U/R Control: The Other Steam Vents Deck

Recently, I played in Flores’s Deckade book signing tournament. I made Top 8 with Vore, my only blemish in the Swiss being a first round loss to Beautiful Struggle Mark Young piloting Tron. However, my tournament came to an abrupt end in my Top 8 match, against Luis Neiman playing Wafo-Tapa Control. Let me tell you this match was among the biggest blowouts imaginable. The only way I could conceivably gain an advantage (short of him mulliganing to five) would be if I had a perfect draw…. on the play.

Recently, I played in Flores’s Deckade book signing tournament. I made Top 8 with Vore, my only blemish in the Swiss being a first round loss to Beautiful Struggle Mark Young piloting Tron. However, my tournament came to an abrupt end in my Top 8 match, against Luis Neiman playing Wafo-Tapa Control.

Let me tell you this match was among the biggest blowouts imaginable. The only way I could conceivably gain an advantage (short of him mulliganing to five) would be if I had a perfect draw…. on the play.

As a result of this blowout of titanic proportions, I took a closer look at the deck.

The Heartbeat matchup, one that I had initially assumed to be abysmally bad for U/R control, is actually pretty favorable for U/R so long as it’s pilot is excessively patient (no calculated risks please). Heartbeats post-board plan should be to bring in Gigadrowses; however, if you hold back your Rewinds, that plan is worth nil.

B/W aggro is also a pretty good matchup for U/R control. The high density of counters coupled, with numerous cantrip answers and Tidings, puts it in U/R’s favor. If it turns out that you want additional cards that are good against B/W, then the card that I would consider most effective is Meloku… Man, is that guy good against B/W.

Zoo and Heezy Street are a little bit hairy for U/R, but the Threads of Disloyalty from the sideboard can hopefully do enough to swing the match in your favor.

Being good against 3 of the 4 most popular archetypes seems like as good a reason as any to play a deck. The only issues that I had with Luis’ decklist is that I don’t see why the deck should run Niv-Mizzet, a card that can be killed by a single Red spell, be it Wildfire or Char, when you could instead run two more dragons, be they Keigas or Ryuseis… cards that are not only harder to kill, but also have a very relevant effect if they are killed.

The Confiscates also seem somewhat out of place. It might be a gross oversight on my part, but I think cards that increase the consistency of the deck would be more appropriate in those slots.

My proposed list for U/R control

I think Disrupting Shoal is worth considering, though I’m not certain what I would want to cut for it. Running some number of Shoals also allows you to run extra tidings or Compulsive Researches as you can tap out far more aggressively.

Sleight of Hand seems pretty ideal for the deck, as it filters your draws and helps to insure land drops. As the deck has numerous two-mana counters, there are opportunities on turn 1 and turn 3 to cast Sleight without leaving yourself tapped below countermagic mana. Obviously on later turns a one-mana cantrip isn’t going to keep you off your spells except for in the rarest of circumstances. However, it is entirely possible that Sleight has little place in this deck and my love of Vore has led me to include it… if that’s the case, then oopsies.

A key change might have to occur if you are playing this deck in Teams and want to run an aggressive deck with Solifuge. Obviously it’s more important to keep the beatdown deck intact than to keep some sideboard cards to yourself. If that’s the case, it’s worth considering sideboarding Jushi Apprentices. Should you decide to board the Jushis, then it is almost certainly correct to make room for the Disrupting Shoals, be they in the main or in the board. It’s also possible that Goblin Flectomancer could be a worthwhile inclusion, though I would only want to bring that in against decks with Compulsive Research. It’s also possible that Volcanic Hammers should be in the board, replacing some anti control cards.

With the above list I would sideboard as follows:

Against Heartbeat:
-2 Repeal, -2 Tidings, -4 Electrolyze.
+4 Giant Solifuge, +3 Annex, +1 Rewind.
(It might be worth keeping in some number of Electrolyzes to be able to kill their Elders and force through your Solifuges)

Against B/W aggro:
-2 Rewind, -2 Boomerang.
+4 Pyroclasm.

Against Vore:
-2 Repeal, -1 Electrolyze.
+2 Giant Solifuge, +1 Rewind.

Against Zoo or Heezy Street:
-2 Rewind, -2 Hinder, -2 Boomerang, -1 Sleight of Hand.
+4 Pyroclasm, +3 Threads of Disloyalty.

Enough about U/R… here are the Team Constructed configurations that I would choose from…

Hand in Hand, U/R control, Zoo

I think that the format has shifted to the point where Zoo is once again amongst the best decks. Zoo has very favorable matchups against Heartbeat and Vore, which are two of the most popular decks. The matchup against various B/W decks is not as bad as other Red beatdown decks, as Zoo is blazingly fast and can steal wins before the opponent properly sets up.

Unfortunately, I haven’t tested it enough to be certain that it’s good enough to warrant replacing Husk, but Hand in Hand seems like a very good choice for the next round of PTQs. If you think Husk is just a strictly better choice, without Isamarus, then by all means run Husk. If not, I think you’ll find that having Hand in Hand on your team gives you a bunch of interesting pairings. Obviously you give up a little bit against Heartbeat and Vore, but you gain some points against other B/W decks. You have the option going up to ten (or even twelve) Hands of varying shapes and casting costs. I might not know that much about the B/W “mirrors,” but I’m pretty sure that 10-12 Protection guys can swing it in your favor.

With this configuration, if your opponent is running what was my favorite configuration from last week: Vore, Husk and Heartbeat you have a guaranteed 2.5/3rds advantage.

Husk, U/R control, Heezy Street

I think this configuration is less effective than Zoo, U/R, Hand in Hand for now, because you give up a lot against Heartbeat by running the slower Heezy. That being said, this configuration is still very powerful and is undoubtedly capable of taking a PTQ, though it is quite likely that the PTQ win would be on the backs of the Husk deck and U/R.

G/W Chord, U/R control, Husk

The more that I think about it, this configuration seems to be somewhat flawed. True, you are playing three of the best decks… decks that are not only powerful, but also good for the projected meta. However, you are set up for some nightmarish pairings by running G/W Chord and U/R control on the same team. Should your G/W deck get paired against their Vore, and your U/R against their beatdown, you can be in a world of hurt. That being said, this is still a very powerful configuration that can give you some awesome pairings.

G/W Chord, U/R control, Ghost Dad

This is one of the rare configurations that is able to take advantage of Ghost Dad‘s strengths against aggressive decks. Unfortunately it still leaves you open to some pretty nightmarish pairings. Even if Ghost Dad is up against their aggro deck, you can have Heartbeat against U/R and Zoo against B/W, so I guess it doesn’t really take as much advantage of Ghost Dad‘s strengths as I thought. Ignore this configuration it’s no good.

Sadin: If your Ghost Dad player went x-0 or x-1, it’s not because the deck is awesome, it’s because your decks were configured wrong

Flores: And your other players failed to win every round. A team can win and have a Ghost Dad player (plus other players) winning, but there is a huge phenomenon of teams with just one player winning… and he is the Ghost Dad player.

The only return configuration from what I believe to have been a reasonable choice last week is Heartbeat, Ghost Dad, G/W Chord. Once again, the only reason to play this configuration is if you absolutely, positively have to beat beatdown.

I would love to hear any questions or comments you might have, either in the forums or at Steven_Sadin at yahoo.

Steve Sadin

Bonus: My Q and A with Luis.

Why would I do a Q and A with Luis? Well, he knows a ton about the game and its intricacies, and he’s a pretty darn good writer to boot. Plus he’s one of the few people I know who writes in complete thoughts in emails about Magic.


What did you think of the Confiscates?

Confiscates were alright; neither spectacular nor terrible. They’re obviously better in some matchups, though. They’re generally useful in Game 1 at least, since they can steal everything from a Phyrexian Arena to a land to a big fat monster to a Sylvan Library (which I did versus Finkel in the Gauntlet, hehe). I did board them out against creature decks, since I’d rather have Pyroclasms and Threads of Disloyalty, obviously. The main con is that they’re yet another six-mana spell that tends to get stuck in your hand, and that definitely happened a few times over the course of the tournament. Something worth mentioning is that I never actually won a game with something that I stole from an opponent, so I’d be inclined to cut them if room is needed for something better. They seem alright against other non-aggro decks, though.

Do you think Sleight of Hand would be a good addition?

Sleight of Hand seems fine, but much less necessary than in a deck like Vore. What this deck generally wants is card drawing and not card selection, which is all that Sleight helps with. In Vore, it helps find that crucial Eye of Nowhere or Stone Rain to start screwing an opponent, but this deck has much more redundancy than Vore and is more consistent in what it wants to do in the early game. In this deck, hand optimization seems less necessary than raw card-drawing, like Tidings or Compulsive Research give us. The plus side to Sleight is that it gives us a turn 1 play, but after that it becomes sort of lackluster when compared to the alternatives.

Was Niv-Mizzet ever better than a dragon?

In my experience, Niv-Mizzet was only better than a 5/5 dragon against aggro, since it serves as removal and you can kill 2-toughness creatures easily; if you have Minamo you can also untap him to swing, or to kill a 3-toughness creature. The downside to playing him versus aggro is that, like Meloku, he dies to Char, which is in every good aggro deck these days. Overall I’d say that Keiga was better, which is why I think 3 Keiga/1 Niv-Mizzet is a better ratio, or just cut the Nivs altogether and run a Ryusei or two. It’s worth mentioning that if the deck is retooled to include something like Compulsive Research then Niv becomes better than he currently is, since you have a cheaper way to use him as a machine-gun (currently only Tidings gives us that effect, and tapping 5 lands isn’t always the best idea).

Were the Annexes ever good?

Annex was very good versus Heartbeat, and I think it’d be similarly good versus other control decks. With eight two-mana counters you can generally stop their Elders and Reaches, so you’re stunting their mana development. Annexing their second Green/Blue source can be huge in games like that, which is exactly what happened in Game 2 versus Mark Schmit in the semifinals. It also helps deal with Vitu-Ghazi from B/W/G control decks. Combined with the maindeck Confiscates, it lets you play a lot like Eminent Domain, and just steal the opponent’s stuff. Everyone I asked really liked my sideboard plan of bringing in 4 Solifuge and 3 Annex versus Heartbeat, so I think a fourth Annex might be good addition to the board.

Do you think Disrupting Shoal would be a good addition?

I toyed with the idea of Disrupting Shoal a ton, since I really like the way it looks on paper, and I even brought mine with me to the tournament in case I wanted to run them. The deck has a ton of two-mana spells to pitch to counter a turn 2 play when we’re on the draw, and it even has Repeal to counter something on turn 1. At three mana we have Hinder and Electrolyze, too. So yeah, I think they’re definitely worth testing, since they might just turn out to be awesome. If I’d actually done any testing before the tournament I think I might’ve added them. Three seems like a good number to test.

Thanks a bunch to Luis for his impressive and time-consuming contributions to this article.

As a parting note, if you see BDM in the near future, be sure to ask him about his game-show idea. If you want a clue as to how great the idea is, let me just tell you that it’s based on an episode of Jackass… that he made up.