UW Control in Dominaria Standard: Heroic and Second Sun Variants
Dominaria has finally landed in Standard and it’s awesome. The legendary-based set brings brand new tools for control players and UW is the best shell to try them: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and his friends. In this article, we will dissect the archetype variants and its latest innovations.
Blue-White decks have been historically one of the most powerful color combinations for control archetypes since Magic: The Gathering's inception. Swords to Plowshares and Serra Angel were combined with Counterspell and Time Walk to win games on the early days almost 25 years ago.
Today, we have one of the best scenarios in Standard for this type of strategy to shine. Throughout this article, I am going to break down the core cards that make the deck viable alongside the newest Dominaria additions.
Brief Recap: Before Dominaria
A year ago, when Amonkhet was released, Standard was heavily dominated by Kaladesh block cards, either energy-based decks or Mardu Vehicles.
By that time, the perfect white finisher was printed in the shape of Approach of the Second Sun, although we had to wait several months until the metagame was suitable for the card to see some play in Standard.
SCG Open - Dallas
#3-4 UW Approach - David Thomas
|25Lands||23Instants and Sorceries||12Other Spells|
|2Field of Ruin||3Approach of the Second Sun||4Aether Meltdown|
|4Glacial Fortress||4Censor||4Cast Out|
|4Irrigated Farmland||2Disallow||2Gideon of the Trials|
|8Island||2Fumigate||2Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin|
|7Plains||4Glimmer of Genius|
|1Pull from Tomorrow|
|3Settle the Wreckage|
|1Disallow||1Gideon of the Trials||3Negate|
|4Regal Caracal||1Settle the Wreckage||3Slash of Talons|
Shortly after the rotation, in September 2017, with Ixalan freshly released and all the Zendikar-Innistrad gone, the strategy got a lot better: a solid mana base with 8 dual lands, some cheap interaction i.e. Censor, a great spot removal like Cast Out, and some board sweepers such as Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage.
The main and only finisher, apart from Gideon of the Trails, was Approach of the Second Sun. The sorcery’s utility is twofold: First, it fights well against aggressive opponents with lifegain. Second, it’s a game winning spell is hard to interact with if you don’t pack discard or counterspells in your deck.
UW Control Core Cards: Lands and Spells
The mana base is pretty straight forward. Both the heavy control variant and midrange versions play around 26-27 lands: 8 duals between Glacial Fortress and Irrigated Farmland, followed by a mix between Island and Plains. UW Heroic relies more on Plains since it needs to cast double white spells sooner i.e. Gideon of the Trials and History of Benalia. UW Control packs more Islands.
As for utility lands and newer additions, Field of Ruin is a must in both version and thanks to Dominaria, we can also include dual lands number 9 and 10 as Meandering River. Memorial to Genius allows drawing some extra cards later in the game.
Regarding business spells for both decks, they can be divided into three categories: removal, permission package and card draw, and advantage engines. First on the list is a wide range of removals to choose from, depending on the version we play.
The best spot removal is currently white. Cast Out deals with any permanent and can be cycled when it’s not needed. Then direct from Dominaria, we get the new and improved version of Journey to Nowhere: Seal Away, a flashy enchantment than only targets tapped creatures, great for exiling indestructible threats like Hazoret the Fervent. Although it doesn’t pair well against Heart of Kiran and Knight of Malice, it’s quite efficient overall.
Moving on to board sweepers, Settle the Wreckage is the most played one, sometimes in the main deck of midrange versions and always as a sideboard choice against all the aggressive decks in the format: RB Aggro, GW, or WB Knights. Fumigate is a bit slower but it gives you some life back when it clears the battlefield on turn five onwards.
Dominaria Additions: Syncopate
The permission package is quite diverse depending on the version. Aside from Disallow and Essence Scatter, some midrange builds are trying Censor or another recent addition like Syncopate. Both are great when you are on the play. Negate and Jace’s Defeat are mostly seen on the sideboard.
Finally, every UW deck needs some draw spells or manipulation, either in the shape of instants or enchantments. Search of Azcanta is mostly played on heavy control versions. Normally, two copies are enough. They synergize so well with Teferi’s first ability to untap two lands that once they are transformed into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, you can activate them twice: first during your turn and after during your opponent’s.
As for card draw, Glimmer of Genius is still the most efficient one and the perfect target for Torrential Gearhulk to flash it back. Pull from Tomorrow, on the other hand, has been seeing play in creature-less versions lately since it pairs pretty well with Teferi’s emblem to wipe out the other side of the board.
UW Control Variants: Creatures and Planeswalkers
Currently, there are three different variants of the deck. The “midrange-y” one is UW Historic also known as Raff’s Flash. It is more creature-based, packing 10-14 of them like the ones seen during the first weeks of Dominaria Standard and at the SCG in Baltimore:
|2Field of Ruin||3Lyra Dawnbringer||2Blink of an Eye|
|4Glacial Fortress||4Merfolk Trickster||2Commit / Memory|
|1Ipnu Rivulet||3Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage||2Settle the Wreckage|
|4Irrigated Farmland||1Shalai, Voice of Plenty||4Wizard's Retort|
|7Island||1Torrential Gearhulk||4History of Benalia|
|1Memorial to Genius||2Walking Ballista||4Seal Away|
|6Plains||2Teferi, Hero of Dominaria|
|3Authority of the Consuls||2Forsake the Worldly||2Fumigate|
|1Jace's Defeat||3Negate||1Nimble Obstructionist|
|1Settle the Wreckage||1Sorcerous Spyglass||1Teferi, Hero of Dominaria|
Other new cards are Lyra Dawbringer, a Baneslayer Angel that, if not answered, turns the game around completely. There's also History of Benalia, a token producer than later pumps them for only three mana.
Speaking of planeswalkers, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is essential in every version: he generates card advantage with his first ability and at the same time untaps mana so that you can play your instant and flashy creatures on the opponent’s turn. His second ability is indeed handy against permanents that might get out of control and regarding his third one… we shall focus on it later.
Escorting Teferi, we have Gideon of the Trials, the best three mana walker in the format, which can play both defense with his plus ability or go aggressive with his third one if the battlefield is empty.
Finally Karn, Scion of Urza is currently seeing more and more play in some Historic versions. Although it is not completely synergistic with the strategy, it combines very well with Heart of Kiran.
The other two UW variants are very similar. Both are heavy control decks and (almost) do not play creatures. Your first option is to use Approach of the Second Sun as your finisher and only a few Torrential Gearhulks in order to recycle your powerful spells.
The last option, which is even more radical, is to completely forget about winning the game and focusing instead, on not losing. This was the strategy of the deck that placed second in the last GP Birmimgham:
Grand Prix Birmingham 2018
#2 UW Control - Leo Lahonen
|27Lands||20Instants and Sorceries||13Other Spells|
|2Field of Ruin||3Blink of an Eye||3Cast Out|
|4Glacial Fortress||1Commit / Memory||1Gideon of the Trials|
|4Irrigated Farmland||4Disallow||3Seal Away|
|6Island||3Essence Scatter||2Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin|
|3Meandering River||2Fumigate||4Teferi, Hero of Dominaria|
|1Memorial to Genius||2Pull from Tomorrow|
|7Plains||3Settle the Wreckage|
|1Aether Meltdown||1Authority of the Consuls||1Fumigate|
|1Gideon of the Trials||4History of Benalia||2Invoke the Divine|
His pilot, Leo Lahonen, was able to reach the top 8 dominated by BR Aggro and became the deck to beat during the next few weeks. Apparently, this version doesn’t have a single win condition other than attacking with the lonely Gideon.
Nevertheless, the deck’s plan is quite smart. Step 1: Control the game until you get Teferi into the battlefield. Step 2: Reach his emblem. Step 3: Exile all your opponent’s permanents and deck them. For you not to deck yourself, simpy use Teferi’s second ability to put himself into the library again and again or just wait until your rival scoops by exhaustion.
All in all, UW strategies have a bright future in Standard and not only until the September rotation. As long as Dominaria is legal, Teferi and his friends will see the game for sure.
That's all for now! In the following weeks, we will go deeper into the most popular strategies of the format, so leave what your preferences are in the comments.
Until next time and thanks for reading.
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