Bill’s Brew

Typically, I don’t play a ton of Magic over Christmas. There’s too much to do, and too many people to visit. I don’t even bother writing really, since magic year is essentially over and nothing worthwhile is going on. Sure, I could post one of the 12 bad decks I thought up over the last week, but they were all dismal failures on MTGO, and would be bad against the popular decks in Standard anyway. However, there is one ray of hope for innovation during this time of stagnation.

We all assume that U/B control’s only specialty is beating other control decks. That’s just how they are designed, with Surgical Extration, better threats, and more dangerous planeswalkers that can cripple an opposing control decks ability to play the long game effectively. In fact, it’s very best threat is an uncounterable land in Drownyard! But given the state of the meta, that isn’t the only way to build U/B. My friend Bill showed me this list a few days back.

  • 4 Snapcaster Mage
  • 3 Bloodgift Demon
  • 3 Vengeful Pharaoh
  • 2 Wring Flesh
  • 3 Distress
  • 3 Geth’s Verdict
  • 4 Mana Leak
  • 4 Sorin’s Thirst
  • 3 Forbidden Alchemy
  • 4 Liliana of the Veil
  • 1 Mind Rot
  • 1 Sorin’s Vengeance
  • 1 Army of the Damned
  • 4 Darkslick Shores
  • 4 Drowned Catacomb
  • 3 Island
  • 2 Nephalia Drownyard
  • 11 Swamp

This is a new way to envision U/B in this creature heavy environment. It doesn’t play the long game quite as well, but it still has some subtle advantages against other control decks. At first, I didn’t think the Bloodgift Demons were correct, but being immune to Doom Blade is pretty huge since that appears to be the go to removal spell for those wacky 3-5 color control decks. Sure, everyone has Dismembers…in their sideboard, where they can’t do much about him bashing face and drawing extra cards.  The miser’s Mind Rot can be huge against other control decks, as they often bag their best cards, seeking to resolve one big Zenith of some kind or another to win. Distress works on a similar principle.

Against aggro, this 60 has it all. Answers for almost any type of threat with low converted mana costs. Large, undercosted fliers that can actually race when supplemented by Thirst and Verdict. Best of all, this list plays a favorite of mine that’s appeared in many failed experiments. Vengeful Pharaoh can be a nasty surprise early. An attack on turn three can turn sour after a Forbidden Alchemy resolves and dumps a Pharaoh in the bin. It also has good synergy with Liliana, killing a creature every turn at no mana cost. Drownyard can do work here as well later in the game, also digging you to your game ending spells.

Is this list perfect? Well, no, I don’t think it is. Personally, I’d like to see just a few more card selection spells in there(not Ponder). But that isn’t really the point of posting this. What matters is that with the season over, Top 8 decklists have stopped, and won’t pick up for several weeks. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need to keep thinking about how the meta will evolve, and explore strategies that, during the season, fell by the wayside because what was good changed so rapidly, and by the time you could tune something, it’s time had passed. This is perfect example of thinking outside the box, and doing something different, but at the same time, effectively.

I won’t be able to play any Standard events until at least after the New Year, but don’t be surprised if I have at least one copy of Vengeful Pharaoh in my 75 when I finally do play. I’ve been feverishly thinking on various bad builds trying to use cards like Mulch, Skaab Ruinator, Mirror-Mad Phantasm, Unburial Rites, Shriekhorn, Kessig Cagebreakers, Phantasmal Image, Sun Titan, and other clear winners. Maybe Pharaoh is the key to all that. Man, going rogue is so much fun. You never know where your thoughts will take you.

Happy New Year everyone,

Nigel

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