As I posted a few days ago, the list I’ve been running lately is a UR control deck, which I adopted after reading an article by Kyle Sanchez. Previously I’d been running a URW control deck that was very similar but for the inclusion of white for cards such as Path to Exile and Ajani Vengeant. This particular list—based on Richard Feldman’s “Rembrandt”—required seven fetchlands (a dubious undertaking in such an aggressive metagame), and obviously the three-color manabase was not as consistent as a two-color would be. It’s this idea that brings me to today’s topic: Power vs Consistency. (Seasoned players will have to excuse me for a paragraph or two while I elaborate; scroll down a bit if you want to skip this part.)
As a general rule, cards with multiple colors in their mana costs tend to be more powerful than mono-colored cards with the same converted mana cost. See Thought Hemorrhage vs Cranial Extraction, or Lightning Helix vs Incinerate.
The manabase for a mono-colored deck is likely to be much more consistent than that of a two- or three-colored deck. How many times have you been playing a game where you drew plenty of lands, but not enough of the right color? It’s this trade-off that designers at Wizards have in mind when designing multicolor cards. They are willing to give you more “bang for your buck” if you are willing to take the risks implied with building a multicolored deck. This is also one of the reasons that players tend to like sets with a lot of multicolored cards: the cards are just more powerful.
Probably the main reason for the dominance of Five-Color Control decks over the Spring and Summer was the fact that—due to lands such as Reflecting Pool, Exotic Orchard, and the Vivid cycle—players were able to easily produce mana of any color they needed (prompting the use of cards like Cloudthresher, Cryptic Command, and Cruel Ultimatum together in the same deck). There was almost no trade-off, as manabases were so consistent that the usual drawback of a multicolor spell was simply nullified. (In fact, Wizards later stated that they’d made a mistake by printing these lands to be Standard-legal at the same time.)
For better or worse, the current Standard environment does not allow for such ridiculous manabases. Don’t get me wrong, there are some four- and five-color decks out there (see Mike Flores’ Black Baneslayer—which recently saw two berths in the top 8 of the StarCityGames Nashville $5K—and Yo! MTG Taps!’s own bigheadjoe has been having success with All-In Sphinx, a four-color control deck). It’s just that now, the trade-off is a bit more apparent. Often these types of decks can’t even play a spell before turn three or four, due to so many lands that enter the battlefield tapped. This gives the more aggressive strategies (such as Boros Bushwhacker) a chance to gain the upper hand before their opponent’s deck is even online.
Traditionally, I have been the type of player to choose consistency over power. Nothing bothers me more than the inability to cast my spells. This is pretty indicative of my general personality, as I’m not much of a risk-taker in my everyday life either. I’m a “slow-and-steady-wins-the-race” kinda guy, which is partly why I enjoy control decks: they slow the game down enough to where I am able to have the answers I need in order to win the game.
On Friday morning (when we were supposed to be podcasting), bigheadjoe and I played a handful of games. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a run of inconsistency in my life. One way or another, I drew terrible hands in every game. Even when faced with threats for which answers were included in my deck, I never had that answer at the right time.
Just some of the carnage:
• An opener with 3x Double Negative and 1 land – a Terramorphic Expanse; a mulligan to six gave me 5 lands and a Chandra Nalaar.
• Being stuck on 5 lands with 3x Burst Lightning in my hand facing down a Baneslayer Angel. Only two of my lands were mountains.
• Two consecutive games with Junk Mana Ramp wherein I drew only Swamps, Plains, and Marsh Flats.
As you can imagine, it was extremely frustrating, especially after having promised myself that I wouldn’t scoop and would instead try to fight through any dire circumstances in which I found myself. Especially when playing the UR list, which was built with the intention of being a consistent deck.
So why, after all this inconsistency, am I actually considering a switch back to the URW version of the deck? Well, because of this:
WHAT A BEATING!!! I already can’t counter the damn thing, OR block it with a Sphinx, but with Oran-Rief, nothing short of a kicked Burst Lightning can even burn it away! (Even worse, the time I did manage to have a Burst Lightning for the 4/4 Stag, Joe had a Harm’s Way to prevent 2 of the damage and kill my Jace. Bad beats today, I’m tellin’ you!) [NOTE: I’ve since been informed that since I am the original source of the damage, it cannot be redirected to my Jace. See comments for more info.]
As you might realize, the newly popular Eldrazi Green deck runs this combo in multiples. Considering that two copies of Oran-Rief in play means that I can’t even clear the Stag with a Burst Lightning, and I’m in the unpleasant position of having no answer in my entire list, save Chandra Nalaar or a preemptive Goblin Ruinblaster for Oran-Rief. (And just to clarify, Joe wasn’t even running the Eldrazi Green list; his was just a GW beats deck he’d brewed up the other day, whose sole inclusion from Zendikar was Oran-Rief, the Vastwood.)
Path to Exile is the first answer that comes to mind for this, along with Ajani Vengeant to either keep the thing tapped or help kill it (or, of course, kill it outright if it wasn’t pumped with Oran-Rief). Then again, Harm’s Way can be a huge problem when relying on burn as your primary means of removal. Day of Judgment works too, of course, but I’m not sure it’s the correct answer for the rest of the format (it’s a bit slow, does little when facing a Sprouting Thrinax or Bloodghast, and on top of that it kills my Sphinxes).
This is an especially trying time for a control player. We’re getting hit from all sides, with cards like Blightning to destroy our hands, Bloodbraid Elf to exhaust our counters and removal, and Luminarch Ascension to exploit our long-game plans. It feels like there’s a control deck out there somewhere, it’s just a matter of finding it…