It’s no secret that I play the control game. I could sing the praises of the slow game all day and all night and, honestly, all day again… Then I’d take a nap and wake refreshed and sing them more. I like stopping my opponent from winning before I win. That’s not the reason I’m here today. I’m contractually obliged by my megalomania counselor and the plane of Dominaria to talk about the two decks I’ve narrowed down for Antwerp’s upcoming Modern GP.

Before I go over them let me say that I know that Modern isn’t exactly the friendliest format for a Durdle Magus. It’s a bit faster than we like to go. Though, it does have a few things that are to our advantage.

Firstly, the mana is good. Like scary good. I can play three or four or even, dare I say it, five colors. I’m pretty sure god invented fetch lands so I can stop having migraines from mana screw. It’s a $40 I’m willing to pay per land. Seriously though, fetches and shocks make our normally prohibitive spells (I’m looking at you Cryptic Command) much easier to cast.

Secondly, the card pool is huge. There’s so many good answers the only problem is figuring out which is the best. Some decks are toolboxes, while others are out-and-out about card advantage and denial.

Third is that we don’t even have to play aggressive spells to win. Sometimes our lands (and our opponent’s lands) do the dirty work for us. Celestial Colonnade and Creeping Tar Pit can be a control deck’s best friend. You simply establish dominance and then beat your opponent with cards you didn’t need to waste mana casting.

With everything control’s got going for it, the obvious question is, well, why doesn’t anyone else play control? It’s a distant third behind mid-range and aggro, and likely a fourth, with combo starting to show its head again.

Control ain’t easy. You gotta know what you’re playing, and many times that means knowing your opponent’s deck better than he/she does. This means there’s a lot of research into a meta. That takes time. There is a reason that Jon Finkel plays Storm. He’s a busy dude, it’s a great deck, and it doesn’t really matter what your opponent is doing to advance his game plan, as long as he doesn’t win. Playing control means knowing that if your opponent has a Murderous Redcap and a Birthing Pod and you are tapped out that Zealous Conscripts and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker are imminent. It means knowing your outs and our opponent’s next move and the move after that.

Disruption is really good these days. Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Duress can come in from the board. Raven’s Crime and Life from the Loam are hard to deal with. Faster mid-range blue decks run Spell Snare and Disrupt for tempo. Fulminator Mage is the Jund (sorry I had to) Nelson of this format. Voice of Resurgence is seeing play now. It’s a jungle of spells to cripple you and out-value you.

Creatures are really good. Tarmogoyf is a card that needs to be dealt with. Deathrite Shaman puts a clock on us. Geist of Saint Traft is hard to deal with. Loxodon Smiter has to hit the board before we can think about removing it. Goblin Guide, Vendilion Clique, Kitchen Finks, Sun Titan… Did I mention the lands turn into creatures? You have to deal with those! It’s not a safe place to go durdling, this Modern format.

Personally, I like the challenge. And I bought these Snapcaster Mages, right? So I might as well get some value out of them. I’ve been having some luck with Unburial Gifts lately. Here’s the 60 I’ve been rocking these days.

Unburial Gifts

Lands (24)
Temple Garden
Hallowed Fountain
Tectonic Edge
Bojuka Bog
Ghost Quarter
Breeding Pool
Godless Shrine
Watery Grave
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Marsh Flats
Academy Ruins
Creeping Tar Pit
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Overgrown Tomb

Creatures (9)
Kitchen Finks
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Eternal Witness
Deathrite Shaman
Sun Titan
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (27)
Unburial Rites
Path to Exile
Engineered Explosives
Maelstrom Pulse
Liliana of the Veil
Raven’s Crime
Life from the Loam
Gifts Ungiven
Abrupt Decay
Go for the Throat
Lingering Souls
Mana Leak

This is a list of Li Xu’s that I’ve tweaked a bit after a few months of playing. The deck itself is really deep. Basically you cast Gifts Ungiven and get four cards (two if you wanna be boring and just get Elesh Norn and Rites) and put your opponent in a situation where he can’t make a good choice and you actually get all four cards. Here’s a few packages:

Engineered Explosive
Academy Ruins
Life from the Loam
Raven’s Crime

See what I did there? Tough, right? How about you have a Planeswalker I want dead?

Maelstrom Pulse
Eternal Witness
Snapcaster Mage
Lingering Souls

If you can block the fliers then Abrupt Decay is fine as is another Gifts Ungiven. Either way, I can deal with the threat. Liliana of the Veil can actually help us get cards we don’t want in our hand into the yard. I removed Inquisition of Kozilek in order to try Mana Leaks. They’ve been doing a really great job of stopping early threats, making my opponents play around them, and holding down my threats when they get threatened. I’ve had two straight weeks at 3-1 with this deck, losing only to Sean McKeown’s Kiki Pod deck during my matches.

The really wonderful thing about this deck is how well it does against mid-range and aggro decks. Affinity has to fight through Lingering Souls, Abrupt Decay, Path to Exile, Damnation, Dismember, Maelstrom Pulse, and Elesh Norn. With four Gifts and the Mana Leaks and Snapcaster Mage on duty it’s a seriously good match-up for us. Combo is the real tough spot for this deck. It’s light on proactive plans and can take a little bit to get going, so this gives combo decks a chance to draw the disruption/pieces they need to win.

It’s a really fun deck, but it’s a tough one if you don’t know what your opponent is up to, or what you are capable of. I practiced for two months before I felt comfortable playing this at a tourney. Now that I have there’s only one other deck I might play in Europe…

American Control

Lands (26)
Hallowed Fountain
Arid Mesa
Glacial Fortress
Scalding Tarn
Sulfur Falls
Tectonic Edge
Sacred Foundry
Steam Vents
Celestial Colonnade

Creatures (5)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique
Geist of Saint Traft

Spells (29)
Lightning Bolt
Shadow of Doubt
Think Twice
Lightning Helix
Path to Exile
Mana Leak
Ajani Vengeant
Spell Snare
Supreme Verdict
Sphinx’s Revelation
Cryptic Command

This is a modified version of the Wafa-Tapa list that’s been hanging around the dailies lately. If there’s a spiritual kin to the Durdle Magus it’s Wafa-Tapa. This is a control deck so you’ll notice that Vendilion Clique and Geist of Saint Traft appear, but in very reduced numbers. This is classic control. Kill threats with Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile , and Lightning Helixes, then take over the game with Colonnade. Sphinx’s Revelation helps with card draw in the late game and Think Twice/ Shadow of Doubt in the early stages.

This deck has a real advantage against Pod. Between the creature removal and the Shadow of Doubts it’s hard to get a word in edgewise, let alone Kiki or Melira. Playing Shadow of Doubt as a Stifle on the play can be utterly game-breaking, while on the draw it’s still a Time Walk and evens out the game, effectively countering whatever spell they were going to cast.

Ajani Vengeant does serious work, too, either by paralyzing or Helixing opposing dudes. If left to ultimate the game is basically yours.

The rest of the deck speaks for itself. Spell Snare for counters and Snapcaster Mages, Scavenging Ooze and Tarmogoyfs. Electrolyze helps with Lingering Souls, and Supreme Verdict for when the creature count gets TOO DAMNED HIGH.

I’ll be playing this next week, to see how it feels. I’m pretty comfortable with Gifts but I think this might be the call for the meta. It’s also not as much of an uphill battle vs. Deathrite Shaman/Scavenging Ooze decks.

Control in Modern is a gamble but it’s not impossible. I like to play the style I’m most comfortable with. With all the combo flipping around, I think nows the time to cast Shadow of Doubt and then Mana Leak and then Snapcaster Mage and Shadow of Doubt again. There’s something about denying my opponent spells and mana that really makes me happy.

Zac Clark, Durdle Magus

Developments in Durdling is a Hipsters of the Coast article by Zac Clark. It explores durdling both inside and outside of Magic: the Gathering. Checking in on the meta outside the game and seeing how things tick, as well as asides about life, music, and travel in relation to Magic: the Gathering. Movie quotes, obscure comic book references, and music you haven’t heard all find their home here. Basically, it’s about screwing around and not actually playing Magic.

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