Video Daily Digest: Big Time Control

Here’s one we haven’t seen yet! Ross Merriam gives the rogues headed for SCG Indy’s Standard Classic something to talk about! Can this deck make it in the big leagues?

With most decks I can skim through the list and get a pretty good idea of what’s going on. Not so with today’s deck. I needed to take my time, consider the list card by card, and really analyze how the various pieces fit together. And I’m sure I still missed a fair bit.

The critical card for the deck is Hour of Promise. Though we’ve seen it pop up in Modern next to Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, the powerful spell hasn’t found a home in Standard. So what are we ramping into here?

Well, the answer to that question is complicated, because the only maindeck card that costs more than five mana is Vraska, Relic Seeker. Hour of Promise in this deck is more of a value card, letting you find some deserts with non-mana abilities and get a couple Zombies onto the battlefield.

The extra mana is still important because you want to activate Ifnir Deadlands and Scavenger Grounds while doing other things, or cast Mastermind’s Acquisition and whatever it finds in the same turn. In this way Hour of Promise supercharges the deck’s internal synergies rather than act as a straight-up ramp spell.

With everything in place, this deck becomes an attrition machine. Killing everything in sight while making a pile of 2/2s from various sources, and tearing through the deck with Azor’s Gateway and Arch of Orazca. With a curve that runs from one to six it’s not hard to transform Azor’s Gateway should you need the mana or life, but the looting effect is very valuable in a mana-heavy deck with lots of conditional disruption.

That disruption is the most normal looking part of the deck. Black has supplanted red as the best color for removal in Standard since Vraska’s Contempt answers gods, but here Doomfall can also send them packing. Of course it also doubles as discard in a deck that absolutely needs the disruption against control decks to have any chance. It’s no surprise to me then to see a couple copies of Lay Bare the Heart make the cut as well.

With so many utility lands and the ability to find haymakers in the sideboard with Mastermind’s Acquisition this deck wants to go long and grind. Save removal for key threats (aka gods) when you can. Hour of Promise and Vraska, Relic Seeker may not look like much to end the game with, but when your opponent has nothing left, a couple 2/2s will more than do the trick.

And it’s that lack of win conditions that ultimately tips off that it’s a control deck. It has more proactive plays than most control decks in the Torrential Gearhulk era, but it has just as much of the removal and card advantage. It’s quite a twist for a Standard format that hasn’t seen as much innovation as I had hoped.