Why Lochmere Serpent Is The Win Condition Control Is Looking For

Shaheen Soorani may have found the next great finisher for Control decks in Throne of Eldraine Standard, but he’s a little short on cash. Can anyone loan him about… tree-fiddy?

Last week
, I analyzed a possible finisher for control after rotation kicks in.
Shimmer Dragon is a bit of a gamble for control fans, but I still have a
feeling it will pay off. The abilities tagged on that monstrosity are too
good and it will end the game quickly. I will keep an eye on the longshot
Dragon, but more traditional win conditions are coming down the pike.

There’s a fear that a true third color will not be possible. Without a set
of ally-colored lands, accessing double of each type will be a difficult
feat. The decks that we build around Shimmer Dragon will have a touch of
Artifact fixing, so it might be able to navigate those difficult waters.
The more traditional control decks will have to rely on a solid two-color
base, with a splash of the third.

Looking at what we had access to a few days ago, Dimir looks like the base
for any control deck in Throne of Eldraine Standard. Even you wild
ones out there that want to summon Hydroid Krasis and Garruk, Cursed
Huntsman, will have to pray to the Watery Grave gods. Murderous Rider is
the double black spell that must be played from the control side, already
putting pressure on us to keep the Swamps flowing. There’s a chance that
blue is a splash; however, it will be very difficult to use counter spells
and card draw effectively. Drawn from Dreams is the card draw spell that
will flourish in the new Standard, as it has the biggest bang for your buck
by a mile. I am skeptical of the success of a control deck that doesn’t
utilize blue, as it historically hasn’t worked well.

Even with a possible Artifact-centered control frontrunner, I’m never
opposed to having more options to tinker with. All of you that have
followed me for a while know I’m a deck builder at heart, and I live for
new formats. I made a few jokes a few weeks ago about the absence of
Aetherling and that we were about due for a creature finisher. The
Planeswalker ending is typically more versatile, as it has other useful
modes, but it’s tougher to close out games. When Aetherling and Grave Titan
were around, games ended immediately. I think we have a slightly weaker
version of the two, but strong in a format that appears to be much slower
than the last.

Lochmere Serpent is the embodiment of control. It has the six-mana price
tag, Flash, and a giant body to defeat creatures with the opponent. Like
similar creatures of the past, it’s a very fast clock that has the best
evasion that a creature can have – the one-mana mode to become unblockable
gives it that Aetherling feel and the price isn’t too high. Losing a few
lands late-game to crush an opponent out of the blue is well worth it. The
first attack would almost be free, as it surprisingly enters the
battlefield at the end of the opponent’s turn. Getting to immediately deal
seven surprise damage to an opponent, or killing a creature, are both
options that put a smile on my face. With a little Teferi, Time Raveler
assistance, this could all happen without the opponent being able to
prevent it.

The second ability provides card advantage and life gain, which are two of
the most important attributes a control mage looks for in a card. Losing a
Swamp to add a life and a card to the coffers is another nice end game
option, allowing you to filter flood into spells. The negative of both
abilities is that it can only eat Swamps and Islands, making some of the
other dual lands less than ideal. The one bright spot of having less mana
fixing is having more basics, which can be used to feed the Lochmere
Serpent in the late-game.

The final ability is the key. A creature without protection is worthless to
control players Game 1. The edge that control has is a lack of targets for
enemy removal, making any creature without defenses a big dud before
sideboard. Lochmere Serpent can return itself from the graveyard to your
hand with a few restrictions.

Two mana is a pretty sweet deal to get back your giant win condition;
however, it requires five cards out of the opponent’s graveyard and must be
done at sorcery speed. Removing cards out of the graveyard isn’t a
difficult task, as each spell deployed by a control player typically
destroys or counters enemy threats. This should create a pool of resources
for you to remove, but there’s a chance it won’t be ready to use on Turn 7.
Even if you can’t return it right away, it will rest there until the time
comes for vengeance.

Outside of a silly combo deck making the current Standard unplayable,
graveyard hate has not been needed for the last few years. The low demand,
coupled with the mediocre options, makes the graveyard a safe place for
Lochmere Serpent to rest until needed. This continues to add to the flavor
that has already swept me up, reminding me that this set is the only one
that has got me excited to read flavor text.

I typically do not get involved in the story, art, or flavor of sets, but Throne of Eldraine has changed this Spike forever, as I look
forward to the next card’s story as much as its usefulness. Lochmere
Serpent gets a high rating from me due to the sweet historical lore outside
of Magic, as well as a few genius developers that decided to tie some South
Park into the mix.

Sprankle noticed that the card had three abilities and fifty words in the
text box, making it one of the funniest things I’ve seen in competitive
card design. I see these types of shenanigans with the Unglued
sets, but not in the real world. This is just one of the cards that WotC
put their creative mark on. Even a card like Charming Prince has three
abilities, copying what “charms” in Magic do. Not to take anything away
from Sprankle’s tweet here, but Star City Games had me rolling with this

Pricing the card at about “three fifty” is about as good as it gets and
prompted me to pick mine up immediately. With all the flavor and fun,
Lochmere Serpent will unfortunately be only a one-of in control builds
moving forward. Due to the mana cost and the mana hungry (literally)
abilities, you can’t play multiple copies of this majestic creature.

That all said, Lochmere Serpent will be better than typical one-ofs in
control decks. This drawn at any point in the game will be impactful and a
second is never necessary. It isn’t a Legend, making it attractive to run
multiples, but I would advise against it. There is a world where there are
only control decks running rampant and you would require additional
haymaker support, but that is very unlikely. It’s just so tough to kill
that it will be easy to keep it on the battlefield.

Aetherling is the example I like to return to for this type of discussion.
It was also a non-Legendary, six-mana, had mana hungry abilities, and
killed opponents very quickly. There was rarely a time where I wanted to
run multiple copies, due to the strain it put on the resources you wanted
to use for other things later in the game. This is truer for Lochmere
Serpent, as you want to pitch Swamps for action, and may need to drop
Islands for lethal.

This may not be the exact win condition I was hoping for, but it’s another
option for all the control players that can’t wait to see the post-rotation