VIDEO: Which White-Blue Deck Is Best Post Astrolabe Ban?
- Harry Khoo
What's the best control-oriented white-blue build in Modern after the banning of Arcum's Astrolabe? In this Nuts and Bolts video, Harry Khoo investigates the different flavors — from Frantic Inventory to Charm & Shark, from Stoneblade to Sharkblade — and ranks them based on extensive testing.
Hey, everyone! I'm HarryMTG and welcome to the Cardmarket YouTube channel. Today we are going to be discussing White-Blue Control in Modern after the banned and restricted announcement. Now before we get into this video though, if you like this type of content, then like and subscribe. While you're down there, please remember to click the notification bell.
And before we get into this video, I want to give a bit of a structure. So, while we're going to be discussing a lot of White-Blue Control in Modern, I just wanted to discuss how we do these types of discussions in new metagames with the idea of saying, "Is a deck good or bad?" I want to acknowledge that this is an opinion-based video, so while I believe myself to be correct, everyone has their own opinions. If you do disagree with anything I say in this video, please let me know in the comment section down below. But let's have a discussion, not a war.
Before I get into discussing White-Blue Control and all the different variations in Modern right now, I just wanted to say that in new metagames it is a very hard task to say what is good and what is bad. What I mean by this is that there's not enough results being published by Wizards of the Coast to definitively say what is the best and what is the worst. What you need to do is you need to go out and play these decks and decide by yourself. That's why I've been streaming with White-Blue Control, White-Blue Stoneblade, and all the variations.
I spent loads of time on it over the past few weeks to get an idea of what I think is what we should be doing in the format. But like I said, it's still extremely hard to determine what is the best. So, we must go off the very small sample size we have and the opinion and the experience you get when you play loads of leagues. And I mean that I've played over 100 hours of Magic Online since the banned and restricted announcement. It's a bit crazy but I'm crazy!
The last thing I want to say before we get into this video though is that although I may say that a deck is definitively bad, what I mean by that is that I personally wouldn't play it in a high stakes event. All the decks we are discussing in this video are viable, somewhat decent decks to play in the Modern metagame. However, I'm going to be making recommendations on what I think is better and giving reasons why things are better and/or worse. We're going to be recording this video on Magic Online so I have access to showing you all the cards. Let's hop on, I'll see you guys in a second.
Okay, so we're here on Magic Online. If you'd like to find out more about this program, just google "Magic: The Gathering Online" and you can download it from the first link. It's free, go check it out.
We're going to be talking about four specific decks today — Charm and Shark White-Blue, Frantic Inventory White-Blue, White-Blue Sharkblade, and White-Blue Stoneblade. I want to start off with the first two, Charm and Shark White-Blue and Frantic Inventory White-Blue.
Charm & Shark and Frantic Inventory
This is looking at your more "draw-go" style decks, just trying to accumulate card advantage on your opponent's end step if they cast nothing you want to interact with. It also takes advantage of the new tech, Shark Typhoon, in the format, which I find very interesting. These are my two favorite types of blue white decks in the format right now, I'm going to jump in and say that.
I prefer white-blue as a "draw-go" strategy right now rather than Stoneblade. I'm sure a lot of you might be asking "why?" and this is specifically because there's so much interaction with Stoneforge Mystic in the format right now. There's a lot of Fatal Pushes, there's a lot of Lightning Bolts, a lot of Thought-Knot Seers, et cetera. They are consistently removing either the Stoneforge Mystic or the equipment you get from your hand, as well that Stoneforge Mystic is actually extremely slow in the format right now compared to the degenerate strategies that are being used in terms of Blue-Red Prowess, Eldrazi Tron, et cetera.
So I believe that the "draw-go" strategy, in general, is better, and I'm talking about 3% better, than Stoneblade because I feel like you're able to interact better rather than forcing yourself to feel awkward on turn two if you tap out for Stoneforge Mystic and can't hold up the Mana Leak. Ignoring White-Blue Control versus blue white Stoneblade as we'll get more into that later.
I want to talk specifically between two builds. Essentially, the difference between these two decks that I have up here is that one is playing Frantic Inventory and one isn't. There are key differences. If you don't play Frantic Inventory, that allows you to play more Shark Typhoons, Archmage's Charm, and you're really looking to counter a lot of your opponent's spells. Whereas if you're playing Frantic Inventory, you're looking to draw a load of cards and outvalue your opponent. Maybe Force of Negation down the line, but generally speaking you're going to be using Path to Exile or Wrath of God more, Snapcaster Mage targeting Opt or Frantic Inventory more, using your planeswalkers more to remove their threats because you interact better with things on the battlefield.
Whereas in the "draw-go" strategy with the Archmage's Charm and Shark Typhoon, you're looking more to counter as many relevant threats as possible and then regain the card advantage and gain the lead through Archmage's Charm and Shark Typhoon as well as having the planeswalkers to also gain card advantage. I prefer the Charm and Shark White-Blue over Frantic Inventory specifically because of mana reasons. I understand Archmage's Charm in itself is more expensive than Frantic Inventory, but if you compare Frantic Inventory to Charm, if you're not going to draw more than two cards with Frantic Inventory, then you're paying more mana than you are for Charm. Because the first Frantic Inventory you just draw one, so it replaces itself. It doesn't do anything. And then the second Frantic draws two, so that's actually four mana to draw two, so you're actually saving mana by playing Archmage's Charm as a draw two.
In my extensive testing with Frantic Inventory I found that the games just don't go long enough to get more value than a draw two. And when I am getting these draw threes, draw fours, it's either in a top deck scenario or when I'm extremely ahead. I feel like in general, paying one less mana for a draw two is a lot more relevant. I understand that you can pay this four mana over two turns, but like I've been saying, the format is extremely degenerate, extremely fast, it's hard to find time to tap out for two turns consecutively to cast these two Frantic Inventories.
What's even more important is that you must draw two Frantic Inventory to even be in the position to drop two. With Archmage's Charm, you only need to draw one. That's essentially the main difference between Frantic Inventory White-Blue and Charm White-Blue. The general game plan is the same. You are looking to just counter and remove, counter and remove. It's just that Frantic Inventory is way better at the extreme long game. This is like going to turn twenty, but sadly, as I've been saying, the format is degenerate. You just don't find yourself in that position right now, which is why I'm kind of against Frantic Inventory.
The last thing I wanted to comment on as we go over the general game plan of these decklists is Hall of Heliod's Generosity. This card can go in the Charm and Shark decklists as well, but I kind of wanted to discuss the power level.
For those who don't know what it is, essentially you can pay two mana to put Shark Typhoon on top of your library. This is a very powerful effect that does have the downside of having to put a strictly colorless land in your deck. Unlike Field of Ruin, you cannot turn it into a basic land and the matchups that you want Hall of Heliod in are the midrange matchups. Half the midrange matchups that you want it against are playing Field of Ruin, so they can just Field of Ruin the Hall of Heliod's Generosity. While I was very high on Hall of Heliod at the start of the new metagame, I found it not actually doing anything because my opponents were using Field of Ruin on the Hall, and it also shuffles away the Shark Typhoon that's on top of my deck. So, you can play it, I think it's a fun card but I'm really not sure about the competitive nature of the card.
Going over these general two decks, as I said the Charm and Shark White-Blue is my preferred decklist if you are going for a straight-up control deck. But both are extremely viable. I did play the Charm and Shark deck in the Modern Showcase and I went 5-2, which was a decent score. I just haven't seen as much success with the Frantic Inventory as I have with the Charm and Shark list.
In summary I do believe that Frantic Inventory is a bit weak for the Modern format. Like I said, degenerate, too expensive, as well as having to draw multiple, and you don't get enough time to do so.
Now we've covered White-Blue Control, let's move on to the Stoneblade decks. There are only really two variations on Stoneblade. It's very basic and not that complicated. One's White-Blue Sharkblade, which is essentially White-Blue Stoneblade but you're playing Shark Typhoon. And the other one is just the old White-Blue Stoneblade where you're playing Spell Quellers.
For those who don't know, I played this exact list in Cardmarket Paris. This is a dated list. I did try this in two leagues, and I was not impressed. Sadly, while Spell Queller used to be very powerful, it's extremely hard to not only set up the Teferi, Time Raveler and Spell Queller "lock" or combo, but also Spell Queller is also just not a powerful spell anymore.
There is loads of removal for the Stoneforge Mystic and that's the same for the Spell Queller. I'm just very down on Spell Queller, I'm down on Stoneforge Mystic right now. And I think that in general, Stoneforge Mystic is something that you want to be playing in a metagame with loads of Amulet Titan and combo. Now with Aether Gust being printed, Amulet Titan is extremely affected and, not only that, Amulet Titan is a good match for just straight up White-Blue Control because they have access to Aether Gust.
I believe that the benefits you gain from playing Stoneforge Mystic are not that high compared to just going straight White-Blue Control.
Now to summarize White-Blue Stoneblade with Spell Quellers against Sharkblade, I do believe that Sharkblade is the better version. That's specifically because Shark Typhoon is just an amazing two for one. The body must be removed, the body can use the equipment, and also the deck is a bit more flexible in that it digs better because you have access to cycling threats. It's way better positioned than praying your opponent casts a spell, you have a Spell Queller, and that they don't have a removal spell. Are you gonna hope that you had the Teferi? I feel like it's more linear and more prepared for a removal-heavy metagame, which is why I would go for this over the Spell Queller version.
Like I said before, I feel like Stoneforge Mystic is poorly positioned and that you are taking a risk playing this decklist, as there just isn't enough Amulet Titan running around in the metagame. Overall ranking from best to worst I'm going to put Charm and Shark as the best, then Frantic Inventory as the second best, White-Blue Sharkblade is third best, and White-Blue Stoneblade as fourth. What a surprise, we have one to four.
In reality, I do believe that this is the correct way to rank them. While Stoneblade was a very good decklist in the past, I believe it was from all the Titan Scapeshift decks running around. Sadly I just don't think it can keep up to par, especially with Aether Gust being discovered as a very good Modern card, and that just boosts White-Blue Control over the edge, and you no longer need the Stoneforge Mystic and the Sword of Feast and Famine anymore. Like I said at the beginning of this video though, I do believe that all of these decklists are viable choices in Modern. I just believe that the Charm and Shark version will get you the most percentage points in the most matchups in the Modern metagame right now and I've had the most successes with that decklist.
Of course, this is an opinion-based video so you have all the right to disagree with my choices, but this is how I felt with all the play testing I have done. I do personally believe that White-Blue Control is where you want it to be, not even just compared to Stoneblade but also compared to Bant Control and Sultai Control. I just really like the mana base, but that discussion is for another video. I've been HarryMTG. You want to hear more about Bant Control, then you better subscribe, because I have a video coming out soon on that. Hope you guys enjoyed, and I'll see you in the next one.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.