I Played in an MCQ last weekend. It’s the first time that I have played competitive paper magic in a long time, and I had a blast, though I have some musings about the format. 

Modern is in a really weird spot right now. It’s being dominated by some completely insane decks. Hogaak is the true menace of the format, the likes that I have not seen in a long time. Even though there have been bannings in the format in recent memory, I have never actually played a league in Magic online in which I faced the same deck five times. I think it’s actually a problem.

Hogaak in a vacuum is already powerful, and the fact that it got thrown into a format full of unfair Graveyard decks and recursive creatures blows my mind. Wizards has already banned Bridge from Below, but it wasn’t enough. I don’t even really mind when a Graveyard based deck rises to the top in Modern for a time, but the ebbs and flows of Modern will usually do a course correct and either hate the deck out of the format or push it down to a reasonable level. The fact that this deck can consistently fight through matchups with eight hate cards in it and still have an absurd win rate is alarming, to say the least. 

All this aside, There is still plenty of sweet stuff going on in the format, and I still love Modern. I put a lot less stock into deck selection during my tournament prep than most do though, and this is probably because I can’t seem to play a deck without Celestial Colonnade in it. 

MY MCQ DECKLIST

https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/2157602#paper

Even though I don’t focus very much on deck selection for these events, I put a great deal of thought into tuning my list every week, and the 75 is rarely the same as the last event. I look at it from a somewhat formulaic approach however, and have a fairly unchangeable core of cards. This core got a pretty good shake up from War of the Spark and Modern Horizons however, and new life was breathed into the archetype, so it is worth taking a close look at. Lets Break it down.

THE CORE LIST (50)

4 Path To Exile
4 Opt 
2 Snapcaster Mage
2 Force Of Negation
1 Teferi, Time Raveler
2 Narset, Parter of Veils 
1 Detention Sphere. 
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Crytpic Command 
2 Sweepers
1 Logic Knot 
1 Mana Leak
1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
24 Lands

These are the cards that I would almost never cut from any U/W Control list. There are, of course, times where I make exceptions. For example, in a meta game full of Burn, Infect, and Generally aggressive decks, I would consider cutting the third Cryptic Command, since in those types of matchups, it’s usually just a fancy Fog. Obviously, there are other cards that you could cut in extreme circumstances, but in general, this core contains a wide variety of answers to a diverse field. 

Core Reasoning

4 x Path to Exile: This is the best removal spell in modern hands down, and you are making a mistake not to run four copies. The downside of your opponent getting a “free” land can usually be mitigated with proper sequencing.

4 x Opt: This could be serum visions. However, I think that we want at least four one-Mana cantrips, and Opt is fantastic with Snapcaster Mage. You are also able to hold up a Path until the end of turn and then Opt if they end up blanking your removal.

2 x Snapcaster Mage is the minimum I would play here. Sometimes we want to be running a mainboard with a ton of expensive Sorceries and Planeswalkers, and the third and fourth Snapcasters become plain old Ambush Vipers. But in this build, Snappy boy shines, so we can play 3-4

2 x Force of Negation: Some lists that I have seen are playing three main and one in the side, but that seems extreme to me. It’s still a negate, and U/W has never run more than one negate main deck, so I don’t see a reason to start now, especially in a format of recursive Graveyard creatures that blank Force anyway. Either way, I think two is the perfect number to make Force effective without either drawing too many or having it blank too often. It’s also always a 2-for-1, which isn’t to say its bad, but it must be used carefully.

1 x Teferi, Time Raveler: This is a card that surprised me quite a bit. It’s a huge tempo swing against a lot of decks, and the diversity of his minus three ability is quite nice, being able to bounce not only problematic creatures, but also things like Aether Vial and Detention Sphere. The fact that it draws you a card is what really makes the ability awesome, and it’s worth noting that you can still draw a card with his ability on an empty battlefield. The plus one is also very good against Humans and other creature decks, allowing you to cast Supreme Verdict in their attack step, which makes their turns much harder to navigate.

2 x Narset, Parter of Veils: Often showing up as a three-of nowadays, but I wouldn’t go any lower than two as she is just an extremely powerful Planeswalker that digs through your deck to find answers or a win condition. I replaced the third Narset with a single Search for Azcanta for the event, but I think that might have been a mistake, because her static ability is just so good right now.

1 x Detention Sphere: I would never leave home with the good ol’ D-Sphere. It’s an answer to almost any threat in the format, though it is a little bit slow at three Mana. 

2 x Jace, The Mind Sculptor: Jace is simply the best Planeswalker ever printed. Sometimes, he is just a four-Mana Brainstorm plus a Fog, and that’s okay. But, if he is allowed to stick around for more than a turn or two, he usually allows you to bury your opponent in card advantage and Fateseal them to death. If he was a single Mana cheaper we would probably slam him into our deck as a four-of, but four Mana at Sorcery speed is a little bit clunky sometimes, so he winds up as a two-of. This also ensures that we don’t get Jace-flooded too often. 

2 x Cryptic Command: Though I will usually run three, I think that you can’t run any less than two. If the format is just blazing fast, then we can usually shave a copy. This powerful modal spell has won me so many games, just by buying me a turn and drawing through my deck a little bit more. There are also, of course, a lot of fancy tricks you can do with it, like bouncing a Snapcaster Mage to hand so that you can Flash back Cryptic later on. I could probably write a whole separate article on how to use Cryptic Command, but for now, suffice it to say that it is a staple in U/W/x Control decks for a reason. 

2 x Sweepers: I left this one vague, because all of the available sweepers have some amount of upside. Supreme Verdict is my go-to board wipe, but here, I am playing two Settle the Wreckage and one Verdict. Settle is usually excellent in game one when they don’t suspect it, and since Hogaak decks have no way of looking at your hand they won’t see it coming until their Vengevines are in Exile. At the end of the day though, playing two Supreme Verdict is a reasonable choice as well, though I think you want some form of a split post board versus Humans. 

1 each of Logic Knot and Mana Leak: Both of these spells are fantastic, but with downside. Logic Knot in the late game is incredible, where Mana Leak falls off, and Mana Leak is way more castable early. I’m a coward, and I went with the 1/1 split, but you could probably play two of either, depending on the context. At the end of the day, I would say run no less than two counter spells of this type. 

1 x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria: This is a closer like none other. The ultimate will essentially win you the game after you exile all your opponent’s things, and Teferi can minus targeting himself, meaning you will never run out of cards in your library, and after you have exiled all of your opponents Lands and Permanents with Teferi’s ultimate, this is pretty much a guaranteed win.

24 Lands: Not a ton of depth here, but there are a few ways to set it up. Currently, I think that the core land build of the deck is: four Field of Ruin, four Flooded Strands, and Two Hallowed Fountains, with 6-8 basics depending. I would also never go less than two Colonnades, and you’d have to drive a hard bargain to get me down from three.

The Flex Slots

Just as a disclaimer, some of these are more flexible than others. However, these are the cards that I would consider shifting around if I need to make changes. From week to week. 

1 x Search for Azcanta: This is a card that I have since cut for the third Narset, but is still very powerful. On the day of the MCQ, I expected more Jund than there was, and in that world, Azcanta is probably a bit better than Narset, so I hedged my bets a little. It’s still a fine inclusion in the deck as it helps smooth out your draw steps nicely and can ramp you into Teferi or Snap-Cryptic Mana while also drawing you a card every turn. The static ability is no joke on Narset though, which is why I ended up switching back. It’s also worth noting that Azcanta is dead vs. any kind of Graveyard hate, and gets boarded out vs. matchups where Rest In Peace is important, so it’s sort of a non-bo with a good chunk of your post-board games. 

1 x Snapcaster: The third snap caster is really good here since we want access to as many Path to Exiles and Cryptic Commands as possible in the current meta game, and I could even see adding the fourth.

1 x Spell Pierce: Mostly just a very good tempo play in the early turns, but also a great way to protect our Planeswalkers the turn that they come down.

1 x Spell Snare: This card is very good against pretty much everything except Hogaak, and like I said, I expected more Jund, which this card is insane against. It can also buy you some time against the dredge-ier Hogaak decks (counter Loam, Cathartic, hard cast creatures, etc), which is sometimes all you need to stabilize. 

1 x Blessed Alliance: I have had people literally tell me I am stupid for running this card instead of Condemn or Oust, but I like it better than those two options for a few reasons. For one, it can steal games against aggro and burn decks that you otherwise have no business winning, but isn’t a dead draw against many other decks. Secondly, It hits Hexproof creatures and blanks cards like Vines of the Vastwood and Blossoming Defense. Lastly, Oust, in my opinion is only good if you have a way to shuffle your opponents Library or can Fate Seal your opponent with Jace. Condemn is completely reasonable though, and I don’t hate the idea of running one here instead of Blessed

1 x Timely Reinforcements: I almost listed this as a core card because it is so powerful! It stabilizes you against so much of the format, and allows you to win a lot of first games that you would have really struggled with otherwise. It can also act as a (somewhat slow) win condition, giving you three Soldiers to chip away at your opponent’s life total in some scenarios.

1 x Cryptic Command: This is 80% of the time going to be in the deck, but if the format is insanely fast, we can cut the third copy. 

1 x Settle The Wreckage: This is a card that most people don’t think about, and leads to some giant blowouts. Especially against Dredge and Hogaak, this card shines, and will often end the game on the spot. 

1x Relic of Progenitus/1x Surgical Extraction: These cards made the main deck for me at the MCQ because they help level the playing field ever so slightly to give you a chance against Hogaak and Dredge. Some people were running two Surgicals main which is a reasonable move as well, especially with Snapaster Mage, but I didn’t like how often they were getting stuck in my hand. Relic of Progenitus at least cycles for two Mana while performing a similar role. 

1 x Teferi, Time Raveler: Teferi performed very well in my testing, and is super good against all of the format that isn’t Dredge/Gakk. I especially loved this Planeswalker into Humans and Izzet Phoenix. 

THE SIDEBOARD

Again, I think I made a couple bad calls here, And would definitely make some changes going forward. Most notably I planned on a field that was slightly more diverse than it was, and instead walked into a room that was a third Hogaak Decks. I still think that my board was a reasonable, but it could have been better.

1 x Ceremonious Rejection: Meant to hit the various tron decks that had risen up to fight Hogaak.

2 x Celestial Purge: I almost registered three of these. It hits everything you want it to in the format: Gaak, Dredge threats, Aria of Flame, Phoenix, Mantis Rider, Kitesail Freebooter, and the list goes on. 

Disdainful Stroke: Again, I expected many more Tron decks than I faced. 

Dovin’s Veto: I would still pack this into the board, as it is a house against combo and control decks. 

3 x Rest In Peace: This definitely should have been a four-of, but I figured that between the two hate cards in the main plus the London Mulligan would get me there most of the time.

1 x Stony Silence: I think that this was the right number. There were Artifact decks that I was scared of, but Stony doesn’t necessarily shut them down a hundred percent of the time, though it is still worth an inclusion, and shuts of the Thopter Sword combo. 

2 x Monastary Mentor: This was a Geist of Saint Traft for a long time, but I feel like Mentor closes just as fast and is also not dead against creature matchups. 

1 x Timely Reinforcements: See above for why this card is so good. We have an extra copy here for Humans, Burn, Etc.

1 x Wrath of God: I wanted another sweeper, and the uncounterable clause on Verdict wasn’t important enough for it to edge out Wrath, which is good to bring in against Humans, to help with having multiple names versus Meddling Mage. 

1 x Baneslayer Angel: Against any kind of matchup where you need to stabilize on the spot, this is your card. It’s fantastic in creature matchups, and can help you slam the door against burn once you have stabilized. 

1 x Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: This is another piece of tech against Jund and E-Tron. Ideally, she comes down, Wraths the board, then makes a million soldiers, but I never boarded her in the whole day. I will keep this card on the back burner going forward, because it is quite powerful, but it just wasn’t the day for it. 

IN CONCLUSION

Overall, despite the naysayers, I still think that UW Control is super powerful, and reasonably consistent. I would say that it even has an even matchup versus The Gaak. However, I am ususally pretty bummed when I play in a format where I can play main deck graveyard hate with three rest in peace in the board and still feel like it’s not enough. I hope that they ban the Gaak on the 26th, but until then I have an updated Decklist for you all to try out. It’s by and large the same, but with a few tweaks to streamline the deck a little.

https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/2176755#paper

Again, It’s very similar, but I feel as though it’s roughly the place you want to be in this world of graveyard shenanigans. There are a couple of fun inclusions in the board as well, like the one-of Restoration Angel, and the singleton Vendilion Clique, both with diverse utility in this meta. I didn’t think that I would ever yearn for the days where casting a spreading seas on turn two was good enough for control in modern, but here we are. Either way, the deck is still super fun to play, and I highly recommend giving it a whirl!

Anyway, that’s all for me today everyone! Thanks for reading! If you have any decks you want me to try out for future modern articles, send them my way via email ([email protected]) or via Twitter @tchamber5!

Thanks, and we’ll see you next time!

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