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The Fall of U/W Control


I've written quite a few articles on the subject of uw. I've sung its praises and hailed it as the best deck. But now it sucks! It hasn't been performing well, so obviously the deck is unplayable.

Or it doesn't suck and it isn't unplayable. But that doesn't mean it's without its issues.

The deck had a solid week one showing then disappeared off the face of the Earth. Jokes aside, we have seen an almost very circular set of results from uw. However the win rate on the deck hasn't been stellar and based on the last PTQ results the deck didn't fare well at all.

But uw Control does have its own set of issues. Let's take a look at why it's struggling at the moment and ways to potentially fix it.

Week one we saw the uw Control decks all built very similarly. The build was fairly obvious for week one. Lots of good removal and only the best threats.

This build was fantastic for me week one. Players were unsure how to build their decks and it was easier to build a clean pile of control cards to take advantage of that fact. The next week we saw uw mostly get dominated.

Players came prepared to beat uw decks that made few to no changes and were decimated by over prepared decks like:

Both decks played well against the removal present in the uw decks while providing ways to close the game post board against any possible sideboard plan uw had to present.

Why was it so easy to counter U/W?

uw is not a deck with a flexible game plan. While the win conditions might range a little each individual card is quite similar in how the game plays out. Consider a card like Lyra Dawnbringer. Lyra is a heavy hitting singular threat that can swing the game from a bad position to a good one and completely take over a game. Just like every other win condition in uw it's a singular threat that's easy to counter. Cards like Duress provide problems for uw since just like their threats the answers seem few and far between with a singular purpose. Because of this it's easy to counter and play around how the deck is built.

Looking to the future in GP Birmingham Leo Lahonen took a creatureless variant to the finals where he was dispatched by Simon Nielsen playing br Aggro in three immensely close games. It truly felt like uw wasn't really out of it until the very end.

Being creatureless really plays some mind games with the opponent. For a long time it's been a traditional aspect of Control decks to board from no creatures into creatures as opponent's board out removal. Since it's been the norm for so long players are used to leaving in some amount of removal I'm sure Leo got a lot of free value from unknown deck lists in the Swiss where opponents were unsure how to sideboard properly. Sorcerous Spyglass ended up being one of the most relevant cards to the success of this archetype. Being able to shut down planeswalkers and Vehicles alike gave this deck a new dynamic and made life easier for control mages to deal with problematic permanents that arose.

However uw's success was not to last. While it put up some paper results the MTGO metagame was significantly more hostile. Taking a look at the most recent PTQ we can see a trend of decks that are going to play well against uw.

Do you see the trend? Traditionally creature decks like Green Stompy have been great matchups for uw but since they have transferred over to creatureless decks they have been easier to prey on as uw can't turn the corner with something major like Torrential Gearhulk. Teferi is a fantastic card and reasonable at winning games but it can be a little slow. Missing a beat can cause a Heart of Kiran or Nissa, Vital Force to browbeat the planeswalker into oblivion. Keeping in pace post board the deck plays Lifecrafter's Bestiary in order to try and drown the uw opponent in card advantage.

In a similar vein the bg Snake decks have followed suit with a sideboard with Nissa, Vital Force and Lifecrafter's Bestiary. br Aggro decks have Arguel's Blood Fast and a suite of planeswalkers to shove threats down the control decks throats. With no way to really pressure planeswalkers the uw decks have a clear weakness to permanents. While Cast Out is nice it doesn't have the same permanent effect it used to. Every Green and White deck has a naturalize effect as a way to protect their Planeswalkers and creatures from Seal Away. Similarly the Mono-Red decks have moved very low to the ground with plenty of burn spells as way to get under uw.

How does UW progress from here?

Fortunately I think the two best performing decks of the last PTQ give us good insight into how to build for the future.

Both decks seemed to have a found a solid mix of threats and spells to interact but between these two decks I'm a big fan of -Fish's maindeck. I think Romani has the better sideboard but -Fish has seemed to find a great mix of ways to interact early and often and a way to pull ahead in the mid to late game. Blink of an Eye really stands out here as perhaps one of the best ways to give yourself time and pave the way toward your answers and ways to lock up the game. Lyra Dawnbringer has made its way back into sideboards but I'm not sold that it is better than Regal Caracal at the moment. Going wide against the Red decks when their plan is Fight with Fire and Unlicensed Disintegration seems like the stronger plan as opposed to going all in. Negate has also ticked up in relevance post board against the Green decks and br. While creatures are important to manage the haymakers appear to be the noncreature spells and Negate has the highest impact to counter them.

Since Planeswalkers are on the rise I think it's important to include Torrential Gearhulk again as it's a great way to pressure them and turn the corner. In a similar vein, it's very important to find very specific answers so I think the return to Glimmer of Genius is warranted here. I do like saving a spot for at least one Pull from Tomorrow but in a deck where it's important to find the right answers drawing some amount of cards just isn't enough. Glimmer of Genius certainly isn't as flashy or as powerful as Pull from Tomorrow but it definitely gets the job done.

I think uw Control will be a good choice for the days to come but it's important to be able to adapt to the ever changing meta. Standard is in a fantastic place and your build of deck has mattered more now than ever. If you don't change then you'll struggle against most decks.

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