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Sultai, Boros, and Esper Control in the New Standard

By Tomas Quinones on 11/25/2014 Category: Forum>Magic: the Gathering>Articles>Competitive Constructed
Sultai, Boros, and Esper Control in the New Standard

By Tomas Quinones

Good morning Mages! Last time we talked, I went over the aggressive and midrange decks of the new Standard format. Today I will be talking about the control decks that I expect to arise, and a possible outlier that might be something neat to play if it has some more success in the future. First up is Sultai Control, in two different versions. One take is from Shaheen Soorani and one is from Brad Nelson.

Shaheen Soorani Sultai Control

Author:
Tomas Quinones
Forum Tag:
[mtgdeck]171117[/mtgdeck]
Type:
Control (Permission)
Cards:
60
Format:
Casual
Rating:
0.0 (0 votes)
Cost:
$250.92
Views:
839
magic card

Soorani was nice enough to do an entire writeup on the deck, which you can find on StarCityGames. Don’t go right now, though, you have time to finish reading this article first.

As I go through this list, it seems to me like Soorani probably has some problems if things like lots of enemy flyers come out, plus removal for his own flyers, or things that have evasive qualities to them and/or are hard to block such as first strikers, double strikers, intimidate creatures, and the like. However, his massive amount of removal is I’m sure how he solves that problem. His Planeswalkers also randomly help out, since Ashiok can steal a key powerful attacker from their deck, Garruk can kill one, and Kiora can immobilize one with their abilities. Ashiok is the most reliable at this simply due to their being the highest number of copies in the deck but the others do the job well too. The sideboard looks very well suited to dealing with both aggressive decks and other control decks, with Nylea’s Disciple, Drown in Sorrow, Bile Blight and Pharika’s Cure coming in for any aggressive or midrange troublemaker and Negate, Dissolve, and Liliana Vess coming in for Control matchups.

Brad Nelson Sultai Delve Control

Author:
Tomas Quinones
Forum Tag:
[mtgdeck]171119[/mtgdeck]
Type:
None
Cards:
60
Format:
Casual
Rating:
0.0 (0 votes)
Cost:
$137.04
Views:
1509
magic card

Nelson has taken a different tack entirely, choosing to instead use the power of Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Satyr Wayfinder, and Commune with the Gods to enable large-scale Delving. Doing that feeds right into the plan of a suddenly much-cheaper Necropolis Fiend endgame as well as nearly-free Murderous Cuts and creatures to return to your hand with Soul of Innistrad. Out of the sideboard, two copies of Empty the Pits and Pharika, God of Affliction provide both additional offense and protection. The Blue splash in this is so light that I have to wonder if it was really worth it to do it only for Sidisi, but I’m sure Nelson tested this thoroughly. If he chooses to use this going forward I would wonder if Sultai Charm would help him or if that was something he tested and discarded.

David Fulk Boros Control

Author:
Tomas Quinones
Forum Tag:
[mtgdeck]171118[/mtgdeck]
Type:
Control (Permission)
Cards:
60
Format:
Casual
Rating:
0.0 (0 votes)
Cost:
$128.58
Views:
829
magic card

Moving on to the Boros Control deck piloted by David Fulk, this deck is pretty interesting and I like its approach a lot. I didn’t know red had this many control tools after rotation. White I could see immediately but when you think of Red you don’t normally think of “control” first. The only card I don’t really like in this list is Last Breath, mostly because the creatures that it answers aren’t really all that important sometimes. My assumption is that it is to kill Goblin Rabblemaster and Courser of Kruphix, but this list already has Magma Jet and Banishing Light to do exactly that. In fact, everything that has small power numbers can be answered by the four Magma Jets, four Banishing Lights, and four Anger of the Gods so I’m not sure why we need fourteen answers to small creatures. I’d rather see something here that can answer the bigger things or offer more power, maybe bring in two of the Stormbreath Dragons from the sideboard just for some more killing power or the Fated Conflagration and End Hostilities, or add a pair of Wingmate Rocs, depending on the chosen approach to dealing with the expected metagame, and then use the extra slots in the board for something else. Fulk finished in seventh place in Edison, so clearly the deck is powerful and can deal with a lot of things, but I have to wonder if this was a one-shot wonder or if this is something that will show up again going forward. The last time we saw something like this, Brad Nelson played Naya Control at an Invitational in Indianapolis and won the tournament, but then the deck never really showed up again to my knowledge at anything major.

Gerard Fabiano Esper Control

Author:
Tomas Quinones
Forum Tag:
[mtgdeck]171277[/mtgdeck]
Type:
None
Cards:
60
Format:
Casual
Rating:
0.0 (0 votes)
Cost:
$209.38
Views:
875
magic card

Gerard Fabiano took an Esper Control deck to SCG Open: New Jersey and felt very confident about the deck afterwards in writing his article, which you can view on that high quality website when you get a chance.

This style of deck is definitely going for the long game, much like Soorani’s Sultai Planeswalker Control deck does, but Fabiano doesn’t have access to the lifegain, mana ramping, and big bodies from Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid that Soorani does so he has to make up for that in other ways. He DOES get the benefits of Last Breath to help deal with enemy Coursers and Goblin Rabblemasters, and has numerous planeswalkers as kill conditions. Prognostic Sphinx also shows up as a secondary kill condition, and he has plenty of card drawing power from Jace’s Ingenuity and Dig Through Time. If I have really one complaint about this deck, it’s that it feels almost too straightforward. Soorani has a variety of planeswalkers to achieve his ends, and also has some options in the form of Sultai Charm to hold down the fort in ways that multi-task, but Fabiano is relying almost solely on specific cards that don’t have more than one use.

On balance, I expect the Sultai decks to be the best place to be for control for now. Sultai has access, if they want it, to all three pillars of the format as I mentioned in the last article – if you start with playsets of Thoughtseize, Sylvan Caryatid, and Courser of Kruphix in your deck and build the rest of the deck around what those three cards do, you’re in good shape for a control approach. Esper Control, the best control deck of last Standard season, only has access to one of those pillars and although the deck is still good and can be made to work well, it will likely struggle for a while against what the pillars of the format are currently. Being able to use Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid in addition to Thoughtseize is just too good. The Boros Control deck is very interesting to me and I like what that deck does, but I’m cautious about whether it will ever be a major factor. Naya Control as I mentioned wasn’t last season except for that one tournament so I am not sure what will happen with the Boros Control deck but history doesn’t look good for it.

Good luck at FNM this week!

--Tomas