A few months ago I wrote about Shota Yasooka’s approach to building control decks. I created a template for building Shota-style control by looking at a handful of his recent decklists. With all the exciting new options for control players in Aether Revolt, now is a great time to put those ideas into practice by building some control decks for the new Standard format.
For reference, here is the template I arrived at for “Platonic Shota Control:”
- 26 lands
- 10 spot removal
- 3 sweepers
- 6 counterspells
- 2 discard spells
- 6 draw spells
- 6 dragons
- 1 planeswalker
And here is Shota’s winning decklist from PT Kaladesh:
For PT Kaladesh, Shota branched out from his usual blue-black control by adding red. If you look at the red cards, you can clearly see that the red splash was aimed at fighting aggro decks. Red offers cheap removal in Galvanic Bombardment and Harnessed Lightning, and a sweeper in Radiant Flames.
Aether Revolt gives black excellent options for fighting aggro in Fatal Push and Yahenni’s Expertise. Not only are these cards on-color, they’re better than their red counterparts, making the switch back to straight blue-black a no-brainer. After that major structural change and a bit of thinking over specific card choices, I arrived at this list:
Fatal Push - A lot has been written about this card, and rightfully so: it will likely go down as the best black removal spell of all time. Unfortunately, it’s not at its best in this deck, since we’re terrible at triggering revolt. I included four Evolving Wilds mostly to set up revolt, but that’s almost the only way we can put a card into our graveyard. Nonetheless, I believe Fatal Push is still quite good, even if we’re usually only getting the front end.
Yahenni’s Expertise - The new sweeper on the block. This card has the potential to be much more powerful than Languish, which was a Standard staple, but it requires a little finesse to use.
Liliana, the Last Hope - To be honest I don’t really understand why Shota didn’t play this card at PT Kaladesh, but in any case, I think Yahenni’s Expertise pushes it over the edge. Liliana is one of the absolute best cards to drop with Expertise, as well as being one of the most abstractly powerful cards in Standard. I’m fudging the template here by swapping two dragons for two extra planeswalkers, but I think that’s okay because they largely play the same role of seizing the initiative and pressuring the opponent, and we really want to maximize the chance of having something to play off Expertise.
Torrential Gearhulk - This card has proven itself as the best finisher in Standard. I think it makes sense to play four because it’s just so much more powerful than the other options. I cut the Thing in the Ice package from Shota’s list because it plays somewhat awkwardly with Expertise and I’d rather prioritize Gearhulk.
Disallow - The other new addition from Aether Revolt, I’m less excited about this than the black spells. In my opinion Disallow is closer to Void Shatter than Dissolve; that is, it’s more of a Cancel with corner-case upside than a card that gives us value every game. Nonetheless, it’s the best three-mana counter available and I’m glad to have it.
Succumb to Temptation - Here’s where the template approach to deckbuilding leads to some counterintuitive choices. If you build decks by writing down all the cards you’re excited about and adding some lands, you’re never going to include a card like Succumb to Temptation. But I know from studying Shota’s decks that 4 Glimmer of Genius is not enough card draw for a deck like this to function. We need more draw to reliably hit six land drops for Gearhulk. The options aren’t inspiring, but we have to choose one. The main competition for this slot is Anticipate. I’m going with Succumb for now because I think we’re more interested in raw card draw than selection and it’s a better hit for Expertise. Having said all that, Succumb to Temptation is quite a bad card, and it may end up simply being too weak to play. I’m not sure that Succumb is the right choice, but I am sure we need another draw spell here.
That was a fairly straightforward update. If we want to go deeper, Aether Revolt offers some intriguing artifact-based cards. Tezzeret the Schemer, Metallic Rebuke, and Battle at the Bridge are extremely attractive cards for a blue-black control strategy, but to get the most out of them we need to play a lot of artifacts. Therefore we can consider a different build that tries to make the most out of the artifact-centered cards.
Here we must bid a tearful adieu to our trusted master Shota, as we boldly venture forth into uncharted waters where no man has ever… Wait, what’s that? Shota Top 8’d a Standard GP with Tezzeret Control? Well, alright then.
A similar approach in current Standard would look something like this:
I took some ideas from a list Gerry Thompson posted at Starcitygames. This is a tricky deck to build, because there are a lot of competing demands: we need a lot of artifacts for Glint-Nest Crane and Tezzeret, planeswalkers for Heart of Kiran, while still covering all the bases for a control deck. I have no idea if this deck will work, or if it’s better than the more standard version of blue-black control, but it looks sweet.
I hope this gives you some ideas for building control in the new Standard. It’s always tricky to play control week one because you don’t know what you’ll be up against. As the format evolves it may be necessary to adjust the control template. In particular, Aether Revolt offers a lot of options for combo decks. If combo becomes a large part of the Standard metagame it will likely demand adjusts such as trimming creature removal in favor of more counterspells or discard. Nonetheless, control players now have the toolkit to deal with almost anything. Finding the right build early on could be extremely rewarding. Or, you could just wait to see what Shota uses to crush the next Pro Tour.