Highlander Archetypes part 2, Control/Blue Moon with Marko Vahter.

New week, new interview. That’s what we want eh? Last time we checked out Midrange and Delved into 4C Blood. This time we are going to the wonders of Blue, and learn how to Control the flow of the game.

Marko was super kind to share his current list, and like previously I asked him his thoughts about his deck. So what are we waiting for, let’s go!

What is Control?

Control can mean few different types of deck. On a general note, Control decks aim to..erhm Control the game, trade resources, stop the opponent from doing relevant things and make it into the late-game where they have the upper hand with powerful late-game spells and card advantage.

Control decks are very defensive, and thus they don’t win early, like Combo or Aggro for example. You need time to get enough mana, and deal with your opponents threats first. That is the tricky part, surviving until you are at that point which you start to take over the game. So if possible, kill them before they establish superior state, since Controls late-game is just so powerful, you don’t want to fight at that angle if possible.

Almost always Control means it’s Blue based deck since Blue offers card-draw and counterspells, both which are important for Control. And basically always you do have some combination of other colors, to gain answers for different situations. For example White offers Sweepers like Supreme Verdict, and Black gives you good spot removal such as Fatal Push or Doom Blade.  But this is not always the case, and I want to go over the other options too.

Land Destruction Control (Ponza)

This deck tries to Control your opponent by destroying their mana, thus they can’t cast meaningful spells in time. So cards like Stone Rain, Blood Moon and Molten Rain are the usual suspects. These types of decks are usually Green based, Mono Green and R/G are the most common builds I would say.

Discard Control (8Rack)

Black offers tons of discard, Duress, Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Hymn to Tourach, Wrench Mind and Liliana of the Veil. This is their game-plan. Attack your hand until there is nothing left, then win..with something really. Depending on the format this can be Mutavault beatdown or Cursed Scroll just slowly killing you.

Prison/Staxx Control

Prison is a Control variant, but instead of saying “NO” to your opponents spells with countermagic, they try to prevent you from ever casting spells in the first place. So, much like Ponza strategies, they attack at your mana and using lock artifacts like Sphere of Resistance, Chalice of the VoidLodestone Golem, Tangle Wire and Smokestack to restrict your resources while slowly widdling you down to death. The combination of Wasteland effects+making your spells cost more is a frustrating Combo for sure.

Highlander Blue Moon

Now then, the real meat of the matter that we will focus on, is Blue Moon. I first saw this archetype in Modern during Pro Tour Born of the Gods where team MTG MintCard piloted the deck and put Lee Shi Tian into the top8.

The deck is what you would expect from a normal Control deck, but you have access to Red mana, this offers cheap removal for smaller creatures. But the real devastation comes with Blood Moon and Back to Basics. That’s what makes this deck such a fearsome foe. If you resolve one of those cards, it’s very easily game over for your opponent due to many people running very greedy manabases. Other than that, the deck uses card-advantage and different counterspells to deal with what opponent is trying to do.

Here is the current list from Marko:

As I’m no Control player really, I will let Marko do the talking about this deck. Marko is well known in our community from his love of U/R based tempo decks, whenever you sit across from him you can expect Blood Moons and awesome tempo games from him. Not only that, he is one of the funniest and kindest opponents out there, something we all can improve at. So let’s hear his thoughts!

When and why did you pickup U/R Control in Highlander?

I think it was 2013 when I started play U/R Control. That time in Kouvola we had a very big and awesome group of Ger Highlander players. Back then I was playing RUG Tempo/Control and my friend Henkka Nuuttila was playing a Burn deck, I lost to Blood Moon and Price of Progress too many times so I cut the Green and decided to play those cards myself!

To what kind of player would you recommend U/R Control?

Hmm probably that kind of player who likes to challenge him or herself in different game situations (deck isn’t the easiest one to pilot). There are matchups where you really have to think how you survive and how to play your cards.

Describe U/R Control, what deck is it, and what strategy does it deploy?

It is a control deck that wants to play like a normal Control deck, but U/R Control has a Burn plan as well. U/R Control tries to keep the board nice and clean, countering and killing annoying threats and that way trying to eventually take over the game.

Tell us the strengths of U/R Control, where does it shine? How about where it struggles?

U/R Control has land hate cards like Blood Moon and Back to Basics which punish multicolored decks. Counterspells and Burn cards to slowdown Aggro and Midrange decks. U/R Control Struggles against big Creatures and overall Planeswalkers are problematic too.  And if their main color is Green, it means that they have manadorks and generally Greens Creatures are bigger than Lightning Bolt, so killing them will be tricky. Also Green decks tend to run bit more basic lands to go around Blood Moon and Back to Basics. Grindy Midrange decks can keep up with U/R Control so they have the ability to outgrind you, but it’s not hopeless by any means.

What decks are good matchups for U/R Control?

In my opinion slow multicolor decks, UW Control and Combo decks. UR has good threats, land hate and counterspells for those matchups.

How about bad matchups?

There are many 50/50 matchups but two color Ramp Decks feels pretty bad, they make so much mana fast and their Creatures are so big that UR Control struggles to kill those with Burn spells. Also Mono Blue/UW Aggro and mono Black feels bad.

Can you tell any specific cards you don’t want to face from your opponent?

There are so many, can’t say any specific ones. Token engines such as Bitterblossom and big Creatures like Garnage Tyrant.

Name your favorite card from your deck?

I like all cards that say ”Draw cards”! Favorite cards are usually Brainstorm, Snapcaster Mage and Jace, the Mind Sculptor but for long time my favorite card in U/R Control has been Gush! Its so good and now they printed Mystic Sanctuary, I love that ”combo”!

Any last advice for someone who wants to play U/R Control?

Deck is ”cheap”, fun to play and during the game the deck can stretch into multiple angles of attack and having options is just amazing. Also the deck can be tuned a lot for certain metagames, so there is plenty of room for discovery and experimentation!

Closing thoughts

Thanks to Marko for taking his time to do this. Hopefully this has provided the bases for not only Blue Control, but the other variants of Control too! As for next week, we turn aggressive with Aggro! There is plenty of awesome stuff to come out so don’t go anywhere, we’ll be back!

Enjoy the games, and Control the flow of the game!

– Juuso


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