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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - July 9, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Esper Control by Gerard Fabiano (1st at ...

Esper Control -Detention Sphere

Esper Control by Gerard Fabiano

1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 7/5/2014
As we get ready for a little metagame shake-up from the upcoming release of Magic 2015 we finish up the lame duck Standard with a final tournament. This one continues to show that Mono-Black Devotion is not the end all and be all of this metagame. We also see the Aggro dominance tamed by pro player and crowd favorite Gerard with a return of Esper Control to the spotlight.

Esper Control decklist

 

As with any Blue and White based control strategy we find a stock shell with this deck sporting a trio of Jace, Architect of Thought for draw and protection from creature swarms, a set of Sphinx’s Revelation to restock your hand with options and incidental lifegain to boot, a set of Supreme Verdict to deal with Aggro creature swarms, and a set of Detention Sphere which is able to answer most every other problem the deck may face. The meat of the deck comes from its planeswalkers, where we find the duo of the light and darkness alongside a pair of Jace options. First looking at the light we have Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as a primary win condition spitting out soldiers three at a time, while also able to sweep the board of all creatures with power greater then four and should she go ultimate will pump those soldiers of hers into veritable jet planes. Next plunging into darkness we find Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver who is especially powerful against creature decks to steal away their threats by milling away the top of the library and given enough support then dropping them into play. Then we have the two Jace, Architect of Thought integral to the deck surviving creature rush Aggro and grinding out card advantage, but also a singleton Memory Adept to work against Control strategies and mill them down to no library while you sit back playing a defensive role. The potatos of the deck come from a variety of Control staples of permission, removal and draw. The permission package is two-fold using the potent Thoughtseize to strip away their threats before they can play them while also providing you with very valuable information about what their plan is, and also a pair of Dissolve as the deck only real denial with a bonus Scry tacked on to help dig through your deck for more answers. As for removal this deck is chock full of including Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere already mentioned, but also some spot removal with a trio of Devour Flesh to abolish that huge threat when the enemy doesn’t have a swarm present and a Doom Blade able to destroy anything in RG Monsters in a pinch. As for draw power the main tool lies in Revelation and Architect, but the deck also leans heavily on the eleven Temples for Scry to help filter draws into what is absolutely needed. We wrap up with the utility player Azorius Charm which can gain a few points of life with Soldiers if desperate, filters itself into a new draw when needed, and even bounces an attacking or blocking creature to the top of its owners library to set them back and save some life.

 

While it’s true we are on the verge of a new Standard format in a few weeks it is certain that UW Control will be a strategy to continue going forward. Normally I would also say that with the summer here and Magic in its dog days that it isn’t important what to play, but remember that the World Magic Cup Qualifers are coming up. If you like oppressive Control strategies then I would definitely recommend this deck for you but be sure to clue into the current meta as this is always a deck that needs to be tweeked and tuned for what’s current. And good luck chasing down that glory.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - April 23, 2014

Champion’s Deck – UW Control by Simon Stahl (1st at SCG De...

U/W Control
Simon Stahl
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 4/19/2014
Fated Retribution
While it’s not a newcomer to the top of the pile this weeks winner was able to wrestle dominance away from the big bad Mono-Black menace. One of the most classic styles of control, UW is able to operate more fluidly then Esper versions even though they are relatively the same core concept. Control relies upon a good mix of permission and removal, backed up with a strong finisher once the board has been stabilized. This deck follows that structure to a tee while adding in a few interesting one ofs to round it out.

Since the printing of Return to Ravnica and with it the Azorius guild UW has had an arsenal of weapons that each decklist has been build on the foundation of. This deck is no different with four copies of each Jace, Architect of Thought, Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere. That group alone is able to provide the deck with so much power and consistency, giving it answers to a plethora of threats. For permission we have a full set of Dissolve, which also help as pseudo-draw, and a pair of Syncopate, which can be key at stopping a dangerous two drop like Pack Rat. For removal you have primarily Detention Sphere to pick off pesky threats of varied permanent types or Supreme Verdict to sweep the board free of creatures, but also a Celestial Flare and two Last Breath as pinpoint removal. We also find the inclusion of Fated Retribution as a catchall reset against all creatures and planeswalkers if necessary. The deck keeps your hand full through the draw power of Sphinx’s Revelation and Jace, which both also help to keep your life total from falling too low, and also a couple of Divination. The finishers are a very tight package which has a one of Ætherling and two Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which you must be very mindfull to deploy only once you have taken over the game. Also, because the deck only runs two colors we find room to squeeze three Mutavault in the manabase which while small over time will produce more then enough damage on an empty board. Another versatile spell in the deck is the Azorius Charm which can either help gain back some life to stable against aggro decks, cycle itself away to dig for a necessary answer or as removal for a bothersome threat. The final card in the deck is some old tech in Elixir of Immortality which just keeps the deck churning even after you’ve depleted so many spells.

So with just a couple weeks left until new standard it is certain that people are looking forward to Journey Into Nyx instead of backwards at our current standard. While I don’t feel that this deck benefits too much from the new set there are two cards with an outside chance to slip in. Deicide could be a good piece of removal depending on how the Gods appear in the meta. Also, Aegis of the Gods is a great way to protect yourself from targeted oppression, but neither are backbreakers for the deck. We will see over the next few months how it plays out.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - March 26, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Esper Control by Kyle Boggemes (1st at G...

Aetherling
Esper Control
Kyle Boggemes
1st Place at Grand Prix on 3/23/2014
With the metagame in Standard much more defined now then it was a few months back it has slowly become time for the Control decks to shine. Once the major threats are known then Control mages are able to more easily prepare for the decks they expect to face. This has proven itself in the dominant showing of Esper Control this past weekend by winning both the Grand Prix and the SCG Open. And it is no secret that in the Esper colors of Blue, White and Black we find the integral pieces necessary to answer almost any threat that can be thrown at us.
The Control deck is a carefully crafted work of beauty and this list is no different. Looking at the win conditions of the deck we find a very precise package consisting of one Ætherling and a trio of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which are meant to only be deployed once the deck has stabilized and taken command of the board. To do this we find a balance between permission and removal. For the permission suite there is a set of Dissolve and a duo of Syncopate used to deny the opponent from casting their most key of spells, especially if unable to handle it with the removal in hand. Then the removal consists of the requisite Blue/White staples with mass removal in Supreme Verdict to reset the battlefield in a pinch and the utility removal from Detention Sphere capable of dealing with almost any problem permanent especially those which are indestructible. For spot removal there is also two Doom Blade and a Last Breath to supplement and handle those threats which slip in especially creatures with Haste. As with any Control deck the final and perhaps most important aspect of the deck is its draw power and here we find that from full sets of both Jace, Architect of Thought and Sphinx’s Revelation both of which offer some extra utility be it in diminishing the opponents power or just straight lifegain to ensure continued survival. This deck also has the ’12 Temple’ package in its manabase which especially in the early turns can use the Scry ability to carefully craft it’s draw step. With the final odds and ends there is the utility player of Azorius Charm which is primarily used for the draw to cycle it at the end of an opponents turn, but is also very useful as a spot removal or can even prove as a savior by gaining a few points of necessary life. As far as hand control we only find discard in the form of two Thoughtseize to gain some important information and deal with any specifically difficult threat. Finally, there is also a duo of Mutavault which are able to skirt around sorcery speed removal and will be at time the final nail in the coffin.
As always Control decks need to adapt to an ever shifting metagame and this one will be no different. I am certain that this base will be a common sight going forward but expect to see constant tweaks and tuneups to stay a step ahead. All in all though Esper Control should continue to be a force to be reckoned with and you’ll need to be prepared to face it any round of your tournament.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - March 11, 2014

Deck of the Day – UW Control by Shaheen Soorani (18th at Grand P...

Cryptic Command

U/W Control

Shaheen Soorani

18th Place at Grand Prix Richmond on 3/9/2014

Those that know Shaheen Soorani know that he is no stranger to UW based Control style decks, in fact he can be called somewhat of an expert on the subject. It’s no secret that it is his person preference as far as play style and he has championed those Control decks in every format. Often it is difficult to build a Control deck in a relatively wide open field especially one as hugely diverse as Modern, but Shaheen is never one to back down to a challenge.

As with any Control deck in the post-Lorwyn world of Magic we find a very important package of Planeswalkers. Working as primary win conditions which come down once the deck has taken over the game we find the incredibly powerful dynamic duo of Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Gideon Jura both with their own style of beatdown. Also, we have Jace Beleren or ‘Baby Jace’ which is a very strong source of card advantage. There is also a pair of Vendilion Clique and a set of Celestial Colonnade to help the deck finish off the opponent making great use of Flying to sneak through the beats. Next we get to the permission package of the deck which sports some diverse answer with full sets of each Cryptic Command, Mana Leak and Spell Snare to ensure the opponent isn’t allowed to advance their game plan. There’s also a singleton Repeal to bounce any nuisance which they may have been able to sneak in at some point. And no Control deck would be complete without a range of removal with this deck rife on both spot and mass including a set of Path to Exile, trio of Supreme Verdict and pair of Detention Sphere which will find a way to get rid of anything that was allowed to hit the board. There is also a set of Tectonic Edge in the manabase to fight against opposing manlands, Tron lands or even Valakuts. As for draw supplementing the Jace and Cryptic there is also Serum Visions to help dig through the deck to find that right answer. The last piece of the puzzle is found in a trio of Snapcaster Mage that given this deck runs 23 spell targets for the Snappy to rebuy is a dream for any control player when able to slot them in.

While the trend for Control in Modern had been to go with a Blue/White shell adding Red to supplement with reach through burn that route does limit some of the options available to you and relies heavily upon cooperation from your manabase to operate effectively Shaheen was content to stick with the two colors and while it didn’t pay off with a top 8 it did get him 18th out of some 4300 players which is none too shabby. I expect with this result we should be seeing more of the straight UW Control builds and they will as always never end in their constant tweeking and tuning to adapt to an ever-changing metagame.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
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Avatar Gregoire Thibault - February 13, 2014

Deck of the Day – Bant Walkers by Brian Braun-Duin (31st at SCG ...

Kiora, The Crashing Wave
Bant Walkers
Brian Braun-Duin
31st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 2/8/2014
Lands (27)

Planeswalkers (10)

Spells (23)

Sideboard 

Here we have another Planeswalker themed control deck along the lines of Zendikar’s Super Friends or last seasons Junk Walkers. It is really just your good ol’ UW control from Theros standard with a small splash of green for Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Mistcutter Hydra out of the sideboard. It moves away from the Aetherling win con and opts for a Planeswalker plan only in the main.

The main deck contains UW‘s usual removal, counter and draw package. The powerful Azorius Charm is used mostly for tempo with Detention Sphere as four-ofs along side a couple of Last Breaths for removal. Your counter package is just a set of Dissolve and a Syncopate. For draw spells it’s primarily the instant speed Sphinx’s Revelation, but also Azorius Charm can be used for it’s draw one which can be handy in conjunction with the Scry from your lands and spells. Although there are no Divination or Opportunity, there is still Jace who coupled with Kiora‘s Explore ability is still a potent draw engine. Finally there’s a set of Supreme Verdict as your number one sweeper with Elspeth‘s minus three as a good alternative against things like RG Monsters and Desecration Demon.

This deck’s main goal is to survive long enough to stabilize on board than finally winning with the sheer power of it’s Planeswalkers or the odd time with Mutavault beatdown. You take control by wiping the board with Supreme Verdict or Elspeth and using Sphinx’s Revelation to come back by gaining life and drawing into your answers.

The sideboard gets interesting as it has a few surprises against opponents who side out all or most of there removal and sweepers. There is a set of Archangel of Thune and three Brimaz, King of Oreskos which if used together will make a rapidly growing token army when left unchecked. Mistcutter Hydra is a great answer against Mono-Blue Devotion. Pithing Needle for things like Maze’s End or other Walkers and Negate to counter any non-creature threats. Revoke Existence is mainly against Indestructible gods like Thassa or Erebos and can also get rid of Underworld Connections.

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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - February 11, 2014

Deck of the Day – Bant Aggro by Ryan Hipp (28th SCG Nashville on...

Ephara, God of Polis
Bant Aggro
Ryan Hipp
28th Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 2/8/2014
Lands (24)

Creatures (21)

Spells (15)

Sideboard

While this deck is billed as a Bant Aggro list it is in essence a White Weenie variant. With its mana base such as it is sporting eight Scry lands there is no one drop in the deck instead looking to open with a Scry of the bat. The two drops then power the deck out of the gate with Voice of Resurgence, Precinct Captain and Fleecemane Lion to start laying the beats. Then we have the popular newcomer Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Loxodon Smiter next at three on the curve. Also filling at three mana there is the decks utility removal Detention Sphere and the creature buff Spear Of Heliod. All of that serves to build the devotion count for the two gods which fill the four drop slot with Heliod, God of the Sun able to clutter the board while granting Vigilance to all your creatures and Ephara, God of the Polis which serves as the decks primary draw engine. In true White Weenie form this deck uses Brave the Elements as both a way to save it’s creatures from targeted removal and as an enabler for Alpha Strike wins. Finally we have utility from Selesnya Charm which is able to either push a creature over the top, exile a big nuisance creature including a god or just add an extra body to the board to keep the pressure on. All in all a powerful and exciting deck sure to hold a spot in the meta.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - January 27, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Azorius Control by Alexander Hayne (1st Place at...

Dissolve

Azorius Control
Alexander Hayne
GP Vancouver Champion

Lands (27)

Creature (1)

Other Spells (25)

Planeswalkers (7)

Sideboard

Local Montreal hero and perennial golden boy Alex ‘Insayne’ Hayne went on to win yet another Grand Prix tournament in what is turning into an illustrious and formidable young career. As you may have already heard that makes three such victories in the past six months. If he keeps this up there’s no telling where he and his team ManaDeprived will soar to this year. And to mention his team Alex had to battle fellow teammate and Montrealer Jon Stern, who has also been making waves on the Pro circuit, in the semifinal in a tough battle spotlighting the talent emerging from ManaDeprived and Montreal alike.

The deck he piloted is a rather straightforward U/W Control shell based around the Return to Ravnica trilogy of Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere with full set of each of those. For his win conditions Alex chose a singleton Ætherling to go with a trio of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. He was also able to squeeze three Mutavault in by bringing his land count up to twenty-seven to have the extra reach against other control decks. The permission package is a robust combination of a set of Dissolve and a trio of Syncopate to prevent threats from hitting the board. To keep pressure off the board there is a set of Last Breath which do well to answer a variety of threats big and small. We also have Jace, Architect of Thought with its ability to either weaken opposing armies or dig for answers which has been a key to many a blue based decks success. The final cog in the machine comes from the versatile Azorius Charm where a pair of them help to either gain some life in a pinch, bounce a pesky creature to the top of the library or most often as a means to cycle for another card which is hopefully the one you’ve been waiting for.
With the ability to answer so many questions I don’t doubt that this deck is going to show continued success going forward into Born of the Gods Standard. There are a few cards which look interesting with the most important of course being the UW scryland Temple of Enlightenment. I’m also interested to see if Ephara, God of the Polis can be work into Elspeth heavy builds to max out on draw potential. I could also see some possible sideboard options with Glimpse the Sun God, Fated Retribution or Revoke Existence. Only time will tell us what the new look of U/W Control deck is going to be.
In honor of this amazing win by Alex we are offering a 5% discount on all Standard sets this week until Friday Jan. 31st.
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Avatar Gregoire Thibault - December 31, 2013

Deck of the Day – Esper Human by Shota Takao (2nd Place Grand Pr...

Whip of Erebos

Esper Human – Esper Midrange
Takao, Shota
2nd place at GP Shizuoka 2013 Top 8

Lands (25)

Creatures (24)

Other Spells (11)

Sideboard

This deck  got a lot of heads turning at Grand Prix Shizuoka on Dec. 22nd. Esper Midrandge or Humans piloted by Shota Takao, so named for its interactions between its humans paired up with Xathrid Necromancer. It is based on the more recent Orzhov Midrange strategy that evolved out of Paul Rietzl Orzhov Midrange at Pro Tour Theros. Takao was running into problems against Pack Rat so he added blue for Detention Sphere which also give him access to Lyev Skyknight. Adding the third color did not make the mana worse by taking full advantage of all the duals in Hallowed FountainWatery GraveGodless ShrineTemple of Deceit and Temple of Silence.

Esper Midrange has a strong match up against the three major decks in the format: Mono-Blue Devotion, Mono-Black Devotion, and Blue-White Control. The interaction between  Whip of Erebos with Obzedat, Ghost Council is very important in these matches. You use the Whip to bring Obzedat back into play from the graveyard, then by stacking the triggers properly you can exile Obzedat to his trigger and return him back into play on your next turn.

As two-drops Takao opted to make a  metagame call with a singleton Cartel Aristocrat which is strong against Domestication used mostly in Mono-Blue Devotion, Imposing Sovereign to slow down aggro decks and Daring Skyjek to speed up the clock especially when paired up with Lyev SkyknightDesecration Demon or even Mutavault to activate Battalion. Adding a set of Detention Sphere allows him to drop the Hero’s Downfall that can get awkward to cast on the double black. Accompanied with a singleton of these removal spells Doom BladeUltimate Price and Far // Away again a metagame call.

Blood Baron of Vizkopa can be devastating against white and black based decks like this one, but Takao has answers like a  Far // Away and two Supreme Verdicts in the main as well as access to Thoughtseize and another Far // Away and Supreme Verdict in the sideboard. Imposing Sovereign is also interesting as it stops Blood Baron but only for the turn it was summoned.

Overall Shato Takao got a lot of attention with this deck as it kept winning him round after round giving him a 14-1 record going into Quarterfinals, but finally losing in the finals to the GP Shizuoka champion Ryo Nakada piloting Orzhov Human.

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