By Duncan Martin

The Pro Tour this past weekend had a slew of decks to be excited about. The release of Khans of Tarkir has shaken up Standard more than most expected, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The most apparent addition to the format from Khans, Ari Lax took the tournament down with Siege Rhino, a card we all expected to be a complete house. With little surprise, Jeskai decks were prominent, as well, and Shaun McLaren almost took his second Pro Tour win with it.

More than any of the pro players, there was someone I was much more excited to see in the top 8. I’m not saying that Anafenza, the Foremost was in the top 8, but ANAFENZA TOP 8’ED THE PRO TOUR.

I’m just saying. But, I’ll move on.

I was initially going to write about the Jeskai Ascendancy deck, one which I’ve been fooling with for about a week and a half now, but both the Treasure Cruise and the Dragon Mantle versions found a spotlight on the Pro Tour. I found another deck I was excited about from the mind of the guy who informed me that creatures suck: none other than control genius Andrew Cuneo. He’s back, playing blue spells, and nearly getting Owen Turtenwald to the top 8.

His list looked like this:

Blue-Black Cuneo Control

Creatures (2)
Pearl Lake Ancient

Artifacts (4)
Perilous Vault

Spells (27)
Hero's Downfall
Dig Through Time
Bile Blight
Jace's Ingenuity
Murderous Cut
Disdainful Stroke

Land (27)
Temple of Deceit
Dismal Backwater
Polluted Delta
Bloodstained Mire
Evolving Wilds
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Radiant Fountain

There are quite a few things that make me love this deck. Firstly, it feels like a Cuneo deck. Apart from two cards in Pearl Lake Ancient, the deck is simply about crushing whatever your opponent is trying to do. Secondly, you see so much of your deck while playing games. Between the scry lands, Dissolve, Dig Through Time, and Jace’s Ingenuity, it’s been common to get to a card that I put on the bottom with an early temple without a shuffle effect. It’s ridiculous.

Pearl Lake Ancient is undoubtedly the breakout star of this deck, considering it was a near-bulk mythic and now sits somewhere near a ten-spot. Once you touch this guy in constructed, it’s easy to understand why he’s such a house. Primarily, control decks want a win-con that is difficult for your opponent to answer so that you can run less copies to make room for your answers. This guy fits the bill better than most cards and has some additional tricks that I’ll get to in a bit.

He’s got a huge body, sitting at 6/7 without any prowess pumps, and he has flash. Add to that a line of text that blanks your opponent’s counterspells. While I love Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, hoping to win with a card that eats Negate after Stubborn Denial after Disdainful Stroke in a deck with no other cards to bait them out seems very fragile. In testing with Prognostic Sphinx, he falls short in a few ways. While he has protection, discarding cards is never what I want to do with this deck, sorcery speed spells are a weakness that this deck cannot afford, and he loses to Crackling Doom if you don’t have the Dissolve.

The final ability on Pearl Lake Ancient is the fun one, though. Bouncing lands is a big drawback—you lose three turns in the process, and often you’ll have to discard because this deck likes to keep its hand full. That being said, I’ve been able to fight through eight removal spells between wipes, Crackling Dooms, and single-target spells between the bounce ability and counterspells to win a game with this guy. The added value: when low on life against any deck that plays burn spells (Jeskai, Mardu midrange, etc.) the play of bouncing him after he attacks, playing a Radiant Fountain or a Dismal Backwater and passing, only to replay him on their turn fills a role that few decks have: the ability to stabilize while in burn range. It’s miniscule, I’ll admit, but, man, is it sweet when it happens.

The non-creature spells are mostly self-explanatory, which is why control decks rarely look exciting to people on paper. The cards that catch my eye are Aetherspouts, Jace’s Ingenuity, and Dig Through Time. Aetherspouts and Jace’s Ingenuity have had my attention since M15 dropped, and I’m more than excited to find a shell that holds them well. Dig Through Time has risen in popularity faster than anyone expected, and I can see why. This deck quickly fills its graveyard between playing six fetches (why the Bloodstained Mire was included, no doubt) and tons of cheap one-for-one spells. Unlike the Sultai Delve decks, though, often you’ll only need to delve two or three cards for a Dig, sometimes none at all for Murderous Cut. It’s just a fuzzy feeling when you dig into a Murderous Cut and a Dissolve and proceed to cast them both.

Game Day is this weekend, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself piloting this masterpiece through my local game store. The more I look at the format, though, the more I realize that my expectations haven’t really changed since the Pro Tour. I want to be ready for Siege Rhino and Jeskai Charm decks, which was pretty much what the format looked like a week ago. That being said, it’s nice to have polished lists and a pool of sweet rogue decks to fall back on.

As for this one, I recommend some heavy testing. While it has the ability to crush some games by itself, it’ll require an understanding of what cards in the major decks are truly important, as the answers can run dry if your draws aren’t golden.

Almost more importantly, I’d recommend practicing saying, “Land, go.” It’ll happen quite often.

Duncan Martin is an artist/musician/writer/whatever from Jeffersonville, Indiana, who spends his days sorting cards, helping people brew decks, and petitioning to have Second Sunrise unbanned in Modern. He likes to draw cards, dredge cards, scry cards, and talk about old formats, Pro Tours, and awesome decks that have long since passed.

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