The Control Player’s Bible, Book II (Advanced 5-color control strategy)
Part XVI: Why Control Sucks
Part XVII: Head to Head: Sligh
Interlude: Writer’s War Par II
As I write this, I’m on the last leg of my final exams. Heck, our professor pulled a fast one on the class, and one question was taken from a 100-page paper I recently submitted to him. I haven’t been online recently, but I just wanted to thank the various friends for posting messages of support for this Writer’s War. I got messages from fellow writers like Brainburst’s Jarrod Bright, list lurkers like”Bryan” of [email protected], and regulars of European Type I forums like Carl Devos from Belgium and Benjamin Rott from Germany (and thanks, Ben, for sending a translation!).
I even got a few very funny forwards, such as what Freddie Williams II got when Brian Epstein beat him to the punch on the Meridian Magic list:
—– Original Message —–
To:”Freddie Williams II”
Sent: Thursday, April 04, 2002 10:35 PM
Subject: Message not approved: Writers war – PLEASE VOTE!
> Oscar was endorsed on the list yesterday, by Brian Epstein. I voted
> for him, but one is enough. Nothing personal.
> Rune Horvik, Meridian Moderator.
The best part of this job is knowing you’re reaching people and helping them, especially beginners, enjoy the game a bit more. Thanks, guys.
Anyway, I confess I have no idea who the opponent is, but I won’t post the link on every Star City page. Let’s stick with the customary, simple plug here: http://www.ccgprime.com/events/writerwar/poolc.html.
Going Head To Head
A lot of readers told me that they wanted to see more sample games, because they found them really educational. They’re tough to put together, though. It’s tough enough to find a log that shows a lot of key points, and even tougher nitpicking over every single play.
But we try.
Before anything else, a good”The Deck” player has to master stopping aggro decks cold. Bad aggro decks are completely hosed by an early Abyss. Good aggro decks, though, pack a mix of speed and consistency that can overrun a control deck, even though they have weaker cards in general.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but you have to admit that aggro players packing Jackal Pups and Lightning Bolts against Ancestral Recall and Mana Drains enjoy rubbing it in.
The Basic Aggro Deck
Different aggro decks have different personalities, such that each requires a slightly different sideboard strategy. But when we say aggro in Type I, the first thing we have to take into account is mono red Sligh. It’s not necessarily the best aggro deck out there, but it’s the easiest and most intuitive to build and play.
And, it can pack all manner of Type I hate against blue control elements and nonbasic mana.
You have to expect some kind of mono red deck in every Type I tournament – even online ones. Further, Robb Williams from Neutral Ground says that red is his single worst matchup after sideboarding, thanks to Sligh players who board in eleven to twelve cards against him.
I hit up Neutral Ground’s David Kaplan, who’s managed a respectable number of Top 8s with Sligh in that control-filled environment. Unfortunately, we were both firewalled, and I didn’t think an mIRC chat log would do it.
Fortunately, my Beyond Dominia co-moderator Raphael Caron, a.k.a. K-Run, gladly filled in. Being the creator of monowhite Deck Parfait, K-Run knows a lot about red’s strengths but from the other side of the table. Here, we’re using his build of the Drunken Sligh I used in the Torment review (built around four Reckless Charge and sixteen one-mana creatures), except he forgot about Grim Lavamancers and used Mogg Fanatics. It’s not as conventional as Dave’s (minus the maindeck Prices of Progress), but the unconventional elements didn’t affect the particular game I picked.
The key to stopping aggro is to blunt the initial rush, reduce his attack to topdecked trickles, then steal the momentum from there. Okay, I just watched Ali a few weeks ago – and boxing, basketball, and billiards rank high among Filipino spectator sports…
Take his advice:”Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
02:21:09 – + Rakso is sideboarding (changes won’t take effect until the start of the next game)
02:21:14 – + K-Run is sideboarding (changes won’t take effect until the start of the next game)
02:21:42 – — K-Run says: ”:-)”
02:21:42 – — Rakso says: ”Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war”
02:22:12 – Rakso drew 7 cards.
02:22:13 – K-Run drew 7 cards.
02:22:27 – Rakso plays Underground Sea.
02:22:27 – Underground Sea is tapped.
02:22:29 – Rakso plays Mox Ruby.
02:22:29 – Mox Ruby is tapped.
02:22:34 – Rakso plays Merchant Scroll.
02:22:36 – Rakso buries Merchant Scroll.
02:22:37 – K-Run says:’ok’
My Canadian friend and I step into the ring. The bell for Round 1 sounds. I eye him warily, and visualize Ali circling his opponent. Duck… Weave… bob… Slowly but methodically wearing him out before the knockout.
In this Round 1, though, I get to open with a quick jab straight to K-Run’s face.
This is also the first major decision of the game, however.
You might think this is a golden opportunity to enter the tutor chain and Demonic Tutor into Circle of Protection: Red for an auto-win.
Search your library for a blue instant card, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library
Search your library for an instant or sorcery card and reveal that card. Shuffle your library, then put the card on top of it. (Restricted in October 1999)
Remember, though, that”The Deck” doesn’t just run on silver bullets. It’s better for me to develop my mana and take out his opening weenies first. Going for COP on my first turn eats up the next two crucial turns. Heck, I don’t even have a white mana source for COP yet.
This early, the default play is still the best.
(Note that I could also go for Fire, but not here since I don’t see a couple of 2/1s on the table.)
02:22:41 – Rakso moves Ancestral Recall from tabletop to Rakso’s hand.
02:22:42 – Rakso is shuffling library…
Target player draws three cards. (Restricted in January 1994)
K-Run can’t afford to stall his development for a turn and threaten Ancestral with an untapped Mountain and an Elemental Blast, but the extra cards will make it much harder to outrace me.
02:22:44 – It is now turn 2.
02:22:48 – K-Run draws a card.
02:23:00 – K-Run plays Wasteland.
02:23:01 – Wasteland is tapped.
02:23:03 – K-Run buries Wasteland.
02:23:04 – Rakso buries Underground Sea.
He takes a gamble and plays Wasteland before weenies. This might seem strange – but at worst, he just stalls both of us by a turn. At best, he takes out my black source and stalls the play of key black cards I might draw. He can also dream that I have no other blue sources…
02:23:07 – It is now turn 3.
02:23:09 – Rakso draws a card.
02:23:11 – Rakso plays Underground Sea.
02:23:12 – Underground Sea is tapped.
02:23:14 – Rakso plays Ancestral Recall.
02:23:15 – Rakso buries Ancestral Recall.
02:23:15 – K-Run says:’k’
02:23:16 – Rakso drew 3 cards.
…no such luck, but no time was really lost.
Note I have to play Ancestral in my main phase since there’s nothing worth using Blue Elemental Blast on at this point, and I have to play around his Elemental Blasts.
02:23:21 – It is now turn 4.
02:23:24 – K-Run draws a card.
02:23:28 – K-Run plays Mountain.
02:23:30 – Mountain is tapped.
02:23:32 – K-Run plays Gorilla Shaman.
02:23:35 – Rakso says:’k’
Gorilla Shaman, a.k.a. Mox Monkey
XX1: Destroy target noncreature artifact with converted mana cost X.
You can see that K-Run’s opening hand read,”mana disruption.” A Turn 1 Shaman, Turn 2 Wasteland, eat Mox isn’t a bad opening at all.
02:23:37 – It is now turn 5.
02:23:39 – Rakso draws a card.
02:23:51 – Rakso plays City of Brass.
02:23:53 – Mox Ruby is tapped.
02:23:54 – Underground Sea is tapped.
02:23:56 – Rakso plays Powder Keg.
02:24:00 – K-Run says:’k’
02:24:05 – City of Brass is tapped.
02:24:06 – Rakso’s life is now 19. (-1)
02:24:07 – Rakso plays Blue Elemental Blast.
02:24:08 – K-Run buries Gorilla Shaman.
02:24:09 – Rakso buries Blue Elemental Blast.
02:24:12 – K-Run says:’k’
Blue Elemental Blast
Choose one – Counter target red spell or destroy target red permanent.
Urza’s Destiny rare
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a fuse counter on Powder Keg. Tap, Sacrifice Powder Keg: Destroy each artifact and creature with converted mana cost equal to the number of fuse counters on Powder Keg.
Despite the Ancestral Recall, I can’t shrug off mana denial just yet. Though the expendable Mox is the one on the table, I only have Underground Sea and the City off Ancestral to go with it.
I have to use my all-purpose sideboard card… But my position is strong at this point with a Powder Keg on the table. Remember, all his creatures cost one mana.
02:24:23 – It is now turn 6.
02:24:28 – Mountain is untapped.
02:24:29 – K-Run draws a card.
02:24:37 – K-Run plays Mountain.
02:24:39 – Mountain is tapped.
02:24:46 – K-Run plays Gorilla Shaman.
02:24:48 – Rakso says:’…’
02:25:09 – K-Run says:’of course :-)’
02:25:12 – Mountain is tapped.
02:25:16 – Rakso buries Mox Ruby.
02:25:20 – It is now turn 7.
02:25:21 – It is now the Untap Phase.
02:25:24 – Powder Keg now has 1 counters. (+1)
02:25:29 – Rakso draws a card.
02:25:37 – Underground Sea is tapped.
02:25:37 – City of Brass is tapped.
02:25:38 – Rakso’s life is now 18. (-1)
02:25:39 – Rakso plays Demonic Tutor.
02:25:42 – K-Run says:’k’
02:25:52 – Rakso buries Demonic Tutor.
02:25:56 – Rakso moves a card from Rakso’s library to Rakso’s hand.
02:25:57 – Rakso is shuffling library…
K-Run really kept a mana denial hand. Despite the Ancestral, he still has me down to two land. Though I topdecked Demonic Tutor, he surely saw that I just missed a land drop.
Still, I have a Powder Keg on the table that’ll be sure to take two creatures with it-I’m not blowing it on just the 1/1 Shaman, with no Moxen on the table.
Bell rings. End of Round 1.
02:25:58 – It is now turn 8.
02:26:06 – K-Run draws a card.
02:26:09 – Gorilla Shaman is tapped.
02:26:10 – Gorilla Shaman is attacking.
02:26:11 – Rakso’s life is now 17. (-1)
02:26:17 – K-Run plays Mountain.
K-Run enters Round 2 cautiously, but I’m not blowing the Keg on just the Shaman.
He just dealt his first point of damage for Sligh, but don’t think it was all that extraordinary. He was going for my mana, not an all-out rush.
02:26:23 – It is now turn 9.
02:26:27 – Rakso draws a card.
02:26:29 – Rakso plays Wasteland.
02:26:30 – City of Brass is tapped.
02:26:30 – Wasteland is tapped.
02:26:31 – Rakso’s life is now 16. (-1)
02:26:32 – Rakso plays Circle of Protection: Red.
Circle of Protection: Red
1: The next time a red source of your choice would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage.
With the Keg stabilizing my position, it’s obvious what I Tutored for. With just a Wasteland and Underground Sea to power the Circle, though, I’m still not in complete control of this game.
The game is out of K-Run’s control, though, and he’s left with no choice but to try to overwhelm the COP.
Oh, in case you missed it… He hasn’t even taken his fifth turn yet.
02:26:33 – It is now turn 10.
02:26:42 – K-Run draws a card.
02:26:48 – Gorilla Shaman is tapped.
02:26:49 – Gorilla Shaman is attacking.
02:26:50 – Rakso’s life is now 15. (-1)
02:27:05 – It is now turn 11.
02:27:08 – Rakso draws a card.
02:27:17 – Powder Keg is tapped.
02:27:21 – K-Run buries Gorilla Shaman.
02:27:23 – Rakso buries Powder Keg.
02:27:24 – Rakso plays Mox Sapphire.
02:27:24 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.
02:27:25 – Wasteland is tapped.
02:27:27 – Rakso plays Powder Keg.
K-Run gets his wish, but I topdecked the second Keg. I boarded in seven cards, and they’re fortunately showing up.
I’m up to three mana sources to fuel COP, and still have a Keg. He has six cards in hand, however.
02:27:28 – It is now turn 12.
02:27:33 – K-Run draws a card.
02:27:38 – Mountain is tapped.
02:27:41 – K-Run plays Mogg Fanatic.
02:27:42 – Rakso says:’k’
02:28:37 – Mountain is tapped.
02:28:40 – K-Run plays Goblin Cadets.
02:28:43 – Rakso says:’k’
02:28:49 – It is now turn 13.
02:28:50 – Underground Sea is tapped.
02:28:51 – Rakso plays Mystical Tutor.
02:28:54 – Mountain is tapped.
02:28:58 – K-Run plays Pyroblast.
02:29:08 – Rakso says:’k’
02:29:13 – K-Run buries Pyroblast.
02:29:13 – Rakso buries Mystical Tutor.
02:29:16 – Rakso says:’okay’
Why is he countering a tutor?
Remember, he can only counter blue spells, and I have nasty nonblue ones he doesn’t want to see yet.
I’m guessing that the last few turns seemed slow because he got mana denial and Elemental Blasts. Look closely, and you’ll see that this was his first opportunity to Blast one of my spells.
02:29:18 – Powder Keg now has 1 counters. (+1)
02:29:20 – Rakso draws a card.
02:29:25 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.
02:29:25 – Underground Sea is tapped.
02:29:26 – City of Brass is tapped.
02:29:26 – Wasteland is tapped.
02:29:27 – Rakso’s life is now 14. (-1)
02:29:28 – Rakso plays Mind Twist.
02:29:30 – Rakso says:’3′
02:29:36 – K-Run randomly buried Gorilla Shaman.
02:29:37 – K-Run randomly buried Cursed Scroll.
02:29:38 – K-Run randomly buried Jackal Pup.
02:29:40 – Rakso buries Mind Twist.
I got my best anti-Red Elemental Blast spell already, though, without the Tutor. Never mind that I had to tap out; he’s wide open, and I leave him at one card.
Enough floating; this is now the stinging part.
Looking at his discarded cards, it looks like he topdecked creatures and was planning to force me to use the Keg so he could play the Scroll and some weenies to tie up some mana. Shaman would halve my mana, so he was timing it.
Good Mind Twist, though…
02:29:42 – It is now turn 14.
02:29:55 – K-Run draws a card.
02:30:01 – Mogg Fanatic is tapped.
02:30:02 – Mogg Fanatic is attacking.
02:30:02 – Goblin Cadets is tapped.
02:30:02 – Goblin Cadets is attacking.
02:30:04 – Powder Keg is tapped.
02:30:05 – Rakso buries Powder Keg.
02:30:08 – K-Run buries Goblin Cadets.
02:30:11 – K-Run buries Mogg Fanatic.
02:30:12 – K-Run says:’1′
02:30:16 – Rakso’s life is now 13. (-1)
My Keg cleans up what’s left of the assault force, but guess what he topdecked?
Price of Progress
Price of Progress deals 2 damage to each player for each nonbasic land he or she controls.
02:30:22 – Mountain is tapped.
02:30:23 – Mountain is tapped.
02:30:24 – K-Run plays Price of Progress.
02:30:27 – Rakso’s life is now 7. (-6)
02:30:31 – K-Run buries Price of Progress.
Ouch… Right when I tapped out. That was his nastiest possible topdeck.
Don’t think it was a bad gamble, though.
At this point, I’m in complete control of this game.
End of Round 2. I’d say K-Run’s trainer pours a bucket of water on him over in his corner, but I remembered he’s playing red.
02:30:33 – It is now turn 15.
02:30:35 – Rakso draws a card.
02:30:36 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.
02:30:37 – Mox Sapphire is untapped.
02:30:38 – Wasteland is tapped.
02:30:39 – Rakso plays Sol Ring.
02:30:48 – Underground Sea is tapped.
02:30:49 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.
02:30:51 – Sol Ring is tapped.
02:30:55 – Rakso plays Braingeyser.
02:30:57 – Rakso buries Braingeyser.
02:30:58 – Rakso drew 2 cards.
02:31:00 – It is now turn 16.
02:31:06 – K-Run draws a card.
This isn’t looking too good for him.
02:31:09 – It is now turn 17.
02:31:12 – Rakso draws a card.
02:31:13 – Rakso plays Mox Emerald.
02:31:16 – It is now turn 18.
02:31:22 – K-Run draws a card.
K-Run is out of steam, and he – the aggro deck – is trying for a clinch.
If he gets an opening, he might still get seven damage in from a couple of Bolts or by forcing another Price.
02:31:29 – It is now turn 19.
02:31:31 – Rakso draws a card.
02:31:39 – Underground Sea is tapped.
02:31:40 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.
02:31:40 – Sol Ring is tapped.
02:31:41 – Mox Emerald is tapped.
02:31:42 – Rakso plays Morphling.
02:31:49 – K-Run says:’k’
Topdecked the win condition, with two mana open. No way he has all three Prices in hand.
Beside my keyboard, my lucky Morphling named”Brian” is smiling back.”Good game, dude,” reads the balloon added onto it.
A solid left cross batters my tired opponent’s battered defenses.
02:31:50 – It is now turn 20.
02:31:50 – It is now the Untap Phase.
02:31:55 – K-Run draws a card.
02:32:05 – K-Run plays Wasteland.
02:32:06 – Wasteland is tapped.
02:32:09 – K-Run buries Wasteland.
02:32:17 – City of Brass is tapped.
02:32:18 – Rakso’s life is now 6. (-1)
02:32:21 – Rakso buries City of Brass.
02:32:24 – Rakso says:’untargetable’
02:32:29 – K-Run says:’ok’
02:32:33 – It is now turn 21.
02:32:39 – Rakso draws a card.
02:32:41 – Rakso plays Underground Sea.
02:32:42 – Morphling is tapped.
02:32:42 – Morphling is attacking.
02:32:43 – Sol Ring is tapped.
02:32:49 – K-Run says:’:-(‘
02:32:53 – K-Run’s life is now 15. (-5)
A solid right hook connects and he goes down…
02:32:54 – It is now turn 22.
02:32:58 – K-Run draws a card.
02:33:09 – It is now turn 23.
02:33:13 – Rakso draws a card.
02:33:15 – Rakso plays Tundra.
02:33:16 – Morphling is tapped.
02:33:16 – Morphling is attacking.
02:33:16 – Sol Ring is tapped.
02:33:22 – K-Run’s life is now 10. (-5)
02:33:23 – It is now turn 24.
02:33:26 – K-Run draws a card.
02:33:29 – K-Run plays Mountain.
02:33:34 – It is now turn 25.
02:33:36 – Rakso draws a card.
02:33:38 – Rakso plays Volcanic Island.
02:33:39 – Morphling is tapped.
02:33:39 – Morphling is attacking.
02:33:40 – Sol Ring is tapped.
02:33:44 – K-Run’s life is now 5. (-5)
02:33:44 – It is now turn 26.
02:33:48 – K-Run draws a card.
02:33:51 – K-Run plays Mountain.
02:33:52 – Mountain is tapped.
02:33:54 – K-Run plays Goblin Cadets.
02:33:55 – Rakso says:’k’
02:33:58 – Mountain is tapped.
02:34:00 – K-Run plays Reckless Charge.
02:34:02 – Rakso says:’k’
02:34:05 – K-Run buries Reckless Charge.
02:34:06 – Mountain is tapped.
02:34:07 – Mountain is tapped.
02:34:07 – Mountain is tapped.
02:34:09 – K-Run moves Reckless Charge from K-Run’s graveyard to K-run’s removed from game pile.
02:34:14 – Goblin Cadets is tapped.
02:34:15 – Goblin Cadets is attacking.
02:34:20 – Mox Sapphire is tapped.
02:34:21 – Morphling is untapped.
02:34:22 – Rakso says:’block’
02:34:23 – K-Run says:’hehe’
02:34:27 – Rakso says:’mine mine mine’
02:34:31 – K-Run says:’ok’
02:34:34 – Rakso has TAKEN control of Goblin Cadets.
3… He’s out!
02:34:36 – Rakso plays Circle of Protection: Red.
02:34:37 – Rakso plays Pyroclasm.
02:34:39 – Rakso plays Misdirection.
02:34:41 – Rakso plays Mana Drain.
02:34:43 – It is now turn 27.
02:34:44 – K-Run says:’hmm’
02:34:44 – Rakso draws a card.
02:34:46 – Rakso plays Black Lotus.
02:34:47 – Morphling is tapped.
02:34:47 – Morphling is attacking.
02:34:48 – Goblin Cadets is tapped.
02:34:48 – Goblin Cadets is attacking.
02:34:52 – K-Run’s life is now -2. (-7)
So, as you just saw, barring early mana screw, a control deck can ration removal and counters to wear down the opponent, then set up the knockout punch. Sligh hate does not win on its own.
Incidentally, you also saw that Reckless Charge isn’t all that effective against control. It gives Sligh a bit more power, but at the cost of consistency. This playtest demonstrated to K-Run and myself how they were dead the entire game. Early on, he needed all his mana to attack my Moxen, and the Charges were soon hosed by Powder Keg and COP.
It’s really hilarious to toy with against an unsuspecting opponent, of course, especially a mono-blue one.
Well, wish me luck in my (still ongoing) final exams, since I drew the last slot for the Commercial Law orals. Also, April 1 isn’t so big in Manila, so I only remembered when I saw various April Fool’s day articles. But, drop me a line if you can think of a spoof on Brainburst and two jokers named Jarrod Bright and Zvi Mowshowitz who told me about their hilarious little April Fool’s title. Hey, there’s always next year…
rakso on #BDChat on Newnet
Type I, Extended and Casual Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (http://www.bdominia.com/discus/messages/9/9.shtml)
Featured writer, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/archive.php?Article=Oscar Tan)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance (http://www.casualplayers.org)
P.S. – Thanks to Brian Weissman, John Ormerod, Darren di Battista, a.k.a. Azhrei, JP”Polluted” Meyer, Matt D’Avanzo and Adam Duke aka Meridian for being tough critics of the drafts of this series.
P.P.S.-After you check out that War, I’d appreciate some feedback on this style. Eric“Danger” Taylor looked it over and said it was a refreshing alternative to summaries and highlights. Still, it’s an experiment, and I need to know how effectively it lets readers visualize how this very complex deck runs.
What do YOU think? Share your
opinion with the community and you just may walk away with some FREE Magic cards… courtesy of your friends at