U/B Control And Life Without Jace, The Mind Sculptor

Reid Duke’s favorite deck not only survived the bannings, but may be better than ever because of them. He breaks down U/B Control, plus sideboarding; don’t miss it before the first Open post-bannings this weekend in Cincinnati.

Two pillars of Standard have come down. For a while I worried that the format would collapse and wondered which way things would fall. Now that M12 is
fully spoiled, and a stable format is taking shape, I know things will turn out okay. My old favorite deck has not only survived the bannings, but may
be better than ever because of them.

The powers above us have rained down fire on Old Standard, and anyone who looks behind won’t make it in the new world. The U/B Control above is a
new deck for a new format.

The card advantage inherent in Caw-Blade forced all other control decks to fight tooth and nail for tempo advantage, so that planeswalkers could
survive and even the playing field. With Caw-Blade gone, U/B Control can go back to its roots and simply be a deck with efficient answers and a
powerful late game. There’s time again for Spreading Seas and for hard counters. Protecting Planeswalkers need not be the primary game plan

Jace Beleren

Jace Beleren is optional. He’s not Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and there’s no reason to shoehorn a direct replacement. In fact, Jace Beleren
only began to see widespread play so that he could trade with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. From my experience, he’s on par with Sea Gate Oracle, and
only a little better than Divination. Against aggressive decks, Jace Beleren most commonly draws a card and saves two damage, which is quite mediocre.
Against ramp decks, he’s slow to replace his initial investment, and I never want to use the +2 ability in a matchup where my goal is to trade
one for one whenever possible.

Jace Beleren really only shines in control mirrors, which means, oddly enough, that U/B will be better off when Jace Beleren rotates out. Depending on
how the metagame shapes up, it may turn out that all U/B Control players have to maindeck Jace Beleren, only so that they don’t give up an edge
in mirror matches if the opponent has him. However, U/B is better against the rest of the field without, or perhaps with only a small number of, Jace
Beleren. In my suggested decklist, I left four copies in the sideboard to bring in against other blue decks.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

There’s no direct replacement for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but that’s no reason to worry. The new game plan, and the one that always tended
to work best in aggro matchups anyway, is to use counters and removal to survive, cantrips to hit land drops, and then cast six-drop bombs that trump
whatever the opponent is doing.

U/B would be totally fine if Jace were gone. Thankfully, though, our friend hasn’t left us at all.

Jace, Memory Adept

This guy has some big shoes to fill, but he exceeds all expectations. The ability to provide card advantage while ticking up in loyalty is unbelievably
powerful and is what made planeswalkers like Elspeth, Knight-Errant so good. With Jace, the Mind Sculptor, one would often have to “skip” a
turn of using him to put him out of range of a Lightning Bolt or a manland. That risks a blowout if the opponent is able to answer him with the legend
rule, an Oblivion Ring, a haste creature, or any other trick. However, Jace, Memory Adept replaces himself right away and ends his first turn at a very
comfortable five loyalty. What’s more, he has a useful ultimate that’s realistic to reach and comes as a side benefit of using his default
ability anyway.

The mill ten cards ability is useful also. It’s very nice to have this alternative kill in your deck in case something goes wrong like the
opponent gains a ton of life, removes too many of your win conditions, or time runs low in the match. More importantly, the zero ability is ruthless
against Valakut. Using it once annoys them, twice neuters them, three times takes away any chance of winning, and four times literally ends the game.
It also happens to play very nicely with Surgical Extraction. Jace, Memory Adept is better against Valakut than Jace, the Mind Sculptor was, and that
was the best card in the matchup! The mill ability is so good that we’ll soon see savvy Valakut players sideboarding one copy of Ulamog, the
Infinite Gyre to shuffle back in their graveyard.

The fact that he costs five mana, and that he doesn’t die easily once he’s in play means that Jace, Memory Adept won’t be a four-of.
However, in addition to Liliana Vess, a few copies of Jace allow U/B Control to curve out nicely with big threats against normal opponents and
sometimes overload permission against opposing blue decks.

Questionable Card Choices

Wurmcoil Engine/Treasure Mage

Wurmcoil Engine’s natural enemy, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is no more. He ends the game against aggro, dodges Go for the Throat and Day of
Judgment, and stops Mirran Crusader dead in his tracks. With Jace, the Mind Sculptor no longer in the deck as an intermediate threat, it’s
important not to skimp on finishers. I considered a split between Engine and Grave Titan, but having two Wurmcoils makes Treasure Mage good, and I like
the way he fills in the mana curve.

Spreading Seas

Turns one, two, and three used to be solely used for clearing the way for a planeswalker, but now that’s not necessary. Annoying the opponent and
helping to hit land drops is just what I want to be doing with my early turns now. It’s also great having more than enough answers to Valakut,
the Molten Pinnacle, Eye of Ugin, and manlands.

Gitaxian Probe

Next week’s article will be devoted to Gitaxian Probe, as it brings up so many interesting questions for deck designers. I love the card in U/B
Control, especially because it’s an easy sideboarding cut for matchups where there’s too much to bring in. However, the same goes for the
maindeck. If you copy the above list but really want to add something, trimming a Probe won’t interfere with the game plan of the deck.

Go for the Throat/Doom Blade

We’ll have to wait and see what the new metagame looks like before making any final decisions. The logic with playing all Go for the Throats is
that Vampires is a popular deck and a matchup that can go either way, so I don’t want to give up any ground. Doom Blade is better against
Tempered Steel and Kuldotha Red, but with the above list, those matchups may be lost causes, so there’s little point in changing one removal
spell to a Doom Blade.

Black Sun’s Zenith, Consume the Meek, Ratchet Bomb

These aren’t included because they’re inefficient and don’t fit with the game plan of answering every threat right away. They may be
necessary evils, however, if Kuldotha Red and Tempered Steel prove to be popular.

The Matchups


Very favorable, and a real reason to play U/B Control. Jace, Memory Adept is savage; permission and Spreading Seas are always good; and constantly
knowing exactly what they’re up to with discard spells and Gitaxian Probe means you won’t be caught by any cute tricks.

Sideboard: +2 Memoricide +2 Flashfreeze +1 Surgical Extraction -2 Dismember -1 Treasure Mage -1 Karn Liberated -1 Liliana Vess

Cutting Karn Liberated and Liliana Vess may seem strange, but the post-sideboard matchup is so good that the main way to lose is to an unanswered
Thrun, the Last Troll or Gaea’s Revenge. Wurmcoil Engines, while worse than the planeswalkers for game one, are needed as insurance against those
cards. Once again, seeing the uncountable cards coming is critical, especially with Spreading Seas and Memoricide as preemptive defenses.


Another very winnable match, but one that is not to be taken lightly. Sitting around and letting both players make land drops can favor Splinter-Twin
because of their ability to act at instant speed. Tapping out against them can be even worse. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend U/W or U/R
Control in this format. U/B’s saving grace is the discard spells. They allow a patient control player to fight battles with advantages in mana,
information, and weaponry.

Sideboarding: +1 Surgical Extraction +2 Memoricide +4 Jace Beleren -4 Spreading Seas -2 Wurmcoil Engine -1 Treasure Mage

U/B is very low on win conditions after sideboard, but that’s good for many players—myself included—because there’s no
temptation to rush. None of Splinter-Twin’s win conditions can touch you if you’re careful.

Spreading Seas is good against three-color versions.

Red Deck Wins

Favorable, but scary. Minimize damage from creatures, keep Koth of the Hammer and Shrine of Burning Rage off the table, and they’ll have a hard
time burning you out before Wurmcoil Engine comes down.

Sideboard: +4 Disfigure +1 Vampire Nighthawk +2 Flashfreeze -1 Karn Liberated -4 Spreading Seas -1 Stoic Rebuttal -1 Jace, Memory Adept

The biggest question I still have is what to do about Shrine of Burning Rage. Right now the plan is to preemptively stop it using permission and
discard and to hurry to a Wurmcoil Engine if one slips through. It’s possible that Into the Roil should be in the maindeck and stay in against
RDW to answer the Shrine. It’s also possible that Ratchet Bomb, though slow, should be in the seventy-five. After all, it has applications
elsewhere including being huge against Kuldotha Red and Pyromancer Ascension.

U/B Control Mirror

Do what you have to keep making land drops. Don’t rush to make the first move, but remember that Mana Leak won’t be live forever.

Sideboarding: +4 Jace Beleren +1 Volition Reins -2 Dismember -3 Go for the Throat (depending on their creature suite)

This is an interesting matchup because it can go very, very long but can also be decided at any time. Spell Pierce is a valid option to fight early
battles over Jace Beleren, but it’s very important to have a high threat density in the late game. Use caution in going above five or six discard

My suggested decklist is designed for a very open field, where nothing besides Valakut makes up more than ten percent of the metagame. It’s weak
to the fast artifact decks and would be an underdog game one in the mirror against a Jace Beleren decklist. However, U/B Control is not inherently an
underdog against anything. It’s going to be a major player in New Standard and may be even better when Jace Beleren and Gaea’s Revenge
rotate out. I recommend that anyone interested picks it up early to get practice against a variety of opponents. For my part, I’ll try to
periodically suggest updates depending on how the metagame shapes up.

Good luck and enjoy!