The slow crawl towards Regionals continues, this week with my current favorite deck, and one that has been dismissed as terrible with the recent metagame shift. The deck of course is one-time powerhouse U/W Control. You know what? The critics are right. Traditional U/W control has no chance in an environment full of extremely powerful, low-cost threats, not to mention the most powerful card drawing engine that creature-based decks have ever seen, Skullclamp. I’m here to tell you that while”traditional” U/W control has no real place in the metagame, there is an approach to U/W that will not only be competitive, but might just be the solution that I’ve been searching for to the puzzle that is the Regionals environment.
All I ask before you immediately run to the forums and tell me how terrible a deckbuilder I am is that you put the deck together, proxy it up, whatever, and test it. I guarantee that it will both surprise and delight you against the evil menaces of the format. And away we go…
4 Wrath of God
4 Mana Leak
4 Eternal Dragon
3 Akroma’s Vengeance
4 Pulse of the Fields
4 Wing Shards
2 Pristine Angel
2 Mind’s Eye
2 Ivory Mask
4 Talisman of Progress
4 Coastal Tower
4 Flooded Strand
Wrath of God
The gold standard – when you need mass removal, Wrath of God does it with no questions asked, sweeping the board totally clear (barring indestructibility) for four mana. The U/W deck is capable of casting Wrath of God on turn 3, but honestly, turn 4 is probably fast enough. Wrath of God does what it does, and nothing more. Yes, it is a dead draw against many control decks, or decks like Red Deck Wins, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the power that a card can give you, and this is a sacrifice I am more than willing to make.
When you absolutely, positively need to sweep the board totally clean, Akroma’s Vengeance will get the job done. Especially potent against Affinity, Akroma’s Vengeance also has uses against Astral Slide, getting rid of the nasty enchantments. Even at its worst, it cycles away for something potentially more useful. Never an awful draw, there will be times where a fifth or sixth turn Akroma’s Vengeance virtually ends the game on the spot.
The last line of defense against things such as Darksteel Colossus, Wing Shards has value even against the aggressive decks, generating card advantage if they choose to play a Disciple of the Vault before combat or perhaps a hasty goblin. Once the U/W deck hits six mana, business picks up, as Pulse of the Fields can easily storm up the Shards. Wing Shards buys you time against those types of decks, while also being a fine draw against control, getting rid of Eternal Dragons or other such nonsense.
This card is so good that I’ve been strongly considering playing more. The laundry list of things it stops grows each and every time I play, but a few important examples are Goblin Sharpshooter, Disciple of the Vault, Siege-Gang Commander, Wing Shards, Lightning Rift, and Shrapnel Blast. All that, and it’s an enchantment, meaning those Affinity players and Goblin players going with artifact removal over the more versatile Naturalize are out of luck.
I’ve never seen a better card. In all seriousness, this card is ridiculous, often gaining eight life a turn while the opponent pounds away fruitlessly. When your opponent casts Pulse of the Fields, all of a sudden the offense you’ve built up hits a brick wall, so you play more things in order to get around it, and then Wrath comes in to ruin the day. Even against control, Lightning Rift becomes inefficient, and Mana burn/Talisman/Fetch lands can net you life. Against something like Tooth and Nail, this card is still really great, nullifying Colossi Damage long enough to find an answer, or storming up the key Wing Shards to get rid of both of the monsters.
Mana Leak really is sort of a necessary evil. It will counter things in the early game, and sometimes do things in the late game like counter Tooth and Nail, but generally, I use it whenever I happen to have mana free in the early game against aggressive decks, even countering things like Chromatic Sphere or Skirk Prospector. Simply put, you want to be using your mana each and every turn, and in the early game, the way to do that is through Mana Leak, and later on, if you catch something with it (hopefully something powerful like Tooth and Nail, Mindslaver, or Patriarch’s Bidding) all the better.
This card is terrible in comparison to countermagic of the past, but with the advent of super-powerful threats in aggressive decks and game ending spells in control decks, Vex surely has a home. How many must-counter spells are there in a given game? The answer is not too many. Vex sits in your hand, waiting to do its job, then does it, gives the opponent most likely an irrelevant card, and the U/W deck makes up the card advantage elsewhere. Costing three, having only one blue mana in the cost, and always doing the job make Vex the superior choice over such”winners” as Last Word, Rewind, and Discombobulate.
If you have the time to cast this, it is simply the most powerful card drawing spell in Standard right now. Immediately, things like Cycling, Skullclamp, or other card drawing spells seem like a terrible proposition. However, Mind’s Eye is very slow, and not good against the super-aggressive decks. Despite the sluggishness of the card, the power is too much to pass up, and careful use of this card can win control matchups all by itself.
The deck has to have a way to win, and Eternal Dragon is an easy addition because not only does it provide a way to win, it does not interrupt the deck’s core strategy at all with its inclusion. Insuring that no land drop goes missed, Eternal Dragon is another key to the control matchups, while not hurting the aggro matchups much at all. A key element in the”use all the mana” element of the deck, Eternal Dragon has found a home in control decks for the past year, and this deck is no exception.
I’m not crazy. Pristine Angel is superior to Exalted Angel in the current format. Each beauty costs six mana to cast, but Pristine Angel has built in protection when cast, meaning that it can block safely and productively right away. It is an almost guaranteed four points of damage each turn, with the added benefit of being around to block when the opponent attacks, whereas the Exalted Angel rarely will gain a single life (either through being removed or damage on the stack trickery), negating the most crucial benefit of the card. Yes, you do lose the”oops, I win” aspect of playing a face down Angel on turn 3 and morphing it on turn 4, but the chances of that Angel surviving are so slim in the current environment that the sacrifice in tempo just isn’t worth it. Pristine Angel is nearly immune to removal, or at least forces the opponent to work hard to get rid of it, and not only that, but the synergy with both Pulse of the Fields and Wing Shards is disturbing. Eating up four of the Darksteel Colossus damage might not seem like much, but with Pulse of the Fields around to make up the difference, Pristine Angel is just perfect.
The high Plains count is a nod to the many double-White spells in the deck, as well as the presence of Eternal Dragon, always making sure that the Dragon has a Plains to find. Flooded Strands can get fix the mana in the deck, and also provide quick damage for Pulse of the Fields action. Coastal Tower is the perfect turn 1 land for the deck, but even in later turns, usually will be the correct land to play, barring something immediately needing to be cast. The Talismans are there to enable turn 3 Wrath of God or turn 5 Akroma’s Vengeance, both very good against aggressive strategies, as well as to help fix the mana in a pinch, and again, provide a measure of immediate damage for Pulse of the Fields.
Blatantly stolen tech from Zvi’s MWC build, Holy Day is sick against Affinity, and to a lesser extent, Goblins. It provides a survival measure at a very low mana cost, and helps in the later game to storm Wing Shards as well as untap Pristine Angel.
I had this maindeck in my U/R creation from last week, but it really belongs here in the sideboard. A strong counter against Affinity, Astral Slide, and Tooth and Nail, Annul answers cheap threats inexpensively, and does so with authority (I’m looking at you, Tooth and Nail).
Circle of Protection: Red
Goblins and RDW just cannot beat this card in conjunction with Ivory Mask. It buys the deck time, which is all it really needs to win the game. Goblin Piledriver is not nearly so scary when one mana shuts it right down. Same goes for Blistering Firecat or Slith Firewalker – one mana, and all your troubles go away. COP: Red remains a mainstay in sideboards after all these years for a reason, and this particular U/W deck wants it just as much as any other.
I hate you, Scrabbling Claws. A necessary evil for the White-Control mirror matches, and relatively useful against G/B Cemetery strategies, Scrabbling Claws is the most flexible card for the job. Never spectacular, sometimes very good, the Claws will never thrill you, but the job that they perform is very important.
In matches where you have the time to cast this, it’s golden, so bring it in. Otherwise, see above for explanations on its inclusion into the deck.
Shores up the Affinity matchup a bit, and also has a variety of uses against things like Astral Slide or random rogue decks that make their way into the metagame (at Regionals, board sweeping effects like this one are always really good).
Game 1: The plan here is simple. To win this match, buy enough time to cast Akroma’s Vengeance until you can win with Eternal Dragon or more likely Pristine Angel. You have the tools to do so, with Pulse of the Fields, Wrath of God (and to a lesser extent Wing Shards), helping to buy time. Ivory Mask helps once you survive the initial rush, preventing random deaths to Disciple of the Vault or Shrapnel Blast. They have no real late game plan (especially with Ivory Mask on the board), so if you can stabilize, you’ll be in great shape.
Games 2 and 3: Stalling becomes much easier with Holy Day to pump up the jam during the attack step, Annul to slow them down or counter a key spell, and the extra Vengeance to ensure that you have it when you need it. There isn’t very much they can bring in to disrupt your plan, but just make sure to mulligan into hands with some form of early action, or you could be dead before you know it.
Vs. Goblin Bidding
Game 1: Once again, you hope to survive the initial onslaught, but they do have a great game-ending plan after that. The good news is that survival is much easier than against Affinity, and Ivory Mask is extremely difficult for most Goblin decks to remove. Once you play the Mask, the only course of action is to win through attack, which is not easy against a deck with Wrath of God, Wing Shards, and Pulse of the Fields. Again, sometimes Goblin Bidding just wins, so don’t panic if you lose the first game, instead, focus on the sideboard and the time it will grant you.
3 COP: Red
2 Holy Day
Games 2 and 3: Circle of Protection: Red makes your job so much easier. Be wary of potential enchantment removal if you see Green mana, and play as if they have it at all times in order to win these games. I find that post-sideboard, the plan of action is much better against them, stall the early game, counter any Biddings and you’ll be fine. Sulfuric Vortex could be annoying if they have it, but again COP: Red can shut that plan down just like any other.
Vs. Astral Slide
Game 1: I’m not toying around with any of the cute spells that some of the super-mega-crazy land control decks are playing (Mindslaver, please report to the front), so this matchup is a bit worse than for other U/W decks. That being said, things are still looking up for you, as they have so few key spells and you have ways to counter them or remove them. An early Lightning Rift could spell trouble, but both Ivory Mask and Akroma’s Vengeance provide answers. Wing Shards, while not stellar here, can help you win the Eternal Dragon race, and Pulse of the Fields is good for recouping early damage from Rift. Mind’s Eye turns things into a joke if it resolves, punishing each and every cycle.
Games 2 and 3: Out go the dead creature removal spells, in comes additional countermagic and a way to get rid of Eternal Dragon permanently. Vengeance comes in simply as another way to get rid of Lightning Rift or whatever else is causing the problem. Basically, none of their cards do anything, while you have very few dead draws. This match illustrates the major problem with Astral Slide in my opinion, that being that you can barely win the aggro matchups that the deck is designed to win, and you have no hope of winning a match against a dedicated control deck because the vast majority of your cards do nothing but cycle.
Vs. Tooth and Nail (with or without Red)
Game 1: They have some very difficult questions to answer, and if you’re caught without the answer, you will lose. You can do little to slow down their mana, as you really do not want to be spending counterspells on Sylvan Scrying or Reap and Sow. On the plus side, you do have a hard counter for Tooth and Nail itself, as well as Wing Shards for any Colossi that happen to show up. Pulse of the Fields can make life much easier if you don’t have the Wing Shards when you need it, and Ivory Mask can be played to stop any large Fireball or Mindslaver shenanigans. Mind’s Eye shines here, making sure that the answer you need can be found relatively easily, and Pristine Angel acts as both a clock and as a way to slow down the assault from the monsters.
Games 2 and 3: Unfortunately, the sideboard cannot support space for another hard counter, otherwise it would certainly make an appearance. Instead, we have to be sated with Annul (very good at delaying Colossi or Mindslaver), and Holy Day, which helps to either buy time or perhaps to allow Wing Shards to kill both Colossi with one casting. The good news is that with all the worthless creature removal gone, the dead draws will be minimal. The bad news is that they have some very strong, resilient threats that you must answer as soon as possible or risk dying.
Vs. Mono-White Control
Game 1: You have counterspells for their important threats, while they win the mana war. Decree of Justice is your enemy, and it can spell trouble, but Pulse of the Fields can keep things in check. Pristine Angel will do what she can to win the game, and Eternal Dragon is always good in control matchups. Overall, this game will be close to a mirror match, but they have access to Decree of Justice, which is very bad for the U/W deck, while you can counter anything else important. After that, it’s a tossup on who draws better or plays better.
Games 2 and 3: They will certainly have Mindslaver and more often than not, Darksteel Colossus. Annul helps here, keeping the dastardly duo off of the board, and Scrabbling Claws can control Eternal Dragon. If they have Weathered Wayfarer as well, it is very difficult to win, so if you face a MWC deck metagamed against other control decks, I wish you luck (but I wish them even more luck against such a strong aggressive field).
Vs. Red Deck Wins
Game 1: They really cannot defeat Pulse of the Fields, and Wing Shards makes life difficult for Slith Firewalker and Blistering Firecat. Even better, Ivory Mask is nearly unbeatable, as none of their burn does anything against you. This is a very favorable matchup, one that is very difficult to lose unless you mulligan improperly or have true mana problems.
3 COP: Red
Games 2 and 3: The cakewalk continues, as COP: Red is the final nail in the coffin for the deck with so few reusable damage sources. They can go to a land destruction plan, but fortunately with the lack of nonbasic lands in the deck, Dwarven Blastminer and friends really don’t hurt nearly as much as they would a normal White control deck. Annul comes in to insure against Sulfuric Vortex (unless you have COP: Red out already) as well as Scrabbling Claws, but between efficient lifegain, Ivory Mask, and COP: Red, they are fighting a battle that they cannot possibly win.
Vs. G/B Cemetery Cloud
Game 1: They can annoy you, but with the ability to counter Death Cloud, that pretty much sums up what they are capable of doing. Akroma’s Vengeance is ridiculous here, undoing all of their hard work. Things to watch out for include Caller of the Claw, which can be annoying, and Skullclamp as always. Mind’s Eye is ridiculous here, as is Pulse of the Fields (when is it not?) because the pressure that they put on is so limited. Pristine Angel is nearly impossible for them to remove, so once their board is taken care of (again, be careful of Death Cloud and Caller of the Claw), drop the Angel and finish the deal.
Games 2 & 3: Once again, you bring in an efficient counter to one of their biggest threats (Oversold Cemetery), as well as Scrabbling Claws to stop any ridiculous behavior before it begins. Taking out Wing Shards hurts, especially against versions packing Twisted Abomination, but it is a sacrifice worth making in order to stop the one card that does anything against you. The ragtag bunch of creatures that they have isn’t nearly strong nor effective enough to stop Pulse of the Fields and company, so this is another matchup with a rather protracted advantage.
That’s it for today, as I’m exhausted from all this writing. Hope you all enjoyed this attempt to liven up the metagame, and feedback not only welcome but encouraged either in the forums or at [email protected].
Until next time, here’s hoping you’re all still awake,