Week 1 of Standard has come and gone, and aggressive decks were everywhere. Today I’ll explore an archetype that didn’t see much play or coverage: U/B Control.
Why Should You Choose U/B Control over U/W Control?
Because Liliana, the Last Hope is a much more powerful planeswalker than Dovin Baan. Not having a mass removal like Fumigate isn’t that big of a deal since aggressive decks are all about Vehicles, and black still has access to Flaying Tendrils, which is a good sideboard card and a fine sweeper. On the flip-side, black has better instant-speed removal spells, which let you get more advantage out of your best card: Torrential Gearhulk.
Let’s check out the new cards in Kaladesh that make this archetype possible.
This is definitely the lynchpin—the deck would have a hard time closing out the game without Torrential Gearhulk. Card advantage on a 5/6 flash is utterly unique. It will be a 4-of in this strategy.
Gaining life is always welcome in a control deck. On the other hand, you already have 4 copies of Torrential Gearhulk, and you can’t really afford to play more than four 6-drops.
Glimmer of Genius
4 mana for a draw spell is a lot, especially if it only draws 2 cards. The 2 energy will likely be useless unless you play other cards like Die Young and Aether Hub, so it’s going to be an overcosted Read the Bones. I like Fortune’s Favor better, since the outcome is often roughly the same, but Fortune’s Favor is going to put cards into your graveyard that can then be used by Liliana, the Last Hope or Torrential Gearhulk.
This removal spell is excellent, and is what pushes me into black. As I said, gaining life is huge, and this is also an instant-speed removal spell that perfectly fights the abuse of Smuggler’s Copter.
This card is not Mana Leak, not Rune Snag, not anything. It’s just a bad card that will not be good in Standard or Limited. In a deck like this, you can’t afford to leave mana untapped and miss because your opponent played a Smuggler’s Copter or a Gearhulk. You have better counters, such as Horribly Awry and Scatter the Winds.
I’m shocked that nobody has talked about this card. This is a discard spell that creates virtual card advantage. A 1.5-for-1. Every Standard deck has a ton of creatures, and you’ll hardly ever miss. And, this card doesn’t have the downside of every other discard spell—being a dead draw in late game—because at least you can get a scry out of it. Transgress the Mind is another valid option, but I like Harsh Scrutiny better.
I chose to run 4 counterspells in the form of Horrible Awry and Scatter the Winds. The first is good at the beginning of the game, the second is better later. Being flexible is important when you have Torrential Gearhulk.
The removal spells are pretty diverse as well. Grasp of Darkness is definitely the best of them—costing only 2 mana is huge in a format where basically everything dies to it. As I mentioned before, I like Essence Extraction, but the 3-drop slot is pretty packed, and I wanted to play Murder and Ruinous Path as well.
Ruinous Path is important because of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Those two planeswalkers can be very hard to deal with, and you need an answer right away. Not being an instant to abuse with Torrential Gearhulk definitely hurts, but this is better than To the Slaughter because the format is too fast for it and you won’t have delirium that often.
Finally, a singleton Flaying Tendrils is there for the very aggressive starts that are hard to contain any other way. Bomat Courier R/B decks are what scare me most—you can definitely contain R/W and G/W with spot removal spells and Harsh Scrutiny.
I chose to play 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet since it’s still a powerhouse, and decks are moving away from Declaration in Stone to have more instant-speed removal for Smuggler’s Copter. Harnessed Lightning and Fiery Temper are pretty embarrassing against Kalitas.
The sideboard has more tools for aggressive decks, but mostly focuses on replacing removal spells against control decks. I was running a copy of Ob Nixilis Reignited in the main deck, but decided to move it to the sideboard because it was so mediocre against aggressive decks.
The metagame is unfortunately extremely aggressive right now, but if it shifts to a more midrange one with Verdurous Gearhulk, then U/B Control will be a powerhouse.