Devastating Control

Every new set is met with the same remarks from the peanut gallery.

“You can’t play control week one!”

“Control is bad.”

“Have you read Gideon, Ally of Zendikar?!”

You can, it isn’t, and yes my reading comprehension is quite fine, person who thought Liliana, the Last Hope was a bad Magic card.

So how do you build control for week one of Standard? Well in general it can be a little tougher, but not in the way you think. In general all the control decks are going to be built the same way at the core.

You have your counterspells:

You have your efficient draw spells:

You have cheap removal:

You have a win condition that hits hard and gains value:

In addition to these awesome Standard cards, we’ve got some other great control tools from Hour of Devastation:

So with all these base tools we have, building a control shell is simple enough. The hardest part is figuring out exact numbers, but luckily we are in a position to figure most of that out.

Hour of Devastation feels very supplementary to previous sets in that it doesn’t create a ton of build-around-me cards, but instead helps solidify several archetypes and breathe a little bit of new life into some old ones. There’s a lot of talk of Champion of Wits reviving UR Emerge so we will see if that is something that happens. Without a doubt people will try but the only thing I’m scared of out of that deck is endless Elder Deep-Fiends and Fevered Visions.

So, keeping that in mind, we want to keep to the tradition of how the deck has been built previously but with upgrades. Here’s my initial take on “UR” Control in Hour of Devastation Standard:

UR Control by Rudy Briksza

UR Control has long been a deck that has flirted with being tier one. It generally looks like it has all the tools it needs to compete, but unfortunately ends up falling a little short. It often plays out as relatively weak to planeswalkers and big creatures or ones that are good at getting around removal. It also ends up being weak to decks that can go wide, especially those supplemented with pressure with planeswalkers.

Hour of Devastation (the card) changes all of that.

Being able to sweep away a board of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Glorybringer, Servant of the Conduit, and Rogue Refiner all at once makes for a powerful turn and plays perfect for control. If your opponent has to respect the wrath, it will force them to play out less creatures or threats which gives you the opportunity to clear them up with spot removal or counters.

Or this is probably a good enough example:


Brennan and I have been discussing in depth how much we love this card and it has all the tools to beat everything. While Brennan isn’t playing a pure control deck, his list still exemplifies how powerful Devastation is and how it can change the game. Of course these sweepers don’t hit Vehicles so I wouldn’t be surprised to see those pick up in short order to fight the new red sweeper.

In addition to picking up one of the best sweepers in the last few years, red decks also now have access to Abrade. Abrade is fantastic being able to pick off the aforementioned Vehicles that might become more popular because of Hour of Devastation. However vehicles isn’t where it stops. Every Gearhulk is also an artifact in addition to being a creature and having a solid answer to any Gearhulk, Scrapheap Scrounger, or even Hedron Archive gives this card a ton of flexibility while still being able to handle small creatures. Three toughness was a threshold for dodging Magma Spray, and while I don’t think Abrade will replace it by any stretch, it gives red decks even more luxury to use their removal at will and be able to save greater removal for when it’s needed.

Abrade also makes Torrential Gearhulk a little more awkward since keeping in Abrade post board kills both Fumarole and Torrential. This makes cards like Thing in the Ice better while making Dragonmaster Outcast slightly worse. I’d certainly prepare to fight planeswalkers and Thing in the Ice post board versus the UR control decks.

Similarly I expect Chandra’s Defeat to be similarly useful post board. I don’t really need to go in depth with this card. Being able to murder a Chandra, Torch of Defiance or a Glorybringer for one mana lets you be hyper flexible with how you tap your mana and what you can represent.

With all these new tools UR has the ability to tear through every deck in the format. I’ve tried to create a sideboard that has the tools to be able to fight whatever folks are bringing week one. I believe the deck now has the ability to be tier one. With the addition of a sweeper that cleans up most every creature and planeswalkers and gives you a lot more play with your removal, Nicol Bolas provides an alternate win condition and will completely dominate any empty board. What’s great about UR control is the goal is to maneuver the board to be empty. Nicol Bolas is also good at cleaning up a leftover creature in addition to crushing any hand an opponent might have. Let’s not forgot that Nicol Bolas doesn’t feel the wrath of Hour of Devastation either.

No longer will Torrential Gearhulk feel like it’s not good enough. It will get the admiration and respect it deserves and, in return, Torrential Gearhulk will give you the free value you have earned.

Rudy Briksza

Rudy Briksza

Rudy Briksza is a middling magic player with dreams as big as his ego. He has 8 Open Series Top 8s including 2 wins, one in Standard and one in Legacy. He competed in the 2016 SCG Player's Championships. He really likes Taco Bell and if you don’t you’re wrong.
Rudy Briksza

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Published:July 13, 2017

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