We haven’t seen a pure control deck in the finals of a Pro Tour since Shota Yasooka!
Okay, I’m not entirely sure that’s an accurate statement, but it’s true that players tend to shy away from control decks in new formats. It’s just so easy to strike out, have the wrong answers, and die to aggression. When you play main-deck cards like Radiant Flames, it can look silly against decks that don’t play creatures. When you play main-deck cards like Summary Dismissal, it can also look silly against decks that would never give you time to cast it. You really need the pieces of the puzzle to come together.
I had decks built similar to what Shota won the Pro Tour with, and they didn’t look like they could possibly compete at the highest level… oops.
The creatures in Shota’s deck did some serious work. We’ve seen the true power of Torrential Gearhulk after this weekend. I think we all knew that this was an incredibly powerful card, but I was low on it simply because I didn’t think the instants you could reliably flashback were going to be all that exciting. It turns out that Gearhulk is good enough to make even the less powerful instants into awesome draws.
Thing in the Ice hasn’t seen much fanfare, but in a deck full of cheap instants, it puts in work. It will buy time in the early game as a nice 0/4 blocker, bounce an opponent’s entire board for a tempo advantage, and then swing in to finish the game. Things scale very well together, so you’re never unhappy to see multiples.
The instants themselves aren’t going to blow you away, but they do what they’re meant to do. Shota played a small suite of countermagic to help get to his late game. Ceremonious Rejection can stop a Smuggler’s Copter as well as an Aetherworks Marvel. The same can be said for Negate. Void Shatter will stop it all.
There’s plenty of removal. Unlicensed Disintegration is basically an expensive Terminate with only the Gearhulks for artifacts, but even as a slightly clunky removal with little upside, it’s still better than Murder thanks to its easier mana cost. Harnessed Lightning puts any excess energy to good use and is cheap enough to always be useful. Spells that kill Copters are quite good, so Essence Extraction is another way to take down the powerful Vehicle with some upside attached.
Galvanic Bombardment provides your early interaction. You’re okay with using multiple Bombardments to kill a bigger creature in matchups where early removal isn’t useful, since those decks will give Grixis enough time to get far ahead on cards.
Anticipate will dig toward what you need and smooth your draw. Glimmer of Genius makes Harnessed Lightning better and gives you an instant speed, pain-free Read the Bones that can be recast with Gearhulk.
Shota is big on the converge cards. There’s a bunch of Painful Truths that combine well with all of the cheap spells like Bombardment. This also makes it easy to flip a Thing in the Ice. Radiant Flames will be pretty mediocre against some decks and won’t kill the Copter, but it takes care of the early rush and the potential crew.
With the ability to go bigger with Jace, add more powerful countermagic in Summary Dismissal, or set up some early interaction in Weaver of Lightning, Shota’s deck has the ability to adapt to a number of matchups. I certainly wouldn’t have expected this style of deck to find success at the Pro Tour, but here we are. I’m not sure anyone but Shota himself could have pulled this off, but there’s a reason he’s the best. The rest of us better try to figure out how to beat this deck the right way now!