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Thirst for Knowledge: UW Control in Modern

Written by Joshua Claytor on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Thirst for Knowledge:  UW Control in Modern

Joshua Claytor

Joshua is the current content manager of Legitmtg.com and Puremtgo.com.

Kathleen Donnelly wrote a piece on one of my favorite sites this week highlighting the three most common problems that she hears about in regards to Modern. Hipsters of the Coast is a great site and you should check it out sometime, but please wait until you are done here! I wanted to talk about that piece a bit before we jumped into the stream recap from last week, and offer my thoughts on it.

I am biased though, because Modern is my favorite format in all of Magic. I defend it whenever I can, and keep a keen eye towards the format in regards to how the metagame is shaping out. When this week’s banned and restricted list went out, I was not surprised with the lack of changes, as we saw over the summer, decks like Splinter Twin, Amulet and Grishoalbrand are scary, but have not warped the format enough or put up enough results to warrant action. Would it have been nice to see something from the decks removed from the format? Sure, why not? I enjoy shaking things up just as much as the next person, but only if that shake up is really needed. When Birthing Pod was banned, it was needed. In that same banned announcement we also lost Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, which were harmful spells. Second Sunrise was a good ban. Deathrite Shaman had to go to allow other archetypes to flourish (and allowed Golgari Grave-Troll to be unbanned when it was proven that the graveyard decks would not get out of control without the shaman.). You can make the case for Seething Song, and the Bloodbraid Elf banning to this day boggles my mind, because I feel that a format with combo decks that kill before turn four could be fine with a 2 for 1 in it. I guess the short of it is some people will say that WotC only cares about the format before and after the Pro Tour, and I disagree with that. We got a plethora of events and data over the summer with the Modern Festival and something like thirty Modern Grand Prix events (it was 3 in a row if I recall correctly.). They get a ton of data from MTGO. I think when it came to the banned list not doing anything was a fine move, but I think they could have removed Bloodbraid Elf from the list. It’s been almost two years since it was banned! Not banning something does not mean that they only care about the format when the Pro Tour comes around, it could just mean that they felt there was nothing to ban.

Anyways I want to talk about Kathleen’s article a little bit, so let’s get down to the points.

1. Price.

Yes there is a price gap in Modern. Yes it has tried to be addressed with the two Modern Masters printings and reprints of stuff like the Khans fetchlands and Thoughtseize. That is not enough. I firmly believe though that Wizards is looking into unique ways to manage this. I believe that the idea is going to come from Expeditions. Well Expedition like cards. This subset in Return to Zendikar has done a lot of things, it’s put more copies of cards into circulation, and it’s gotten people excited about cracking packs. While the idea of a fourth rarity scares some people, I could see where Modern (and maybe Legacy) staples get this rarity reprint in an effort to continue strong sales and cracked packs. In the next block would people be excited if you could get special versions of Tarmogoyf, Liliana of the Veil, or Jace, the Mind Sculptor? I would bet that they would!

Would this new rarity fix everything?

Of course not, but it would be a step in the right direction, and would allow WotC to continue to make Modern Masters products and use supplemental things like Commander and Duel Decks to get lower tier cards into circulation.

The prize does suck, and I know that. There is no beating around the bush. Tarmogoyf decks in the format (Jund and Junk) start off at 1700 dollars, and Splinter Twin decks start off at 1200 (Grixis Twin is around that much, UR is 1400). Those are huge numbers! But if you’re building one of those decks, you also have a really good starting point for a Legacy deck. What’s another thousand dollars in the grand scheme of things right?

I feel like when it comes to non rotating formats, the higher upfront cost is ok, because it’s not like Standard where there is a constant drain on your financial resources. You buy what you want and get long term entertainment out of it.

2. Heavy Banned List.

I touched on the banned list above, and it would have fit really well down here, so I am only going to address one thing from the article here. Cloudpost. Cloudpost is more of an issue than tron because of it’s redundancy. You’re just playing the eight post lands, but these decks would be running Vesuva as well. The amount of mana that you could quickly generate would be too harmful I think. Yes on turn three with tron you can have seven mana and cast a Karn Liberated or a Wurmcoil Engine. Yes on turn three with Cloudposts you only have access to six mana, (technically seven if your third land is a Glimmerpost) it’s past turn three where this begins to be a problem. On turn four you could have access to nine mana, and we’re reaching stuff like Sundering Titan, or with an Eye of Ugin in play (as the fourth land of the turn) hardcasting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, Desolation Twin, or Void Winnower. The next turn we’re dealing with stuff like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Blightsteel Colossus. In the Modern format a turn five Emrakul may be not be frightening , but this would be too easy to do. At least when Krark-Clan Ironworks casts a quick Emrakul you had to work for it!

Cloudpost seems like an innocent card, but the amount of mana that it produces is more than tron nut draws, and they are easier to put together than tron because it’s only two lands instead of three.

I hope that made sense. In my brain it did.

3. The Lack of a Hard Counter.

Modern has a hard counter. Since it is a recent non rotating format what it does not have is a hard two mana counter. Would Counterspell make the format better? Probably not. Would Force of Will make the combo decks play a bit more honestly? Of course it would, but the formats where Counterspell and Force of Will are legal in are so much different than Modern.

Cryptic Command is a fair hard counter in the format. Remand, Spell Snare and Spell Pierce are also fair counters. Dissolve and Dissipate could see play as well. In this non rotating format we kinda got hit with the after effects of tapping two blue and saying no to anything getting moved out of the game. It’s just not fun. It’s the same reason we do not see three mana land destruction anymore, players want to cast their spells and actually play Magic.

The assertion that there is no true control deck may be a bit more accurate. I believe the deck that I present today would be a true control deck in the format, and the Sun Titan decks that have been popping up I feel are true control decks. These decks however, do not have a large amount of metagame share in the format.

Why would you want to cast Cryptic Command when you could just cast Splinter Twin and end the game on the spot? Why Remand when you could cast Liliana of the Veil? I think what I am trying to say is why would you want to play fair Magic when you could get by playing unfair Magic? There is just in my opinion too many reasons to not play Control. Combo decks are strong, and I can see the need for a cheaper hard counter, but what if the control decks in the format were not blue based?

It may sound dumb to say this, because at its core it’s a big mana deck, but Tron may be the best control deck in the format! It has mass removal like a control deck would have. It tries to stay alive until it can take over the game with a hard to deal with threat like control would. It’s just not a traditional control deck (unless you are on U or Gifts Tron) because when one says control they think blue.

Another example of a non-traditional control deck would be Scapeshift. It again has mass removal to make sure it survives the early game. It backs that up with a combo finish. Scapeshift and Tron both make up quite a bit of the online format, and I feel as if they are hybrid control decks.

Kathleen did a wonderful job talking about the problems of Modern, and I hope that I was able to rebut those points as well as she presented them.

The following list is about as controlling as one can get! Let’s take a look at the deck and at the streams!


Part one:

Watch live video from LegitMTG on Twitch

Part two:

Watch live video from LegitMTG on Twitch

I actually do not remember a lot about this stream, mainly because later on in the week I got taken behind the woodshed whenever I played Gifts Tron. I think I went 3-2 with the deck, and I really did enjoy playing it! If you’re looking for a control option I would for sure check it out!

This article will go up on Wednesday, which after downtime, will see Modern Leagues come to MTGO. I will be back to streaming then, the first Modern League I play in we’ll be looking at the Sun Titan variant of this deck, and I for one can’t wait!

Also make sure to stop by Hipsters of the Coast, there really is some great stuff going on over there!

Thanks for stopping by!

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