I see Chain of Vapor, Rebuild, Timetwister, Dark Ritual, and a cantrip of some sort my original plan was to just take a cantrip or draw spell, shut off the bulk of his mana development and cast Fact or Fiction my next turn into some more combo-hating goodness. However, this hand makes it difficult.

No matter what bounce spell I snag, he will still be able to bounce next turn and throw the Timetwister at me while floating the Dark Ritual mana and use the cantrip and whatever he Brainstormed away turn 1 to likely go off the turn after. I decide that I could buy more time if he was forced to bounce my Chalice, Timetwister, and pass the turn. Also, with a Timetwister it could give me a chance to draw into either the Force of Will or a Chalice that I could play for one.

That didn’t work out terribly well as I drew no Force of Will, but he drew a Lotus, played out a Spoils-Dark Ritual-Spoils-chain without any resistance to my side of the board. I tried to play the odds, since that was all I could do and it just didn’t pay off. Without the Lotus, I could indeed play Chalice for one the next turn (and since he was going first, he left the Forces in the sideboard). My incredible ability to see things perfectly in retrospect nags me for not taking Timetwister, though there was a very good chance that he could chain his cantrips just as well during his turn between the existing cantrip he had and the Darkwater Egg I think he drew.

Round 5 – Oshawa Stompy

Game 1 was funny in a way. He opens with the all-powerful Black Lotus, with a Skullclamp and Whirling Dervish. I have a million ways to find Swords to Plowshares in my deck, but I didn’t want the Clamp to be a problem for me. I Force of Will the Clamp and happily waved at the soon-to-be 2/2 across the board. I drew lands, card draw, and Brainstorms the entire game and could not dig for a Swords to Plowshares to save my life. This monster just kept growing and finished me off on its own.

(-1 Cunning Wish, +1 Swords to Plowshares)

Game 2: I draw Swords to Plowshares for his opening man this time. I draw lots of acceleration and was able to beat him with five soldier tokens rather quickly.

Game 3: I get removal again, but this time I also draw Old Man of the Sea and steal a beater. Between his creature and my space-marines, I finish him in short order.

Round 6 – Salvagers

We don’t play since we’re both going to be in the Top 8.

Top 8 – Meandeath

Game 1: He messes up hardcore when trying to win off of a Memory Jar and floats the wrong color mana from the Black Lotus he nicely drew. I think he might have had that one in the bag if he hadn’t have messed up his mana management. He was able to draw into the goods, but fatigue gets the best of us at the end of the day.

(-2 Cunning Wish, -2 Swords to Plowshares, -1 Decree of Justice, +1 Vampiric Tutor, +4 Chalice of the Void) Note: I didn’t take notes here, so I could have sideboarded differently.

Game 2: I have a Chalice of the Void for zero and one on turn 2. Once I play the Chalice for three, the deal is sealed. Chalice is a very underrated card, especially when you get some counter magic to protect it.

Top 4 – ForkSligh

I suck against Sligh game one, no lies. But come on! It’s Sligh of all decks. If I could pick a deck to have an utterly atrocious game one against, it would be Sligh. It’s not the Forks, it’s not the hordes of 2/1’s, and it’s not the burn, it’s all of it together. However, games 2 and 3 were literally over when Chalice for 1 hit. From there, I could take my time to get Chalice for 2 to which his outs were severely limited.

(-3 Skeletal Scrying, -1 Cunning Wish, +4 Chalice of the Void)

Top 2 – Salvagers

I Split with the Oliver because it would be tedious to play at this hour.

I hope you enjoyed this segment of my insight to multi-colored control. I plan on wrapping this up next time with sideboarding and matchup commentary, testing reports including a simulated tournament, and various discarded ideas.

Steve O'Connell

Zherbus on TheManaDrain.com, StarCityGames, and IRC

Owner and Administrator of TheManaDrain.com

Zherbus at gmail.com