The Icy Grip – Second Place at the SCG Standard Open in Richmond

Friday, December 10th – Shaheen fights multiple battles today, one with U/W Control against the Standard Open field, the other against Preordain. Is violence really the answer here?

A fun weekend of Magic just passed, and even though I didn’t claim victory, I still had a blast. I only managed to play in two SCG Opens last season — so my invite to the greatest money tournament of all time was nonexistent.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my school-teaching job prevents me from attending most tournaments that begin before the weekend. This time, it caused me to miss out on the grinders. Sadly, my job also prevented me from going to Worlds this year (I qualified through rating before the cutoff). I’ll be attending the Pro Tour in France, and I bet you can guess what deck I’ll be battling with!

When developing Magic decks for any high-level tournament, I tend to lean more on theory rather than playtesting. I build my decks around the metagame, and, while my decks don’t always have a bunch of dominant 90/10 matchups, I do my best to ensure that I don’t give up game 1 to any specific deck — I always want to have at least a fighting chance. I also like to make sure that my sideboards will prevent me from having a horrid matchup in game 2 and 3 situations.

I played the below deck at FNM the night before the SCG Open and went 0-2 drop. My lack of play-testing is something I need to work on — I’ve cost myself matches in the past because I wasn’t familiar with the cards in my deck due to lack of practice. But in the case of U/W Control, my knowledge of the cards isn’t lacking. Before I break down the deck’s matchups and card choices, let’s take a look at the decklist itself.

This list is very similar to previous U/W lists I’ve posted — but with a few spicy ones. Cards like Spell Pierce, Sun Titan (re-evaluated), Ratchet Bomb, and Leyline of Sanctity have been added.

Spell Pierce:

Just as good as the “pros” say it is. After giving it a whirl in the Open tournament, I left with a feeling of accomplishment. Every time I cast it, it was such a blowout (and in my brief tournament report below, I’ll give you a prime example of that). The ability to counter spells for one mana hasn’t been utilized since Spell Snare / Force Spike until now. Even when Mana Tithe was out, it was nowhere near the power level of this card, which I feel has the ability to transcend to all the other formats in Magic. Mana Leak your Primeval Titan, Spell Pierce your Summoning Trap was a pretty common series of plays for me last weekend. Even a Spell Pierce on an Explore to prevent an early Jace, the Mind Sculptor from BUG or RUG is a stellar play that enables the Icy Grip to begin early. I could go on and on about this card, as I’m so excited that I joined the Spell Pierce club even if it’s a little late.

Sun Titan:

He has returned to the lineup after seeing success in the hands of Kyle Sanchez. Sanchez went undefeated in his battle down south, which caused me to
re-evaluate the big Titan one more time. After reading
his article

and seeing the line “To all you Preordain Idiots (And Frost Titans too),” I decided to dedicate a small segment of this article to the fight against Preordain (Flame on!).

Back to Sun Titan… he’s amazing. The ability to Tectonic Edge over and over against green ramp decks that have a hard time removing him is astonishing. My opinion of him had gone down for a while because I’d been playing against a lot of RDW and Boros for a while (where he’s worth way less than a Wurmcoil Engine and/or more Baneslayers). But now that the format has gone through another couple of stages, Sun Titan has definitely earned a home. The fact is, Sun Titan can beat your opponent in so many ways (Jace Beleren, Ratchet Bomb, Edge, lands, Luminarch Ascension, Wall of Omens, etc.).

Ratchet Bomb:

I used to think that this card was unnecessary when playing U/W because of all the other answers we already have to creatures early on. This turned out to be a turn 2 catch-all that did anything from removing a Jace, the Mind Sculptor to killing Wurmcoil Engine tokens to, of course, carrying me to victory against Red Deck Wins and Vampires in game 1. I did, however, board it out in almost every matchup because I played against only two aggro decks in the entire span of the Open tournament. When the field contains a bit more of an even mix of control, ramp, and beatdown decks, its value will increase.

Leyline of Sanctity:

Just say ‘no!’ to Memoricide, Valakut, painful red spells, Duress, Consuming Vapors, Inferno Titan, the redirection of those painful red spells to any of your planeswalkers, and to the prevention of Luminarch Ascension activation… etc., etc. This card is an ace in the hole and would’ve carried me to victory if I’d only chosen to mulligan more aggressively. It’s a staple in any white-based control deck.

Other cards to note in the control deck that have survived all builds are the following:

Baneslayer Angel:

She’s the queen… cut her, and you’ll pay with losses.

Elspeth Tirel:

She’s ten bucks now, or less, right? Get them while they’re hot!

Venser, the Sojourner:

Great guy when I drew him. Did I want to draw him more often? Sure. Do I want to play more than one? Absolutely not. Against aggro decks, he’s just awful, so maybe one more in the board would be fine.

Six Jaces:

I’ll never play less in Standard. In almost every Jace battle I had… guess who won?

Time for the fastest tournament report of all time! Well, the second fastest, and I’ll do it in the style similar to the gentleman who aided me in the changing of a card or two.

Star City Open 12/4/10

Round 1: Smashed the BUG. (2-0)

Round 2: Bashed Valakut. (2-1)

Round 3: Swept him under the RUG. (2-1)

Round 4: Leyline, Ratchet Bomb, Kor Firewalker, Baneslayer Angel, Flashfreeze, Wall of Omens, Sun Titan, the Kitchen Sink, and a Nuclear Bomb were used to obliterate Red Deck Wins. (2-0)

Round 5: Celebrated a narrow victory over Furnace Celebration. (2-1)

Round 6: Christian Calcano and his Valakut… let me tell you this story. Game 1 I defeated him with a slow and painful planeswalker and triple Tectonic Edge.

Game 2 I landed Leyline of Sanctity turn 4 and proceeded to Jace, the Mind Sculptor every turn, Brainstorming and fatesealing depending. At some point in the game, it was so grim for Calcano that I began to just play planeswalkers and relax with triple counterspell in hand (Deprive and two Flashfreeze). I was waiting to get to nine mana to be able to drop Baneslayer Angel with double counter backup. The reason why I waited so long is because I felt I had no chance to lose the game… until he peeked at his next card and laid it down swiftly. Eye of Ugin. He then immediately tutored up a Kozilek and cast it with his infinite mana, and my jaw dropped. How could I’ve let this happen? I frantically looked for a Tectonic Edge and began to drop threats and get him very low on life, but a couple Ulamogs later… the game was out of reach.

Game 3 I got obliterated by Mr. Revenge, and I extended the hand to my good friend. I could’ve prevented this loss, and luckily it didn’t bite me in the end on my goal for reaching the finish line.

Round 7: RUG AGAIN!?? (2-1)

Round 8: BUGs, BUGs, EVERYWHERE! (2-1)

Round 9: Intentional Draw. (7-1-1)

Quarterfinals: My BUG opponent from earlier. I won’t go into super detail because the
Stark covered our match,

but he was a super nice guy. He ended up conceding before my Jace, the Mind Sculptor went ultimate. I dropped a Jace, the Mind Sculptor when I realized he was out of blue early on, and I began to peek at his deck. First card I saw was Mana Leak and left it, then Preordain (hah, nice land!), then Preordain number two, and then another Jace. Game 2 I had him dominated the entire time, but he lured me into a bad attack and punished me with a Consume the Meek. It made it a tad more interesting, but I still had the game firmly under control. (2-0)

Semifinals: Mono-Green Eldrazi…… NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! This matchup is a nightmare for U/W — the only truly bad one. My opponent started off strong by dropping a mana Elf turn 1. I took it on a Journey to Nowhere the next turn. He then played Explore, followed with a land, and passed. A turn went by, and he dropped an Overgrown Battlement, which was returned to his hand with Jace. I Jaced his mana tokens, Gideoned his wall a turn later, and Edged his regular, old land to keep him off mana for the entire game while I tried to build some kind of control. Like I said, this matchup is horrible, but I was able to stop him from establishing himself, and at the same time bopped him with Gideon three times. He then made a mistake by forgetting to Summoning Trap after I decided to Mana Leak an Ulamog. That mistake led to his defeat in game 1.

Game two was much more interesting, and I request that you guys watch the coverage for it via video. He Armageddoned me on turn 4 using Terastodon, leaving me with one Plains and Jace at one loyalty. The game felt hopeless, but I decided to play on.

I managed to claw my way back to five mana by keeping my Jace alive and with him making a few poor attacks, dropped a Gideon to stall again against a ferocious Gaea’s Revenge that came out the turn after the Terastodon. After that, I dropped a Baneslayer Angel, then another one, then a Sun Titan. With a good amount of spectators, I could hear the commotion and the surprise as they watched the game unfold, and I was more surprised than anyone at my victory. The game was live and recorded, so it obviously paints the picture better than a quick recap… but it was an amazing match where I just barely squeaked out. (2-0)

Finals: Valakut and the rematch against Christian Calcano. I finally had my chance to redeem my mistake from earlier, but it seemed easier to make a
whole new one instead. This was also
featured by Stark

so please enjoy his version as well. Game 1 I played very well. I hit his Cultivate with a Spell Pierce, and he was stunned beyond belief. I followed that up with a Mana Leak for a Primeval Titan and another Spell Pierce for a Summoning Trap. I used planeswalkers and Day of Judgment to stop his back-to-back Avengers of Zendikar… easy win.

Games 2 and 3 I kept mediocre and, in hindsight,

hands. I mean… they looked good against any other matchup, but I know I had the advantage after board. That advantage after board allows me to ship the Luminarch Ascension, Jace Beleren, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor hand in search of Leylines and countermagic, which are essential for early survival. I ended up losing the match and with proper mulligans, I believe I could’ve taken down the title.


Second place is nothing to shake a stick at, and I’m happy with my personal performance as well as the deck itself. I can’t confirm any immediate changes I’d make to the deck at this point, but if Valakut becomes something approaching 50% of the field, then Leonin Arbiter needs a spot in the board. Every match, 100%, they board out Bolts, and then you bring in the blowout. It’ll work, trust me. Now to wrap up this tournament report, I’d like to show you a couple pictures and discuss my favorite card. Let’s call this segment

The Battle versus Preordain Round 2!

Five out of my eight Swiss rounds were against decks that contained four Preordains. I don’t have the gall that Kyle Sanchez has, or even bravery in this case… but I’ll formally defend my stance in this one paragraph this one time. Preordain is a glorified Sleight of Hand. The idea that Sleight of Hand was unplayable, and Preordain is Brainstorm is an absurd notion. I’ve heard all the arguments in triplicate from the best of the best and the average Joe, and I don’t take a definitive “I hate Preordain” stance. For the record I’m NOT SAYING PREORDAIN IS BAD. I believe it has its place in combo decks and

control decks… but it doesn’t belong in U/W Control. “It’s like a 56-card deck now!” “You can play less land!” “It smooths out your draws!” “It’s the best card in Standard!” And they go on and on and on.


Oh give me a break! I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here! I sat back and watched my opponents Preordain early and late, and not once did it net them an advantage in the match. It didn’t smooth their draws out to the point where I was “buried under card selection.” Sanchez, myself, and my dentist (thanks Chapin!) are just fine with our six Jaces (backed by seven maindeck counterspells) to “smooth” out our draws. Sleight of Hand does look one less card deep and has slightly less selection,

it also can smooth out draws and allows for the 56-card deck.

Don’t buy into the hype without trying your U/W Control deck without it — and for those who’ve already been swept up (I know I’ll hear from you guys via email and forums… nothing but love!), try to understand that it’s not so black and white. And here’s the Shaheen guarantee: if you cut Preordain for a 26th land, another Jace, and a Spell Pierce, you’ll be just fine. 2012 won’t come early, the world won’t explode, and you’ll still win. I wanted to keep this short and sweet while covering part two of the reasons to not include Preordain in U/W Control.
Part one

was from a few articles back if you’d like to see the initial reasons for not playing it.

Thanks again to all the readers, and I hope given my good finish along with other big victories, you don’t give up on U/W Control. I still think
it’s a powerhouse of a deck with virtually no bad matchups, and practicing with it will lead you to great things. As usual, toss me an email at
[email protected]

AND I made a Twitter for you guys

. Love to hear some feedback, and try to keep the torches and pitchforks at home on the Preordain subject!