Before I wrap up our discussion on Marionette Master control decks in Standard, I wanted to present my current list and then discuss every card not in it. Well, not every card, but at least the ones most commonly asked about by people on social media, or viewers of my stream (Conley81 on Twitch). As I have mentioned before, I think the core engine of Marionette Master control is strong enough with few enough core pieces that there remains a lot of room for customization in your shell. I think the metagame is slowing down a lot right now, which hurts the prospect of Control shells using Marionette Master, but the archetype should remain in one form or another until it rotates.
Here is where my current list is at:
Four Color Puppet
1 Kefnet’s Last Word
1 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
1 Essence Scatter
1 Jace’s Defeat
1 Lost Legacy
1 Vraska’s Contempt
1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
2 Sunscourge Champion
1 Arguel’s Blood Fast
The Scarab God
No card receives more inquiries than the Dimir God himself. The Scarab God is a great card and happens to be in our colors, so expecting it to show up here isn’t unreasonable. In fact, you could probably play a copy or two and it play fine off of raw power level alone. That said, I don’t think its the best fit for us for a couple of reasons. First, our deck will often strand The Scarab God from enemy Blue/Black Control players. That is to say it will be in play and active, but have no valid targets to bring back as it bounces into a wall of Servos due to us only have three creatures in our list. This remains true when we are the one with The Scarab God out unless our opponent happens to have creatures for us to steal.
This alone would not be damning enough to leave one of the best cards in Standard on the sidelines, but ask yourself what The Scarab God does for a deck. It is a win condition. Its not countermagic or removal; its primary purpose is to win the game. This is a quality we are not lacking in our list. Marionette Master, Hidden Stockpile, Tezzeret the Schemer, and Vraska, Relic Seeker all do a good job of closing out a game and have more synergy in our list than The Scarab God. Really, if we were to run the God, it would almost solely be fueled by its popularity and raw power level and have little to do with it being a good fit in our deck, no matter how many times you remind me that it brings Master back as a 4/4.
If we really needed another win condition in our list, I would sooner turn to a one-of Anointed Procession as I have in the past, especially considering that The Scarab God is a known quantity and people have plans against it.
Speaking of Anointed Procession, we might as well tackle it next. Because our list has a lot of similarities to tokens strategies, Anointed Procession seems like a natural fit. The card is one of the most powerful in tokens decks, so we could likely use one or two ourselves, right? I think that this is a card you can definitely get away with one copy in your main, or one in the sideboard as an additional threat against control, but I think that Anointed Procession usually ends up being a win-more card in our list. Keep in mind that it only works when we have an active Stockpile down, an active Tezzeret, or am flipping Treasure Map. In all three of these scenarios, the extra tokens are nice, but did we need them?
One of the beautiful things about the Puppet engine is that each card has an impact on its own. I don’t need Hidden Stockpile to make Treasure Map work and I don’t need Treasure Map to make Tezzeret work. These cards all help each other and are certainly more powerful when combined, but their usefulness alone allows me to be a control deck and not a pure synergy based shell like tokens.
The criteria for Procession carries over here, but in a more pronounced way. Procession requires your engine to be online in order to win the game for you, but Priest requires your engine be online in order to provide you with the life and defense you need to ahem…. get your engine online. While the ceiling on what Anointed Priest can do is impressive, too many times it fails to provide the very thing we are putting it in our sideboard to provide, so I would stick to more reliable anti-aggro options.
A great card that just isn’t a very great fit in our shell. We play at sorcery speed so often that it is difficult to find holes in which we can actually leave open countermagic. This was the case with Spell Swindle before, but at least that was only a one or two of and didn’t get way worse as the game went on. If you can successfully engineer the list to be instant-speed, Supreme Will starts to make sense, but good luck getting planeswalkers, Hidden Stockpiles, and Treasure Maps to play at instant speed.
A former all-star in the deck that was recently cut due to a shift in the metagame and opponents catching on to how to deal with him. While I think this might be worth revisiting in the future, as long as Rampaging Ferocidon and Fatal Push are everywhere, I would leave Geoffrey out of your 75.
If we wanted to be more susceptible to Fatal Push, Harnessed Lighting, and Lightning Strike, Hostage Taker is probably the reason why that would be. Still, I think we have a good thing going here by dodging most of the removal in the format and forcing opponents to show up to the table with dead cards in their main deck.
While I love the explosiveness this card provides your combo, people have been playing around it a little too much for my liking. You simply cannot afford to waste five open mana when your opponent recognizes your plan. That all said, if the meta continues to slow down and people begin playing Ramp alongside the new love of Vraska, Spell Swindle could easily sneak back into the list.
People often ask why I play Cast Out over Ixalan’s Binding in the deck. The truth is that if I had any Cast Outin the board, I would probably swap them for Binding, but in the main deck, the ability to cycle and play at instant speed are both way more valuable to me. Cycling is super valuable in a deck with as much scrying as we have and allows us to pitch a second copy of Cast Out in matchups where it isn’t at its best. Being able to take out a Hazoret before it connects for five damage or stopping an opposing Cast Out from stealing the counters off of our Treasure Map might seem small, but these are the little edges that help this deck win.
Settle the Wreckage
This card is simply too known and too weak when played around correctly. As we saw in the Pro Tour top 8, once Settle is discovered in your 75, keeping it from being at its best is actually pretty easy. I just want my sweepers to be the most consistent they possibly can be.
The Watch List
While the above cards are mostly things I have tried and rejected at the current moment, there are some cards that I still look forward to testing when I get some free time. I wanted to quickly give these four cards a shout-out as honorable mentions.
Champion of Wits
This is a card I have been interested in trying for some time, but I decided to avoid cheap creatures in order to avoid removal. Champion of Wits is a little bit of an exception since you aren’t terribly upset when it dies to removal, so it seems worth exploring. One of the big advantages to a card like Champion of Wits is the ability for me to filter away some of my more specific cards like Fatal Push or Fumigate when I run up against control or tokens. The added card advantage that comes later on is hardly sad either.
Search for Azcanta
I have been seriously considering a single copy of this for some time. As control becomes more popular and Energy decks slow down, doing so is becoming more and more correct. Against aggressive decks, this is a liability, but without Contraband Kingpin in the list anymore, we can probably afford another two-drop without glutting things up too much.
Vizier of Many Faces
Not the most exciting card to mention, but as it bounced in and out of my sideboard recently, I thought I should at least bring it up. This operates as a Scarab God against decks playing one, but also gives you some really nice utility against Temur and Sultai throughout the game.
A very solid card with great utility and some natural synergy in our list. The main reason I have yet to add this is to avoid Fatal Push in game ones and because it has felt like the wrong answer to have against Temur and other Energy decks, even if it is strong against Red. This card is always very close to sneaking into the list, so if you have some free time, I encourage you to give this one a shot!