Theros Beyond Death has definitely made an impact on Pioneer. Whether it’s the Underworld Breach combo, the Heliod, Sun-Crowned/Walking Ballista combo, or the Inverter of Truth/Thassa’s Oracle combo, the first new set since the inception of the format has paved the way for new archetypes and made plenty of existing ones even stronger.
So what about Blue White Control? What did it get from Theros Beyond Death?
As I was combing over the previews while preparing the Theros Preview Episode for the Control Freak Podcast, I stopped on Elspeth Sun’s Nemesis. I wondered why no one was talking about this card for Control in Pioneer. In my mind, this card seems primed for serious consideration when constructing a Control deck in the format.
In this article I’m going to speak to how and why I think you should be playing this card in your Azorius Control decks in Pioneer. I’ll cover its strengths and weaknesses, but I will say that I believe that the strengths of Elspeth highly outweigh the weaknesses. At this point, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will be playing at least one main in each version of Control that I play.
I’ll start with the weaknesses. She is, at her worst, an overpriced and weaker Timely Reinforcements. Four mana to make two blockers, then if she survives, gain five life. Basically, in that scenario she’s just a speed bump for Mono Black, Izzet Ensoul and other Aggro decks.
Another way to look at her is an overpriced History of Benalia. You can make four creatures, then make two of them huge to attack. This is definitely not the most effective way to utilize her. However, that’s quite a bit of value for four mana, but in a Control deck, this is not necessarily a card you would want to play.
She doesn’t play well with Dig Through Time. Both are trying to exile cards to generate massive advantage. Which is definitely something I’ve experienced while testing her and Dig in the same deck.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis is the Thanos of win conditions for Control.
She is inevitable.
As long as you can make it to the long game she will singlehandedly win you the game. Period. She gums up the ground extremely well in the early game and we put so many cards in our graveyard that she’s just…inevitable (and repeatable!).
Escape is a mechanic that, when left unchecked by your opponent, you can potentially cast Elspeth multiple times from your graveyard. I’ve had multiple games where I’ve cast her three times. The games in which you don’t get to cast her twice (or more), you’re likely not winning anyways.
Additionally, she’s scary good with Supreme Verdict. Play her on turn four, make two blockers, make them commit to the board, and then wrath follow that up with two more tokens on an open board. Oftentimes, you can get a three-for-one.
You can also just kill your opponent out of nowhere sometimes.
Consider this: your opponent is tapped out and at nine life with a creature in play. You have four tokens that Elspeth has made and Elspeth at one loyalty. You activate her to give two of the tokens +2/+1, she goes to the graveyard, and then you Escape her and give the other two +2/+1.
Obviously, this is a very specific scenario but it’s come up several times in testing. If you try Elspeth, I’m sure it will come up for you, too.
I definitely think Elspeth deserves a spot in Azorius Control in Pioneer. She’s not only popping up in 5-0 lists on MTGO, but also did well at the Showcase Challenge in two different lists (one in 12th and one in 13th).
She’s good at bridging the gap from the mid-game to the late-game. Even at her worst, she makes a few blockers. And at her best, she wins games. Below is the list I’d play if I were to play a competitive event tomorrow.
If you have any questions or just want to talk more about Magic reach out to me on Twitter (@LessAlex).
Alex Blackard’s UW Control [01/2020]
4 Supreme Verdict
4 Azorius Charm
3 Dig Through Time
2 Sinister Sabotage
3 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
3 Teferi, Time Raveler
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Detention Sphere
2 Seal Away
1 Cast Out
2 Castle Ardenvale
1 Castle Vantress
2 Fabled Passage
3 Field of Ruin
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Irrigated Farmland
3 Aether Gust
2 Dovin’s Veto
2 Mystical Dispute
2 Rest in Peace
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis
1 Narset, Parter of Veils
2 Dream Trawler
2 Summary Dismissal