At this point, serious Standard players are well versed in what U/B Control has to offer. We know its strengths and its weaknesses, and adding white to the deck may shore up the shortcomings.
Torrential Gearhulk remains one of the deck’s best finishers, but The Scarab God is no longer in the main deck. The God can stabilize the board and act as a mana sink in the late game, but it can’t be cast early, it’s a sorcery-speed creature, and most opponents are well aware that they need answers to it and often come prepared. With main-deck Essence Scatter and removal that exiles, Torrential Gearhulk will at least get you some value before it dies and allows you to keep your mana up on their turn.
The only other creature to make the cut is Kefnet the Mindful. Playing at instant speed means that that you can leave your mana up to activate Kefnet. This is a great place to sink your mana late and stay ahead on cards.
Your counter suite starts with some familiar faces. Censor is great early and cycles late, and Disallow is the best hard counter in the format. You’re not heavy on Essence Scatter with more removal than most U/B decks, but this deck branches out to play Spell Swindle. The Swindle is expensive, but the reward might be worth it. Countering a high cmc card will net you a bunch of extra mana. Most decks can’t use that mana, but this little Esper Control deck finds some great outlets.
One of the big finishers in this list is Torment of Hailfire. You’re looking to trade off resources early and draw cards late. Torment for a large number is a great late game play that actually ends the game on the spot. After some Spell Swindles and making plenty of land drops thanks to your card drawing, Torment finishes the job.
If you need yet another mana sink that can be useful in the middle stages of the game, Pull from Tomorrow will put you really far ahead. They leave up some mana to Essence Scatter or kill Torrential Gearhulk, and you instead get ahead in cards.
Your spot removal starts with Fatal Pushes and Vraska’s Contempts, but Hour of Glory provides extra God insurance. White brings powerful removal in Cast Out and Ixalan’s Binding, where U/B has a real problem dealing with artifacts and enchantments, such as Anointed Procession and Hidden Stockpile.
Another major weakness of U/B is the lack of sweepers. Bontu’s Last Reckoning exists, but it comes at a huge cost. Fumigate, however, gains a bunch of life and punishes anyone trying to go wide through your spot removal and Gearhulks. If that wasn’t enough, you also have Settle the Wreckage to exile the really tough creatures.
Outside of Pull and cycling Censor, you have plenty of card draw and selection. Search for Azcanta helps you find what you need before flipping into a mana source that can help find your big spells. Hieroglyphic Illumination gives you additional cycling and card advantage, while Glimmer of Genius is a great way to find what you need, get ahead on cards, and even add extra energy for Aether Hub.
Taking a great archetype in U/B Control and filling the gaps to eliminate its weaknesses is a great way to approach any format. Could Esper be the answer?