Hello!

Last week, I wrote about how I tried to make UB control work and failed miserably. After that, a lot of people messaged me with ideas, most of which were either something I had already tried, something that I was sure wouldn’t work or a different deck altogether. Last week I found out that the best way to compete with Red was to be more proactive and less reactive – the more tap out cards I added, the better the match become. At that point, though, I lost all the “no-tap-out” aspect and decided playing Solar Flare was just better.

It was then that my friend Mani Davoudi, of Canadian nationals top 8 fame, approached me with a version of UWb control that seemed a lot on the “not tapping out” end of the spectrum. We worked a bit on it, adding a little more of the tapping out elements so we could do better against Red while still retaining that main characteristic, and by the end we came up with a deck that I think has enough of the “proactive” elements that let it do well against Red while retaining much of the characteristics that make it good against the other tap out decks. This is the list:

[deck]5 Plains
6 Island
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Seachrome Coast
3 Drowned Catacomb
1 Isolated Chapel
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Dismember
2 Day of Judgment
4 Think Twice
4 Mana Leak
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Timely Reinforcements
4 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Dissipate
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Midnight Haunting
1 White Sun’s Zenith[/deck]

I feel like there are many cards that are not obvious, so I’ll explain:

– 27 Land

27 lands may seem like a lot, and it really is, but between [card]Think Twice[/card], [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]s, [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card], [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] and [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card], not to mention the fact that you often need to wait to play [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] until you have mana left for [card]Dissipate[/card], you have a lot to do with your mana. You certainly can’t afford to miss land drops, so the question for this deck is not how many lands you need but how many lands you can afford to play without being flooded, and I think that number is 27. The one possibility I see is to take out one and add a cheap cantrip, like a [card]Visions of Beyond[/card] – that would be worse early on but would give you better late game. Right now, I’d stick to 27 though.

– 4 [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]

Nexus are part of the reason you can afford to play 27 land. They have four major roles – blocking, hitting opposing Planeswalkers, carrying sword and killing people. Sword helps with the “killing people” part, but with four of them, a Sword is not necessary – two will kill someone in five turns, which is the same as a 4/4. They are also your best answer to opposing [card inkmoth nexus]Nexus[/card].

– 3 [card]Drowned Catacomb[/card], 1 [card]Isolated Chapel[/card]

Those lands serve two major roles here – flashbacking [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] in the late game and casting [card]Dismember[/card]. In the early game, you’ll probably not be able to save much by having them, since there are only four and you often want to [card]Dismember[/card] on one mana only anyway, but it becomes really relevant when, in the late game, you want to [card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card] up [card]Dismember[/card] – by that point, you have a decent chance of being able to produce Black. They slow you down a bit, but not much, and are definitely worth it.

2 [card]Midnight Haunting[/card], 1 [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card]

The new [card]Squadron Hawk[/card]!! Ok, not really, but honestly not that different either. Those cards are what is probably different from most UW control lists (especially the [card midnight haunting]Haunting[/card]), but I think they work wonders for what we’re trying to do here, which is to not tap out much. They work as decent blockers versus the small aggro decks, and present you with threats without having to tap out. They’re also cool surprises with Sword. The [card midnight haunting]Hauntings[/card] are especially relevant because they can easily be Snapcastable – when you need to add more pressure or kill a Planeswalker you can suddenly have four power for five mana at instant speed.

I’ve been favorably impressed with [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card], and I would certainly consider adding a second if I knew what to take out – the Zenith/Haunting slots might be interchangeable but Haunting is a lot better when you need blockers or someone to equip Sword on. Perhaps if people do play Hero over Koth (which I still think is very much wrong), then this approach can be rethought, even if Hero is much less of a problem with Snapcaster around.

4 [card]Think Twice[/card]

Last week I thought [card]Think Twice[/card] was overrated in most t2 decks, because they didn’t have the need to keep mana up. This deck does, and [card]Think Twice[/card] shines here. It is not that it is very good – it’s still just a [card]Divination[/card] – but it doesn’t harm your overall game plan. In most Solar Flare lists, sorcery speed doesn’t harm your overall game plan anyway, so there is no need to play an inferior card.

2 [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card]

Sword is really good in this deck, for most of the reasons it was good in Caw Blade. Even if you don’t have anything to tap out for, it lets you play draw spells and still keep mana up for countermagic, and it also helps in flashbacking [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] – you can hit them, float five, untap, tap two more and do it with [card]Dissipate[/card] mana backup. Sword also gives you protection against [card thrun, the last troll]Thrun[/card], which is an otherwise impossible card to beat.

If people play [card]Ancient Grudge[/card]s main, then you should probably take Swords out. In this case, I would make the swap between [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card] and [card]Midnight Haunting[/card].

The way to play this deck is very straightforward, and it will depend on what they are doing. Against aggro, you play a lot more like the conservatively control decks of old than this new breed – you no longer have to stay alive until you drop a Titan on turn six, you have to stay alive until they die, which requires a lot more absolute control than before. Luckily for you, there are more cards available for absolute control – [card]Think Twice[/card], [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] all mean that you should win the late game if you ever get there. Snapcaster is especially precious, since it re-buys [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card], which is great even if you aren’t getting any dudes, and it also plays the role of the 7-10th counterspell for expensive stuff like [card koth of the hammer]Koth[/card]. In a moment of desperation, it can also rebuy [card]Day of Judgment[/card]. [card shrine of burning rage]Shrine[/card] is the most problematic card out of any beatdown deck, and your only answer for a resolved one is [card]Oblivion Ring[/card], but Timely really helps with the staying out of reach here, and then hopefully you can find a way to kill them.

Against the other control decks, you basically never tap out – you have all the time in the world, and with the eight Flashback spells it shouldn’t prove too difficult to outcard and outmana them. It’s not even that you cannot let anything resolve, since you have Days and O-Rings, it’s just that you have nothing worth tapping out for anyway. One downside of that is that they can just tap out themselves to throw stuff at your counters until you don’t have any more and you can never really punish them for doing so, but in general you have more answers than they have threats, so it shouldn’t be a problem. [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] is ok here as a kill condition, as the only card they have to deal with it is [card]Dismember[/card] and [card]Dismember[/card] is usually the first card they discard when they get to eight cards.

You should also remember, when playing this deck against anything, that they have no clue what you can have. That will lead to them making misplays, not because they are bad but because they have no way of knowing – sometimes, they will make the better play and still be punished for it because, again, you could have anything. In this aspect, it is a little bit like Faeries, though nothing as radical of course. If you have four mana up, for example, that could represent [card]Mana Leak[/card], [card]Dissipate[/card], [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card] for 1, [card]Midnight Haunting[/card], [card]Think Twice[/card], [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card], [card]Dismember[/card], [card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card] for [card]Mana Leak[/card] – you can play almost anything in your deck if you have four mana up. Sometimes you have nothing and they play around everything, and sometimes they don’t play around anything and you have everything – that is definitely an advantage to this strategy over something like playing a Titan, which is always out there.

Some random tips:

– When in doubt between Flashbacking [card]Think Twice[/card] or casting [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card], flashback [card]Think Twice[/card] unless you’re looking for something specific. With [card]Think Twice[/card] you have no choices, and you’d rather make your choices with more information (for example, if you [card forbidden alchemy]Alchemy[/card] first, you might not know if you need a land or not, whereas if you [card]Think Twice[/card]d first then, by the time you got to cast [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] next turn, you’ll know).

– [card]Dissipate[/card] is not always better than [card]Mana Leak[/card] – sometimes, when you have the option of playing either, you might want to play [card]Dissipate[/card] and keep the [card]Mana Leak[/card] for curving purposes. The same applies when you need to [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] one – keep in mind that you can only Flashback a card once and sometimes it is better to keep the [card]Mana Leak[/card] in your graveyard.

– When you have the option of casting a card in your hand or Snapcasting the same card in your graveyard, you need to consider whether the two damage a turn (and the mana in future turns) is worth the selection that you lose. As a general rule, you would rather keep the Snapcaster even if it costs more and applies no pressure, because you might want to rebuy something different with it. In most of my games, Snapcaster is the last card I cast unless I have a Sword. Also keep in mind that playing Snapcaster early might turn on their [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card].

– You don’t have to play [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card] for all your mana; against most decks with [card]Mana Leak[/card], you should consider playing it for less and keeping three mana open.

– Don’t flashback [card]Think Twice[/card] if you’re going to have to discard, unless you either need something (like a land) or you have a card you really don’t mind.

The Sideboard

The sideboard is where I feel this deck’s greatest strength lies. Sure, even with [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card], you do not have that great of a game 1 against Mono Red – I’d say it’s between 55 to 60 in their favor, roughly depending on their version. Once you get to sideboarding, though, it gets much better for you than it was for them, which makes for a positive match percentage. In fact, your sideboard makes you better against almost everyone, relatively speaking, since [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] amplifies the power of your sideboard cards so much – cards like [card]Celestial Purge[/card], [card]Negate[/card], even [card]Surgical Extraction[/card] are much much better when you can cast them a second time (the exception might be [card]Birthing Pod[/card]). In fact, this is probably the function I like the most on [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] – it makes life very hard for them if you have a good sideboard card worth rebuying.

There are many Sideboard choices worth examining:

– [card]Celestial Purge[/card]: [card koth of the hammer]Koth[/card] is a major problem for you, and it deals with that while, at the same time, killing a turn two [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card] or Berserkers, as well as [card]Spikeshot Elder[/card] which is actually very good against you. Regrettably doesn’t answer [card shrine of burning rage]Shrine[/card].

– [card]Mental Misstep[/card]: taking out their curve is huge against Red, and it’s very easy to Snapcast. I don’t think I like it against anything else, though, and now that it doesn’t hit Bolt, I think Purge is the better card if you’re going to have something strictly against Red.

– Extras of [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] and [card]Day of Judgment[/card]: both are the very best cards in their respective matchups (Red and Humans/Steel/Illusions)

– More [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card] or [card]Midnight Haunting[/card]: Against control decks, you take out [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] and might be a little short on kill conditions – an extra one of those will certainly help. Another possibility is the new Jace. A more “daring” approach is playing a bunch of [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], but that doesn’t work very well against [card liliana of the veil]Liliana[/card] decks (though you do have [card inkmoth nexus]Nexus[/card] to protect it the first time around and then you can just attack Liliana).

– [card]Flashfreeze[/card]: Ok against Pod and the new “Valakut” deck, but you have too many counterspells already, you don’t need more.

– A bigger guy: here I am thinking [card]Gideon Jura[/card], [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] or [card]Batterskull[/card]. Your only artifact game 1 is [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card], so it’s hard for the opponent to board in Artifact Removal for your, say, one Wurmcoil (he probably knows you’ll take the Swords out). Even if they do, you only have one and it’s still a Wurmcoil – you get value if they kill it. I feel like sometimes, against Red, you have answers for all their threats and nothing to do with the time you’re given, and once you take out [card]Dissipate[/card]s you might not be able to play as controllish as you could. [card]Gideon Jura[/card] is a fine beater and complements extra Wraths very well.

– [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] – much better than Feast and Famine against Red, but if you’re going to have an artifact for your trump I’d rather it be [card]Batterskull[/card], [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] or [card]Witchbane Orb[/card] – all of those lose to artifact kill but likely beat other stuff, whereas Sword loses to artifact kill, creature kill and you not drawing a dude.

– [card]Witchbane Orb[/card]: the same deal as with Wurmcoil, except it’s actually better if they don’t have artifact removal but much worse if they do. Also much more narrow, since you can’t board it in against anything other than Mono Red and the very powerful Curses deck.

– [card]Negate[/card] and extra [card]Dissipate[/card]s: complement your draw-go plan against other control decks.

– [card]Divine Offering[/card] – Helps against Birthing Pod, Steel and random Great Architect decks, but I don’t really like it against Red, even if Shrine is your biggest problem – perhaps you board in one. You just don’t want this sort of very specific reactive card while they’re beating you down.

– [card]Extraction[/card] and [card]Purify the Grave[/card]: If you want to play one of those, I think [card]Purify the Grave[/card] is much better – you want to counter specific spells (Snapcasters, Rites, Flashback Alchemy), and countering two of those is better than getting rid of one and all the future ones of the same kind. It is also a lot better to hit with Alchemy. But, again, I don’t think you need one. You can also play [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card], for whatever that’s worth. They’re all actually pretty good in the mirror, UW and UB, solving two Snapcasters and getting rid of flashback Alchemy.

If I were to play right now, I would play this maindeck, and my sideboard would be very close to:

1 [card]Day of Judgment[/card]
1 [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card]
3 [card]Celestial Purge[/card]
2 [card]Witchbane Orb[/card]/[card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]
2 [card]Dissipate[/card]
1 [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card]
1 [card]Gideon Jura[/card]
1 [card]Negate[/card]
1 [card]Midnight Haunting[/card]
2 [card]Purify the Grave[/card]

This is based on a format in which the aggro deck of choice is Red. If it’s Tempered Steel, you might need a couple [card]Divine Offering[/card]s. If it’s Humans, it doesn’t matter what you play because, come on, Humans.

Well, this is it on this deck. Also, an aside regarding last week’s Mono Red deck – I believe people who said [card]Reckless Waif[/card] is better than [card]Furnace Scamp[/card] were right. If they have something, Scamp is not connecting anyway, and if they have nothing I’d much rather my guy doesn’t die. I still maintain that [card]Koth of the Hammer[/card] is much better than [card]Hero of Oxid Ridge[/card] and should be a four-of, and that [card]Geistflame[/card] is very good. [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card] is also a fine card and I would not fault you for taking something out for a couple, though I think more than two are excessive.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this,
See you next week!