4-Color Control in Standard

How far is it possible to stretch a mana base in Standard? In a few short months, Ravnica Allegiance promises to bring us the other five shocklands, and once that happens, all bets are off. In the meantime, however, we have access to terrific mana bases in Standard, even lacking five shocklands.

I was thinking about this when drawing up a list of the cards I’m looking to play in Standard. I want to play powerful 2-drop removal (Seal Away, Moment of Craving, and Lava Coil) and cheap sweepers (Deafening Clarion, Ritual of Soot), but I can’t imagine playing a control deck without my dude Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Is it possible to get all these cards into one deck?

Based on the above, Frank Karsten’s legendary mana base article tells us we need 13 white and red sources for the 2-drops, 16 black sources for Ritual of Soot, and 9 blue sources for Teferi. Believe it or not, this is very possible in Standard, even lacking Godless Shrine and Blood Crypt.

This ticks all the boxes above—13 red, 13 white, 16 black—and even gives us the luxury of ten blue sources so as to be able to play Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Nice! We can now pull together almost all the the best cards from across four colors to build the perfect control deck.

Unfortunately, some Standard all-stars are precluded from this list immediately due to more stringent color requirements. Settle the Wreckage and Cleansing Nova are both out, needing 16 and 14 white sources respectively, as is Sinister Sabotage, needing a whopping 18 blue. Similarly, Golden Demise doesn’t make the cut, as we’re two black sources short of the 18 we need.

Even with those cards out of contention, there is still incredible depth to the Standard card pool when building a control deck, especially when you can draw from four colors!

4-Color Control

 Riley Knight

The main deck is essentially pre-boarded against aggressive-leaning decks, while not completely skimping on having game against other controlling lists. A long and robust removal suite means this deck is set up to contest almost all aggressive starts, with plenty of answers to Adanto Vanguard. Incidental life gain from Moment of Craving and Vraska’s Contempt also aids this deck in taking a very defensive posture.

Seeing as we’re playing two conditional sweepers in Deafening Clarion and Ritual of Soot, I wanted to ensure the threats we play are resilient to them, while still pairing to the lifelink mode on Clarion to enable huge stabilization plays. Doom Whisperer has been an absolute house in black-based control, powering Marc Jacobson to a 7-3 finish in Standard at the Pro Tour, and Shota Yasooka harnessed the power of Nicol Bolas to also finish 7-3. Neither of these cards die to our sweepers, and both crack in for huge life swings with Deafening Clarion—perfect.

Additionally, I’m very interested in playing 2-drop instant-speed interaction, given that Teferi is a centerpiece of the deck. Seal Away and Moment of Craving are emblematic of this, as are the Negates and Disdainful Strokes in the sideboard. Defending a freshly-cast Teferi is critical to getting the most out of the card. Having said that, this deck shouldn’t struggle to cast a turn-5 Teferi onto an empty board, given the endless removal it’s playing.

Overall, the suite of removal and the huge threats we’re playing both incentivize defensive gameplay. Turn 4 will tend to set the tone for the late game—Ritual of Soot helps to play catch-up, Vraska’s Contempt deals with virtually anything, and Chemister’s Insight is a great way to pull ahead if you’re not under pressure. The final 4-drop, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, will be great pretty much no matter what. Ahead, behind, at parity—a 4/4 flyer with a Raven’s Crime stapled to it is never not going to be a high-impact turn-4 play.

Potential Challenges

This deck is not, however, without its weaknesses. First and foremost, a lack of double-white sweepers means that Carnage Tyrant can be a real issue. The Eldest Reborn is an excellent answer, and it can always be blocked by a Doom Whisperer. Overall, however, with the ascendancy of Boros Aggro decks, we may see Carnage Tyrant shaved from Golgari decks looking to bolster their early game.

Secondly, the lack of main-deck counterspells weakens our defensive capability, particularly when defending our creatures from opposing removal. Sinister Sabotage is too much for the mana base, and I don’t like Syncopate at all (especially as it can’t be reliably cast on turn 2. I don’t consider this a downside for Search for Azcanta, as it’s still excellent on turn 5). Negate and Disdainful Stroke come in from the board. Again, they’re not really turn-2 cards, but overall, I don’t like the lack of countermagic.

Finally, there’s the concern that the squillion or so checklands we’re playing will come into play tapped. A single shockland more or less solves the problem, although there will be draws where you’ll draw Watery Grave and Clifftop Retreat, and feel a little bit like a goose. Still, it’s not that bad—in that situation, play the Retreat, then shock yourself with the Watery Grave next turn. Boom—perfect mana. Pretty much.

Attacking the Standard Format

In the abstract, this deck has all the tools required to contest the major threats in Standard, and is tuned to be well-positioned against the post-PT metagame. But given the dynamic and turbulent nature of the current Standard format, you’ll need to be quick on your feet in adapting.

If Carnage Tyrant sticks around in large numbers, shave 2-drop removal for Discovery // Dispersal. If control decks begin to thrive, retooling both the disruption and the threats in this list will be necessary (Doom Whisperer is pretty ordinary against countermagic and removal). But if the current popularity of low-to-the-ground aggro decks continues, this deck is more or less custom built to knock them over.


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