WARNING – SAUCY CONTROL SPOILERS AHEAD
Where do I begin…? Standard is so open right now. This article will keep the stars aligned correctly and help the masses innovate, helping to prevent them from all falling into the pits of Splinter Twin, Valakut, and Valakut Twin.
You can conquer any tournament you desire with just a bit of disruption for the combo decks, so why wouldn't you?
When I think about Standard now, I can't help but wonder why it took Wizards so long to give Stoneforge Mystic and Jace 2.0 the ax. Then I realize this wasn't the first time it took so long. Skullclamp wasn't banned until the day after U.S. Nationals and after it had been legal for almost the entire stretch of Standard. Once Fifth Dawn was released, they dropped it. "Better late than never" definitely holds true for us Magic players, and we (most of us) are grateful for the changes.
Much like in politics, people have to stomach the current structure until election time if they have issues with the players in power. Then election time rolls around with new set releases, and the old powerhouses leave.
The big difference between politics and Standard is that we don't have a say what the new cards will be, and we don't have the ability to oust cards that make our lives a living hell. Who's to say that Stoneforge Mystic leaving and new sets arriving will result in a fair Standard? That is left up to R&D, but that leads me to the point I want to make with this spiel.
You all helped fix Standard. I honestly believe that Top 8 results weren't enough for WotC to kill their pride and joy, Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It took forums, Twitter, email, and word of mouth to discuss why certain cards needed to go and how those cards forced us to use them or stay at a huge disadvantage from the field.
I have been following this Overextended/Modern movement, and it seems to be in a similar camp. With enough grassroots, reader, and pro support, it could become reality in a short time… remember that twice as many GPs next year means a couple new formats definitely.
Your experience in Standard now will be a new one with Stoneforge and Jace 2.0 banned… let's talk about it.
The time for true control has returned.
Enough Hawks… enough one-card wins in Jace… enough selling out! It's time to play control as it should have been played. This means still using proactive elements with the reactive goodness, but the aggro plan has been dropped from the menu. As people revert back to the same combo decks and silly Mono Red coinciding with the glorious return of Grim Lavamancer, there is no time better to play a true control deck. Some of the advantages are:
1) Control has the tools against every archetype. Leyline of Sanctity, Baneslayer Angel, Mental Misstep, etc. against red can all be incorporated somewhere in a list. These cards are commonly referred to as hosers but also have uses elsewhere. That is the beauty of control and why it can and will be dominant in this metagame. We can play to beat certain decks with a stacked maindeck, then sideboard in the necessary elements for the rest of the decks that you may encounter.
2) Unlike conventional wisdom may lead to you think, control is better against an undefined field. Let's say that we are wrong, and no one reverts back to Valakut and Splinter Twin (doubtful), then we still have the advantage. Cards like Day of Judgment and Mana Leak are excellent against a multitude of decks. Win conditions in Venser, the Sojourner, Gideon Jura, Grave Titan, and the Hero of Bladehold are also efficient no matter what deck is being shuffled in front of you. Control will be great, come M12, for this new metagame, and with the spoiling of Solemn Simulacrum and Oblivion Ring, how could you not want to ice your opponent?
3) Control in this new era will punish aggro players. The use of Wall of Omens, Day of Judgment, and superior win conditions will give you an unfair advantage over eager aggro players. With the banning of Stoneforge Mystic and, by association, Batterskull, aggro will come roaring back with an attempt to sweep through the metagame like a wildfire. Valakut has been weak to aggro in the past, and Splinter Twin can be hated a tad, so expect a big chunk of your PTQ/etc. population to be sleeving up some Goblin Guides. Have no fear though because if you are an experienced control mage, you are aware that those types of decks are what you and I want to see round after round. The sheer card advantage we produce as well as our nearly unkillable win conditions make Vampires, Mono Red, Vengevine nonsense, etc. huff in frustration as we build up our board while destroying theirs.
M12 is showing promise.
The reprinting of Mana Leak is huge. For another year, we will have access to one of the best counterspells that has graced our game. It gets a lot of hate and flak because people only remember the times when their opponent has three mana up, but they forget the ten thousand times it has countered a vital spell. Blue control's success rests on the legality of at least one solid counterspell, and Mana Leak fills that role nicely.
A lot of people are focusing on U/B Control for new Standard, and they may be onto something. A turn 1 Inquisition of Kozilek into turn 2 Mana Leak leaves things in good shape for the control player. No more having to shake in fear when our opponents tap four mana for a potential Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Oblivion Ring is back! Who would have thought one of the best white removal spells would be back so quickly? Journey to Nowhere was a pathetic excuse for a replacement, and now white control decks have its favorite answer-all. This spell was often used to knock out Jace 2.0, any Titan, or even a Borderpost to take out a mana source from Open the Vaults.
Control players love answer-all cards, and this one is definitely one of the best. Wizards was right about needing a reprint to repair the format; too bad this wasn't around a little while ago…
Solemn Simulacrum! I played this sad robot at Worlds in my Urzatron Extended list that I piloted to a 5-0-1 record. Yes, you heard it. I played this guy in Extended! This was when cards like Pernicious Deed, Devastating Dreams, and Early Harvest were played… but the robot did his job.
As Chapin said all over the place in that article, he is value, and he is efficient. For any less mana, he would be broken, and at a higher cost, he would not be Constructed playable, but at four, he is a solid staple for any control deck.
It may feel wrong, especially given recent times, for some players to pay four for him when it costs the same as a Hero of Bladehold, Vengevine, or Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas… but that is because they don't understand him yet. I plan on playing 2-3 in my control build post M12, and it's not just going to be for nostalgia. A nongreen ramp spell is more valuable than gold.
M12 isn't here yet, so this list doesn't have any new cards. There are plenty of tournaments that occur before August. I promise an updated list or something entirely new after the set is released. Here is our Esper powerhouse!
This list takes advantage of the bannings to the fullest. Cards like Sea Gate Oracle and Wall of Omens build the board state while ensuring you make your land drops. Not only do they cantrip, but they dig their heels in the ground against aggro and either chump to preserve your life total or stop attacks completely. Their interaction with Venser also creates much jubilation when you control both.
Speaking of Venser… man, that guy is good! With Jace out of the picture, Venser is 100% the most powerful planeswalker out there. Oh don't get jealous, Gideon; you know you always have a spot on the decklist, but as far as win conditions, landing Venser, the Sojourner and protecting him for a few turns ends the game immediately with an ultimate. Venser also interacts with Grave Titans and can blink a creature before Day of Judgment. The least useful ability is the one that makes your army unblockable, but with a Sword of Feast and Famine, the ability is very relevant.
Sword of Feast and Famine?? Why??
That card is still unbelievable and overpowered. Sure, you can't tutor it up, and it doesn't come with a body to equip it to, but this deck, and control in general, has all the time in the world to set up the blowout. In Extended, Sword of Feast and Famine almost led me to a PTQ victory (scooped in top 4) when placed alongside a few Creeping Tar Pits, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and Gideon Jura. I did Stoneforge them up, but the little guy almost never survived, and those other targets were my only creatures.
Games ended with a strategic sword-equip, and that hasn't changed with the banning of Stoneforge Mystic. No more Jace to bounce your guy; no more maindeck Divine Offering. Just a good, old-fashioned beating.
This deck also uses the untap to the fullest, with expensive spells to slam right back down after that trigger resolves. There are also more creatures to carry the sword, and with the release of M12, expect some Simulacrums to pick it up and go crazy.
Grave Titan and Hero of Bladehold are insane win conditions. Grave Titan has always been my favorite of the Titans, and he will conquer your opponents with ease. Sword of Feast and Famine in conjunction with either of these dudes presents an unstoppable force against most decks and matchups, mainly because I feel the number of artifact removal spells will drop to a minimal amount.
Also most decks that bring in the artifact hate just for our two copies of the Equipment are making an error and will find that drawing them in multiples will usually lead them away from the path to victory.
Without the threat of a resolved Jace ending the game on turn 4, control can be played the old-fashioned way: kill stuff, counter stuff, cantrip, cantrip, cantrip, then boom! Grave Titan! That is the way I want to play Magic, and hopefully you all will gain a great deal of enjoyment out of it.
So what exactly is in store for us in this new metagame?
Get over this deck, my friends… while you still can. The deck is explosive and can just plow through disruption and win… but you have to run a ton of Mountains and play an abundance of ramp spells, which is a formula for self-destruction at times. Even when you ramp up and slam the Primeval Titan, you still don't win a good amount of the time if your opponent is skilled and understands the dynamic of the deck. I suggest readers to stay away from this one, and if you have the fever for some more cowbells (combo), then play Exarch. Two-card combos are always good—I don't care what you're doing.
So how do we beat Valakut? The same way we always have: just counter all their stuff, and you win. After board, we are not only using hand disruption combined with Memorcide/Surgical Extraction, but we are also Flashfreezing them with a Leyline of Sanctity in play… life doesn't get better with this matchup!
This is the reason we aren't playing U/W, for the record. Esper gives us a range of instant-speed removal spells along with exiling effects and hand disruption. This matchup plays similarly to Valakut, but with a little more draw go and dancing around until you have the mana / advantage to drop a win condition or two. I believe this matchup is going to be a little rough game 1, but games 2 and 3 should be easy sailing once you have the game plan set. I don't think that Spellskite is needed here in the sideboard, but if you test and test and keep dropping games, then by all means slam him into the sideboard. The Baneslayers are a little extra leverage against aggro, but Spellskite isn't bad there either, so make that judgment call.
Yes! I love you aggro decks, and I love that they're coming back in full force. Day of Judgment will be at its all-time peak in this format, which I truly believe is because of Goblin Guide and the powerful red reprints.
Affinity was a godsend for control players and allowed us to stack infinite artifact hate and just plow through the format. The popularity of Jund allowed me to win a PTQ with U/W Control a while back, and this red hype will allow you all to play a solid control list and scoop the wins right up.
The resurgence of aggro is Christmas for Magicians like us, and I hope you see it that way as well. Whenever a powerful creature is printed, we cheer, but when a Jace, the Mind Sculptor is printed, we should sulk because then the cat's out of the bag, and there will be mirror matches everywhere.
So that's the first deck I've tested from the post-bannings era. When M12 comes out, I'll write another article with an updated list, but given the multitude of tournaments left without M12, I have included a list without M12.
Cards that excite me from M12 are as follows (in no particular order):
Timely Reinforcements (it's a sleeper, boys and girls!)
Cards that make me a sad, sad boy…
Wizards stated in M10 that they wanted to spice up the core sets, and they have. Flavorful new cards and spicy reprints make me excited to brew and brew.
This article will be one of many to have different deck ideas incorporating new control elements from M12.
Esper today, probably U/W the next time, or U/G/W… who knows!
The best control shell at this point I believe includes Venser/Gideon/Day of Judgment, but that new Garruk, Primal Hunter is exciting, so I'll test with a few Explores the next time around and see what the outcome is.
Overall, any control variant is a very safe bet to play in the current field. I don't see a matchup where this New Era Control deck is a dog, and this is just the first version.
My testing so far has been so promising that I hope that the Nationals metagame next month isn't too off from expected. Good luck in your upcoming PTQs, SCG IQs, FNMs, or whatever tournament you plan on battling in. Until next time, friends!