BW Control/Midrange in SOI Standard

For the last month or so I have had a lot of fun playing a BW Control deck based around Jeff Hoogland’s list. While I find the deck to be very fun to pilot I never had huge amounts of success with it. It also never fell flat, though, which made me consider continuing to tune it once Standard rotated to include Shadows Over Innistrad. I was originally worried that losing tools like Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Utter End, Seeker of the Way, and Murderous Cut would be too much for the deck and that it wouldn’t survive rotation. I’m now thinking that I was very, very wrong.

Now that Shadows Over Innistrad has been fully spoiled, though, I’m feeling like BW Control will be a real player in this Standard format. So much so that I’m thinking of running with it beginning the first FNM it’s legal and using this blog to post reports to help me reflect on it and tune it. Generally I would avoid playing a control deck the first few weeks of a format as aggressive decks see a lot of play and there’s no way to know which answers a control deck will need. But the BW Control shell is pretty good at dealing with a wide variety of threats and I think the tools it has will be good enough to warrant playing it from the start.

So without further ado I’ll just give you the decklist that I’m currently testing and future posts with contain thoughts about modifying it as I continue to test online and with friends. Oh, and there’s no sideboard yet as I have no idea what the big threats will be. Ramp seems like a huge challenge for this deck just as it was in Oath of the Gatewatch Standard.

2 Blighted Fen
2 Westvale Abbey
2 Forsaken Sanctuary
4 Shambling Vent
4 Caves of Koilos
8 Swamp
4 Plains
4 Accursed Witch
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
4 Secure the Wastes
4 Grasp of Darkness
2 Anguished Unmaking
1 Ultimate Price
4 Read the Bones
3 Ruinous Path
2 To the Slaughter
2 Oath of Gideon
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Ob Nixilis Reignited
1 Sorin, Grim Nemesis

So the list is very similar to the list I was running before. With rotation happening the old main deck loses 15 cards (2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor, 2 Murderour Cut, 1 Valorous Stance, 2 Utter End, 4 Scoured Barrens, and 4 Seeker of the Way). That’s a fair amount of instant-speed answers we’re losing from the old deck but I think Ultimate Price will be getting better with the mana base changes that SOI will bring. In addition, Anguished Unmaking replaces Utter End just fine if you’re only using one or two copies. While I am currently planning to use To the Slaughter I’m not totally sold on it deserving that spot. It’s sorcery speed and edict effects aren’t always great. This deck has a hard time turning on delirium, too, so you don’t often get full value. If mono color creatures run rampant then those 2 spots might just becomes two more Ultimate Price – we’ll see.

But the deck didn’t just lose some removal – it also lost 4 dual-lands. While the new come into play tapped lands in SOI can replace it, we also got Westvale Abbey which is an amazing card combined with Secure the Wastes / Gideon. In testing, if I have a Westvale Abbey in my opening hand I am very reliably able to get myself a 9/7 Flying, Haste, Lifelink, Indestructible Legendary Demon by turn 7. Between Oath of Gideon, Gideon himself, and Secure the Wastes it’s easy to get to 5 creatures to throw at the Abbey.

Losing Sorin, Solemn Visitor was one of the things I was most worried about. His ability to either flat out win the game after a Secure the Wastes or at least stabilize (with the ton of lifegain) routinely impressed me. The new Sorin does not fill the same role but if you’re opponent cannot answer him he will win the game just with his +1 ability. In fact, I actually think he might deserve an extra slot as well but it’s a tough decision given his 6 converted mana cost. His -x ability is nice but I rarely use it because this deck is so full of ways to remove creatures that it’s usually not necessary. Emergency life gain is nice, though. I’ve not yet actually been able to ultimate him (well, I had the chance, but chose not to use it) but it feels like the ability is crazy if you’re in a situation where you’d want to use it.

The last loss this deck suffered was Seeker of the Way. Frankly, I often ended up boarding Seekers out in almost every match up because they just turned on my opponent’s removal (although the early lifelink was nice). For now, I’m thinking of running Accursed Witch in that spot. Her 4 converted mana cost is a bit clunky and really clogs up the mana curve, but she’s a 4/2 body that effectively “blanks” my opponent’s removal in that she punishes them for removing her (in the form of enchantment based life drain/gain during the opponent’s upkeep). Having one or two of these on the board seems to make opponents think twice before playing a board wipe on my 3-5 token creatures. She also trades very favorably for that same reason and, if nothing else, represents a 5 turn clock. I’m not 100% sold on this decision but I think for a deck that benefits from denying opponent’s useful/favorable removal trades she fits in nicely. I wish she were a 3/1 for 3 instead of a 4/2 for 4, though.

That’s it for today as I’ve got work I need to do, but I will continue to follow up on how the deck does at my local game store once SOI is standard-legal.

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