Running the Gauntlet – UB vs Valakut

Last week, I battled Valakut (with no real sideboard for the matchup) against UB, and this week I started off the UB Gauntlet by playing against a very similar Valakut list, this time with a sideboard. Seeing as how UB got swept 5-0 last time, I was interested in playing the matchup some more, to try and see what was really going on.

First, the UB list:

[deck]3 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Preordain
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Duress
3 Mana Leak
3 Spreading Seas
3 Go for the Throat
1 Doom Blade
2 Dismember
3 Jace Beleren
1 Stoic Rebuttal
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Tectonic Edge
6 Island
4 Swamp
3 Vampire Nighthawk
3 Spellskite
3 Flashfreeze
2 Disfigure
2 Memoricide
1 Volition Reins
1 Karn Liberated[/deck]

This seemed like a good a starting point as any, and had all the cards I was interested in trying. I really like starting with 4 Preordain and 4 Inquisition of Kozilek, and it’s the real reason there is any merit to UB as a deck. You get to play 8 one-mana cards that make your deck more consistent and their deck less consistent, as well as giving you more information and letting you sculpt a plan to win any game.

Let’s get to the matches:

Channel LSV: Standard Gauntlet – UB vs. Valakut

Preboard Games

I wasn’t unhappy with how these went. I went 3-1, despite Titan resolving in many of the games. That does lead me to think that Spreading Seas is very important, though I’m curious to see if I could run less and still have a good matchup. Between Jace and Sphinx, I was basically able to Doom Blade/Counter/Tec Edge all of his threats without issue, and sit on a 6-drop when all was said and done.



[draft]3 flashfreeze
2 memoricide[/draft]


[draft]1 duress
1 jace beleren
1 Inquisition of kozilek
2 solemn simulacrum[/draft]

Just look at the cards I’m taking out! All of them seem decent against Valakut, which ALSO leads me to believe that this list might be a little too slanted in that direction. When the worst cards in the deck are still good, that is definitely something. The package of 3 Flashfreeze and 2 Memoricide is also quite good, and should help the matchup greatly.

Postboard Games

These also went 3-1; after losing match one 0-2, I won six games in a row. He always seemed to draw his second Titan the turn before my Memoricide hit, and I was easily able to kill/counter all of his threats. He was running Urabrask, a card choice I no longer like, so that may have been a problem, but even without them I still think this would have gone well.

Overall, I’d say that you should combine the results from both this and last week’s RtG for a more accurate view. If you add them together, Valakut won 6 matches to 3, which is still probably not totally accurate, but it shows that the matchup is a little closer. In fact, this seems as good a time as any to talk about what these matches should be showing.

The numerical results of 3, 4, 5, or even 10 matches are pretty irrelevant. Me going 5-0 on one side of the matchup and 3-1 on the other doesn’t mean that the matchups are skewed, or even that I’m just awesome (though if that’s the conclusion you draw, I won’t argue). It just means that a small sample size doesn’t tell you everything. I don’t think the games are of no value, either. If you watch the videos, you will learn about the matchups, how to play each deck, and what cards are effective/ineffective. Ultimately, that’s a big part of testing. Telling someone that a matchup is 60/40 is a) meaningless and b) often incorrect. What is useful is explaining that UB can attrition Valakut out by using Mana Leak, Doom Blade, Spreading Seas, and Tectonic Edge, then finishing the game with a Sphinx.

Ultimately, I’m not going to record 30 matches of me playing against every matchup; nobody has time to watch all that, and it would just be a waste of my time to get it edited and posted. The best I can do is record these 3-5 match sets, and try and fill in the rest with my explanations. I think you, the reader, get plenty out of that, but just don’t get too hung up on the numbers. They aren’t meaningless, but they aren’t everything.

Getting back to today’s matchup: I’d rather be on the side of UB. It feels like they do a good enough job of trading 1:1, even if a resolved Titan is more like a 2 or 3 for 1, but UB has actual card draw. I don’t really like Valakut’s sideboard options, since they are really the following:

[draft]gaea’s revenge[/draft]

Against Grave Titan, Wurmcoil Engine, or Vampire Nighthawk, Revenge is a joke. It is decent against Sphinx, but that’s it, and with Caw-Blade making a resurgence, Gaea’s Revenge seems even worse. I would highly recommend against it (and Thrun, for the same reasons, except Thrun ALSO loses to Sphinx).

[draft]ricochet trap[/draft]

This is probably the best option, since it just straight up counters a counterspell for one red mana. It isn’t exciting, but I don’t think you can do better.

[draft]summoning Trap[/draft]

In order to play Summoning Trap, you have to dilute your deck with more giant monsters than I’m happy with, especially because I like playing Green Sun’s Zenith over most of them.

Given that these cards are most of what Valakut has to choose from, I’d rather be on the team that sides in three Counterspells for 1U and 2 Memoricides.

Changes I’d Make

Nothing major here, but I’m going to fiddle with the numbers as the week goes on. Karn and Volition Reins are definitely getting the boot, but past that I’m open to trying new things.

Tomorrow I battle against Vampires, after which I take on the aggressive version of Caw-blade!


58 thoughts on “Running the Gauntlet – UB vs Valakut”

  1. Luis Scott-Vargas

    @ xsv1nrg2

    Yeah, like I said, I’m really not sure, but drawing it late is just so bad.

  2. Why 3 Mana Leaks? It seems like you have no cards for the mirror in the sideboard, either, aside from Karn & Volition Reins. Do you bring in the Hawks or Spellskite in the mirror?

  3. Creatures: 5
    2 Grave Titan
    2 Wurmcoil Engine
    1 Sphinx

    Spells: 25
    4 Mana Leak
    2 Negate
    2 Into the Roil
    2 Go for the Throat
    2 Doomblade
    1 Dismember
    4 Preordain
    3 Inquisition
    2 Duress
    1 Black Sun Zenith
    2 Ratchet Bombs

    Planeswalker: 4
    4 Jace Beleran

    26 Land

    SB: 15
    3 Spellskite
    3 Flashfreeze
    2 Memoricide
    3 Disfigure
    1 Ratchet Bomb
    2 Calicite Snapper
    1 Black Sun Zenith

    This the list Ive been playing, its wons my countless matches and I think it is optimal or close to it. Please consider it for your next matchs LSV!

  4. Axe ads are the worst. All the other ones are fine. The Axe ones keep coming back and cover up your hand … I will never buy any product from that company solely because of these ads

  5. Vamps SB strategy:
    -2 Doomblade
    -1 Dismember
    -2 Negate
    +1 Black Sun Zenith
    +3 Disfigure
    -1 Duress
    +2 Calcite

  6. Whenever the ads show up randomly during the video, it makes the fullscreen go black, and cannot be fixed without reloading the page (and rewatching ads). For this reason, the videos are unwatchable, and I’ve removed ChannelFireball from my bookmarks. I can watch cool Magic videos on other websites simply hosted on youtube.

  7. thrun, forum king

    Really enjoyed this, videos with U based control are second only to cube drafts.

    I think Solemn in conjunction with Karn are going to be mainstays of post-Zendikar standard. Karn might not ever see more than 2 copies in any deck, but I think he’s a great card and expect to be seeing a lot of him.

  8. Good vid. Hard luck on Wrapter drawing the 2nd Titan the turn before the extractions!

    Thoughts on bringing in Spellskite vs Valakut triggers? Too many other good things to bring in instead?

  9. I’m very interested how this control deck plays out against the rest of the field. I think it has enough hate against the combo decks (including valakut if that counts)… but i dont see a ton of value against the extreme aggro decks with one for ones, but we’ll see. No black zenith’s sb for the tempered steel/ vampires matchup? that surprised me…

  10. Why no Black Sun’s Zenith or Consume the Meek anywhere?

    Also, have you tried having Mental Misstep in the board? It really helps against the UR decks (deceiver and pyromancer) as well as Mono Red.

  11. I think M1G2 was misplayed. You should have countered Solemn, then during your turn, cast Karn and exiled a Forest, leaving him with four mana available.

  12. I think you need ratchet bomb/BSZ in your 75 with Tempered Steel being around. This deck basically auto-loses to it game 1 considering you have 6 almost dead cards (Spreading Seas, GffT) and you have no mass removal.

    I’m also surprised to see no Grave Titans, even as a 1-of. It is better than Sphinx vs Aggro and having it and Wurmcoil forces decks to guess on whether to play Doom Blade or GftT. In a deck with Preordain, 3 Sphinx is probably overkill.

  13. Ub mirror is not a problem. The deck is not prevalent enough in the metagame. Biggest problem with ub is that it has serious problems dealing withjank decks since it has no way to deal with resokved artifacts and enchantments except for the painfully slow ratchet bomb and painfully expensive karn. I like ub but its a terrible fnm choice where all you face is jank. By that same measure UB gets raped by tempered steel (now tier 1) for the same reasons. Also UB depends on jaces and sphinxes for CArd advantage which is an inherent weakness of the deck versus UW which has more built in CA. I like UB and I think the best way to deal with its problems is by putting the other guy on more of a clock like the tezzeret builds do.

  14. Does ricochet trap actually counter counterspells? I was under the assumption that counterspells (and spells in general) could not target themselves, I mean, how does a dismiss counter itself? If it resolves do you draw a card? But if it resolves then it was countered, so you wouldn’t draw a card, but it resolved because it countered something, so you draw a card etc etc.

  15. @Derp – you redirect the counterspell to the Ricochet Trap. The spell tries to counter it on resolution, but at that point the Trap has long-since left the stack.

    @xsv1nrg2 – isn’t Inquisition strictly better than Duress in this matchup? I’d definitely cut the Duress first.

  16. I tried solemns and they were just awful, ended up just cutting them from the main completely

  17. That decklist seems that awful against any version of tempered steel, I think Its necessary to play ratchet/consume/bsz and also replace those gftt for more doomblades.

  18. i love how people comment about how the deck lists needs to be changed to fight one deck, but forget to account for how those changes effect other match ups. i mean yes GFtT is horrible against tempered, but if you only run doom blade then you dont have answers to killing black creatures. and since vampires is still a deck and grave titan is showing up in some U/B lists, its good to not over commit to fighting one deck and set yourself up to lose to another.

  19. When you Inquistioned and saw GSZ + Overgrown, and you are positive you are going to doom blade the creature either way to stop him getting to 4 – wouldn’t the GSZ been better? After those 2 turns he would of had 1 GSZ and 1 Battlement in GY with a Birds in his deck as a dead draw. How you played it, he ended up with a live GSZ for the late game which seems worse.

  20. -1 ConSphinx, +1 Grave Titan seems better for the main. Threat diverstiy and all that jazz. UB decks run by top players are scary good.

    Valakut is an inherently weak deck. It is packed full of off coloured basic lands (Mountains) when all of the business spells are Green. The actual Valakut card is boned by Tec Edge and other Land D effects. The results are not surprising at all.

    Good series LSV. Thankyous for making them.

  21. I have recently been testing moving the seas out of the main deck to the side, and putting in solemns main. The glacially slow pace of this deck requires you to try and build some kind of board position. I have tested a lot of games against valakut and have a fairly reasonable game 1 win rate, and post board almost never lose. I also have moved a consume the meek and 1 black suns zenith to the maindeck, because without one, game 1 against tempered steel is an auto loss. I feel there is enough hand hate and removal to protect you reasonably well to get to a zenith or CtM, so this deck actually isnt dead in the water to the vicious aggro. I also have one liliana main, with karn in the side, to help ensure I get an on curve threat, whether I draw it naturally or have to fetch it.

  22. This series is cool in theory, but it feels like this time and last time once you actually do the gauntlet it’s already out of date. U/b is pretty close to losing its tier 1 status, and by the last video it may not even be a deck anymore. I don’t know how to avoid this issue, but it seems hard to actually gain real information from this series the way it’s set up now.

  23. Rune Jørgensen

    I’d like you to comment on why Grave Titan didn’t make it to the maindeck. That’s the thing that struck me the most about your list.

  24. @bob, this deck is still very much a tier 1 deck, although it is a very meta reactive choice. Much like uw control always has a place in the meta, ub has the tools to be another pillar of the format, albeit slightly under the radar. the automatic fear of tempered steel probably keeps people from playing it too often, as well as its difficult learning curve. pretty much any deck has a right and wrong way to play it, but it is far easier to find yourself playing this deck wrong vs mono red or valakut, so it will prob be played mostly by people who seasoned vets

  25. I love UB, and I’m glad LSV has done this video.
    But, I find that frost titan is damn nice vs most of the top decks. Keeping stuff tapped down really messes with them.

  26. Grgur Petric Maretic

    People bring in Spellskites. I think tey’re OK, you just don’t have anything to cut for them :/
    I’d be interested to see how this version fares against Tempered Steel. Looks really bad preboard, and not-so-good post

  27. I’m waiting this video the last week 🙁 if I’d
    seen this i’ll probably played ub instead of caw go in yesterday ptq …..:P anyway LSV very incredible PLAYER great 😀

  28. You very easily destroy everyone in RtG. Let’s just call every matchup 90/10 and be done with it.

  29. I have always loved UB control because I love the idea of drawing more cards for yourself and forcing the opponent to discard theirs. However, at the moment, I can’t help but feel that UW makes more formidable control deck against most of the field. With the comeback of Oblivion Ring, UW has an efficient and immediate answer for any PERMANENT, not just creatures. And UB relying on forcing them to discard such threats just isn’t enough. Furthermore, I think Sun Titan has some pretty insane advantages over Grave Titan (should you choose to play it). If you DO play UB control though, I just feel like Memoricide belongs in the main deck.

  30. After testing the UB vs Valakut matchup (game one only, thus far), it FELT like UB was favoured, but Valakut often went on to win. Initially I thought this was because my opponents in testing were simply pretty lucky and were topdecking well, but it kept on happening, so I discarded that option. Having looked a bit more closely at what kept happening, it seems as though UB often expends a lot of resources in keeping Valakut off ramping up to Valakut / dropping Titan. They often get to a board state which seems fairly clear, but they’re left with no remaining answers, only (potentially) large threats, which they drop because they have no other good option. Trouble is, by this stage, Valakut’s often got to a point where they’ve naturally got a Valakut or occasionally two down, with enough Mountains to turn them on, making almost every single card in the deck an instant win or an uncounterable way to deal with UB’s threat. Essentially, game one, it seems that Valakut’s just a deck which naturally topdecks extremely well at that stage of the game, where UB does not.

  31. hmm, i dont see how inquisition is better than duress in this match up. only thing duress doesnt hit that inquisition does is overgrown battlement.

  32. I get the Jeremiah Weed ads. Bunch of muscle-heads doing muscle-headed things. I think those are the worst to watch.

    In terms of the videos, I’m also wondering why no Grave Titan. I’m sure there are plenty of good reasons, I just think it’s still good enough to run at least one.

  33. Carl Lost His Mind

    I think its quite funny how when you were first evaluating MBS in “Hit or Myth” you concluded that Sphinx was a myth yet now you’ve done a 180 on that position. It just goes to show how dynamic Magic really is. What is bad today could become a bomb tomorrow.

  34. @Carl Lost His Mind since then, Jace / Squadron hawks have been banned. He was 100% right on sphinx back then.

  35. Love these videos! Thanks LSV.

    Good to know that Urabrask gives Gaea’s Revenge (uber) haste. It’s now Gaea’s preemptive strike.

  36. On sphinx… It’s still a myth, cause even though the effect is quite powerful it’s also very innocuous. A mythic rare doesn’t just have to be very powerful to be mythic, it also has to have flavor.

  37. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  38. Autumn’s Veil seems so much better than Ricochet Trap in all aspects except that the casting cost of Ricochet Trap is easier to hit. That might be worth consideration for Valakut, since it both counters a counter and also counters a doom blade or go for the throat.

  39. I think a split of 3 inquesition 2 desipise is better than 4 inqui/1 duress. Duress hits what that despise doesnt? I honestly can’t think of 1 card you’d want to hit. Despise/inqui gives you more outs to squadron hawk (the card that makes UB unplayable generally) and also hits a majority of things against all decks. I see the only downside being maybe getting tempered steel on time with duress…but taking a creature is generally just as good against them.

  40. Trikkur said: “When you Inquistioned and saw GSZ + Overgrown, and you are positive you are going to doom blade the creature either way to stop him getting to 4 – wouldn’t the GSZ been better? After those 2 turns he would of had 1 GSZ and 1 Battlement in GY with a Birds in his deck as a dead draw. How you played it, he ended up with a live GSZ for the late game which seems worse.”

    A couple things:

    1. I’m not sure that LSV had fully decided that he was gonna Doom Blade the other one.
    2. Although I agree with you, there’s something rectifying the situation, which is that if he takes the Zenith and Doom Blades Battlement, his opponent can still use the other Zenith to get the Birds, and if LSV kills the Birds with the Doom Blade, the opponent can’t get the singleton BoP back with the other Zenith.

  41. Does it seem odd that when Wrapter is piloting/building a deck it does horribly? I can forgive a certain % to variance, and switching builds, but in this series LSV is like 18-2, even with several ‘bad matchups’.

    I agree with everyone who says this U/B list is a little fairy-tale for this meta, since TS and Caw-Blade are everywhere. Also, Sphinx is fine, but Grave Titan wins fast and does something against aggro, 2 things this deck is lacking. I would consider 2-2-1 (1 Sphinx) if you were going to stick with 5 sixes, if not 3 Titans.

    @Otter: He is never going to Zenith for a Bird in that situation. The bird is only there as a 2 mana acceleration with GSZ, you are always better getting wall if you have 3+ mana available. If he discards the wall he will GSZ for Bird on 2 since that’s his only play.

  42. It doesn’t seem odd at all that wrapter is piloting such a horrible build or him piloting so horribly. Sometimes it’s just not your day and everything happens to go wrong, 18-2 does skew a lot but remember, it’s his Luck, Skill, Victory that has helped him through this game and we’ve seen him lose a few but he’s playing like a faerie tale game.

    However, more Grave Titans is a better option against aggro and 1 more hard counter would help quite a bit, but then again this 2011 and not 2010 so we shouldn’t just copy worlds builds and go from there, or maybe we could but that would be utterly silly.

  43. i love watching these videos.

    however, i think you might have gone a little overboard with the ads. i had a jeremiah weed preempt the video and an incessant disney curacao bar reappear everytime i closed it.

    oh well, make money guys, you deserve it.

    best of luck to ya!

  44. thanks for these UB reviews , i have recently started back into standard and have started playing a very similar UB deck. Great review thanks !!

  45. Ive actually found beast within to be a decent sideboard option in ramp vs UB; nothing too exciting but can keep them off lands, kill sphinx, and even be a sneaky little mana short trick to get them off counter/removal mana eot before dropping a titan/avenger

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top