White-Black Control with Brad Nelson

Posted in Event Coverage on May 28, 2016

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

Three weeks ago, reigning World Champion (1) Seth Manfield won Grand Prix New York with an innovative White-Black Control deck that he built the night before the tournament. Since then, the Standard metagame has continued to evolve and, despite the deck's success, White-Black Control hasn't gained a lot of popularity.

I sat down with Standard Guru (15) Brad Nelson to talk about White-Black Control, his weapon of choice for this weekend. What's happening in Standard? Why is the deck good right now? What are the deck's weaknesses? Nelson was happy to explain everything Standard for those of us that aren't the most successful Standard player of the last half decade.


Brad Nelson

Nelson started by talking about the state of Standard, “Right now there are a lot of midrange decks that take advantage of Sylvan Advocate, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, and Duskwatch Recruiter; these three cards create an interesting puzzle for those trying to play a control deck right now. All three cards give their pilot something to do in the early game while also presenting a lot of potential card advantage and/or power as the game progresses. Control decks need to be able to beat the early game of these decks while also out-carding them in the late game. White-Black does a very good job of this. These decks find themselves getting punished regardless of how they choose to develop. Languish can nearly win the game by itself if an opponent accelerates themselves with Cryptolith Rites and dumps their whole hand on the table. Meanwhile, if a player chooses to hold back to play around a board sweeper they can often find themselves in a bad spot against a planeswalker. Hallowed Moonlight really shines when an opponent passes the turn with four mana open because they've usually committed themselves to Collected Company.”

Nelson explained what White-Black is trying to do, “It's basically a Sphinx's Revelation Control deck from old Standard except we're using Secure the Wastes as our Sphinx's Revelation. Secure the Wastes can win the game in a lot of different ways: It punishes opponents during combat, combos with Westvale Abbey, and gets opposing planeswalkers off the table while forcing the opponent to have a spell to deal with a massive army. The deck also punishes opponents for playing a lot of removal. The only real targets they get in game one are tokens from Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. In post-sideboarded games, we can do a switch-em-up. I love switch-em-ups! We bring in creatures like Eldrazi Displacer, Thought-Knot Seer and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Opponents then only have Declaration in Stone to deal with these cards and that's fine with me because I'm getting another card as the control deck.”

White-Black seems perfect for Nelson's expected metagame, “This Standard format features a lot of different decks. People are finally learning how to pilot their deck of choice and a lot of people aren't switching decks as the format changes. Collected Company remains the most popular card to build around. White-Black is very good against all the decks with Cryptolith Rites and the more aggressive decks that are weak to Languish. The new Sultai Control decks are definitely a bad matchup. Those decks have a lot of threats that produce card advantage right away. White-Black is forced to play a one-for-one game with them and they usually come out on top because they're getting extra cards from Tireless Tracker and Gitrog Monster while also playing Dragonlord Silumgar as a finisher. I still prefer White-Black because the Sultai deck isn't nearly as good against the Cryptolith Rites decks. Green-White Tokens is a pretty even matchup, but I don't expect it to be too popular here this weekend. I think White-Black is a very good choice for this weekend, but I'm not sure it will be come next week.”

Nelson always seems to have a strong grasp of where Standard stands and his deck choice for these events is usually a good indicator of which deck is best-positioned. Will White-Black win another Grand Prix this weekend? Stay tuned to coverage of Grand Prix Minneapolis for all the action as it unfolds!

Brad Nelson's White-Black Control

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