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The Best Standard Control Cards from Murders at Karlov Manor

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Standard has shifted greatly over the last decade I've been playing. While Control decks have yet to make a big impact in the current Standard meta, I've been a fan of playing Control any chance I can get. And Standard currently has a pretty good diversity and balance of decks. We have Aggro in the form of Mono-Red, Midrange in the form of Esper, Dimir, and Rakdos, and Ramp in the form of Domain strategies. There are other decks sprinkled in as well that make up a more minor part of the metagame, like Golgari Midrange and Esper/Azorius Mentor, but overall these are the core strategies of the current Standard environment.

Control, however, is completely missing. One major issue as to why Control decks aren't as popular as they were, say five or ten years ago, is that they lack ways to deal with the diversity of threats that Aggro and Midrange decks present. Nowadays, cards have so much baked-in inevitability that it's hard for Control decks to catch up. You can't one-for-one remove cards with counterspells and targeted removal, or use a wrath to sweep a few things and expect to be ahead in the current Standard meta. You need more powerful cards and unique ways of catching up to these decks if you have any hope of turning the corner against them.

As a dedicated Control player I am determined to find the solution! This past weekend I was able to Top 8 a six-round Standard RCQ with my own unique build of Azorius Control.

Here's what I played:


After my defeat in Top 8 I was a little down, but I chalked up my loss to my inexperience playing the matchup and not having the best 75 that I could that day. I started to brainstorm what cards I would need to better attack the meta, but upon thinking I realized that the next time I would be playing Standard would be at the Sunday RCQ at Dreamhack Denver in just two weeks. Wait that means...I'd be playing with cards from Murders at Karlov Manor!

I immediately dove into spoilers and put together a list of what I think the best Control cards from MKM are.

The Best Control Cards from Murders at Karlov Manor

No More Lies

This is without question the best card for Azorius Control-based decks from the new set. An upgrade from Mana Leak, No More Lies is an easy replacement for Make Disappear in both Standard and Pioneer Azorius Control. The exile clause is the most important part about this card, which is super useful for getting rid of cards like Memory Deluge, Squee, Dubious Monarch permanently. While this card may not be as powerful in Standard as it will be in Pioneer, due to the prevalence of Cavern of Souls, I think it will make Azorius Control a viable player.

Ezrim, Agency Chief

This card is comparable to Dream Trawler, which saw a ton of Standard play in Azorius and Bant decks in its time. While this card is certainly not as powerful at that sphinx, it has a lot of use in Azorius Control. For five mana you get a decently-sized threat that also can draw you some cards. If you don't want to sacrifice the clue tokens for cards you can instead use them to give Ezrim hexproof, vigilance, or lifelink at instant-speed.

Ezrim is interesting in control shells because you have to sequence your wraths around it. Without being able to give Ezrim indestructible, Ezrim feels more like a one-of maindeck or sideboard card you'd want in matchups where you board out Sunfalls. Ezrim is a nice follow-up to a four-mana wrath, however.

In addition, various builds of Control decks in Standard just have inherent artifacts in them, making it so you can have a vigilance lifelinking Ezrim at any point in a game. Cards like Mirrex, Restless Anchorage, and even Get Lost can give you random artifacts to sacrifice to Ezrim. I think Ezrim stands as a one-of threat in a control deck or a sideboard consideration. It's a powerful card that you only want to draw once a game.

No Witnesses

Speaking of four-mana wrath effects, No Witnesses is this set's updated Depopulate. I think the difference between the two Standard-legal wraths is miniscule, however I actually like No Witnesses a bit more since your opponent will have to spend mana to get a card as opposed to getting one simply for free. There aren't a considerable amount of multicolored creatures running around in Standard, but Raffine, Scheming Seer, Glissa Sunslayer, and Bloodtithe Harvester come to mind.

Intrude on the Mind

While I don't think this card will necessarily be a four-of by any means in a Standard Control shell, it is pretty intriguing to have a Fact or Fiction that puts a body into play. I think one way Control decks fall behind in Standard is that they play too many spells that don't affect the board state. Intrude on the Mind seems like a nice way to pull ahead in a game with cards while also putting an instant-speed buffer into play.

The beauty of Intrude on the Mind is that you get control over how big you want your Thopter to realistically be. What if you just choose to 5-0 split? You can bin over a Memory Deluge for later while making a 5/5 to eat up whatever creature your opponent is attacking with. Most of the time you'll 3-2 split, but a 4/4 flash that draws a card isn't half bad.

What I like overall with this card is its flexibility. While I'm not sure if this is just a one-of or a card that completely revamps how Control in Standard is built, what I know is that I want to play with this card as soon as possible, because I have a pretty great feeling about it. Need more convincing? My sensei Mike Flores had some words to say on the matter.

Deduce

Better Think Twice? I think yes. Deduce feels more like an Izzet card, but I've been playing Impulse as a one-of here and there in my Azorius Standard decks, so this feels like a reasonable upgrade to me.

Deadly Cover-Up

While I think Azorius has the best of the best as far as Control cards go in Standard, I think there's something to be said for a few of the new Black spells in MKM. Deadly Cover-Up seems like a great foil to decks that revolve around some powerful creatures, like Raffine, Scheming Seer, Trumpeting Carnosaur, and Atraxa, Grand Unifier. Completely cutting off Domain from Archangel of Wrath or Atraxa, Grand Unifier is a great way to insulate yourself from some heinous topdecks later on in the game. Decks like Esper that play a multitude of lands will definitely have trouble drawing into action if suddenly all of their Raffines have vanished into the aether.

Long Goodbye

Long Goodbye is a nice foil to creatures with ward, and I certainly think it'll find a home in Black Midrange strategies. If Esper or Dimir Control is a deck I think you'll just be including this card, even if it's just one copy in your maindeck. It hits enough cards that it'll just always be castable, although you'll want to balance this with removal spells that can target cards with mana values higher than three.

Drag the Canal

This is a card I'm having a hard time evaluating, but I think it has some potential if you can consistently pull off its secondary clause. The earliest you can maximize this card is with a Cut Down on turn three, but the benefits are pretty massive. You can cast this after a Deadly Cover-Up to put a body into play and set up your next couple of draws.

Overall, I think in current Standard this card might be too mediocre, even though it has a ton of text on it. The fact of the matter is that decks are going too over the top for the benefits of this card to matter. While Drag the Canal is a card I'd be fine to have against a deck like Azorius Soldiers or Mono-Red, it seems awful against Domain and various Midrange Strategies that use cards like Raffine, Scheming Seer, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, and Wedding Announcement // Wedding Festivity to go over the top.

Control decks in Standard get some pretty useful tools going forward. While Azorius Control is not a heavy share of the Standard meta by any means whatsoever, I'm hopeful the addition of No More Lies at minimum will push it over the edge. As I begin prep for my RCQ at RC Denver, here's what a preliminary list for my build of Azorius looks like:


As always, thanks for reading!

-Roman Fusco

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