The Resurrection & Evolution of Modern UW Control

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most adaptable to change.”

We Started From the Bottom, Now We’re Here

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via Modern Nexus

“More positively, I’m excited to see UW Control, Scapeshift, and Blue Moon getting by in this Eldrazified format. UW Control is clearly benefiting from a decent Eldrazi matchup, but this still points to broader relevance we might not have expected from Modern’s remaining blue decks.”

Although past event results can be a reliable measurement to indicate and predict subsequent trends, sometimes we have to expect the unexpected. This isn’t only true for Magic, but for life itself.  Things may not always go according to plan. Life can be full of disappointments and upsets, but failure is not defeat; it’s an opportunity to improve and triumph. How we choose to respond and adapt to these challenging moments defines the quality and resiliency of our character. It’s about passion, progress, and persistence as well as maintaining perspective.

Most recently, the UFC world was shocked to witness the fall of Ronda Rousey to Holly Holmes. Then came the knockout of Conor McGregor to Nate Diaz.

In the NBA, the Warriors, who currently hold the best record in NBA history (at this point of the season) at 57-6, were blown out by the league’s second worst team, the Lakers, who improved to 13-50 with that win.

In the NFL, the Broncos defeated the favorites, Panthers (who had only 1 loss all season), to win Super Bowl 50.

In politics, Bernie Sanders pulled the upset in Michigan, beating Hillary Clinton even though polls had him trailing by more than 30%. He went onto win 50% to 48%.

In Magic, Abzan Company actually took down UW Eldrazi at GP Detroit.

Sometimes the experts misplay, but they can also misread…

Resurrecting UW: Hybrid Midrange Control

Although I’m very passionate about this archetype, I firmly believe UW has been underrated and underrepresented in this format. One of the reasons has to do with the way it’s been stereotypically perceived, which begins with the philosophy of its core design and gameplan. What worked in Standard, or works in Legacy, may not be the suitable direction for UW in Modern. The traditional Control approach is utilized more effectively in UWR because it can apply pressure while interacting. Unlike a purely reactive UW, Bant, or Esper, UWR can also be aggressive, which is important in this format.

As I’ve adamantly advocated, the hybrid Midrange (Tempo/Attrition) Control approach, is one of the best ways to play UWx. In fact, I sometimes joke that Jund/Junk players make better UW players. I’ve adopted their design philosophy for UW and it has benefited because of that – interaction/disruption + pressure.

We’re also like a variation/evolution of Sam Black’s UW Delverless list from 2012.  This particular design is a formula that works in this format as it’s non-linear and adaptable. It’s rare to feel out of the game and are never locked into a linear, one-dimensional gameplan. To an experienced UWx player who knows the meta, skill often trumps variance. This is a virtual advantage.

I recently had a good discussion with a good player about this and we agreed with the following: “In Modern, it’s becoming clear that the decks that can do well are the ones that can disrupt your opponent while applying pressure. Midrange and Control decks, historically, need to be able to adapt and this takes time. They’re not as inherently powerful as linear strategies, but they do allow you to outplay your opponent. You win off slim margins. You have to pick your battles.”

From my knowledge and experience, the deck doesn’t have many unfavorable match-ups. We can be 40/60 to 60/40 across the board with this style but fast mana and Combo decks present the most challenges. We don’t commonly blow decks out either, but it is possible with this direction. On the other hand, it’s a deck that requires and rewards finely-tuned skills, knowledge of your deck, and the ability to adapt to an ever-changing meta. In other words, the pilot definitely makes a difference.

Ultimately, this direction will remain one of the best, and most relevant, for UWx in Modern.

That being said, I will continue to share my knowledge, perspectives, and experience to help players in any way I can and solidify UWx as Tier 2 or 1 archetype. It’s the archetype I’m most proficient in. Nothing in Magic is more gratifying to me than this endeavor.

GP Charlotte 2016 – Then & Now

I skipped GP Detroit but I’ll be attending GP Charlotte in May. I’m hoping to redeem myself over last year’s performance with Esper Twix at GP Charlotte – a deck I designed to beat Twin, Bloom, and other Combo decks (I had a 70/30 MU vs Twin and Bloom). It was also featured by Ali Aintrazi in this article on TCG Player: Esper Twix.

Unfortunately, while I swept Twin/Bloom, I came up short vs Scapeshift and Faeries in turns as I lost to top decks vs each on the 5th turn. It was very frustrating, but that’s Magic. I ended up 5-4 (for data purposes):

  • 2-0 vs UR Twin
  • 2-0 vs UR Twin
  • 2-0 vs Bloom Titan
  • 2-0 vs UB Mill
  • 2-1 vs 4c Ascendancy
  • 1-2 vs Blue Moon
  • 1-2 vs UB Faeries
  • 1-2 vs Scapeshift
  • 0-2 vs Naya Burn

This time I’ll be bringing an updated version of ‘Clash of the Titans’, which I recently shared in our podcast:

Card Knock Life Podcast #39 – Ain’t Yo Mama’s Control Deck (feat. Francesco Neo Amati) 

I discuss my UW deck, card options/strategies, theorycrafting, the philosophy of sticking to, and mastering 1-2 decks in Modern, as well as how to properly tackle Eldrazi.

Francesco’s ‘Clash of the Titans’
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via MTG Goldfish

I’ve been discussing aspects of this this deck for the past couple of weeks, explaining why it’s one of the best gameplans with UWx vs Eldrazi; but it’s also one of the most versatile, resilient, and adaptive decks I’ve played since 2011-2012, when I played a deck very similar to this one vs Caw-Blade, Valakut, and Eldrazi. This also means we’ll continue to be relevant even after Eldrazi is nerfed. We’re well-positioned vs several decks beyond Eldrazi and it’s based on our adaptive gameplan (between main and side) vs Aggro/Midrange/Combo/Control.

In its current form, it’s designed to stabilize between turns 2-5, clear the board, and recover with value and pressure through various angles. Post-board, it can transition into a more reactive deck vs Combo. The main theme is to ‘rinse, reset, and recover’. We’re basically mirroring Eldrazi’s gameplan, but by turn 5+ instead of 2 to 5.

David Saucier Therrien, a player from my UWx community, went 10-4-1 with a variation of of this deck. This is a solid record and could have easily been 11-4 or 12-3 with tighter play.

David Saucier Therrien
GP Detroit – 3/6/16
Record: 10-4-1 (161st)

Creatures (14)
4 Wall of Omens
3 Kitchen Finks
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Sun Titan
3 Restoration Angel

Spells (16)
4 Path to Exile
3 Detention Sphere
3 Supreme Verdict
3 Spreading Seas
3 Cryptic Command

Planeswalkers (4)
2 Gideon Jura
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Venser, the Sojourner

Lands (26)
3 Celestial Colonnade
1 Temple of Enlightment
4 Flooded Strand
4 Ghost Quarter
3 Hallowed Fountain
5 Island
3 Plains
3 Glacial Fortress

Sideboard (15)
3 Negate
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Runed Halo
1 Supreme Verdict
2 Stony Silence
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Disenchant
2 Timely Reinforcement
1 Ethersworn Canonist

Tournament Report:

(Day 1)

  • Round 1: Bye
  • Round 2: Bye
  • Round 3: Merfolk
    Score: 0-2
  • Round 4: Mardu Midrange
    Score: 2-0
  • Round 5: Abzan CoCo
    Score: 2-1
  • Round 6: RG Tron
    Score: 1-2
  • Round 7: UW Eldrazi
    Score: 1-2
  • Round 8: Affinity
    Score: 2-1
  • Round 9: Burn
    Score: 2-1

Record: 6-3

(Day 2)

  • Round 10: Abzan CoCo
    Score: 2-1
  • Round 11: UR Delver
    Score: 2-0
  • Round 12: Affinity
    Score: 1-1-1
  • Round 13: UW Eldrazi
    Score: 2-1
  • Round 14: UW Mirror
    Score: 2-1
  • Round 15: Gorgyo Vengence
    Score: 1-2

Record: 10-4-1

Final Thoughts:

“I’m still very happy about the deck. The deck itself felt right in the meta even if I didn’t face a lot of Eldrazi. I did a lot of testing of this matchup with my friend and I think it’s at least 60/40 for us. Overall, I would play this deck again.”

The updated version will likely revert back to the way it was prior to Eldrazi dominating the format, but with some additional spice – possibly Archangel Avacyn, for starters. The deck will also undergo a name change.

Moving Forward:

  • Spreading Seas will still be good, but probably better out of the board. Tron will certainly be more popular after Eldrazi and one of my best gameplans vs Tron was T2 Seas, T3 Geist/Clique, T4 Clique/Resto/Elspeth, K-E or Ghost Quarter/Counter, etc.
  • Geist of Saint Traft will be a viable SB option as a 2-3 of alongside Clique (and maybe Aven Mindcensor) vs Tron/Combo. We’d swap out Finks for Geist.
  • We’ll want to be on anywhere from 6-9 counters in the main. They can be a combination of Spell Snare, Dispel, Remand, Mana Leak, Negate, and Cryptic Command .
  • Because of our power level and the importance of turn 4-5 (i.e. Cryptic, Verdict, Resto, Avacyn, Gideon, etc.), I wouldn’t mind cutting Colonnade to 3 as it’s theoretically a T6 play anyway. We definitely want less CiPT lands.
  • Snapcaster Mage will become more relevant as we increase the spell count in the deck.
  • Cavern of Souls is going to be great tech vs the mirror, and other decks packing more counters post-Eldrazi, to jam in Resto/Avacyn, for example. We can even name Wizard here.

Stay tuned for updates!

Note: I will not be sharing my final 75 prior to GP Charlotte, but will reveal it after I’ve completed the tournament.

UW Midrange Control is my bread and butter.  I’m going to be playing what I play best. I’m confident I’ll make day 2 this time around.

“Be So Good, They Can’t Ignore You.” –Steve Martin

There are those who prefer to play the flavor of the week/month, which is typically the ‘best’ deck, in order to increase their probability of winning, or at least making Top 8. The proof is in performance, but the pilot, and adapting to the meta, absolutely matters. It is as important, if not more important than the deck we choose to play.

There are several pros, Patrick Dickmann, Shaun McLaren, Jeff Hoogland, Wafo Tapa, etc., who stick to 1 or 2 decks and master them. They experience these decks through the motions, such as shifting metas, and continue tailoring and adapting their decks to the field. There’s an inherent and invaluable advantage of mastering your deck, knowing the ins and outs of your 75, understanding the format, and being able to show up at a tournament – while knowing the angles of opposing decks – and successfully perform through experience, skillful play, and being ahead of the curve. In a wide open field, it’s just best to play what you know, but the deck has to be reasonable (i.e. competitive).

This is the type of player I’ve been and will always be. I’ve stuck it out with the archetype I know and love, through thick and thin, embracing the opportunity to improve rather than give up and move onto the next best thing for the sake of increasing my win %. I apply this philosophy to every facet of my life, including who I am. This discipline has also contributed to my improvement and growth as a person and player.

From a philosophical perspective, I believe, that for certain people (like myself), there is a subconscious, psychological connection/correlation between the decks we prefer to play and who we are. These decks become a reflection, and representation, of our identity and personality, which is also apparent in our other interests that resonate with us – whether that be music, books, movies, video games, etc.

Did Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant leave their teams when they were losing? Did Walt Disney and Steve Jobs give up after they were rejected?

As Rocky once wisely said, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

Winning and being a Pro are very important aspirations to me, but they’re not the reasons I started playing Magic. They’re not the reasons I’m so passionate about the game (or UW). My love for Magic is, and will always be, unconditional, just as it is for anything I’m passionate about in my life, such as my soon-to-be fiancee. Magic is not only something I do, but it’s also a part of who I am; and for that, I’m grateful I can express myself through this vessel.

When you’re genuinely passionate about what you do, success eventually finds you. This is a perspective I will never lose sight of or take for granted.

When you feel like quitting, never forget why you started.

“The journey is what brings us happiness, not the destination.” –Peaceful Warrior

Never. Give. Up.

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My Modern UWx Communities:

MTG Modern UWx Community

MTG Modern UWx Control Community

For those who are interested, I’ll be sharing videos related to UWx Midrange/Control in Modern, including deck techs and discussions regarding my deck(s), Meta/MU analysis, how to adapt and stay ahead of the curve, MD/SB card discussions/options, UWx deck designs and strategies (i.e. Reactive vs Proactive, Draw-Go vs Tapout, Linear vs Non-Linear, Hybrids, etc.), theorycrafting, personal perspectives and philosophies, answering questions, and more. I’ll also eventually stream matches.

Francesco’s Youtube Channel