Control was dead. In a sea of Vehicles and aggression, where Fumigate and Radiant Flames weren't enough to stop opponents, many players jumped at the chance to play an all-in combo deck. (See Aetherworks Marvel for more information.) Some midrange strategies abounded, but control?
Then, it did.
"I'm a control player. I love playing control," said Zac Elsik, winner of Grand Prix Oklahoma City and the player that put Lantern Control on the Modern map. "I worked hard looking up control lists post-rotation, which was difficult because Smuggler's Copter was everywhere. I didn't want to play with aggro."
There's a reason Elsik was digging deep into what control decks were playing on Magic Online. The glue that locked them all together was Torrential Gearhulk, and it's the exciting top-end to seventh-ranked and Hall of Fame player Shota Yasooka's Day 1 undefeated run with Grixis Control.
"It has many advantages," Yasooka said. "You can draw cards or remove things, and it has flash. Many, many advantages."
Shota Yasooka has found success once again with blue control, thanks in part to Torrential Gearhulk.
Just how many advantages? What makes Torrential Gearhulk so exciting are the options you pair with it. With so many instants to choose from, you have a control player's dream of getting every answer you need twice over.
Gregory Orange, another player on the hunt for a Pro Tour breakthrough with control, knew exactly what to use with Torrential Gearhulk. "I like Harnessed Lightning a lot. If you have a lot of energy sources, it can deal a lot of damage, and works like a two-mana Murder," he said. "Gearhulk itself is also just a nice finisher. You don't have to tap out on your opponents' turns."
"Harnessed Lightning is efficient removal," Elsik agreed. "With Aether Hub and Dynavolt Tower, it scales up to kill things, but Glimmer of Genius and Torrential Gearhulk are amazing," Elsik continued. "It takes you from a normal game with variance, to Glimmer of Genius fixing what you need and Torrential Gearhulk doing the same."
"One card that I really liked using with it is Blessed Alliance," Elsik continued. "The Red-Green Energy deck can give their creatures hexproof, so your removal isn't so hot. Blessed Alliance gains life and forces them to sacrifice an attacking creature. You can use extra mana to pay for escalate casting it off Torrential Gearhulk. It's a card that gives you a whole bunch of extra options on top of Gearhulk, a card that already gives you a whole bunch of options."
"Any card!" Yasooka laughed and grinned, sharing his "list" of cards that are good with Torrential Gearhulk. Of course, there's one he put above the rest. "Void Shatter is the number one card. It takes care of any situation."
Removal, card draw, and counterspells. Torrential Gearhulk sets up control like nothing else in Standard.
"It gets what you need. Getting removal or a counter or draw spell, pretty much anything you want," Orange explained. "You put your opponent in a box where if you have a counterspell and draw spell in your graveyard and they don't play something, then you can draw some cards, and if they do play something, you can counter it. If you get in that situation, then you kind of just win."
Even assuming you'll run into other control decks, Torrential Gearhulk remains on top. "One of the other upsides of using the Gearhulk as a win condition is you can't get rid of it with Lost Legacy because It's an artifact," Elsik said. "Control decks can't take away your win condition because it's an artifact too."
"It's really large and finishes the game quickly," Orange added. "Once you turn the corner, you don't have to spend a lot of time going back and forth."