Alchemy UR Control is the breakout deck coming out of the Arena Open. I chose the deck last minute myself and it carried me to an 8-1 record and $2,500 in the Open! Even though I made Day 2 at every single Arena Open I played in, this was my first time earning actual money in the event, so I was very pleased to finally convert a Day 2 appearance into a tangible price.
I was aware of Izzet before the weekend. At one point, I was 27-3 with Esper Control on the ladder and two out of those three losses were against Izzet variants. Artifact destruction, instant speed card draw and counterspells are a decent way to defeat the Azorius/Esper Key to the Archive shells.
I had always believed that Izzet lacked the strong early game without a good sweeper like Divine Purge and efficient removal in the form of Vanishing Verse to be able to withstand aggressive decks. This is partly true, but Izzet has a fighting chance nonetheless. Key to the Archive is huge for Izzet, as it bridges the gap from mid to late game. Now, you just have to survive the early turns with some interaction, cast a Key on turn four, get yourself a nice spell to copy with Galvanic Iteration out of the spellbook and from there on you can overpower the aggro strategies. I would still rather be on Esper’s side playing against various creature strategies, but Izzet has a fighting chance without a doubt.
I played Esper Control on Day 1 of the Open, going 4-0 in my second try in Best-of-Three. On Day 2, after contemplating playing Esper, Izzet Mill, Azorius Control or Izzet Control, I settled on the latter. That raises the question: why did I not guide my trusted horse Esper into battle yet again?
From reading on Twitter and seeing the popular decks being posted, most of them being blue control decks, I started to have my doubts about Esper. I believe as of me writing my Deck Guide on Esper Control, blue control decks made up a metagame share of 10 percent. My Esper list is focused on beating creatures and midrange; the sideboard helps versus control, but the games are going to be close and you usually win the control mirrors by having main deck tech for them.
Esper is great in a world without much blue. I was scared that the metagame shifted quickly in the direction of blue control making up 30 percent or more on Day 2 of the Open. Control decks are popular, especially with experienced players. Those players might come to similar conclusions and include main deck tech like more card draw, discard spells or counterspells in their decks to fight the blue wave.
I knew from my experience that Izzet Control has the best shot against the UW-based control decks. Expressive Iteration and Galvanic Iteration give you an advantage in the attrition fights and Abrade takes care of Key to the Archive. I saw an Izzet list posted by Yuta Takahashi on Twitter. It was Best-of-One and carried the World Champion to a Day 2 qualification. I liked the look of it, made some slight changes and threw a sensible sideboard together. This is what I ended up playing in the Open.