U/R Control has been a force in Standard for a long time. It goes in and out of favor, namely because it’s only good in certain metagames. Why is that the case? The deck has definitely been lacking some cards and the strategy is inherently flawed from the get go. So why is the deck interesting all of a sudden? It might be because it’s most likely the existing archetype that received the most from Hour of Devastation. To better understand those additions, let’s talk about what the deck was missing so that we can make sense of how good these new cards are for the deck.
- U/R Control is missing ways of dealing with troublesome planeswalkers once they resolve. Sure, it’s possible to counter them, but that becomes more of an issue when your opponent applies pressure at the same time, like Mardu does with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Temur Energy with Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Sure, Torrential Gearhulk can attack it, or Commit // Memory can bounce it, but since these planeswalkers win so quickly, Torrential Gearhulk is usually too slow and Commit // Memory is too clunky of an answer, not letting you do anything else on the same turn, which means your opponent got the better deal out of the exchange.This is where Hour of Devastation comes in. Hour of Devastation is for sure the most important card for U/R Control out of the new set. It’s about as perfect as it gets, because what U/R wants to do more than anything else is cast either Hieroglyphic Illumination or Glimmer of Genius on turn 4. This lets you do that without being punished, even by a planeswalker. One of the biggest problems with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is that not only does it kill you quickly, but it also leaves a 2/2 behind.With Hour of Devastation, that’s not a problem anymore, and neither are their other pesky creatures. With Hour of Devastation, it unlocks something that only the best control decks can do and that’s being able to let almost anything resolve without having to counter it on the stack. You can opt to find the answer with your card draw. A smaller detail Hour of Devastation also helps with is its ability to kill larger creatures, which only Harnessed Lightning could before, so this is definitely relevant.The only scary thing with Hour of Devastation is facing Archangel Avacyn on the draw. Be wary of that, because while you might kill that Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, everything else survives.
- In straight U/R, being with able to deal with artifacts has been a problem. Sure, there’s Release the Gremlins and By Force, but they aren’t maindeckable and are also both sorceries, meaning they can be awkward, even out of the sideboard. That meant that Aetherworks Marvel was an issue, and while that is not a problem anymore, Heart of Kiran and Oketra’s Monument are still running around. Heart of Kiran can be killed by Harnessed Lightning, but that means you’re the one who needs the answer and you also need an Aether Hub to have enough energy to kill it—you don’t want to wait until after turn 4 when Glimmer of Genius comes around, which usually is too late.Oketra’s Monument could also just be game over, since at some point those pesky 1/1s will overwhelm you or chump Torrential Gearhulk for eternity.
Abrade is an excellent answer for these problem permanents because of its flexibility. Dealing 3 damage for 2 mana is a fine Magic card, meaning you have no problem justifying it in the first place. You’re also able to deal with permanents—the card really pulls its weight. Even killing a Torrential Gearhulk for 2 mana in the mirror can be a huge tempo play.
- Having the right card at the right time is an issue for U/R Control and control decks overall. But not being able to deal with a lot of the problem permanents once they resolve makes the issue even worse, because then you become less flexible in your ability to maneuver a game. Sometimes you want to have a Glimmer of Genius to transition yourself to the late game and Torrential Gearhulk, and sometimes you wish that card was a Disallow when your opponent casts a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Having split cards such as Abrade that can deal with multiple different situations makes you more flexible and that’s where your third card comes in.Supreme Will is perfect, because it fills both roles that you need it to. It helps you find Torrential Gearhulk when you want that, and it counters something the rest of the time. It also eliminates the issue of being a Mana Leak when your opponent has extra mana since you can use it as an Impulse instead, in the same way that Censor can still retain value when a Force Spike isn’t enough. This is probably one of my favorite cards in the set because of its flexibility without being too conservative on power level.
Without further ado, let’s us look at the new, fresh U/R Control.