Pro Tour Dominaria is coming up in less than a month and I’ve mostly been focusing on Draft since the release of the new set. Those of you who watch my stream know that it hasn’t been going so well. As Dustin Stern says though, it might not be all bad, since the more you lose, the more you learn.
In the past week, I’ve started exploring Standard. And by exploring, I mean that I’ve been playing almost exclusively Blue-White Control with the exception of one League with a Mono-Black Midrange deck (which didn’t seem good).
I didn’t want to start from scratch, so I picked up English National Champ Autumn Burchett’s—a.k.a. AutumnLily’s—Magic Online PTQ Top 8 list.
This was a solid starting point and the deck played out well, but I’ve started experimenting with some different card choices since.
The first notable change I made came after playing against a Blue-White Approach deck that boarded in History of Benalia against me. The mythic Saga caught me by surprise and I was also struggling against it out of the more creature-heavy version of Blue-White. I was impressed by the card, and decided to add it to my own sideboard. In the next League I played, I think I brought it in every single round and the card performed well.
While it can be the case that you bring in a card in almost every matchup after sideboard yet don’t want it in your main, I figured I would give the enchantment a shot in my 60 and cut Disallow as I didn’t want too many 3-mana cards. I also decided to try out Knight of Grace, as well as one Gideon of the Trials. I was struggling with opposing planeswalkers and figured that I might need to be a bit more proactive.
Gideon was still pretty bad, just like in the previous Standard format, and Knight of Grace was underwhelming as well. I cut some Seal Aways and Essence Scatters for them. It felt especially bad when I would Teferi +1, get to untap two lands at the end of my turn, and have my only 2-mana spell be a Knight. On the other hand, History kept doing work even though it wasn’t always better than Disallow.
At this point, I started noticing another trend. Almost every deck I was playing against had Karn, the Scion of Urza in it, and I would almost always lose when they got one into play. I remember wondering why so many people had Karn in their deck and why it was worth twice as much as Teferi. I started to understand, and I figured that if I couldn’t beat them, I should maybe join them.
On top of that, I thought Karn would fit in nicely, protected by my cheap counters and removal as well as History of Benalia, and he would force my opponents to overextend into Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate. He would also help me keep up with an opposing Karn.
I wasn’t wrong. Karn is an oppressive card and the key to the current Standard might be to find the best shell for it.
As you can see, I went back to one of my favorite cards, Censor (remember kids, never less than a full playset). While Syncopate was good, useful even after Settle the Wreckage, my draws were too clunky. It’s incredibly hard to evaluate if playing a card like Censor is right when you have so many options, but I’ve always liked the card a lot and I feel that it’s made the deck better.
I tried Blink of an Eye for a little while and it wasn’t terrible, but I ended up cutting it to go back up to 26 lands.
I’m always looking to fit Nimble Obstructionist in my decks, and I found myself missing the Stifle effect of Disallow against cards like Champion of Wits. The mana base is slanted toward white because of History of Benalia, so I decided to go with the Bird instead. I doubt it will end up staying, but it’s been good so far.
Oath of Teferi started as a 1-of sideboard card, almost as a meme, but also because I wanted something powerful to help me fight cards like Arguel’s Blood Fast. I was impressed with the card the few times I brought it in, and found out that AutumnLily had been having success with her version of U/W Superfriends, running three Karn, three Teferi, and two Oath.
One advantage of Oath that isn’t necessarily intuitive is that you don’t need to jam your deck full with planeswalkers to make it good. All you need is just one in play at the same time. You can also now live the dream of History into History into Oath, blink my History, which is nice.
I’ve been happy with the one Negate. It’s always good to be able to keep them honest when you say go with only 2 mana up.
Regal Caracal has fallen off the radar, but with Lyra everywhere, people have adapted and I felt like my win percentage dropped once the Angel started consistently falling to Crushing Canopy or Fight with Fire after sideboard. Regal Caracal is not as flashy or game-breaking, but it is way less swingy and might be better than the Angel right now.
Sorcerous Spyglass comes in against decks packing Heart of Kiran, Nissa Vital Force, Blood Fast, Treasure Map etc. You probably want one in if they have four or five annoying targets and both if they have 8+, but the second one might be unwarranted since you also have access to Invoke the Divine and Forsake the Wordly. I went with the split to get reps with both, but I think Forsake might be the better choice. Note that these cards lose a bit of their attractiveness with Gearhulk gone from the deck.
Raff Capashen is here to help me fight other blue decks and force them to tap mana during their turn.
If you still want to play Gearhulk, here is what I would run:
I would go with all Illuminations and no Glimmer as you’re usually pretty busy on turns 4 and 5, and Illumination is mostly there as food for Gearhulk. I haven’t tried Gideon’s Reproach yet, but Heart of Kiran can be a pain and people have quickly learned how to play around Seal Away. A response to that and another interesting option would be Skywhaler’s Shot, but I’m not sure how I feel about paying more than 2 mana for my spot removal.
Ipnu Rivulet is there for the mirror matches and your mana is good enough that you should almost never have to take damage from it.
Another popular version of Blue-White I haven’t tried is the historic version. I’m not sure how good the deck is against the field, but I’ve been struggling against it. It was one of the first new decks to emerge with Dominaria, and every version is slightly different. Some play a lot of creatures, some play closer to a control deck with just a few Raff, Lyra, and Walking Ballista, and some play History of Benalia. It shows how deep the color combination is right now and it will probably take at least a couple more months of Magic Online plus major event results to narrow it down to a few standardized versions.
The archetype should be a strong contender in the new Standard, but the format is still in its honeymoon phase and the competition isn’t necessarily the toughest right now. Going off with Teferi and his Oath has been lots of fun, but I’m interested to know what you folks have discovered, so let me know if you have any sweet technology—I’ve got a PT to win.