Sun Titan is better than Baneslayer Angel in so many ways but I didn't believe it at first. While most of you already know this it took me quite a while to prove it to myself. Having played with UW Control for quite some time using Baneslayer in most of those matches I found it hard to believe that a White creature could outclass the Wallet-Slayer but the Titan Cycle gave me a lot of room to work with as far as power level is concerned. While Sun Titan isn't bringing back the most amazing cards in the world regrowing Jace Beleren Tectonic Edge and an occasional Wall of Omens is nothing to sneeze at. The vulnerability of Jace Beleren almost doesn't matter because bringing him back to life is so awesome. I almost think of Jace Beleren as “1UU draw a card prevent the next 3-5 damage that would be dealt to you” and that's just fine for this deck. Additionally most people will attack your Planeswalker with all of their creatures if you have any White mana up for fear of a Path to Exile or Condemn which could get you even more value out of your investment. While UW Control hasn't really been on many people's radars lately it’s been giving me a lot of success on Magic Online and today we're going go over most of your matchups in Standard.
First off let’s get the decklist out of the way. I've played a lot with the strategy lately and changed plenty of cards around but this is the list I've I liked the most and where you should probably start. Ultimately you should build your version to help combat whatever decks you feel like you'll play against the most. Onto the deck:
In recent memory UW Control began as a control deck revolving around Countermagic; Jace the Mind Sculptor; Treasure Hunt; and ultimately winning the game with Martial Coup or Celestial Colonnade. This older version while solid was incredibly difficult to pilot and didn't have the best matchup against Jund. With Jund being the powerhouse deck in the format at the time the lists had to change. You had to become more of a Tap-Out deck and less of a Counterspell deck because you would easily get outclassed by a Bloodbraid Elf if you sat back on a Deprive or Cancel. Thus the version playing multiples of Mind Spring Martial Coup and Baneslayer Angel was born. These decks used Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge to great value often screwing the opponent out of the game before they could even get started. Jund was particularly affected by this since their spells are so difficult to cast when they control Islands instead of Savage Lands.
After this major alteration to the archetype it began winning... a lot. Friends of mine on Magic Online won back-to-back PTQs with almost identical lists but this was even before Rise of the Eldrazi came out. When Wall of Omens was released it gave the deck the defensive edge it needed in the early game pushing it over the top as far as the "best deck to play" and Brad Nelson piloted it to a win at Grand Prix: DC. Now with the release of M11 there is a brand new direction for the deck but it really just seems like a reversion to the archetype built by Chapin earlier in the year. Mana Leak gives the previous version something it didn't have: a counterspell for two mana that was reliable. Negate and Essence Scatter could really screw you over in the early game because neither was acceptable to answer every early threat presented to you. Mana Leak is obviously a huge upgrade for this style of deck giving you answers to opposing Jaces and mid-game spells that you didn't really have access to before. Negate filled this role in the Tap-Out versions but even then it was pretty much accepted that Negate was mostly a sideboard card due to how narrow it was. Mana Leak gave Chapin's original build new life.
Sun Titan is another story altogether and comes at a very strange time in Standard Magic. UW's previous "role" in the format was to out-class your opponents' spells and now your role is almost solely to grind them out. The Tap-Out strategy was single-handedly crushed by the reprinting of Mana Leak but that just means you have to move in a different direction to compete. Some major changes were in order. For example when playing with Baneslayer Angel Big Jace was far superior to Little Jace due to having a much larger impact on the game when he came down. Now with the existence of Mana Leak and Sun Titan Little Jace is actually the preferred version since you can't recur Big Jace and he costs less to cast. Even though he dies almost immediately he's much stronger in the mirror due to these two factors and is fine against aggro decks because he becomes such a big target. If you can lead with Wall of Omens and follow it up with Jace Beleren your opponent will have a tough time killing him or will commit resources to doing so that aren't focused on killing you. Even if they do kill Jace who cares? Just blow everything up with Day of Judgment and get to work on grinding them with Sun Titan.
With so much removal in the format to help kill creatures like Fauna Shaman Baneslayer Angel becomes pretty mediocre. This abundance of removal makes Baneslayer Angel worse but Sun Titan better due to your ability to gain a card or two from his ability before he dies. Tectonic Edge and Countermagic help you protect him in the late game but he can singlehandedly put the game out of reach by bringing back a Tectonic Edge or two. Against more aggressive decks you can bring back a dead Wall of Omens to draw a card and help prevent some damage. Most aggressive decks in the format don't play that much removal and don't have very good answers to Sun Titan. Baneslayer Angel is better against the decks without removal but Sun Titan will actually do something more often than Baneslayer in most matchups.
Your opponent's creatures are the most important for you to deal with since your counterspells will be able to prevent your demise in the late-game. Kor Firewalker is still a dagger for them since most Red decks if not all have stayed away from Leyline of Punishment (and for good reason).
Jund - This matchup is not that difficult and simply requires you to do some creative sideboarding. Spreading Seas is the old standby and does wonders at slowing them down just enough for you to get them in a soft-lock with Sun Titan and Tectonic Edge. Countermagic keeps their early threats from doing you much harm and the rest is usually elementary. Of course Jund is Jund and you can always lose to some of their nut draws.
Most versions of Jund are not too worried about Cancel because most of their best cards come down before you can get it online. If you are on the play Cancel is much better but still not great. I could see cutting down on some Path to Exiles instead of the Cancels while on the play but don't leave yourself too vulnerable to Raging Ravine and Putrid Leech by cutting your removal.
After sideboarding your Plan A is to manascrew them. Try not to use Path to Exile early on if possible since it makes your Spreading Seas much worse. Day of Judgment while not great against Sprouting Thrinax is really good against the versions playing Siege-Gang Commander and Grave Titan and you usually want the full four. If they have a fast start against you your only real out will often be a Day of Judgment.
UW Control Mirror - This matchup is all about the grind so don't be afraid to bluff a counterspell in the early game if you don't have one. Often the opponent will sit on their own countermagic and wait on you to run out your Planeswalker countering it and then casting their own. If you just sit back that can often give you the time you need to draw your counters and eventually you can stick your Jace or Sun Titan with backup. If your opponent is playing Baneslayer Angel you should rejoice. It will be a much easier matchup for you.
This matchup is a bit different after boarding and most lists have Luminarch Ascension but I have found that card to be very underwhelming. For it to be good you have to have it in your opener be on the play and have multiple ways to protect it from your opponent’s answers. If they have an Oblivion Ring or War Priest of Thune that plan becomes atrocious. It is much better in the Esper version because you have Esper Charm to kill their Oblivion Rings as well as a way to make them discard most of their answers.
Negate is much worse than it used to be but still good. This is because Mana Leak fills the void where Negate once stood. I don't think you need the full four anymore because it just gives you a bit of resiliency when fighting a counterwar but is still a hard counter against most of their deck.
Path to Exile while not exciting is a necessary evil due to their very low number of win conditions. You can also aggressively Path your own Walls in order to help ramp up giving you more mana to win a counterwar. Jace Beleren is the most important card in this matchup acting as both a cheap answer to opposing Jaces and giving your Sun Titans a lot of power in the late game.
Valakut - This matchup is not great since pretty much every card in their deck is a must-counter. Their mana producing cards eventually become 6-damage spells and your only real way to beat them is to counter Primeval Titan and hope they don't have Summoning Trap. Tectonic Edge is a great way to combat their ramp-into-Valakut plan but they will almost always out-mana you which makes killing their lands at the cost of sacrificing your own a losing prospect. However if they are going to kill you with Valakuts you should probably take the hit and kill their land. If you want this matchup to be a bit better try adding Flashfreezes to the board. They tend to make my sideboard every once in a while but Kor Firewalker is much better against Mono Red and pretty much a must-have if you want to beat them.
After boarding this matchup can be really tricky. You should aggressively use your Mana Leaks to keep them from ramping but Cancel should usually be saved for their larger threats like Primeval Titan. Rarely will you want to cast Path to Exile but sometimes it is necessary to take out Raging Ravine and Primeval Titan with his ability on the stack. However if they resolve Primeval Titan things will probably be really bad for you. Day of Judgment is for versions playing Siege-Gang Commander and Avenger of Zendikar but it isn't that great if they don't play those spells. Try to see what creatures they're playing in the first game so that you can have better information when sideboarding.
Eldrazi Ramp- I honestly haven't played this matchup much but it seems much easier than Valakut except they are most definitely maindecking Summoning Trap. I would recommend sideboarding pretty much the same way since they are pretty close to the same deck in regards to what they're trying to do.
Dredgevine- This matchup revolves solely around Vengevine and you should save your Path to Exiles for them. Counterspells are pretty bad since they will be regrowing most of their creatures in some form or fashion.
Sideboarding: +2 Condemn +1 Day of Judgment +4 Spreading Seas -4 Cancel -1 Jace Beleren -2 Mana Leak
If this deck becomes really popular in the near future you could sideboard some Relics of Progenitus but in testing I've found them to be too slow sometimes against their Hedron Crab draws and especially so if you're on the draw. After boarding try to keep their early creatures in check with Oblivion Ring and Path to Exile following it up with a Day of Judgment when they overextend. I haven't played much against Gerry Thompson's version with Sedraxis Specter but it is probably better against you than the older versions. Bloodbraid Elf and Sedraxis Specter are huge beatings in comparison to Enclave Cryptologist and Merfolk Looter.
Naya Fauna Shaman - These matches play out pretty similarly each time with the only real difference being whether or not you draw an answer to their Fauna Shaman or if you draw a Day of Judgment against their explosive draws. Having enough Paths and Condemns for their Vengevines is really important but their other threats are good against you too.
Sideboarding: +2 Condemn +1 Day of Judgment +4 Spreading Seas -4 Cancel -1 Jace Beleren -2 Jace's Ingenuity
This is one matchup where you will rarely if ever have time to cast Jace's Ingenuity. If you can keep their early mana in check with Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge you can really screw them with a Day of Judgment on their mana producers. This will also keep them from being able to cast two creatures in the same turn to bring back Vengevines. Again their best creature against you is Vengevine so save your Paths for them unless you desperately need to kill Fauna Shaman.
In the past I've played multiple Journeys to Nowhere maindeck over an Oblivion Ring and the Essence Scatter. Both options are fine and you can virtually swap them if you think that Fauna Shaman Naya will dominate your local metagame.
Mythic- This matchup is pretty similar to Naya except they have Mana Leak and the ability to kill you out of nowhere with Sovereigns or Eldrazi Conscription. Your goal should be mostly the same but more often than not you won't have to battle against Vengevines. This is a matchup where Cancel is really good since they have so many expensive splashy threats.
Sideboarding: -1 Wall of Omens -2 Jace's Ingenuity +2 Condemn +1 Day of Judgment
Jace's Ingenuity is pretty bad here because of their Mana Leaks and your inability to ever leave five mana open. Often you will be tapping out to match their threats and reloading with a Jace's Ingenuity will rarely happen. Day of Judgment is your most important card and try to keep their Dauntless Escorts off the table so that they are most effective. Save your Tectonic Edges for their Celestial Colonnades if you can help it but you don't need to aggressively kill their lands if you are sitting on Countermagic. I see people so often use Tectonic Edge on their own turn instead of waiting so that they have two more mana up to pay for Mana Leak or just cast one of their own thinking that a single Counterspell is sufficient.
This deck takes a lot of practice to play well since you will often lose on the back of a single mistake. If you have a lot of experience playing with counterspells and have the discipline to sit back and take damage instead of running out your spells then this is the deck for you. But be prepared for a grind in almost any game you play. The deck doesn't win quickly and a lot of decks will have ways to continually block your Sun Titan. Even if you're winning killing all of their lands and drawing a million cards with Jace you need to play fast so that you don't take too much time off the clock. On Magic Online I usually end my matches with 15+ minutes left on the clock but that doesn't constitute for shuffling and sideboarding in live play. Get to where you know the deck in and out because unintentional draws are such a dagger in small tournaments.
If you love the grind as much as I do then this is definitely the deck for you.
Thanks for reading.
strong sad on MTGO