All right. So Esper Dragons players are bemoaning the loss of Dig Through Time, and any source of large swaths of card advantage. Blue-based control decks thrive on that card-advantage juice. It's usually their lifeblood. If a three-color control deck is having trouble finding what it needs, surely a one-color control deck can't exist. Right?
Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Top 8 finisher Adrian Sullivan thinks otherwise.
This weekend, Sullivan has brought just that. And though the deck looks slightly different than your expected Blue Control monster, it plays out similarly. Just because it plays cards like Hedron Archive and Conduit of Ruin, doesn't mean it isn't control—it just uses some ramp and Eldrazi to help it along.
If you like the plan “Delay, delay, delay, cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, win” this deck is for you. It also leans on some of the interesting colorless removal spells like Spatial Contortion and Warping Wail to fill in some of the chasms.
Sullivan found the deck while scrounging around for Standard deck lists. “I went from deck to deck, and I really wasn't happy,” he said. He had been looking at the White- Black lists, and almost played one, but said, “it got me into gaps, then didn't help me out of them.”
“Honestly,” he said, “I really just didn't want to play Green-White ... If I'm up against a person who's been playing the deck a week longer than me, I don't expect to win a three-game match.” Many of the more aggressive decks have complicated interacts that reward loyal pilots. Sullivan knew he lacked that loyalty.
So after toiling, he stumbled on Mono-Blue Control in an Magic Online Pro Tour Qualifier Top 8, from the player “Chiralane.”
“The thing about counterspells is they're great,” Sullivan said after he'd played around the with the deck. He said that he'd used the blue instants in Pro Tour testing, but things didn't wind up as expected. “Every time we cast a counterspell, we said ‘This is great,' but the decks just weren't good.”
This one's got eight counterspells in the main deck, and seemed like the best way yet to leverage the strong blue spells. After finding this deck and doing some tweaking, Sullivan has been feeling pretty good. “If you know your way around a control deck, you can pick up pretty well.” And there's still spots to outplay your opponent—especially with some spicy cards to speed up the deck in the sideboard.
The deck is not without trouble spots of course. “It doesn't like Red-Green Ramp,” Sullivan lamented. “... the real ramp deck.” Because the deck works by delaying just enough to ramp over the top of the smaller builds, something that goes bigger becomes harder. “We have four Hedron Archive and land but that's it,” Sullivan said. Then shrugged.
Aside from this Mono-Blue build, there have been a few Blue-Red Control decks that have been cropping up, but Sullivan didn't like the positioning as well as Mono-Blue. “[The Blue-Red decks] were splashing for Kozilek's return, [Wandering Fumarole], and Chandra, Flamecaller,” and Sullivan didn't think any of those were worth the land split. “Chandra's bad right now,” he said. “Against Green-White, it's anemic ... They can just untap-Archangel Avacyn, and sometimes Chandra's just still too small [against them] anyway.”
In the end, the utility of the counterspells paired with the finality of Ulamog was enough for Sullivan. “There are very few cards that deal with Ulamog right now,” he said. “And they are mostly white cards that I'm not so concerned about ... even if they cast Declaration in Stone , the world is not their oyster.”
Self-admittedly, Sullivan is still learning the deck. There are tons of colorless lands like Mage-Ring Network and Spawning Bed that require some thought. Heck, even resolving an Anticipate can give pause depending on the stage of the game, and just what you see. But Sullivan is feeling much happier about the tournament now than he was a few days ago.
We'll see how he feels tomorrow.
As of now, it's just good to know there's a home for counterspells, even without the raw card advantage of Standards' past.