It’s not your grandpa’s UB Control deck.
Early in our Pro Tour testing, The Pantheon identified Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy as an extremely powerful new card. (Although the team wound up splintering into three different decks, they all contained 4 maindeck copies of Jace). The new planeswalker found a natural home in UB Control—an existing deck that we already considered to be quite strong.
The more we played with the deck, the more convinced we were that Jace was a great addition. However, the more we played with Jace, the more we realized how much differently our deck was functioning than the old UB Control decks had. The fact is, UB Jace Control is a much different deck.
UB Jace Control
What Does it Mean to Play Jace?
Maindecking Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy has a number of important consequences. Since there’s both good news and bad news, I’ll begin with the bad.
Playing Jace obviously means that you now have creatures in your main deck. One of the major strengths of the old UB Control deck was that it was entirely creatureless (at least before sideboarding). Removal spells were dead cards against you, and you were free to play whatever board sweepers you liked. By playing Jace, you’re committing yourself to fighting a fair fight. Thankfully, the card is good enough that you can win your fair fights!
Languish and Crux of Fate are manageable, since you can usually transform Jace into a Telepath Unbound before you cast them. In fact, this is one of the more important play patterns to learn about the deck, and one that you need to be thinking carefully about in the early turns of the game. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Perilous Vault, though, are made weaker by the presence of extra planeswalkers on your side of the battlefield.
But it’s not just the planeswalker that’s so exciting. The “Merfolk Looter” aspect of Jace is also excellent for helping you find the right answers and for smoothing your draws. It helps you to make your land drops in the early turns, and to ditch extra lands later in the game.
Consequently, UB Jace Control doesn’t reach 8 and 9 mana quite like the old decks could. It’s a huge advantage to construct your deck such that you can loot away, scry away, or Dig Through Time away your lands beyond numbers five or six. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon became a no-go, and we turned to cheaper win conditions like Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Tasigur, the Golden Fang.
What is UB Jace Control?
With a bit less permission, a bit less quantity-based card drawing, no all-purpose answers like Perilous Vault, and no giant haymakers like Ugin, Jace Control loses a bit of the late-game power that the old UB Control decks had. What it gains instead is a sleek, efficient, and consistent early game. You rarely fall behind, often get ahead, and have a remarkable ability to press an advantage into an easy win.
UB Jace Control, in some ways, is more of a tempo deck than a traditional control deck. Owen Turtenwald, the biggest force behind our final version of the deck, compared Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to Stoneforge Mystic in the old Caw-Blade deck. Although perhaps not quite true in terms of power level, it’s very true in terms of the way the deck plays out. Games that you cast Jace on turn 2 and he survives are much different (and much easier) than other games. A full complement of Thoughtseizes helps you to safely achieve that goal.
So to make a long and complicated story short, the goal behind this deck is to be more proactive, and gain an advantage on the board—usually via Jace or Ashiok—that you can leverage into card advantage and some loose control over the game. This is the best way to play control in Standard. You have the jump on annoying problems like Den Protector plus Deathmist Raptor, Gaea’s Revenge, or any noncreature permanent that would give slower control decks fits.
Much of the Pantheon will be playing a UB Control deck at Pro Tour Magic Origins, but we won’t be quietly sitting back. We intend to bring the fight to our opponents, and see if they can keep pace with cheapest planeswalkers and most efficient disruption that Standard has to offer.