Top 5 Most Annoying Cards a Control Player Can Face
- Filip Skórnicki
A control player's job is to stabilize the game through various means of interaction and then keep pressing the advantage as the game progresses. Some cards and group of cards make that task much tougher than it should be. Here's the Top 5 of pesky problems and egregious grievances.
Teferi, Time Raveler: one of the most recent cards on the list and one that annoys all Magic players alive. It shuts off the most fun aspect of the game — instant speed plays and interaction — while being a relatively high-floor card so it's almost free to include in your deck.
Veil of Summer: another obvious pick. A lot of people mockingly call it a one-mana, green Cryptic Command, which is not far from the truth. It makes counter wars feel very bad if you don't play green and your opponent does.
Mystical Dispute: super cheap piece of interaction that counters other counterspells but also blue planeswalkers and blue creatures such as Snapcaster Mage. Its low cost makes it so that who's drawn more is able to win counter wars with ease.
Cavern of Souls
The first on the list is actually a land. Cavern of Souls is in the "cards that invalidate permission" group. As we know, countermagic is one of the cornerstones of control interaction and once Mana Leak or Logic Knot stop working, the games become substantially harder. Thankfully, Magic is a best-of-three game, so we always get to side out counterspells, and yet it changes the dynamic completely. It's most annoying in decks where creatures have enter-the-battlefield triggers and the opponent can force these through — Primeval Titan, Thought-Knot Seer, Thalia's Lieutenant, Spell Queller, and many more. Decks which utilize Cavern are most often tribal creature-dense strategies where we need as much interaction as possible, as fast as possible. Cavern, however, invalidates a huge chunk of interaction cards on our part, which makes matchups against the likes of Humans, Spirits, or Merfolk noticeably harder.
Further examples of cards in the "invalidate permission" group would include Aether Vial, Thrun, the Last Troll, Pact of Negation, Dovin's Veto, or any cards with cast triggers such as Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.
The slippieriest of all the bogles. This group is about cards which make removal awkward. Removal is our main and most important means of interaction and Slippery Bogle makes it basically useless. When we look at our hand with removal and card advantage, we might as well have zero cards in hand, because nothing we've got does anything. The axis on which this creature attacks is supremely annoying and nigh-impossible to interact with. The most common ways to deal with a Bogle is through some hopefully successful combat blocking, though unlikely, or mass removal spells such as Supreme Verdict or Engineered Explosives — provided they don't have a totem armor effect like Hyena Umbra. Thankfully, the year 2020 has been kind to us blue mages and we've got the Cryptic Command/Mystic Sanctuary lock.
Other creatures that make removal awkward naturally include all other creatures with hexproof as well, like Gladecover Scout, but also token makers like Goblin Rabblemaster or the one, the only, the 2020 unplayable Voice of Resurgence.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
One of the most iconic white creatures across all Eternal formats, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is in the "make sequencing difficult" camp. The thing is that the ability is static so once the creature's entered the battlefield everything immediately costs one more — it's not something that can be responded to. What does it change in practice? If I am on the draw against a creature deck and I have Fatal Push or Lightning Bolt I will most likely pay 2 life for my shock land to hold up interaction. Now, if my opponent's first creature is Thalia, as they may have played Aether Vial on turn one, I have no window to use my removal on it and, on top of that, I've needlessly lost 2 life. With Thalia around, playing both Mana Leak and Opt won't cost three but five! It changes the dynamic of the game completely. Against aggressive decks it is imperative to multispell in order not to lose on the tempo front, yet Thalia prevents exactly that. Additionally, hoping that Supreme Verdict will bail me out of the situation is much less realistic when it costs five mana.
The first instant on the list, and surprisingly, it's not blue. Boil never saw much play until the recent infestation of blue Mystic Sanctuary decks, which rely heavily on the Island subtype. Other decks started to adapt, and now blue players have to play around or at least fear the possibility of being completely cheesed out of the game if they ever blink. One can find Boil in Jund, Ponza, aggressive red decks, and there have even been blue control decks that eschew Sanctuary and run on a non-Island mana base just to play Boil themselves. One of the reasons I personally love control decks is the fact that they are super tough to hate out by single cards … yet there are some cards that actually do that, and Boil is one of them.
Field of the Dead
Last but not least, the newest card on the list, Field of the Dead lines up very well against the conventional answers control decks bring to the table. I wrote about the card at length before, but it deserves another mention here as well. Once Field is involved in the game it creates a very weird and difficult subgame for the control player. Sometimes, however, control decks themselves run the card and then it's a powerful mirror breaker if the other player does not have it in their 75. Removal, counterspells, card advantage all fail in the face of this incidental win condition. It stretches control players' answers and attacks on many fronts. Some ways to actually deal with the card include Field of Ruin, Cleansing Wildfire, or Assassin's Trophy, but my favorite is playing Field myself.
Another new card that sits in the same camp is Klothys, God of Destiny — disruptive, puts pressure on you, and is very difficult to get off the battlefield. Thankfully as far as Klothys is concerned, one can still counter it on the stack or use Aether Gust or Celestial Purge to remove it in post-board games, so it does not even come close to Field's obnoxiousness.
And that concludes my list. Despite the existence and prevalence of these annoying cards, my opinion is that it's the best time for control players in a long while. As always — hold my hand and let's pass the turn together. Cheers!
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