By Anthony Rofino

Hi all! My name is Anthony Rofino. You probably don’t know me, so let me tell you a bit about myself before I begin. I am a grinder from Massachusetts. You may have seen me at various PPTQs, GPs, or Star City events if you are from the area. I am known for playing almost exclusively control decks (after all, I have an Azorious symbol tattooed on the back of my neck). My format of choice is Modern, but I love slinging some spells in Legacy (R.I.P. Top) and (begrudgingly) Standard.

Recently, I traveled with friends to the SCG Invitational/Open in Roanoke to compete for my dream of being turned into a bear token. While the invitational did not go well for me (lost my win-and-in to day two), I put up a good showing in the Open the next day. After going 6-3 on day one of the tournament, I proceeded to go 5-0 the next day, with an ID in the last round due to terrible breakers to take 11th place. During my drive home, I received a message from my lovely friend (and amazing writer for this website) Kate Gazzaniga, asking if I wanted to write an article for Hipsters about my tournament experience. So here I am, writing to all of you to tell you why you should be playing UW in the current modern metagame.

The List and why to play it.

UW is very well positioned in the current modern metagame. It has a very good [casthaven]Death’s Shadow[/casthaven] matchup due to the strength of [casthaven]Supreme Verdict[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Path to Exile[/casthaven]. It also has game against Eldrazi Tron due to the mana denial package provided by the lands and [casthaven]Spreading Seas[/casthaven]. Azorius control also has positive matchups against most aggressive decks/creature decks, such as Burn, Affinity, and the newly popular Death and Taxes.

Where UW struggles is against various Counters Company decks. The strength of powerful creatures plus instant speed threats of [casthaven]Collected Company[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Chord of Calling[/casthaven] to combo off is very hard to deal with. It also struggles in matchups such as UR storm or Taking Turns, as they can quickly sculpt a hand that crushes your deck. Lantern Control is also mostly unwinnable.

As for my list, here is the 75 I played:

Azorius Control

Creatures (4)
Snapcaster Mage
Wall of Omens

Spells (31)
Jace, Architect of Thought
Gideon of the Trials
Gideon Jura
Spreading Seas
Path to Exile
Serum Visions
Mana Leak
Cryptic Command
Supreme Verdict
Detention Sphere
Sphinx’s Revelation
Think Twice
Negate
Lands (25)
Island
Plains
Flooded Strand
Celestial Colonnade
Hallowed Fountain
Mystic Gate
Temple of Enlightenment
Glacial Fortress
Ghost Quarter
Tectonic Edge

Sideboard (15)
Stony Silence
Rest in Peace
Dispel
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Rule of Law
Condemn
Grafdigger’s Cage
Geist of Saint Traft
Negate
Supreme Verdict
Vendilion Clique
Timely Reinforcements

Many of you may be familiar with a similar list popularized by bennyhillz from MTGO. While I like a lot of what he was doing with his list, there were a few issues I felt needed to be addressed. The biggest issue was only playing two [casthaven]Cryptic Command[/casthaven]s. I have been playing UW Control for many years and, through all variations, I have played either three to four Cryptics. Two felt like a glaring mistake to me.

To fit the third Cryptic, I debated between cutting a land or a [casthaven]Mana Leak[/casthaven]. I typically run between 24-26 lands in UW control over the years. I also am not a huge fan of [casthaven]Mana Leak[/casthaven], as it becomes dead weight quickly and plays negatively with [casthaven]Path to Exile[/casthaven]. However, the card is very good against [casthaven]Death’s Shadow[/casthaven], and one must respect the Boogeyman. I opted to cut the land.

In retrospect, I would cut the Leak, as I did lose enough games or had to mulligan hands due to lack of lands. I would, however, continue to play three Cryptics, as it was one of the best cards all weekend. In the sideboard, the only change I made was to cut a [casthaven]Negate[/casthaven] for [casthaven]Rule of Law[/casthaven]. This is a pet sideboard card to me and gives you free wins against combo decks such as [casthaven]Ad Nauseam[/casthaven], Storm, and [casthaven]Living End[/casthaven] (a deck growing in popularity).

The Elephant in the Room: What’s up with Gideon of the Trials?

This is the card most people question and I’m here to tell you that this card is insane in Modern. While many think this card is a dud due to its lack of performance in Standard, it is an absolute all-star in Modern. Against decks like [casthaven]Death’s Shadow[/casthaven] and Eldrazi Tron, it forces them to overcommit into Verdict, as you can lock down single threats. He also presents a sizable threat for a win condition. Finally, his emblem provides surprising utility. Against [casthaven]Ad Nauseam[/casthaven], it is very hard for them to beat the emblem. Also, combined, with his big brother, [casthaven]Gideon Jura[/casthaven], if you can emblem and then play Jura, it is very hard for decks like Burn to win. (I in fact won my one match against Burn in the Open doing exactly this).

Tips for Playing

  • Don’t be afraid of lower-land count hands if you have one or two [casthaven]Serum Visions[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Spreading Seas[/casthaven]. While the deck is mana-hungry, it draws a lot of cards and also plays a lot of lands, so you can be a bit greedy.
  • With [casthaven]Gideon of the Trials[/casthaven], do not emblem immediately against decks with red unless you plan to play another one or [casthaven]Gideon Jura[/casthaven] the next turn. Add a loyalty first even with no targets to better protect Gideon. Of course, if it’s emblem or die, you may certainly emblem first, but don’t let Gideon die to silly mistakes.
  • I typically do a clean swap of Snapcaster for [casthaven]Rest in Peace[/casthaven] when sideboarding R.I.P in. While some would argue against this, I feel losing two Snapcaster is small game. Also, many opponents will incorrectly side in graveyard hate against you to neuter Snapcaster. Nothing feels better than the “Gotcha” moment when your opponent plays Relic or Cage against you, and you laugh internally knowing it’s a mostly dead card.
  • Vendilion Clique comes in against most decks in Modern outside of Zoo and Burn decks. Most decks side out their removal, and Clique presents a sizable threat, while also disrupting their game plan.
  • Playing [casthaven]Condemn[/casthaven] when your opponent has two [casthaven]Death’s Shadow[/casthaven]s on board is the greatest feeling in the world. I’ve never done heavy drugs, but I imagine the high is similar.

Well, enough of my rambling. I hope this article helped you to realize the glory of UW. I want to thank Hipsters of the Coast for giving me the opportunity to write this article. If anyone has any questions for me, wants to talk control decks for any format, or more advice on playing U/W, I can be reached by email at [email protected]. Thanks for reading, and remember, being a control freak is a good thing.

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