Seven Control Decks With Phyrexia: All Will Be One
With Phyrexia: All Will Be One, we are getting new toys for control decks. Some are innocuous commons and uncommons, and some are hard-hitting mythical Planeswalkers. Let’s delve deeper into seven control decks that could be emerging upon Phyrexia’s release.
Table of Contents
Mono Black Control
Let’s start off with a monocoloured shell. I do believe that Black allows us a card that will affect the dynamic of those mono control decks – Phyrexian Arena. Arena provides you with a steady stream of cards that is quite problematic to interact with. With that in mind, we can assume that we we will continuously be drawing cards. Under the aforementioned assumption, the best strategy is to keep trading resources back and forth as we will eventually come out ahead. I could imagine playing even more interactive spells so take full advantage of that dynamic.
In addition to Cut Down and Go for the Throat, I’ve decided to add Drown in Ichor. It’s both a point removal and a utility spell to tick up the loyalty on our Planeswalkers. This can allow us to ultimate the walkers seemingly out of nowhere or allow you to use their minus abilities multiple turns in a row. Another cute interaction is ticking up the number of counters on Reckoner Bankbuster so that we don’t run out of charges too fast.
Another new card is Phyrexian Obliterator. In some matchups, this will singlehandedly win the game. Decks with damage-based removal are going to struggle heavily against this card. It also just attacks for five every turn so it closes relatively fast.
This is going to be a perfect shell for players who like consistent and painless mana bases, and a steady stream of cards.
Dimir I think is the most controlly control deck that could come out of Phyrexia. This shell plays a ton of instant speed interaction—countermagic and removal, as expected. Syncopate is a versatile counterspell that is, admittedly, always tempo negative, but targets unconditionally. It’s a great on-stack piece of interaction to be able to answer creatures but also pesky, sticky permanents like Reckoner Bankbuster, Phyrexian Arena, or Planeswalkers. There is also a true ton of removal to ensure that you survive until the end game. Quad Go for the Throat and Cut Down impede early pressure and will most often trade up efficiently with more expensive creatures. What is the payoff for prolonging the game then?
This is the Standard equivalent of the mighty Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. While it is great at drawing cards and accruing card advantage, I reckon it should be looked at through a different lens. Teferi is secretly a very aggressive walker that can turn the corner very fast. The 2/2 Spirit token that grows increases in size at a rapidly fast rate. Every draw step counts, Teferi’s 0 ability counts, Silver Scrutiny allows you to draw multiple cards at a time—those Spirits become really threatening really fast. With that in mind, I wouldn’t even try to race to Teferi’s ultimate as the game will end much faster if you pump out those creatures.
Blue-black shells are also getting Kaito, Dancing Shadow which I think complements the main plan very well. Its 0 is the same as the one of Teferi’s, which is both a source of card advantage and grows the previously talked about Spirit. Kaito’s plus one can turn off opposing blockers to allow you to smash in for a ton of damage. While the -2 might come in handy sometimes, I’d expect the +1 and 0 to be used most often.
This deck rewards you handsomely for keeping the board clear as you play multiple Planeswalkers where each pulls you further and further ahead thanks to the stream of cards.
Above, I discussed a traditional take on control. However, there might be a pretty strong toxic-focused control shell in Standard with the release on Phyrexia. The deck has three ways to actually give the opponent poison counters.
The first and arguably the best is Voidwing Hybrid. On rate, it’s already a decent threat with two power and evasion. However, with around half the deck being able to proliferate in one way or another, triggering the last ability on ig is trivially easy. It then translates into a nigh-endless loop of blocking with it, getting it back, replaying it—rinse, repeat.
Prologue to Phyresis is a simple effect which basically gives the opponent poison for free card-wise as it replaces itself. Its main use is to give the opponent that first poison counter. On top of that, it does not care about the board state, it will always do its job. The only way to stop it is to play countermagic, but would anyone want to counter it in the first place?
Vraska's Fall is a removal spell with the poison clause stapled onto it, another way to semi-incidentally give a counter.
What can we do with that poison? Admittedly, with the elements mentioned above, it’d be very hard to actually get to 10. That’s why there is a plethora of cards which can proliferate—take up the number of counters such as poison counters. In practice, it means that you could gift the opponent a single poison, but proliferate it all the way up to 10. Importantly, all of that is removal-proof so it is going to be exceptionally difficult to interact with. As each spell in the deck either gives poison or proliferates it, you are rewarded for not sitting back for too long.
Playing against Dimir Toxic is going to feel like a ticking time bomb. Personally, I cannot wait to play this shell myself.
Over half a year ago I wrote a guide on a combo-control deck that I immensely enjoyed at the time, Izzet Turns. With Phyrexia, we are getting one card that I think can make the deck substantially better— Mindsplice Apparatus. The deck’s win condition is casting Alrund's Epiphany to get an additional turn and to generate more value or attack with Alrund’s Bird tokens. Galvanic Iteration is a way to copy those turns and get multiple in a row. For a lot of players, seeing that the opponent is about to take 2+ turns in a row feels like they’ve lost already, and most of the time, they actually will. The damage from Birds adds up very fast as you go from 2 Birds attacking into 4, into 6. With Hall of Storm Giants mixed somewhere in there, it is going to be lethal.
What Mindsplice Apparatus does is make all the Epiphanies cheaper. It allows you to go off faster or start the loop with interaction up. In longer games, you may be able to literally take another turn for two mana. While great with Epiphany, it does benefit other parts of the deck as well. I am mostly interested in cheaper Big Score, which are going to at some point generate mana and you can also ditch the redundant copies of Apparatus to it giving it more utility. On top of that, a single mana for Divide by Zero is going to be very strong. At two mana, it is already one of the best interaction spells in the whole format, and at one mana, it is certainly the case. The Learn mechanic will usually allow you to cycle through, again, redundant Apparatuses or get Mascot Exhibition. Apparatus having Flash is also hugely relevant gameplay-wise as you don’t have to commit too much. You can just wait until the opponent’s end step and deploy it then.
This is an excellent shell for the combo-control aficionados which certainly includes myself.
Classic Azorius control deck where Blue is there to provide countermagic and card draw and White is for removal. It is going to be a great choice in creature-heavy metagame thanks to unconditional mass removal in Depopulate. There aren’t many Wrath of God effects floating around, so it could come down to really mess up the creature decks.
The Eternal Wanderer is going to be a strong curve-topper for such a shell in my opinion. It has an attack tax, which in practice, will make it nigh-unkillable. That single creature that is trying to attack can easily be blocked by a Samurai token, be it from The Eternal Wanderer or The Wandering Emperor. Having so many walkers that produce threats also allows you to put pressure on the opponent instead of making the game drag out for eternity. Interestingly, The Eternal Wanderer’s tokens work great with The Wandering Emperor‘s plus ability as you can put +1/+1 counters onto double-striking Samurais.
Experimental Augury is Anticipate with proliferate stapled onto it. It is very much a relevant ability in the shell as it can increase the number of loyalty counters on Planeswalkers you control. This motif has already been talked about in the previous sections as walkers in general are usually played in control, and those walkers work great with proliferate. While neither walker we play as an actual proper ultimate ability, it can increase their longevity or enable multiple uses of the minus abilities a few turns in a row.
Azorius Control aka Samurai tribal will be a real player in the metagame.
Let’s talk about a non-Blue control deck, this particular shell is taking a bit of a different approach. While all the decks mentioned previously have been creature-light, this one takes full advantage of the utility that they may provide. Spirited Companion and Ambitious Farmhand are what one could call throw-away creatures. They do their thing upon entering the battlefield, and then you don’t really care what happens to them. Usually, you are going to chump block an opposing creature to buy yourself more time. If you can’t find a time to chump block, those dispensable threats can also be used as fodder for Rite of Oblivion. In the later stages in the game, Serra Paragon allows you to replay those creatures, getting the value again from them.
The best curve-topper for such an Orzhov shell is Kaya, Intangible Slayer. Its hexproof ability makes it so that it’s literally unkillable by spells rendering opposing Rite of Oblivion, Play with Fire, or Rending Flame useless. If it stays on the field for just a couple of turns, it pulls you ahead tremendously with Divination on its 0 ability, and while it also gives the opponent Scry 1, which in Constructed, I heavily doubt is going to matter much. If the opposing board is scary, you can double minus Kaya in a pinch to contain the battlefield a bit.
The rest of the shell is flush with removal in the form of Cut Down , Go for the Throat, Rite of Oblivion, and Drown in Ichor. You are going to want to kill stuff on sight to be able to stay alive and drop Kaya on the field.
If you are not really a blue magician who wants to hold up countermagic, this may be the best bet for you.
While I am a fan of two-colour mana bases, I think the best three-colour combination for control in Standard is Esper. Each colour brings a unique effect to the table:
- Blue provides countermagic
- Black provides removal
- White provides planeswalkers
This is a basic breakdown as, for instance, White brings also plenty of removal to the shell and Black enables Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, a true blend of Azorius Control and Dimir Control. The biggest downside is the mana base as it going to be less consistent compared to two colours. On the flip side, you are playing the best cards from each colour, ensuring the highest card quality. Philosophically, it has the Samurai aspect of Azorius and pass-the-turn aspect of Dimir.
It’s a good choice for players who cannot narrow down the colours they want to play and like expanding into other card options.
With Phyrexia: All Will Be One you should expect more control on the ladder, and a lot of variety within the archetype. All hail passing the turn.
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