Defender Control

Posted in Building on a Budget on April 28, 2010

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Last week we explored the possibility of a white-blue Eldrazi Conscription deck. This week I'd like to take a look at a fun new deck made possible with the inclusion of Rise of the Eldrazi. Walls—in more recent times, creatures with defender—have, historically, not been the most exciting cards around. That all changed with the release of Rise of the Eldrazi, though. Now there are enough exceptionally powerful defenders to give your aggressive opponents anuerisms.

A defender deck may have some issues with control decks, but any matchup where your opponent plans on attacking you with creatures should be a cakewalk. Vent Sentinel provides us with an excellent win condition. Perimeter Captain makes attacking very hard for our opponents. Wall of Reverence gives us breathing room. Rage Nimbus chows down on every two power creature your opponent has. And Wall of Omens ... is Wall of Omens, which is pretty impressive.

I was working on red-white-blue defender deck last week. However, I was stumbling with my mana too much and I gave up on the archetype. I was scouring the internet this weekend looking for new decks with Rise of the Eldrazi when I happened upon John Ashe's Red-White Defender Control deck. I loved every facet of the deck and felt compelled to build it immediately.

Here is John's list for reference:

John Ashe's Red-White Defender Control

Download Arena Decklist

There's so much to love about this deck. Vent Sentinel, for example, essentially has a nice ", :Destroy target planeswalker." ability that can really frustrate a lot of decks. Chandra Nalaar kills Baneslayer Angels and lives to tell the tale. Look at the removal suite: Four Lightning Bolt, which are pretty good by all accounts. Four Flame Slash—this card may be new, but 4 damage is a lot for one mana. Killing Wooly Thoctar for seems like a pretty good deal to me. I feel like the most exciting part of Flame Slash is its ability to kill a Bloodbraid Elf or Ranger of Eos after my opponent sinks all their mana into equipping it with Behemoth Sledge (albeit after probably getting hit by it once). "Four is usually the magic number, sir!"

Wall of Reverence
Rage Nimbus

This deck has obvious issues with White-Blue Control decks that play a full four copies of Day of Judgment. Luckily, Day of Judgment is becoming less popular as people realize just how insane the blockers in the format can be. This deck has the potential to become tier one if people start leaving their Day of Judgments in the sideboard.

I'll start by explaining the purpose of each card in the deck.

Rage Nimbus: I was lucky enough to have this card in a draft on Prerelease weekend. The day after said draft I was talking about how good this card was for me. AJ Sacher asked what the card did. I described the card, and AJ responded, "Omph, omph, omph." I couldn't have worded it better myself. Rage Nimbus chows down on each and every creature your opponent controls with 2 or less power. A lot of time you don't even need to kill the creature you force into attacking. The extra life netted by Perimeter Captain makes it all worthwhile. Rage Nimbus's 5 power makes it an exceptionally strong partner to your Wall of Reverence. You get a nice 5 life bonus even if your opponent has the Maelstrom Pulse for your Wall of Reverence. John only chose to play with two copies of Rage Nimbus. I think it probably has more value than that, so I'm going to try playing with a full four copies.

Perimeter Captain: Imagine playing with a red deck when your opponent plays this defender on turn one. Perimeter Captain is a card straight out of Rise of the Eldrazi that happened to be printed in Worldwake. It's important to remember that Perimeter Captain triggers whenever any creature you control with defender blocks. If your opponent attacks with a 3/3, you can happily block with four different defenders and net 8 life. This card cements our aggro matchups very well, and I'll be happy to have four copies in the maindeck.

Wall of Reverence: I have a lot of fond memories playing with Wall of Reverence. I had a copy in my first draft deck at Pro Tour–Kyoto last year and I was really impressed with its ability to win games entirely on its own. I had many opponents with huge cluttered boards that just couldn't dream of racing this Wall. Wall of Reverence is nice because it forces your opponent to deal with your board immediately. It seems like Wall of Reverence is excellent bait for Day of Judgment. There are also times when your opponent doesn't have a mass removal spell. Those are the times I would like to have the most.

Vent Sentinel: Ah, a win condition. Vent Sentinel does a lot for its cost. It can tap to kill virtually any planeswalker (Except maybe Gideon Jura or Elspeth, Knight-Errant, but those just take two activations.) It's also important to note just how fast these can kill your opponent. There are a lot of times where you have four or more Walls on the battlefield with this deck. Vent Sentinel is a pretty vicious clock. The fact that you can safely leave him out of combat and use your other walls to do the dirty work is pretty impressive. He also does a fine job of blocking Bloodbraid Elf, if there is one thing that is never a bad incidental, it is the ability to safely and profitably block a Bloodbraid Elf.

Wall of Omens: I could easily write 2500 words about how awesome this card is. If you'd like to read that, you can click here. As awesome as Wall of Omens is in every other deck, it's a lot better in this monstrosity. It makes your Vent Sentinels more powerful. It gains you some life with Perimeter Captain. It forces your opponent to overcommit into an Earthquake. I can't say enough about how strong this card is in this deck and just about every other. If you haven't gotten your hands on four of this, then I strongly recommend you do so. Wall of Omens are super plentiful with all this Rise of the Eldrazi product recently opened. This isn't just a Standard card—this is going to see play in Block, Extended, and even Legacy. It is a slam dunk to pick these up now.

Chandra Nalaar: I've always had the hots for Chandra. This deck can have some trouble dealing with cards like Baneslayer Angel. Chandra Nalaar handles the Magic 2010 monster with ease, and lives to tell the tales. Chandra is especially exciting in a deck like this because we have such an easy time defending her. I have a lot of trouble imagining games where I won't be able to simply tick up Chandra and fire a 10-damage blast at my opponent and their whole team. I've always been a big fan of playing Chandra in sideboards. It has a lot of loyalty and it forces your opponent to be more aggressive than they would like to be. John played three copies of Chandra, but I'm going to play a full four. Ajani Vengeant and Elspeth, Knight-Errant are both out of range for this column. I don't think of this as a downgrade, though. Chandra is about as good as it gets on the top end.

Lightning Bolt: Three damage for one mana at instant speed. It's pretty safe to say that any deck with early access to red mana will want to play a full four of this card. I know I have absolutely no issue with that.

Flame Slash: This one is a little harder to judge. I love Flame Slash, but I worry about the new Polymorph Decks. I would really like a few copies of Oblivion Ring and Journey to nowhere. I don't want to mess with this deck's curve too much, so I'll stick with the Flame Slash. I'll be sure to include some copies of Oblivion Ring and Journey to Nowhere in my sideboard, though. I don't want to be out in the cold when my opponent drops an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the battlefield.

Earthquake: Here's the best card in the deck. I've been a big proponent of Earthquake in Standard for awhile now. This deck really gets full value out of it. The high toughness of all our creatures makes Earthquake a one-sided board sweeper. Our deck has enough in the way of life gain to make the damage done to us by Earthquake almost irrelevent. The incidental damage dealt to our opponent is a nice bonus, though. An Earthquake will often make us have to activate our Vent Sentinel one less time than we would have had to otherwise. It can also kill planeswalkers, which will be very important in Standard. This is a must-have four-of in this deck.

The mana base: John plays with Kabira Crossroads and Arid Mesas. Arid Mesa can be a bit hard to come by, but if you happen to have any then they can easily replace Evolving Wilds or Terramorphic Expanse. Kabira Crossroads enters the battlefield tapped. That may not seem like too big a deal, but I don't think the 2 extra life is very necessary. This deck has enough life gain already, and I'm not sure I want to have hiccups on my mana curve. I think I'd be more apt to play more copies of Jungle Shrine before I would want any of that.

Here's the main deck:

Defender Control

Download Arena Decklist

Oblivion Ring: This is a nice catch-all. The deck doesn't have a huge problem with planeswalkers, but I'd like some extra insurance in that department. Polymorph decks are also a huge problem of the new metagame. Oblivion Ring targets when it enters the battlefield, so it can remove Emrakul, the Aeons Torn after they plop it down (and if they're Polymorphing rather than casting, they won't get that extra turn).

Journey to Nowhere: Another great card for fighting cheated Emrakul, the Aeons Torns, Journey also does a great job of dealing with utility creatures like Knight of the Reliquary.

Caldera Hellion: This is some awesome tech that I'm stealing from John's list. Caldera Hellion can wipe out a lot of opponents, and it has the nice bonus of leaving a huge Hellion on the table. I was first introduced to the power of this card when I was practicing for U.S. Nationals against the Jund Mannequin deck that Conley Woods designed. I would be pretty far ahead in a lot of games, then Brad Nelson would draw a Caldera Hellion and I would no longer have any shot of winning the game. This card can simply dominate games, and I think it deserves the slot in the sideboard.

Magma Phoenix: Here's a card that hasn't seen much play yet. Magma Phoenix seems like it could be very good depending on how things shake out in the new metagame. I like the idea of a threat that provides card advantage and inevitability against the White-Blue Control decks. Magma Phoenix works especially hard in those matchups because it can deal with the Martial Coup tokens your opponent creates after they wipe your board. I think this is an underrated card that deserves some play.

Banefire: The White-Blue Control decks will have a lot of trouble with all the incidental damage we do after sideboard. Banefire gives us a pretty sweet finisher.

Here's the final list for the sideboard:

4 Oblivion Ring
3 Journey to Nowhere
3 Caldera Hellion
3 Magma Phoenix
2 Banefire

I hope you all enjoyed my take on the Defender Control deck originally designed by John Ashe. This is a fun new strategy, and I strongly recommend you sleeve it up and take it to your local tournament. You won't be disappointed.

Happy brewing!

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