Well, there is a new set and that means it is time for control to shine in Standard. Or so I hope. The premiere Standard control deck these days seems to be the Sultai Emergent Ultimatum deck. Which is really more of a ramp control hybrid if you ask me.
Anyway, let’s see if Strixhaven has any new tools for that deck or anything to help Azorius or Esper make a comeback. Which are the real control decks in my heart.
Cards for Sultai Ultimatum
Seems like a reasonable card for a Sultai Control deck. It does a lot of things that you would want. It ramps toward 《Emergent Ultimatum》. It’s an instant so it lets you represent countermagic or removal spell on the opponent’s turn. And, it also helps prevent you from flooding out in your ramp deck.
The only question is whether or not it does all of those things well enough to make the cut. I’m not sure but I could definitely see it give 《Behold the Multiverse》 a run for its money.
This seems like a powerful removal spell for any black deck. Basically, it is a 《Vraska’s Contempt》 that doesn’t gain 2 life or an 《Eliminate》 that can also kill expensive permanents at the cost of letting your opponent draw a card.
I think the flexibility easily makes this card outshine 《Vraska’s Contempt》 since the option to cast it for less mana will probably end up saving you lots more life in the long run. But is it better than 《Eliminate》 and 《Heartless Act》 in Standard right now?
On one hand, it can cleanly kill 《Anax, Hardened in the Forge》 as well as anything with escape or even 《Valki, God of Lies》. Also, the extra card won’t account for much when you are casting 《Emergent Ultimatum》 to basically end the game on the spot anyway.
On the other hand, it is pretty awful if they draw a counterspell for your 《Emergent Ultimatum》 or any threat that you have to end up answering later.
So the downside is probably at its worst against Dimir Rogues since 《Eliminate》 and 《Heartless Act》 already kill everything in that deck and you really don’t want them to be drawing extra cards. Either way I expect this card to see lots of play in Standard and it will probably show up in older formats as well. It is nice with 《Narset, Parter of Veils》 after all.
I think this card has a small chance to see some Standard play because at worst you can cycle it for two mana. That’s not great but not too horrible. There will probably be some situations where casting it for the full amount will be pretty good.
This is probably the most appealing Learn card for a constructed control deck. If the Lesson you find is a decent card, then this card basically just draws 2 cards for two mana at instant speed. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
Unfortunately, the lessons don’t seem like they are going to be worth a card in most situations. 《Containment Breach》 seems nice if there is something to 《Disenchant》 but it seems like there usually isn’t. 《Teachings of the Archaics》 will be nice if it works but I think it might night work often enough. 《Confront the Past》 can kill a Planeswalker in a pinch but the Standard seems weirdly lacking in the Planeswalker department lately.
The remaining lessons don’t seem good enough for constructed but maybe if you had a bunch of them the card selection could make up for that a bit. Unfortunately, that is really cutting into your sideboard space at that point. Maybe in best of one? Although, now you do only get 7 sideboard cards it seems.
This has all of the same problems as the previous Learner but also competes directly with 《Cultivate》 which I assume is going to be better most of the time.
I think at 6 mana a Planeswalker has to be really good to get played. This almost seems like 5 mana Planeswalker with its generic [+1] draw a card [-3] kill a thing [-8] ultimate abilities. The extra Magecraft ability does seem nice if it sticks around but Planeswalkers are usually good if they stick around. This one just doesn’t seem like it gets enough value out of the gate.
It is cool that she gives Planeswalkers without a plus ability, a plus ability. Unfortunately, there aren’t any of those in standard right now. And in the formats where there are probably better things to be casting anyway.
Decklist: Sultai Ultimatum
So with all that in mind I’d try to play Sultai with Strixhaven something like this.
What’s New with Azorius/Esper?
With that said I’d like to mention a few sweet non-Sultai Control cards.
This is a really good removal spell that answers most of the threats in Standard right now. But, is it good enough to let Esper make a comeback?
It’s good against aggro decks certainly, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem with Esper lately. Which is if you want to play a 3 color control deck why not just play the one with the 7 mana win the game spell? That deck just seems to have a more powerful late game, especially head to head. Still this card seems too good for it to not get played somewhere.
I think this card has lots of potentials. I’ve played regular old 《Planar Cleansing》 in Azorius Control before and this seems significantly better than that. Letting the opponent return two permanents is certainly a hefty cost to pay in order to get 2 mana off, but the important part is that it keeps you alive in a situation where a 《Planar Cleansing》 would be dead in your hand.
《Shatter the Sky》 has seen a decent amount of Standard play and that often draws the opponent one card. This card will sometimes be better than that. So it really depends on how many noncreature nonland permanents you expect you and your opponent to have in play.
Finally! An answer to our 《Emergent Ultimatum》 woes. You might say that. But, realistically I think this card is just too narrow to make a splash in Standard. I think it will be hard to justify playing this over 《Negate》 or 《Mystical Dispute》 which can counter more things.
Though there is a decent amount of Instants and Sorceries running around so maybe you could squeeze one into the Sideboard if you really wanted to.
There are definitely some nice control cards in Strixhaven. And the overall power level of the set doesn’t seem super high for constructed purposes. Which might not be a bad thing for control going forward.
Gregory Orange (Twitter)