Testing for this PT was strange given that the Standard format has been relatively unchanged since PT Theros in Dublin. None of the cards in Magic 2015 is likely to make much of an impact. Once I realized that, I decided to stick with basically the same deck I’ve been playing since Dublin—U/W Control. Here’s the deck list:
For those who aren’t familiar, this is the prototypical control deck. Every card in the deck is devoted to staying alive. The longer the game goes, the better the deck’s position becomes, and eventually the deck wins because the opponent can never do anything of consequence. The main reason this strategy is so effective is Sphinx’s Revelation. The card is extremely good on its own, and almost every card is good at stabilizing the game if you draw it after Rev’ing.
Some notes on individual cards:
Quicken: This is a great card to play in small quantities because it gives you access to huge blowouts when combined with Supreme Verdict. I don’t play more because you mostly want to cycle it, and there’s a limit to how much mana you can spend on cycling in the early turns.
Azorius Charm: This is a great card and is extremely flexible. The most common mistake I see people make when using this deck is to put attackers back on top of an opponent’s deck rather than cycling in the early turns. I will only repel an attacker if I already have enough lands in hand and a good plan for how to spend my mana on turns 4-6. If you lack a solid play in the midgame it is far better to draw another card than to set both players back one card.
Divination: Not every control list plays these, but I think it’s one of the most important cards in the deck. During testing I tried Jace’s Ingenuity in their place, and it was a huge downgrade. Having a 3-mana play that digs for more land or Supreme Verdict is key to giving the deck the consistency it needs.
Detention Sphere: This card has fallen in and out of favor depending on the popularity of Abrupt Decay. I tried playing with Planar Cleansing in place of Detention Sphere. The difference in power level between the two cards is just too great. Detention Sphere is so good in the matchups where they don’t have Abrupt Decay that it’s worth living with the downside some of the time.
Jace, Architect of Thought: Only playing three of these may seem strange, but I really don’t like drawing it in multiples because the -2 ability to draw cards is not very efficient. This is one of the trickier cards to play with in the deck. I don’t have enough space to explain how to use it in every situation, but I will offer two simple guidelines: First, don’t be afraid to let the Jace die after using the -2 ability to dig for cards you need. By forcing the opponent to attack it you are prolonging the game while drawing cards which is the basic strategy of this deck. Second, the -8 ability is a legitimate way to win a game. If you are far ahead, but unsure how to actually end the game, try to use a Jace ultimate.
Archangel of Thune: This is a new card for me. I plan to mainly use it against Mono-Blue Devotion and red decks.
Negate: In my opinion this is one of the most elegantly designed Magic cards of all time. I think people who board Dispel over Negate are doing themselves a huge disservice because Negate is a great answer to planeswalkers. I’ll board this in against other control decks, burn decks, black decks, and green planeswalker decks. It’s one of the most useful cards in the sideboard.
Jace, Memory Adept: This is another of my favorite cards. It’s a way to win the game that also draws cards. During testing I joked that I should just cross out the “-0: mill ten cards” ability on this card because I almost never use it. The best way to play this card is almost always to use the +1 ability until it gets to seven loyalty. From there you can decide whether to draw 20 cards or attempt to deck your opponent. It comes in against other control decks and black decks.
Deicide: I think this card is one of the more overplayed cards in control decks because it is a very narrow answer. I’m only playing one because it’s pretty easy for black decks to play around once they’ve seen your hand with a Duress. I plan to board it mostly against blue and black devotion decks.
Pithing Needle: This card is a great answer to planeswalkers, but a mediocre answer to just about everything else. I board it in against green planeswalker decks and mono-blue because I anticipate them boarding planeswalkers or Aetherling. I don’t like sideboarding it in against black decks because I think it’s not a complete answer against too many of their cards. Against Erebos, it’s only stops one of the three abilities of the card. Against Pack Rat, they are still left with Rats that can be pumped by Mutavault. Against Mutavault they are still left with a land that taps for mana.
Gainsay: This card is pretty obvious in its applications. I use it to gain additional counters in mirror matchups and as an improvement over Dissolve against Mono-Blue Devotion.
Jace’s Ingenuity: This card was a second Deicide for a long time in testing before I decided two Deicide was too awkward in multiples against Mono-Black. Drawing extra cards is the key to beating that deck after sideboarding. I also like it against other control decks where instant-speed card draw is king.
Ratchet Bomb: This is another personal favorite of mine. It often gets a bad reputation for being a slow answer to threats. The thing to remember about it is that you are gaining a mana advantage on the turn you use it. This works great with the general play pattern of a control deck where you fall behind early, but stabilize and gain control on a key turn. I mostly board it in against cheap creature decks, but it’s also effective against decks that sideboard Mistcutter Hydra. It’s also a great sideboard card because it provides a potential answer to anything unexpected that I might face in the tournament.
Last Breath: This is another straightforward sideboard card. It works great against any small creature deck. It’s also very important in the sideboard games against Mono-Blue because you can’t afford to fall too far behind on the board in that matchup because it plays right into their sideboarded counterspells.
Fiendslayer Paladin: This is not a great card, but it is effective at shutting down decks that rely on one- and two-drop creatures.