Updating UW Control with War of the Spark and Modern Horizons

Petr Sochurek

Petr Sochurek

Overview

Hello everyone! Given that MTG Arena is all about Standard, the actual Magic has been shifting a lot towards Modern recently – the tabletop Mythic Championships are Modern + we have GPs, SCGs and also the real life Red Bull qualifier tournaments are in Modern so there has been quite big of an incentive to become better at the format. I have not been into Modern for a very long time – there was just not really a good reason to play it and since I am a very competitive player, I always rather focused on formats that the next tournament was in.

I always thought that the format is super random because there are infinite decks and every deck has very good and very bad matchups and since you can’t really cover everything, getting lucky at pairings or with drawing the right sideaboard cards was the most important thing and I was very pleasantly surprised that that wasn’t really the case when I started playing more. I think that a big part of it was the fact that I was playing UW Control – if you are looking for a deck that has a fair game against basically anything, this is the right deck for you.

Additionally, at the beginning of a Modern era, there were just infinite decks and no one really knew what was going on and that situation prevailed for quite some time, but nowadays that Modern is getting more and more popular and with pros getting their hands on it more often, we can see way more stable metagame more often (there are obviously still many viable decks, but the tier 1 is usually about 6).

Arclight PhoenixStinkweed ImpKarn Liberated
Champion of the ParishHardened ScalesSnapcaster Mage

Just to give you an example: the tier 1 for the previous Mythic Championship was clearly: Phoenix, Dredge, Tron, Humans with Scales and UW being slightly behind in tier 1.5. Now this might be different at a less competitive events, but at the MC most people are going to choose one of those decks, so the format becomes way closer to Standard in terms of sideaboarding and therefore we thought that deck like UW becomes way better – the deck isn’t powerful enough itself (it might be now, I am talking about UW without the new cards) to compete in a wider field, but you can certainly tune it to beat a small number of decks.

UW Control at the Mythic Championship II (Before War of the Spark)

This is a decklist that me, Kelvin Chew, Jeremy Dezani, Luis Salvatto and Sebastian Pozzo registered for the last Mythic Championship:

Snapcaster MagePath to ExileTeferi, Hero of Dominaria

I ended up 13th at the tournament after going 8-2 in Modern (losing to Humans and Phoenix) and so did Luis, but unfortunately he didn’t do so well in limited so his overall result wasn’t that good, but we were definitely very happy about our deck choice and decklist we landed on.

UW Control with War of the Spark

I don’t think there is really a point in going over all the card choices in depth because so much has changed: something that we didn’t see for a very long time has happened: 2 (!) extremely impactful sets has been released to completely warp the Modern metagame. It actually makes me a little sad that Modern Horizons was released so quickly after the release of War of the Spark because I think that the format with only the addition of War of the Spark was also really interesting and there wasn’t enough time for it to be solved and I would like to see what would have end up rising to the top.

I did play UW with only War of the Spark for about a week myself and this is a list I eventually came down to:

Narset, Parter of VeilsTeferi, Time Raveler

On first glance it might seem that the changes weren’t that big, but that is not true at all; printing of 《Narset, Parter of Veils》 means that decks that rely heavily on cantrips like Phoenix or Storm become way worse and expensive threats like 《Tarmogoyf》 or 《Tireless Tracker》 (not that they were good in a first place) become unplayable thanks to 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, changes the format completely – it isn’t not just that those decks see less play, it also means that decks which were bad previously (i.e. bad Phoenix matchup) might rise to the top again.

Spell Pierce

UW has risen in popularity a lot and I think it might have been a deck that I played against the most in Modern leagues online and for that reason my list was well prepared to fight the mirror – for example, 《Spell Pierce》 used to be just OK in the mirror – it was very good sometimes, but a lot of the games played out in a draw go style and once you got to the super lategame it just became blank and that happened fairly often.

That wasn’t the case with the new list at all – everyone was packing way more Planeswalkers, so the games often played out in a tap out fashion and 《Spell Pierce》 was obviously insane in those type of games – the best you could do was to play a tapped land on turn 2, counter a 3 drop Planeswalker and resolve your own.

Vendilion CliqueGeist of Saint Traft

《Vendilion Clique》 became better thanks to Narset as well and we started seeing a lot of new weapons in sideaboard to try to get an edge. I think that the most popular one was 《Geist of Saint Traft》 – great at attacking for opposing Planeswalkers, but I didn’t like it that much. It was blocked by 《Snapcaster Mage》 or Clique and you usually don’t have that much removal post board, so it becomes hard to get rid of the blockers not to mention that 《Path to Exile》 your opponent early in the UW mirror can be very punishing.

Monastery Mentor

The card that I recommend instead (a lot of things will change with the addition of Modern Horizons but I think this card might become even better) is a 《Monastery Mentor》 – as I said, people don’t have nearly enough removal post board and even if they do you can often protect it with 《Dovin’s Veto》, or just play couple of spells in response and if they don’t it gets out of hand super quickly. Another big upside of Mentor is that it’s also randomly good in other matchups – most people won’t have removal post board and making infinite tokens is very good against any creature deck (even Dredge).

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

What I found to be quite fascinating is the fact that everyone (including myself) went down on 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》s – one of the most powerful cards ever printed in Magic, but I think it makes sense:

Dovin's VetoNegate

I would like to shortly touch on 《Dovin’s Veto》 vs 《Negate》: At first I thought that 《Negate》 has to definitely be better, because the upside of Veto didn’t seem that important to me and the color requirements can screw you often – you play 4 《Field of Ruin》 and sometimes you have only 2 《Island》s or something, but after playing more I realized that you are just forced to play Veto because of how important it is in the mirror (there are also other applications, like 《Pact of Negation》 from 《Ad Nauseam》, 《Remand》 from Storm etc.).

It’s funny how printing a card that seems like a fine option for UW, actually makes the archetype slightly worse because you are playing it mostly to fight the mirror, but it’s worse in the other matchups.

An Interesting Shell

Before I jump into Modern Horizons, there is one more deck that I would like to share with you guys – it’s Jeskai (not UW) and it might not be as good with Horizons, but I think it’s interesting enough to bring it to your attention:

Teferi, Time RavelerFelidar GuardianSaheeli Rai

I know that this deck might become way worse because of the 《Force of Negation》 etc. But I thought that it’s interesting enough to at least mention it. 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 is a perfect fit for this deck: You can play it, bounce something, blink it with 《Felidar Guardian》 and do it again and it also protect’s the combo perfectly.

New Enemy and UW Control with Modern Horizons

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

The biggest impact we’ve seen so far from Modern Horizons is the printing of 《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》there were 10 copies of the new Bridgevine deck leveraging the power of the new card in the top 32 of the last Modern Challenge and that is quite alarming – in the first tournaments people usually tend to only slightly update their old decks rather than bringing an entirely new deck to the table so I assume there weren’t that many Bridgevine decks in the field, but the deck seems to be so good and consistent, that they’ve all risen to the top.

I am not sure if there is a need for ban, but the thing that I am sure about is that the current amount of graveyard hate running around is certainly not enough to stop this menace.

Here is a decklist for reference:

When building a deck these days, you definitely have to be prepared for this deck and maybe even significantly change it. I am part of a competitive UW Control group on facebook and a long time UW grinders are discussing new decklists and ideas every day. Here is a decklist that has caught my attention:

Ashiok, Dream RenderKarn, the Great Creator

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that I don’t like about this list, but I thought that it was unique and interesting enought to share: both 《Ashiok, Dream Render》 and 《Karn, the Great Creator》 are fine cards on their own and it’s not embarassing to maindeck them (at least for Karn) and if the metagame warps too much around graveyard strategies, this might be a way to go. The thing I don’t like about Karn though is that the main strength of a control strategy in Modern is the fact that you setup your deck postboard to just be the right answers for the specific matchup and card selection, but you can’t really do that while playing Karn.

Current Decklist and Conclusion

As I already mentioned; I didn’t really have a chance to play with the new cards that much yet and also the way we are going to build our UW is going to largely depend on the way the metagame breaks up, but if I was playing a Modern tournament tommorow, this is what I would register:

Graveyard Hates

Rest in PeaceRelic of ProgenitusAshiok, Dream Render

I have 1 extra graveyard hate than might be necceseary, but I really thing that you need more help against Hogaak so I added one extra – the reason why I am not playing 4 《Rest in Peace》 is that both 《Relic of Progenitus》 and Ashiok have other applications in other matchups and UW’s sideaboard is super tight.

2x 《Force of Negation》

Force of Negation

I am only playing 2 《Force of Negation》s, which might surprise quite a lot of people but I just don’t think that it is as broken as people claim – it’s not free on your turn and it’s also way worse than Veto with 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》, but that all being said, it can still be a very powerful effect and in a deck that sees so many cards I defintiely want to have acces to it.

《Condemn》 or 《Oust》?

CondemnOust

The other cards are pretty much Standard and don’t need further explanatory, the only thing I would like to mention is the 《Condemn》 vs 《Oust》 argument; they are very similar cards serving the same purpose but the metagame dictates which one stronger at any given time. 《Oust》 is way better against something like Humans or 《Hardened Scales》 because you want to get rid of the creature immediately and they might not attack into it if they see it with 《Kitesail Freebooter》, but 《Condemn》 is way better against 《Bloodghast》, 《Vengevine》 etc. So I prefer to play 《Condemn》 now.


That will be all for today. Thanks for reading,

Petr Sochůrek (Twitter)

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Petr Sochurek

Petr Sochurek His prowess in reading the meta and taking advantage of it with flawless plays is among the reasons he is considered to be one of top European players right now. Having played Grixis Control to a magnificent victory at GP Paris 2016. He is most assuredly one of the top players to keep an eye on right now! Read more articles by Petr Sochurek