Whatever You Call It, It Gets The Job Done: W/U/B Nether-Control

A descendant of the IBC”Go-Mar” decks, this runs the same color base but uses Nether Spirits in lieu of the Dragon.


Come with me, Sherman, as we crank up the Wayback Machine back to last month’s Regionals. In the penultimate round, I ran into this fairly unique tri-color control deck that managed to take my NetherHaups deck — which normally ate control decks for lunch, with some fava beans and a nice chianti — to a 1-1 draw and very nearly took both games, save for one misplay by its owner.

I was rather enamored of this deck, considering it quite unique and powerful, so of course, like any deck I like, I made a copy and started playing it, and lo and behold, I have found it kicks serious booty.

The deck could be considered a descendant of the IBC”Go-Mar” decks, as they run the same color base but use Nether Spirits as the kill card instead of the big dragon. Or they could be considered a”munge” of U/B Nether-Go, Probe-Go, and U/W control decks that used either Millstones or Blinding Angel as kill cards.

Nether-Go-Mar-Something-Something, or”Everything and The Kitchen Sink”

4 Counterspell

4 Undermine

4 Absorb

4 Dromar’s Charm

4 Accumulated Knowledge

3 Fact or Fiction

3 Tsabo’s Web

3 Dismantling Blow

2 Nether Spirit

3 Wrath of God

2 Rout

4 Salt Marsh

4 Underground River

4 Coastal Tower

4 Adarkar Wastes

6 Island

2 Plains


3 Engineered Plague

1 Misdirection

1 Aura Fracture

2 Gainsay

2 Dominate

3 Millstone

2 Cremate

1 Last Breath

For your amusement (and to pad the word count), I’ll break down the deck into its base components.

Nether Spirit: Be it U/W, U/B or W/U/B, this guy is the current fave of just about everything masquerading as a control deck these days. Like Nether-Go,”Kitchen Sink” (as I’ll refer to the deck from here on out) has the ability to hard-cast a Nether Spirit when need be, which gives it more ways to get it into play than U/W Nether-Control. U/W depends upon Fact or Fiction (which can backfire), Foil, or just plain discarding it.

Judging from the post-7th Regional reports coming in, it looks like Serra Angel has now become the kill card of choice for”old school” U/W Control, and Serra is truly the epitome of”old school” in these parts.

I have found two Nether Spirits to be the perfect amount — not four, not three, but two. This occasionally leads to the problem of having them both at the bottom of the library, but this has happened to me twice in about eighty games with the deck, which I’ll take as acceptable risk.

Global Removal: The original build of Kitchen Sink had three Wraths and two Tsabo’s Decrees. The Decree was quite powerful against Rebel decks, but too often it would net me one, maybe two creatures. Rout, on the other hand, has the ability to nail Chimeric Idols with all the same wonderful board-sweeping ability. So, it’s now three Wraths and two Routs, which feels about right.

Counters: Sixteen is the current number, and a fine number it is. Dromar’s Charm is the versatile backbone of the deck. Sure, it’s tricolored, but I’ve used all of its abilities on more than one occasion. First, it’s a non-conditional counterspell. Second, it’s creature kill for something that gets by your counters. I’ve used it to”reclaim” a stolen Nether Spirit quite frequently or kill some nasty thing that snuck past my counters. Finally, the”gain five life” part is somewhat underused, but sometimes you just need that extra turn that five life can get you.

After that, you have both Undermine and Absorb (the reason we run three colors, so we have access to both) and the ubiquitous Counterspell. With the massive card drawing effects this deck has, you’re almost guaranteed of casting both Absorb and Undermine three or four times a game — netting you a lot of life gain and reducing the amount of times you’ll need to hit with Nether Spirit for the win.

I don’t run Foil, a usual component of U/W control, as I only run six Islands in the deck and therefore can’t guarantee having the cards for the alternative casting cost.

Lands: I added two basic plains to the deck to pump up the white mana quotient, as I will often need the double white earlier to cast Wrath or Rout. At present, I’m running twenty-four lands, including eight come-into-play-tapped lands. While this increases the odds of getting all three colors of mana into play quickly, it also can slow the deck down a turn or two in the early going.

Twenty-four feels right, especially with card drawing effects like Tsabo’s Web and Accumulated Knowledge accelerating the deck in the early game. In the midgame, Fact or Fiction and Dismantling Blow will net you more card advantage as well.

I played around with it, and while Dromar’s Cavern certainly looks like it might work, trust me, it doesn’t — the Lairs really only work in a proactive deck, where you can tap the land you’re bouncing to play a spell that turn. In a reactive control deck, the loss of a land drop is unacceptable.

Sideboard: Some sideboard choices are obvious. Aura Fracture is the bane of Fires, and the deck is strong enough against Fires that Hibernation — which one would think of as a wrecks-Fires card — is not even in the sideboard right now.

Dominate is almost — almost — good enough to maindeck. But where do you put it? Maybe take out a Fact or Fiction for it? Perhaps. I save it for creature-heavy decks, Counter-Rebel and maybe even other Nether-Go decks.

For other control decks, Millstone is included in my current sideboard. It’s very effective against traditional Nether-Go and other U/W control decks.

In testing, I’ve found what gives the deck most trouble is Counter-Rebel. Even with the lighter counter base (ten to twelve), Counter-Rebel has the ability to play out a recruiter before I can counteract it, recruit a few rebels, and save counters for the Wraths and Routs I’m forced to play out early.

I had originally run Tsabo’s Decrees, but to best combat the early Rebels, I’ve found that Engineered Plague is superior to the Decree. A turn three Plague kills Sergeants and Falcons — which comprise the bulk of the starting chain in most decks — and at worst, reduces the power of their attacking army, which can mean that extra turn or two needed to stabilize.

Since Counter-Rebel is inclined to remove their Dismantling Blows when sideboard for Gainsays, Engineered Plague, if you can sneak it into play, will probably win you the game after sideboarding. Engineered Plague is also efficient against rogue theme decks, i.e. Zombies, Merfolk, etc.

Cremate and Last Breath are included as anti-Nether Spirit defense, which, if you haven’t noticed lately, are everywhere! Last Breath is also handy against that annoying rhymes-with-rich, Lin Sivvi.

Gainsay is a good addition against Blue Skies and Counter-Rebel. Heck, you can almost bring in the entire sideboard against Counter-Rebel, I’ve found. Misdirection is good against Fires and anything packing burn. Remember, boys and girls, that you can Misdirect burn from a creature to a player if you so like. Would Jeff Donais lie? (Well, I certainly hope not.)

The one big downside to this deck is that, well… It ain’t cheap. Undermine and Absorb will set you back a few dollars if you don’t have your complement of four as yet, and the popularity of Nether Spirits has led to them becoming mighty scarce. It can also be maddeningly slow to set up in the early game if you draw nothing but Coastal Towers and Undermines.

But if you’ve got the cards, and you like playing control, give this deck a try. On the famous Barrel-O’-Monkeys scale, it rates a solid 7.5 in my book.

Dave Meddish

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