Blue-Red Control in Standard

by Martin Dang on 02 March 2017, Thursday

Martin Dang

Blue-Red Control in Standard

 

With Pro Tour Aether Revolt and a few Grand Prix in the books, I would like to explore where we stand on the current Standard format. Mardu Vehicles dominated the Pro Tour Top 8 and was widely regarded as the best deck at the time.

 

My Genesis teammates who played Black-Green Constrictor at the Pro Tour had great results against Mardu Vehicles. This finding led me to believe that there would be an increase in Black-Green Constrictor decks for the following Grand Prix because the format tends to balance itself through natural progression. It happened and we saw Black-Green Constrictor decks rise to the top at Grand Prix Pittsburgh, solidifying Black-Green Constrictor and Mardu Vehicles as the two dominant decks of the metagame. The third pillar were the Saheeli Rai decks, which were seeing its fair share of play.

 

Was there a deck that could take advantage of this metagame?

 

Let's find out!

 

 

 

The Evolution from Jeskai into Izzet


Jeskai Control was my choice Pro Tour Aether Revolt and I felt it had a great matchup against Black-Green Constrictor, but was unfavored against Mardu Vehicles. I have since tuned the deck to better combat Mardu Vehicles.

 

Fumigate Radiant Flames

 

Firstly, I removed the Fumigates and added Radiant Flames to the mainboard. I was able to wipe the board early, but the matchup still felt bad. mainly because of Scrapheap Scrounger and assorted Vehicles I couldn't kill. I then proceeded to remove all white cards, but kept a mana base to support the Radiant Flames. I added 3 Aether Meltdown and 2 Incendiary Flow to deal with Scrapheap Scrounger and Vehicles.

 

Aether Meltdown Incendiary Flow


In the end, the Radiant Flames just felt awkward and I ended up cutting them all, transforming the deck into a straight Blue-Red Control deck. Finally, the matchup felt good. It was not great, but definitely favored. A new problem was that the deck no longer won against Black-Green Constrictor and 4-Color Saheeli, which were the 2 most played decks after Mardu Vehicles.  Aether Meltdown does close to nothing against them, and without sweepers they can just flood the board mindlessly, so which build to go with depends on the metagame you're expecting.

 

Last weekend, I had expected an even amount of Mardu Vehicles and Black-Green Constrictor, so I attended Grand Prix Utrecht with this deck:

 

 

 

 

Some Tips on How to Play the Deck

 

Torrential Gearhulk Dynavolt Tower

 

  • This is a classic control deck. Counter only really important spells, shoot down aggressive early drops and then close the game with your win conditions such as Torrential Gearhulk and Dynavolt Tower. Another route is to overwhelm your opponent with card advantage from Glimmer of Genius and Jace, Unraveler of Secrets.

  • I think the deck is fairly difficult to play. Being a control deck, you always start the game being behind. You don't try to get on the board. You establish board control by clearing the board instead of putting your own stuff there.

  • You have to be careful how to use your counter and burn spells. Use your life as a resource and don't be afraid to take some initial damage. The games are usually very tight, and I see myself ending up with less than five life more often than not.

Horribly Awry Incendiary Flow

 

  • I have added Horribly Awry since it's great against Scrapheap Scrounger. All three of the deck we're trying to combat plays loads of targets for it, plus it works well with Torrential Gearhulk.
     
  • I used to have three copies of Incendiary Flow, but it has been cut down to two. The problem is that you want to keep mana open for counter spells, but it being sorcery is not working well with the rest of the deck, especially Torrential Gearhulk. I still like the card. it is good in the current metagame and can work together with a Shock to take out Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
     
  • The amount of Dynavolt Tower has also been reduced to two. The card is great in the deck and does well in the format, however it is a bit slow. I've had too many hands with two of them too early, and it's hard to get them down there since you usually need to keep mana up for counter or burn spells.

 

Sideboarding against Mardu Vehicles and Black-Green Constrictor

 

 

Against Mardu Vehicles

 

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Heart of Kiran Scrapheap Scrounger

 

I find this matchup to be even pre-board. However, the tone of the game is largely dependant on the die roll. You can be very easily ahead if you win the die roll but if you lose the die roll you tend to fall behind more easily. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger are your worst enemies against this deck.

 

Your game plan is basically to kill the early creatures, which allows you to keep mana open to counter Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. If you can stay alive to drop Torrential Gearhulk on a fairly safe board, well done!

 

In: +2 Aether Meltdown, +3 Release the Gremlins, +4 Thing in the Ice

 

Out: -4 Disallow, -2 Dynavolt Tower, -1 Confirm Suspicions, -1 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, -1 Negate

Your game plan after sideboard is to take out all the slow stuff and lower your mana curve. Thing in the Ice is great. It provides early defense and it is not difficult to transform. And once you do, it closes the game quickly. Release the Gremlins is also very good here and having access to 3 of them means you don't have to always wait for bigger value. If there is a worthy target, just pull the trigger to stop early damage. Not only will you be saving damage from a Vehicle, the 2/2 body is likely to be very helpful in helping you stabilize.

 

Against Black-Green Constrictor

 

Winding Constrictor Fatal Push Tireless Tracker

 

 As explained early, by changing my control deck from Jeskai into only Blue-Red, I found that the deck is worse off against Black-Green. However, I think this build is still favored pre-board, since they have a lot of dead cards such as Grasp of Darkness and Fatal Push.

 

Post-board, however, they will gain a lot more tools for card advantage. They'll bring in Tireless Tracker, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Planewalkers so it becomes more of an attrition match where they are slightly favored. Having said that, don't be too afraid of them drawing cards. Use your counterspells wisely and a timely Torrential Gearhulk can still close out the game fast, with them lacking in the removal department.

 

In: 4 Thing in the Ice.

 

Out: -2 Dynaolt Tower, -1 Shock, -1 Confirm Suspicions

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

Disallow

 

I enjoy playing control decks. Sometimes, there is no better feeling when you crawled back from near death to establish total control. Other times, things go your way and you feel that you can't ever lose the game as you hold on to a bunch of counterspells and removals and watch your opponent struggle. I guess I'm evil that way.

 

Seriously, though.

 

Thing in the Ice Dragonmaster Outcast

 

The thing I enjoy most about playing control decks is the sideboarding. If I suspect that my opponent are bringing in removal spells, I will sometimes keep Dynavolt Tower and leave Thing in the Ice in the sideboard. This creates more dead cards for my opponent and it is these mind games that give control decks the advantage because they have a lot of tools in their sideboard. Alternatively, if I suspect that he is boarding out most of his removal, I can bring in Dragonmaster Outcast to pressure the few removal he has left.

 

Anyway, if you like counterspells and longer games, I suggest giving Blue-Red Control a try. It was what I played at Grand Prix Utrecht to a Top 64 finish and I will continue observing the metagame as it shifts. Good luck guys!

 

Martin




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