Do you like watching paint dry?
Do you enjoy a relaxing bumper-to-bumper traffic jam?
Do you love a good turtle race?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then Lantern Control is right up your alley. In all fairness, the deck isn’t exactly slow at taking control of the game—just finishing it. It is typical to win the game on turn 4 or 5 in the sense that your opponent is rendered irrelevant for the rest of the game. The actual ending of the game takes a little while…
There are few things as magical as picking up a new deck and knowing after a few games that you and this new deck are going to be an item for a while.
Like everybody else, I was fascinated and intrigued with Lantern Control after Zak Elsik crushed GP OKC with it. I even had a front row seat as he calmly, casually dismantled my Affinity in the Swiss. I thought the deck looked sweet but hadn’t put in any reps with the deck.
Even when I was testing for the Pro Tour, I didn’t do any testing with Lantern because, seriously, who is actually going to sleeve up this weird pile of cards? I didn’t own the cards and didn’t figure too many other people did either.
I finally ended up tracking down all of the weird cards for the deck and after putting it together last week, I was impressed beyond expectation.
Misconceptions About Lamptern
If you and I were doing free association exercise and I said “Lantern Control,” chances were you would say something like “durdle deck,” or “do-nothing deck.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, the deck takes a while to actually end the game, but the game is over quickly. You’re opponent just doesn’t know it.
The deck is very unique in the sense that it spends a lot of energy manipulating a resource that isn’t typically fought over: the opponent’s draw step.
The key is that once Ensnaring Bridge hits the battlefield, the ways in which an opponent can actually win the game become extremely narrow. Their options become a handful of random cards that somehow get around Bridge and/or cards that can remove the Bridge. When you sit down and do the math on how many outs most decks have to this precarious predicament, they are pretty few and far between.
Typically, between 6 and 10 cards at most.
Assuming that you can land the Bridge, the entire game plan becomes centered around systematically eliminating the opponent’s few “outs” by manipulating their draw step and/or proactively taking certain cards out of the equation with Pithing Needle, Surgical Extraction, etc.
The deck is not slow at putting itself into a position where it is going to win the game—it is only slow about actually ending the game. Most games where I am playing Lantern, I feel like I’ve essentially won the game on the fourth or fifth turn.
The Lantern Gambit
Here is how I think about Lantern Control: Every game, your opponent presents a 60-card deck. Assume that you can get an Ensnaring Bridge in play (because the deck excels at finding and resolving Bridge). The entire game now becomes entirely about eliminating all of your opponent’s outs for getting out of your stranglehold.
I have a hard time even describing how absurdly powerful the Lantern concept is.
Part of the game of Magic is that both players draw random cards and play the game against each other. Lantern removes the “we draw random cards” dynamic from the game altogether. The Lantern player gets to observe the top cards of his or her opponent’s library and manipulate which cards they are actually allowed to draw.
Once a Bridge is on the battlefield and the Lantern player has gone hellbent, there are a surprisingly few number of cards in a typical deck that actually matter anymore. Direct damage and cards that remove Bridge—these are exactly the types of cards that the Lantern player is content to never let the opponent draw ever again.
Consider this: if your opponent is lucky enough to have 6 cards in their library capable of killing an Ensnaring Bridge and you have a Lantern and only 2 Codex Shredders in play, they need to assemble 3 of those cards in a row in order to remove the Bridge! The odds get even sketchier when you put the screws to the opponent and set up the second Ensnaring Bridge or the third, fourth, and fifth mill cards!
I’m excited about Lantern Control and I think the deck is absolutely great in Modern.
The one thing that I’d like anybody reading this article to take away is that the deck isn’t actually slow and that it doesn’t sit around and do nothing. The deck typically ends the game either by decking the opponent or using Ghirapur Aether Grid to win—but actually winning once you have Bridge and the “combo” assembled is all but a foregone conclusion. You will win eventually and the game was over a long, long time ago.
The deck is a finely tuned control deck that systematically eliminates all the angles with which the average Modern deck can interact with an Ensnaring Bridge. The deck can very easily have games wrapped up on the fourth or fifth turn to the point where (short of a statistical miracle) the opponent is virtually drawing dead.
I know that the banned list announcement is coming very soon and that things will be changing. But I still believe that post-Eldrazi, Lantern will stick around and be a solid choice moving forward.
I’m digging the unique way that Lantern Control attacks and exploits opposing decks. I doubt I’ll be unsleeving this sweet deck any time soon.