A Standard GP the week after the PT is always an interesting exercise. When an archetype strongly dominates the PT, the very next tournaments after that PT are very likely to be flooded with copies of that archetype. For this reason, I think GPs like GP Copenhagen 2018, which took place just one week after the PT Dominaria, are good tournaments to bring a metagame deck.
Last weekend I decided to bring U/W Control to Copenhagen, ending in Top4.
Short answer is, of course, 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》.
《Teferi》 is a solid contender for the best card in Standard and its power level has already been proven in the Modern format.
The long answer starts with my PT testing.
My PT testing was centered mostly on B/R and Mono-Red Aggro decks. While playing those decks, I just perceived U/W as a bad match-up as long as red decks were predominant. In order to beat the red mirror matches, you need to play a lot of removals like 《Abrade》.
The problem I ran into was that if my removal count was high enough that I could reliably deal with opposing creatures, I would also have too many dead cards against U/W on game 1. B/R had a decent post-sideboard match-up against U/W because of discard spells, but losing game1 a very high % of the time was too bad for me. Taking out removal spells made things better, but since 《Teferi》 is just really powerful card, many games were still lost to him even with sideboard cards like 《Duress》 or 《Angrath, the Flame-Chained》. Black-Red could sideboard into a deck that could beat U/W, but Mono-Red didn’t really have that luxury, so before the PT I expected U/W to be one of the best performing decks (yeah, I was wrong).
With both B/R and Mono-Red, U/W was a match-up I just didn’t want to see at the other side of the table, since in addition to being a bad match-up it also felt quite hard to play well. This was the reason why most of my testing house games were just Red decks vs U/W and 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 mirror matches.
Then, why didn’t I just play U/W if I thought it was the best deck for the tournament?
If you’ve been following my articles here on Hareruya, you probably already know I’m not exactly a control player, even though I enjoy playing those decks on a casual level. Actually, I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve played a premier Standard tournament without a bunch of 《Mountain》s. I didn’t play U/W at PT Dominaria because I thought I wasn’t good enough with Control to compete with it at PT level. I actually tried the deck a little bit in the testing house but seeing Christian Calcano playing U/W against me made me realize I was a little bit too far from playing the deck well. I also didn’t like the idea of playing a deck so short on win conditions, so I just went back to my trusty 《Mountain》s.
Raphael Levy worked quite a bit in a Mono-White Control deck the weeks before the PT. Even though he didn’t play the deck in the actual tournament, I got to play some games against him in testing. I lost more than what I won with both B/R and Mono-Red, since his removal was really good at dealing with all my threats, including planeswalkers. However, the card that made it particularly frustrating to play against that deck was 《Approach of the Second Sun》.
Once I arrived home, I started to test for the GP as soon as I could. I knew I didn’t have that much time, but since my backup plan was just running our B/R Midrange deck from the PT, I could spend the time trying different decks. I directly went to control decks and fired some leagues with all the control decks that I liked from the PT like U/B and Esper. The reason why I started with them is 《Goblin Chainwhirler》.
I think 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 is one of the reasons why control is good in Standard. 《Teferi》 and his counterspells can go over to top of everything, so getting under is the way you beat them. The Goblin punishes hard those who try to go under with cards like 《Bomat Courier》 and 《Llanowar Elves》, and that’s why the U/W players can play clunky cards like 《Disallow》 without them being embarrassing too often.
The second reason for me trying control first is more personal and it’s about my comfort zone. I’ve been playing only aggro and midrange decks for a while, and I didn’t really even consider bringing control to an important tournament. This wasn’t a problem until last PT, where a control deck was actually in contention for the best deck going to the tournament. Since all the best decks we’ve had last years were either aggressive or solid midrange piles, this presented a new situation.
What if a control deck becomes the best deck? Most of the best players in the game are able to play about any kind of deck with prowess. You can see players like Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa playing a deck like Miracles and on the very next week they are playing 《Hazoret the Fervent》. Even though I also realize specializing in an archetype has its advantages, I think being able to play the best deck in every format is just too much of an upside.
That’s why I wanted to give myself a shot with control and see how I would feel casting some countermagic. Funnily, U/W control was my very first deck when I was a kid, so I guess there might be a little bit of a nostalgic factor there too. Young Javier was a control player!
I also loved this card as kid.
After a few leagues, my feeling on the U/W vs B/R match-up was pretty much the same I had in the PT house: U/W was the side where I wanted to be since game 1 was too favorable. I wasn’t doing very well against non-red decks, but it eventually got the point where I was happy every time I saw a 《Mountain》 on the other side of the table. That was enough to convince me to play control at Copenhagen. What made me pick U/W over Esper and U/B was the sideboard.
Decklist And Choices
After the PT was over, as usually, I just went through all the published lists to see which ones I liked more. When I do this, I don’t really like to put that much weight on results. I still have them in consideration if some decks do much better than the rest, but what I try to do there is figuring out what reasons are behind the different decklists.
For example, the eventual PT champion Wyatt Darby played 3 《Bomat Courier》. This makes a lot of sense to me since it’s a number that still lets you have a turn-1 《Bomat》 a decent % of the time while reducing how exposed you are against 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 with your double 《Bomat》 draw.
I just loved the U/W list Team Genesis/Revelation brought to the PT. 《Approach of the Second Sun》 solved all the issues I had with the deck and it only took me a few games to be absolutely sold on it.
This is the decklist I took to a top4 finish at the GP:
4 《Irrigated Farmland》
4 《Glacial Fortress》
2 《Memorial to Genius》
2 《Ipnu Rivulet》
2 《Field of Ruin》
-Land (27)- -Creature (0)-
2 《Essence Scatter》
2 《Blink of an Eye》
3 《Settle the Wreckage》
2 《Glimmer of Genius》
2 《Approach of the Second Sun》
4 《Seal Away》
2 《Search for Azcanta》
3 《Cast Out》
4 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》
During my testing games, I felt like the 2nd 《Blink of an Eye》 wasn’t worth the slot and I wanted to have something instead, since I almost never wanted a 2nd copy anyway. The options I considered were mostly 《Gideon's Reproach》 and the 4th 《Cast Out》. 《Reproach》 was obviously considered for curve reasons, and 《Cast Out》 because I don’t think it’s ever a bad draw in this deck. It’s also your removal against planeswalkers and cards like 《Lifecrafter's Bestiary》, so I wanted 4 copies. At the end, though, I just assumed Genesis had already considered those options and I just chose to trust their choices on the maindeck, since they knew the deck better than I.
After I made this last decision I thought I was ready to submit my deck, but then I ran into a new problem. Some of them didn’t agree on the last Sideboard slot! While most of the team played 3 《Torrential Gearhulk》 on the sideboard, Brian Braun-Duin selected to play the 2nd copy of 《Lyra Dawnbringer》 instead of the 3rd construct. Playing some leagues with the deck didn’t really help me much on this matter, because I liked both 3rd 《Gearhulk》 and 2nd 《Lyra》. 《Gearhulk》 made a little more sense to me because it went better with cards like 《Glimmer of Genius》, but I still loved what 《Lyra》 did, which was attacking from a different angle.
At the end I just ended playing both knowing that I would probably be making a mistake since Genesis splitting that creature slot meant every other single card in the sideboard was needed. I knew I was going to make the deck a little bit worse with that decision but I would also make it a little bit more comfortable for me to play with, so I took that path. I decided to cut the 4th 《Settle the Wreckage》 on the sideboard because I thought it was the worst card on the sideboard.
Match-ups And Sideboarding
I mostly went with the sideboard plan they posted unless I had a reason to completely disagree with it. As always, keep in mind sideboarded should be fluid.
I said before that sideboarding games convinced me to play U/W. The 《Torrential Gearhulk》 plan for this match-up is the reason why. My pre-PT experience was that B/R was behind game1 and then ahead post-board. With the 《Torrential Gearhulk》 plan, I felt like post-board games were at least even. This is a sideboard plan I never considered during testing on the PT house and whoever thought of it is a master and just saved my GP. Thanks!
Game 1 is very straightforward. Deal with everything and make sure you reach the late game.
Post-board things get harder but the creature plan is surprisingly good at making their 《Duress》 and 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》 worse. Post board games are way harder to play than game1s, so I recommend practicing those.
Sideboarding out against B/R really depends on what they’re playing. If they are faster you don’t want any 《Search for Azcanta》, and if they are slower you don’t want to have a 《Fumigate》 in the deck. If they play a planeswalker-heavy build then you want to have more 《Negate》/《Disallow》 in your deck. I think 《Essence Scatter》 is bad overall, but one copy on the play could be fine since it deals with 《Pia Nalaar》.
Control mirrors are always about having more lands, so don’t Cycle your lands away unless you are really mana flooded. There are a lot of small in-game decisions like holding 《Field of Ruin》 in your hand or which spells to counter.
For game 1, I recommend just focusing on the spells that can win the game by their own like a 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》. 《Approach of the Second Sun》 is good to have in the deck since it’s just another threat they have to counter, but I don’t like it post-board when the games will be much faster and players will have more counters.
Constrictor is the reason why they put 《Approach of the Second Sun》 in the deck and it really takes a lot of weight here. It doesn’t really matter how many 《Lifecrafter's Bestiary》 they throw at us if we can make the 《Approach》 happen.
Game 1 they can’t really interact with us well, so I think we are favored, but since they don’t have that many dead cards I don’t think the advantage is huge. Post-board they are clearly favored, so this is a match-up I didn’t want to face.
Game 1 is usually favored for us since they need to play cards like 《Fatal Push》 to keep up against the red decks. Post-board, I think U/B decks are really hard to beat since they usually play both 《Duress》 and 《Negate》, leaving us with 《Torrential Gearhulk》 as our best card. If on top of their good cards they also play planeswalkers I would just sideboard in 《History of Benalia》 and even 《Lyra Dawnbringer》 and hope to steal a game where they don’t draw removal. I think U/B is a bad match-up.
The Tournament / Going Forward
I was (obviously) quite lucky at the tournament, where I managed to avoid playing against green decks for the whole event. I got to play against a bunch of B/R which was the match-up I knew how to play the most, and when I played against decks where I didn’t exactly know what to do, the deck carried.
Most tournaments where I do well come after an extensive preparation where I work a lot on learning how to play certain deck better. This time, however, it was different. The reason why I played the deck wasn’t because I thought I would play it very well. I played the deck because I thought it was well positioned against the 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 decks.
My losses in the tournament were the Mono-Red. While I don’t think the match-up is bad, it’s also not very good. The easiest way to improve this match-up is adding 《Authority of the Consuls》 to the deck, which is a bomb against Mono-Red.
The biggest downside of 《Authority》 is that I don’t think it’s even playable against most B/R builds post-board, but if Mono-Red is popular enough I can see it being worth a slot.
《Walking Ballista》 could also be cut, but having a card that is playable against both Mono-Red and Control is very valuable for me.
A note on 《History of Benalia》: I don’t think it’s a very good card, but I think it’s good to have access to a fast card like this for when a match-up is too bad or our opponent’s deck is really really fast. They were quite useful when I got paired against a hyper-aggro 《The Flame of Keld》 deck and I also sideboarded them on the play against Esper.
I think U/W control is here to stay for as long as 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 is legal in the format. While I haven’t talked much about him, he is still the most important/powerful card in the deck and I would almost never sideboard him out. I sideboarded out one copy on the draw against the 《The Flame of Keld》 deck and I still think that might have been a mistake.
I’m also happy about having locked myself for 56 Pro Points on this season. While it’s still not a lock for the World Championship, it could be already enough points to qualify me for that tournament. This also puts me on a position where if we do a decent Team Pro Tour I will then surely have enough points to qualify again for worlds. That was my goal for this season so I would be very very happy if I get there.
I had a blast playing U/W this weekend in Copenhagen. Give it a try!
Thanks for reading!