This week’s brew has been a challenging one for a while now. I designed it as a pure control deck focused on card advantage through planeswalkers. It has a lot of removal and discard as many black based control decks do, and for this reason it has the ability to compete in any metagame. We have a lot of very strong Modern staples such as Liliana of the Veil, Abrupt Decay, Disfigure, Inquisition of Kozilek, Tasigur, the Golden Fang etc.

Naturally some of my card selections are not the fastest in speed when we are looking at decks like Infect, URx Twin and Burn. When paired against decks that can kill turns three through five, we need to make sure we are timing our spells correctly and using our mana efficiently. Our discard can help us decide when we play our spells and what we use them to do. Let’s proceed to the deck list and discuss our card choices from there.

B/G Superfriends

Lands (25)
Golgari Rot Farm
Overgrown Tomb
Treetop Village
Twilight Mire
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Verdant Catacombs

Creatures (2)
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Spells (33)
Abrupt Decay
Black Sun’s Zenith
Drown in Sorrow
Garruk Wildspeaker
Garruk, Apex Predator
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Inquisition of Kozilek
Liliana of the Veil
Maelstrom Pulse
Night of Souls’ Betrayal
Nissa, Worldwaker
Phyrexian Arena
Vraska the Unseen
Sideboard (15)
Black Sun’s Zenith
Cranial Extraction
Golgari Charm
Leyline of Sanctity
Night of Souls’ Betrayal
Thrun, the Last Troll

The Mana Base

I know we usually save this part for last, but this mana base is special. We have nine basics to ensure that Blood Moon won’t beat us. Golgari Rot Farm helps us ramp mana with Garruk Wildspeaker‘s +1 ability—more on that later though. Treetop Village is one of our win conditions—it hangs around after a board wipe, the trample is a bonus if our opponent is running token creators, and we just need to push damage through. Twilight Mire, Overgrown Tomb, and Verdant Catacombs are all there to help fix our mana into the double Green and double Black that we have in many of our cards.


In the main deck we simply have Tasigur, the Golden Fang. He can represent a fast clock, potentially drop for one black mana, and returns removal spells and planeswalkers from our graveyard to our hand, which has proven relevant. There is the miser’s Thrun, the Last Troll in the board for Blue-based control decks or even other control decks that are packed with removal. I went creature light so that we are heavy on disruption to control the progress of a game.


The deck is packed with removal and discard in order to control the pace of the game and keep our opponent from winning while we gain value from our planeswalkers. Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize help to provide disruption and provide information about what we are playing against and where to use our removal. Naturally, discard is extremely necessary in order to disrupt combo decks before they can kill us, while allowing us to know what we can and cannot interact with based on the contents of our hand.


Here we have a few sweepers and some of the best spot removal in the format. For spot removal we have Abrupt Decay, Disfigure, Putrefy, and Maelstrom Pulse (which can also be a sweeper). These are likely the most efficient and versatile options in Modern.

Decay can hit most anything that we need to kill but does have the restriction of converted mana three or less. Disfigure is a great first turn option to answer any of the creatures out of Infect, Dark Confidant, Snapcaster Mage, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Scavenging Ooze, Vault Skirge and the like. Putrefy is nice because it can hit either Creatures or Artifacts allowing us a bit a flexibility based on the match up and what we need to destroy. Maelstrom Pulse can be our catch all answer to any opposing planeswalkers, Leylines, etc. The nice part about Pulse is that it can take out multiple copies of a card giving us a pseudo sweeper effect against decks like Merfolk, Tokens and Esper Mentor.

Then we come to our sweeper spells in Black Sun’s Zenith, Drown in Sorrow, and Maelstrom Pulse. Black Sun’s Zenith is an easy way to take care of small hordes of creatures, plus the fact that it shuffles back into our library, it will always remain an out that you could top deck after the fact. Drown in Sorrow can hit many creatures in the format currently. Paired with Night of Souls’ Betrayal, it can take out anything with three toughness which can be relevant when grinding out games against a Wurmcoil Engine, Blade Splicer, or just having a match up with any form of weenie or tribal strategy. The scry from Drown in Sorrow has also been delightful, giving us additional information of our top deck as well as a chance to clear away any garbage that we may not need in the coming turns.

Other Spells—Planeswalkers

Here we have a few very odd choices, and a couple pretty normal choices. I will start with the more obvious choice: four Liliana of the Veil. She is nearly as powerful as Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which is banned in Modern. That speaks to her ability to control and take over a game, especially given numerous support cards in the deck. She has the ability to protect herself and she can also keep our opponent off of holding cards in hand which helps when playing against combo.

The next Planeswalker we will discuss is Garruk. I am sure anyone with a decent knowledge pool of Modern can tell you that Garruk Wildspeaker sees some random play. In the green devotion deck he is a strict four-of because of his ability to ramp that deck, and in Death Cloud he is there for ramp as well as the ability to make 3/3 beast tokens to close out a game. In our deck he provides us with not only a win condition, but the turn we play him we can untap two lands to keep up removal and discard if we choose. He also gives us the ability to ramp the turn after he comes out. This can help us cast a large Black Sun’s Zenith, Nissa, Worldwaker, Vraska the Unseen, or Garruk, Apex Predator. The situation all depends on what we need from him.

We also have Garruk, Primal Hunter. He makes beasts to provide us with a win condition, plus he draws cards so that we can continue to control our opponent and find additional win conditions.

Lastly we have Garruk, Apex Predator. For control match ups, creature based match ups, and just because I have wanted to play him ever since he was spoiled. Here we actually have the reason this deck came into being. I wanted to build a deck that could actually take advantage of him and get value by casting this incredible threat. At seven mana he takes a while to cast, so we need a control shell to support him. Overall he has been easy to cast because of our removal.

There are a few awkward situations with Garruk since I have four in total and on occasion it is unclear which one should be kept on the battlefield when I have the option to cast a follow up Garruk to the Wildspeaker. Garruk, Primal Hunter and Garruk, Apex Predator could very easily be more removal, discard, card draw or creatures to add to the list. We could even likely change all four Garruk in the list to be Tarmogoyf. As stated earlier though, I wanted a deck that was pure control and the build as is gives me that.

Our next planewalker is Nissa, Worldwaker. She is great for the mana ramp piece much like Garruk, Wildspeaker—she creates threats that require an answer and her ultimate threatens to end the game on the spot. All these factors make her a great planeswalker for our ultimate goal of controlling a game until we are ready to end it.

The last planeswalker is Vraska the Unseen. Personally I think she is one of the most underestimated and undervalued planeswalkers printed (including Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded). Her +1 ability protects herself, her -3 ability can answer creatures and other nonland permanents, and her ultimate can end the game in short order.

Other Spells—Enchantments

To pull everything together, we have a few interesting enchantments: two Phyrexian Arena and one Night of Souls’ Betrayal. Betrayal crushed decks like Infect and Tokens while helping against  Merfolk, Goblins and Hatebears. It makes a great hate card against Splinter Twin because Deceiver Exarch tokens has zero power and Pestermite dies. Phyrexian Arena is an old favorite of mine. From my old Mono Black Control deck back when, it was always my go-to source of “suicide” card advantage. The extra card every turn, even at a loss of a life, is definitely worth it. Given the nature of our deck essentially casting a “spell” every turn when activating abilities of our planeswalkers, drawing actual extra cards makes it even harder for our opponent to break free from our control.

The Sideboard

The sideboard has been tuned for basically any metagame. Choke is great versus any kind of control or combo deck that plays islands. Leyline of Sanctity requires us to have it in opening hand, but it almost makes it impossible for Burn to beat us. Did I mention the fact that is means only creatures (which we’re great at killing) can deal damage to our planeswalkers when we have this in play? I suppose cards like Atarka’s Command and Skullcrack can still hit us, and there are a few cards that target planeswalkers directly, but those are not what we fear. Thrun is an additional hedge versus decks that are high in creature removal or counter magic. Cranial Extraction helps the combo match up. The additional sweepers are for weenie strategies where spot removal is weaker. Naturally as sideboards go, it all depends on your local metagame.

Match Ups

At the moment I have no hesitation to bring this deck into any LGS as I know that with tight play we can compete with any other deck in the format. One possible tough match up would likely be Hatebears on a very solid draw if we are drawing light on lands. I tested versus the hatebears deck featured in a previous article and it was tough on both sides. The game where this deck was land-light did not go well, and the games where I saw a few pieces of removal, plenty of land and Night of Souls’ Betrayal went very well. I have had favorable testing versus Burn, UR Storm, Twin, and BW Tokens. The control match is very good since we have so many cards that need an answer and vs blue based control strategies, Liliana of the Veil and Abrupt Decay make it difficult for them to hold counter magic. Even if they do, Decay hits most of the threats they run.

At the moment if I felt like I needed to make a change for a high stakes tournament then I would likely drop Garruk, Apex Predator and two Nissa, Worldwaker for a fourth Abrupt Decay and two Duress or even two Ob Nixilis Reignited. Having the extra instant speed answers to non creature/non land permanents can be very handy when piloting this deck, and if we went the Ob Nixilis route we would have even more access to card draw. It is not that I believe Garruk and Nissa can’t be in here—I mainly keep them for my own personal preference as opposed to what might be “best” for the deck.

Happy Brewing to each and every one of you. If anyone has an idea for a brew that they would like to see, I will gladly take requests and challenges in the comments. 🙂


Aaron Gazzaniga manages a restaurant and in his off time has been an avid magic player/brewer since 2003. Having begun in Odyssey Standard Block and always favoring control and prison style decks, we come to this moment in time where Aaron finally gets to talk about and share his ideas.

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