GPT Report and U/W Control Primer – By Rob Bull


Hey guys, for those who do not know me my name is Robert Bull (MonsterFromLost on MTGO). I have been playing competitive magic in the Maritimes for close to twelve years now. Over the last few years I have been playing control decks any chance I get. It should be no surprise for the modern GTP Boston last weekend I choose to play a control deck. The deck I have been playing for the last few months is UW control, which I took to a second place finish. For reference, this is the seventy five I played.

U/W Control

Lands(25):

4 Tectonic Edge
4 Island
2 Plains
1 Calciform Pools
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Misty Rainforest
3 Seachrome Coast
1 Mystic Gate
1 Glacial Fortress
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Celestial Colonnade

Spells (29):

4 Path to Exile
3 Serum Visions
4 Spell Snare
4 Mana Leak
2 Detention Sphere
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Cryptic Command
3 Supreme Verdict
2 Gideon Jura
1 Sphinx’s Revelation

Creatures(6):

3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Restoration Angel

Sideboard(15)
2 Stony Silence
2 Meddling Mage
2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Aven Mindscensor
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Rest in Peace
1 Celestial Purge
1 Spellskite
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Timely Reinforcements

I am very happy with the deck for the most part. The reasons why I choose to play this deck over more conventional control decks in modern like UWR or Grixis is I feel it plays better under a Blood Mood, Tectonic Edge is a better card in a two color deck, and wrath effects are at such a low, people do not expect you to be playing so many and such make mistakes that cost them games. Sure you do not end up with the reach Lighting Bolt and Helix gives you, but that is not the style of deck I enjoy playing.

I will go over a few of the cards I decided to play. The night before the tournament I was on twenty four lands. The games I was loosing where the ones where I missed lands turn after turn, so adding a land was an easy decision. Four Celestial Colonnade as it’s the best win condition in the deck. The deck functions very well without fetch lands. The reason I added them into the deck is I found myself scrying with Serum Visions and bottoming very powerful cards like Cryptic Commands, Supreme Verdicts and Gideons during the early game and wanted a way to shuffle them back in to draw later. I feel like two to three is the correct number. I played three Seachrome Coasts because I never wanted to draw the fourth. I had toyed around with two Mystic Gates but with four Tectonic Edges you would end up with draws that had two gates and an edge and end up not playing magic. I replaced the second Mystic Gate with a Glacial Fortress and it has been working well for me. The reason I do not play more then two Hallowed Fountain is one of the draws to the deck is not taking damage from your mana like other decks in the format. The fechland into shock lands really add up over the course of a game, keeping the shock and fechlands to a minimum will help keep your life total high. The four Island and two Plains is another great option for the deck. Playing this many basic lets you actually play a game under Blood Moon which is a card you will face more then once even at smaller tournaments. The next time I play this deck I will be cutting one fetchland for a third Plains. It is very important that you can cast your Detention Sphere under a Blood Moon in the twin match up. Finally, Calciform Pools is my favorite land in the deck. The first time you cast Sphinx’s Revelation for four cards with only five lands out you will be on board.

If you have not played UWx control in standard over the last two years then maybe you do not know how powerful Sphinx’s Revelation is. The card gets a little worse in a format with Mana Leak but still does what you want it to do most of the time. Just casting it at the end of turn for two or three cards can win you the game. Casting it on your opponents end step just to run into a counterspell to resolve a threat on your turn is one of its best uses. When you can store mana with Calciform Pools the card gets out of control.

Gideon Jura is a great card, not only is it a win condition but also doubles as protection against creatures. It causes players to over commit to the board into your Supreme Verdicts. Splinter Twin can not kill you with a Gideon out. At the end of the game when you’re looking for a card to close out the game it becomes a 6/6. This card is very good when you’re ahead or behind on board. This is what you look for in a card when playing control.

Elspeth is also a card that fits this role. The thing about Elspeth is that she just does not die. For this reason, I plan to cut one and add the fouth wrath effect. I am thinking it might be a Wrath of God as Thrun, the Last Troll seems to be a little more popular for main decks then it was a few months ago. I would not touch the three Supreme Verdict. It is very important to have your wrath effect when you need it not be counterable. When playing control, one of the easiest ways to lose a game is to let a planeswalker sit on the board and get out of control. This is why I really like playing Vendilion Clique and Restoration Angel. They come down out of nowhere and can pressure a planeswalker. The angel also lets you rebuy spell with Snapcaster Mages, counters removal spells, and resets Vendilion Clique. If you ambush a creature with it game one your opponent will play around you having a restoration angel in your hand every time you hold up four mana.

Snapcaster Mage is a very good card in this deck. One of the biggest mistake you can make is not knowing when you just cast a turn two Ambush Viper. Sometimes you just need a 2/1, other times it is a doomblade. The more you play with the deck you will understand when to just run it out there and when to wait for value.

One card I do not like as much in the deck is Serum Visions. Having said that, too many games of modern come down to flooding. Cards like Tectonic Edge and Celestial Colonnade help out in this department. Also playing fewer lands can help. Serum Vision allows you to play twenty five lands and still filter lands when you do not need them. You also need a card like this to go with your Snapcaster Mages. I feel this is the best option. I have tried Shadow of Doubt, and Think Twice but two mana is to much mana for a cantrip in this deck.

Cryptic Command is such a good card when you can cast it. Playing two colors, you can reliably cast Cryptic Command. Playing less then four is a mistake. It is also a card I side out when playing against Blood Moon.

Path to Exile does a lot for the deck. Being one mana removal that you can Snapcaster back is not the only use. Do not be afraid to Path your own guys to fix your mana.

I have seen people playing 3 Mana Leaks and a Remand. I am not going to say this is wrong because anytime you can have diversity in your spells for Snapcaster Mage it is always a good thing. In this case, I feel Mana Leak is superior to Remand as the tempo advantage gained from Remand is not something you are looking for in this deck. I feel like four Mana Leak is where you want to be.

Spell Snare is a card that does a lot for the deck. When on the draw, this card single handedly keeps you in some games like no other card. Being able to not Path a Dark Confidant on sight is very important, having a Snare in your opener on the draw is to important not to play four. The card if very good in control mirrors for countering Snapcaster Mage, Remands, Negate and tons more. In aggro matches it takes away some of the sting of being on the draw and lets you catch up to Mana Leaks. Against some decks, seeing two Spell Snares will win you the game.

Detention Sphere is a card I had over looked when I first started playing this deck. It took Phil Leger stomping me in the UW mirror with plainswalkers and his own spheres to get me on board. The card is very bad against Abrupt Decay and should be sided out in those match ups.

Moving on to the sideboard, Stony Silence is a must have. In the match ups you bring it in against it can win the game itself. Every other week I play in a modern FNM. I usually play against Shelly McLean playing iron works or eggs. She always beats me game one, but games two and three go in my favor because of Stony Silence. Mulliganing aggressively in these match ups to Stony Silence, then hold counter magic for their answers to it while hitting with a Snapcaster Mage will often win it for you. An early Stony Silence in the affinity match up can slow them down enough for you to take control of the game. It is also very good in the tron mach up. You can even bring it in for the pod decks ( I rarely do). If I could find room for a third Stony Silence I would but I have no idea what I would want to cut for it.

Meddling Mage is a great card when you know what you are doing with it. The thing I like about Meddling Mage is that it is a piece of disruption while producing a clock. When playing Meddling Mage it is just as important to know what your opponent is going to be siding in as it is to know what their game plan is. Be mindful of the cards that will be brought in against your deck that could make Meddling Mage worse. Keep in mind that you can also bounce a permanent with Cryptic Command and then land a Meddling Mage naming the bounced card.

Ethersworn Cannonist is a good card in the storm match up but not something you want really in any other match up. Dedicating two cards to one match up seems like a mistake to me and I would change that to one.

Aven Mindscensor is such a good card in more then one match up. Bring this card in for the pod decks. Also bring this in against opponents who will not respect it. The main reason to have Aven Mindscensor in the side board is for Scapeshift. If Scapeshift is not your worst match up it is close to it. You need all the help you can get.

Crucible of Worlds is a spicy card I like to play with when I play so many Tectonic Edges. Bring this in against any deck that will make the games go long and any deck running tron lands.

The one of Rest in Peace may be a useless slot. By that I mean running one graveyard hate card is probably not worth your time. Personally I like to have an out to draw out to in as many match ups as I can. To be honest cutting it or adding a few more hate cards is more than likely where you want to be. If your going to cut it then add another Spellskite. That card can single handedly win you a game against twin and boggles. You can also bring it in when you need a 0/4.

The Baneslayer Angel spot can be a Wurmcoil Engine or a Batterskull depending on what you want out of that slot. Baneslayer is good against anything with a lot of ground creatures. Bring this in for the aggressive match ups where you need the lifelink. It is also very good at pressuring a planeswalker when you need the lifegain as well to stay in the game. Batterskull is better in the control match ups when you want a reoccurring threat. Wurmcoil Engine is better for decks that you want to clog up the ground and plan on it being killed.

Timely Reinforcements is another card to bring in for the aggressive match ups that can be flashed back with Snapcaster Mage and also buys you time to gain control.

Celestial Purge is very good against Jund or anything running Liliana of the Veil.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, is an interesting card. I like to bring it in for the control match up and the twin match up. When you want to resolve a spell on your main phase casting teferi at their end step will make sure it resolves or eats a counter. Creature removal will not work as it will be in play on their end step. Having Teferi is another reason I felt comfortable only running one Rest in Peace as it shuts down the Living End combo.

ONTO THE EVENT!

The GPT went well for me. My first round opponent was Steve McGrath playing pod. He beat me game one after I went without lands for turn after turn. Games two and three went similar to each other, I landed an Aven Mindscensor and removed his creatures until I was able to take control of the game. Both games I was able to cast a big Sphinx’s Revelation to stay in the lead.

Round two, I was matched up against someone I drove down with, Shelly McLean, playing eggs. Like I said earlier, I have played this match up a few times against her. In game one, she flooded to death and I was able to take game one. I was feeling very good about this as Stony Silence is such a beating for her. During side boarding, I decided to keep in a few Path to Exile as we were talking the week before about her maybe siding into some creatures like Wurmcoil Engine to beat Stony Silence. I ended up not needing the path as I had counterspells in game two for everything that mattered and I ended the game by attacking with Snapcaster Mage.

Round three, I met another friend Mike Sheng playing next level red. These games were close and came down to me Tectonic Edging a few of his lands to keep him in Mana Leak range. One of the turning points in the game was when he Vendilion Cliqued my Surpreme Verdict out of my hand, I had two draws and peeled the Mana Leak for his Geist of Saint Traft that he jammed thinking I had only one unknown card because I mistakenly showed him a Tectonic Edge.

Round four, I was paired against Doug Mugire playing UR twin. Game one went well for me. I was able to counter/path every threat he had and won with a Vendilion Clique. Game two, I made a miss play that cost me the game. On his turn three, he thought a long time on playing a spell. My thought was he must have a Blood Moon. I have a basic island, a Colonade, and a Glacial Fortress in play with a second Island in my hand. He decides not to cast anything and at the end of turn, I try to resolve my Vendilion Clique. He Remands it which all but confirms to me that he has a Blood Moon. I decide to bluff a counterspell. He jams it anyways and I lose due to not having any white mana. Had I thought about why he would not just jam it on turn three instead of waiting as I am not likely to play anything on my turn, I should have come to the conclusion that he had a one mana counterspell. Had I played my Clique on my turn with his mana tapped I feel it could have gone differently. Game three, I died to Blood Moon again not having white. These games are what have led me to add another Plains to the deck.

Round five, I am paired against another friend who I drove down with Matt Williams playing Affinity. Matt being a good friend of mine I have played against him a lot. Two things I know about him are: One) He is very good at playing aggressive strategies like Affinity and; Two) He keeps very greedy hands. The latter came game one as I have a Gideon in play before he plays a second land. Game two, we had an actual game where I had to wrath his board twice to stay in it. Turn two Stony Silence really slows Affinity down. At some point after I reminded him that his Darksteel Citadel no longer tapped for mana he put it under a Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum. At this point I Path to Exile one of his guys and he fetches out an Island. His lands are Island, Glimmervoid and Darksteel Citadel which he no longer remembers is in play. His next draw is a Blinkmoth Nexus. He scans the board and plays it into my Tectonic Edge thinking he only has three lands. Next turn, he activates it thinking to end the game in a few attacks with his land. When I Tectonic Edge his land he realized his error in getting the Island off the path and I am able to end the game a few turns later with a Gideon and Colonnade.

Round five is an ID into top eight. 😀

TOP 8!

My first round opponent in the top eight is Nicolas Bourque playing Merfolk. This is not a good match up but is winnable. Their Cavern of Souls and Aether Vials go a long way at blanking your counter magic. Game one, I find myself with five lands, an Elspeth with two of her tokens and I’m at seven life facing down a pair of Master of the Pearled Trident. So I have two choices, I can take the hit and go to one hoping to rip a wrath effect, or can double Tectonic Edge my two Hallowed Fountains turning off his islandwalk and put me to one Plains so I can block his merfolks, preserving my life total. I decide to Tectonic Edge myself and then double block. His last card ended up being Vapor Snag. I lost game one no matter the choice. Game two I was able to get control of the game and resolve a big Sphinx’s Revelation after resolving a Teferi and won the game. Game three I was able to wrath him a few times and won.

Top four was Mike Sheng playing Matt Williams and I was paired against Brad Doucette. Brad deciding he was not going to the GP, gave me the win after the four of us decided to split the money and play for the byes. Mike was able to beat Mat which put Mike and I together in the finals. After thinking about whether or not I was going to be able to go to the GP, I was not sure I could make it. Rather then taking the chance if I could go or not I gave it to my friend who could 100% go. All in all I had a good tournament and I would play this deck again and plan too. I hope everyone enjoyed and this helped some of you.

This is an up to date list of what I would play tomorrow if I had another tournament to play in.

U/W Control

Lands (25):

4 Tectonic Edge
4 Island
3 Plains
1 Calciform Pools
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Misty Rainforest
3 Seachrome Coast
1 Mystic Gate
1 Glacial Fortress
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Celestial Colonnade

Spells (29):

4 Path to Exile
3 Serum Visions
4 Spell Snare
4 Mana Leak
2 Detention Sphere
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Cryptic Command
1 Wrath of God
3 Supreme Verdict
2 Gideon Jura
1 Sphinx’s Revelation

Creatures (6):

2 Vendilion Clique
1 Restoration Angel
3 Snapcaster Mage

Sideboard(15)

2 Stony Silence
1 Wipeaway.
2 Meddling Mage
1 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Aven Mindscensor
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Rest in Peace
1 Celestial Purge
1 Spellskite
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Timely Reinforcements

Thanks for reading!

This article has been submitted by Robert Bull.

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