While everyone was having a blast in the capped 1000-player SCG Tour® Modern event in Dallas, I was getting destroyed in Pittsburgh. Grixis Control is a powerful player in the current Standard; however, all of the matchups that I was very prepared for seemed to have posed a problem for me all weekend.
I was going to Game 3 and falling short every round. I started the first day strong at 6-1, but then quickly fell to 6-3 at the hands of U/R Control and a G/W Tokens deck piloted by Jon Stern in the final round of Swiss.
My GW Tokens matchup is one of the key reasons why I honed in on and selected Grixis, but it turned out to be my eventual undoing. I dropped from Day 2 after two quick losses and decided it was time to focus on the new set and spoilers that may propel me to a dominant finish at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.
My New Team
I am very excited to announce that I'll be on a sweet testing team that is comprised of Chris Fennell, Craig Wescoe, Dan Musser, Forrest Mead, Ray Tautic, Charles League, Eli Kassis, and Mark Rankin. The team's major strength (or weakness) is our age, which prompted the team name Grumpy Old Men.
I have always worn my many years of experience as a badge of honor and I'm going to play these next big tournaments in my future as if they were the last of my career. I took a lot of Pro Tours I played in the past for granted, creating decks like Mass Polymorph, Magus of the Bazaar/Protean Hulk/Footsteps, and Preordain-less U/W Control. When the dust settled and they removed the DCI rating invite system, I was off the Pro Tour and wondered if I would ever be able to get back on.
It took two years, but I'm back and ready for action, my friends. Since Pro Tours and most events on the SCG Tour® focus on Standard, that will also be my focus going forward. There is a Modern event here and there, but Standard is the glue that holds competitive Magic together. Let's make sure we aren't missing anything from Eldritch Moon that could revive control in the new, approaching Standard.
Eldritch Moon Gems
With the new set quickly approaching, us control mages must begin preparations. I'm scouting the new spoilers on a daily basis in an attempt to locate the next elite win condition, card draw, or removal spell. There are very few total cards spoiled so far, but already a few have made me sit upright in my computer chair and rejoice across social media.
This card has already divided the Magic community more than I predicted. I just automatically assumed that every blue mage could let out a sigh of relief and receive the coveted two-mana card draw spell. There hasn't been a playable blue card draw spell in Standard for quite some time. Losing Sphinx's Revelation was no big deal because of the arrival of broken delve draw spells.
Once Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise rotated out, control players were forced to play black to access Painful Truths or Read the Bones. Even with the black card draw spells, green decks outdraw control players nine times out of ten. This travesty we endured may end with the release of Eldritch Moon. Take Inventory doesn't look like a powerhouse of a card, but it does the two most important things that a control deck needs to survive:
Draws us to land drops in the early-game.
Provides card advantage in the late-game.
These two traits of Take Inventory make it the premier card draw spell for control players in Standard. The argument of “Take Inventory is worse than Accumulated Knowledge!” is a ridiculous one and I don't understand how it could even warrant a response. Comparing new cards to the power level of cards of old doesn't make any sense; all of the decks, mechanics, and cards that surrounded older spells are also gone. Putting a card like Austere Command in the current Standard would be absolutely amazing, but it was unplayable at the time.
There are other arguments used by opponents of Take Inventory that range from sorcery complaints to time woes. "Will there be time to cast a couple of card draw spells?"
If the answer is no, then control is dead and the discussion is over.
Control decks have to include card draw spells in order to emerge victorious after the one-for-one battle concludes. This is a super-cheap spell that works with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, doesn't deal damage to you, and doesn't require a second or third color. This isn't a speculation for me, but a reality. Take Inventory will be used in my control decks to avoid missing land drops, have card advantage later, and have consistency that I have been lacking for far too long.
The first card spoiled that has the entire community talking gets my nod of approval. This legendary monstrosity is super-powerful and will see heavy play in Standard. The card costs roughly eight to nine mana in the late-game and easily wins the game after.
Opponents of Emrakul, the Promised End will harp on the fact that opponents get to regain their footing with their additional turn. They most definitely will not be able to. Anyone who has had the card Mindslaver used against them remember what the end result of that game was. Free turn after or no free turn, having your spells, creatures, and battlefield used against you ends the game in nearly every situation.
The best possible scenario for someone that sees this Eldrazi land on the other side of the battlefield is losing their best creature in combat, and having no hand or mana open prior to their controlled turn ending. This is if they aren't forced to crash more creatures into yours and use all of their spells against their best interest.
So where does this creature best fit? That I can't answer at this time. I can see it easily filling the end curve of a ramp deck, becoming the all-star of a new delirium strategy, or even being the win condition of a good old-fashioned control deck. There will be many different ways to incorporate a card of this power in Standard, so be ready to battle with or against the new Eldrazi menace. Pick up your copies of Emrakul, the Promised End while they are reasonably costed, my friends…trust me.
This card I'm a bit skeptical on, but I think it could see some Standard play. Gaining life is a precious commodity for control players and this card deals with an attacking creature as well. The third mode to untap creatures is a bit more on the fringe side for control, but could be beneficial in a few situations. Untapping a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in response to a removal spell and gaining four life isn't bad. Untapping Gisela, the Broken Blade for some powerful blocking could be potentially devastating.
This Angel duo caught my eye immediately while scouring for new ways to win the game for team control. Gisela, the Broken Blade has a slight Baneslayer Angel feel to her, which is a great start.
Baneslayer Angel was a force in her respective Standard due to the lack of removal from the aggressive decks, which could also be true in current Standard for Gisela, the Broken Blade. The stats on this Angel make her a must-kill for aggro opponents; the game gets out of reach very quickly. The best part about Gisela, the Broken Blade is the gift she gives to control players that don't want to be forced into black to play Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Lifegain is one of the most important abilities a control deck must produce in order to be successful against the most aggressive decks. Historically we have had no issue dealing with midrange opponents on the back of card advantage, but aggressive decks could not care less.
The bonus to running the lifelink Angel is being able to combo kill in the late-game with Bruna, the Fading Light. The seven-mana price tag is a bit hefty to run more than one of her; however, cards like Dark Petition make one-ofs just fine. Reviving the fallen Angel and then melding with her companion creates an unbeatable Brisela, Voice of Nightmares and ends the game promptly. Even if the combo doesn't excite you, I guarantee that Gisela, the Broken Blade will have a home in Standard, even without her Angel partner.
Eldritch Moon Flops
This card absolutely disgusts me. Unsubstantiate is an Unsummon dressed up to look like a Counterspell. To add insult to injury, this card may see some fringe play in a blue aggressive deck that wants one turn of protection from a battlefield sweeper. These aggressive players would be better off using Negate to stifle a control player's dream, but this card may produce more blue aggro players than would have existed if this card wasn't printed.
This card falls directly into the unplayable category for control players. Delaying powerful spells for a turn is not a strategy that control players use. Negate will continue to be the two-mana counterspell in our sideboards until they print us a card that actually counters something for a reasonable cost. My public service announcement for this charlatan of a card is to avoid playing it in any midrange or control deck. This card is not good and will cost you matches if you fall into the hype.
Before you break out the torches and pitchforks, I think this card is pretty good in aggressive decks. The reason I added it to the flop category is because of its minimal impact against control decks. Thalia, Heretic Cathar is a three-power, two-toughness creature that has no defense against the plethora of removal available to us in nearly every color. It doesn't get gigantic like Tireless Tracker, nor bury us under card advantage.
Duskwatch Recruiter also is an early drop that ruins our world if not slayed immediately, where Thalia, Heretic Cathar is little more than a nuisance. Our lands enter the battlefield tapped? Oh no! That's the reality I've lived this entire format, which hasn't been too problematic so far. Thalia, Heretic Cathar will be a devastating spell in the creature-versus-creature matchup, but against us it is nothing but a fairly costed threat. I am always happy to see cards like these printed, because it moves the bullseye away from innocent control mages and into the lap of those who choose the aggressive life.
The Moon Is Rising
This is just the beginning of spoiler season, but already we have a ton of cards to get excited about. Eldritch Moon is looking like a set that is full of flavor and spells that will help control players regain their footing in the format. We already have a card draw spell and a few win condition candidates, so keep your eyes out for a removal spell that could lead us all to victory.