U/B Control was on everyone’s mind following the World Championships and U.S. Nationals results after it put up some strong results. Search for Azcanta has established itself as one of the most powerful things you can do not just in Standard, but in many formats. U/B Control doesn’t actually need Search to win, however, and this version goes heavier on creatures and ways to get aggressive than those relying on Azcanta to win the late game.
U/B is well known for its heavy-hitters, and this deck plays them in large numbers. The Scarab God is one of the best cards we’ve seen printed in some time. It’s easy to say that The Scarab God is an incredible late-game option, but it really is so much more thanks to its mana cost. It’s so resilient to removal that you can deploy it on turn 5 safely. Its ability to reanimate creatures is overpowering, and while I don’t know why you get to drain and scry off your Zombies to boot, that is another nice bonus.
Torrential Gearhulk pushes you to play instants, and powerful ones at that to get full value. Once you have 6 mana, just the threat of Gearhulk can stop your opponents from attacking for fear of a blowout. It’s strong enough just as a card that can flash back cards for free, and the fact that you get a 5/6 creature to attack with or stabilize the board shows how powerful this card is.
Hostage Taker isn’t a regular feature on U/B Control deck lists, but it’s a solid removal and tempo play. It’ll keep their creature from attacking, even if just for a turn while soaking up a removal spell. If you’re able to untap and actually cast their creature, Hostage Taker is incredible.
Gifted Aetherborn provides an early board presence that offers multiple options. You can get aggressive with a hard-to-block 2-drop that gains a bunch of life. You can also get defensive and let the Aetherborn threaten to block and kill just about anything in the format. Aetherborn doesn’t care how big your Longtusk Cub is or how hexproof your Bristling Hydra can be—it will deathtouch them all down.
Liliana, Death’s Majesty is another spell that’s rarely found in U/B deck lists, especially ones that don’t focus on the reanimation plan. That said, any of these creatures are worth bringing back, and Liliana is more than capable of holding her own by creating Zombie tokens and threatening to wipe the board. Putting cards into the graveyard works out nicely with aftermath spells, Gearhulk to flash spells back, and The Scarab God to eternalize creatures late.
Your card draw is mostly confined to Glimmer of Genius. You don’t have any use for energy outside of Aether Hub fixing, but the card selection and instant speed are good enough on their own. This helps you find your Gearhulk to give you more Glimmers, and without Search for Azcanta to need more cards in your graveyard early, this is the more powerful option over Hieroglyphic Illumination. You also have multiple copies of Treasure Map to filter your draws and give you a powerful mid-late game option with an extra land, Treasures for extra mana, and three extra cards.
Your removal suite starts with 4 Fatal Push to give you a nice tempo play, and the full 4 copies of Vraska’s Contempt. This gives you plenty of interaction to keep your life total high. You also have 2 copies of Consign // Oblivion to bounce problematic permanents and potentially make them discard their key threats. This is one of the best weapons against God-Pharaoh’s Gift, but it can also be incredible against Hazoret (they go down to one card by using their mana to activate Hazoret, you bounce it, and you make them discard Hazoret and their other card).
You’re definitely looking to be more proactive and aggressive with this version of U/B Control than most, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t want a little bit of countermagic to mix things up. You’re playing so many of your spells at instant speed that you still want access to this effect. A couple copies of Disallow and a couple copies of Negate give you some cheaper ways to handle the bigger threats in the format.
Search for Azcanta is one of the best cards to come out of Ixalan, but it isn’t the only way to build a U/B Control deck. Getting proactive and finishing the opponent off before Azcanta is relevant is another viable strategy!