Control Decks in Post-Ban Modern
- Filip Skórnicki
It was barely a month ago that control variants utterly dominated the Modern metagame. But the recent banned and restricted announcement shook the archetype's very foundations. Will it be able to hold on to its tier one position despite the changes? Can it adapt? Let's look at decklists!
Control Decks in Post-Ban Modern Can Modern's control decks adapt in the wake of the recent bannings? Filip thinks they can, and will, and has a bunch of decklists to prove it! It was barely a month ago that control variants utterly dominated the Modern metagame. But the recent banned and restricted announcement shook the archetype's very foundations. Will it be able to hold on to its tier one position despite the changes? Can it adapt? Let's look at decklists!
In the before-times, Modern's control decks utilized Mystic Sanctuary, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, and even Field of the Dead. Thanks to the bannings, we can no longer play any of these cards. What does that mean for the archetype?
As a matter of fact, I do believe that there will be many more ways to play control now that Uro is gone. The Titan homogenized the way we built control decks; instead of starting with a blue base, it was always green-blue. It made decks like Blue Moon, White-Blue Control, Blue-Black Control, or Esper Draw-Go obsolete. We mourned, but we had to adapt in order to win—so we played G/U/x. Now, that's no longer the case. Unfortunately, it also means that the archetype at large is worse against the meta without the main deck life gain, card advantage, win condition, and ramp all rolled into one.
However, as far as I'm concerned, the loss of Sanctuary might be the biggest hit. Control decks are much more prone to mana flood and a mismatch of answers to threats. Lack of Uro promotes control variety, but lack of Sanctuary just makes the archetype weaker in general. On the other hand, Boil got soft-banned as there is no reason to play it anymore. Additionally, there will be less green around, so less Veil of Summer. Lastly, we can play more wonky utility lands in our decks; animating lands such as Celestial Colonnade come to mind. Without Field in the format, control decks also don't have to worry about other decks' unbeatable and difficult-to-interact-with long-game engines.
What's the conclusion from all of this? You can play almost any control deck you want now; the archetype is less intrinsically powerful than it used to be; but it still plays a lot of busted 2019 and 2020 blue cards; and decks are less susceptible to knock-out type of hate like Boil.
The Latest Tech
What followed the bans were two premier events on Magic Online—Modern Challenges. A few types of control decks stood out.
|Four-Color Omnath Soup – moksha (16th Place)|
Despite losing Uro, Field, and Sanctuary, people still try to make Four-Color Soup work. It's a tap-out control deck, or even a midrange deck. Omnath, Locus of Creation acts as a board-centric engine abusing fetch lands to their maximum. This time, the deck plays Bring to Light to be able to tutor for key spells. One of such key spells is Scapeshift, which can kill your opponent just via lands in conjunction with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Another is Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor, whose back side you can still bring to light. This version leans more into midrange, combo territory rather than control. Though access to four colors means the deck can play a variety of answers to almost any threat an opponent could deploy against it. It also means the deck is supremely weak to Blood Moon.
|RUG Scapeshift – _titoWii_96 (9th Place)|
This deck takes the same finisher, yet packages it differently. It is clearly control; it just happens to have a combo finish. It runs four Snapcaster Mage main alongside fifteen pieces of interaction, after all. I personally endorse the combo-control archetype whenever possible, as it interacts with the opponent at all points until it painlessly wins, contrary to some durdly no-wincon control decks, which I otherwise love for their playstyle.
A combo finish allows you not to have to have an answer to every threat. If the opponent presents a planeswalker that you cannot deal with based on your deck configuration, there is always a very strong plan B—forgetting about the threat and simply killing the opponent. It is reminiscent of Splinter Twin that way, one of the most (in)famous combo-control decks in history. What's more, the deck contains so many Mountains that in long games you can realistically just finish your opponent off by making your land drops alongside Valakut. I also like the idea of playing Growth Spiral as the ramp spell of choice as it nicely curves into turn three Cryptic Command—about which I've written a whole guide for Cardmarket.
|Esper Control – katoriarch123 (32nd Place)|
Finally, we're looking at a pure control deck, close to the draw-go roots of its ancestors. It very much plays to my tastes as I love never tapping out and slowly depleting my opponent's resources. It includes the best counterspells, the best removal spells, the best creature land, and the best sideboard cards. The downside? I see two. One, the Esper color combination does not have a Triome. It is a serious weakness in the mana base. Once you've played with Triomes, you'll see how big of a difference it makes.
Two, even though the spells are powerful, playing draw-go is hardly the way to go in 2021. However, if the deck can solve its Tron issues, it might actually be good. Modern right now is super creature dense against which this shell should absolutely shine—efficient answers, topped off with a selection of the finest planeswalkers. I suggest revisiting it once there is an Esper Triome. Until then, the mana is a tad too wonky for my taste. One may be able to fix the problem by playing even more like a white-blue deck with a splash, but then one might as well abandon the third color entirely …
Which brings us straight to the deck you've all been waiting for. Arguably the biggest fan favorite. White-Blue Control!
|White-Blue Control – Oscar_Franco (1st Place)|
Oh, I am so happy the deck is back. There are many Azorius mages out there who had to put the deck down due to Uro's prevalence. Now, however, all of us can rejoice over its return. Metagame-wise it has a lot going for it too. It's an absolute killer against Green-White Heliod: does not care about infinite life, has unconditional removal and Wrath effects. Again with Path to Exile and Supreme Verdict, it deals nicely with all the prowess decks running around, which command the largest share of the metagame. Though we still have to tackle the aforementioned Tron problem. To that end, this here includes a full four copies of Field of Ruin, which a two-color deck can actually afford, contrary to three- or four-color builds. (I would love to see some Surgical Extraction in the sideboard as well, joining Field nicely to get rid of Urza's lands or Valakuts permanently.) On top of all that, white has always been the best sideboard color. It packs so many useful hate pieces that one can adjust to any meta.
Personally, Shark Typhoon has always disappointed me; I think the card is lackluster and overhyped. I am curious to see if any Frantic Inventory shells emerge but remain skeptical. The miracles variant lost a lot more with the Sanctuary ban, so I would expect the traditional version to dominate in the control/Azorius realm for the foreseeable future. It will probably undergo some changes, but the core is almost identical to the one pre-Uro. So dust off your beautifully sleeved decks and start White-Blue-ing your opponents again!
Of course, there are a lot of other options as well. You could still go Bant, you could play Stoneforge Mystic or Blue Moon. Experiment and find your own way to take control in this new format. What decks are you working on? Let us know in the comments below! As always—hold my hand and let's pass the turn together. Cheers!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.