A Guide to U/W Control in Modern

While Blue-White Control has fallen off a bit in Modern, I believe that it is still a solid choice if you’re looking to sleeve up Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I’ve found the deck to have a slightly favorable matchup against the two most played (best?) decks, Humans and Hollow One, and if you’re playing U/W in a fairly defined metagame, you might be able to tweak your version to have decent matchups across the board.

Here is my current build, though it is always fluctuating:

U/W Control

The Mana Base

I’ve been liking the fifth fetchland, but I don’t think you want to go overboard. Your life total does get quite low in many matchups, and the interaction with Serum Visions is awkward. You also have Field of Ruin that comes in handy when you want to shuffle away some cards after a Jace activation. I wasn’t a huge fan of Seachrome Coast in the past, but I’ve been happy with it so far.

With two Gideon of the Trials in the main, I still like a Mystic Gate over a Glacial Fortress, but you will get punished occasionally with the Field of Ruin plus Gate opener. Some lists play a fifth colorless land, usually a Ghost Quarter, and I think that’s too greedy. If you’re going to go this route, I would go with Tectonic Edge.

Irrigated Farmland and Prairie Stream do not make a ton of sense to me, but they can have their moments and they should go up in value the more fetchlands you play.

The Spells

Here are the 28 cards you should be playing right now:

4 Serum Visions
1 Gideon Jura
2 Cryptic Command
4 Path to Exile
2 Detention Sphere
1 Search for Azcanta
4 Spreading Seas
2 Supreme Verdict
2 Wall of Omens
1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Wrath of God
1 Glimmer of Genius
1 Gideon of the Trials

I still like Glimmer of Genius over Sphinx’s Revelation and I still like it over an extra Cryptic Command or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I was going to go on my usual rant of how everyone still plays Revelation over Glimmer despite Glimmer being much better, but looking at recent deck lists, it seems like a lot of players have decided to cut the gold card draw spell altogether. The card is just too slow and clunky.

This leaves me with seven flex slots, which I currently fill with:

1 Spell Snare
1 Negate
2 Wall of Omens
1 Terminus
1 Gideon of the Trials
1 Search for Azcanta

While I like the pair of Wall of Omens at the moment, I’m not a huge fan of the other five. The cheap counterspells still suck but are probably a necessary evil. Terminus, Gideon of the Trials, and Search for Azcanta are all swingier than cards like Day of Judgment (Pikula just making us go through hoops these days), Snapcaster Mage, or Remand, which you could be playing instead.

Other Main Deck Options

While Settle the Wreckage is fine, I’ve found it to be generally worse than a wrath, even sometimes against a deck like Hollow One where you would think it would consistently shine. Dredge has completely fallen off since the rise of Hollow One, and the card can be dead in game 1 against Bogles since most versions now play four Leyline of Sanctity main.

I’ve also cut Logic Knot and Vendilion Clique, but I made this decision mostly on feel and I’m not as confidant about these two.

I haven’t tried Oust, but I could see running a copy of it alongside more Snapcaster Mage if you expect a lot of creature decks.

I’ll give Teferi, Hero of Dominaria a shot, but the format is probably too aggressive right now to justify a 5-mana planeswalker. The card would be perfect in a midrange world or against a deck like TitanShift. though.

Another card that could see play in a different build is Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage. Unfortunately, I think it lacks at least a point in toughness to be playable, but flashing in Dragonlord Ojutai sounds kind of sweet.

The Sideboard

The diversity of Modern makes tuning a sideboard nearly impossible, and it’s even more of a challenge with U/W Control since you have a lot of great options. Do you want something flexible like a Spell Queller or a Celestial Purge, or a higher impact, narrower card like Rule of Law? In theory, the answer should always be the one that increases your overall win percentage even if it means that you’ll have a very bad matchup or two, but it’s pretty much impossible to figure that kind of stuff out. I’ll go through them as well as other viable options as I go through each matchup’s sideboard guide.

The Matchups

I’ll give you a quick rundown of each matchup, as well as “realistic” changes you could make to the main/sideboard to adjust the deck to your metagame. I’ll also mention how many basics each archetype usually plays as it’s something you will often want to take into account.

Humans – Slightly Favorable

They’ll try to kill you quickly with a big Champion of the Parish or try to lock you out of the game with a combination of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Meddling Mage, Kitesail Freebooter, and Phantasmal ImageWall Omens really shines there, especially against the Champion-into-Thalia opener.

Gideon of the Trials, which used to mostly be a bad speed bump, actually went up in value when Humans started playing Image as you can use the +1 ability to kill it.

Once you’ve stabilized, try to stay out of range of a Mantis Rider or Kessig Malcontents topdeck.

They play one Plains.



I’m on the fence about Spell Snare, and it might be worth keeping in despite how swingy Cavern of Souls is going to make it. I like to bring in exactly one Stony Silence against Aether Vial decks. They usually bring in Xathrid Necromancer and Sin Collector. While Sin Collector is scary in combination with the rest of their disruption, Necromancer has been surprisingly ineffective.

How to Improve the Matchup

Add an Oust, a Snapcaster Mage and a Day of Judgment over cards like Spell Snare, Negate, Search for Azcanta, Spreading Seas, and Gideon of the Trials.

Hollow One – Slightly Favorable

Keep Burning Inquiry in mind. Gideon of the Trials can be tricky to play and it’s not always obvious when you should plus it and when you should attack with it, but I would say I’ve lost more games because I’ve gotten too aggressive with the card and fallen short than the other way ’round.

They usually play two Mountain and one Swamp (sometimes a third Mountain).



I usually don’t bring Blessed Alliance in because of Bloodghast but that could be a mistake given that you have access to graveyard hate. They usually bring in a Liliana of the Veil or two and sometimes have Blood Moon so play around it with fetchlands if you can.

How to Improve the Matchup

See the Humans matchup. You can also add a second Rest in Peace, a second Celestial Purge, or a second Timely Reinforcements to the sideboard.

Mono-Green Tron – Slightly Favorable

My current list is a bit worse than most and game 1 can be rough. Buy time with Spreading Seas and Field of Ruin until you can take over with a Jace or a Search. Like in many matchups, you can occasionally use Path to Exile on your own creatures, but don’t overdo it either. It would be a shame if you had to use a Cryptic Command to deal with a Wurmcoil Engine.

They usually play five Forest (the matchup gets easier against the two-colored versions, which usually run two or three basics only).

Minor tip: You can safely Field of Ruin them in their draw step since they have no use for extra mana at instant speed to slightly increase the odds they draw a Forest.



They’ll bring in Nature’s Claim for Stony Silence (I used to bring in a Dispel for that reason), and they might bring in Thought-Knot Seer and a card like Crucible or Worlds or Life from the Loam. You might not always be able to shut them down completely but sometimes you’ll slow them down enough and accrue enough card advantage with Jace and Azcanta that you can win through double Ulamog.

I don’t like Detention Sphere against them as too often they’ll be able to get rid of it with a World Breaker or Ulamog trigger and it will create a detrimental domino effect.

How to Improve the Matchup

Add Snapcaster/Cryptic/Negate/Logic Knot for Wall/sweeper/Gideon of the Trials and play Disdainful Stroke in your sideboard (over or on top of Negate). Damping Sphere is also going to be an option but the card is redundant with our Spreading Seas/Field of Ruin plan. I wouldn’t have it in my sideboard for Tron only, but it might be worth the inclusion if it’s efficient enough against Storm and other combo decks, which it seems like it should be.

Affinity – Favorable

Cranial Plating is their scariest card, especially game 1, and you’ll want to keep Etched Champion in mind once you’ve stabilized, so use your spells accordingly and stay out of (double) Galvanic Blast range if you can.

They usually play one basic, very occasionally two.



A couple Spell Pierce is standard right now out of Affinity’s board. They also usually bring in Ghirapur Aether Grid and sometimes Blood Moon, hence the Purge coming in, and it can also trade for a Vault Skirge at worst.

How to Improve the Matchup

More removal and fewer Gideons is good, but Cranial Plating will still be a problem and I’m not sure you can realistically play more than one Spell Snare, which isn’t always that great anyway, as it will often be obvious that you have it.

Burn – Unfavorable

Out of the ten most played decks right now, Burn has probably been my worst matchup lately, but I was mostly playing with 0-1 Gideon of the Trials, which is by far your best main-deck card. The dream is to play Gideon on turn 3, get an emblem, and follow it up with Gideon Jura on turn 5. If you’re not that fortunate, you’ll have to take as little damage as possible from their creatures and try to take over the game with Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Sweepers are surprisingly powerful as being able to deal with Eidolon without taking any damage is important.

They almost always play exactly three Mountains.



They usually don’t bring in much, sometimes Destructive Revelry and an extra Grim Lavamancer. Spreading Seas is worse on the draw but you have a lot of mediocre cards and I’m not sure that you should board them out when you’re not on the play. If you’ve seen Revelry in game 2, it could be interesting to just board out all your enchantments. If you draw your Reinforcements, try to save it until you can back it up with a counterspell so you don’t get wrecked by Skullcrack.

How to Improve the Matchup

No great main-deck options. I’ve seen people play Reinforcements main and I don’t recommend it. Blessed Alliance could be OK, but it’s not even all that great against Burn. An interesting option would be to have a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar which would pair nicely with baby Gideon’s emblem. As for your sideboard, Leyline of Sanctity is a possibility, but once again I’m not a fan. You could play another Timely Reinforcements, but while I love the first copy because you can bring it in for matchups like Humans, Elves, Jeskai etc. The second one loses value in the non-Burn matchups.

Jund – Slightly Favorable

The format has sped up enough that they usually don’t play any copies of Tireless Tracker, which is a big win for U/W.

Wall cancels out Bloodbraid Elf, and Confidant is still their most annoying card (I always just Path it right away and pray for the best). Liliana of the Veil is also scary but not always the end-all-be-all, as you have Colonnade to fight back and you can sometimes win games through its ultimate. Don’t spew your Field of Ruin away trying to mana screw them and almost always save at least one for Raging Ravine.

I’d say the most common basic land configuration is two Swamp, one Mountain, one Forest, but I’ve seen versions with no Mountain and I’ve seen versions with a second Forest.



They’ll bring in three or four Fulminator Mage, so try to lead with basics as long as possible if you can.

How to Improve the Matchup

It’s always hard to improve a matchup like Jund, but the current main deck is solid. Oust would once again be a good addition. You could play a second Celestial Purge in the sideboard, and in a metagame with very little aggro, I’ve gone so far as to play Think Twice in my main/sideboard. You could also play a Wurmcoil Engine or an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion in your seventy-five.


So how’s your Storm matchup?

Well, not good. Game 1 is really hard. Probably just play “recklessly”: don’t try to represent a counterspell, tap out aggressively for Jace, and hope they have a bad hand.

They usually play five basics, so getting them with Field of Ruin is hard.



They will bring in four Pieces of the Puzzle and probably something like Pyromancer Ascension or Search for Azcanta. I’m not sure if they still bring in Empty the Warrens. Maybe one copy, and maybe a Gigadrowse or a bounce spell.

How to Improve the Matchup

Vendilion Clique is probably your best bet game 1 as it gives you some kind of clock. More counterspells and Snapcaster also help. I just added Rule of Law back to my sideboard and haven’t had a chance to cast it yet, but if you don’t want anything that extreme, Spell Queller is a good one. I also wonder if Dispel isn’t overplayed right now, and it’s possible that you just want up to 4 Negates to be able to fight their Pieces of the Puzzle plan (I also find myself dying against Burn to Lava Spike and Rift Bolt with a Dispel in hand more often than I would want).

Bogles – Even

You can’t really beat their nut draws game 1 unless you hit a lucky Terminus, but it’s not hopeless either. Detention Sphere is probably your most important card.

They play 1 Forest and 1 Plains.



I’m not sure it’s correct to take out Seas, but I haven’t found the land disruption plan to be very effective despite the fact that they only have two basics.

Don’t trim Path. They might only have four Kor Spiritdancer, but not only do those represent a third of their threats, they also bring in two or three Gaddock Teeg.

I think more Negates is good, but I could be convinced that they’re just too clunky/low impact.

How to Improve the Matchup

You could play a Blessed Alliance in the main, but as I’ve said, it can be counterproductive since they’ll start with a Leyline in play about a third of the time. Adding more copies to the sideboard sounds great on the other hand, as Blessed Alliance against Bogles has to be up with hosers like Rule of Law against Storm and Stony Silence against Affinity (possibly even more impactful than these two as there is so little they can do about it).

Grixis Death’s Shadow – Favorable

If having Wrath of God over Supreme Verdict might save you against Humans, it might cost you the match against Death’s Shadow, but the deck has fallen out of favor, so I think the trade-off is worth it. Try to play around Stubborn Denial or at least time your spells so that they don’t get to use their mana efficiently, even if they’re low on lands.

They usually play one Swamp, one Island, and three red sources (all dual lands).



They bring in extra counterspells, usually Disdainful Stroke and up to four Stubborn Denial and sometimes Liliana of the Veil and/or Liliana, the Last Hope.

How to Improve the Matchup

See Jund.

Mardu Pyromancer – Unfavorable

I used to think the matchup was even but I’ve been losing to Mardu a lot lately. One of the big differences is that they almost always play two Blood Moon in the main now when they used to play 0-1. Another is that Jace, TMS might actually be worse against them than Jace, AoT.



Mardu is the main reason I added Jace, AoT to the sideboard and I’ve been happy with it so far, even though I haven’t cast it against Mardu specifically. I’m not sold on boarding out Path, but giving them an extra land early is kind of brutal when their game plan revolves around Faithless Looting and Bedlam Reveler. Pathing my own Walls has also come in handy against Blood Moon.

I’m also not sold on bringing in a second Negate or having Spell Snare over Negate, and I’m not sure Surgical is great but I think it’s serviceable.

How to Improve the Matchup

No great main deck options besides adding Jace, AoT. Rest in Peace is amazing against them and the more Purge the better.


  • You can bounce your own Detention Sphere with Cryptic Command.
  • You might want to Field of Ruin in your upkeep if you’ve activated Jace (also to flip Azcanta one turn sooner).
  • When in doubt, Jace 0 (I think people Jace +2 too often).
  • When in doubt, Gideon of the Trials +1.
  • You usually want to play Serum Visions on turn 1 even if you don’t know what you’re playing against because you just want to curve out into Spreading Seas and Wall of Omens against most decks, and you’ll be using every land later on.
  • Don’t forget you can Spreading Seas your own lands against a Blood Moon deck or if you need triple-blue for Cryptic.

I hope this article was useful—feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments. This is probably my last Modern piece in a while as it’s going to be all Dominaria and all Standard as far as Constructed goes in the near future with Pro Tour Dominaria right around the corner!


Scroll to Top