June 30, 2016

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Going Rogue: "Oh, Canada!" Superfriends Control

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Going Rogue, where winning isn't the goal but it often happens anyway.

Although I promised you a blue-green combo deck last week, in honour of the Canada Day weekend ahead, I thought I'd highlight something a little more patriotic with an updated approach to red-white control that should have Planeswalker fans jumping for joy (This also may have something to do with the blue-green deck underperforming in testing, and needing some tweaks before I showcase it...).

Historically, red-white "Stax" control has been one of the most boring archetypes to ever disgrace the game, as it basically revolved around sticking an Ensnaring Bridge and sitting behind it with an Ajani Vengeant or Assemble the Legion inevitability plan.

Well, for those of you who know me, you'll know that I think Ensnaring Bridge is a disease on this great game that ought to be eradicated, so rest assured you're in for something a little different.

So What's New?


Well, frankly, it depends what you mean by new. The deck has been unfavourable long enough to look back at least two years for new options to include, but the real impetus to consider building this deck today is these two.

Nahiri has proven herself quickly as a stellar control player in Modern, so it's no surprise that she'd be featured here. She takes out attackers, filters your draws, and even solves Daybreak Coronet without a trip to the sideboard.

The new Chandra, on the other hand, is a bit on the expensive side for Modern, but is tremendously impactful when it comes down. All three abilities pull a ton of weight in virtually any matchup. If Elspeth is playable at six, so is Chandra.

And heck, let's play 'em both. And while we're at it, let's call up their friends.

We Stand On Guard For Thee

Forget the Gatewatch, this bunch of nationalist heavyweights makes Zendikar's protectors look like mall cops. And if your gut reaction is telling you they're too difficult to cast in a fast format, think again.

Of our seven different planeswalkers, three of them only cost four mana, and those are precisely the three we want to run multiple copies of. Getting that far isn't hard at all in a deck full of efficient removal, especially when aided by a bit of flexible ramp in Mind Stone.

From there, it tends to get very scary, very fast. Especially with a Koth of the Hammer on board, your fourth or fifth turn has you already in a position to cast your Elspeth, Chandra, or Ugin, which is a very difficult place for any opponent to recover from. Generally speaking, if you untap with a planeswalker on board, your odds of winning are very high.

The Beatdown Plan

The what? Yes, strangely enough, this deck can shift gears into aggressive mode. Between Koth's mountain-creatures and impending ultimate, Sarkhan flying in for four-a-turn, a Restoration Angel smackdown, and Nahiri ticking up to threaten a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker finish, yes, this deck can end games early too.

Of course, the primary purpose of our creature base is to simply keep us in the game and out-value our opponents. Our first three of the four each tend to generate some form of card advantage, and by virtue of their width or x/4 power/toughness set-up, they're also fairly resilient against efficient removal. Kiki-Jiki on the other hand is a bit more fragile, but serves to multiply value from Wall of Omens as well as end games with Restoration Angel, and conveniently, thanks to two copies of Nahiri, we get to virtually run three copies of him without overcommitting the deck to his nonsense.

Maintaining Control

And finally, the most important part of the deck - keeping our opponents at bay.

Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, and Lightning Helix are staples of UWx control, but we've taken a slightly different approach here with Condemn over Path to Exile because of how one-sided Blood Moon traps are in this deck, and we don't want to give our opponents a way out. (For the same reason, we run Tectonic Edge over Ghost Quarter.) This decision is bound to stir up some controversy, and it's certainly not without its disadvantages, so let's take a look at the impact of this swap:

  • As a control deck, we're much more concerned about our opponent's options than his or her life total. If Swords to Plowshares was a Modern option, it would be the ideal here.
  • If a creature isn't attacking, 9 times out of 10, we don't really care about it. The list of utility creatures that Condemn can't kill is fairly short, and are generally manageable via bolts, such as Dark Confidant. There are two main other vulnerabilities to consider, though.
    1. Kitchen Finks in Abzan Coco. Its ability to threaten infinite life without attacking is certainly annoying, but not unmanageable. In this deck, you'll instead want to point your Lightning Bolts are their Viscera Seers, to shut the combo off. And if they do manage to combo, it's not quite over as you can still go for the Kiki + Resto kill, provided you can disable the Murderous Redcap part of their combo before it comes down to seal the deal.
    2. Wurmcoil Engine is a big wall that stands between you and opposing Karns and Ugins. Fortunately, several of our attackers fly overtop of it, and Tron is also one of the matchups where Blood Moon shines brightest, so the trade-off is neutral at worst.
  • Outside of those two examples, there isn't much remaining downside other than weird scenarios like a dormant, self-milling Tasigur, the Golden Fang, which isn't really the end of the world in a deck that doesn't care much about late-game Abrupt Decays or hand disruption.

It's possible still that Condemn over Path isn't the right move, but this is certainly a scenario that at least justifies the attempt.

Less talky, more decky.

Okay, okay. Okay. OKAY. Let's look at some cards.

All in all, it's a fairly versatile deck that doesn't snap-lose to much outside of Ad Nauseam, and its sideboard can help gain and edge against some of its other weaknesses.

  • An extra Blood Moon and two copies of Stony Silence really help put Tron in its place, and alleviate many of our Wurmcoil concerns. With a little help from our hate, we can put our big-mana plays ahead of theirs, and there's not much they can do after that.
  • Forked Bolt, Engineered Explosives, and Hallowed Moonlight each help in different ways against our lack of Path to Exile situation. An extra bolt or targeted sweepers for Viscera Seer and Dark Confidant is always nice, and Abzan Company isn't the only combo that Hallowed Moonlight shuts off.
  • And of course we round out our hate suite with more copies of Relic of Progenitus and Rule of Law, just like you'd expect.

But the sideboard tactic I want to draw special attention to is a bit of a table turner, as historically one of RW Control's weaknesses was fighting through the counterspells and card advantage of a blue-based control or tempo opponent. Well, fear no more.

emrakul, the promised end

Quickly-dismissed by too many so far since its spoiling a few weeks back, the new Emrakul is an absolute game-changer in control mirrors. Forget about putting it in Tron and playing it on turn four or five or any of that nonsense where other Eldrazi are indeed better choices - Emrakul, the Promised End is worth all nine or ten plain-old-fashioned mana you'll spend on her, as an uncounterable Mindslaver will end every control mirror on the spot.

In this deck specifically, we stand to be able to cast her fairly reasonably. Seven different permanent types in the mainboard means she's coming down as easily as six mana. Ohhh... I can't wait.

Anyways, that's your Going Rogue deck for the week. I hope you enjoyed it, and I wish you all a very happy and superfriendly Canada Day weekend! Until next time, have fun, and may the force be with brew.