Welcome to another edition of “Did Stan Cifka break it again?” When Throne of Eldraine came out, during our preparation for the upcoming tournaments, one of the first decks Stan built was Blue-White Control. Eventually, we put it aside because it had problems against Field of the Dead and Oko, Thief of Crowns. Those cards are now banned though, and U/W Control has been slowly making a comeback to Standard.
This is what the first build of the deck looked like:
As you can see, this deck was more focused on stealing your opponent’s stuff. Now that everyone has realized the full power of Gadwick, the deck looks a little different, focusing more on playing a longer game and killing everything with Planar Cleansing, which is your best card against creature decks, and Food decks with cards like Trail of Crumbs and Witch’s Oven.
This is a list Stan and I almost played at Mythic Championship VII.
5 Plains 8 Island 4 Hallowed Fountain 3 Tranquil Cove 2 Castle Ardenvale 3 Castle Vantress 2 Fabled Passage 3 Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft 4 Gadwick, the Wizened 4 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Chemister's Insight 2 Essence Capture 4 Absorb 1 Finale of Revelation 3 Dovin's Veto 3 Time Wipe 3 Planar Cleansing 1 Aether Gust 4 Opt Sideboard 1 Dovin's Veto 3 Devout Decree 2 Aether Gust 1 Chemister’s Insight 1 Time Wipe 4 Mystical Dispute 3 Giant Killer/Chop Down
How does this deck work?
This is a classic U/W Control deck—a good amount of countermagic, board sweepers, card draw, and very few win conditions. This deck wants to play a long game, make a land drop every turn, and answer all of your opponent’s threats until you run them out cards, refill your own hand with Gadwick, and win with the Castles or in the air with Brazen Borrowers. Basically, your plan is to not die in the early game, because if the game goes long, you become a heavy favorite to win.
4 Gadwick and 27 lands are key parts of this deck, don’t go any lower. If anything, you could add another land, but I was happy with 27. I’m not normally a fan of Opts in these kinds of control decks, because it’s basically just “air,” and a lot of the time it’s better to just play more lands, but it does allow you to keep more hands and most importantly it taps something when you have Gadwick out. Planar Cleansing is really good right now, but it also means you can’t play Prison Realm, which is otherwise a great and cheap answer to all kinds of problems. The 1 Finale of Revelation guarantees that you won’t run out of threats. I currently prefer Time Wipe to Realm-Cloaked Giant because people play a lot of Bonecrusher Giants. 5 Castles is a good number, you really need to draw one of each in every game. This deck does not want to play Quench because most games go long and it becomes useless quickly.
Cards like Devout Decree and Mystical Dispute are pretty self-explanatory.The only thing that looks odd is Giant Killer, but it’s your best answer to Shifting Ceratops, which is otherwise a huge problem for this deck and is actually the reason I eventually decided to play G/B Sacrifice instead. The first list I got from Stan during our testing actually had Pacifism instead (which later became Sky Tether), which does make some sense if you are trying to stop early aggression from decks like R/B Aggro, and it’s a great way to answer Rotting Regisaur because they have to keep discarding every upkeep. Ultimately, I think Giant Killer is just more important because you can kill the Ceratops at instant speed.
Stan had Spectral Sailor in his list, but I didn’t like it as much. U/R Flash would just kill it with Bonecrusher Giant, and U/G Flash would usually sneak a Nightpack Ambusher into play when I activated it. It is really good in classic control mirrors though.
What are this deck’s good and bad matchups?
Control decks usually prey on midrange decks, and this one is no different. You want to play against decks like G/B Adventures, Food sacrifice, and just about anything that takes some time to set up. On the other hand, some decks that are too fast like R/B or R/G Aggro can kill you before you even have time to cast Time Wipe.
What are you looking for in an opening hand?
This deck wants to play a land on every turn for as long as possible, so I would rather keep a hand with more lands rather than fewer, but make sure you have something to play. I wouldn’t keep 5 lands and 2 Gadwicks, but 5 lands, Gadwick and an Opt is a perfectly fine hand. Ideally you want to counter something early and follow up with Teferi, so look for some of the early game cards. A lot of the time your mulligan decision depends on the matchup. If I know my opponent’s deck isn’t aggressive, I’m happy to keep a slow hand. On the other hand, against a fast deck, you might want to consider mulliganing for some interaction and Time Wipe so that you don’t die before turn 5.
Possible improvements and changes
We’ll see what the next set brings, but this deck already has a lot of tools for all kinds of matchups. There are cards like Narset, Deputy of Detention, Mass Manipulation, or Glass Casket that can deal with just about anything, so it’s just a matter of what the metagame looks like. One card that I really liked was Ugin, the Ineffable, but it doesn’t combo well with Planar Cleansing. If the metagame changes, and Cleansing is no longer necessary, Ugin is a great finisher for this deck and an answer to problematic permanents, including Shifting Ceratops. Finale of Glory is also another way to finish games quickly if you prefer faster win conditions.
Decree is really important here to get rid of Midnight Reaper, Mayhem Devil, or even a Cauldron Familiar. If you know they have Shifting Ceratops, bring in the Giant Killers and cut more Dovin’s Veto and 1 more Borrower. Don’t forget that you can pick up Giant Killer from play with Time Wipe and then use it again.
The reason to bring in Giant Killer is Niv Mizzet, Shifting Ceratops, and sometimes they also bring in Nightpack Ambusher. You can also kill Bonecrusher Giant with it, so it usually has plenty of targets. If they are on 4 Ceratops, keep some Time Wipes.
As usual, here is where you can find me!