Countering with Temur Control!
The weekend before was Grand Prix Montreal and I have been a bit tired of continuously jamming the best deck. There has been a common pattern in Standard that the best deck just invalidates many different strategies and this format is no different than the last two. While in a way it feels worse to straight up lose to Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian on turn four, having to let your opponent spin their Aetherworks Marvel is one of the worst feelings ever. Having access to turn two Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot with the ability to sacrifice it and spin the Marvel on turn four is way too easy, and it is great that Ulamog, The Ceaseless Hunger and many other Eldrazi are rotating out somewhat soon. This season I have decided to try to combat the best deck with… Counterspells!
Temur Control – Mathew Stein
The week leading up to the Grand Prix, I was basically set on playing some control variant, and up until the night before I was locked on Blue Red. It was expected that the format would evolve into Zombies, Temur Aetherworks Marvel and some other decks, and playing control into a somewhat open format makes sense. Special shout out to control specialist David Schnayer for convincing me to add green to the maindeck primarily for Lumbering Falls and artifact removal in the maindeck and sideboard. This ended up being an amazing decision and the green is definitely worthwhile. Many games come down to Lumbering Falls chip damage or full beatdown and hexproof is super relevant. You also gain access to potential high power green cards like Tireless Tracker for the sideboard, but I have stayed away from it for the time being.
The deck by itself is pretty self explanatory; you got some counterspells, removal, card draw, and late game threats. But I believe that right now, Control is at one of the best points it has been in for a long time, primarily for a few reasons.
The main reason is the ability to end games very quickly compared to older formats. Torrential Gearhulk is an unbelievable threat, giving you access to flashback Glimmer of Genius and any other relevant spell in each individual situation and being a huge 5/6 body. The main removal spells in the format like Magma Spray, Fatal Push, Grasp of Darkness all dodge it, and they have to work a bit harder to get you with a Harnessed Lightning. Dissenter’s Deliverance is a bit annoying, but is usually cycled earlier in the game. This also goes with the game plan of Lumbering Falls, being able to trap the removal spells in your opponent’s hand as opposed to giving them opportunities to use them with Wandering Fumarole. Also with the addition of Chandra, Flamecaller, turning the corner has never been easier.
The second reason is that we have cycling! Cycling is an amazing mechanic, and one I am incredibly happy is back in Standard. Many decks benefit greatly from cycling, but not as much as control. Many hands become keep-able thanks to the ability to cycle Censor, the singleton cyclers, Sweltering Suns as well as Hieroglyphic Illumination depending on your build. Not only can they cycle early or late game, but all of their effects are very worthwhile at different points.
The third reason is the incredibly consistent mana base. When three color tri-lands were not available in the past, control decks have had to go as far as playing Evolving Wilds and other non efficient ways of getting multiple colors. This Standard format has been a blessing for mana bases. Another main issue has been the amount of lands having to be played as well as the incredibly high number of tap lands. All of these issues get solved due to having access to only four “true” tap lands in Lumbering Falls, as well as doubling down as your win con! Due to cycling now (as well as some of your lands even having cycling) control decks are able to lower their land counts from 27-28, now down to 24-26 and not be an issue. Having your dual lands of Spirebluff Canal and Botanical Sanctum entering untapped for the most important part of the game also makes the mana base very efficient.
The last reason is just the incredibly high power level of cards in recent years. Ignoring Torrential Gearhulk and Chandra, Flamecaller for the time being, the rest of the deck is filled with incredibly efficient answers and card drawers. Magma Spray, Harnessed Lightning, and Sweltering Suns have to be one of the most efficient removal shells in a while. Letting your 2 mana removal spell kill their biggest creature and having a cycling wrath is wonderful. The days of Cancel and Force Spike are over: Disallow, Censor, Negate and Essence Scatter all having amazing utility. Things to note about Disallow are the ability to stop Planeswalker activations, either mode of Ulamog the Ceaseless Hunger, Aetherworks Marvel spin and flipping of a Westvale Abbey for example. Lastly, the card drawers of Glimmer of Genius, Pull from Tomorrow, and Hieroglyphic Illumination all accomplish different roles while being able to sift through your deck very efficiently.
Due to the nature of control, the numbers vary depending on the list you look at. I feel like 10-12 pseudo removal spells, 11-13 counterspells, 4-5 big threats, and 6-8 draw spells is totally reasonable and likely some balance of this is where you want to be at right now. Let’s hop right into the Grand Prix!
Rounds 1-2: Byes
Rounds 3-7: All very straightforward wins against 3 Zombies decks, 1 Temur Marvel and 1 Temur Energy Aggro. Zombies is likely one of if not your best matchup but it’s important to know how you can lose. If you can stay toe-to-toe with their early threats while not allowing a Cryptbreaker to draw them cards, as long as Liliana’s Mastery doesn’t resolve, the matchup is very easy. Post board against the Black White version, be aware of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar as well, since having that resolve on turn 4 is very problematic.
Temur Energy Aggro that goes big with Glorybringer, Elder Deep Fiends, and Bristling Hydras is another fantastic matchup, as long as a Bristling Hydra does not resolve early. Killing their 2 drop mana dorks is very key, because of accelerated Bristling Hydras. When in doubt, bolt the bird (or Magma Spray the Servant of the Conduit, whatever works). Never tap low if you fear an Elder Deep Fiend, and be aware of your life total to not die to Glorybringers out of nowhere.
Starting 7-0 felt amazing, now I just had to win one more to have a great finish for Day 1. Just one more win…
Rounds 8-9: Losses to both Green Black Aggro and Temur Marvel. Both matches were incredibly close and came down to game 3 shenanigans. Against Green Black, I had to play the game to the point where I could flip my Thing in the Ice to bounce everything and kill Nissa, Voice of Zendikar that resolved on turn 3. Unfortunately, a very timely Transgress the Mind spoiled that plan. Overall the matchup feels almost dead even, especially with my new sideboard plan of Dragonmaster Outcast moving forward. Against Marvel, game 3 came down to having Lumbering Falls and Torrential Gearhulk in play with my opponent at 3 life. I have Harnessed Lightning for a blocker and they have only one Aetherworks Marvel spin. My opponent was very nice and told me when he bricked on Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger card by card. Here we go: Brick, Brick, Brick, Brick, Brick, and then Bam, there’s a 10/10 in play and my hopes of lethal were gone. Either way I gave myself the best chance to win, and starting 7-2 felt medium yet also perfectly reasonable.
Rounds 10-13: Unfortunately playing a Control deck caught up with me here. A combination of 100% Marvel flips into Ulamog (Had to be like 4 in a row or something), mediocre draws/variance and you know the drill. Both losses to Marvel were still very close matches and could have gone either way. Let’s just say on turn 5 on the play in game 1, having your opponent go Aetherworks Marvel into Dispel is not a great feeling. I believe that my sideboard plan of reliance on Thing in the Ice as pressure is likely not correct anymore, because of their transformation to a Control deck. My other losses to Blue Red Control mostly came down to flooding and not drawing ways of gassing back up, and Planeswalker Control isn’t something you should be seeing too often.
7-0 into 7-6, definitely something I haven’t experienced before, but fun tournament overall and happy to keep playing the deck. Let’s see what happened in my first PPTQ with the new list!
Temur Control – Mathew Stein
I am mostly going to go over the changes to the list and sideboard guide moving forward. I came 10th out of 32 players overall and the tournament was fun and refreshing playing against 5 different decks. My 2 losses including my win and in for top 8 were to Mardu Vehicles splashing blue and BW control. Mardu Vehicles still felt very doable and I feel like only dedicated Control slayers are unfavourable.
Changes to the deck:
Overall, I felt that certain games drawing 2 Pull from Tomorrow did not give you enough resources to stabilize the early game and carry into the mid/late game. Having to Pull from Tomorrow for only one card is not where you want to be, and Hieroglyphic Illumination doubles down as an early cycler, as well as a poor man’s Glimmer of Genius, that can be flashbacked with Torrential Gearhulk if need be. I still like having access to one for a big effect, but more may not be needed.
Having access to Hieroglyphic Illumination allows you to reasonably cut another land, and having more hard counters in the maindeck felt necessary, especially against Marvel.
Changes to the Sideboard:
After the Grand Prix, I did not feel Glorybringer warranted a spot, and 2 Sphinx’s also felt like a lot, especially for only the Control mirror. Dragonmaster Outcast is my main plan going forward because of how efficient it is in the late game while allowing you to keep open counterspells. With almost every Marvel deck having Glimmer of Genius and sideboarded Dispels, moving up to 3 Dispel also feels necessary.
These are just basic guidelines for sideboarding, due to every deck differing slightly. Take it with a grain of salt and make sure to change accordingly depending on what you see.
Against Temur Marvel:
While this matchup may be close, I still feel like Control should have a reasonable edge game 1, and slightly favoured post board. Trying to play the Thing in the Ice beatdown plan didn’t really work, and I really like Dragonmaster Outcast, because of how easy it is to take over the game. Boarding into 19 counterspells may feel like a lot, but being able to expend counterspells on their early game as well as winning counter wars is essential. Sometimes they go wide, which is why keeping in some removal is necessary, especially when everyone has Tireless Trackers. While it may not look like it, Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot is one of their most important cards, and certain games their deck may not function properly if countered.
Not too much to say here that wasn’t stated above, don’t fall too behind on board and gaining access to Thing in the Ice as an early blocker and pseudo Wrath helps you close games easier.
Against Blue Red Control:
Due to having maindeck Lumbering Falls, I feel that this matchup is definitely in your favour. Game 1 kind of comes down to whoever draws more dead removal spells, but having access to cycle Sweltering Suns and Harnessed Lightning being able to kill Torrential Gearhulks and Wandering Fumarole means they aren’t completely dead draws. Try to never miss a land drop, and try to bait with Glimmer of Genius on their end step and have something to follow it up on your turn when they tap low. Post board you gain access to amazing threats and cheap interaction, and Thing in the Ice is also a consideration. Tireless Tracker could also be amazing here.
Against Mardu Vehicles:
Mardu Vehicles is probably one of your worst matchups, although depending on the version, it’s definitely winnable. Apparently slamming Kefnet the Mindful into play on turn 3 is a huge roadblock and something worth trying out. Mardu is sometimes tough because you need to counter their Vehicles, Creatures and Planeswalkers while having everything line up well. Mardu does not have many good matchups right now, and playing green gives you a better chance at fighting it than just Blue Red.
I will continue to play this deck and prove that Control can win in this Marvel infested format. The deck feels super powerful and has all the necessary tools to do well. Having the green gives you more edges in certain matchups and feels like the way moving forward. Thanks everyone for reading and hopefully you too can counter somebody’s dream! (Or just their Aetherworks Marvel).