As I write this, I am sitting in my hotel room during my 3 byes at GP Charleston, and I have to say I am very excited about my deck. I’ve been playtesting Standard all week with Shahar Shenhar. He stayed at my place after GP Chicago, during his multi-city trip bouncing around the US trying to hit every GP in a two-month span.
We started out with 4-color Reanimator with Grisly Salvage and then on to UW Miracles with Temporal Mastery and Entreat the Angels. We liked the miracle deck a lot, but eventually dismissed it since the primary win condition of Entreat the Angels was too weak against counter magic, Detention Sphere, and Supreme Verdict.
We moved on to an Esper list with Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Lingering Souls. We liked Sorin quite a bit, as it just straight up blanked a Thragtusk and had a relevant ultimate and synergy with the Lingering Souls, but we decided the deck was poor because it didn’t have Thragtusk and Farseek, and Lingering Souls was too weak a card on its own against the super controlling and super aggressive decks in Standard.
The list we ended up on was built by Andrew Cuneo, and it only took a couple games to fall in love. It plays the control role to the extreme and has a very obvious edge in the mirror match with all the usual anti-aggro suspects like Thragtusk, Centaur Healer, and Supreme Verdict.
The main deck Elixir of Immortality is basically the best win condition you can play. It isn’t as much of a dead draw in your opening hand as something like a planeswalker or a creature, and when you play four copies of Sphinx’s Revelation it is a very real thing to win a game while cycling through your entire deck at least once.
The life gain is mildly relevant against a mono-red deck and the main reason for the sideboarded copy of Elixir of Immortality is to prevent yourself from getting decked by opposing Nephalia Drownyards. Also there is some value to your opponent knowing you only have 1 Elixir after the first game and overvaluing it, exhausting resources trying to Dissipate it, when in reality it is now much lower priority because you have two.
I actually hated Azorius Charm the first time I saw it. I thought it was nowhere near playable in Constructed magic. I eventually changed my tune when I got to know the format well, but even now I have it in the deck and recognize that it’s a bad but necessary tool.
It’s incredibly effective against Stromkirk Noble and stuff like Wolfir Silverheart, Champion of the Parish, and Silverblade Paladin. Its basically exactly what you want against any aggressive opening. I like it because it’s a cheap piece of “removal” in a format where cheap control spells are few and far between, while it cycles away in the control matchups.
Augur of Bolas was added to the deck for similar reasons as Azorius Charm. Adding it lowered the curve, and added a speed bump against stuff like Rakdos Cackler, Stromkirk Noble, and Ash Zealot. It does exactly what you want at this cost—not be totally dead against control and provide a problem for aggro decks.
As you can see, I play 4 Sphinx’s Revelation and love the card, I always want it at all points in the game so having a card that increases my odds of seeing Sphinx’s Revelation in a game is very attractive. Augur of Bolas has a nice interaction with Restoration Angel, of course, so that’s something to keep in mind before you just chump it away as soon as possible. Augur also has a small upside of being able to pressure planeswalkers. I know I’m using the word pressure a little loosely here, but the 1 damage does matter against a [card jace, architect of thought]Jace[/card] since its draw ability scales evenly.
Think Twice is a card I don’t always see in control builds, and I have to say that surprises me, because I love Think Twice! It widens the range of possible opening hands you can keep, it means you have a higher probability of seeing certain specific cards since it cycles pretty quickly, and I also think people underestimate how hard it is to cast a six or seven mana spell in a game without producing some form of card advantage.
It’s very hard to cast spells that prevent you from losing and amass enough lands to cast a big game-ending spell. It’s hard to notice, but the deck just really doesn’t function well if you don’t dedicate a slot to something like Think Twice. Someone suggested Divination instead, since it’s 2 mana cheaper for no real downside, but I disagree—with 4 Dissipates in my deck and other stuff like Restoration Angel and Sphinx’s Revelation, then it becomes clear why I prefer to leave up mana on my opponent’s turn.
Farseek is amazing. My main problem with the Esper list we tried was that it was too weak to aggro unless you play 4 Ultimate Price and some Azorius Charms, because there simply weren’t other options for cheap spells in control. Farseek solves that problem quite well, with awesome synergy with Sphinx’s Revelation. My Revelations do more, earlier, and MUCH more later than they ever did in any Esper or UW control decks.
I only opted for 1 copy of Detention Sphere because I don’t have much worry for resolved planeswalkers. In my experience, stuff like [card jace, architect of thought]Jace[/card] and [card tamiyo, the moon sage]Tamiyo[/card] are fine, but can usually be dealt with by attacking them with Thragtusk or Restoration Angel.
I also have 4 Dissipate in my main deck, which I think is quite a bit more counter magic than normal lists run, and some sideboard Negates. Planeswalkers that matter all cost more than my counter magic and I suspect the decks I will face will have less, so it shouldn’t be much of a problem. If it is, I have ton of card draw and a sideboard Pithing Needle to shut them down.
The 4 Dissipates are excellent. I said in my article last week that if people are relying on threats that cost 4-5-6 then Dissipate is the best thing you can possibly be doing. It works extra well against Unburial Rites which is suddenly a very popular card, and spawned it’s own tier 1 deck.
I ended up in the Jace camp, but I fully recognize and believe that there exists a world where Amass the Components is the better card. Amass is a sorcery, so you can pick it up off an Augur of Bolas which I think is very relevant, since I sideboard out Dissipate against aggro decks and I want to keep my spell count high for the Augurs, a card I definitely want in the matchup.
At a one-shot deal Amass the Components provides better card advantage and selection than a Jace -2. Imagine you’re behind on board and trying to find a Supreme Verdict. You have a choice between casting Jace or Amass—unless the Jace +1 has a major impact (it will sometimes), then he will net you less cards because they will just split the wrath and the other cards 2-1, and then it will just die to an attack.
I picked Jace because nobody in our playgroup who decided to play Amass was confident enough to say it was definitely correct. If Amass is better than Jace, it’s only slightly better, and if Amass is a worse card then its much worse. Given the choice of making a small mistake or the possibility of a huge mistake I’d rather just reduce variance here.
I only opted for one copy of Restoration Angel in this build, because winning with damage isn’t really your main plan, but rather something that just happens inevitably. I really like the interaction between Restoration Angel and Thragtusk, and I think that alone is enough to justify having some Angels in the deck, but often this is best against aggro decks and against them I’m often under so much pressure that I have to just cast Angel to survive and then get the Thragtusk down.
Since Angel costs four and the Thragtusk costs five, I rarely have the luxury of time to wait. I put one in the sideboard, because it’s really strong against the UW Delverless Delver deck that people play now with Runechanter’s Pike. It’s a stopper as long as they don’t have Pike, and usually pretty easy to resolve.
After sideboard in the mirror match, Angel gains a ton of value with Augur of Bolas and by attacking planeswalkers. When people take out some Supreme Verdicts, and the odds of Sphinx’s Revelation resolving are lowered by the amount of post-board counter magic, then killing with damage becomes much more realistic.
Lastly and arguably most importantly is FOUR Sphinx’s Revelation, the best card in the deck and possibly the best card in Standard. I compared it to Cruel Ultimatum, but to be honest I’m pretty sure this card is better. It’s less obvious, more flexible, and there certainly existed games where you played Ultimatum and lost whereas, Sphinx can and usually does allow you to hit another Revelation and just keep going.
I was saying that it basically has buyback of one colorless mana, since one of the cards you draw is often another one and you just cast it for a ton, untap, Supreme Verdict, Farseek, and hold up Dissipate, waiting to cast it again next turn for something gross like 9.
Interestingly I decided to splash a black dual land for Farseek and a Nephalia Drownyard. I like this because the original build had a couple Ghost Quarters which were useless, so I know the mana is capable of supporting some really poor lands and this card just acts as a trump in the mirror.
With Thragtusk and Sphinx’s Revelation gaining so much life, it’s not uncommon for a control mirror to see both players at 80 life. Damage is not an option, and I have chosen not to play with planeswalkers, so winning by milling them is a very real thing. Plus most people have yet to adopt the Elixir of Immortality in the main, so I have a much lower chance of being milled and they have a much higher chance.
I have tested against some normal looking Bant decks and they usually just concede once they see the Drownyard since it’s so obvious they cannot interact with it or race it.
I am expecting to do pretty well with this deck if luck is on my side, and honesty writing about it now has just gotten me more excited about it. If you guys liked this article or if the deck does well, I can go into detail about the sideboard or how my tournament went next week, either way—thanks for reading.
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