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In Development – How to Train Your Dragon (to poison people to death)

Generally speaking, I try to avoid working with exceptionally toxic chemicals.

The most unpleasant thing I’ve had to deal with in my research work of late was mercuric chloride, which comes with this charming warning:

DANGER! MAY BE FATAL IF SWALLOWED. HARMFUL IF INHALED OR ABSORBED THROUGH THE SKIN. CAUSES SEVERE IRRITATION TO EYES, SKIN AND RESPIRATORY TRACT; MAY CAUSE BURNS. MAY CAUSE ALLERGIC SKIN REACTION. MERCURY COMPOUNDS AFFECT THE KIDNEYS AND CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM. BIRTH DEFECT HAZARD. CAN CAUSE BIRTH DEFECTS.

Those last two lines seem redundant, but maybe that’s just me.

This week, I’m going to talk about slapping poison counters on your opponent. It’s not another Limited article, nor will I be talking about blue-green infect in Standard.

Nope. This week, we’re rolling out the big guns. It’s Skittles time.

The power and peril of U/B Control

The fortunes of U/B Control builds have waxed and waned a bit in the last few weeks depending on the relative abundance of ramp decks such as Eldrazi and Valakut and more robust fast aggro decks like Vampires. They’ve been piloted to good finishes in some big events, and in general has a lot to recommend them.

I’m inclined to think that various U/W builds may be stronger overall, but that’s irrelevant for me because the cutoff in effectiveness between the two is very close, and in many ways I find the U/B builds much more fun to play. Which, of course, means I’m likely to play them more effectively as well.

Before I launch into my peculiar choice of finisher, I thought it’d be fair to touch on some of the highs and lows of U/B as your choice of control deck.

The upside

The primary upside of U/B Control is that it can, if you want it to, murder the heck out of the ramp matchup. Whereas U/W builds have to get by with run of the mill countermagic, U/B has access to all manner of disruption. I lean toward Duress and Memoricide, but Inquisition of Kozilek has its place as well. This offers the significant upside of letting you simply eviscerate your ramp opponent’s game plan. It doesn’t actually matter if they have Summoning Trap if you’re exiling their Primeval Titans instead of countering them.

The deck also has access to Creeping Tar Pit, which remains one of the most effective Jace killers in Standard. “Unblockable” is simply so much more powerful than any other form of evasion. Add to that the fact that Jace can’t unsummon a dormant Tar Pit and you have a creature that U/W and U/R/G decks only wish they had access to.

You also, if you’re of a mind to run tutoring three drops, have access to Trinket Mage and all it brings along for the ride. This is one of the major drivers for me to play U/B, as I adore tutoring, love silver bullets, and have a special place in my heart for highly functional two- and three-drops.

Finally, there’s the often-underrated advantage of having many of your key spells be “faster” than their U/W analogs, by dint of being Instants:

Where U/B stumbles

Of course, the tremendous upside to Day of Judgment, Condemn, and Journey to Nowhere is that they deal with pretty much everything you’d ever care to deal with. As so many of us have learned to our dismay, you can’t Doom Blade an Abyssal Persecutor and you can’t Consume away a Frost Titan. In exchange for their tithe of slowness, the U/W players get far more general answer spells.

So it goes.

This is one reason I appreciate Trinket Mage. It goes some way toward correcting for this problem.

That’s our background for U/B Control, and its general position in the current Standard environment. With that stage set, let’s take a look at my curious approach to rounding out the U/B deck to my taste this week.

Bringing the blight

So how did I end up with the King Timmy Value Card as the big finisher for the U/B list I’m writing about this week?

Let’s take a quick peek in at the philosophy of control, then I’ll talk about why I need to go get some poison counters before the next big Standard tournament.

The high-level philosophy of control

As I was foraging in my mind for tidbits of metaphor to use in discussing control, I discovered an analogy that has stuck pretty firmly, at least for today. Speaking very broadly, if an aggro deck is a striker, a control deck is a grappler.

A “typical” fast aggro deck in the vein of Boros is like the fast-moving striking, darting in and out, putting value punches into the opponent’s body and head, wearing them down until something connects solidly and they take the opponent down.

In contrast, a “typical” control deck along the lines of U/B control is the more calculated grappler, willing to wait and hold position, stifling the opponent’s opportunities for attack, and then finally so limiting the opponent’s ability to respond that they can acquire a choke or arm bar to end the match.

Yes, it’s a crude analogy. Sometimes, the grappler does a beautiful double-leg takedown and the opponent is out half a second after their head bounces off the mat. But in general, it holds – the traditional control deck, even as bomb-oriented as they are these days, wants to hem the opponent in and remove their ability to act, and then kill at leisure.

Except, of course, you can never afford to kill at leisure, because another feature of contemporary Standard decks is that they topdeck awfully well.

I’d rather you have 10 life instead of 20

Last week I was playtesting U/B Control builds as a way of making sure I didn’t write a thousand articles in a row featuring Fauna Shaman, and I found myself pondering the finishing moves available to these decks.

Very generally, we have these cards:

They are all good cards, they all have their merits. But there are always more cards than we remember, so I took a trip over to Gatherer and found this guy:

Yes, Skithyrix, the King Timmy Value card (KTVC) of Scars. He sees basically no play in any real-world Constructed format, and nonetheless still holds his price, because he’s the awesomest infect card in the set.

I figure Timmy cards are awesome, rather than “good” or “the value.”

But once I found myself staring at Skithyrix, I had a thought. I’m building a control deck. It might be nice to win with just a few swings. Let’s review our KTVC’s qualities:

These are not insubstantial things – which is a flowery way of saying, “You know, Skithyrix is a good card.”

At six mana, he swings in immediately. At seven mana, he regenerates – and if we review a lot of the removal available in Standard right now, we see that very little of it gets around regeneration.

Finally, he competes admirably with opposing bombs. Sure, block (or swing into) that Abyssal Persecutor. You regenerate Skithyrix, and they now have a 2/2 flyer that still says they can’t win the game.

So, kills in three swings, hasty, regenerates, wins bomb fights. Sweet.

But wait. There’s more.

Proliferiffic

Once I set myself on the path of thinking of Skithyrix as a real option for my U/B build, I brought up three lists of cards in Gatherer.

All the cards with infect

All the cards with proliferate

All the cards that say “counter”

I fairly quickly decided that I didn’t want to build more infect into the deck. A U/B Control deck tends to run 4-5 bomb creatures as finishers alongside Jace…and realistically, none of the other infect critters are suitable bombs. But four Skithiryx is plenty.

I pulled up the proliferate cards because I thought Skithyrix might want some backup, something to add inevitability to the poison finish. This gave me one key card for the list, which I’ll explain below.

Once I had proliferate on my mind, I realized I should really think of what else I might want to proliferate…and then it occurred to me that the alternate win condition in a normal U/B deck seriously benefits from counters.

Yes, it pays to proliferate your Jace.

Phyrexia doesn’t play well with others

But there’s a downside here, one that you’ll have experienced if you ended up playing half an infect deck in Scars Sealed. A mixed team of infect and regular finishers…

…well, it kind of sucks.

Having to deal thirty damage, effectively, is godawful.

So we can’t mix-and-match our bombs. We can’t have the exciting, aggro-stifling life gain power of Wurmcoil alongside Skithyrix in the same way we might have the Wurmcoil along with a Frost Titan. They’re not playing the same game, and it hurts us.

In fact, this prompted me to drop the Creeping Tar Pits from the deck, a decision I eventually reversed for reasons I’ll discuss below.

If we want to have our opponent legitimately “be at 10 life,” we don’t get to touch any of the other big bombs we might otherwise use…and even our Trinket Mages are now more tutors and speed bumps than anything else.

The loss of Creeping Tar Pit was particularly disappointing, until I realized I was following a rule I didn’t need to follow.

So, Skithyrix. U/B Control. How did that turn out?

A boy and his dragon

Here’s the list I have after a week or so of playtesting:

Inevitable Skittles

That’s the list. Now, here are the highlights.

Your power tools

I learned a few interesting things in the many cycles of building and testing that went into this deck. Some of them are very specific – what to do with a pathogenic dragon – but the others apply outside of this specific take on U/B Control, so hopefully they’ll plug into your control deck needs generally.

Skithyrix

We touched on the factors that make Skithyrix a legitimate bomb already, so this section will focus on how to play the big, dead guy.

Broadly speaking, treat Skithyrix like any other finisher. Keep mana up to defend him, whether that means having a Mana Leak at the ready or just being prepared to regenerate him out from under some damage. I like to at least hold off until I have the mana up to make him hasty, because putting an opponent 40% of the way toward dead is tremendous in this deck, even if they deal with Skithyrix immediately after.

This is actually one of the big plusses of Skithyrix as a finisher – he punishes the opponent tremendously for tapping out.

When you’re playing against any deck featuring white, remember that Journey and Condemn exist. Assume that you’ll lose at least one copy of Skithyrix to one of those two spells, and don’t go for game plans that require that your current edition of the zombie dragon survive. In general, we don’t want to go all-in on one card, of course, but I’ve found that Skithyrix makes that tempting.

So don’t do it. Skithyrix is good, but he’s not that good.

Creeping Tar Pit

Hey, so didn’t I just say something about how normal damage and infect don’t play well together?

Right. In fact, that’s why I pulled the Tar Pits during testing. I figured it was sad that they “didn’t work” in the deck anymore, but I’d pick up some gains in tempo instead.

But as testing showed me, Tar Pit is not primarily a win condition.

No.

Tar Pit is there to kill all their stupid planeswalkers, blockers be damned! After just a handful of games sans Tar Pits, I realized this, and put them back in.

And you know, sometimes you win games on Tar Pit damage anyway. It happens. Always attack when it doesn’t otherwise inconvenience you, because why not? It gives your opponent something else to worry about. In the mean time, remember that the Tar Pits are there to assassinate opposing Jaces, so you can call on the big guy instead.

Trinket Mage

Another player who is not primarily around for the purposes of dealing damage, Trinket Mage solves many problems for this deck. After much testing, I’ve eschewed Everflowing Chalice, so my Mages don’t tutor those up for me. However, they’re critical for giving me reliable access to Brittle Effigy, which is, in turn, critical for dealing with things that can’t be Doom Bladed, Smothered, or bounced with Jace.

…and if Brittle Effigy is sometimes critical, then Elixir of Immortality is essential. This card, backed by Trinket Mages, lets you infinitely recur almost everything in your deck, gain life, avoid decking in control mirrors, and generally operate as if you had a much more sophisticated recursion engine than Standard really allows.

Contagion Clasp 

This deck needs two Clasps.

More would be wasted space, but one or none is too few. Clasp is a neat little anti-aggro device, but its real purpose is to convert any single Skithyrix hit into an inevitable kill.

With a single Clasp in play, the opponent dies to two Skithyrix swings rather than one. Clasp similarly accelerates kills via Jace’s ultimate. I’ve ultimated to end more games with Jace in this deck than I ever have before – gaining three loyalty counters a turn while fatesealing the opponent is just crazy.

Smother 

I’ve noticed that the go-to removal option for U/B Control decks, after Doom Blade, is [card]Disfigure[/card]. The logic is reasonable, of course – you can hit a Goblin Guide right away, before it wreaks untold havoc on you while drawing you lands.

But in searching through Gatherer for black cards, I saw Smother.

I like Smother. I like it better than Disfigure.

Yes, it’s slower. It means the potential for a more damage from Goblin Guide and other fast cards. On the other hand, it kills fast creatures unconditionally. Even more to the point, it kills [card raging ravine]creature lands[/card].

Seriously, why aren’t more people playing this card? It’s great.

Sideboarding

I’ll end this discussion with some quick notes on sideboarding:

Valakut

IN:

 

OUT:

 

Note that this is a special case where Clasp can come out, since most of your win comes on the back of crippling their game plan via Duress and Memoricide.

U/B Control

IN:

 

OUT:

 

U/W Control
OUT:

 

IN:

 

U/R/G Jace

IN:

 

OUT:

 

Boros, B/R Vampires, Quest Aggro

IN:

 

OUT:

 

KTVC FTW

A few weeks ago, Frost Titan was the lame titan.

It’s good to keep that kind of thing in mind when we’re building and refining decks.

Values are relative. No card is always good or always bad – although some come close on either count. Last week’s silly Timmy card or pointlessly complex Johnny card may be this week’s entirely reasonable win condition.

So what are you going to win with this week?

34 thoughts on “In Development – How to Train Your Dragon (to poison people to death)”

  1. Cool deck. I run grasp of darkness in my mono black control instead of smother. You definitely have the mana to support it and it’s basically the same except it kills vengevines too. Seems worth it to me

  2. Not sure I’m impressed with “kills in three swings.” So do Titans, really. Nearly everybody takes some damage from fetches, or the random time you swing in with a Trinket Mage or a Pit. You almost never need to actually get through more than three times with a Titan.

    Plus, the Titan abilities (e.g., tapdown) are high-value. Yeah, your KTVC can cripple an opposing Frost Titan, but your KTVC is going to be tapped anyway. Regen is good right now, but again, it doesn’t prevent the Frosty tapdown. Since two of the more dominant decks right now (RUG and BU) run Frosty, this is a problem. And I’m not sure this is better than, say, drawing up two lands or recurring little Jace.

    Haste is excellent, though, as is flying, and “does not die to Doom Blade” is also a major plus. Regen is also strong against Valakut, so it merits consideration.

    Very interesting, Dr. Shearer, very interesting. Not sold yet, but at least intrigued…

  3. I would hope you side out doomblades vs vampires, since, you know, dead card.

    Do you really find Skittles to be a better finisher than grave titan? It does seem nice that RDW/Boros mark of mutiny vs him is pretty terrible, clearly worse vs vampires than the grave titan though.

    Also, that deck is completely dead G1 vs Ramp. Why not 3 duress MB and cut a few cards like consume the meek, and a doom blade? This deck also looks fairly weak vs control without duress – If the goal is to crush aggro, UW is better. I don’t see the point in playing black and putting the best card, duress, in the SB.

    If you are worried about the aggro matchup, run Inquisition of Kozilek, it is GREAT vs aggro, and only misses big jace, gideon, and summoning trap.

  4. for the record, I experimented with Skittles a while ago, and ultimately found him lacking, since unlike titans he does not impact the board just by being cast. I found he was better in the matchups I needed the least help in, which is why I moved to Grave Titan, who is best in the worst matchups.

  5. Gabriel D. Celery

    I dont think Skithyrix and clasp alone improves the standard titan-based U/B. Instead I believe it weakens it (as you pointed out tar pit poison interaction).

    On the other hand I see some potentail in skithiryx, contagion clasp, mimic vat, ichor rats(?) addon.

  6. Ever considered using Hand of the Praetors and Corpse Curs (and/or Ichor Rats) to set up a loop in which you never have to attack in the first place, or only once with Skittles for the coup de grace?

  7. I was using Skith as my kill card ages ago. They aren’t that great anymore and that deck looks mediocre. Four Skith is far too many. I ran two and that felt like too many at times. All of the permanents and sorceries in that deck are why UB has started to seem less prevalent.

  8. One resolving Memoricide kills the Deck. I know this is not common, but after Boarding you should get significant Probs against Black. The only option is the Duress to control this.

  9. 1) Looks like you are planning on hitting 6 mana regardless. Wondering if Contagion Engine might be a good fit for the deck in place of one Consume the Meek. Gives the deck a lot more proliferation power

    2) Don’t know that it’d be that much harder to find one of three Skithyrix than one of four. I’d be tempted to put sub in an Ichor Rats to get the poison engine started.

  10. Oo this deck is BAD.
    Skithiryx isn’t that bad as a sole finisher but just gets outclassed by grave titan. Sure you can play skithiryx at 5 mana but then there are just way too many options for the opponent to get by that, for example a jace bounce + counter or simply killing it.
    Grave titan costs 1 mana more and simply can’t be dealt with except for day of judgement. Skithiryx’s regeneration cost is simply too costly.

    Also grave titan kills just as fast as skithiryx. Turn 6 titan kills at turn 8, while doing the neccesary blocks if neccesary. Turn 5 or 6 skithiryx also kills at turn 8, while not being able to kill or be a safe tapout at all…
    Cards that deal with skithiryx:
    consuming vapors, journey, oust, double bolt / double disfigure, gatekeeper and to a lesser extent jace and day of judgement
    cards that deal with grave titan:
    day of judgement

    Contagion clasp also just sucks as it’s dead against too many decks. Disfigure is a reasonable maindeck card as even the non-aggro decks have decent targets (tar pits, oracle of mul daya, trinket mage, shrinking a titan in a titan clash etc.). Contagion clasp however is just dead against way too many decks.

    Then there is the horrible sideboard as well. Mindbreak trap and memoricide are exclusive cards, you play the one OR the other, they don’t work well together as one lets you tapout while the other requires to keep 6 mana up. Also playing trinket mage without at least some board tutor targets for it is crap, not playing disfigure at all in the 75 is another nice way to simply fold to aggro strategies.
    Worst deck i’ve ever seen on this site probably.

  11. the biggest problem is that he makes your Creeping Tar Pits worthless. Instead of bashing with tar pits when needed, you have a finisher that MUST survive or the deck will take even longer to get there. It’s a neat, one-trick pony that simply won’t work.

  12. Horrible horrible idea. First of all, you can only have 1 Skittles in Play at a time… they can have multiple Titans. Next, you are only running 4 Finishers… uhh Resolve Memoricide, naming Skittles… GG you can no longer win.

  13. While I like your fun fact MH, I do want to add for the authors sake, that his are some of my favorite CFB articles and to keep it up. Its nice to read about someone trying things that may or may not work, and you’re approach is always a fun one. I totally agree that playing the more fun deck will probably mean you are playing better in general.

  14. Sometimes, I look at the comments and wonder if the people who made them actually read the article. This is one of those times.

    Nowhere in the article does he say “this is the optimal U/B build.” He doesn’t even say “this is the optimal U/B build with Skittles.” He says “sometimes ‘bad’ cards end up being good, and this is worth checking out.”

    I haven’t tested the deck, so everything I say after this point is pure speculation, but the option to regenerate, haste, or both seems at least comparable to the Titan’s ETB or the Wurm’s death trigger. I would guess that people who think he’s “just so much worse” are really playing him wrong.

    You don’t play Skithy on 5. You play him on 6-8, when you can haste him, leave counter/regen mana up, or both. You know, the same turn (or a turn earlier) than you play the 6/6s. Regardless of when you play him, he hits a turn faster than the 6/6s, and has evasion to get around the random mana guys or goblin guides that your opponent has lying around. They both take 3 hits, but Skithy hits sooner and more often. Faster kills mean less time to topdeck outs.

    If we want to play the “dies-to-removal” game, we can start listing stuff that shuts down the 6/6s but not Skithy (*coughDoJcoughRevokeExistencecough*). That’s a waste of time, though, because EVERYTHING dies to removal.

    Again, I haven’t tested the deck, so I can’t say whether or not the faster kill and regeneration is better than the extra bodies that Grave titan gives or the life gain and “can’t-kill-me”-ness of the Wurm. I can say that the article makes an interesting case, and if I had any desire to play U/B, I would give this build a real shot before writing it off as “terrible”.

  15. Also, to the memoricide comments.

    You’re a CONTROL DECK. You have negates. You have mana leaks. If you’re letting memoricide resolve, you’re either playing badly, drawing awfully, or both. Not to mention the fact that you still have jace+clasp and Creeping Tar Pits as legitimate alternate win cons if one does get through.

  16. I strongly disagree with Kramlmark, especially concerning the claim that haste/regen is comparable to getting two 2/2’s or getting two 3/3’s from titan/wurmcoil.

    Also, saying that it’s bad that Skytherix dies to MORE removal spells is not the same as saying it’s bad because it dies to A removal spell.

  17. Cool idea, but competitive MTG doesn’t require any sort of tricks like proliferate or synergy.You just play broken cards which are good on their own (Jace/Titans etc. etc.) and win via sick card advantage.

  18. I love how people who have never even tested a deck are so quick to dismiss a deck that a pro has been testing and tuning for a while. Personally, I can see pros and cons for a number of important match ups and plan on testing it. The article is about keeping an open mind about deck building, not building the best U/B deck. Beside, depending on your local meta game, any number of builds could be “the best”.

  19. @Brady: If you strongly disagree with the idea that you should test something before immediately writing it off as terrible (especially if that something is recommended by a player who is, in all likelihood, better than you) , you might want to reconsider your stance on competitive magic.

    How exactly is haste/regen not comparable? All the abilities are good for the same reason: They make it hard for your opponent to get value out of their removal spells. In the case of Skithy, they (barring a condemn or grasp, neither of which are hard to play around) have 4 poison counters on them before they can use any of the answers that work on it, and it has a significantly smaller number of cards that do work. In the case of Grave titan, you have 4 power on the board before they can use any of the non-counterspell answers, and being a black creature with >4 toughness makes it hard to deal with in red and black. In the case of Wurmcoil engine, you get two bodies if they use any non-exiling answers.

    They are all hard targets to hit. It is not immediately clear which one is the best, why it is the best, and it what circumstances others might be better. That is the DEFINITION of comparable.

  20. Have you tried tainted strike? It gives creeping tar pit a couple more uses. He can block a creature and make it a lot smaller, or attack for 4 poison counters. Or, it gives Skittles an extra point of damage that can sometimes be all that you need.

  21. Talking about baneslayer recently then talking about skittles probably isn’t the best call. Considering baneslayer not only takes skittles out of combat using first strike but also that it has protection from dragons.

  22. Wow mark. Way to type a novel and look like a moron. First off, double bolt also kills grave titan. Oust also gets rid of titan. Yeah you get two 2/2s but I’d rather have them lose 8 life then be left with two 2-2s. Also, did you forget he regenerates? Day of judgment and lightning bolts are CLEARLY worse.

    The problem you guys have is you think skittles is a 5 drop. He’s a 6 drop. You give him haste and bam they have 6 counters left to go.

    I have not tested grave titan yet, but I took out 1 land for a contagion engine, and I’ve won about 85% of my matches today.

  23. Nice deck!

    It is a nice change of pace from the silly tap-out ones that plague standard. Skittles has haste, and only needs to land once to put the opponent in a bad position. He has to deal with your dragon, and now contagion clasp is a very fast clock. Dont mind the haters, they don’t to play true control, let them have fun with their big creature decks

  24. Well in the old power 9 days, a control deck didn’t care how much life the opponent was at. If you lock your opponent out of making a significant play, you win via inevitability. Thus, while I haven’t done any testing, I don’t see why, in theory, you couldn’t mix and match the bombs. After all, resolving Skittles vs resolving a Wurmcoil doesn’t change the fact that you just put your opponent on a very short clock.

    In other words, if you as a deck designer see the need to add a certain card to a deck, ask yourself whether it’s right for the deck, and don’t bind yourself to these stupid pseudo-rules like “we don’t want to give our opponent 10 extra life” (or “that’s a Timmy card”)…particularly when you don’t give them any extra time to live. You’re trying to win, not to impress people that you built using only certain types of cards.

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  26. This is a pretty cool deck…I played a Skittles deck at a local Standard event yesterday, only it was B/W instead of U/B (basically…I don’t have access to Jace). In any event, my only suggestion is replacing the Contagion Clasps with Contagion Engines. Skithiryx + Contagion Engine = win. Seriously. If you get Skithiryx into play with haste and get 4 poison counters on your opponent, then even if they can remove him, you can pop out a Contagion Engine next turn and then do some proliferating while controlling the rest of the game after that. Even better is if your Skithiryx can survive to get more than one hit, you can still afford to tap out and play a Contagion Engine, as that will kill them next turn even if they do kill the dragon. And unless you’re playing a red deck with lots of artifact hate, Contagion Engine is much harder to get rid of–my opponent with an Eldrazi deck had no answer for it at all, so I just kept Ousting and Journey-ing his Eldrazi until I could proliferate him to death even though his All Is Dust just killed my Skithiryx. This dragon has serious potential, especially in a deck with control. So don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

  27. Thanks for all the replies, everyone.

    I’m curious, having not yet read them (I’ll read all of them in a moment and then continue writing) how many will be about the choice fo Skithyrix, versus how many will touch on some of the other observations related to U/B Control. In particular, I wonder if there’s any controversy around Smother over Disfigure.

    Okay, on to reading and replying!

    @SunByrne – Yeah, there are a lot of considerations that go into choosing Skittles as a finisher, and you have a pretty good run down there of the pros and cons.

    @JustADemoName – Um. Yes, I do. Sorry about that. I ended up having to write the sideboarding portion pretty quickly, so it had a few mistakes relative to how I do the /actual/ boarding. I asked Zaiem to correct the one I caught, but I totally forgot that I just mindlessly batched Vampires in with every other Fast Aggro deck. Naturally, the Blades come out.

    I was considering changes very much like what you’re talking about for ramp. I don’t find the game one matchup against control bad at all, but the game one against Valakut can be iffy, so depending on one’s local metagame, you might want to shift a lot more of the disruption into the main. Part of this current build is colored, naturally, by my real-world metagame, which has had a lot of affection for fast aggro lately.

    @hodge – I’ve tried that, but as a more dedicated poison strategy, it’s hard to fit it inside the shell of a control deck – and I don’t think dedicated poison decks are “there” just yet. When you look at the finisher suite in a control deck, you really have very little wiggle room in terms of adding cards, so it’s risky to set up a kill that depends on looping, especially when we don’t have global “set up” cards like Gifts to work with.

    @Schneefuchs – Very aware of this. 🙂 That said, one resolved Memoricide means you need to kill them with Jace, which is another perfectly reasonable control finish…and one that is likely to work, since they sided in a bunch of Memoricides against a control deck.

    @Bowman – I have considered the Engine, but didn’t have time to test it, and so couldn’t reliably talk about it.

    @mark – You clearly aren’t reading enough of our articles. 🙂

    Memoricide and Mindbreak aren’t nearly exclusive to each other. You tap out for Memoricide ASAP to yank (in order) Primeval Titans and Avengers. When you aren’t doing that, you want access to Trap to (1) counter stuff without getting Summoning Trapped and (2) counter the otherwise tricky Gaea’s Revenge. Although it is worth noting that Skithiryx can also take down a Revenge while leaving you a beater.

    @pojo – This actually raises a fun philosophical question – if I told you that you could run this card in your deck:

    Planeswalker kill land
    ETBT
    Tap for U or B
    1UB: Kill target planeswalker

    …would you think of that as a bad card in isolation?

    This is my long-winded way of suggesting that the partial devaluing of a card relative to its performance in another deck doesn’t make it “worthless.” If we stripped Jace’s ultimate off, it would remove his ability to be a finisher, but it would still be a constant source of disruption and card advantage and quite likely worth four mana anyway.

    tl;dr – Still a good card, even if it isn’t killing your opponent.

    @C – I do love Baneslayers. And yes, they block the poor zombie dragon indefinitely. Of course, I seem to be almost the only person playing them these days, so I felt pretty safe running out a dragon anyway.

    @Ryan – In general, even though Kabelis didn’t like this particular build, I do agree by and large with his idea of using powerful cards (I also think powerful cards + synergy is better than powerful cards, but that’s another topic). Tainted Strike is so dead on its own, especially in a deck that is creature-light in the manner of any control deck, that I don’t think it’s a good fit. In general, combat tricks like that have to be stellar to really merit space in Constructed decks – something like Might of Alara in oldschool domain zoo, where you may well kill someone with it that turn.

    @HC – Actually, that’s an interesting though, and one that merits more consideration than it can receive in comments. If we really, really are going to win in the manner of super-old-style control, then should we mix and match bombs anyway? My inclination is to still say no, but…I’d like to actually put it through more testing and find out.

    @Liz – Thanks for the input. As I said above, I simply hadn’t had time to test it, and I am loathe to discuss deck builds that I haven’t tested.

    Okay, I thought this one would generate a lot of comments, and it certainly did just that! I appreciate all the input – even those of you who think I’m crazy for playing Skittles as a finisher by and large gave thoughtful, reasoned remarks about why, and I really appreciate that. That kind of discussion is very helpful for the entire audience, as it gives everyone a few more “handles” to hold onto when considering deck design.

  28. Thanks for all the replies, everyone.

    I’m curious, having not yet read them (I’ll read all of them in a moment and then continue writing) how many will be about the choice fo Skithyrix, versus how many will touch on some of the other observations related to U/B Control. In particular, I wonder if there’s any controversy around Smother over Disfigure.

    Okay, on to reading and replying!

    @SunByrne – Yeah, there are a lot of considerations that go into choosing Skittles as a finisher, and you have a pretty good run down there of the pros and cons.

    @JustADemoName – Um. Yes, I do. Sorry about that. I ended up having to write the sideboarding portion pretty quickly, so it had a few mistakes relative to how I do the /actual/ boarding. I asked Zaiem to correct the one I caught, but I totally forgot that I just mindlessly batched Vampires in with every other Fast Aggro deck. Naturally, the Blades come out.

    I was considering changes very much like what you’re talking about for ramp. I don’t find the game one matchup against control bad at all, but the game one against Valakut can be iffy, so depending on one’s local metagame, you might want to shift a lot more of the disruption into the main. Part of this current build is colored, naturally, by my real-world metagame, which has had a lot of affection for fast aggro lately.

    @hodge – I’ve tried that, but as a more dedicated poison strategy, it’s hard to fit it inside the shell of a control deck – and I don’t think dedicated poison decks are “there” just yet. When you look at the finisher suite in a control deck, you really have very little wiggle room in terms of adding cards, so it’s risky to set up a kill that depends on looping, especially when we don’t have global “set up” cards like Gifts to work with.

    @Schneefuchs – Very aware of this. 🙂 That said, one resolved Memoricide means you need to kill them with Jace, which is another perfectly reasonable control finish…and one that is likely to work, since they sided in a bunch of Memoricides against a control deck.

    @Bowman – I have considered the Engine, but didn’t have time to test it, and so couldn’t reliably talk about it.

    @mark – You clearly aren’t reading enough of our articles. 🙂

    Memoricide and Mindbreak aren’t nearly exclusive to each other. You tap out for Memoricide ASAP to yank (in order) Primeval Titans and Avengers. When you aren’t doing that, you want access to Trap to (1) counter stuff without getting Summoning Trapped and (2) counter the otherwise tricky Gaea’s Revenge. Although it is worth noting that Skithiryx can also take down a Revenge while leaving you a beater.

    @pojo – This actually raises a fun philosophical question – if I told you that you could run this card in your deck:

    Planeswalker kill land
    ETBT
    Tap for U or B
    1UB: Kill target planeswalker

    …would you think of that as a bad card in isolation?

    This is my long-winded way of suggesting that the partial devaluing of a card relative to its performance in another deck doesn’t make it “worthless.” If we stripped Jace’s ultimate off, it would remove his ability to be a finisher, but it would still be a constant source of disruption and card advantage and quite likely worth four mana anyway.

    tl;dr – Still a good card, even if it isn’t killing your opponent.

    @C – I do love Baneslayers. And yes, they block the poor zombie dragon indefinitely. Of course, I seem to be almost the only person playing them these days, so I felt pretty safe running out a dragon anyway.

    @Ryan – In general, even though Kabelis didn’t like this particular build, I do agree by and large with his idea of using powerful cards (I also think powerful cards + synergy is better than powerful cards, but that’s another topic). Tainted Strike is so dead on its own, especially in a deck that is creature-light in the manner of any control deck, that I don’t think it’s a good fit. In general, combat tricks like that have to be stellar to really merit space in Constructed decks – something like Might of Alara in oldschool domain zoo, where you may well kill someone with it that turn.

    @HC – Actually, that’s an interesting though, and one that merits more consideration than it can receive in comments. If we really, really are going to win in the manner of super-old-style control, then should we mix and match bombs anyway? My inclination is to still say no, but…I’d like to actually put it through more testing and find out.

    @Liz – Thanks for the input. As I said above, I simply hadn’t had time to test it, and I am loathe to discuss deck builds that I haven’t tested.

    Okay, I thought this one would generate a lot of comments, and it certainly did just that! I appreciate all the input – even those of you who think I’m crazy for playing Skittles as a finisher by and large gave thoughtful, reasoned remarks about why, and I really appreciate that. That kind of discussion is very helpful for the entire audience, as it gives us all a few more “handles” to hold onto when considering deck design.

  29. Clasp is a terrible card on its own and they are chronically underpowered in this deck. Skith is already an extremely fast clock. The reason Skith isn’t the best wincon anymore is because of the rising popularity of UW. Skith also sucks against Frost Titans. Skith shines against ramp decks though. Sphinx is generally better right now because all you have to do is play it and sit back and swing. The list of played cards that can answer it is pretty short: DoJ and Gatekeeper. Ub is falling behind in popularity because UW is a better tap-out control deck for players who lack skill/experience in playing draw-go style control.

    Right now, if someone wants to play idiot control, UW is a better choice. If someone wants to play with a control deck that is the most rewarding for intelligent control players, a UB deck with about nine non-land permanents is the better choice. Trying to make a UB version of UW control for dummies doesn’t fix UB’s problems though.

  30. Thanks for the reply Alex, you should test out inquisition of Kozilek, I used to laugh at that card, but now I run 3 main and 2 Duress in the board. Inquisition is a better thoughtseize vs more than half the field, and is still good vs Ramp and Control mirrors.

    It is also extremely good first turn vs annoying decks that like to goldfish early like quest and the Kuldotha Rebirth deck.

    Also @abon – UW isn’t for idiots, it is for aggro, it has, depending on your setup, the strongest machup vs aggro, and a decent control mirror. Gideon Jura is the best place to sink 5 mana in standard right now. Luminarch Ascension is a poor choice with ratchet bomb (in my experience) but Leyline of Sanctity is still the single best sideboard card in standard. It forces them to beat you with creatures, exactly what UW wants, and turns off cards in almost every deck in standard.

  31. I can’t believe even one Everflowing Chalice isn’t worth it. With the Contagion Clasps, too? It seems like a slam dunk, and as a singleton you’ll hardly ever draw it accidentally.

    I guess Liliana is there as a fifth slow Skittles?

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