I play Red. I like Red. I can count backwards in units of 2 or 3. I can open up 7 cards and decide if I will kill my opponent on turn 4 or turn 6. I know if I should remove their man or push the damage to the face. I know those decision trees. This is where Magic is very comfortable for me. This is where I like to play and how I like to play.
So I built a control deck.
I watched a good friend of mine pilot Blue Black control with some success for no small amount of time. He is essentially the only person, who regularly plays Standard, I know in our meta that seems to be truly comfortable with control as an archetype. So instead of looking to White for the secondary colour, I naturally drifted toward Black.
The very first card I started with was Think Twice. This card, as I have found in course of play, is amazing. If you don’t need to cast a counter spell, you can cast it or flash it back. It works so much better than ponder for what you want to be doing in a control deck. Leave mana up to make your opponent not cast spells.
Next I added what is by and large my favourite card in this entire deck. Forbidden Alchemy digs you to the answer you need and with appropriate use of a Snapcaster Mage (a natural 4 of in most control decks) often nets you at least two solutions to whatever problem the board state may currently present. The 7 mana required to flash back Alchemy usually shows up by turn 7-9 and once you have done that, you feel like you are cheating. When you feel like you are cheating, you know your deck is doing what you want.
Speaking of feeling like cheating, Consecrated Sphinx fits that bill quite well. A big butt and the ability to fly doesn’t hurt this card advantage machine. As a 6 drop, this indeterminately sexed creature may not finish a game but it almost certainly ensures that its controller has access to the resources that will.
So what do we dig to? First and most obviously are the 4 Mana Leaks that serve as the backbone of the counter package. Next, I elected for just 3 Dissipates. More often than not, I found that between 4 Snaps and 3 of these bad boys, if I so desired a spell to be removed from the game instead of resolve, I could make it so.
After those sweet counter spells, we need to have some sweet removal to dig to as well. The first of which is the ever classic Doom Blade. Why this instead of Go for the Throat? The answer is simple. In the present standard metagame, black creatures are as scarce as good blue planeswalkers. I put 2 Blades in, because we have more removal coming right up.
In the standard of Geist of Saint Traft, Thrun, the Last Troll and Dungrove Elder nontargeted removal and boardwipes become increasingly important. First up, I have 2 Geth’s Verdicts. The reason for these over Tribute to Hunger is a bit complex. If mana dorks are present, you essentially need to cast 2 verdicts to hit the guy you actually want gone for either Verdict or Tribute. This means that between turn 3 and 4 you cannot cast and then Snapcaster back Tribute. However you can do that with Verdict. Yes, this means your mana base has certain requirements, which will be addressed further south in the article. On the other hand, Tribute can gain you some life that can actually be relevant in getting the control deck into the late game, where the deck truly shines. I find that a more guaranteed kill of your problem creatures is more important against the decks where it really matters.
Next up, we need to clear the board. For this, I have chosen Life’s Finale. Against the present saturation of Aggro swarm lists and against Wolf Run, this can be quite punishing. Black Sun’s Zenith was the other option for sweeping the board clean but as both cards need 6 mana to be appropriately effective, I would rather have a card that I can Snap back a little later in the game with an added bonus of potentially poaching men from their deck.
So we have a fair package of removal and counter spells, we should look to things that the deck cannot presently handle. If, Jace forbid, something makes its way through our wall of counterspells that we cannot simply remove with some creature removal, this deck folds fairly quickly. Appropriately placed Oblivion Rings or the odd planeswalker can turn our plan on its head. After a quick Gatherer search, I found that no card in Standard in Blue or Black said “Destroy target planeswalker or enchantment” which seems like a giant weakness to this deck. But then I discovered a solution to these pesky things. I turn my problems into 3/3 beasts via Beast Within. I know, its Green. More mana trouble ahead. But we can stretch the mana base to actually have a deck that can deal with every card that comes down, at least until WotC prints a card that can’t be countered, sacrificed, or destroyed.
Now that we have three colours to work with we can take a look at what can be both a win condition and a source of card advantage-essentially the Standard Bitterblossom. Garruk Relentless/Garruk, the Veil-Cursed can be a midgame threat that puts pressure up in the control match up. He can make blockers and act as removal against aggro decks and in a pinch can turn over and make some deathtouch dudes that may eventually trample over even the most stalwart of defenses. Not needing to waste time casting men allows you to keep that mana up to leak away whatever your opponent, who is now on the backfoot, may be trying to answer that Garruk with. He fulfills a suite of slots in just one card. Thanks, Green!
However, we cannot win on the back of Garruk alone. No indeed. So what fantastic finisher do I have in store for this deck? Frost Titan, perhaps? Too cheap! Then maybe the Fireball on wheels, Myr Battlesphere? Too creature! I’ll give you a hint. This card has 3 Black mana symbols and a killer flavor text. Sorin’s Vengeance! Too often did Grave Titan come down only to have a flier finish up its controller with little more than a few attack phases. Instead this both acts as an end game finisher and a stabilizer for the life total. A few turns later, Snapcaster Mage can flash this spell back, or you can keep bashing with 2/2 wolves from Garruk. For this sweet tech, I must tip my hat to my control playing friend Chris Allen.
Let us take a look at this mana base. It is tricky but not ambitious. First, we have some utility lands to look at. Ghost Quarter is no Tectonic Edge but if you have to kill a land, you take what you can get. Nephalia Drownyard doesn’t quite stand up to its Worldwake counterpart either but it does offer the ability to expand your handsize (or mill your opponent out). Out of all the lands in this deck, this is the one I most want to turn into basic land but the advantage it creates can be massive. Just be judicious with the mill in the control match-up. Fair warning.
Next up, I have a singleton Traveler’s Amulet. The reason for this over any Shimmering Grottos is twofold. First, having another, land that doesn’t produce a colour by itself is actually a serious problem. Secondly, there were not enough cards with apostrophes in this deck list (now there are 4). There are 4 Islands, 3 Swamps and a Forest to get with this Amulet, and in a pinch you can Ghost your own land for appropriate fixing. That should be a rare happening though. Selecting the appropriate basic land to fetch, or play, is super important for this deck, given the abundance of buddy lands.
All told, there are 10 of the aforementioned buddy lands. We have 3 Woodland Cemeteries and 3 Hinterland Harbors, allowing us access to 7 total Green sources and allowing us to still cast the double Blue or Black spells that might otherwise have been tricky. 4 Drowned Catacombs and 3 of the Scars early lands (Darkslick Shores) make up the rest of the Blue/Black mana production. This means that we have 14 Blue sources and 13 Black sources. Given 25 land in the deck, you can reliably cast all of your spells and even flash back a turn 4 Verdict without too much trouble. The complete list can be found below.
4 Think Twice
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Mana Leak
2 Doom Blade
2 Geth’s Verdicts
2 Beast Within
3 Garruk Relentless
2 Life’s Finale
2 Sorin’s Vengeance
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Traveler’s Amulet
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Nephalia Drownyard
3 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
3 Hinterland Harbor
3 Woodland Cemetery
Control is not by any means a style that I am comfortable with and to wiser eyes that may be obvious by my justifications and even by my choices. However I have had immense levels of fun and a fair amount of success playing this deck. If you play the deck correctly, you can often surprise your opponent with a turn 4 Garruk or a random Beast Within just by making your land drops carefully. That can be a huge advantage to you over the course of a game. If I can stress anything about playing this deck, it is keeping track of what you have played and what could be in your deck still. You have to be all there to sling these spells.
If you want to hear more of what I have to say, you can listen to the podcast, Planeswalker Asylum, I partake in on a biweekly basis. You can also consult me via the Twitter @samdavisboyhero. Thank you for reading! If you have questions or criticisms, feel free to comment or contact me however you see fit, though I take offense at too many bricks through my window.
Until next time, keep your sleeves clean and your beasts within.