Blue-Black Control at Nationals

by Chapman Sim on 20 October 2017, Friday

Chapman Sim

Blue-Black Control at Nationals


The Scarab God Torrential Gearhulk

Hi, everyone,

Last weekend, I ran Blue-Black Control at Nationals. After brief discussion with Kelvin Chew, I decided to run his list card for card.

While I didn't do very well at Nationals myself, I am convinced that Kelvin's list was the best version to run at that particular tournament. Without further ado, I'd like to share the list we both ran, while sharing some opinions on our card choices.




Glimmer of Genius & Hieroglyphic Illumination


Glimmer of Genius Hieroglyphic Illumination


With Ramunap Red being a popular deck in the new Standard metagame, we felt that a split of 2 Hieroglyphic Illumination and 2 Glimmer of Genius was the best combination. In such a fast matchup, we often didn't have time to cast Glimmer of Genius and we would also board out a couple of copies anyway. The option to cycle for 1 mana was extremely crucial in finding solutions to deal with the board, which we are almost always behind on.

Without Aether HubDynavolt Tower, or Harnessed Lightning, there was less need for energy in Blue-Black Control, which makes the split more sensible. While Glimmer of Genius's scry 2 was very powerful, we wanted to mitigate mana problems. With two additional cyclers in the deck, we also tended to miss land drops less often.




Bontu's Last Reckoning

Bontu's Last Reckoning

A lot of Blue-Black lists run Vizier of Many Faces, which can be used to copy opposing The Scarab GodTorrential Gearhulk, and also Carnage Tyrant. However, two copies of Bontu's Last Reckoning was our choice.

While Vizier of Many Faces was great in several situations, it is still quite a situational card. On the other hand, Bontu's Last Reckoning helped out in other matchups such as Abzan Tokens and Esper Tokens, which we had expected to be a real problem.

Two board wipes in the sideboard was a hedge against a wider metagame - compared to the World Championship - and it is a number which I was happy with. 



Search for Azcanta & Arguel's Blood Fast

Search for Azcanta Arguel's Blood Fast

I mentioned in my previous article that I really wanted a third copy of Search for Azcanta in the sideboard against control and midrange matchups, but Kelvin suggested a second Arguel's Blood Fast instead. As the two most powerful cards out of Ixalan, a split of 2-2 was fair as it prevented us from drawing multiple copies, while still providing four enchantments that are difficult to deal with in the mirror.




The 4th Vraska's Contempt

Vraska's Contempt

The fourth Vraska's Contempt was not something which we added without due consideration. Indeed, a four mana removal spell is not cheap, even if it was very versatile. With the World Championship just coming to a close, Temur Energy and Ramunap Red (Hazoret the Fervent was still very scary) were the biggest considerations, since those decks were bound to be quite hyped up.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance was a real issue and it was present in both these decks. In addition, Vraska, Relic Seeker and Liliana, Death's Majesty were also showing up in Sultai Energy, prompting us to want more solutions to planeswalkers. Even in the mirror, we want to be ready with a copy of Vraska's Contempt in case our opponent resolved The Scarab God.

Because of these reasons, a fourth copy seemed justified.




Ipnu Rivulet and Desert of the Mindful

Ipnu Rivulet Desert of the Mindful

While Field of Ruin was what we really wanted in Blue-Black Control and Blue-White Approach mirrors, having too many colorless mana lands hurt the mana base way too much.

Instead, we tried out Ipnu Rivulet and Desert of the Mindful. In the event of a stalemate - where the game could possibly come down to library death - these two lands will swing the odds in our favor. It was also randomly useful against Approach of the Second Sun since we could mill it away before they drew it back.

Cutting an Island and a Submerged Boneyard for these two lands hurt out mana base a little, but it was a sacrifice that felt reasonable for the long-drawn control matchups. On the bright side, our mana base has one more cycling land to mitigate against mana flood, which was also a fair consideration.



Gifted Aetherborn


Gifted Aetherborn


Last but not least, I wish to eat my words about Contraband Kingpin. That card sucks. It doesn't get killed by Lightning Strike or Abrade but neither does it really do anything else. If you want a creature in your sideboard, Gifted Aetherborn is the real deal. For starters, it has deathtouch so it trades with everything.

In control mirror matches where you are out of time, you can board it in to provide early pressure. In the mirror, the life gain is also important because you could have a war of the Arguel's Blood Fast, where each attack of Gifted Aetherborn meant that your opponent was down one card and you were up one.

It's also great against oversized Longtusk Cubs and Bristling Hydras, but a liability against Glorybringers, so be prepared if you are casting it when your opponent has arrived at five mana. I tried very hard to fit in a fourth copy but later gave up because the rest of the sideboard cards were so good!




Going forward, I expect very little changes to this list, barring cutting a Censor for a second Aether Meltdown or swapping back the pair of lands for "more stable" ones. It looks like The Scarab God-control decks are here to stay! As I am not qualified for Pro Tour Ixalan, I will be cheering on my teammates from the sidelines. With any luck, I hope Kelvin Chew makes the Top 8 again! Have fun with Blue-Black Control!


The Traveling Philosopher,
Chapman Sim

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