Hey everyone, my name is Greg Orange, and I am one of the three newly crowned GP San Antonio Champions. I’m here to bring you the inside scoop on my deck for the event, a U/W control deck with a strong focus on beating the expected metagame.

U/W Control

Greg Orange, 1st place at GP San Antonio

Once the team was formed, it was a given that Adam Jansen would play Jund and Andrejs Prost would play Affinity. Basically, I could play whatever I wanted as long as it didn’t overlap with either of those two decks. The obvious choice would be some sort of Eldrazi deck, but I wasn’t feeling it. I just wanted to Condemn some Death’s Shadows.

It is basically impossible to beat everything with a purely reactive control deck in Modern. There are just too many decks that attack from too many angles. But you can build a nice control deck to beat a few decks reliably. I assumed that the Team Unified format would be narrower than individual Modern. Some decks are difficult to put on your team because they take cards from a lot of decks. For example, I assumed I wouldn’t have to worry about playing against Lantern Control because it takes cards from basically everything (Mox Opal, Ancient Stirrings, and the hand disruption duo of Inquisition and Thoughtseize).

Death’s Shadow tops the list of decks to beat in Modern. I wanted my control deck to be good there for sure, which wouldn’t be too hard. The Death’s Shadow deck is somewhat threat-light, so a deck with a lot of cheap kill spells matches up fairly well against them. Blocking, however does not, since their creatures are so big. Therefore, I wanted to avoid relying on defensive creatures such as Wall of Omens and Kitchen Finks. I wanted to just play a bunch of cheap removal spells that don’t care about the size of the creature.

 

As such, 4 Path to Exile was a given. Condemn was another removal spell I was interesting in playing. Condemn is particularly nice against Death’s Shadow since 1 Condemn can potentially kill any number of Shadows, gaining the Shadow’s controller exactly enough life to bring any additional Death’s Shadows down to 0 toughness.

 

Another weakness of the Death’s Shadow decks is that they don’t play many actual mana-producing lands. Most only have about 6 fetchable lands and only 2 of those are basics. So between Ghost Quarter and Spreading Seas, it’s pretty easy to take them off of some or all of their colors as the game goes late. In the early game you answer their threats and once you’ve stabilized you answer their lands. These cards also give you game against Tron and Valakut decks. I wanted to be able to use the Ghost Quarters early if necessary, so I didn’t want my control deck to be too mana hungry.

Sphinx’s Revelation got the axe. If you are going to spend 6 or more mana on a spell, it might as well be Elspeth, Sun’s Champion since many decks can’t beat it. I ended up with a deck that is pretty good at beating decks that win by attacking with creatures and decks that win with sweet lands. Decks that don’t rely on either of those plans are tough to beat.

Once you have survived the first few turns, there are a few ways to pull ahead in the midgame. Ancestral Vision was one of the best cards in the deck. The game plan is often to suspend Ancestral Vision and then survive until you get your cards, and the games with this deck tend to go very long. Even if you draw Ancestral Vision later in the game you will often still get a chance to draw cards off of it.

 

Eventually, you do have to win the game. My win conditions of choice were Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Jace, Architect of Thought, and Crucible of Worlds. Once Elspeth is in play, she basically wins the game by herself against decks like Death’s Shadow and Eldrazi. Jace can eventually win the game with his ultimate and he provides some value along the way.

Crucible may not win the game on its own, but it allows you to replay fallen Celestial Colonnades and hit extra land drops with Flooded Strand. Most importantly, Crucible allows you to slowly Strip Mine all of your opponent’s lands with Ghost Quarter. Many decks in Modern are light on basic lands to begin with, and after a few Path to Exiles and Ghost Quarters, most players will start to run out of lands to search for. Even decks with more basics will run out eventually. You can afford to wait. Once all your opponent’s lands are dead, winning with Colonnade and Snapcaster Mage becomes trivial.

The curve is reasonably low for a control deck, so it doesn’t need to play too many lands. It also has cantrips like Spreading Seas and Serum Visions to help hit land drops when you need them. You really want to suspend Ancestral Vision or play Serum Visions on turn 1, so you need to maximize the number of lands that can produce blue immediately. It is very annoying to have to wait until turn 2 to suspend your Ancestral Vision because your only blue land was a Colonnade. With 3 Colonnades, you’ll still usually have one in play by the time you want to start activating, and it’s much more important to cast your defensive spells on time, so you need consistently untapped lands early. Ghost Quarter is excellent in the deck, and the fourth copy took precedence over the fourth Colonnade because the mana denial game plan is such an important part of this deck’s success.

Sideboard Guide

Death’s Shadow

Out

In

The U/W deck is already set up to be good in this matchup, so you don’t need to sideboard much. The easiest way to lose is to an unanswered Liliana or Lingering Souls post-board.

Affinity

Out

In

This matchup is great. You have a lot of haymakers that they can’t usually beat, so you just want to streamline your mana curve.

Porphyry Nodes is great in the first few turns of the game when they have one or two small creatures in play. It puts them in a hard place where they can either wait until their guys die and then play more or they can just play under The Abyss for the rest of the game.

Burn

Out

In

This is a matchup where you really need to draw your sideboard cards to have a good chance at winning. Game 1 your best chance is to find the Blessed Alliance and flash it back, or aggressively race with Snapcaster Mage.

Dredge

Out

In

Bring in Rest in Peace and hope. This is a rough one. You could probably win if you boarded enough hate. If you were expecting Dredge, pack a bunch of Rest in Peace.

Eldrazi Tron

Out

In

Bant Eldrazi

Out

In

Your endgame here will often revolve around mana denial with Spreading Seas and Ghost Quarter. They have Cavern of Souls in their deck, so counterspells can be unreliable at times. Cavern is answerable with Spreading Seas or Ghost Quarter if you need to, but you are so good at removing their creatures that there is no need to risk getting stuck with a hand full of Mana Leaks.

Tron

Out

In

Try to prevent them from assembling Tron at all costs.

Titan Shift

Out

In

In this matchup, focus all of your energy on Primeval Titans and the Valakuts.

Ad Nauseum

Out

In

This matchup can be tough. Counter their Ad Nauseam or the game will end immediately. There are too many dead cards to board out here, so Kor Firewalker gets some time to shine as a simple Grizzly Bears.

KCI Combo

Out

In

This U/W deck can struggle against spell-based combo decks, but this is the easiest one to beat, thanks to the strength of Stony Silence. Dispel counters 0 cards in their main deck, but they will board in some way to remove Stony Silence (typically Nature’s Claim, but possibly Echoing Truth), and might have their own Dispels, so Dispel matches up very well against their sideboard cards.

Tournament Highlights

Our team never lost a match. We each had about 2-3 losses apiece over the course of the event. Unfortunately, I never had the time to finish many of my matches because my teammates were crushing so hard. I did manage to pull off a turn-4 kill, which involved Ghost Quartering my own land so I could Spell Snare a Sakura-Tribe Elder that they Summoner’s Pacted for. I also managed to kill a hard cast Emrakul with an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion at one point.

The final game of the finals was a real nail biter. Our team gathered around our Affinity player and watched in amazement as he drew multiple Master of Etheriums and Etched Champions off the top of his deck to overcome turn-2 Stony Silence. It was surreal.