Budget Deck#2 Control on a Budget.
Before I can talk about any control deck, I feel like I have to talk about the two different types of control and the colors that can produce them. The first type is most commonly what people think of when you are talking about control. None permission control deals with things that prevent you from resolving spells or abilities. Most people assume this only covers counter spells like Mana Leak, however it covers a far broader field. Things like Phyrexian Revoker and Linvala, Keeper of Silence are great examples of none permission control that may be over looked in today’s standard environment. A hugely popular none permission control card that you might never of realized is Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
What makes these cards none permission control cards are the sorts of things they interact with. In Jace’s case, he has two abilities that can stop the other player from doing certain things. His first ability (commonly called fate seal) allows you to improve their odds of drawing land should they be on a mana flood or draw anything but land should they be on a mana screw. His last ability removes everything in their library from the game aside from what’s in their hand or already in play. This drastically lowers the amount of things they can play to recover. Both abilities deny permission to the other players to do one thing or the other. Permission control is a bit different. Rather than stopping things from resolving or abilities from being triggered, it simply produces sound answers typically at an advantage to you. Perfect examples of permission control are things like Go for the Throat, Gatekeeper of Malakir and Melt Terrain. Things like Spreading Seas and Melt Terrain control the way the game goes by either putting you greatly ahead by simply having a great deal more mana then the other player or by effectively eliminating their ability to produce mana of a certain color. Things like Skinrender are perfect examples of permission control at its best. He allows you to do two things at once for your advantage. He is a sizable 3/3 threat and he can remove or down size one of your opponent’s creatures by three -3/-3 counters.
Are their cards that are both forms of control? Yes. Things like Duress and Memoricide are great examples of both permission and none permission control effects in one card. It requires them to be allowed to do something like draw their card for the turn but, at the same time, stops them from playing whatever that card may be by making them discard it.
Colors are important to control. White, as an example, targets each color to either stop the casting of spells of that color like Iona, Shield of Emeria or protects you or your creatures from being targets or harmed by a given color like Brave the Elements. However this isn’t the only thing that is color related when talking about control. Though all colors have a control aspect, not every color can do both kinds of control well. Green as an example struggles to produce any none permission control effects. However, it excels at permission control with things like Acidic Slime. Likewise, blue has a hard time producing the same powerful permission control as green, black or red, but is likely the strongest none permission control color. Understanding each colors control strength will determine what kind of control deck you will end up with. Keep in mind that normally the best results from control is combining both permission and none permission control.
Originally I wanted to avoid Jace and, by proxy blue, since any blue deck would be better for having the $100 dollar wonder that is Jace. I started with black looking for a permission styled control that could compete, if not beat, the majority of Jace wielding decks. This is what I came up with and was able to have a respectable run of FNM victories and local tournament wins with:
MBC (Mono Black Control)
This deck might appear to be costly with both Grave Titans and Verdant Catacombs, however with them in such small numbers the price does not add up like it would with most other decks. Grave Titan sits around $15 and the Verdant Catacombs are about $12. This comes to a total cost of around $80-100 before taxes depending how savvy a trader or barter you may be.
The benefits of a deck like this is that it’s particularly powerful against other control decks that focus more on a none permission plan. Typically none permission control leans on both large creatures and counter spell magic: Sun Titan and Deprive. The ability to kill large creatures without really targeting them with things like Gatekeeper of Malakir means that Titans are not king here. With an active Mimic Vat, you can produce an early win this way by stealing their Titan. Things like Mana Leak can be pushed to irrelevancy by things like Duress. If they counter spell it with a Mana Leak, it works – you have effectively removed one of their answers to a larger threat like Grave Titan. If they don’t counter spell it, you are still able to rip a counter spell from their hand or other answer they may be holding for the things you want to play like Journey to Nowhere. Furthermore with creatures that do two jobs like kill one of their creatures while themselves being a creature like Skinrender can put you a leg up against the agro decks. These highly effective and efficient creatures combined with a large volume of creature answers can put you ahead early. The down side to a deck like this is that you have no way to interact against ramp decks. Not being able to cast counter magic means that they get to cast Harrow and Cultivate with little threat of a response. As they produce ever increasing amounts of mana you fall further and further behind in the game. You’re a control deck and your ability to be effective hinges on your ability to respond and answer the things they are playing. The more mana they have the more things they get to play. The more things they get to play in a given turn, the more things you have to answer. You are effectively pushed into a corner where you’re either going to run out of answers and be overwhelmed or pushed into making a bad mistake like casting Grim Discovery to get back a Tectonic Edge when you should be passing turn to respond to an Avenger of Zendikar’s landfall trigger with Go for the Throat. This brings me to anther point about this style of deck. It’s insanely hard to pilot. It’s horrifically unforgiving. One mistake typically looses you the game even if its as minor as casting Duress with 3 land that happen to be swamp swamp Tectonic Edge and needing double black for something like Grasp of Darkness.
Ho do you overcome these shortcomings? Well you have multiple solutions. First reading your local meta game helps. If you feel like your local FNM is going to be filled with agro and control decks but limited on ramped decks you may not want to change anything. If your meta is filled with ramp decks then this isn’t going to be your best choice in decks. The inability to interact with their ramp spells like Explore means that the matches are fast and very one sided.
How do you solve this problem? Some people, including myself, have experimented with other colors. Red is a popular one at least in my meta. This opens up some better removal options as well as things to extend your reach with the last few points of damage like Lightning Bolt. It also opens you up to man lands like Lavalclaw Reaches , which improves your control match even further. You also open your self up to much faster board sweepers like Pyroclasm or Slagstorm. The best part of going with a splash of red is the addition of Sarkhan the Mad. He is great at multiple things. His first ability combined with Sign in Blood can levy one hell of a card advantage. However, his second ability is where the action is; getting extra mileage out of things like Gatekeeper of Malakir and Skinrender once they have been used by throwing them away for a 5/5 flying beater. This opens up even more interesting synergy when there is an active Mimic Vat. However this does not change your ramp match up; you’re still very soft. It’s no secret that Blue/black control and white/blue control (caw-blade and its variants) can handily beat ramp decks. The way they do this is being able to interact with their ramp spells by way of none permission spells like Mana leak. The issue is that these tend to be the most costly decks in standard. How can we play a control deck to beat ramp decks that doesn’t have to run Jace, the Wallet Emptyer? Well luckily I didn’t have to look for long.
2 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon (aka Skittles)
Now this deck isn’t what I would call budget. Its sitting around $180-$230 in total worth however there are some things to do to make it even cheaper. Jwar Isle Refuge can be used to replace Creeping Tar Pit. This will lower the cost a bit without affecting the decks ability to function to drastically. However, without Creeping Tar Pits, you’re lacking a sound answer for other players planeswalkers. Another thing to do to make the cost of the deck lower is to replace Jace with Into the Roils. This seems strange but it gives you another answer for Jace, the Mind Sculptor as well as giving you some minor card advantage on the event you’re able to kick it.
So this deck doesn’t seem like it’s all that powerful. Most of its cards haven’t seen much constructed play and the deck looks like someone who ran infect in limited threw their favorite limited cards into a deck and called it good. I assure you it is honestly well thought out and very powerful. With things like Tumble Magnet and Contagion Clasp as four ofs, you can rest assured that that even the mightiest of creatures won’t be able to touch you. This combined with Mana leak and Deprive to prevent anything from breaking your board lock; means the game is locked up in your favor very quickly. You also get to play one of the hardest to deal with creatures printed in a very long time: Phryexian Crusader. He is pro the best removals in the format right now. Meaning that Disfigure Go for the Throat and Grasp of Darkness are really the only things that can deal with him. Given that Grasp of Darkness isn’t played much and Go for the Throat and Disfigure are only seen in limited numbers in a limited number of decks he’s pretty much amazing in most match ups.
However, do not be fooled by these facts. The deck is EXTREMELY hard to play correctly. With such great creatures, it’s easy to get overly excited and too aggressive too early. The deck really wants to win through attrition. All you need is 1 or 2 poison counters to win. You want to sit back and let your Clasp and Magnets do their job. This typically means your games are long. It can be hard to stay focused for 45 minutes or more and one mistake, like forgetting to proliferate them as well as your magnets, can be the difference between winning and losing.
Something else to be aware of is that your removal is very limited. You’re leaning on Clasp and Necropede to deal with the majority of their creatures as well as proliferate after blocks. Necropede is pretty great in agro matches. He allows you to block, typically downsizing something to be killed with proliferation later and killing something else as he leaves play. However he can’t do the job alone. This means before sideboard, you’re pretty weak against decks like Goblins and Boros. Don’t be discouraged; your sideboard brings some of the best hate against them. With National Qualifiers less then a week away, this could be a real contender for the top slot as well as being friendly to your wallet.