Control mages have had a tough time lately. War of the Spark introduced the world to Teferi, Time Raveler, which is ironically the best and worst thing to happen to control. That set also gave us Nissa, Who Shakes the World, a planeswalker that takes over the game if allowed to live. Field of the Dead joined the party in Core Set 2020, and Oko, Thief of Crowns came along in Throne of Eldraine. And yes, of course, there was Veil of Summer. Even as several of those cards were banned from the format, Control struggled to compete. Ben Stark and Eric Froehlich played a classic-looking Control deck at MCVII in a field with almost no aggro decks, but the midrange decks still pushed the control decks around.
Blue/White Control | ELD Standard | Eric Froehlich 12/06/2019,
- Planeswalkers (4)
- 4 Teferi, Time Raveler
- Lands (27)
- 4 Plains
- 8 Island
- 2 Castle Ardenvale
- 2 Fabled Passage
- 3 Castle Vantress
- 4 Hallowed Fountain
- 4 Tranquil Cove
New sets bring new hope to archetypes that have been living in the Tier 3 basement of Standard, and Theros: Beyond Death appears to have a ton of new options for Control. Here are the cards I have my eye on.
A classic reprint, this card is flexible sorcery-speed removal that needs to stay on the battlefield to be effective. The things I did to deal with a Witch's Oven before THB were pretty embarrassing (bounce it with Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft, Negate it when they recast it happened a few times). This removal is flexible enough that it should replace Prison Realm easily, and it plays nice with cards that care about the enchantment type. This card doesn't play well with counterspells. Absorb lives in the three-slot, along with Teferi, Time Raveler, so you can't play too many cards that make you tap out early. This card also goes poorly with Planar Cleansing.
I am a simple man; I just want to live long enough to take over the game. This card to me is a slam dunk, and a card I would have immediately put four copies of in the Control list from last season. Getting a Plains is good; you don't want to pay life or have tap-lands at the wrong time. You also want to hit all your land drops up to six and beyond, and now you don't have to run 27 lands or more to get there consistently. The 0/4 Wall arrives at the perfect time to help defend your Teferi, Time Raveler. Two life makes it that much harder for the burn decks to get there. To me this card is a four-of allstar between maindeck and sideboard. It is obviously better against aggro, but it is never dead. Oh yeah, it's also an enchantment. Let's talk about why that matters.
Instant speed card draw has been getting worse since Glimmer of Genius. We don't love Chemister's Insight, but we run it anyway. Seeing three cards at instant speed for three mana is something that hasn't been done in a long time, but I remember the greatness that was Thirst for Knowledge. If enchantments make their way into our control decks, I think you run this card for sure. If you don't plan to pitch enchantments to this card, it isn't really card advantage, and you actually want access to all those lands you may end up discarding. I am not sure how many of this card to play in a deck that isn't enchantment focused and I'm still very fond of Gadwick, the Wizened.
If you draw this in the mid-to-late game, you have a massive lifegain spell or an artifact/enchantment one-sided sweeper at instant speed. I wanted to play Disenchant in my pre-THB decks for a while because of Fires of Invention, Trail of Crumbs, and Witch's Oven. I don't see much downside to putting one of these in your deck.
I have ranted about this on my stream for weeks now, I may as well do it here. The good old days of Wrath of God are gone. Once upon a time, you could let your opponent play all their creatures, you would cast Wrath of God and get a 4-for-1 or better, and you would win off that card advantage. Magic doesn't work that way anymore. All playable Standard creatures and planeswalkers generate advantage when they resolve, and players are ready for your board wipes with hasty threats. "Wraths" are no longer card advantage plays most of the time, they are tempo plays. They keep you alive long enough to bury your opponent by drawing way more cards than they could have. Because of that, the lower price on this card matters a lot more than you think, and the card-draw clause matters a lot less than you think. I run four copies and I love it.
I dismissed this card initially, but the more I play it, the happier I am with Omen of the Sea. Control lacks 2-drops even after getting The Birth of Meletis, and this card helps make sure you will hit your land drops early and find your Gadwick, the Wizened late. It is also really nice to have something to bounce with Teferi, Time Raveler when the opponent isn't providing an option, and the card is solid with and against Doom Foretold because you can flash it in response to the sacrifice trigger.
A pretty reliable counterspell that scales into an instant speed Drawn from Dreams in the late game has a lot of promise. I haven't been as impressed with this card as I thought I would be, but I am not complaining either, and having a few copies in your deck helps ensure you find key spells.
The new finishing move is here. "Discard a card: Dream Trawler gains hexproof until end of turn" is essentially hexproof, because your opponent never wants to point a removal spell at this card. This Sphinx plays amazing defense and even better offense thanks to lifelink and those beautiful words; draw a card. I have closed a ton of games with that I call the Fireball; Dream Trawler followed by a massive Gadwick, the Wizened or a Finale of Revelation for 10 or greater is often a one-shot kill.
Here is the current build of Control I am using. If you want to see it in action, I uploaded a 2.5 hour video to my YouTube channel. Excessive? Absolutely. This is what we mages do.
Blue/White Control | THB Standard | CGB 1-17-2020
- Planeswalkers (4)
- 4 Teferi, Time Raveler
Time will tell if Control is a serious player in the meta, but a host of new tools has given me something I haven't had for some time... hope.