Silvestri Says – UB Control in Standard

Last week I said I would be covering UB Control and variations, the delay was built in to get some experience with the deck before I posted about it as I hadn’t played it since pre-Besieged. Turns out that was the correct call, I played some games with it on Magic Online (as did many others), took it to our local ChannelFireball 1k and “won” (top four split) the tournament. Fellow CF workman and champion of the downtrodden Frotim also was in the top four with UB Control.

Meanwhile elsewhere my friend Roger Gao was battling in Chinese Nationals and finished just a win out of top eight in 13th place. Congratulations and condolences to him and this reminded me to look at what actually won, UB Control strikes again! This shouldn’t surprise anyone with perhaps the exception of those who honestly believed Valakut and Twin were going dominate. Be grateful Jace is banned or I’m reasonably sure nothing would come close to touching UB Control in this format and WU would still be a major force. Twin players would probably be happy though, since as it stands they have major issues playing a long game, let alone a mix of countermagic, discard, spot removal and possibly [card]Spellskite[/card].

If you look over the last five days of Magic Online results you’ll see a pretty clear trend favoring UB Control and RDW over all others. While the results of red may surprise some or written off due to it’s budget nature, it’s clear the deck is very strong in the current field. While M12 will reinforce red I also think over time the deck will taper off a bit because people will finally get serious about having a real plan against them from the board. After that you see a nice mix of Valakut, Splinter Twin and Vampires as popular and successful decks early in the format. Old fashioned UW Control also still pops up with some frequency though it has nowhere near the following of UB Control at the moment.

So if the bannings goals were to increase attendance and diversity in Standard they succeeded in making an immediate impact of Magic Online. Not only has Daily Event attendance shot up, but there’s a solid variety of decks instead of the overwhelming number of Caw decks. Right now there’s a nice bit of variety, blue is still playable and the overall cost of decks has dropped dramatically in the wake of bannings and Titans being reprinted. The cost of my entire UB Control deck bought from ChannelFireball right now? Less than 300 dollars, around 280 if you want to get into specific numbers.

Moving onto the actual UB Control lists, I was actually amazed at the amount of tweaks every list had. Sure there were core cards that everyone had in their specific lists, but the numbers were all over the place and there were so many singletons you’d think we were copying LSV’s Community Cup list. Here’s an example from three UB lists, one being my own:

CF 1k Top 4 Split – Josh Silvestri
[deck]4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
6 Island
4 Swamp
4 Tectonic Edge
2 Grave Titan
2 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Karn Liberated
2 Dismember
3 Go for the Throat
2 Doom Blade
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Despise
1 Duress
2 Into the Roil
4 Mana Leak
1 Deprive
1 Stoic Rebuttal
4 Jace Beleren
4 Preordain
1 Batterskull
3 Memoricide
3 Flashfreeze
4 Spellskite
4 Vampire Nighthawk[/deck]

CF 1k Top 4 Split – Tim Froehlig
[deck]4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
5 Island
1 Jwar Isle Refuge
4 Swamp
4 Tectonic Edge
1 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Grave Titan
2 Black Sun’s Zenith
2 Despise
2 Dismember
3 Go for the Throat
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Jace Beleren
1 Karn Liberated
1 Liliana Vess
4 Mana Leak
4 Preordain
4 Spreading Seas
3 Disfigure
1 Duress
2 Flashfreeze
2 Memoricide
2 Peace Strider
1 Volition Reins
3 Spellskite
1 Sphinx of Jwar Isle[/deck]

Chen Zhuang – Winner China Nationals 2011
[deck]4 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
5 Island
5 Swamp
4 Tectonic Edge
2 Abyssal Persecutor
2 Grave Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Despise
4 Go for the Throat
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Into the Roil
4 Jace Beleren
2 Liliana Vess
4 Mana Leak
4 Preordain
4 Spreading Seas
2 Calcite Snapper
4 Disfigure
2 Flashfreeze
1 Into the Roil
1 Life’s Finale
2 Memoricide
1 Stoic Rebuttal
1 Volition Reins
1 Wurmcoil Engine[/deck]

As you can see there are some areas of UB that are universally agreed upon at the moment. The mana-base is a biggie and is exactly what you’d expect for UB Control with the only exception being the exact basic setup and whether the 13th UB dual is worthwhile. Otherwise everyone ran 26 lands and the number of sources in each color only differs by two at most. Card filtering and drawing is another category where everyone has their ducks in a row and four [card]Preordain[/card] and four [card]Jace Beleren[/card] are must-haves in the deck unless you’re using an alternate engine like [card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card]. Some lists I’ve seen online feature a singleton [card]Jace’s Ingenuity[/card] and I have no problem with adding that to the deck as a miser card when you just have to grind the opponent out.

Discard-wise [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] is the clear winner with a huge number of cards worth snagging at three and below and effectively being whiff-proof until the late game. I can’t see running less than three Inquisition and even then I have a hard time doing so unless the metagame drastically shifts. [card]Despise[/card] is the other discard spell we all agreed on in the maindeck and gets the nod over [card]Duress[/card] for many simply because it can hit Titans and Avengers which is a capability lacking in previous discard spells. Right now I also prefer it over [card]Duress[/card], but I urge people to think about what they want their discard to accomplish before blindly favoring one spell over another. Right now I would probably move to two [card]Despise[/card], but [card]Duress[/card] has it’s own merits in a heavier RDW and Twin metagame.

Removal is where I fly off the beaten path from many lists which typically just jam 3-4 [card]Go for the Throat[/card], possibly a [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card] or [card]Life’s Finale[/card] and call it a day until sideboard. I dropped the [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card] entirely because I believed that all my opponents would be packing ramp, combo or control instead of the swarming aggro decks that BSZ shines against. If I could do it again I would consider boarding a pair just in case I ran into Elves or Vampires since leaning entirely on spot removal and discard isn’t the best place to be. With that said I varied my removal base the most of the three lists and I liked having [card]Dismember[/card] in the deck as additional removal. Realistically you can get away with the full set of [card]Go For The Throat[/card] if you want to max your edge against opposing [card]Grave Titan[/card], I just like hedging for random situations that pop up. There are so many miser cards in the deck that once you load up on your main removal you can afford to have these types of options in here. [card]Disfigure[/card] is an addition that caters to the RDW and Vampires match since being on the draw is miserable when you can’t kill off or Inquisition the next threat coming your way. Unless you have…

[card]Mana Leak[/card] returning is a big deal and anyone could guess having a hard counter or two in the deck is useful. [card]Mental Misstep[/card] was the card I wasn’t sold on at first and is one of the only cards I was really impressed by in reality and much as I was when I saw it on paper. The capability to counter a turn one [card]Goblin Guide[/card] on the draw is just amazing and can save you so much damage. I want to add three or four to any version I run on Magic Online where you’ll play at least one match against RDW per Daily Event. As for the singleton counters, [card]Cancel[/card] / [card]Stoic Rebuttal[/card] is always bleh and you can figure out pretty quickly if you want a copy in your build. [card]Deprive[/card] on the other hand is really nice to have because later in the game the common play for people is to wait until they can pay for [card]Mana Leak[/card] before dropping their big play. Nailing them with a [card]Deprive[/card] always brings a smile to my face and having counters they can’t play around is great.

Moving onto creatures the maindeck almost always comes down to three choices: [card]Grave Titan[/card], [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] and [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card]

[card]Grave Titan[/card]: Better against Valakut, B/U, W/U and Twin
[card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]: Better against RDW
[card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card]: Actually just feels worse against everything

All three are fine against Vampires, but [card]Grave Titan[/card] stands out again since it won’t kill you if it gets stolen by [card]Mark of Mutiny[/card]. [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card] is slightly better in that situation but in any other board state where you need to stabilize it isn’t even a debate.

I was a big fan of running the splits previously, but after talking to other UB players and playing the deck I feel like [card]Grave Titan[/card] just excels everywhere. The speed in which a resolved [card]Grave Titan[/card] can kill and force damage through blockers without needing additional removal just sells me on it. That’s the key with [card]Grave Titan[/card] when I need to tap out I want a threat that just demolishes my opponent and [card]Grave Titan[/card] does that. Everything else is just bulkier, slower to kill and only snap removal as soon as it hits play makes Engine do more than Titan will.

Planeswalker discussion focuses around [card]Liliana Vess[/card] and [card]Karn Liberated[/card] as potential compatriots to [card]Jace Beleren[/card]. [card]Liliana Vess[/card] is a useful tool in the UB mirror and often saves you in the aggro matches where you’ve spent the majority of your resources trying to keep your life total up and the enemy army small. The ability to tutor up a [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] or [card]Grave Titan[/card] to seal the game up is not to be underestimated against RDW or Vampires, both of which you have to care about at least online. Vess should probably get a space in the deck and if you expect a metagame where UB is one of the top three most played you should really consider a second one so you can see one in all your longer control matches.

[card]Karn Liberated[/card] on the other hand is effectively an extra win condition or a card that seals the door shut on the opponent. It has the same resource eating discard effect as Liliana and is nearly impossible to kill once it hits play unless the opponent has a Titan or Sphinx… In which case Karn will happily [card]Vindicate[/card] that six-drop for you. Same applies to any pesky permanent and that’s what ultimately sold me on Karn, the ability to remove any threat the opponent managed to lay before you and still have a Karn on the field is backbreaking. Often if you can resolve a Karn in the UB mirror you have put your opponent on zero practical outs unless they can engineer a turn where they bounce it with [card]Into the Roil[/card] and then force you to discard it. Even if they can deal with Karn the damage is done in most cases and you’ll have an easy time mopping up the remnants.

How much you like either planeswalker can be summed up as how often you suspect you’ll play the mirror and how highly you value expensive repeatable discard, [card]Vampiric Tutor[/card] or [card]Vindicate[/card] effects. I think I missed the boat by not running a single [card]Liliana Vess[/card] in my 75 and I would gladly run Karn again, but UB can be customized to fit your preferences in regard to PW numbers.

By far the standout is that I don’t run [card]Spreading Seas[/card] while a huge number of other UB builds do. Part of this is for the extra cantrip and part of it is for the free wins you can snag with Seas and [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] against Valakut and other UB decks. I’m not so much against [card]Spreading Seas[/card] as much as I feel underwhelmed by it. I rather have the extra spot removal and room for planeswalkers while running slightly more discard and countermagic then my opponents. For example in Zhuang’s build you can cut out the four Seas and add a 2nd [card]Despise[/card], [card]Deprive[/card], [card]Karn Liberated[/card] and a [card]Jace’s Ingenuity[/card]. I rather have the extra uptick in those effects and have one more huge threat that can’t easily be answered. If you wanted to focus more on the drawing aspect, then a pair of [card]Jace’s Ingenuity[/card] and the extra discard is going to do wonders.

I don’t believe the free wins you get off mana disruption is worth what you sacrifice in possible versatility and power from those four slots. Valakut runs more green sources than ever and even more ways to make green mana, not to mention a move back to [card]Harrow[/card] which means you’ll usually only be aiming Seas at Valakut. A reasonable play to be sure but hardly one that justifies the card. In the mirror it’s my same issue, unless you have a large number of Seas and Edges it basically only hoses bad keeps from opponents or [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card]. I can still be moved on this point, but to this point I have yet to see match where Seas breaks anything open like against Jund or older Valakut builds. Maybe I just haven’t played or seen enough matches with the deck to understand it, but that’s how I feel on [card]Spreading Seas[/card].

The last thing to take note of is the sideboard plans people have or lack thereof. I really don’t get the scattershot nature of many people’s sideboards which is a tad hypocritical since I’ve been all for being spread out in the maindeck. See I think the sideboard should specifically help out in a few matches and then the maindeck should already be taking care of the rest of the work. That’s why I had a sideboard plan that really hates on RDW; I felt the deck was soft against red and with no good answer to Shrine the games swung too easily. Take a look at my actual sideboard against RDW.

[draft]1 Batterskull
3 Flashfreeze
4 Spellskite
4 Vampire Nighthawk[/draft]

Twelve cards may seem like a lot, but nearly all of these do double or triple-duty in various matches. Against RDW I’m just dumping all of my terrible countermagic for hard counters, getting some fine lifelink action going on early and a card that demands a two for one everytime it hits play. [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card] could be one step too far since at that point you tend to take out a few more cards then you normally would want too, but it’s really good to have a relevant early drop. So I gain a real strategy against RDW other than hoping they topdeck some bricks and run out of gas or curve out perfectly into a six drop.

Meanwhile in other matches I still have options:

Valakut: +3 [card]Flashfreeze[/card], +3 [card]Memoricide[/card]

Splinter Twin: +3 [card]Memoricide[/card], +4 [card]Spellskite[/card], +1 [card]Batterskull[/card] (If on [card]Calcite Snapper[/card] plan, better than having [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card])

Vampires: +4 [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card], +4 [card]Spellskite[/card], +1 [card]Batterskull[/card]

UB: +1 [card]Batterskull[/card] – A small board plan since ideally the deck is already configured well against opposing UB strategies. [card]Memoricide[/card] is also a card you could bring in to aim at win conditions, but I’m really not a fan of that since it only ever seems to work if they’re mono [card]Grave Titan[/card].

Despite having a bunch of set choices I still have a valid plan in practically all the popular match-ups. If you really want to get some singleton action going on in the sideboard though, my other favorite cards to board in are [card]Liliana Vess[/card], [card]Volition Reins[/card], [card]Massacre Wurm[/card], [card]Neurok Commando[/card] and [card]Disfigure[/card]. The standout of the list is [card]Neurok Commando[/card] which is practically unkillable in the UB mirror and one of the best turn three plays you can make. It isn’t fool proof as [card]Mana Leak[/card] and discard still nail him, but if he makes it into play it suddenly becomes an uphill struggle for the opponent. [card]Volition Reins[/card] is a card that can completely swing a game and is very difficult to play around, but is far too clunky to run in multiples and can be an issue to cast against [card]Tectonic Edge[/card], though [card]Spreading Seas[/card] will help you out just fine with UUU.

From my experience with the deck so far, the toughest non-mirror match with the deck is against RDW and Splinter Twin matches can be very frustrating post-board. RDW basically wins on the spot with a turn one drop and a turn two [card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/card] unless you can nail it with an [card]Into the Roil[/card] at the right time. The red deck’s best draws can actually match or beat your own and it has plenty of cards that range from good to amazing against UB. Against Twin you need to worry about alternate win conditions like [card]Calcite Snapper[/card]. Snapper may not seem like much since it takes quite a while to kill even with land drops, but the Twin opponent has nothing but time as long as he can threaten you with his combo kill. This is why I love [card]Memoricide[/card] in this match, since otherwise you can never tap out without taking a huge risk of just dying.

That isn’t to say Twin is a bad match and I don’t believe it is, but it takes a certain mindset to battle competent Twin opponents and you need to have far more patience in this match then practically any other. Against RDW I think you do have a bad match if you don’t have a real sideboard plan against them and I think the majority of UB players don’t. Almost all of them seem to bank on boarding in two to five cards and then beating red on merits and from everything I’ve seen it just doesn’t work that way unless red stumbles out of the gate.

Valakut on the other hand is a match I actively enjoy playing and I typically don’t even care about triggering [card]Summoning Trap[/card] anymore. Really the only card I’m super scared of Valakut hitting is [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] and that’s only because dealing with a swarm of 1/2’s is about 1000x more difficult then any Titan or threat they run outside of [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]. Being perfectly honest Thrun has the same annoying streak as [card]Calcite Snapper[/card] out of the Twin boards. If you have problems against the troll, then my suggestion is as old as time itself, slam a six-drop down that just blows it out of the water. I much rather be trying to win the overall war using [card]Grave Titan[/card] and [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] then using any narrow SB answers. Heck you could probably surprise the heck out of them with [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card] and actually just beat down around them for a while.

And that’s it for this week and the last week I’ll harp on the joke of blue being dead without big Jace. If you were interested in UB Control then I hope this will appease some of your curiosity and questions. If you have a specific question in mind, feel free to e-mail it to me to be sure I see it. Hope everyone has a great post-4th of July and M12 prerelease this weekend.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

58 thoughts on “Silvestri Says – UB Control in Standard”

  1. Ninja First!!!!one!

    Consecrated Sphinx is rul bad, would not play again.
    Spreading Seas did nothing for this event, I’d try w/o them.

    that is all.


  2. What are your thoughts on the Tezzeret plan? I’ve been durdling with a UB tezz deck for a while, and I can’t seem to find the right mix of control/aggro elements…

  3. thanks for the great read.

    You mention that you feel the maindeck creature choices are the 3 listed above. No love for Phyrexian Obliterator? He shouldn’t be that hard to cast, considering all but 10 lands in your list can produce B.

    I just built the deck, but haven’t done any testing yet. Have you tried him out?

  4. “He shouldn’t be that hard to cast, considering all but 10 lands in your list can produce B.”


    Not to mention the majority of UB decks are running 4 Seas + 4 Tect Edges to mess you up even further. And Obliterator dies to Go for the Throat w/o providing any value, as well as Dismember (which the other 3 don’t die to).

  5. One question: You mention that Stoic/Cancel feels horrible but Deprive feels great for a unconditional hard counter. Late game I feel that the extra one mana for Cancel isn’t going to much of a concern, rather than the drawback of having deprive set you back a land.

  6. The problem with Obliterator is that you get no value out of him when your opponent drops a Go For The Throat, he dies to Dismember, and he’s trumped by Titans. You’d also be surprised how often 5 Island and a few Tect Edge can interfere with playing him.

    In short, he’s just not as good as any of the other options (though perhaps as a SB choice for RDW?)

  7. Good stuff, Im a RDW player myself but havent played much against UB what are the cards that hurt you the most in that match-up?

  8. I’m currently brewing on a U/B list myself and found this article very interesting. My current build has sphinx of jwar isle and grave titan. Remember sphinx? Yea you still can’t target it, and think about how little in the format can actually block it… I can think of one creature total. With all the removal, dismembers, act of aggressions and stuff going around, sphinx is working right now.

  9. Frost Titan is a hoooooooooouse against Valakut. Get 3 copies of him in there somewhere.

  10. josh great article .. can they start giving you kyle boggemme’s salary and just fire him because your miles better

  11. Melbourne_junkie

    Hey Josh … nice read, you and Paulo should start a new site … the PVestri … w/out offense to the other authors out there (various sites), the analysis and commentary mix just seems to work for you two.

    I disagree w/a few of your card choices (not so much in a ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ sense) and was hoping that you could reason a few of them;

    -Dismember over extras of GftT//Doom Blade; why? Dismember is pretty horrendous against RDW (not withstanding that UB can cast it for 3 often enough). Doom Blade also lets you kill Primeval Titan more often when it DOES resolve (is there no way to italicise in this feedback? Moving on …). Obviously Doom Blade is pretty subpar in the mirror but it’s also nice to have a hard-stopper on Wurmcoil at the appropriate time. I just feel that killing Primeval or Avenger in resp. to the trigger and being able to kill other guys in R/x decks without ever paying the life (or less mana without the life loss) is an improvement. Might be due to seeing too many GGuide’s in g1 though. I guess also I’m naturally assuming that Gff\tt fills out before Doom Blade.

    -Lack of Spreading Seas; have you considered//tested a pair over the 4 … ?

    -4 Inquisition; Blade Splicer in UW might be enough to change my mind, but I think Despise is by far the preferred disruption spell (though 4 is too many). Especially w/the high count of spot removal, taking small guy w/Inquisition has (at times) left me feeling resigned to having to kill a Primeval or Grave if my Leak//Deprive gets snatched (which is what Inq does best, but I personally don’t like the full set right now).

    Despise also works slightly better w/Into the Roil IMO, randomly bouncing a Gideon or Koth and un-tapping to snatch it. Taking Shrine certainly has its merits though.

    -Vampire Nighthawk; I find that having Mental MIsstep is a must to make this guy come good. Have you tested Peace Strider much in that specific match up? The definite life-gain has been better for me (and 4 is no longer the crowded roster spot it once was). Dispel also made Nighthawk better from my SB as it allowed me to catch Searing Blaze (and I guess it will get Incinerate soon) as well as Bolt. Also meant that the 3 or 4 of FFreeze could be turned into 2 and give you some extra flexible options in other match ups. Dispel still hit the Summoning Trap (if you really needed it too) but would stop Twin’s Dispel as well. Not that FFreeze can’t stop all of RDW’s options, but 5 mana for the Hawk + protection is a lot and hoping to connect with him feels like a pipe dream. Even with the entire skite-hawk plan I didn’t hit that much (a point towards Peace Strider) though Skite is a v.good guy to have against Shrine … maybe it’s my natural dislike for a SB with so few unique cards :p

    Anyway, just curious to hear your specific thoughts and experiences there, was definitely a strong piece.

  12. I was wondering why, out of three lists, none of them had Spell Pierce? It seems to me that the card is far from bad in almost every match up in that it counters planeswalkers, discard spells, shrines (which is huge), Spreading Seas, and other counters. Are there solid reasons why I should be staying away from Spell Pierce? I’m currently working on a U/W control list and thought that this card would be an auto in.

  13. Oh, and my last post was a global question, I’m really needing help finishing my U/W list so any help would be great!

  14. Nice article. I have been playing a ub tezz list since “rotation” and have very good success with it. RDW is a bit of a problem and i like the nighthawk idea. though i have to admit i have been running ratchet bomb main and it seems quite good. do you think abandoning the tezz idea is really better? he has been brooooken for me, lettign me play cards like spellskite main.

    by the way i am a bit confused by the following quote:

    “Everything else is just bulkier, slower to kill and only snap removal as soon as it hits play makes Engine do more than Titan will”

    so do you prefer titan or coil?

  15. What about Frost Titan? Especially if you expected lot of non Agro Decks i think this is the finisher of choice.

  16. @ Mitch

    Spell Pierce is very powerful in a ‘Fish’ style deck like Cawblade, and because people feel less inclined to fight the “Jace battle” with Beleren, it is seeing little to no play. It is very good against RDW though.

  17. I just figured that it would be a solid card still especially if control and decks and RDW are the decks to beat. I feel that if things like Jace, Karn, and Vess are big so so should Spell Pierce. It’s even decent against Valakut to my knowledge. I suppose I’ll just have to test more.

  18. That makes more sense, yeah. I suppose rethinking about why it wasn’t in the lists above, I wouldn’t want Spell Pierce when I could take a card instead.

  19. Played a mostly card-for-card mirror of your maindeck with extra sweepers and removal and found I had a hard time against aggro, namely RDW and Vampires.

    A board of a full playset of Spellskite and Nighthawks seems like it might work out well.

  20. The main thing about Stoic/Cancel and Deprive is that the one less mana is crucial in matches where you want to tap down for a Jace or Titan or keep countermagic + spot removal open early. Basically the mana difference is a bigger drawback most of the time than the return a land. In the late-game you don’t really care if you return a land (it can even be useful is someone cast Seas on a Tar Pit) and having an extra mana open can be very useful when throwing around sixes, sevens or paying for multiple leaks.

    Also when I say the 3 mana hard counters are bleh, I mean they feel bleh, not they’re unplayable. They just always feel underwhelming, however very few cards can fill the role their supposed to play.

    Grave Titan trumps Wurmcoil in every situation where the lifelink is irrel with the exception of landing Titan and then watching it die to GFFT where Wurmcoil would have lived. That’s it.

    -Removal Suite
    5 Doom Blade / GFFT effects are still higher than the norm and the main reason Dismember exists it to have a one mana answer to Exarch / Spellskite / Lotus Cobra / Battlement. Being able to kill these cards and keep open counter mana or other spot removal can be the difference between falling way behind in resources or winning the game rather handily. Dismember is definitely a niche spell and Disfigure is better against straight aggro. I’m not sure if I would run it again, but I’d definitely consider it.

    I think Spreading Seas is an all or nothing type of card. Maaaaybe I could see three, but the whole point of it is for free wins by stunting development right? So what’s the point of only running two? Just extra manland protection? Yawn. If you don’t believe you’ll be netting free wins with them I just don’t see the point of having them. And honestly outside of Valakut and sometimes the UB mirror they just don’t do all that much.

    Into the Roil as a catch-all is a personal preference. I’ve used it to bounce PW’s, Avenger, Shrine, Wurmcoil and a host of other annoyances to stay alive over the games I’ve played with it. It isn’t a card that’s necessary but I find it’s nice to have in a lot of situations. It’s rarely outright terrible like normal spot removal or discard can be and later it even has the decency to cantrip. I really like having a pair, but I’m open to swapping it if I ‘know’ my metagame.

    Peace Strider is fine, I like him more against Vampires than RDW since the body actually matters in that match-up. The thing about slamming a Nighthawk on turn three is that they only have 4 Lightning Bolt / Shrine to outright kill it. Everything else is too small, Burst Lightning, Staggershock and Ember Hauler won’t do it without help and I’ve yet to see many RDW players leave in Searing Blaze in case I do board it in. A few do, but dems the breaks.

    It isn’t so much about protecting Nighthawk w/ countermagic as that is a pipe dream, mostly just using discard or Spellskite as a proactive answer. Even if you can’t clear the way that have to deal with Nighthawk quickly or they’ll be in a big hole for racing you before you can stabilize with a 6 drop. Plus multiples is backbreaking. If you want a card that needs less handholding Peace Strider is fine though.

    Mental Misstep is fine, but I think it’s overrated. If you don’t net a Goblin Guide with it it almost doesn’t feel worth playing and it only really excels on the draw. On the play I rather have Disfigure the majority of the time. If Misstep didn’t lend itself to being a 4-of card I would probably pack a few, but not drawing a Misstep in the opener, missing hitting a one-drop and then drawing it is a kick to the jewels for sure.

  21. Hum, that was like a mini-article.

    Grave Titan is better than Wurmcoil with the exception of if the opponent would immediately kill GT with Go for the Throat.

    Deprive is better than Stoic because the mana difference allows you to do more than one action with your open mana and in the late-game it matters since you’ll often fight over 5-7 drops and need to pay for Leaks.

    Dismember and ITR are personal preferences rather than sure fire answer cards. Dismember in particular may be better off as something different depending on what you want to hedge against.

    Peace Strider is like a Nighthawk with an immediate bonus, but most RDW burn spells can’t actually kill a Nighthawk without a 2 for 1. If they board out Searing Blaze or you have Spellskite in play they’re actually on very few outs to kill Nighthawk before they start getting drained. Strider is better against vamps since a 3/3 stops everything relevant.

  22. Nice article Josh S.
    Really love it that you take your time to answer all those questions. I always loved blue and black and since CawBlade came along i started with U/B-control.
    Your build is different from mine:
    -I know everyone uses 26 lands, but I never had problems with 25.
    -I took Karn out after the bannings (fearing an uprise of aggro in my metagame – therefor to slow with Karn?)
    -Are your match-up against Valakut really that good that you don’t need Spreading Seas? I dont want it mainboard, but I can’t see fit where to put it in my sideboard.
    -My sideboard looks nearly the same as yours, though i like a one of Surgical Extraction.
    Really love to read your articles and good luck further on.

  23. Mental misstep pwns rdw hard. Duress helps a lot too. I have 2 Batterskull and a wurmcoil MD so i can even race a shrine. RDW is my best matchup by far. Get rid if nighthawk, its horrendous.

  24. Nice article!

    I took U/B to the ptq this weekend and I feel it is a very strong deck in the current meta.

    I was not prepared for the RDW matchup (only 2 spellskite, 3 disfigure and 3 flashfreeze) I think either 3 to 4 vampire nighthawk or peace strider are a must. The shrines are the most annoying in this matchup as effectively only discard and into the roil are your answers. upping my spellskites seems a good solution, thanks!

    I also encountered a mirran crusader in a boros matchup which I simply couldn’t beat, I had a hand with 2 GFTT, 2 dismember and 2 disfigure all useless. My only maindeck answers were 2x black sun’s zenith (wish was awesome in my elves and vampires matches) and 2 into the roil. Would you have another suggestion to beat that card? as i believe it will be a solid sideboard solution to beat the U/B deck if it becomes a deck to beat.

    Furthermore I believe valakut, U/W control, TWIN and ramdom pod/fauna shaman decks are very favorable for this deck as they can’t bead your discard + counters + removal. You only need 3-4 slots for win conditions while they have to build there whole deck around it.

    Thanks again for the great article!

  25. I’ve been putting Phyrexian Crusader in my UB sideboard for RDW matchups. It seems like it works better than nighthawk and is good against UW as well.

  26. Do people think the deck will be as good come post-M12? it seems like it gained no new cards.

  27. A good read. I think it’s great that you addressed the “6-drop” dilemma that people seem to have with UB. I see people play like 1x Grave Titan, 1x Consecrated Sphinx and 1x Wurmcoil Engine in the main. It seems like one of them must be superior compared to the rest for the maindeck. And I agree that Grave Titan is overall the strongest finisher you can play.

  28. How do you fell about phyrexian crusader as a SB option against RDW? They don’t really have a good way to interact with if (just the shrine, I think) and it is a clock on it’s own…

  29. Josh, I’ve been working on a U/B infect deck that plays early Phyrexian Crusader then finishes out with Skithyrix (Similar to what Kibler played a while back). Do you think it’s viable given the current meta? I’ll fetch you a rough list if you need it.

  30. The only decks that gain cards are decks that want ponder or lavamancer. UB (my build at least) crushes those matches. So this deck not gaining anything is not that relevant. While rampant growth is very good in valakut, it doesn’t make the deck that much better/different.

  31. Ponder is a better card than Preordain when you’re digging for a specific answer, since it sees one more card and has the option of shuffling away three. That’s very nice, and in answer-heavy U/B Builds, I feel like it’ll assume the slot. If Ponder is played, two basics will probably want to be replaced by fetch lands.

    I think Vengeful Pharaoh could see play as a miser in the board. What do you guys think?

    I think instead of 4 Mana Leaks, 1 Deprive, and 1 Stoic Rebuttal, the counter suite might want to replace one of those hard counters with a Mental Misstep. It’s underplayed- the option to trump the Splinter Twin counter war or just randomly net a Goblin Guide makes it playable in just about every match except Valakut. Granted, that’s a big hole in playability.

    I’m excited about applying some of these permission tips to U/B/W Tezz, my deck of choice 😀 Thanks for another typically great article, Josh!

  32. Josh, I only have one question about your sideboarding plans for RDW. Have you tested with Phyrexian Crusader in the place of Vampire Nighthawk? I’ve been playing RDW for ages now, and I can tell you that the Crusader is a HUGE pain, unlike nighthawk. I never board out Searing Blaze out in the matchup, as it’s the only way to deal with Spellskite without losing too much tempo. If the RDW player is keeping the Blazes in, it’s a HUGE lifeswing if they can just blaze it after you tap out on t3 to cast it, whereas the Crusader just sits around blocking anything you throw at it, keeping Koth off ultimate when needed, and representing a reasonable clock on its own when you have the board under control. Their only way to deal with it is Shrine, which you’re more than happy to trade it for, or Dismember, which most lists don’t have as more than a 1 or 2-of.

  33. By removing 4 spreading seas your said, you’r able to put in 4 really powerful cards, as that would be something good. Have you forgotten it draws a card?
    Your argument is invalid!

    Try removing 4 preordain and add 4 Wurmcoil engine (because of the power…)

  34. With the ability to run all the first-turn discard, what do you think of Surgical Extraction over Memoricide? Doesn’t seem hard to get an Exarch in the bin for it.

  35. The deck will be fine post-M12. Only like 2 legit decks actually gained cards and a few fringe decks made some gains so they might be playable, but nothing backbreaking happened. Red is a little more obnoxious now and that’s effectively the only real change I can see, barring someone breaking the format.

    I haven’t tried Phyrexian Crusader. If all I wanted was a really good wall though, I’d probably just look toward Calcite Snapper or Wall of Tanglecord. Dismember is a real thing and that has to be pretty obnoxious. Plus other than Koth Mountains and late Goblin Guide what are you really trying to block later in the game? They don’t need to attack to win and that’s why I like Spellskite since it can just be a burn magnet if I need it to be. I’m sure the card is fine and there are plenty of cards that you can board against RDW that are fine, but it doesn’t answer Shrine in any way and it’s basically useless in most other matches. Those are two pretty big drawbacks to Crusader I see on paper.

    If your plan is to play Crusader and then try and clock them with it, more power to you but that seems awfully slow without help from somewhere. If I were running 4 inkmoth nexus I’d consider the plan strongly.

  36. Will ponder replace pre-ordain post m12?

    And i still think spreading seas can be effective?

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  38. @Josh again. Assuming I wanted to run Infect control with UB Skithiryx is a fine finisher. Hits for about half the poison they’re allowed to take and can come in hasty if you need her to. Plus regeneration removes vulnerability to any removal short of dismember. I’m running a creature base of 4x Necropede (Pure value against aggro), 4x Phyrexian Crusader, and 2x Skittles. I’m also running a few contagion clasps to give me value against utility creatures (Lotus Cobra, etc) and a way to grind them out in the long game.

  39. Skithiryx loses to Dismember and requires a lot of upfront investment for that kind of a weakness. Regeneration isn’t something that is going to come up too often unless you plan on grinding the game out until you hit at least 7 (and that’s quad black) and at that point I have a hard time believing the normal win cons aren’t just better.

    Necropede also seems really loose in a format that isn’t defined by any creature deck that isn’t RDW. Vampires is still around in some capacity, sure, but that’s really the only match where Necropede is going to particularly excel.

    Where as Phyrexian Crusader feels like it has legitimate advantages over other potential options, everything else feels very lacking for going the Infect route.

    I wouldn’t swap Preordain with Ponder. There’s a reason why blue decks that weren’t combo didn’t bother with Ponder while Preordain quickly became a 4-of. Ponder excels when your looking for very specific cards and generally is just worse than Preordain outside of specific circumstances. Preordain has largely replaced Ponder in every format and that’s because it’s just a better card.

  40. You mention RDW’s answers to certain cards, but aren’t you forgetting that a lot of RDW playlists feature 3 or more dismembers to deal with spellskite and other threats?

  41. what does everyone think about that new master thief? maybe as a sideboard card to be used to nab shrines from rdw, spellskites on occasion, and any swords or tumble magnets that make a random appearance?

  42. You can’t play around Dismember though unless you go with 0 lifelinkers or Wurmcoil only. You can’t even Freeze or Misstep Dismember so you just have to suck that one up. There’s not a lot of point in discussing play around Dismember because the short of it is that Dismember beats everything.

    Such sweet color bleed. Nice design. Heh.

  43. I like the cut of this deck’s jib.

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    4 Inkmoth Nexus
    19 Swamp
    2 Tectonic Edge
    25 lands

    4 Phyrexian Crusader
    2 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
    3 Spellskite
    9 creatures

    3 Contagion Clasp
    1 Doom Blade
    1 Duress
    3 Everflowing Chalice
    3 Go for the Throat
    4 Inquisition of Kozilek
    4 Lashwrithe
    1 Sign in Blood
    3 Tezzeret’s Gambit
    3 Tumble Magnet
    26 other spells

    2 Black Sun’s Zenith
    3 Despise
    1 Duress
    2 Mind Sludge
    1 Sign in Blood
    3 Surgical Extraction
    1 Tezzeret’s Gambit
    2 Vampire Nighthawk

  44. Agree that Spellskite is better than Crusader. But Either is better than Nighthawk for a mile.

    Ponder is much better with fetchlands but the latter will rotate soon.

  45. Phyerixian crusader has been a great card for me versus aggro decks of all sorts, also his first strike is very relevent versus the snappers

    also, no love for the persecutor in the national champion’s decklist? i know jace bounce leaving is bad but theres still itr, gftf and a potential big black zenith, it feels like versus valkut as well as controll decks that playing your titan earlier can swamp them and give you breathing space to back them into a corner until you can deal with him

  46. Thanks Josh for your current take on UB Control. Can you tell me what your stance is regarding Abyssal Persecutor? Does he seem like a good fit now?

  47. What deck to play U/W with the goodies of o-ring and venser? or U/B and discard?


  48. @Ryan: I love the combination of O-Ring and Venser, heck, O-Ring by itself is enough to make me consider UW

  49. First off, that was a really good article, that I enjoyed very much.

    Second, you piqued my interest with that Lashwrithe Infect list, because it looks pretty darn close to the early testing of my Lashfect list. Some observations of the build you posted.

    6 lands that produce colorless will slow down the deck considerably, and makes Lashwrithe incredibly weak. I don’t like the gains of Tectonic Edge over the loss of playing a Crusader on turn 3, or a 3/3+ Lashwrithe on turn 4.

    Everflowing Chalice seems okay, but fairly non-synergistic to what the deck is trying to do. The deck wants swamps, and usually only needs 4 of them. A 6/6 First Striking Crusader is all you really need to beat virtually anything in combat and live through all but a few removal cards. Sure, ramping out a Skithiryx is nice and all, but you still need triple black on turn 5 if you want to swing, which means that you can only have 1 non-swamp land at that point. 6 nonbasics makes that a risky proposition. And then, the problem is compounded with Mind Sludge in the sideboard. A sludge on turn 4 for 3 cards doesn’t seem all that great to me. I’d suggest Mind Rots, since they still hit 2 cards and can come down on turn 3 (One turn faster than standard’s Fundamental Turn).

    Something I became concerned with in my testing was having far too many 3 drops in the mainboard that compete for Phyrexian Crusader’s turn. But you don’t really want to push those cards to turn 4, because that is Lashwrithe’s turn. I believe, that dropping the Tezzeret’s Gambits and Tumble Magnets help a lot in that instance. Gambit vs. Sign in Blood is very little difference during the game, but the ability to keep a less than ideal opening hand because you have Sign in Blood, makes it the obvious choice for me.

    Dropping Tumble Magnet further opens up the 3 drop slot for other options. And real spot removal seems much better in the list, now that hawks are no longer carrying swords. True, the Magnets still stop Titans from swinging in, but so does a Geth’s Verdict or Go For the Throat. Also, Tumble Magnet isn’t really that good against Valakut or Twin decks because the damage is done when the card hits, and you need to be able to remove the creatures immediately. Also, cards like Consecrated Sphinx and Avenger of Zendikar are other cards that are being played more and more, that don’t care about Tumble Magnet.

    The biggest problem I see with the list you posted, is an inability to deal with Vampires, Tempered Steel, Kuldotha Red, or other all-in Aggro decks. I think that Disfigure could be a good addition to the list.

    Anyways, I’ve already typed far too much, so here is my latest list:

    25x Lands
    3x Inkmoth Nexus
    22x Swamp

    Creatures: 9
    3x Spellskite
    4x Phyrexian Crusader
    2x Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

    Spells: 21
    4x Inquisition of Kozilek
    1x Despise
    1x Duress
    2x Disfigure
    4x Sign in Blood
    3x Go For the Throat
    3x Geth’s Verdict
    3x Mind Rot

    Artifacts: 5
    2x Contagion Clasp
    3x Lashwrithe

    Sideboard: 15
    1x Disfigure
    4x Surgical Extraction
    1x Despise
    2x Doom Blade
    3x Black Sun’s Zenith
    1x Mind Rot
    3x Vampire Nighthawk

    The most difficult matchup so far, seems to be UB Control(with Mimic Vat), which is why Mind Rot has entered the main board to gain some percentage in game 1, while still being great against Valakut and Splinter Twin.

  50. I think that the build that placed third and fourth at the GP Nationals China were by a good margin more refined than the actual U/B version that eventually won.

    Josh, what do you think of Surgical Extraction in the mirror, and swap-in creatures like Precursor Golem and Sphinx of Jwar Isle for the mainboard. Especially your stance regarding the golems as aggressive means to punch in hard and early would be interesting to me.

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