Innistrad will officially be gone from Standard in a couple weeks, and replacing it is the exciting Theros. Usually when a new set is fully spoiled and the speculation is over, I only see a couple cards that peak my control interest. Theros has more than just a few gems in different colors that could potentially find a home in a powerful control deck in the first few tournaments. In my last Standard article, we speculated and built a U/W Control skeleton without any spoilers.
With all the information released, we can now prepare a beta version of U/W as well as U/W/R to do battle in the first few tournaments of the season. I'm still not sold on three colors due to the shaky mana base, but there are some fantastic red cards that were designed to fit right into a control deck. Many of you on Twitter and email expressed your interest in Esper, but even with a few nice black cards printed, there still aren't enough to stretch U/W out into black. The red cards are tempting, so today I'll share a three-color control deck with you, but I'll start the season off on the two-color team.
After scavenging through Theros, there are just too few options in both black and green to interest me, so this article will highlight all the interesting cards from the white, blue, red, hybrid, and artifact sections as well as cards that will strike fear in my control heart when an opponent resolves one. Let's kick-start this by chatting about the red cards from Theros that could sway us to splash that forbidden color.
The new and "improved" Slagstorm. I put improved in quotes because it's better in this Standard for control players than Slagstorm would be. With Voice of Resurgence and other creatures that have leave-play effects, Anger of the Gods can be extremely useful and better than Supreme Verdict in many situations. In a U/W/R deck, this would definitely be a part of the sweeper package, and depending on how big aggressive decks get in the current metagame, it could be a four-of. Anger of the Gods is also an impressive way to kill Fleecemane Lion, which we will discuss more when we get to the cards that we do not want to see an opponent cast. Pick up a set of these and prepare to add red if U/W fails to handle the rush of cheap creatures.
I bet every aggro player in the world was ecstatic to see this card spoiled, but you and I both know that removal with scry attached can be a powerhouse for control decks. Magma Jet's weakness is it only Shocks, whereas Lightning Strike does an additional damage and could be better in most decks. I think that scry is so powerful in a U/W-based deck that Magma Jet's weakness is not enough to switch to Lightning Strike's power. This card allows us to burn an early drop while digging for land or action in order to play our haymakers shortly after. We have Anger of the Gods to handle 3/3s and Magma Jet the turn before to dispatch smaller creatures. If we go red, this is a mandatory addition.
This card is insane. If you liked Thundermaw Hellkite, you'll love this card. It has the best elements of Thundermaw but with abilities I think are even better. Protection from white is probably the best protection color you could hope for. With cards like Azorius Charm, Detention Sphere, and white flyers like Archangel of Thune, this Dragon can push through all kinds of defenses. In a control deck like ours, we can also put the Dragon to use, especially in the late game. The monstrosity ability will reward control decks that splash red and have plenty of mana later in the game to blow. Even if the ability does a few points of damage, the 7/7 flyer with protection from one of the most popular colors will give us another force besides Aetherling. I think this card will skyrocket in value and find homes in control, midrange, and aggro decks.
This card was super-sweet back in the days of Mirrodin and in Extended sideboards. I'm not sure if it will play a major role in new Standard, but one-mana counterspells printed in Standard excite me. I'm mentioning this card over Swan Song because even though that card is flavorful and cool, giving your opponent a 2/2 flyer is pretty miserable (in Standard at least). I can see Annul finding spots in sideboards across the blue spectrum to answer new artifacts and enchantments as well as the ones (Assemble the Legion, Detention Sphere, etc.).
This card is another auto-include in each of our blue control decks. It's just better than Syncopate if you only want to run a couple counters and strictly better than Cancel. Dissipate found a home as a two-of in nearly every blue control deck last season, and I see it being just as good in post-rotation Standard. However, I'm not sold on scry 1 yet. When scry was previously in Standard, it was all about scry 2, 3, and even 4 with Foresee. With scry 1, it puts you in a difficult position with card selection. If it's land number six and you have four and five in your hand, you might be compelled to keep it. Later in the game, if it's any spell, you're probably keeping it on top as well. Scry 2 has a different kind of freedom and choice tied in, allowing even a switch to draw the second card first if you are looking at two powerful spells. It's better than nothing, so let's roll with it.
This is one of the cards that I'm not including in the list, but it's one to keep your eye on. Anything that has card draw built in can't be ignored, and in a deck with a few more creatures, I could see this being a nice one- or two-of. It reminds me of Cube when I resolve an Edric, Spymaster of Trest and draw a ton of cards. There can be situations with Elspeth, Sun's Champion tokens or a few creatures created from an Assemble the Legion that can really get you a ton of cards in a one-turn window. The ability on Bident of Thassa can also be useful if you have a sizable force to take out a few of your opponent's creatures. This card isn't an auto-include, but it's something that can be useful in a more creature-heavy build.
For the cheap price of three mana, you can have a scry machine for the rest of the game. The other abilities on Thassa are pretty terrible, including the ability to turn into a creature if your devotion is high enough. One thing I'm predicting is that devotion in the control realm at this point will be tough to do. The question for this card is how good is scry 1? As I said earlier, I don't think scry 1 by itself is good enough. Does that fact change when you get to do it every turn? Of course it does. Since this is going to be tough to deal with it, it may warrant a one-of in a U/W or U/W/R Control deck and can serve to hit land drops, fix mana, or sift through land late in the game to hit spells. This is a card that will never be more than a one- or two-of, so grab a couple, test them out, and see if you like the scry life.
This could be placed in the red section as well, but it only costs a single white mana. There are quite a few red cards pulling me to splash, but this card pulls the hardest. When you see a reprint of Sword to Plowshares, you have to get a little excited. The drawback of playing red doesn't seem too steep because of the amount of control cards printed that happen to be red as well. In a control deck with red using four Chained to the Rocks, you have to play a considerable amount of Mountains to guarantee dropping one in the first couple turns.
This is going to join the ranks with the other top removal spells in both aggressive and control decks. With a large portion of creatures having some resilience against basic removal, this remove-from-game enchantment will be played in a similar way to Path to Exile. This is another one of those cards you're going to want a playset of because if you're running Mountains and Plains, playing the full amount is the only option.
This is a nice last-minute addition to the spoiler list. At first it looks weak as Swat without cycling, but it exiles Voice of Resurgence along with any other early drop from the hyperaggressive decks. This card will be played in the sideboards of white decks at least to supplement the broader answers that are available. Your opponent gaining four life is pretty irrelevant, and I can see a few games where you target your own token to gain enough life to survive an attack from time to time.
I love this card. The fact that it's Glorious Anthem at the same mana cost with a free ability is enough for me to use the card in some way. The anthem effect will be useful in conjunction with your Mutavaults, Assemble the Legion dudes, Elspeth, Sun's Champion's Soldiers, and whatever else you decide to toss in your control or midrange deck.
The main reason for using this card will be the three-mana activation that slays opposing creatures that damage you. Having this ability on a stick can be very useful early and later in the game. Saving removal spells and taking a little bit of damage can help you set up big-time Supreme Verdicts or Sphinx's Revelations. An opponent might feel the need to commit more to the board to get through you killing one at a time, allowing you to sweep the board easily. On the other side, they may place their faith in one creature that threatens lethal while you Revelation out of range easily. The Spear has a lot of upside with the removal aspect and adding the Glorious Anthem bonus is too attractive to ignore.
Don't hate her, friends . . . she's fantastic! The six-mana tag has turned a large portion of the Magic community into haters. Six is a fair cost for the strength of this planeswalker and guarantees a two-of in our U/W Control deck as a finisher, defender, and sweeper all in one. The fact that she protects herself with three Soldiers at a time and shortly after can ultimate to create an army of flying fatties is an A+ in the planeswalker world. If there are heavy-hitting creatures swarming you, Elspeth, Sun's Champion comes down, eradicates them all, and lives with a loyalty to spare. Just like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, none of the abilities are obsolete, and the only negative for her is the mana cost. Just like with Aetherling, you have to dish out the mana to reap the benefits of a powerful card, and I believe Elspeth will be a major player in upcoming Standard.
This legend has first strike, vigilance, and three power. Those attributes sound aggressive but can be used for the powers of good as well. If the threatening creatures we oppose are in the two-to-three power range, then the pair can play as a maindeck threat and defender. The heroic ability is never going to be relevant in our deck; however, the stats alone are enough to give it a shot.
This sneaky U/W guy will have a brief home in our sideboard to start off the season. The ability attached is pretty awesome and can create card advantage as well as some life mending while you get in there for some damage. He isn't exactly unblockable, but against the control mirror, there won't be many dudes to get in the way while you're stealing lands and spells. I can't see him playing a maindeck role unless the format is all about control, and even then I'd still bench him for now.
This card is just sick. So much power, evasion, and toughness for the mana cost and a free trample ability for no reason. The card is just awesome and will be played in some decks here and there—but not ours yet. If we move into a more midrange, Warleader's Helix, burn-heavy deck, then this will be a four-of. While we're playing Supreme Verdict and Anger of the Gods maindeck, it will have to watch from the outside. I threw it in this article because I truly believe this is one of the better cards they have made; if they print some cheap spells and more cantrips besides Quicken, then this card will just get better and better.
This bad Fact or Fiction might be a one- or two-of staple in red control decks. Early on it can be used to hit land drops and build some cards in hand, but it will only punish you later when searching for answers. If you have a Supreme Verdict in hand and separate a pile of one with another Supreme Verdict (that your opponent thinks you need) and four random cards, you can outplay your opponent to continue to fuel your hand with gas. There are a few ways to use this card and some skill to get value, but later in the game you're going to just wish you had a Sphinx's Revelation.
It makes tokens! I love me some tokens, as you all are clearly aware, and this defender does it. This is too slow against aggressive decks but could find a home against midrange and control decks. It just produces one token every turn, so it is much worse than Assemble the Legion, but in the U/W Control deck it may be a card to consider. I'm not sold on it just yet; however, I think it's cool and may be good in some fashion (also not too shabby with our Spear).
Burnished Hart 3
Artifact Creature — Elk
3, Sacrifice Burnished Hart: Search your library for up to two basic land cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.
Man this card is so close to being so good. It does the Kodama's Reach thing with fetching two basics, and it's colorless! If you untap with it alive, then it will deliver you acceleration, card advantage, and just a big smile on your face. I'm sold on this card, but I'm going to play Azorious Keyrune at the first couple tournaments. If the coast is clear regarding spot removal in the big decks, then I'll switch to this fella. I like this card so much that I may play it the second I submit this article over Keyrune, so give it a shot and toss in whichever tickles your fancy.
These are the cards that fit into other areas of interest for me in Theros. I like to pinpoint cards that I will and may play early on before they shoot up in value so I don't have to scrounge around to collect random mythics I missed out on. The biggest letdown of the new set has to be Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. I can't emphasize enough how bad this planeswalker is. Not only do two of the abilities do nothing, but the other ability is so narrow that often this planeswalker will be able to do absolutely nothing. The second ability may land you a creature every other turn if you're lucky. Against control, it plays like a really, really bad Jace, Memory Adept except for the one day you hit one of their Aetherlings.
This is such a letdown from what could have been. If the planeswalker from Dimir was playable, there could have been talk about Esper, but since the card is horrendous, I'll end my rant and warn you to stay away from this Dimir version of Tibalt.
There are two very scary cards that we need to hope avoid seeing play. The first one is Fleecemane Lion. There is no point in us hoping to dodge this card because it will see play and it will be powerful. The monstrosity ability on this Watchwolf creates a literal monster against control, making it into nearly unkillable threat. Hexproof and indestructability are enough to cancel out the majority of removal spells, and we have to bank on a lucky Celestial Flare to deal with this nightmare. Hopefully we can just avoid this thing, kill it early on, and/or counter it to prevent eminent loss.
The other scary card is Underworld Cerberus. This card is much more specific and in a color combination that may not be attractive in the new world of Standard. The abilities on this 6/6 monster make it a hard-to-block, very fast clock, and if killed it can be the end of a control player's day. Out of the two, I'm much more scared of the Lion than the Cerberus.
Now on to the decks! These two lists are beta runs, and I will be changing a card here and there for the next couple weeks. Not only will I keep you guys updated on Twitter, but my article in two weeks will have the updated lists after some playtesting and will be ready to go! I'm not quite sure about the sideboard configuration for either deck I'm posting, but I will get you that info either in two weeks in the next article or on Twitter before then. I've never been a big fan of putting together sideboards in a completely unknown metagame, so when I figure it out I'll be sure to share it with you guys. Thanks again for reading, and I hope you all are just as excited as I am for a new era of Standard!
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