I only recently realized that I haven’t covered a variant of control in Legacy since Arcum’s Astrolabe was legal. While there are similarities with that version of the deck and the modern-day variants, neglecting to keep up-to-date with contemporary approaches is not doing my due diligence. This is especially true since both a banning occurred and we have had three or four new sets that have warped the face of Legacy since then. Fortunately, ChannelFireball’s very own Anuraag Das recently won a weekend Challenge event with an extremely cool approach to Four-Color Control.
For me, one of the most exciting parts about this deck list is seeing Expressive Iteration show up in a non-tempo style deck, something I mentioned as a possibility a few months ago. Since this list is fundamentally a Bant Control deck splashing for Iteration, this list is really a commentary on the power of the card. I could ramble on about that for a while, and will get to that more later, but for now let’s take a look at the deck list.
Legacy Four Color Control by Anuraag Das
As I mentioned, this deck is fundamentally a traditional Bant Control deck that is splashing red for Expressive Iteration and Pyroblast. The goal of this deck is to stabilize the board, or otherwise survive, using cheap removal and counter magic. With the way this deck is built, you can then use card advantage cards, like Sylvan Library and Expressive Iteration to start pulling a head on cards. This will help transition you towards your engines, namely Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which give you clear paths to start dominating the game.
While a lot of this deck list is relatively traditional, there were a fair amount of concessions that had to be made to support the addition of an extra color. Let’s take a look at the card choices and see how Anuraag landed where he did.
There was a time not too long ago where many players were clamoring for an Uro ban. While Uro’s dominance has waned with the release of Modern Horizons 2, it’s still an extremely potent engine and win condition. It’s the primary reason that control decks have shifted towards using green over the past year. Uro is a bit worse than it used to be since Murktide Regent has given aggressive decks the ability to ignore it more effectively. However, there really isn’t much that Uro can’t do, be it stabilize your life and board, generate card advantage or close out the game quickly. All of this makes Uro a core element of this deck.
There aren’t that many Jace decks these days, but it still has the ability to dominate a board like no other. Since Legacy has sped up quite a bit, it’s a bit more difficult to find a spot to safely resolve it. However, there are a couple aspects of this deck building that optimizes for Jace – the first is the full eight spot removal spells, as well as two copies of Terminus. This both makes it more likely that you can keep the board clear leading up to Jace, as well as use Jace to find a timely answer.
In addition, using six Force effects as the countermagic of choice (as opposed to cards like Counterspell) provides you with more ways to protect both Jace and yourself the turn after you play it. Finally, Jace pairs extremely well with Uro in a deck with eight spot removal spells. The play pattern of “Uro on three, play a land, then Jace on four with a mana open” leaves some room for you to play Jace and remove something on the same turn, which is a huge swing in the game.
Trimming on Endurance is one of the costs of adding Expressive Iteration. While Endurance is certainly one of the best and most versatile cards in Legacy right now, this version of the deck doesn’t have enough green cards pre-board to support too many copies. That being said, there are still plenty of upsides to playing Endurance and it’s not too difficult to make good use out of a single copy.
Snapcaster Mage has not seen quite as much play recently as it once did. Control decks in Legacy shifted towards playing quite a bit more creatures than they once did, with Uro and Ice-Fang Coatl becoming mainstays.
However, Anuraag cut the Ice-Fang Coatls with this approach in lieu of adding Expressive Iteration, which pairs quite nicely with Snapcaster Mage. This functionally provides this deck with a really stable stream of card advantage as the game develops, which will often be enough to take over a late game. Additionally, since this deck has four Swords to Plowshares and four Prismatic Ending, Snapcaster Mage will be able to consistently function as an extra copy of a removal spell (which has not been true in previous iterations of Bant).
The real innovation of this deck, Expressive Iteration is an incredible card here. It has quickly proven itself the best card advantage spell in Legacy. It does require some deck building restrictions, but those restrictions actually fit perfectly into the current texture of Legacy. You want to make sure that you can take advantage of both cards on Iteration and building your deck to have a full 8 1-mana removal spells allows you to do that more consistently (rather than building it with counter magic). Furthermore, Expressive Iteration scales up as the game goes on and this style of control is built to have a powerful late game.
The two biggest costs in deckbuilding in this deck is the mana base and cutting Ice-Fang Coatl, which are directly related. With a dual-focused mana base, Ice-Fang Coatl won’t have much relevancy in any given game, so despite being a pretty effective card, it has to go (although, I’m not sure Ice-Fang is all that well-positioned anyway). The mana base is a bit of a struggle, since four-color mana bases can be really effectively attacked by Wasteland these days. Fortunately, Expressive Iteration helps mitigate that a bit, since it finds you more resources to work with. That is assuming you can cast your spells, so be really careful about how you proceed with the mana.
While Swords to Plowshares is nothing new for this type of deck, Prismatic Ending has been a game-changing addition. It means that this style of deck doesn’t have to stretch its mana base to remove something cheap early on (unlike Abrupt Decay would require), but it scales up as the game goes on. I’d fathom a guess that if Murktide Regent wasn’t so popular, players might start trimming Swords to Plowshares before Prismatic Endings. It allows you to answer just about anything your opponent can throw at you (if it can’t, it’s somewhat likely that Swords wouldn’t do a good job at answering it either).
This is one of the most common suites of disruption in Legacy right now. Force of Will needs no introduction, but Force of Negation is actually a bit weak at the moment. It’s not particularly effective against most Ragavan decks, which matters a lot right now. That being said, this deck has a ton of card advantage, which makes the costs of pitch casting Force of Negation much less meaningful, and it’s an important card in Legacy as a whole, so running two is pretty much essential.
There are a lot of spots where Shark Typhoon is very clunky, so I’m not surprised to only see a single copy. That being said, it’s really tough to disrupt when it’s good and it adds a pretty nice element to the deck. It doesn’t work particularly well with Expressive Iteration, but you can still just put it in your hand, so it’s not that bad. I can’t really speak to one being the perfect number, but you really can’t afford to run that many two or three-mana cantrips in Legacy these days (and this deck already has a fair amount of those).
Sylvan Library is an absurd card, especially when paired with Uro. In this particular version of the deck, I think Expressive Iteration is quite a bit more effective, but there are upsides to having access to both of them. I think it’s actually quite important that this is green and can facilitate Endurance and, again, it is excellent when paired with Uro in any longer game.
I’ve been saying it in every deck guide as of late, but Karakas is incredibly well-positioned in this format. It’s better in a deck like this that occasionally wants to bounce its own legends, but just being able to randomly bounce Ragavan or Emrakul can be totally game changing.
Okay, I can’t actually speak to whether this mana base is optimally constructed. It does cover all of its bases, but there are a ton of different ways the game can play out that would lead to awkward situations. I would look to fetch as many duals as possible as early as you can because casting your spells is really important.
As I said, this card is absolutely incredible in Legacy right now, but kind of difficult to support within the main deck. Extra copies in board will go a long way.
While I was discussing how I found Force of Negation to be a bit weaker in the current Legacy format, it’s an incredibly good sideboard card. It helps make combo matchups so much more manageable and is an essential piece of the post-board plans. Flusterstorm has not been that popular recently, but there are a lot of decks (namely Doomsday and Storm) that Flusterstorm is incredible against.
Carpet of Flowers is even better here than in traditional Bant Control decks, since this deck needs to support four colors worth of cards. While it should be a somewhat high priority in sideboard games, make sure you can find enough things to do with the mana.
I get the vibe that Anuraag was really concerned with Storm. This is a lot of copies of Ethersworn Canonist and while they are reasonably effective against some decks, like Sneak and Show and Doomsday (since they stop them from being able to win counterspell fights), I think this space could be occupied by any type of hatebear you are looking for.
One of the hidden upsides of splashing for Iteration is gaining Pyroblast. This card absolutely needs no introduction and is even more well-positioned than usual at the moment (looking at you, Murktide Regent).
- Keep in mind that Dress Down can let you turbo out an Uro as early as turn three. You’ll miss the ETB triggers, but get to keep a 6/6.
- Jace can bounce your own creatures. This is relevant if you need to reuse a removal spell with Snapcaster Mage or go after an opponent’s graveyard with Endurance.
- Casting Shark Typhoon is a lot worse than cycling it most of the time. It might occasionally be correct to cast it, but just making a 4/4 and drawing a card will often be more impactful.
It’s alright to side out some green cards and bring in Endurance here because you mostly just want to cast Endurance. The Delver/Tempo decks have been adopting a very effective sideboard plan involving Court of Cunning recently, so you do have to be mindful of that. If you can keep Court at bay, you do have enough answers to keep their threats from taking over the game. I could see trimming a Jace (maybe two) to keep in some Force of Wills out of respect for Court of Cunning.
I don’t think you need the full set of Carpets here since they’re not attacking your mana base. It does help ramp you to your engines faster, so it can be a critical card in the matchup, just make sure you have things to do with it. Prismatic Ending is awesome here, since it means you don’t really need to keep in impactful removal spells anymore as Prismatic Ending actually answers all of their threats.
This matchup can be really tough. They have a fast combo with the ability to protect it and this deck has almost no way to pressure them. The sideboard cards you’re bringing in are pretty crucial and do help a fair amount. Make sure you keep a hand that can survive turns one and two and then try to use your cantrips to get any kind of pressure online. Casting Snapcaster Mage on turn two can be a meaningful strategy here, especially since there aren’t that many pieces of disruption it can cast.
Death and Taxes
Out: 2 Force of Negation
In: 2 Dress Down
There isn’t much to sideboard here, but this can be a tough matchup. Prismatic Ending was a pretty crucial printing for this matchup, as it means that Aether Vial won’t take over the game the way it used to. Finding your way to a safe Jace is really important here, so try to navigate the game in that way. Uro is way less reliable since they have Karakas to make sure it will never stick around.