UG Control in Type II

UG in Type II and the Revolution in BoK
By: Will Farrington

Please note that this article was written even before they let players know there would be bannings, so this article will discuss decks and cards that are no longer needed as Type II has changed. This is a pre-Bannings article.

In the beginning…
UG first popped up in the hell that was Mirrodin Block Constructed as the fiendishly terrible deck known as Crystal Witness, revolving around the synergy between Eternal Witness and Crystal Shard to reuse all of its Affinity hate. Here’s an example of a decklist at the time:

Traditional MD5 UG Shard List

Mirridon Block UG ShardMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
13 Forest
11 Island

4 Eternal Witness
4 Viridian Shaman
4 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Triskelion

4 Condescend
4 Oxidize
4 Echoing Truth
3 Crystal Shard
4 Thirst for Knowledge
3 Annul

However, the deck didn’t last very long, as Crystal Shard became the lightning rod for any and all artifact hate. Of course, people intended to search for a solution to the problem, but found none.

Then, they looked to Type 2 for some help.

Not much came. At the time, Onslaught Block was still in place, but some people tried to make the deck competitive in this wider environment. Unfortunately, UW Control was still a force to be reckoned with, so UG Control was pushed into the shadows for several months. It would take only the rotation of one block to put UG Control into the well-defined slot as #3 in Type 2... Right below Affinity and Tooth and Nail, its big brothers from its short-lived days as a Mirrodin Block deck. However, whether UG Control could rip the other big two apart with its new tools from Champions of Kamigawa was to be decided at the dueling grounds: States and Provincials.

Holy Samurais Batman!…

With the release of Champions of Kamigawa, UG Control received many a treat that revolutionized the focus of the deck.

The More the Merrier

Sakura-Tribe Elder - Here we have the dead elf. Coming out for a measly two mana, Sakura-Tribe Elder is the best form of acceleration in the format. Rampant Growth doesn’t see much play, but attach it to a 1/1 body that will chump-block any non-Ornithopter, non-Hoverguard creature and put you ahead in terms of mana at the same, and you have a powerful card.

Kodama’s Reach - Yes, it’s a decrepit hand reminiscent of the Adams’ Family. Then again, it’s also a 3 mana sorcery that drops a land into play and guarantees a land drop the turn after… At three mana. This card is a staple in any green deck, right below our dead elf, and puts the sad robot to shame.

Hinder - It’s no Counterspell, but it is the best thing since sliced bread, mmm k? Hinder breaks around the half-naked shaman and proves itself to be a strong counter, possibly the strongest in Type 2.

Meloku, the Clouded Mirror - One of the major pitfalls to the UG Control archetype was that it required running mass amounts of Rude Awakening. Meloku changed all of that. Meloku gave UG Control a means of creating a small or large amount of evasion creatures that could kill the opponent. Plus, he was reusable.

BoK rolls in and the list changes
Betrayers is what I like to call a “dead end” in Magic. “What is a dead end?” you might ask. A dead end is a set that adds no new archetypes to the format and few cards to the list of those in the sanctified 'Tier 1 decks' (Aside from a couple of playable cards).

Now that Betrayers of Kamigawa has been released, all the players have been scanning the set constantly looking for "that one card" that R&D missed. BoK, as has been said already, is not the set to look for a broken combo piece or an over-powered two-drop. The set itself, while great for limited, is not nearly as constructed worthy as Champions, which didn't mix things up too much either.

However, some cards stick out as potential "shining stars" in the current metagame. Here are my choices at the cards most likely to be played:

Ninja of the Deep Hours - First up is what has been dubbed the new Ophidian, long-time staple of blue decks back in the day. Whether or not the Ninja can live up to the hype remains to be seen, but for now, many players are sure to try out the potential tricks and recursive drawing that this 2/2 provides. Complete with the new showcase mechanic of Betrayers, Ninjutsu, the Ninja can turn late-game "wasted" draws of cards like Sakura-Tribe Elder into a suprise and get an extra point of damage, or combo with the other green staples of Viridian Shaman and Eternal Witness for powerful tricks sure to swing games.

Frostling - Frostling has been a center of debate since it was first revealed to the Magic community. The card seemingly looks to bring a new day of Fanatacism, but many aren't sure that the sacrificing ability can hold its own with the bad beast Affinity storming the format. However, I expect it will see play in red decks for the sure power of acting almost like a sort of Electrostatic Bolt; taking down Frogmites and Disciples whenever it gets an opportunity.

Sowing Salt and Quash - Perhaps the most exciting part about Betrayers of Kamigawa is the return of what has been dubbed "the Lobotomy cycle"... Sowing Salt and Quash are both answers to the long-unquestioned #2 of the format: Tooth and Nail. With Sowing Salt slowing Tooth and Nail down for 3 to 4 turns and Quash ripping the Tooth and Nails out from under the opponent's nose, they both look to play a part in the upcoming Type II season.

With that said, here's my most current list:

UG Control v. 1.1

UG Control v1.1Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
11 Forest
9 Island
1 Mountain
1 [card=Minamo, School at Water's Edge]Minamo, School at Water’s Edge

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Eternal Witness
3 Viridian Shaman
2 Meloku, the Clouded Mirror

4 [card=Kodama's Reach]Kodama’s Reach
4 Mana Leak
4 Hinder
3 Serum Visions
3 Echoing Truth
2 Oxidize
2 Rude Awakening

The Ever-Boring Card Explanations
To save time, I'll only list cards that are debatable choices, or that haven't been discussed already.

Serum Visions vs. Thirst for Knowledge- Some people prefer Thirst for Knowledge, however, I find that Serum Visions is usually the better card. Thirst often results in a net of zero card advantage, as you play one card to draw 3, yet you discard two of those three, leaving you with +1 for the draw and -1 for playing the Thirst. Of course, people who run Vedalken Shackles claim that you can often discard it to the Thirst, but where's the logic in playing a card just to allow you to run Thirst? Serum Visions is cheaper, usually more efficient, and it helps to guarantee those second turn Tribe Elders.

Blood Moon vs. Cranial Extraction vs. Temporal Adept - This has been discussed many times. They are all solutions to Tooth and Nail, but Blood Moon is superior to the others. Cranial Extraction is often a one or two turn delay that inevitably leaves you those turns to find an answer to a hardcasted Colossus or Titan. Temporal Adept, while efficient at removing the Urza lands, is slow and consumes all of your mana. Blood Moon "turns off" not only the Urza lands, but also Boseiju, Who Shelters All, allowing you to use your counterspells in the post-sideboard games.

Vedalken Shackles vs. Echoing Truth - Vedalken Shackles seemed a staple part of the deck for a few months, but after extensive testing, I feel it needs to be cut. This decision was made for two reasons. For one, artifacts naturally attract all of the maindeck artifact hate from the 'Affinity factor'. This leads to the Shackles often being hit by rogue Oxidizes and Viridian Shamans before being overly useful. The second reason is that the card is something that often gets a groan whenever I draw it. Through testing, I've found that Echoing Truth is useful in more circumstances and seems to fit better in the deck overall.

Now, on to the ever-important matchup analysis so you can see how well my decklist fared against the other big 3 decks, not to mention the mirror match.

Matchup Analysis

Affinity: Decent

Game 1: In the first game, don't ever have high hopes of beating Affinity. Occasionally they'll get a crap draw and you can pull it out, but more often than not, the games are very close... Meloku is a powerhouse in this matchup, saving you from all the Plating'd horrors coming your way. Use Eternal Witness to good effect by resurrecting dead Shamen and used Oxidizes.

Sideboarding Recommendations: -3 Ninja of the Deep Hours, -4 Hinder, -1 Rude Awakening; +4 Relic Barrier, +2 Oxidize, +2 Engineered Explosives

Games 2 + 3: Games two and three will go considerably better, but I still won't call them "favorable" as you are playing against Affinity. The Relic Barriers should be used to lock down the Platings at any opportunity available and the Engineered Explosives (usable with up to three counters) are effective at clearing away unwanted Disciples and Vials.

Tooth and Nail: Favorable

Game 1: You should do pretty decently here if you can stop any Sundering Titans and the Tooth and Nails in general.

Sideboarding Recommendations: -3 Viridian Shaman, -2 Oxidize, -1 Kodama's Reach, -1 Ninja of the Deep Hours; +3 Blood Moon, +4 Quash

Games 2 + 3: With the aid of Blood Moon, the quintessential cure-all for this matchup, you put the Tooth and Nail deck on thin ice by neutralizing their Urza lands and any Boseijus they may run. This leaves Quash with a very powerful stance in being able to remove their Tooth and Nails, Reap and Sows, and even possible sideboarded Rude Awakenings.

Mirror Match: Good

Game 1: If it is a true mirror match, it will obviously come down to who draws what. You'll have an edge over those players not using the Ninphidian.

Sideboarding Recommendations: -2 Oxidize, -2 Viridian Shaman; +4 Quash

Games 2 + 3: The Quashes are everything and more. If you thought they rocked Tooth and Nail's world, just imagine what they do here. Hinders, Reaches, you name it! This game goes pretty easy, especially if the opponent has no Ninjas in his or her deck. The card advantage is something they'll never catch up with.

BG Control: Great

This matchup is fairly easy as you can beat them to mana superiority and you can easily counter everything they try and play.

Sideboarding Recommendations: Same as Mirror Match

I only focused on the four big decks you can expect, as they are the decks you'll face most and they are the best decks to test against.

Tips on Playing the Deck

The most important thing to remember when playing UG Control is that it is a control deck, even though it is faster-paced than most control decks have been in the past. This means that many times you will be barely hanging on by a thread, but if that thread takes you into the home stretch, you will win. Don't ever be afraid to be the aggressor in a mirror or BG Control match.

Rude Awakening is a truly awesome finisher if the opponent has few blockers, but be very careful to not walk into a devastating Echoing Decay. More often than not, though, it'll be Meloku who will swing the game in your favor. Just be careful to not have more than three or four Illusion tokens in play at once, because you never know what the opponent has.

Ninja of the Deep Hours is a powerful card-drawing engine, but you cannot overextend in the early game, so try not to use his Ninjutsu ability until you have some control of the game's flow.

I hope you all enjoyed my first article for MtgSalvation. Hopefully, it'll only be one of many more yet to come! Stay tuned for my next article: an overview of Extended's current standing, complete with PTQ and GP statistics!

This is ButteBlues18, signing out.

- Will Farrington


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