Pantheon Deck Tech – UW Control

I didn’t get to playtest much for PT Fate Reforged because I had to attend the PokerStars European Poker Tour in Deauville. That meant that I couldn’t join the rest of the team to playtest for the ten or so days before the tournament. I could have actually missed the PT had I made it to day 4 of the main event but that would have meant I was deep in the money, so it was a kind of win/win situation as far as I was concerned.

I decided to get some matches in with my trusty U/W Control deck on MTGO before the bannings were announced, and found that it was still competitive. I was actually hoping they would ban Treasure Cruise and Dig through Time but that Birthing Pod would stick around since it was one of my good matchups and the most played deck by far. Unfortunately, the powerful artifact had to go and facing Abzan wasn’t nearly as exciting, even though I was happy to see that people were shying away from Dark Confidant, one of the best cards against U/W.

I also tried to brew some graveyard decks online and made sure Ensnaring Bridge/Tezzeret wasn’t a viable option (Abrupt Decay was too rough). As for Limited, I just fired up some drafts after my days of grinding live poker during the week before the PT.

Most of the team was on Infect, which made sense to me. We had just added the Infect Boss himself Tom Ross to our roster, and I’ve always found the deck to be tough to play against whenever I faced it online. It was also the deck (piloted by Ari Lax) that put an end to my Top 8 run with Affinity in Seattle back in 2012.

I considered playing the deck and I thought it was a very good choice, but I hadn’t had a chance to play any games with it so I decided to stick to U/W. Considering the little practice I ‘d had and the fact that I had to fly in the day before the PT, I felt pretty good about the tournament. The one thing I was worried about was the 50-minute rounds for Constructed and I was hoping I wasn’t making a big mistake by sticking to control.

I got to know a bit more about the Limited format during dinner with the rest of the team, asking about first picks in Fate Reforged. They told me you almost always get to first-pick a rare so it’s not that hard, but Chapin told me to look out for two uncommons that were better than some of the good rares: Elite Scaleguard and Temur Sabertooth.

After that, I went back to the room and tried to settle on my last few slots for Constructed. Obviously that didn’t happen—I was still going back and forth between a couple sideboard cards seconds before the judge collected my deck list.

I thought the draft went well as I somehow ended up with 3 Elite Scaleguard and an overall solid W/B deck (one of the team’s favorite archetypes), but my draws didn’t cooperate and I couldn’t rack up more than a match win.

The Modern part of the tournament went even worse as I was paired against three tough matchups: Amulet, W/B Martyr, and Abzan with Dark Confidant. I misplayed in one of the games versus the Amulet deck and could have forced a game three in round 4.

In round 5 against W/B, game one took most of the clock and he ended up decking me after I got him down to 2 life, dead on board next turn. I was also two mana short of killing him on the last turn (he had two Ghostly Prisons out). I’m pretty sure I could have won that game had I played a bit tighter. I also probably cast Sphinx’s Revelation for too much, but I had to dig for one of my two Vendilion Cliques to make sure I didn’t lose to Proclamation of Rebirth.

I finally won a game in round 6 versus Abzan, but in both games 2 and 3 he went turn 1 discard, turn 2 Dark Confidant, turn 3 something good (Liliana game 2 and Thoughtseize + Tarmogoyf in game 3). Not unbeatable draws by any means, but my hands weren’t good enough to beat them.

Even though the tournament went poorly, I still think the deck is good, probably tier 1. I was following the discussion about Modern that spawned from Paulo’s article and I was a bit annoyed because everyone seemed to think you can’t play a blue midrange or control deck.

Speaking of which, I think Modern is fine in the sense that the games are interesting, but the format is pretty stale and it is just the same decks over and over. I’m not sure that it can be made better or more fun, though if enough people think hard about it we could get somewhere. In the meantime WotC probably needs to stick to Standard and Block Constructed for the Pro Tours.

Anyway back to U/W: I don’t remember the exact 75 I played in the PT, but I made at least a few deckbuilding mistakes with my mana base. I decided to cut the 2nd Calciform Pools at the last second. Not only do I think I was being result-oriented about the last few matches I had played with the deck (getting color-screwed by drawing too many Calciform Pools/Tectonic Edges), but I replaced it with the worst possible land, a 2nd Mystic Gate. Here is what I would register now:

I usually always change a card or two whenever I play the deck. I had 1 Wurmcoil Engine and 1 Gideon maindeck at the PT for instance, but almost everyone plays Path to Exile in Abzan now (sometimes up to four maindeck) which wasn’t necessarily the case while I was testing on MTGO.

Detention Sphere and Jace are the latest additions and they seemed quite good in the three matches that I played with them so far.

I don’t think there are any other cards I’d consider for the main deck (maybe Condemn as the 5th Path). I usually just mess with the numbers (1 or 2 Mage, 1 or 2 Clique, a 3rd Think Twice or a 3rd Remand, maybe going down to 1 Restoration Angel).

I’m happy with the sideboard right now but here are some decent options that I’ve run in the past: Condemn, Rule of Law, Rest in Peace, Dispel, Crucible of Worlds, Ghost Quarter (almost always as 1-ofs, no need for more). You could also play more Negate, Firewalker, Stony Silence, or Meddling Mage.

I doubt it’s the best deck in the format win-percentage-wise but you’ve got game against almost everything. I haven’t played every matchup enough to give you definite numbers, but if I had to guess I’d say U/W’s worst matchup is Tron and Affinity its best. Most of the others are probably close to 50/50. If you’ve been missing playing Control in Modern, you should definitely give it a try.

[Editor’s Note: This article incorrectly listed Wall of Omens among “Noncreature Spells.”]

Gabriel Nassif

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