Cryptic Serpent in Blue-Red Control

With Felidar Guardian gone, it’s time for control decks to shine! U/R Control is the most played deck online right now, and EFro wrote about it here.

There’s one creature that’s super interesting and so far hasn’t been explored much, though: Cryptic Serpent.

This creature goes nuts with all the spells you play, especially with eight cards that cycle for 1 blue: Censor and Hieroglyphic Illumination. Along with all the other cheap 1- and 2-mana cost spells, you can easily drop this big guy on turn 4 and start pressuring your opponent. And you retain control’s typical great late game thanks to Pull from Tomorrow and Torrential Gearhulk.

Let’s take a look at my list, and then break down the individual cards:

U/R Serpent

Cryptic Serpent

This creature is huge, and it’s so cheap. Later in the game you can deploy it for 2 mana and protect it with countermagic. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t block Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but it pressures your opponent and they will have to deal with it fast.

It doesn’t die to Cut // Ribbons, Fatal Push, or Grasp of Darkness and lets you turn the corner quickly to win games much more quickly than old U/R Control decks did.

It could be clunky if you’re stuck with a bunch of Serpents and Gearhulks in your hand, but overall you’ll be fine with all the cheap interaction you have.

Pull from Tomorrow

This is the new Sphinx’s Revelation. It’s much weaker since you don’t gain any life, but control desperately needed a one-card trump like this. Without it, they’d find themselves running out of resources and losing the topdeck war.

Despite playing Sphinx’s Revelation in Pro Tour Magic 2015, I was shocked by how bad Pull from Tomorrow is in the mirror match since you have to respect your opponent’s counters and leave mana untapped for your own counters. You don’t want to get Censored, so you lose a mana there, making this draw spell pretty weak in the control mirror.

However, against any control deck that isn’t blue, like B/G Delirium, this is just one-card combo, and costing XUU is relevant because it looks like people stuck with their old Transgress the Minds and haven’t updated to Lay Bare the Heart.


Censor lets you play a Force Spike without sacrificing value in the late game. It’s especially useful in this build, since it’ll enable your turn-4 Cryptic Serpent, which is a huge problem for many decks. One note is that you’ll want to cycle Censor more often in this deck than you would in others, since you need the graveyard for the Serpent.

Hieroglyphic Illumination

Playing 4 copies of this card and only 2 Glimmer of Geniuses may look odd, but this deck all about Cryptic Serpent, and it needs to be fed with 1-mana cyclers.

Energy doesn’t really matter in this deck—the only energy sink is Harnessed Lightning and there’s no Dynavolt Tower to power up, so you won’t need as much energy as old lists needed.

Magma Spray

This is the real deal. This will be the card that let you beat, or at least have game against, Mardu Vehicles, especially Scrapheap Scrounger. That card was a nightmare for this deck, but now with access to 4 Magma Spray, you can easily answer your opponent’s threats and then impose your own game plan.

I think it’s safe to say that Gideon, Ally of Zendikar didn’t get banned mostly because of the presence of this card. The matchup versus Mardu Vehicles isn’t bad, and thanks to Magma Spray you have now enough answers for their threats. Now, you might say that SCG Atlanta was a clear sign that Gideon needs to go, but I think Amonkhet gave us the answers for it, and we only need to find them. Magma Spray is one.

Essence Scatter

This counter is so much better than Horribly Awry since it can getWalking Ballista, Gearhulk, and so on. Not being able to exile Scrapheap Scrounger might be relevant, but you have 4 Magma Spray for that task, so I think Essence Scatter is a huge upgrade for this deck.

Flame Lash

This was kind of a new addition since everyone’s heard of this card. This one does one thing very well—kill Gideon, Ally of Zendikar—and that’s the only reason you play it.

An unanswered Gideon might be problematic, even if you can pressure it more than other control decks can. You have 6 counters for it, and you can shape your gameplay around it to never tap out in the face of a possible Gideon.

You might want to tap out on turn 4 to play your Cryptic Serpent if your opponent has an empty board and you have an answer for the Knight Ally token, and then you can easily get rid of the Gideon.


I chose to play 4 Disallow over any copies of Void Shatter, mostly because of the addition of embalm to Standard.

I may be overrating embalm, and you may be better off exiling Cut // Ribbons or Scrapheap Scrounger.

Remember that any new split card cast with aftermath goes on the stack again and can be Negated. You don’t need to Disallow the ability like you do with embalm.

Week 2 of Standard just began and the Pro Tour is around the corner. Standard is exciting and full of new ideas, and I’m sure that Mardu Vehicles won’t dominate this PT. We have the tools to fight it.

1 thought on “Cryptic Serpent in Blue-Red Control”

  1. Pingback: » This Week in Magic

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top