With Pro Tour Magic Origins we witnessed the dominance of red mages, with three Mono-Red decks and two UR Artifact decks in the Top 8. Despite the success of those decks, I’m going to offer you something different. Burning opponents or smashing with a 5/5 on turn two is not really my style, therefore I’m going to explore Sultai Control—the deck that my teammates and I brought to the Pro Tour.
Control decks weren’t very popular at the top tables of the Pro Tour, aside from one Abzan Control piloted by Matt Sperling in the Top 4 and Robin Dolar with Esper Dragons. Reactive strategies probably weren’t the right choice for the metagame—hyper-aggressive decks are historically bad matchups for control, although if players start playing midrange decks to fight the red menace, a deck like Sultai Control can find its spot in the metagame.
For Pro Tour Magic Origins I tested with Team TOGIT, with players from the USA, England, and Italy.
Six of us ended up playing Sultai Control. Overall we had a poor win percentage, but Mark Jacobson clinched 12th place with a 7-2 (+ID) Constructed record.
This was the deck list that we all played:
Creatures and Planeswalkers
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy has been great—the best card to play on turn 2—but I still think 3 copies are enough because you’d rather have cards that can impact the board on the spot in the late game, rather than a creature that needs to wait a turn to do anything.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang was in the sideboard at first, to enable ferocious for Feed the Clan, but we noticed that we were always boarding him in, and since our opponents weren’t shaving removal post-board he deserved a spot maindeck. Also, turn 3 Tasigur, the Golden Fang, turn 4 Languish is a great start that often came up against aggro decks.
Garruk, Apex Predator is a top-end card that you absolutely need as a win condition. The flexibility of his abilities is incredible—you can even gain life when needed and that actually happened quite a bit.
Removal and Counters
We figured out that Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy would be a high-impact card in the metagame, as well as Mono-Red, so we wanted more 2-mana removal spells. We opted for 2 Ultimate Price and 1 Bile Blight because Price is easier to to cast, and because Mono-Red was cutting token-makers for burn spells. But, we didn’t want to be unprepared for cards like Mantis Rider, Fleecemane Lion, or Rakshasa Deathdealer.
For the 3-mana removal spells we chose to battle with 3 Hero’s Downfall and 3 Sultai Charm, because we figured out that there would be many enchantment and artifacts around and fewer big planeswalkers like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.
2 Disdainful Strokes probably aren’t a great choice right now, since UR Thopters and Mono-Red have only 1 target, but Dissolve is still a must-have for a control deck, as is Thoughtseize. Thoughtseize is especially good with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy since it’s cheap and you can always flash it back when you flip him.
We discussed the mana base extensively, and decided we wanted 14 untapped lands and 11 tapped lands. Since we had so many double-black cards, we wanted at least 18 black sources, and because of Dissolve and Dig Through Time we opted for 16 blue sources.
This deck doesn’t really have good or bad matchups, but one thing is sure: you can’t beat Mono-Red game 1. That’s why you need a massive sideboard such as 4 Feed the Clan and 2 Drown in Sorrow to overcome it post-board.
Game 1 is nearly unwinnable because your clock is usually too slow and they will eventually find enough bolts to kill you, even though there are scenarios where Languish or a fast Tasigur can wreck them.
Post-sideboard they board in some more controlling cards, such as Chandra, Pyromaster or Outpost Siege, that’s why in a vacuum you board out 1 Hero’s Downfall and 1 Sultai Charm. Once you have a grasp on how your opponent is sideboarding you should adjust accordingly in game 3.
I suggest you hold Feed The Clan until you play Tasigur if you are not in desperate need of some life.
I’ve never played this matchup, but I saw some teammates fighting it at the Pro Tour.
You need some way to gain life or counter their Shrapnel Blast because eventually they’re going to burn you to death.
I’m not sure if Thoughtseize is better than Dissolve, because sometimes you want to remove their counterspell to resolve your Languish, but you really don’t want to lose 2 life, and leaving mana up to counter a burn spell is always welcome.
The games were always very close and it’s important to draw Tasigur, the Golden Fang to pressure them very early.
Abzan Control (with Nissa, Vastwood Seer)
We board in 2 insane cards for this matchup. Ashiok is a must kill card for them and if they use a Hero’s Downfall on it that’s one fewer answer to Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and other planeswalkers, meanwhile it will grind down the game stealing Courser of Kruphix and Siege Rhinos.
Be careful not to steal Nissa, Vastwood Seer, because if you flip it your opponent will take control of it.
I chose not to board out Ultimate Price because you have a lot of targets and it is a little bit cheaper than Sultai Charm.
Without Tasigur, the Golden Fang you take too much damage from random creatures, and every 2/2 on the opponent’s side matters.
Overall the matchup is favorable but they can have some nut-draws that can’t be beaten.
Abzan Rally/Collected Company
I chose to board out Disdainful Stroke because you don’t want too many reactive cards, otherwise you end up losing to random creatures that attack you. Negate is slightly better than Disdainful Stroke because it can also hit Thoughtseize or Hero’s Downfall out of the sideboard.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is great here because it lets you develop a board without tapping out. The ultimate is usually game over so they have to be worried about it, and last but not least they sometimes mill themselves with multiple Satyr Wayfinder triggers and Ashiok can be a good finisher.
Control (No Thopter Spy Network)
Not much to say here, board out removal spells and board in counters, discard spells, and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. It’s all about card advantage and this deck knows certainly how to do that.
I covered pretty much all the archetypes, if you have some more questions or want more sideboard plans ask in the comments and I will be glad to answer you.