Modern Deck Breakdown: Jeskai Control
Control is one of my personal favorite decks.
I really enjoy all the different decisions you get to make over the course of any given game.
Before I started to branch out and play many of the different decks that Modern has to offer, I was playing Jeskai Control (better known then as Red White Blue Control).
I think that pure control is one of the most fun and rewarding decks that you can play, and right now the metagame may be a little soft to control. So let’s take a look at the deck list and see how we can attack the metagame with it.
4 Snapcaster Mage
Noncreature Spells (30)
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Cryptic Command
3 Path to Exile
3 Spell Snare
2 Dig Through Time
2 Mana Leak
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Celestial Colonnade
2 Tectonic Edge
1 Sulfur Falls
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Flooded Strand
2 Arid Mesa
2 Hallowed Fountain
2 Steam Vents
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Baneslayer Angel
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Porphyry Nodes
2 Timely Reinforcements
2 Wear // Tear
2 Relic of Progenitus
This is almost card for card the same list a friend of mine was playing a week ago that completely outclassed my old control list.
It is no wonder since my list had such old tech in it that didn’t apply to the metagame today.
Looking at this list it is something of a masterpiece. There is plenty of early game disruption, just enough cantrips, and the overall feel of the deck is to survive till the late game, then completely take over.
Then on top of that there is a sideboard full of powerful cards that will help win against almost any deck.
Card by Card Breakdown
Cheap removal is the most important thing you can play in a control deck today, and these are the most powerful removal spells Modern has to offer in these colors.
Most creatures in Modern die to Lightning Bolt. That includes several creatures in Birthing Pod, all but a hand full in Affinity, and all of the Delver deck.
As long as the creature has three or less toughness and doesn’t have any special tricks when it dies, Lightning Bolt is your spell.
Just like it’s ancestor, Lightning Helix, or “Pink Bolt” as it was called in development, will do a great job of killing creatures.
But this one has the added benefit of gaining three life. Life gain on it’s own is not particularly powerful, but imagine a possible scenario against Burn.
On their end step you tap out for Lightning Helix on the Vexing Devil.
When that resolves, the Devil will be put into the graveyard and you will gain three life putting you back to 20 life, effectively giving you a two for one against them!
It may be obvious the application here since Burn relies on three damage spells, but it is not hard to think about the applications elsewhere too.
Remember there are creatures such as Tarmogoyf and Kitchen Finks that demand an answer, and do not die to Bolt. Instead of accepting a two for one, Path to Exile will remove the problem at the low price of giving them a basic land. It is not good to try to answer an early game creature this way, but mid to late game the extra land seldom maters.
4 Cryptic Command, 3 Spell Snare, 2 Mana Leak, 1 Negate
Hard counter spells are also very important to this deck.
Cryptic Command is obviously the most powerful counter this deck can run.
Often times you will resolve it with the modes counter and draw, but it’s versatility goes much further than that!
Bouncing a problem permanent or holding off an army of attackers are very powerful effects, but this spell’s downfall is it’s high mana cost. If you are not careful then you may get trapped into paying all this mana for a huge effect, just to get blown out by a Spell Pierce or the like.
Cheap counters are a must, that’s where the rest of these come in
Spell Snare is very good, and right now it may be the most powerful one CMC spell you can play. It counters several high power cards that see a lot of play, like Young Pyromancer, Voice of Resurgence, Remand, and many, many more.
Mana Leak and Negate both kind of play the same role but in slightly different ways. Mana Leak is a counter designed to be a catch all to supplement your removal spells and stop anything else they may be looking to do for the early to mid game.
After that, Negate does an amazing job of shutting down combo and anything that is not a creature. It does a good job being the situationally more powerful third Mana Leak, and that is a good place to be.
After shoring up the early game with removal, and powering through the mid game with counters, you will need a way to start pulling ahead.
Snapcaster Mage has been a staple of control since it was printed.
Even with Dig Through Time competing with it, Snapcaster into Lightning Bolt is still one of the most powerful things you can do in Modern. Beyond that, Snapcaster acts as a powerful card selection tool to let you recast anything you have in the yard again, and when you have all the answers in your deck, you will eventually have some answers in the graveyard.
Dig Through Time does have the potential to make Snapcaster worse, but if you do it right, then you won’t have a problem with the two.
Always remember to leave as many of the best cards for the matchup in the yard as you can.
Paying more than two mana for Dig is acceptable, and always cast it on their end step except in the most extreme situations.
Looking at the top seven cards of your library and choosing two is very powerful, especially since those will be the two cards you need the most.
I haven’t talked much about this card in my articles yet, mostly because Treasure Cruise has overshadowed it. But let me compare Dig to another high profile card.
Fact or Fiction is similar in function to Dig Through Time, but I would argue that even if Fact or Fiction showed the top seven, Dig would still be superior!
The reason is your opponent would likely separate the piles into one pile of three, and another of four. The two cards you want the most are probably in different piles, and that will bring the card quality down, even though the relative card advantage is going up.
Then for raw card advantage in the late game, Sphinx’s Revelation will pull you so far ahead in cards and life points that it is ridiculous. There was a reason this card was so dominating in standard, and it is for the same reason it is so good in this deck.
There is only one copy because Dig is better than this card in all parts of the game except the very late game.
3 Electrolyze, 2 Remand
Cantrips have been an important part of control for a long time. Think Twice used to be the card draw spell of choice, but in this metagame you cannot devote a card, much less an entire turn in the early game to cast a card that only draws a card.
Electrolyze is very good at pulling you ahead. Killing a creature and drawing a card for only three mana is nothing to sneeze at.
It’s true power shows through when you are able to kill two creatures at once! That is not a hard proposition when you are dealing with several one toughness creatures in the most aggressive decks.
Remand, on the other hand, has many interesting applications.
In most decks it is purely a tempo spell, but being a control deck that is not much interest to us. A correctly timed Remand can act like a Time Walk. Or it can save a spell of yours from another counterspell like a Cryptic Command?
Keeping card advantage is important, so if you can fizzle their spell while keeping yours and drawing a card, then you are doing it right.
An important aside, Remand will strait up counter any spell that has been flashed back like Lingering Souls or off of a Snapcaster Mage. That’s because the rules on flashback exile it after Remand resolves.
Having a one of wrath that cannot be countered will come in handy quite often. In the current meta I believe that this is the wrath you will want in the main board.
It is uncounterable for when you are backed against a wall and need to resolve it through a Remand or other counter magic, and it will destroy everything, not just what has three or less toughness like Anger of the Gods.
It will show up when you need it, and when you don’t often times it just won’t show.
The lands are precisely chosen for this deck to have the mana you need when you need it. The fetch lands provide the simplest way to fix by just getting the dual or basic you happen to need at that moment.
Then, the ratios of colors in the lands will provide the best possible regular draw that you can put in here. It can even have some colorless land disruption in the form of two Tectonic Edge.
Celestial Colonnade is one of the best win conditions for this deck in a game that most of your burn is going toward removing creatures.
The issue with this as the win con is that if you tap your mana too low then some decks, the Delver deck particularly, can overload your counter magic and removal to land a particularly game breaking card. So only use this land when you are absolutely sure you will be winning with it.
2 Baneslayer Angel: This card comes in against mostly the Delver decks and other control decks. If they are planning on playing a long game, you want this creature. The meta is soft to this angel right now because people are having trouble dealing with big creatures. That may change soon now that Pod as started playing Siege Rhino, but for now it is true.
2 Anger of the Gods: I will bring this in against any aggressive deck and Pod. Exiling creatures has never been more relevant than now with delve cards being a big deal.
2 Porphyry Nodes: Like Wrath of God, Nodes are particularly good against decks that will want to beat you fast with lots of big creatures like Zoo, with Thrun, the Last Troll like Pod, and with Etched Champion like most versions of Affinity. It can be brought in elsewhere, but these match ups are where the card shines the brightest.
2 Timely Reinforcements: Any deck that wants to beat you in a fast tempo game, this will absolutely be crucial against. When both modes are active (as they often will be) it is like a three or four for one, and that is just crazy! It put’s them two Lightning Bolts behind, and gives you enough chump blockers to stand up to almost anything they can throw at you.
2 Wear // Tear: The matches where this is useful is somewhat obvious. Affinity is the first deck that pops into my mind as they will often have an enchantment in the form of Blood Moon and any problem artifact. I will usually bring one in against Pod as well. Just whenever you have an issue with these types of permanents, bring these in.
2 Relic of Progenitus: Control is where this can be the most potent as a side board card. I will bring it in against all the Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time decks, even Delver. The reason is, if you can stop them from casting a Cruise without paying full mana for it, then you will have not only stopped them from drawing those potentially important three cards, but you will have stuck one card in their hand! Just remember to try not to cut off your own delve cards and Snapcaster Mage.
1 Spellskite: He is a catch all answer to whatever ales you. I will bring him in against most red decks that can close out a game quickly with a few burn spells chained together, and lots of combo decks. he is very good at what he does, so use him well!
1 Counterflux: For the games where you just need the power to say no and they can’t say anything one way about it. That includes Control, Scapeshift and a few others.
1 Dispel: This is very useful for those games where you plan on getting in some counter wars. I will bring it in against some builds of Delver, Control, Scapeshift, Burn, and any threatening blue deck.
The cost for this deck is about $950.
There is no easy way to bring the cost down, other than running bad fetch lands in place of the good ones, and the only real substitutions that can be made is to put four Polluted Deltas in place of Scalding Tarn, adding a Flooded Strand in place of an Arid Mesa, then cutting the last Mesa. That will save you about $200 at the price of not being able to fetch for the basic Mountain, and having slightly worse mana over all, but it is doable.
Everything else for the deck is really a must have, so expect to pay at least $750 for this list with the revisions, or the full $950 for the best mana.
How to Beat it
The best strategies to beat this deck are with powerful resilient threats, particularly ones that do not die to Lightning Bolt. Restoration Angel is a good creature that can throw off the entire control plan, especially when cast to save a creature that is about to eat a removal spell.
The Slippery Bogle deck has a good game one matchup against control because of how little removal is live against a few hexproof guys. Game two will depend on quite a few factors, but for the most part the match is even if not slightly in the Boggles favor from there on.
Scapeshift is a very potent control deck that goes over the top of this version of control. The matchup here is grossly in favor of Scapeshift because of how live all the cards are against control and how potent the win condition is. A similar thing can be said about Tron with it’s big mana spells and the feel of inevitability from it’s main win condition, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
Other than those strategies, a specific card that will likely give you the win is Thrun, the Last Troll.
It is so hard to deal with Thrun that you can cast it, then sit back and just attack with it until they either die, or deal with it. Then at that point they will be so far behind on cards that just playing a regular game from then on will likely give you the win.
Remember that the manner in which you play the game against a control player can give you the game.
Understanding when to pick a fight and when to just concede a battle before you exhaust your resources is vital to the resolution of the match.
The other night I was playing against a Delver deck that was being played by a man I respect. I was doing very well until he cast a Monastery Swiftspear.
After a short counter war it resolved, then we got into a battle over a removal spell that I lost. At that point in the game I was low enough on life that the creature killed me. So even if the match is bad, you can overcome just by playing your deck better then your opponent can play his deck. That is true of most decks in Modern.
Writing about one of my favorite decks in Modern was an absolute joy.
I hope you enjoyed it too! If you did then leaving a comment saying so or dropping me a line on social media or via email would be appreciated.
The Deep Analysis part of Mastering Modern is coming to a close. I could continue to break down several decks that could be considered tier 1 in any number of metagames, but I wanted to cover the big players that you are likely to see at any given Modern tournament.
So with that in mind next week will be the last full deck breakdown for a while.
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