Playing this deck started out as a joke. The MOCS qualifier was coming up, I was playing some Standard Scarab God Control during my afternoon stream, and I decided to conduct a poll to see which Modern deck my viewers wanted me to test later that day. One of my moderators created the poll: Affinity, 4c Humans Company, U/W Control… and Scarab God Control. I’ll let you guess which option won.
I had always assumed that when it came to control in Modern, there was little reason to play U/B over U/W, and I had never really bothered to try it. I had toyed with a prison version of the deck, but without much success, winning probably around half of my matches.
This is my latest version, but it’s probably a bit outdated. I always felt like I needed white for my sideboard, but after playing some more with U/B Control, I got by without Stony Silence or Rest in Peace.
It will also be interesting to see how the new planeswalker rule affects the black decks in Modern since both Liliana of the Veil and Liliana, the Last Hope are very powerful, but it was always awkward to play too many copies of each.
Anyway, I decided to build the deck—a fairly straightforward process. Take the U/W shell, replace Supreme Verdict with Damnation, Path to Exile with Fatal Push, Celestial Colonnade with Creeping Tar Pit, throw in a couple Scarab Gods as win conditions, add a few Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek for good measure, and voila!
I took the deck down to the MTGO streets not expecting much, but somehow 5-0’d my first League despite Scarab God never being more than a Colossapede. I tweaked the deck, cutting the Gods for a Torrential Gearhulk and Snapcaster Mage #4, but I couldn’t do better than 2-3 in the next League. I wasn’t quite ready to give up, and after another few modifications, I won 6 or 7 matches out of my next 10. Not the greatest results, but pretty solid in a format like Modern.
I got attached to the deck. Just like U/W, it was a lot of fun to play and I decided it was performing well enough to play it in the MOCS. Here is what I registered—a list very close to my first draft:
Things didn’t start of well as I lost my first 2 rounds against Titanshift and B/W Smallpox. I hadn’t completely given up, but I couldn’t help thinking that maybe I should have just gone with Affinity or at least U/W if I really wanted to play a control deck.
My luck turned around, though. I got decent matchups and mounted an incredible comeback, winning out and qualifying for November’s MOCS, beating Affinity twice, Burn, TitanShift, Tron, and Storm. The funny thing is, my breakers were so bad that my list didn’t even get published (I finished 34th and they only publish the lists from the Top 32).
While I think U/W is probably the superior control deck, U/B does shine in matchups where Push is good. I found Storm to be much easier, for instance, since not giving them that extra land when you Path Baral or Electromancer is a huge deal. Your Spreading Seas, Tectonic Edges, and Mana Leaks are way more effective throughout the game, and having a couple of discard spells can go a long way, especially combined with Snapcaster Mage. While you don’t have access to cards like Stony Silence after board, Collective Brutality is a house in the right matchups, and Relic of Progenitus and Nihil Spellbomb haven’t made me miss Rest in Peace (some U/W players even prefer Relic to RiP now). Surgical Extraction, a card I’ve always hated, has actually been very useful.
I felt like my MOCS list was solid and I’ve only made a few adjustments since. I’m playing a 2nd Misty Rainforest over an Island (I chose Rainforest because it’s the least played dual and you sometimes want to name Scalding Tarn or Flooded Strand with Pithing Needle after sideboard), a 2nd Logic Knot over a Mana Leak, and I’m going to try out a copy of Think Twice in my sideboard, as well as another Thoughtseize over Vendilion Clique and Liliana’s Defeat #2. My frontrunners for alternative main deck options are Go for the Throat (1-2 copies), Snapcaster #4, Torrential Gearhulk, Think Twice, and Dismember. I tried a Pithing Needle main but didn’t love it, and I tried Shadow of Doubt, but it’s really hard to get them with it.
I don’t have a ton of data, but here are my thoughts.
Feels evenish—a matchup where you’ll do better the more Snapcaster/Cryptic/Thoughtseize you have. Being able to Surgical Extraction Valakut after sideboard helps.
The matchups have felt close, but I’m 0-3 or 0-4 against the deck. Damnation is much worse than Verdict and you struggle to deal with Angler and Tasigur. Scarab God is also probably worse than Gideon Jura. There’s no easy way to fix the matchup except possibly to play more cards like Think Twice and Glimmer of Genius. I’ve also been considering going down to 3 Pushes in order to play a copy of Go for the Throat.
The matchup where you benefit the most from having Push over Path, I’m currently 4-0 against the deck and I’m not even sure I’ve lost a game yet. Games get even better after sideboard. You might want to keep in a sweeper or two for Empty even though you have Jace to deal with tokens.
Close matchup. I think you’re slightly favored, but obviously cutting Push for Go for the Throat wouldn’t help.
Once again, lots of close matches, but I think I’m something like 0-3 or 1-3 against the deck. It’s another matchup where having some copies of Go for the Throat between main and sideboard would go a long way. Cavern of Souls and Chalice of the Void are both very annoying.
Close matchup. Make sure you bring at least Pithing Needle, possibly even Ceremonious Rejection, for Shrine of Burning Rage, which has replaced Eidolon in some lists. I usually keep Spreading Seas in on the play and board them out on the draw.
Close matchup. They have better threats and you have discard spells, and probably the better sideboard.
I’ve only played once against Abzan, it seems like the matchup should be fine since it’s okay with U/W and Push should almost always be better than Path (don’t forget to save a fetchland for revolt if you can afford to).
Probably close—you sometimes just don’t have the removal to stop them from going off and they can sometimes grind you out with Finks and Witnesses. Collective Brutality obviously shines as it does against all Collected Company decks.
Haven’t faced it once. Game 1 is probably close to 0% and I doubt my current list has enough hate to make the matchup even close to even.
Likely another horrible matchup. U/W has a really hard time beating it and you don’t even get cards like Detention Sphere or Stony Silence after sideboard. The deck also has very few ways of dealing with a resolved Ensnaring Bridge.
Like a lot of control decks, you can tune it to make the matchups you expect to face better. I’ve been really happy with my sideboard, but as usual in Modern, I wish I could fit another ten cards or so.
If you like playing control decks, give it a try. The games are fun and interactive, with a lot of good close matches. You won’t regret it !