Control decks were expected to shine at Pro Tour Amonkhet. Torrential Gearhulk has new tools, and it was already one of the best cards in the format. Then the PT happened, and control got completely crushed. But now we know the metagame we are trying to attack, focusing on Marvel and Zombies, and perhaps control is best suited to get the job done.
Any deck that gets to start with 4 Torrential Gearhulks won’t be worried about its late game or card advantage once it hits that 6 mana mark. Gearhulk is a total game changer. It’s big enough to stare down Gideon in combat while munching on many of Standard’s biggest creatures. You’re looking at a flash threat that gives you value in a removal spell, counterspell, or cards in hand.
The other creatures are what really make control decks interesting now. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is the best card you can get against sacrifice decks like the ones Sam Black or Team Face to Face played at the PT, but it’s also solid against Zombies. Creating additional Zombie tokens is valuable, and it will turn your cheap removal into exile effects against Dread Wanderer, Relentless Dead, and Scrapheap Scrounger. Gonti, Lord of Luxury provides another 4-mana threat that blocks and trades up quite well while providing nice card advantage in any matchup.
Cheap removal doesn’t have much impact against Marvel, although taking out Tireless Trackers and Rogue Refiners is important. Cheap interaction is critical against Zombies and Mardu, however. Fatal Push is the most versatile, as a cheap way to trade up with 2-drops. Magma Spray also trades up nicely for Servant of the Conduit, Refiners, Relentless Dead, and Metallic Mimic. Sweltering Suns gives you a chance to come back against Whirler Virtuosos and the Zombie swarms.
Cut // Ribbons is a cheap removal spell that takes care of almost every creature in Standard. It also provides some extra reach and may take a turn or two off the clock against Marvel decks as they try to amass their big turn.
Negate isn’t impressive against Zombies, although it does hit Liliana’s Mastery and the occasional Dark Salvation. It shines as a premier card against Marvel and planeswalkers, though. Disallow makes planeswalker ultimates ineffective while countering anything. Censor provides early game interaction on a card that profitably cycles when you don’t need it.
Commit // Memory gives you answers to any problematic permanent or spell on a temporary basis. The ability to play Memory at instant speed out of the graveyard with a Gearhulk is a game changer for control, as many games do involve Timetwistering once you have the lands in play to cast powerful spells.
Glimmer of Genius doesn’t exploit energy well in a deck that isn’t running Harnessed Lightning, so this is a rare Gearhulk deck that runs just 2 copies. Hieroglyphic Illumination takes the other 2 slots, as you can cycle it early and still flash it back with Gearhulk.
Pull from Tomorrow gives control decks a late game they’ve sorely missed since Sphinx’s Revelation rotated. It won’t give you life, but it will give you the same number of cards as Revelation, and a Pull for 4 or more is lights out against many decks.
Liliana, Death’s Majesty is another new weapon for Grixis. It can create a wall of blocking Zombies while milling spells to Gearhulk back later. It can also bring back a Gearhulk for additional value. You can even minus Liliana to get back Kalitas with mana open to cast removal spells, and following that sequence up with Sweltering Suns is game over against aggro.
Control decks haven’t been putting up the results we expected, but that’s usually the time to expect the most out of them. The tools are all there for Gearhulk to attack Standard!
LUCK13, 5-0 MTGO Competitive League