donderdag 10 november 2016

Archetype: White/Blue (Prison) Control

My cube is very archetype-centered. Most color combinations have two or more distinct archetypes or themes available to them (outside of plain aggro/midrange/control) that overlap with archetypes in other color combinations.

The plan is to eventually talk about all of the archetypes in my cube. Some are quite straightforward, while others might be a little more off-beat.

Today's archetype:

White/Blue (Prison) Control

White/Blue (Prison) Control is a lockdown control deck that uses cheap removal, card draw and counters to get through the early game and locks the game up with a combination of back-breaking permanents or spells. Finishing the game is typically done with a resilient creature, but is more or less arbitrary after the opponent's chances to win are basically taken away.
Control at its finest.

Historic relevance
Blue/white control is a classic archetype that's almost as old as Magic. The combination of white's board control and life gain and blue's stack control and card draw is apparently a very efficient one. Well known U/W control decks are The Deck, Millstone U/W controlInvasion-era U/W control, Caw-Go and many many more.

The deck can answer basically anything depending on how you build it: removal for single large threats, Propaganda against swarms of creatures, Disenchants against problematic artifacts/enchantments, Counterspells against problematic spells, lifegain against burn. Blue and white go together in control decks like peanut butter and jelly.
Another (minor) strength is that the deck is able to blank whole categories of cards by not running a lot of creatures and Propaganda basically making creatures a bad draw if your opponent already has a couple out.

The white/blue control deck is slow. It usually only plays a handful of cards that can finish the game, because so much space goes to answering the opponent's threats. This means that it's prone to getting outsped by super fast aggro. It also means that - even when the deck has control of the board - sometimes a single threat can be its downfall because the deck couldn't finish fast enough. And, because of it running so few threats of its own, decks filled with removal for that type of threat can be problematic as well if you don't have a pile of counterspells.
There's another weakness: the reliance on permanents to deal with swarms of creatures. Peasant has almost everything 'normal' Magic has for U/W control, except 1 very important thing. Traditionally, U/W control has made use of Wrath of God effects to trump creature decks. The closest thing Peasant has available to it in these colors are Propaganda and friends. While very efficient (and even better in some scenarios), this makes the deck vulnerable to enchantment removal.

Key cards
White: Ghostly Prison, Sphere of Safety, Story Circle, Swords to Plowshares (any flexible removal), Nyx-Fleece Ram, Timely Reinforcements, Faith's Fetters (any enchantment-based removal), Sentinel of the Eternal Watch, Enlightened Tutor
Blue: Propaganda, Jetting Glasskite, Mana Leak (and other cheap counterspells), Tidings, Compulsive Research (and other draw spells), Sphinx's Tutelage depending on the set-up of the deck
Gold: Wall of Denial
Colorless: Maze of Ith, Isochron Scepter, Pristine Talisman, Mind Stone, Darksteel Sentinel
Note: depending on if you include Isochron Scepter or Sphere of Safety, card evaluation for similar effects changes. For example, the choice between Path to Exile or Journey to Nowhere

Overlap with other archetypes
The deck overlaps well with other control decks, either the spell-based ones or the enchantment-based ones:
- white/green enchantress control
- blue/black control
- blue/red control
- this deck also frequently splashes for back breaking spells from other colors (especially when Scepter is involved)

Experience with the deck
White/blue control is basically a pile of all the good defensive white and blue spells put together. The thing that sets it apart is the lockdown nature of Sphere of Safety (essentially a build-around card). Apart from that, the deck needs a willingness of the drafter of committing to digging in and prioritizing getting control of the board. Running only a couple of win conditions is not something everyone is comfortable doing.

It's is a great deck, but not necessarily easy to get together. You need multiple things: early interaction, strong lockdown/control elements (not just 1-for-1 answers), finishers that are resilient enough that they don't just die to the first Doom Blade in your opponents hand AND powerful enough that they can kill someone on their own.
If either of those is not present, the deck can have a really hard time. If all you have is 1-for-1 removal to deal with creatures, you will get run over by aggro decks. If you have lockdown effects, but no single target removal, that single 4/4 will kill you. If your only threat is a 3/3 vanilla flyer, good luck winning.

It's very easy to support in your cube. I just went a little deeper than most by including Story Circle and Timely Reinforcements, for example. The hard part of supporting this deck is in support of the decks around it. Prison/control decks like these can be so good against aggro and midrange (aka the lion's share of decks in peasant cube) that it can feel a little stifling to them.

The weird thing is that - although enchantments are in a way easier to answer than the classic Wrath of Gods - players get more frustrated by not being able to attack with their whole team because of a Propaganda than by having the same team destroyed in one fell swoop. Be aware of this if you want to have this deck in your cube. Personally, I don't have a problem with cards like Propaganda, but you do have to make sure that decks have a way to not insta-lose to it. Be it enchantment removal, reach, discard, etc. (also: players should run enough mana sources in aggro decks).


I love having this deck in my cube. It's a staple historic archetype for Magic, it's very good (rewards a player for moving in) and has a very distinct feel to it by not being a general midrange good-stuff or aggro deck.

Having said that, I do recognize that a cube must be able to handle having the deck available. And, even if a format can, people might not enjoy playing against the prison-y nature of it.

Geen opmerkingen:

Een reactie posten