You CAN Play Type I #132 – The Control Player’s Bible, Part IV.4: Control at a Crossroads, April 2004

Thus, “The Deck” is getting left behind, to the point that some distinguished voices have been using it as the straw man for trumpeting “the real metagame.” Last month, for example, JP Meyer half-sarcastically called it “the best control deck in Type 1 as long as there isn’t another control deck that is more streamlined.” More recently, Phil Stanton called it “nothing but metagame customization” compared to Hulk. Are these pundits correct, and if they are, what building blocks exist to go about rebuilding”The Deck” for today’s Type One environment?

The Control Player’s Bible, History Chapter

Part IV: History, 2000-2002

Part IV.1: History, 2002

Part IV.2: History, 2003

Part IV.3: History, December 2003

Part IV.4: Control at a Crossroads, April 2004

FHM Philippines Parties

I received a number of inquiries from friends abroad about this one. Frankly, aside from the expected scantily-clad or outright topless female specimens, it was hilarious in a very different sense.

It was held inside a small auditorium, and while it was invite-only, it was jampacked and that was with everyone standing already. Making their way through a horde of fat, sweaty men were staffers trying to be discreet about spraying air freshener. Making it worthwhile were local actresses. One Asia Agcaoili emceed the entire thing in a bikini, while serving her suspension from local TV after her breast slipped out during a dance number (sound familiar?). We also got a song number from someone nicknamed”Booba” for reasons better taken up on the forums. Hint: in the middle of her number, she bent forward and shouted,”Guys, come on, look at my face, too!”

And then there were the games from the sponsors.

A jeans company had four male contestants to go up the stage, strip off their shirts, and put on a shirt with their logo being held up by a scantily-clad female. Needless to say, it didn’t do much for anyone’s horny levels. When one guy took his shirt off and started gyrating, Asia shouted,”My God, your waist is even smaller than mine!”

The last guy wanted Asia herself to hold up the shirt he was supposed to put on. She did, and he froze on stage.

Even better, though, was a telecom provider’s version of Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey. The blindfolded contestant is supposed to pin stickers on the half-naked female’s”hot spots,” which she’ll indicate by moaning into the mike when she comes close.

Sounds promising, right?

The first guy looks like a yuppie in his thirties, down to the long-sleeved shirt and phone-on-belt, begins by putting his hands on the girl’s shoulders. Then he does… nothing.

The emcees ended up shouting at him to think about what he does to his wife, and the human donkey practically slapped his hands onto her body to give him one point.

Dupe #2 looks more aggressive, and when he gets the signal, he gets down on his knees and… bites the girl’s thighs in front of the male audience. Talk about unique technique.

Finally, the last guy tries to start by putting his palms on the girl’s chest, but can’t quite muster the strength to make contact. The sticker somehow makes it despite his shaking hands.

It’s a bit sad, in a way, since everyone was taking photos of the non-famous backup dancers while they were dressed in thin t-shirts or a bunch of flowers and leaves. When they dressed up in jeans and walked out the main entrance after the show, no one paid any more attention to them. I met up with some old college classmates on the staff who ended up with the most fun, challenging each other to get their photo taken with each of the equally scantily-clad promo girls at every sponsors’ booth.

The winning observation probably went to my brother. We walked past a big sign,”NO CAMERAS” at the entrance. During the show, he noted the guy beside him, who had a video camera.

I had the film camera, though, and will have the photos developed in a few weeks…

But hey, would you rather be in a roomful of sweaty men holding pieces of cardboard with busty angels on them, or in a roomful of sweaty men listening to Asia Agcaoili scream something about”sexercise?” I know what Glenson Lim would pick…

Speaking of roomfuls of sweating men, hello to Steve Menendian a.k.a. Smmenen, who is taking his final exams now, after mine. He was heard from briefly on #themanadrain on EFnet yesterday:

[Rakso] [Smmenen] I actually laid my professor last night after the final exam

[Rakso] HOLY SH**!!!

[Rakso] oops

[Rakso] wrong screen

[Smmenen] hey!

[Rakso] sorry, ignore that

[Rakso] er… sorry, steve

[Smmenen] last time i tell you anything

[Rakso] I’m going back to the private window

[baumann] good job

[Reb-] hahaha

[Rakso] can I at least tell the Paragon list? 😀

[Smmenen] i have mad work to do…. you boys have fun.

*** Smmenen has quit IRC ([Solaran_X] Telling me I got a lisp…at least I don’t sound like an old rich, eccentric bastard that’s laying on some pi)


[Rakso] right…

More Glenson Lim bashing

Peter Bokhorst from the Netherlands wrote back, saying his birthday recently swung by. He explained that his family is even deeper into Magic than Manila’s Glenson Lim’s. His youngest child, for example, gave him a Mirrodin booster in silver wrapping (it revealed a Tooth and Nail.)

His wife gave him a Black Lotus.

That’s right. Beat that one, Glen.

Control at a crossroads

In”Head to Head: Landstill,” I mentioned that”The Deck” draws parallels to Baldur’s Gate 2, an incredible RPG with an aged graphics engine. Compared to its potpourri of draw spells, younger designs have better defined engines that run on cheaper spells. That feature noted the cheap Standstill, and you’ve all seen Hulk Smash’s similarly cheap Intuition / Accumulated Knowledge engine.

Most recently, we have Thirst for Knowledge in Control Slaver, essentially Slavery with Mana Drain over Mishra’s Workshop. Thirst combines with Goblin Welder for extreme tempo tricks, such as getting Mindslaver for the mana cost of a Mox.

Maxim Barkman, Power of the South, Champion, April 18, 2004 Dülmen

Blue (21)

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

1 Tinker

4 Brainstorm

4 Thirst for Knowledge

2 Cunning Wish

4 Mana Drain

4 Force of Will

Red (6)

4 Goblin Welder

2 Fire / Ice

Black (3)

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Mind Twist

Artifact (5)

1 Memory Jar

2 Mindslaver

1 Pentavus

1 Platinum Angel

Mana (26)

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mana Crypt

1 Sol Ring

1 Mana Vault

1 Library of Alexandria

1 Tolarian Academy

2 Polluted Delta

3 Flooded Strand

2 Underground Sea

4 Volcanic Island

4 Island

Sideboard (15)

2 Blood Moon

1 Coffin Purge

1 Duplicant

1 Echoing Truth

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Fire / Ice

2 Flametongue Kavu

2 Gorilla Shaman

1 Rack and Ruin

2 Red Elemental Blast

1 Shattering Pulse

In fact, note how much the shadow prices (see”Counting Shadow Prices“) have shifted, such that Fact or Fiction is now sideboarded, as an auxiliary draw card to be Wished out later on. (For the number crunching, see Phil Stanton a.k.a. DrSylvan’s analysis in”Hulk Smash… Dissected“)

Thus,”The Deck” is getting left behind, to the point that some distinguished voices have been using it as the straw man for trumpeting”the real metagame.” Last month, for example, JP”Polluted” Meyer half-sarcastically called it”the best control deck in Type 1 as long as there isn’t another control deck that is more streamlined” (see”A Stronger, More Loving World“). Phil Stanton, more recently, called it”nothing but metagame customization” (see”Hulk Smash… Dissected“) compared to Hulk.

In an e-mail to the Paragons list last April 23, Steve Menendian even teased that”The Deck” and its Beyond Dominia-era popularity had to be martyred for Type I to truly blossom into a cutting edge, competitive format. Finally, commenting on the Type I round of the Sydney Invitational, Eric“Danger” Taylor called it a possibly obsolete collection of Rosewater puzzles (see”Deconstructing [author name="Mark Rosewater"]Mark Rosewater[/author]“).

Does”The Deck” really lack a game plan?

But is”The Deck” really a formless blob of brokenness, something now jurassic given how streamlined and focused the new builds are?

First of all, formlessness is in fact the final rule in Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. Second and more seriously,”The Deck” has always had a focus underneath that seeming lack of synergy and one-ofs. For example, Paul Pantera actually described it as less a permission deck than one whose”major thrust is to deny cards in hand” (see”Play Notes from Paul Pantera, ‘The Deck’ Chapter I,” June 1995, The Dojo). And yet”The Deck” survived as an archetype long after the Disrupting Scepter / Serra Angel lock was retired.

Perhaps the problem has really been defining what the plan of”The Deck” is. You might stick to the classic Dojo formula that its plan is to focus solely on not losing as opposed to worrying about winning at the same time, thus using the same resources to focus on only one instead of two goals. Rob Hahn chronicled the”Weissman school” in 1996:

“While most decks play both phases of the Magic trying to defend against opponent threats and mounting an offense to kill the opponent, the Weissman School plays only the former. One way to put it is in volleyball terms: It doesn’t matter how many points you give up as long as you only give up fewer than 15. In the same way, the Weissman School will happily give up 19 points of life as long as the final 20th point is denied. Eventually, the environmental control of the Weissman deck will take over and victory will be all but assured via an invincible Serra Angel or a very large Braingeyser.” (see”Schools of Magic“, April 10, 1996, The Dojo)

However, this formulation is obsolete today, like most of the actual notes (as opposed to the fundamental principles) in”Schools of Magic.” Simply, outright winning may well be a path of lesser resistance to winning compared to”not losing.” In fact, if you look at Hulk Smash and Control Slaver, you realize that being a one-trick wonder with one hell of a trick can obtain more brutally direct results than a plethora of Mana Drains, Swords to Plowshares, and miscellaneous sideboarded Wish-solutions.

On the other hand,”not losing” was not quite the deepest description”The Deck” received. In May 1995, Brian Weissman wrote,”[S]peed is not what wins the game of Magic… What wins the game is simply more options and more cards” (see”‘The Deck’ Chapter I,” June 1995, The Dojo”). This remains true, if a deck can ride out the violent tempo battles of the early Type I game, and survive into the late game where shadow prices favor card advantage.

More broadly, Rob Hahn described:

“Pure control, then, does nothing but defend until the enemy’s resources are exhausted. This is a citadel in a true sense of the word… The game will be decided after, and only after, the besieging army has nothing left but exhausted supplies, soldiers without morale, and a strategy that has gone nowhere.” (see”Good Initiative“, December 2, 1997, The Dojo)

Thus,”The Deck” does have a game plan, that of traditional control, something not tied to specific cards. At heart, you have a deck that always intends to play defense, to not be the beatdown (see Mike Flores,”Who’s the Beatdown?“). Through whatever means, it aims to make favorable tempo trades early on while developing its mana base, then break the midgame equipoise with card advantage.

Review the various Head to Head features of the Bible, and you’ll notice this pattern, whether it’s carried out by Force of Will, Rack and Ruin, or Wasteland.

The magic question, of course, is whether this remains feasible today, vis-à-vis the newer and more aggressive control decks. I’d like to reexamine”The Deck” with the premise that it is. For one thing, its inherent formlessness means that it has always been tough to single-handedly disrupt, hose, or hate-out, and it won’t give Meyer the satisfaction of building a Type II-esque mono-Green hate deck against it.

At every point”The Deck” has seemed obsolete, its adherents have simply stripped it apart and tried to put it back together, shaking out the dirt and grime in obsolete slots that you wouldn’t think to clean out otherwise.

“The Deck” and its mana base

The first question is whether you can shore up the mana base. You conclude that it’s fine. Polluted Delta, Flooded Strand, and the accompanying Brainstorms have gone a long way to streamline it and smooth colors, and the worst problems one has right now is how to increase the White mana count to fit in Exalted Angel, and maybe whether you can squeeze in that fourth Wasteland without increasing the mana sources from the minimum of twenty-six.

Further, comparing the mana base with other decks’, the difference is mainly a handful of basic Islands. Thus, in terms of resilience, it’s not that big a difference. You can conceivably cut a non-Blue color, but cutting off one of the select cards from that color impacts your versatility. You’ll be forced to dig deeper into the other colors, and led into the aggressive focus that the younger control builds execute better.

There isn’t even any new mana denial. Wasteland and other familiar threats are still there, and you have more mana as is. Blood Moon, and to a lesser extent Back to Basics, are also still there, but aside from your usual solutions, you’re actually helped by the slightly increased basic land counts of other decks making these less effective.

“The Deck” and its solutions

Swords to Plowshares, Fire / Ice, Gorilla Shaman, Wasteland, Force of Will, Mana Drain, Red Elemental Blast, Blue Elemental Blast, Disenchant, Rack and Ruin, Coffin Purge. Sideboard to taste, from Aura Fracture to Plaguebearer.

“The Deck”‘s arsenal is a list of the most efficient removal ever printed, which is both its greatest strength and weakness. As David Price put it, there are no wrong threats. Playing defense, you risk getting left with an excellent answer to another problem, and the metagame has come a long way since the days you could get away with maindecking four Swords and four Disenchants. Further, you only have so many slots. For example, sideboarding right is even more crucial to a deck of solutions.

On the flip side, however, when you do have the right solutions, you play the early tempo trading game better than anyone else, and Cunning Wish and Brainstorm have been a big help. Post-board with the right cards, for example,”The Deck” manhandles aggro-control better than anything else, and note that Paragon Marc Perez won the East Coast Vintage Championship with Gay Fish.

“The Deck” and its brokenness

More than ever,”The Deck” has become less about tutoring for a silver bullet like The Abyss or Disrupting Scepter, and more about simply adapting to the opponent’s strategy. The only real restricted bombs left are Balance, Mind Twist, and Yawgmoth’s Will. Bombs these days are less complete hosers than they are potent support cards with powerful but more limited scopes.

I remember when I first thought out loud about removing Stroke of Genius, and Darren Di Battista furiously replied about removing a strong mana sink and bomb against Workshop decks. Nevertheless, cheaper, more efficient, and more consistent has been the trend. Note how Brainstorm and Cunning Wish have long since forced out peripheral tutors such as Merchant Scroll and Vampiric Tutor.

“The Deck” and its win conditions

JP Meyer wrote last month,”The shadow of the old Weissman ‘The Deck’ still looms really large over Type 1 control decks. There’s a real urge for most Type 1 control decks to try to just dominate the opponent… (see”A Stronger, More Loving World“).”

This harkens back to the original 1995″The Deck” build, which won with the Disruption Scepter / Serra Angel lock. In all caps, Paul Pantera appended his notes to Brian’s:”DON’T CAST A SERRA UNLESS YOUR OPPONENT HAS NO CARDS AND YOU HAVE A COUNTERSPELL TO BACK IT UP.” Nevertheless, The Dojo sensei Frank Kusumoto commented on this ancient commentary, clarifying that Brian never made this an absolute rule.

After Mirror Universe was retired due to the rules changes, it was already recognized that the speed and diversity of the opposition made taking complete control an increasingly tougher proposition. However, when Morphling made the team, it was also recognized that you no longer needed complete control. When it dropped, its combat tricks (see”Playing the Sapphires“) let you ignore just about everything else on the board, at least in the days before the rise of Phyrexian Dreadnought and Quirion Dryad. You just needed to leave enough Blue mana open, which could be none depending on the situation. Sometimes, it was more than reasonable to go Suicide Morphling with a topdecked Superman or Mana Drain mana.

When Decree of Justice became the kill of choice, you could cycle it early and slip in a couple of tokens. Finally, Exalted Angel is cheap enough that you can slip it in easier than Morphling, and was drafted at a time when Fire/Ice is the only common burn spell that threatens the Morph. Turned face up, it expects far less Swords to Plowshares and Diabolic Edicts than Morphling used to. Thus, if the control player has nothing better to do against an aggro deck that can’t remove the Angel, he can actually go aggressive and lead with the Angel, then slow the opponent with removal and counters as it goes to work.

Look at the recent mirror remix against Roland Bode, for example, to see that you can play a small threat without taking control, and then play defensively after than, waiting for him to make the first move (see”Revisiting the Mirror Match”).

Whether Serra or Exalted, however, the underlying reasoning for the caution remains the same. Your win conditions are slower (relative to Psychatog, Phyrexian Dreadnought, a couple of fatties, or the various combos), so you can’t afford to divert resources playing them until you’re sure that they’ll finish before your opponent’s counterstrike goes through.

True, a win path like Psychatog is both cheap and can win on its first attack.”The Deck” win conditions, however, can be played alone, without comboing with or having to be set up by another card, and they are also generally harder to deal with. Given this, you just need them to be able to finish fast enough so that all you need is for the opponent to stall midgame after his initial threats have been dealt with, so that you don’t have to take complete control.

Looking at how hard it is to stop Decree of Justice and how Exalted Angel has a little of Morphling, Moat, and Zuran Orb, this component has evolved well enough.

“The Deck” and its draw

Going over everything else, you feel that what’s been left behind is the draw engine. The days of unrestricted Mystical Tutor for a first-turn Ancestral or Draining into a giant Braingeyser or Stroke of Genius are long gone. On the other hand, you face opponents who fire off early Accumulated Knowledges or Thirsts for Knowledge. Without a strong CA engine, a control deck will eventually run out of solutions or get caught holding the wrong one, and won’t be able to break a stalemate.

If you’re going to take”The Deck” apart and try to rebuilt it from scratch, it helps to go through all the possible engines, even the ones that seem absurd. Trying to get out of the box this way is especially helpful considering Aaron Forsythe hints future card draw will likely be at sorcery speed (see”Turning the Sorcery Knob“).

Specialized draw engines

The following are engines you have to build a deck around, and would eat up too many slots.

Intuition / Accumulated Knowledge

Thirst for Knowledge (formerly, Meditate)

Land Tax / Scroll Rack

Survival of the Fittest

Bazaar of Baghdad (similarly, Attunement and Flux)

Grafted Skullcap

Curiosity (similarly, Sword of Fire and Ice, Quicksilver Dagger, Coastal Piracy, and Sleeper’s Robe)

Argothian Enchantress / Enchantress’s Presence / Verduran Enchantress

Horn of Greed


Slate of Ancestry (similarly, Collective Unconscious, Recycle, Nature’s Resurgence, and Call of the Wild)

Lich / Dark Heart of the Wood

Skullclamp (similarly, Infernal Tribute)


Compulsion (similarly, Trade Routes and Unfulfilled Desires)

Wall of Blossoms / Stampeding Wildebeests

Howling Mine

Phyrexian Arena (similarly, Convalescent Care)



Wirewood Savage

Graveborn Muse

Vedalken Archmage

Mystic Remora

Clunky draw engines

Just to round out the list, let’s go through a few exotic, obscure, but ultimately awkward or expensive possibilities.

Future Sight

Well of Discovery


Read the Runes

Infernal Contract

Heightened Awareness

Mercadian Atlas

Mind’s Eye

Allied Strategies

Archivist (similarly, Arcanis, the Omnipotent, Benalish Heralds, Rayne, Academy Chancellor, and Sinbad)



Forbidden Crypt

Yawgmoth’s Agenda

Greater Good


Farsight Mask


Saprazzan Heir

Arcane Denial / own spell

Mystic Remora


Braingeyser has long since been retired. Concentrate is more efficient, but tapping out for four early leaves you too vulnerable. Probe doesn’t make the cut, either, and Rush of Knowledge is absurd unless perhaps you’re running an Oath deck with Darksteel Colossus (in which case you’re two turns from winning, anyway).

The only usable spell here is Deep Analysis, which is suboptimal without a setup spell like Intuition or even Quiet Speculation.

Sylvan Library

Sylvan Library is an old favorite, closet Blue spell that’s been missed along with Regrowth. While it has synergy with everything that makes Brainstorm better, it’s not an engine in itself, more like a Green Ancestral against non-aggro. Thus, even if you’ve snuck Green in for old tricks like Oath of Druids, you won’t really get a draw engine. The closest is Holistic Wisdom, but it isn’t all that fast and doesn’t draw on its own.

Sylvan Library turns into an engine paired with Abundance or Pursuit of Knowledge, but setting that up becomes awkward. Sylvan / Abundance is fun in less competitive budget Oath builds, but isn’t what we need.

Tome cards

Following the mold of Jayemdae Tome, you have Emmessi Tome, Scrying Glass, Treasure Trove, Bargaining Table, Urza’s Blueprints, Fool’s Tome, Jalum Tome, Ring of Renewal, Thran Tome, Tower of Fortunes, and Armistice. Frankly, none of them beat Isochron Scepter, which costs an extra card but is easier to slip out, with a Turn 1 possibility. In turn, Isochron itself has been cut from almost every build, except those tuned to revolve around the Scepter.

Perhaps the most interesting”Tome” card is Whispers of the Muse. It isn’t a liability if Mana Drained, demands no initial investment, and can even be fetched with Cunning Wish. It’s still six mana a pop, though.


Having eliminated just about everything that says”draw” in Magic and then some, we’re left with three possibilities.

The first is Ophidian, that innocuous snake that once formed the backbone of mono-Blue. It’s cheap enough, it’s Blue with no colored mana issues, has no more Bolts to harass it, and it’s even a mediocre blocker. On the other hand, it’s as slow as a Tome in creature form and needs a couple of turns before it makes itself felt. Additionally, it just sits there if an opponent has something to block with.

I don’t have a sample decklist right now, but there’s certainly no shortage of inspiration, and Isochron Scepter is even harder to fit into a list.

Alternatively, there’s Shadowmage Infiltrator, which does better against aggro but has more early color issues. Thieving Magpie is not worth it.

Accumulated Knowledge

Accumulated Knowledge without any support is mediocre, since you need to cast at least the third quickly to make the most out of it. Adding Intuition, however, eats up more slots. Having one is erratic, but having more is a waste unless you also add Deep Analysis (at which point you may as well run Hulk Smash). Finally, having one in the board for Cunning Wish is hardly fast.

Among the Paragons, Eric Wilkinson and Matt D’Avanzo persisted with one of the earliest Mirrodin inspirations, which was to pair AK with Isochron Scepter.

Giver, Erik Wilkinson, April 2004 test deck

Blue (20)

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

1 Mystical Tutor

3 Brainstorm

4 Accumulated Knowledge

2 Cunning Wish

4 Mana Drain

4 Force of Will

White (5)

1 Balance

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Dismantling Blow

2 Decree of Justice

Black (3)

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Mind Twist

Red (3)

1 Gorilla Shaman

2 Fire / Ice

Artifact (3)

3 Isochron Scepter

Mana (26)

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Ruby

1 Sol Ring

1 Strip Mine

3 Wasteland

1 Library of Alexandria

4 Flooded Strand

4 Tundra

3 Underground Sea

3 Volcanic Island

1 Island

Sideboard (15)

1 Isochron Scepter

1 Disenchant

1 Humility

1 Circle of Protection: Red

1 Aura Fracture

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Coffin Purge

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Rack and Ruin

2 Blue Elemental Blast

2 Red Elemental Blast

1 Diabolic Edict

Eric says he recently Top 4’d a local New York tourney, fortuitously knocked out by a Black/Red deck that got a Null Rod and Blood Moon on him (but he thanks it for at least savaging two annoying Fish decks in the Swiss). The draw strategy reinforcement is clear here: Get an imprinted Scepter out as soon as possible, and board the fourth against slower decks.

The alternate maindeck Dismantling Blow / Orim’s Thunder slot is actually due to an annoyance with Null Rod. The sideboarded Diabolic Edict, as you might guess, is from a holdover of Morphling in Neutral Ground.

Skeletal Scrying

Finally, for the last possibility, we’re right where we started a couple of years ago. Shortly after Fact or Fiction was restricted, I listed Skeletal Scrying as the closest substitute (see”History, 2000-2002“, which chronicles an amusing comparison between Team Godzilla’s John Ormerod and MTGNews moderator Shade2k1). Considering Scrying didn’t work well with Sylvan Library and Tools ‘n’ Tubbies (see”Head to Head: TnT“) was the hot new deck, however, it took a while before Scrying was widely used. The extra Fact or Fiction slots were usually given back to a removal spell and a restricted draw spell.

Today, Skeletal Scrying has displaced even Stroke of Genius, being the cheapest possible Draw X. It doesn’t stay dead in hand for long, since it matches Fact or Fiction when you have just three or four mana, and it’s not affected by Red Elemental Blast or Misdirection. The additional drawbacks are minimized by a number of things, from the use of fetch lands, much less burn in the environment, and the use of Exalted Angel.

Back when Growing ‘Tog was still intact, Jamie Schnitzius a.k.a. Grendal (see”History, 2003” for a brief recap of his Origins moment) e-mailed me his experimental builds which stripped out tutors that never grew on him for additional draw spells, down to Stroke of Genius and Future Sight. He explained how these let him reload more reliably during battles of attrition. More recently, however, a simpler approach was taken by an international coalition composed of Steve O'Connell a.k.a. Zherbus, Matthieu Durand a.k.a. Toad, Carsten Kötter a.k.a. Mon, Goblin Chief, Stefan Iwasienko a.k.a. Womprax, and Kim Kluck a.k.a. Shades.

Germbus Zherbmans, Steve O'Connell, April 2004 test deck

Blue (18)

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

1 Mystical Tutor

4 “Brainstorm

2 Cunning Wish

1 Fact or Fiction

4 “Mana Drain

4 “Force of Will

White (7)

1 Balance

2 Swords to Plowshares

2 Exalted Angel

2 Decree of Justice

Black (6)

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

3 Skeletal Scrying

1 Mind Twist

Red (3)

2 Gorilla Shaman

1 Fire / Ice

Mana (26)

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Ruby

1 Sol Ring

4 Flooded Strand

1 Strip Mine

4 Wasteland

1 Library of Alexandria

2 City of Brass

3 Tundra

3 Underground Sea

2 Volcanic Island

Sideboard (15)

1 Skeletal Scrying

3 Red Elemental Blast

1 Blue Elemental Blast

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Disenchant

1 Gush

2 Rack and Ruin

3 Flametongue Kavu

1 Damping Matrix

The simple solution, as you can see, is to run three Scryings main, with the fourth in the board for Wish. Although you may have a problem if you draw two early (and have no graveyard yet), it feels vaguely like the Fact or Fiction-era build.

Thus, it seems that the various parts of”The Deck” are fine, except that the draw engine needs further updating. Have fun tinkering with the various possibilities I presented. As for me, I’m leaving Manila to go on vacation with the family, and I’ll leave the cards home for a month and see the sights.

In a few weeks, we might see either of two scenarios. First, we might revitalize the reactive, defensive end of control and balance the metagame a bit. Second, we might just relegate”The Deck” to educational tool status and join Steve Menendian in his quest to reduce Type I to two elements (Turn 1 and Turn 2).


(Just kidding, Smmenycakes.)

Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

Paragon of Vintage

University of the Philippines, College of Law

Forum Administrator, Star City Games

Featured Writer, Star City Games

Author of the Control Player’s Bible

Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)

Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance