Running the Gauntlet with Huey – UB Control vs. Mono-Red Aggro

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I played a version of UB Control last week that was very similar to this one, and played it in Grand Prix Miami as well. I didn’t do very well in that event. After going 8-1 on the first day, I put up a pitiful 1-5 performance on Day 2. Here’s my most recent version that I played this week in Running the Gauntlet:

One Thoughtseize and one Perilous Vault were added to the main deck at a cost of one Silence the Believers and one Crux of Fate. Both Thoughtseize and Vault are good at helping to fight the rise in Mastery of the Unseen that have been at the forefront of Standard since the success of GW Devotion at GP Miami.

The Matchup

Owen was playing Mono-Red Aggro. Mono-Red is probably the absolute worst matchup for UB control. Their cards match up so well against yours. Whenever you trade 1-for-1, you’re paying substantially more mana than they did. Hero’s Downfalling a Firedrinker Satyr just isn’t a recipe for success. Factor in that if you don’t draw Bile Blight you effectively have no way to interact until the third turn—at which point the red deck might have three or four creatures in play. Also, if a Goblin Rabblemaster ever goes unanswered for more than a single turn, it becomes nearly impossible to get back in the game.

This puts you, the control player, in a tricky predicament. You can’t afford to take a lot of damage and hold removal in case of a Rabblemaster, so instead you simply just have to fire off all your cards as fast as possible to minimize damage and hope you’re able to survive long enough to cast something like Silumgar, the Drifting Death. This really isn’t a recipe for much success.

Even the sweepers are a bit weak, because they are just so expensive. Paying 9 mana over two turns for a Perilous Vault against a deck like Mono-Green Devotion is totally fine, as they can’t really punish you too much for it. But against Mono-Red it’s nearly impossible to take two turns to cast a sweeper, since it probably means you’re going to die. If there are already a couple creatures in play, even if you aren’t mathematically dead to the board, you’ll often be dead to hand full of burn spells.

Sideboard Plan

Out

-4 Disdainful Stroke

Only counters Stoke the Flames or Goblin Heelcutter against most builds. Definitely not worth it.

-2 Dissolve

Because you have to deal with fast threats, you are often going to be tapping out to cast removal spells and simply won’t have the time to leave up 3 mana too often.

-1 Pearl Lake Ancient

7 mana is a lot. I am comfortable only having Silumgar as a true win condition, since Silumgar comes out a turn faster, and also helps to control the board with his triggered ability.

-1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

8 mana is even more than 7! But seriously, the risk of drawing Ugin in your opening hand makes it too risky to even have in your deck.

-1 Thoughtseize

Dealing damage to yourself is going to help your opponents too much to make Thoughtseize worth it. Also, Mono-Red has a tremendous amount of redundancy, and Thoughtseize is at its weakest in that situation.

-2 Perilous Vault

Just too slow. Crux is better in this matchup, and even that isn’t great, but you’re basically forced to play with a couple.

In

+3 Drown in Sorrow

The best card that’s available in all of Standard for UB to fight against Mono-Red.

+2 Pharika’s Cure

Another cheap removal spell that also gains life, and offers a second card with which you can interact before the third turn.

+1 Murderous Cut

Although Murderous Cut isn’t inherently cheap, the upside of being able to cast two spells on the fourth or fifth turn makes it an easy inclusion.

+1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Ashiok is significantly better on the play, but you don’t have better options in either case. At least maybe Ashiok can act as: UB1 “Gain 5 life” enough of the time that maybe it will help you find another Drown.

+2 Negate

Slightly better than Dissolve because it can be played for 2 mana and can counter all the burn spells and Hordeling Outburst.

+1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death

Your finisher of choice in the matchup, due to his ability to control the board.

+1 Crux of Fate

Better than Perilous Vault due to being 5 mana cheaper. Not a “great” card in the matchup, but actually better after sideboard since you’re better able to clean up early creatures better and use this on turn five at a healthier life total.

I think this is about as bad of a matchup as you could possibly construct between two relatively on-the-radar Standard decks. After sideboard, things get a little better for UB, but not better enough to even make UB a favorite in any given game. Given that I drew no Drown in Sorrows against Owen, I’m really not surprised that I went 0-6 in the games.

If I were interested in fixing the matchup, the first thing I’d do would be to add the fourth Drown to the sideboard. This is the lowest cost, highest reward change that you can make. After that, you can add more Pharika’s Cures or some copies of Jorubai Murk Lurker. Ultimately, if you’re planning to play UB in a tournament, I’d recommend just playing the 4 Drown in Sorrow and mostly hoping to avoid playing against Mono-Red. We can play 12 sideboard cards to turn it into a 50/50 matchup, but it’s just not worth it.

Be sure to check out Owen’s editions of Running the Gauntlet this week as well. He pilots Abzan Aggro and I play the other side with RW. See you next week!

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