Scouring For UW Control In Standard

Christian Calcano

Christian Calcano

“Dominaria” has been released for a little over a week now, and we’ve already begun to see the set’s impact on Standard. I personally haven’t played Standard in a while, but with Pro Tour Dominaria a month away, I decided to get back into things by trying out UW Control! I’ve loved playing control decks for as long as I can remember, so when 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 was spoiled, I knew that was one of the first decks I wanted to try.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

I was excited to see that UW has been doing pretty well to start off the format, claiming the first major event of the format at the SCG Open in Atlanta in the hands of Rudy Briksza, as well as multiple strong finishes on MTGO. Today I’ll be talking about the different versions of UW that are out there, some of the cards I liked and didn’t like, and the version I’d like to test going forward!

Analyzing Some Decklist

RayFuturePro’s List

Scouring the the various lists, I decided to start with this 5-0 list from one of my friends RayFuturePro!

The main difference between his list, and the others is that he’s playing 4 《Hieroglyphic Illumination》, where as most lists are either playing 4 《Glimmer of Genius》, or a 2/2 split.

Hieroglyphic IlluminationGlimmer of Genius

Having played UB Control a few formats ago, this was a change that I made as well because I often found myself in situations where I would miss land drops because I either hadn’t found my 4th land, or had to choose between countering a spell, or casting a 《Glimmer》. With 《Illumination》, you can keep slightly riskier hands, as well as be able to Cycle either to find a land, or effectively play 2 spells in 1 turn.

Of course you could also just cast it to draw 2, which is still a fine effect even without the Scry 2 you’d get from 《Glimmer》. Basically, I really value the flexibility I get from 《Illumination》, and with other cards to cast on turn 4 like 《Cast Out》 and 《Settle the Wreckage》, this is a change that I like.

Ipnu Rivulet

One of the other differences in his list from other versions is the 2 copies of 《Ipnu Rivulet》. I feel like the inclusion of these is strictly a metagame call. While it’s a land that can produce blue, it obviously comes at a cost which is the 1 damage to add blue mana, as well as it not counting as an 《Island》 towards 《Glacial Fortress》. The latter isn’t as big of a downside with so many 《Island》 and 《Plains》 in the deck, but the 1 damage can certainly be game changing in certain matchups if it comes up.

However, it’s definitely one of the best cards in any control mirror, and the person who has more usually has the advantage. The games go super long, a lot of cards are drawn, and the only real way to interact with it is by using 《Field of Ruin》 on it when your opponent taps it for mana, or by saving your 《Disallow》 to counter its ability later on in the game. So give this land some strong consideration if you think UW will be popular, and having been on the receiving end of this card in the UB mirror vs Oliver Tomajko at US Nationals last year, you defintely don’t want to play a control mirror without it.

Adonnys Medrano’s List

Moving on to a different version, here’s the UW Control list Adonnys Medrano used to help his team finish in 11th place at the SCG Open in Baltimore this past weekend:

So off the bat, a couple of the changes that I like from Adonnys here are going up to 27 lands, as well as going down on 《Settle the Wreckage》. I’ve always been a fan of 27 lands in control decks because of how important it is to make your land drops. You’re constantly 1 for 1 your opponents with removal and counter spells, and you want to try and get to a point in the game where you’re casting multiple spells a turn as soon as possible. Not to mention the deck’s win conditions cost 5 and 6 mana, so 27 lands is where I like to be.

Settle the Wreckage

As for 《Settle the Wreckage》, I often found that my opponents would play around it very well, often putting me in spots where I didn’t want to cast it because I wasn’t getting full value for it, but you can only decide to take so many hits until you’re forced to cast it even if it’s for 1 creature. You also have other cards like 《Illumination》/《Glimmer》 and 《Cast Out》 competing for your 4 drop slot, so I think 2-3 is the sweet spot for it.

Gideon of the Trials

He also opted to play 1 《Gideon of the Trials》 main deck which is a card that’s shown up in some sideboards (RayFuturePro had 2 in his), and this is a card that I’m not entirely sure of myself. It’s certianly not great in the mirror, but can help against aggressive matchups that have cards like 《Heart of Kiran》 which can be very problematic, especially since it can’t be removed by 《Seal Away》.

Arch of Orazca

The last card I want to talk about here is 《Arch of Orazca》. I was personally trying out 1, which was quite nice in the mirror, but he opted to play 2 here. Once you can stabilize and take control of the game, 《Arch》 basically just buries your opponent in card advantage to make sure they don’t get back into the game. You normally hit Ascend in the late game, but can sometimes speed it up a bit if you draw multiple of your enchantments. Definitely a fan of it as a 27th land, but I think 1 is enough, as having too many colorless lands can become a liability.

My Own List

After having looked at multiple lists and tried out different cards, this is the list I’ll be testing going forward:

As you can see, this list is fairly similar to Ray’s, and most of the differences lie in the sideboard.

Invoke the Divine

I liked his inclusion of 《Invoke the Divine》, and decided to go up to 2 because it’s actually quite good against the other white decks with 《Cast Out》, 《History of Benalia》, 《God-Pharaoh's Gift》, and 《Heart of Kiran》 all being great targets. Even against the BG decks, the card can be useful as some of them play 《Heart of Kiran》, and post board they bring in 《Lifecrafter's Bestiary》 which can be quite problematic. It also serves as another removal spell for 《Walking Ballista》 and 《Verdurous Gearhulk》 which is nice.

Karn, Scion of Urza

I decided to include 《Karn, Scion of Urza》 over 《Gideon of the Trials》 because the card has continued to impress me the more I play with it. Not all versions of UW are playing it, but based on the matches I’ve played thus far, 《Karn》 is a card that is quickly going up in popularity and its power cant be understated.

It’s definitely not the best against the aggresive red decks, especially with this deck not being that great at defending since you don’t have creatures, but vs the midrange and control matchups, 《Karn》 is an all star. Its 6 loyalty after the plusing it when it comes down allows him to generally survive most board states and then you can clean up the board with a 《Fumigate》 and start to generate even more card advantage. I’m fairly certain we’ll be seeing a lot of 《Karn》 in the coming weeks.

Lyra Dawnbringer

《Lyra Dawnbringer》 is mostly for the aggro and midrange matchups. Mono red doesn’t actually have many answers for it, so it’s definitely the best way to stabalize against them. I didn’t think that a 《Baneslayer Angel》 type card would be that great in Standard, but she certainly has been better than I thought she would be. I think there should definetely be some consideration for putting her in the main deck, especially if the metagame starts going away from Control decks.

Walking Ballista

The 《Walking Ballistas》 are something I personally want to try, as I’ve found myself at times with a lot of mana late in games with not much to do with it, or starting down a 《Glint-Sleeve Siphoner》 on the draw with no way to answer it on my turn which allows them to draw a card. It’s also quite good in the mirror as well, as it’s very effective at dealing with 《Teferi》, and post board you shouldn’t run into any 《Seal Aways》 and few 《Essence Scatters》 in the mirror.

Gideon's Reproach

Finally, the 《Gideon's Reproach》 is there as an extra removal spell for the early game, especially the ones where you’re on the draw. Another viable option in this slot is 《Aether Meltdown》, and the benefit there is that on the play you can cast it on 《Heart of Kiran》 or any other creature without having to wait for them to attack, that way you don’t take a turn off from casting a spell.


That’s where I’m at right now in regards to UW Control in Standard at the moment. Control decks are the ones trying to answer what the metagame is doing, so I’d definetely pay close attention to how the metagame evolves in the coming weeks. I’d say the 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》 decks are certainly a tough matchup to answer, but I like UW’s chances vs the green decks like BG and Mono-Green, as well as UW Gift and the BW decks.

Hopefully this gives you a bit of insight into the UW deck, and I wish you luck in your future Standard events! This format is shaping up to be one of the better Standard formats we’ve had in a while so I’m looking forward to playing more!

Thanks for reading,

Christian Calcano

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