Teachings in Modern

Recently in Modern I have been playing with an Esper Teachings deck. This week I want to share my current build with you. I’ve been really enjoying the deck and it certainly has some powerful plays, which are sure to aggravate your opponent. If you are looking to play control in the upcoming Modern season then this may be the deck you are looking for.

Esper Teachings

[deck]4 Creeping Tar Pit
2 Drowned Catacomb
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Godless Shrine
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island
1 Isolated Chapel
4 Marsh Flats
2 Misty Rainforest
1 Plains
1 Sunken Ruins
1 Swamp
2 Watery Grave
3 Snapcaster Mage
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Consume the Meek
2 Cryptic Command
2 Damnation
1 Doom Blade
4 Esper Charm
4 Mana Leak
4 Mystical Teachings
4 Path to Exile
1 Rest for the Weary
1 Smother
1 Spell Pierce
3 Spell Snare
1 Tribute to Hunger
Sideboard
1 Celestial Purge
1 Disenchant
1 Doom Blade
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
3 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Mindbreak Trap
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Timely Reinforcements
2 Wurmcoil Engine[/deck]

Let me talk you through some of the deck’s key pieces. [card]Mystical Teachings[/card] is the main engine. It allows you to tutor up the specific pieces you need to deal with the current board state. For example, against aggro decks you fetch [card]Rest for the Weary[/card] and then later [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] to give it Flashback. This play really cripples decks like Zoo. Alternatively, if your opponent attempts to resolve a planeswalker with you on 5 mana, you can tutor up a [card]Spell Pierce[/card] (or a [card]Spell Snare[/card] if it’s a 2 CMC creature). If the game is settling down you can Teachings for more Teachings and later [card]Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir[/card] and [card]Cryptic Command[/card]s to ensure that you close out the game.

Some versions of the deck play a couple of big finishers like [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] or [card]Grave Titan[/card], which can be tutored once Teferi is in play. I have not found this to be necessary in the vast majority of matchups. In general, once you have Teferi you are in control of the game and can simply beat for 3 a turn while ensuring they don’t do anything to annoy you. Having a bigger dude to tutor will shorten the clock slightly and just takes up unnecessary space. Also, if they can kill Teferi then you will be unable to tutor your other guy anyway.

Your other options on how to win include: [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] and, the control favourite, man-land beat-down. I used to run this deck with [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] but found myself wanting an earlier way to deal with opposing planeswalkers and [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] is just so good at that.

[card]Esper Charm[/card] is a really useful multi-purpose spell. Often it’s used to draw two end-of-turn, but I’ve been finding the discard option good in the mirror and Jund matches, and the enchantment destruction is nice to have maindeck against [card]Splinter Twin[/card] and post-board for [card]Blood Moon[/card].

I’m hoping the counter spell suite makes sense to you, containing four [card]Mana Leak[/card]s, three [card]Spell Snare[/card]s and two [card]Cryptic Command[/card]s. Whilst [card]Cryptic Command[/card] is good, the extortionate cost means I don’t want to draw one early, but tutoring them late in the game is pretty sweet as the counter is unconditional and you get to draw a card. [card]Spell Snare[/card] is basically amazing. You get to counter many of the cards you care about even when you are on the draw.

For removal in the main deck we have 4 [card]Path to Exile[/card]s, 1 [card]Doom Blade[/card], 1 [card]Smother[/card] and 1 [card]Tribute to Hunger[/card]. If this looks like a Gifts Ungiven removal suite, that’s because it is. The list was originally running a Gifts but it got cut. However, I’m still happy with the suite. [card]Tribute to Hunger[/card] is an excellent Teachings target to deal with Hexproof creatures (both [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] and [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] are seeing some play) and the life gain is often relevant. [card]Doom Blade[/card] is your catchall but [card]Smother[/card] gives you another answer to [card]Dark Confidant[/card]. I considered changing it for a [card]Go for the Throat[/card], but I’d rather not have a dead card against Affinity. Very few creatures with CMC greater than three are seeing play and those that are give you time to tutor a different answer. As such I like the [card]Smother[/card].

Two [card]Damnation[/card]s provide some much-needed sweepers to the deck. Originally these were [card]Wrath of God[/card] but after moving to a more Black focused mana-base for [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] it was a simple change to run [card]Damnation[/card]s instead. They are sorceries so are not tutorable, sadly. For a tutorable sweeper the deck runs a [card]Consume the Meek[/card]. As I pointed out earlier [card]Smother[/card] can kill most of the creatures seeing play in Modern at the moment. By extension this means [card]Consume the Meek[/card] will kill most creatures as well.

To explain the sideboard it makes more sense to look at our most expected matchups and consider what the deck needs to have in order to win its post-board games.

Matchups

Vs. Jund

+3 [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] +2 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] +1 [card]Celestial Purge[/card] +2 [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/card] +2 [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card]
-2 [card]Cryptic Command[/card] -1 [card]Mystical Teachings[/card] -2 [card]Damnation[/card] -1 [card]Consume the Meek[/card] -1 [card]Rest for the Weary[/card] -2 [card]Mana Leak[/card] -1 [card]Spell Pierce[/card]

This matchup gave me some trouble for a while and I’m still not a fan of it. With its discard effects (Liliana) and card advantage ([card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] and [card]Dark Confident[/card]) it can be a frustrating match to play. That said I am now pretty happy with my board plan and think the matchup is now reasonable for both sides and tight play will reward.

[card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] is really good against Jund. With no exile effects at its disposal you will definitely get value from it. The life gain is also relevant as Jund plays the aggressive role in this particular matchup. [card]Celestial Purge[/card] is an additional answer to Liliana. [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] is excellent at making sure you finished them off quickly before they find more gas and Liliana is the only way they have to make it die (as well as blocking it, of course, but we won’t let that happen). [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] isn’t as strong here as in other matches but it slows them down which is what you want against Jund.

Vs. Zoo

+2 [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] +2 [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/card] +1 [card]Doom Blade[/card] +1 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]
-1 [card]Spell Pierce[/card] -4 [card]Mana Leak[/card] -1 [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]

The pre-board matchup against Zoo is pretty good assuming you have time to fetch and play [card]Rest for the Weary[/card]. After boarding it just gets better. Only one [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] comes in here as they do have [card]Path to Exile[/card] in the deck, although they probably boarded most of them out.

Vs. U/R Ascension Storm

+1 [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] +2 [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card] +3 [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] +1 [card]Celestial Purge[/card]
-2 [card]Damnation[/card] -4 [card]Path to Exile[/card] -1 [card]Smother[/card]

Surprisingly, your pre-board game against Storm is fine. I thought there would be too much useless removal against them but [card]Esper Charm[/card] deals with the Ascension and you have enough counter spells to stop them comboing. The only real problem is when they make a small storm count early for 8 goblins or so as your mass removal is expensive.

After sideboarding you bring in [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] to win faster. One problem with Storm is that once you stop the initial attempt(s) they can try all over again in a few turns time thanks to [card]Past in Flames[/card] or an active Ascension so you need to kick them while they are down. It is also for this reason that [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card] comes in as you remove their graveyard in response to [card]Past in Flames[/card]. [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] can exile all copies of a successfully cast Storm spell for {0} mana and you can tutor it from [card]Mystical Teachings[/card]. If you are flashing it back with [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] later though it costs the full 2UU even if the trap condition has been met. [card]Celestial Purge[/card] is another answer to [card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card]. Some removal is left in the deck as some Ascension decks board into a small creature package that you want answers too.

Vs. Affinity

+1 [card]Disenchant[/card] +1 [card]Doom Blade[/card] +2 [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card]
-1 [card]Spell Pierce[/card] -1 [card]Mana Leak[/card] -2 [card]Cryptic Command[/card]

This matchup is very similar to Zoo except that [card]Cranial Plating[/card] can cause you some headaches, as its very powerful in Affinity due to the number of artifacts they play, and there is no solution to a resolved one in the maindeck. As such you have to resort to killing everything they equip it to, which isn’t easy. This means [card]Disenchant[/card] is essential in the sideboard to deal with [card]Cranial Plating[/card]. [card]Doom Blade[/card] provides another removal spell and I think [card]Cryptic Command[/card] is the final cut due to being too expensive.

Vs. Control mirror

+2 [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card], +2 [card]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/card], +3 [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]
-1 [card]Smother[/card], -1 [card]Consume the Meek[/card], -2 [card]Damnation[/card], -1 [card]Rest for the Weary[/card], -1 [card]Mana Leak[/card], -1 [card]Path to Exile[/card]

The boarding here depends on the exact manner of control deck you are facing but if there are Snapcasters and/or Teachings opposing you then [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card] is good at removing their options. Geist provides an attacker they cannot easily kill (note that we keep in [card]Tribute to Hunger[/card]). Finally Elspeth, if you can get her to resolve, will be an extra threat that is difficult for them to deal with if they have no man-lands at the time.

There you have it. If you are thinking of playing control in a PTQ soon I hope you found this useful. I think this deck has a pretty good shot in the current meta, although with PTQs being so long it may just be too exhausting to play. As with all control decks its success is entirely based on the meta, so if everyone plays Merfolk it’s not going to do well. However, given the strength of the matchup against Zoo I will strongly be considering this deck in the PTQ season. Good luck.

Carrie Oliver @onionpixie

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