Taking Control

Control has been in a strange place in Ixalan Standard. During the first couple of large events, we saw Search for Azcanta powering {U}{B} control decks trying to keep pace with Mono-Red and Energy variants. Since then, the lack of a sweeper has been pushed {U}{B} out of the format, in favor of {W}{U} decks featuring Approach of the Second Sun. As the format has grown more streamlined, maybe it’s time to revisit {U}{B} as we head towards Rivals of Ixalan:

Torrential Gearhulk
This variation on {U}{B} is substantially different than what we saw at the beginning of the format. This deck eschews Search for Azcanta in favor of more traditional card advantage engines like Torrential Gearhulk. You can even chain Gearhulks going late into the game thanks to The Scarab God and Liliana, Death’s Majesty. That combination of cards gives you an overwhelming late game advantage. The trick is surviving until you can leverage it.

Because this format is fundamentally creature-oriented, you don’t need an overabundance of counterspells in the maindeck. Instead, you can rely on removal spells and creatures of your own to help ensure that your answers don’t line up poorly. If you can lead off with Fatal Push and follow up with midrange answers like Gifted Aetherborn and Hostage Taker, then you’re able to consistently keep pace with your opponent’s threats. Vraska’s Contempt helps you stop Planeswalkers from getting out of hand and gives you answers to cards like Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God.

If you’re looking for a control deck that combines overbearing late game card advantage with a consistent core of midrange threats and flexible removal, this seems like a great take on the archetype. You have the ability to win games just by playing creatures early on as opposed to having to play a long, protracted game where you have to resolve multiple copies of Approach of the Second Sun. All in all, this seems like a flexible, powerful control deck that might be able to take on the field with a couple of new options out of Rivals of Ixalan.

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