The curse continues. When I have a chance to work on a bad control deck, I take it. Boros Control isn't a color combination with long history in Standard, and for good reason. You could refer to it as bad Jeskai. But in a world where Teferi, Time Raveler can invalidate counterspells on turn three, are counterspells really what a control mage needs?
This deck started out as a bit of a janky meme. A patron sent me a collection control cards built around Gideon Blackblade, Planar Cleansing, and Retributive Wand. I love the challenge of cutting the jank out of memey decks and trying to make something that can win a few games on ladder (my viewers hate when I cut the janky cards, but they love it when they win). Planar Cleansing isn't getting much play right now, and it is solid against lots of enchantments that are not Gods. Gideon Blackblade is a quick threat that cannot be hit by Teferi, Time Raveler's [-3] ability, and he is generally inconvenient for the opponent to deal with.
Here is the deck that was sent to me. It might be fun to see the before/after makeover of this one.
Gideon's Wand | THB Standard | Jeremy Lassetter 2-10-2020
- Instants (2)
- 2 Flame Sweep
I had a few problems with the list right away, and experienced players can probably spot them quickly. Flame Sweep in a world where we could play Deafening Clarion. Omen of the Forge and Bonecrusher Giant and Flame Sweep all deal 2 damage, so what if you need to kill something with 3 toughness? Boros Locket and Retributive Wand are terribly tempo negative, and if they ever get bounced by Teferi, Time Raveler or Brazen Borrower it is a disaster.
Some things I liked but they didn't turn out to be good enough. Storm's Wrath plus Gideon Blackblade was nice, but the 4 damage threshold didn't kill all the things I wanted to kill, especially Dream Trawler. Four copies of Planar Cleansing should help in theory, but too often the deck stumbled on lands because it didn't have any card draw, and the opponent would have counterspells to protect their board, which made Planar Cleansing too slow.
I loved the idea of getting some value in a deck that badly needed it from Escape cards. Phoenix of Ash was all right at picking off planeswalkers, but it did a poor job killing the opponent because they usually had plenty of removal saved up for the bird. Elspeth Conquers Death, Banishing Light, and Scorching Dragonfire were huge issues for Phoenix of Ash. Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis isn't the control finisher we need. She is too slow to close the game, too expensive to bring back, and ironically she gets wrecked by Elspeth Conquers Death as well.
Fortunately we have an Escape card that leaves a strong body on the battlefield and draws some cards. Ox of Agonas doesn't close out games alone, but he is a good role player. A control deck needs some card advantage, and this deck didn't have enough.
Once you have Ox of Agonas, Thrill of Possibility starts looking good. The Ox is much better if you cast it from the graveyard for only two mana. Non-Blue control lists usually run some amount of cards that are great for some matchups and terrible for others (sweepers/wraths come to mind), and Thrill of Possibility lets you toss them to feed to your Ox and replaces them with two new cards. Thrill of Possibility also plays very well with another card advantage tool the original list didn't play enough of; Elspeth Conquers Death. On MTG Arena, you can turn on full control mode or put stops on your first two phases to give yourself the chance to cast Thrill of Possibility after your draw step, but before your Elspeth Conquers Death chapter III goes off. Discard a creature or planeswalker and you get to put it directly into play!
Testing revealed a needed strong way to close out games and something to do with excess lands. I really wanted to play more copies of Ox of Agonas, but the high Escape cost on the card (8 cards!) meant that more was not better. The card basically cannibalizes itself because one copy can easily eat your whole graveyard. The Cavalier of Flame was what I needed. It is a great card to bring back with Elspeth Conquers Death, and like Thrill of Possibility and Ox of Agonas it lets you turn cards that are not great for the matchup you're in into other cards and Escape fuel.
The original deck went way too far with sweepers, but it didn't even play Shatter the Sky! For all the complainers I see on social media about White never getting card advantage, I give to you a combo; Gideon Blackblade plus Shatter the Sky sweeps the board while leaving you with an attacking planeswalker and letting you draw a card! Gideon's plus ability can even keep your Cavalier of Flame or Bonecrusher Giant alive as well!
Early in testing I had Deafening Clarion in my deck, I thought it was a no-brainer with all the Red Aggro decks on ladder. While I was dunking on Mono-Red, it was too easy, and I had no chance whatsoever against Control. Jeskai Fires was a beating as well. Giant Killer is the latest card I am trying out. It makes things awkward for Dream Trawler, it picks off Cavaliers at instant speed, and it isn't a slow or dead card vs Mono-Red. It also helps to have another creature to bring back with Elspeth Conquers Death, you really need the card advantage from chapter III. Giant Killer has been fine, but they are definitely the flex slot right now. Other fun cards I have tried include Chandra, Fire Artisan, which was a solid card advantage but a bit on the slow side.
Here is the list as it stands, and I am quite happy with it. If you want to play something off meta on the MTG Arena BO1 ladder, and you really like beating up Red decks, you should give this a try. It has more play to it than you would expect from a Boros Control list. Add Outlaws' Merriment if you want to head back to the memes.
Boros Control | THB Standard | CGB 02-17-2020
- Planeswalkers (2)
- 2 Gideon Blackblade
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