This past Sunday I took UW Control to a Modern event. This is a deck I quickly fell in love with when I saw it did well at an SCG Open a couple of weeks ago. The deck has a strong game plan against any creature based deck or midrange style deck, as well as countermagic to help against combo decks. It’s definitely not the easiest deck to pilot, but if you love pure control decks like I do then this is the deck for you.
Here is the list that I registered for the event. I’ll have updates to the list near the end of the article below.
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
2 Jace Beleren
1 Gideon Jura
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Ancestral Vision
4 Path to Exile
2 Spell Snare
3 Mana Leak
1 Logic Knot
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Detention Sphere
1 Crucible of Worlds
3 Cryptic Command
2 Supreme Verdict
1 Wrath of God
4 Flooded Strand
1 Polluted Delta
4 Celestial Colonnade
2 Hallowed Fountain
2 Glacial Fortress
1 Mystic Gate
4 Ghost Quarter
1 Celestial Purge
1 Blessed Alliance
1 Rest in Peace
1 Stony Silence
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Engineered Explosives
While this deck is lacking in win-conditions, it makes up for it with the sheer power of efficient removal, countermagic, and card advantage. The plan is to use the six 1-mana removal spells along with snares, leaks, and wrath effects to keep us alive long enough for Ancestral Vision to come off suspend. Drawing so many cards at once and abusing planeswalker value is how we pull ahead of any opponent in card advantage. Once we’ve established complete control, we can close out the game with Gideon, Elspeth, or the colonnades. Let’s talk tournament matches!
Round 1 vs. Temur Kiki-Jiki Combo [Record: 0-0]
This was an interesting match as I wasn’t entirely sure what my opponent was up to for the first several turns of game 1. At first I assumed Scapeshift combo, as his fetches and shocklands made it look like this kind of deck, but then a turn 6 Bounding Krasis finally told me what was up. He also cast a Pestermite, Deceiver Exarch, Tarmogoyf, Traverse the Ulvenwald throughout the course of the game, but a few Path to Exiles and Cryptics later I established control. At this point I was able to resolve a Gideon Jura to close out the game.
Sideboard plan: +1 Rest in Peace, +2 Dispel. -1 Condemn, -1 Crucible of Worlds, -1 Wrath of God.
Going into game 2 my plan was keep any hand with Path to Exile or Ancestral Vision, as those can pull me ahead and protect against Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker infinite creature combo. Rest in Peace is a double-edged sword here, as it turns off my Snapcasters but turns off the opponent’s goyfs and traverses; and later found out his snapcaster mages as well. The game began with me being able to resolve a quick Jace Beleren which quickly took over the game. I was able to keep the same Jace in play for about 10-12 turns, while holding up countermagic and paths. Eventually a counter war broke out, but I had drawn too many cards at this point and overwhelmed my opponent’s resources.
Total # of my lands destroyed: 0
Round 2 vs. Living End [Record 1-0]
What’s up with the “lands destroyed” counter? Well, starting this round, my lands were just not meant to stay in play or be useful to me. I figured I’d keep a count because it was ridiculous how many different decks in Modern can attack the opposing player’s manabase.
Living End feels like a matchup that should be easy but in reality is quite hard. The onslaught of Fulminator Mages and Beast Withins forced me to either lose lands or spend countermagic. Typically a control deck like mine can plan to counter the first Living End or wrath away the creatures after it resolves, however this plan quickly falls apart to land destruction. Game 1 played out in this manner, where I had good answers but not enough to keep up with double Fulminator, double Beasts Within.
Sideboard plan: +1 Rest in Peace, +2 Dispel, +2 Surgical Extraction. -2 Spell Snare, -1 Timely Reinforcements, -1 Cryptic Command, -1 Mana Leak.
Game 2 played out much nicer. I was expecting the opponent to bring in Ricochet Trap (which he did), so that’s why I brought in Dispels; that and to answer Beast Withins. The opponent cycled a few cards before going for a cascade effect. I had previously seen his hand with a clique, so I knew nothing else what threatening at this time. I countered the Living End then beat down with the clique for game, while answering any non-creature threat he presented. Game 3 was a bit harder as he found his Fulminator Mages. I lost a few lands but he never found a cascade effect fast enough to apply too much pressure. Ancestral Vision comes off suspend, gives me a full grip, and I eventually close out the game with clique again.
Total # of my lands destroyed: 6
Round 3 vs. GW Hatebears [Record 2-0]
I don’t exactly remember how the first game played out, except that I had plenty of Path to Exiles and snaps to buy time. I got Tectonic Edged a few times, as well as Aven Mindcensor to eat one of my fetch lands. Eventually I pulled through.
Sideboard plan: +1 Blessed Alliance, +1 Engineered Explosives, +1 Timely Reinforcements. -2 Mana Leak, -1 Cryptic Command
Game 2 my opponent started with an Aether Vial, quickly followed by a Voice of Resurgence, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, two Wilt-Leaf Liege, and a final Thalia to finish me. I didn’t find more than one path, which answered the voice, and by the time I wrathed away his board I was at too low of a life total. The follow-up Thalia did me in. The last game was much more interesting. I did nothing for the first 2 turns while my opponent put two Noble Hierarchs into play. I destroyed both with a turn 3 EE. A few tect edges attempted to slow me down by killing off my colonnades, but that wasn’t enough as a Jace was able to pull me ahead on cards. A few paths, snaps, and one Elspeth, Sun’s Champion later the game was over.
Total # of my lands destroyed: 11
Round 4 vs. Naya Zoo [Record 3-0]
I was happy to see an aggro deck finally as my UW Control deck felt like it had a favorable matchup here. My opponent lead off with some critters such as Wild Nacatl, Kird Ape, and Flinthoof Boar but those quickly ate the dust as I had a grip full of removal spells. Snapcaster was able to do double-duty here by buying back a path and blocking a Goblin Guide.
Sideboard plan: +1 Celestial Purge, +1 Blessed Alliance, +1 Timely Reinforcements, +1 Engineered Explosives. -1 Mana Leak, -1 Negate, -1 Crucible of Worlds, -1 Cryptic Command.
My plan in sideboarding here was to trade out some of my soft removal for hard removal and life gain. My starting hand for game 2 had some lands, spells, and an Engineered Explosives. I was happy to see EE on the draw as I can play it turn 1 for 1 and threaten to crack it turn 2 to blow up multiple 1-drop creatures from my opponent. To my surprise, my opponent played turn 1 Wooded Foothills, pass, turn 2 Windswept Heath, pass. He didn’t play anything turn 1 or 2! What is going on? Well I found out shortly going into his turn 3, as he fetched a basic Plains, played a basic Forest, then cast Blood Moon. Luckily I had Logic Knot available to prevent that from landing. A few turns later creatures develop and I wrath them away. After I tap out for wrath, my opponent resolves Choke. Now there’s a card I did not see coming. Four of my five lands were now useless, as I had fetched 2 Hallowed Fountains and 2 Islands. I eventually lost as I couldn’t find enough lands to beat his followup creatures. Game 3 played out much easier, as he had an aggressive start but I had plenty of removal spells. He eventually landed a Blood Moon, which I chose not to counter. I played a Gideon on the following turn and picked off his remaining creatures 1-by-1.
Total # of my lands destroyed: 15
Round 5 vs. Jund [Record 4-0]
I got paired against one of my friends for this match. We both knew what each other was on, and decided to just intentional draw so we could go get something to eat.
Round 6 vs. Merfolk [Record 4-0-1]
Same story here but without the lunch break. We both ID into the top 8.
Round 7 (top-8) vs. Evo/Darwin Chord [Record 4-0-2]
I had played this same player the week before at FNM. We both knew each others decks well and the gameplan behind each. There was quite a bit of casual banter during the games, which I really enjoyed as a way to relieve stress and enjoy playing fun games of Magic the Gathering. Game 1 I have to mulligan to 5 and keep a sketchy Island, Vision, Vision, Clique, Path hand. I knew his deck wasn’t that fast so maybe this wasn’t entirely too risky. I missed my second land drop, suspending my 2nd Vision. Turn 3 I was able to find white mana to kill off his Voice of Resurgence. Eventually my visions came off suspend and pulled me far ahead on cards. I cleaned up the board with a wrath, held onto a path and cryptic, then resolved a Crucible of Worlds. A few more turns of clearing out my opponents threats I was in a position to start applying pressure. Unfortunately I didn’t have a way to threaten damage, as my clique was pathed and I did not have a colonnade or planeswalker in play. Then I saw Crucible and Ghost Quarter on my side of the board. Slow and steady I targeted all of my opponent’s lands that could produce white mana, getting rid of them all. I continued blowing up all of the green sources as well, followed by the remainder of his lands. He played a total of 2-3 creatures at this point but didn’t draw anything I could handle. With all of his lands gone, we moved onto game 2.
Sideboard plan: +1 Blessed Alliance, +1 Glen Elendra Archmage. -1 Mana Leak, -1 Crucible of Worlds.
I brought in the Blessed Alliance as a safe measure against a potential Thrun, the Last Troll. Game 2 started out similar but with me having a full grip of cards this time. Opponent landed a t2 Voice, which resolved. I didn’t have a path for it this time, but did have a Visions ticking down. On his turn 3 he attacked with his Voice, then cast Eldritch Evolution saccing it for a Pia and Kiran Nalaar. That put his board state on 1 pia kiran, 2 thopters, and a voice token. I used a Detention Sphere to pick off the two thopters, because I had targeted removal to handle his voice token. He takes his turn, attacks, then casts another evolution to sac his Pia Kiran for a Woodland Bellower. Oh man that’s a spicy one. He used it to fetch out Eternal Witness, which bought back Voice. I missed my fourth land drop with wrath in hand which was bad given how much pressure was coming my way. Opponent attacks, I Blessed Alliance to mitigate some damage, and take 9 damage going down to 10 life. He finishes his turn by playing Voice. I take my turn to find a fourth land, but no double-white mana to cast wrath. I play Jace, tick down, and path his bellower. This drops me down low but I was able to wrath away the board after surviving the attack. A bit more back-and-forth before I found another Jace to put me far ahead on cards and take over the game.
Total # of my lands destroyed: 15
Total # of my opponent’s lands destroyed: All of them!
Round 8 (top-4) vs. Jund [Record 5-0-2]
Ah, Jund. This is one of my least favorite matchups personally. I don’t like the idea of my hand getting stripped away of good cards while efficient threats and removal come down to close out games. Playing against Jund always feels like a toss up to me, as both players enter a state where they are relying on top-decks to pull them through. Jund obviously is built to hand that well with Bob and Lily, but I wasn’t so sure on my UW Control deck being able to pull through if I couldn’t find an Ancestral Vision fast enough.
Game 1 I keep a hand without Visions, but it has double leak, path, condemn, and 3 lands. My opponent leads with Inquisition of Kozilek followed by Thoughtseize to take both of my Mana Leaks away. At this point I’m worried about a Liliana of the Veil coming down and destroying my chances of winning, so I no longer have countermagic in my hand and my outs to her once she’s in play are slim. Luckily my opponent misses his third land drop and simply plays a Dark Confidant which I still have to Path to Exile. This puts him on Blood Crypt, Forest, and now Swamp in play. I play my fourth land, a 2nd Ghost Quarter, and think about the situation I mentioned above where a Lily can take over the game. I decide it’s worth using both Ghost Quarters to take out both black sources of mana my opponent has, cause most Jund player’s play only 2 basic Swamps. I take this line because I’ll still have two lands in play, and have access to two more (my last two draws). Opponent finds his 2nd swamp with the first GQ, then nothing with the second. Phew, he’s down to just a Forest and Swamp. Safe from Lily, my opponent plays Dark Confidant #2 which I don’t have an immediate answer for. Eventually the bob dies, I land a Jace, and tick it up to avoid bolt. Opponent lands a Lily which is a lot less threatening now that I have a Jace in play. A few back and forth turns go by, but I manage to land an unanswered Gideon which eventually attacks in for the game before Lily can do any damage.
Sideboard plan: +1 Celestial Purge, +1 Blessed Alliance. -1 Condemn, -1 Mana Leak.
Again, alliance coming in for fear of Thrun, as that card is a pain to deal with. I don’t remember too much about this game except for the beginning. I path his bob on turn 2 then I tap out for a Jace Beleren on t3. Opponent follows up with a Thoughtseize, taking my only Elspeth in the deck, then Crumble to Dusts the Ghost Quarter I have in play. I didn’t have a colonnade for him to hit, so this seemed fine… especially since I had another GQ in my hand. Now with 2 lands to his 5, this became an uphill battle. He resolved a Thrun the following turn. I luckily drew my only Blessed Alliance just in time for his first thrun attack and got rid of the pesky troll right away. A few more draws with Jace later I was about to stabilize off of a couple of Ancestral Visions to take over the game.
Total # of my lands destroyed: 19 (2 forced GQ activations, 2 stripped away from Crucible)
Round 9 (Finals) vs. Merfolk [Record 6-0-2]<
Merfolk is a tricky matchup. Sometimes it’s easy because we cast a few Path to Exiles into an uncounterable Supreme Verdict. other times all of our white sources turn into Islands and our few removal spells get countered by their sideboard countermagic. Then there’s dealing with Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls, but incredibly annoying cards to deal with from a control player’s perspective.
Game 1 was mostly uneventful. I had access to two Paths, a Condemn, a Snapcaster, and a Verdict all within the first few turns of the game. I also had three of my white producing lands turned into Islands by Spreading Seas and Seas Claim. However, the removal overwhelmed my opponent and we moved onto game 2.
Sideboard plan: +1 Blessed Alliance, +1 Stony Silence, +1 Dismember, +1 Engineered Explosives. -2 Mana Leak, -1 Negate, -1 Crucible of Worlds.
Game 2 I made the mistake of keeping on a really poor mulligan to 6, four lands, leak, and logic knot. I thought this hand was fine because I had access to multiple white sources which I needed for wrath, and some early countermagic to hold off on threats. The hand because utterly terrible when my opponent lead with turn 1 Relic of Progenitus, turn 2 Aether Vial, and turn 3 Cavern of Souls naming Merfolk. I drew lands, timely, and a clique before finally dying to the uncounterable sea creatures.
Game 3 went much better. I don’t remember too much except I had access to a turn 2 Stony Silence, which turned off all of his vials and relics. Opponent went for a Spreading Seas on my Glacial Fortress, but I Ghost Quartered it away in response for a Plains so he wouldn’t draw a card of the aura spell. I was able to deal with the early threats well, but missed my fourth land drop. My opponent kept a threat-lite hand which let me draw out of my mana-screw without pressure. Eventually I landed an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion at 9 life and made some Soldier tokens. My opponent followed up with a Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and Merrow Reejerey. At this point I was out of card draw effects with only a single Condemn in hand as removal. This wasn’t enough to get rid of the flying Kira which was attacking my face the next turn. I draw Cryptic Command on the following turn, make tokens (Elspeth at 6 loyalty), and pass. My opponent takes his turn and leads with a pre-combat, 5-mana Silvergill Adept. I think really hard on what to do with my cryptic here, and how to get into a position where I can win with Elspeth in a few turns. I can’t let Kira attack her down, which would buy my opponent time to draw a lord to give all his creatures Islandwalk and finish me off. I finally decide to choose “Counter target spell” and “Return target permanent to it’s owner’s hand” choosing Kira. Then immediately, within two seconds of realizing what modes I choose and the mistake I made (the entire cryptic spell would get counter because of Kira’s triggered ability), I said “wait” indicating I wanted to take it back and re-evaluate my decision to cast cryptic. Opponent called a judge on this and they ruled, correctly, that I shouldn’t be able to take it back since I had clearly declared targets. The Merfolk resolved, opponent drew his card, and a moment later attacked with Kira. With the bluff set perfectly, I was able to Condemn the Kira, getting rid of his flier for good! Soon after my Elspeth hit 7 loyalty, opponent couldn’t find an out, and died to her ultimate the following turn.
Total # of my lands destroyed: 24
Overall the deck performed spectacularly. I was very pleased with the current make-up of the deck, the options it presented to me, and the feeling of complete control I was about to get in Modern. The deck reminded me of another one of my favorite decks in Modern, Lantern Control.
Changes I would like to try for the deck is to cut the Crucible of Worlds for a Blessed Alliance in the maindeck. That card served me well the whole day. Crucible felt so-so in its performance. I don’t think it’s completely necessary, but maybe I’m wrong. I would also like access to another threat/finisher card in the sideboard over the Spellskite, as a way to close out games quicker. For control matchups it’s nice to have multiple threats, and a variety at that.
Thanks for taking the time to read my tournament write-up. Feel free to shoot me any questions you have over on Twitter.