The past couple of months have been fairly interesting. I took a break from writing articles and instead spent most of my time preparing for the
tournaments I planned to play in. Some of my preparation showed positive results from those tournaments, including a win at SCG Worcester. On the other
hand, there were many tournaments that didn’t go exactly as planned, but of course, Magic is a game where improving your game as a player is often more
important than results. As I plan to continue to test Standard for Pro Tour Magic 2015 and other SCG events, I wanted to take a break and speak to you
about my deck choice for Grand Prix Worcester this upcoming weekend as it is the Modern format.
As well as the Grand Prix, the current PTQ format and the Premier IQs presented Sundays at Open Series events are the Modern format. I had a chance this
past weekend to compete in the first Premier IQ, and I chose to battle with a fairly stock version of UWR Control. I ended up with a 6-2 record which was
good enough for a top 32 finish and some points towards my Players Championship run. I was neither satisfied nor disappointed with the result. Instead, I
was happy I had a chance to play the Modern format and learn about some intricacies of the matchups as well as the function of some of the more popular
decks in the format. But most importantly, I learned what cards I wanted in my deck and what direction I wanted to move the deck for future tournaments. I
was able to get a better grip on how I wanted the deck to play out and some cards I wanted to use to achieve this goal.
After speaking with my friend Allen Jackson, along with recent SCG Baltimore tenth-place competitor Ted Felicetti, and playing the Modern premier IQ,
here’s the deck list I have arrived at:
As you can see, there are definitely some similarities to your standard UWR Control deck. However, you can also see some differences in the maindeck and
the sideboard that I will discuss with you. Let’s start with the creatures:
Four Snapcaster Mages have been a staple in this deck for a while. The versatility and card advantage it provides allows for utility in every matchup.
Snapcaster Mage really shines in this deck since you have access to the best cheap removal spells in the format. Overall, Snapcaster Mage really holds the
deck together while pushing it over the top in terms of both efficiency and power.
The other creatures are staples of the UWR Flash archetype. Both Vendilion Clique and Restoration Angel are excellent threats that have synergies with your
counterspells and instant speed removal. Having these creatures give you much more play in every match up and will keep your opponent guessing at which
threat you have in hand.
Since the addition of Supreme Verdict to the deck, I wanted to keep the creature count to a minimum, but I did find one more spot for another “creature” in
the form of Keranos, God of Storms. Keranos acts an excellent threat against many decks that is extremely difficult to remove given the card choices both
in the main and sideboard of most Modern decks. Keranos can become a creature, but that isn’t where its strengths lie. Instead, being able to gain card
advantage and a reusable burn spell can both give you the gas needed to compete with Liliana decks and provide a fast clock against combo.
A card that is similar to Keranos, but much more of a staple in UWR Control lists, is Ajani Vengeant. I’ve thought about cutting Ajani this past weekend
but changed my mind. Ajani performed very well for me as it is just a difficult card to answer and has a powerful effect that is useful in many matchups.
The removal package of the deck is fairly standard except for the two copies of the aforementioned Supreme Verdicts. Many UWR decks stray away from Supreme
Verdict, but I truly believe it is a great tool to have. Affinity, Merfolk, G/W Hate Bears, and various flavors of Pod decks all rely heavily on their
creatures. Supreme Verdict allows you to catch up in many difficult spots and allows your counterspells to be used to counter important spells instead of
creatures. As I played with the deck last Sunday, I found myself almost always wanting to find a Supreme Verdict. If playtesting shows differently, I could
consider running a third in the main as it impressed me so much. However, more likely than not, the third copy will remain in the sideboard as combo decks
and Tron decks will most likely make a strong appearance as the season continues.
Similarly to the removal package, the counter suite isn’t far from the norm. I feel Cryptic Command, although expensive, is still a four-of as it is a very
flexible and powerful card. Other than that, you have five two-mana counters along with two Spell Snares to make sure you don’t fall behind in the early
Now that we’ve made it through the spells of my deck, you might have noticed something different about my mana base. I’ve decided to go with zero Tectonic
Edges and many basic lands for a few reasons. With two copies of Sphinx’s Revelation along with four Cryptic Commands and four Snapcaster Mages, your deck
is very hungry for mana, and you don’t want to use your land resources on anything but your own powerful spells. The ability to destroy opposing man-lands
is nice, but the deck contains other ways to deal with them. Also Tectonic Edge makes it more difficult to cast any of your mana intensive and color
sensitive cards like Supreme Verdict, Sphinx’s Revelation or even Lightning Helix. Having more basic lands allow you to do all this along with both not
losing to opposing Blood Moons AND gives us access to Blood Moon of our own. Because we are not running four colorless lands, we can use a card that gives
us a powerful effect in Desolate Lighthouse that can be more useful than just destroying a land.
Before we move onto the sideboard, a common question you might wonder about is why the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Restoration Angel combo is not present
in the deck. Although it is very powerful and sometimes hard to disrupt, the deck becomes less smooth and more disruptable as you are relying more on your
creatures than your removal. There is also a tension present between casting your creatures and holding up counters or removal.
Now that the maindeck is covered, let’s take a look at the sideboard and what options it provides for us and when to utilize them. The first card I feel
should be covered is Blood Moon. As mentioned earlier, Blood Moon can have a game ending effect against many decks. Many decks in Modern play very few
basic lands and when facing UWR Control decks, your opponent would most likely not suspect you to have Blood Moon. Blood Moon is versatile as it can come
in to shut down Tron decks or to surprise an opponent in a control mirror match. I believe two copies to be the right number since drawing multiples is
usually not that good, and with a fair amount of card draw in your deck, you are more likely to find it.
Another unique sideboard choice is Brimaz, King of Oreskos over something more standard like Geist of Saint Traft. Originally, Geist of Saint Traft was my
go-to creature for mirror matches and combo decks. However, Brimaz provides not only a very fast clock but also has the bonus of being good against decks
like Zoo while not falling to opposing Snapcaster Mages. It also passes an important test in Modern as it doesn’t get killed by either Lightning Bolt or
Two copies of Spellskite are very much needed against Burn, Infect, and Twin variants. Spellskite can also be useful against other combo decks as well.
Speaking of good cards against Burn-style decks, Timely Reinforcements can really go a long way. This one-time Standard sideboard all-star is now a Modern
sideboard all-star. Timely Reinforcements can also be very important against the grindy decks such as Jund or the Rock. You’re almost always going to get
three creatures against them which is important to fight both Liliana of the Veil and Dark Confidant.
Another important sideboard card is the two copies of Detention Sphere. They are likely to come in against a wide range of matches. With a style of deck
that UWR Control is, it’s better to have a wide range of answers rather than specific card choices such as Stony Silence or Sowing Salt. As you are a UWR
Control deck, any G/B/x opponent will be likely to remove their Abrupt Decays which means your Detention Sphere is likely to be a permanent answer to
Liliana of the Veil. It is also important against Storm decks as it can take out both Goblin tokens from Empty the Warrens and Pyromancer’s Ascension.
The other one-of sideboard cards are unique in their own way. Counterflux is solid against other control decks as well as combo match ups and decks that
are trying to resolve one key spell such as Tron, Living End, or Scapeshift. Celestial Purge is another one of that comes in against many match ups.
Against Jund, it is a cheap answer to Dark Confidant and Liliana of the Veil. Against Storm, it can take out both Pyromancer Ascension and the very
important Goblin Electromancer. Finally, Celestial Purge is a nice card to have against Splinter Twin as it removes half of the combo.
The last sideboard choices are one copy of Batterskull and two copies of Combust. Both cards provide important roles in many match ups. Combust is very
important against Twin decks, G/W Hate Bears, and Merfolk. It should also be noted the uses Combust has against Restoration Angel and Celestial Colonnade.
Batterskull is important against creature decks and other matchups when you are bringing in Blood Moon.
Overall, Modern is a very diverse format; it is also very complex and your sideboarding won’t be as easy as bringing in X and taking out Y. Instead,
understanding how other decks try to side board against you and understanding what their game plan is is more important. If you enjoy playing this style of
deck, then UWR Control might be right for you. Expect many tough decisions and long grindy games. However, some games in certain matchups will force you to
shift gears and play more like an aggro control deck while sending burn spells to your opponent’s face.
Modern seems to be a growing format, and with the addition of the SCG Premier Modern IQs, I would not be surprised if Modern got as big or even bigger than
Legacy. With such a wide card pool, I believe it is very important to understand the strategy of your deck and how it interacts with your opposition.
Therefore, the more practice you have with the deck of your choice, the better chance you have to make the correct decisions in difficult spots. If you
plan on playing UWR Control in Boston or Kansas City, I would love to hear your thoughts.