Control Magic – Constructing UB Control for Standard

As I get ready to play in the upcoming Star City Games Open here in Phoenix, I had to make a decision on what deck I was going to play for Standard. I started first with my friends: what decks they had and what cards they had. Most of them were just aggro decks with little to no control elements in them. Other than a few control-style cards in the sideboard, none of them really struck my fancy. Then I found that a good friend of mine had a play set of Drowned Catacombs, some Think Twice, Forbidden Alchemy and some other cards needed for UB Control. All I needed to do was to add my Snapcaster Mages and pick up a few other cards like Darkslick Shores.

Being that I love to play control and that the deck was nearly all there, I decided that UB Control was what I was going to play. I went online to look as some list to make sure my numbers for certain cards were correct, but what I found was that Blue Black control was just as diverse as the current Standard format itself. So instead of giving you a single list of what a UB Control deck would look like, instead I am going to cover the various cards in the deck and where they are strong. Let’s start with the core of a UB Control deck and what that looks like.

  • 4 Mana Leak – This is a really solid counterspell in the current format. Many players want to play out strong spells in the early turns of the game, so Mana Leak feels like a hard counter. It is also great at punishing players that try to tap out early for powerful spells like Titans.
  • 2-3 Dissipate – These are solid back up counterspells in the list. They are really here mostly to deal with the many spells with flashback in the current format—we don’t want to find ourselves 2-for-1ing a spell that we Mana Leaked a couple turns before.
  • 1-3 Doom Blade / Go for the Throat – Some mix of these two is what I would really recommend. The format shifts so much from week to week whether creatures like Wurmcoil or Titans are better, and being able to at least have an answer one way or the other just seems like the right choice.
  • 1-3 Tragic Slip – This card is one of the best ways to beat a lot of decks turn one actions such as Delver of Secrets, Doomed Traveler and Birds of Paradise, to name a few. Beating these early cards is key as UB Control is really a deck that seeks to move in to the late game and take over from there. In the later parts of the game can easily dispatch a Titan from the field after a quick block from a Snapcaster Mage or a removal spell on another threat.
  • 1-3 Tribute to Hunger/ Liliana of the Veil – These two cards really are much of the same thing in that they both cost the same for a similar effect. The only difference is really whether or not we are able to take better advantage of the instant speed of the Tribute or if we’re able to protect Liliana for the repeatable use of her abilities.
  • Blue Sun’s Zenith – This card is usually a solid one-of. It is huge card draw but can also win games for you by making your opponent draw out the remaining cards in their library for the win—more on this strategy to come.
  • 3-4 Forbidden Alchemy – This card is absolutely amazing. It gives us great card selection and the ability for the deck to run so many one-ofs. Having flashback, it does the job for us more than just once.
  • 4 Think Twice – Yes, this card is a solid 4 in every list and if you’re thinking of cutting one you need to think twice. This card allows this deck to develop card advantage right from the beginning and with it having flashback, it’s easy to pitch away when it come up in our Forbidden Alchemy.
  • 2-3 Black Sun Zenith – This is a very strong sweeper for this deck that allows it to deal with many of the hexproof creatures in the current format and can quickly take care of a field of tokens.
  • 1-2 Curse of Death’s Hold – This card is very similar in function to Black Sun Zenith but works on a more permanent basis and can keep us from dying to a nasty Inkmoth Nexus.
  • 1-2 Ratchet Bombs – This too works similar to Black Sun, but gives the deck main board ways to deal with artifacts and enchantments, since blue and black pack very little ways to deal with these kinds of cards.
  • 2-3 Snapcaster Mage – I really don’t need to say much about this card. It’s here to re-buy value on many of the cards in the deck and at times, even makes for a nice little flashed in blocker. Rarely do I really ever find myself going for the win with this card.

Now that we have covered the main portion of the deck, let’s talk about the many different win conditions this deck can offer. No one of these cards is really better than the others.

  • Wurmcoil Engine – This guy becomes better when the format starts to become filled with cards like Celestial Purge and spot removal and less effects like Oblivion Ring and Vapor Snag.
  • Grave Titan – He is just the opposite of Wurmcoil in that he is better with cards like Vapor Snag as he give us value in the 2/2 bodies he brings along with him.
  • Consecrated Sphinx – If ever there was a default option for a creature in this deck, my vote would be for this one. Untapping with this in play just feels more and more like Christmas each turn. The card draw that you can get off this can easily win you the game and every turn, you get more and more ways to protect it.
  • Jace, Memory Adept /Nephalia Drownyard – These cards really win about 80 % of the games as it does what a control deck wants to do at its best—deny resources. It does so by milling your opponent’s lands, creatures and sideboard cards where they do them no good—the graveyard. Yes, flashback spells can be cast from there, but that’s where the counter spells come in and we no longer have to worry about having to 2-for-1 any flashback spell. Now most of the time, Jace is out of the sideboard, but don’t be fooled. He’s definitely mainboard potential and some version of this deck run him there. Combine these cards with Blue Sun’s Zenith and you can really mill someone out very quickly, ideally leaving the Blue Sun to take care of the last 9 or 10 cards left after Jaceing them for 10 cards off the top.

There are a few other cards that see play in UB Control from time to time that I didn’t cover but I feel many of them are metagame calls and don’t see consistent enough play with in this deck to really feel they need to be covered. As for the deck itself when it comes to game play, I don’t feel the deck has really any bad matchups, but I also don’t feel as if any matchups are a push over either. The mirror matches really come down to tight technical plays and good understanding of what win conditions they may be on. I will say that more often than not, early Drownyards can get you ahead in the matchup but don’t guarantee victory. What version of this deck will I be running at the upcoming Star City Games Open, well, you’ll just have to play me to find out! Hoping to see you all there for both events.