've been doing a good deal of coverage for the StarCityGames.com Standard Open Series events. In doing so, I have had the opportunity to speak with a lot of players about their decks, their innovations, and their sideboard choices. Two cards seem to come up in conversation a lot more than one might expect: Mind Control and Volition Reins.
Mind Control is an excellent way to gain card advantage and put your opponent in a really rough spot. It occasionally makes an appearance in a rogue deck's sideboard as an answer to opponents who plan on riding a Titan to victory. Every time I get a chance to speak with one of these players I hear the same thing; "Mind Control wins me every game I cast it." Now that may be a stretch, but it's easy to see that Mind Control is a powerful spell in a format with tons of powerful six-drop creatures. You get a discounted Titan, and you deal with an opposing Titan, all with one card. Convinced? I am.
Volition Reins is similarly powerful. It does the same thing, but with more versatility. Stealing an opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Gideon Jura is probably going to break the back of whatever plan your opponent may have been engineering. Players have often cited this as the sideboard card they've gotten the most mileage out of.
I've always loved a Control Magic effect. Confiscate was a staple in every blue deck I made in junior high. I must have won twenty Friday Night Magic events with a deck that sported a full playset of Dream Leash and Annex.
I decided that I wanted to play a deck that played both Mind Control and Volition Reins in the main. Volition Reins seems especially strong in today's metagame. Every person I speak to has some excuse for it being in the sideboard:
"It's bad against red."
"It's terrible against red decks."
"I hate drawing it when playing against red."
After receiving one of these many responses, I usually ask when people have been siding it in.
"Against everything except red."
Now, it's true. Slow cards like this aren't a solid game plan against decks like Patrick Sullivan Red, Kuldotha Red, Black-Red Vampires, and Goblins. However, Volition Reins is the best budget option available for dealing with enemy planeswalkers. Cards like Vampire Hexmage may be decent, but your opponent already had an opportunity to use that planeswalker's ability, which probably netted a card. You end up down a card after all is said and done.
Mono-blue has a ton of budget options these days. Jace, the Mind Sculptor may be the most powerful card in the format, but that does not prevent us from building a powerful mono-blue deck that doesn't include him.
Consecrated Sphinx is a card that I've been very surprised by. What's most unexpected about this spell is how little play it has seen. It's like a Mulldrifter without evoke that costs one more mana and has a dragon-sized body. If your opponent can't find a removal spell immediately, then it gets completely out of hand and you can bury someone in card advantage.
Tumble Magnet has proven itself to be the best answer to an early Sword of Feast and Famine or Sword of Body and Mind. It's important to remember how valuable each charge counter is. For example, if my opponent was going to attack me with a 3-power creature and I was still at a reasonable life total, I would probably just let them attack. The charge counters on the Tumble Magnet should be saved for Titans or creatures that carry Swords. You can start using counters aggressively once your life total dwindles, but patience is a virtue, especially here.
Guard Gomazoa is an excellent answer to the format right now. Sword of Body and Mind is seeing less play these days. A lot of savy Caw-Blade players include two copies of Sword of Feast and Famine or a copy of Sylvok Lifestaff beside a singleton Sword of Feast and Famine. As a result, Guard Gomazoa has become a verifiable house in the format. Interestingly enough, most players haven't caught on to this piece of tech. It may not be the best card in Caw-Blade, where Sworded creatures will simply block other Sworded creatures, but I believe Guard Gomazoa is very powerful in decks that play blue and intend on going bigger than their opponents.
Everflowing Chalice and Sphere of the Suns seem like necessary evils in a deck that intends on playing so many six-drops. I'm also going to play a few Contagion Clasps as ways to deal with an early Lotus Cobra. The Clasps serve double duty here; they can charge up your Tumble Magnet and increase the potency of your Everflowing Chalices.
After tinkering with some numbers I arrived at the following list:
I know my deck has issues with red decks, so I'll include some Flashfreezes and a small Trinket Mage package to help alleviate those problems postboard.
Here's the sideboard I put together:
1 Trinket Mage
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Contagion Clasp
4 Spreading Seas
3 Stoic Rebuttal
I played a few matches with the deck to see if Volition Reins lived up to my hopes.
I lost the roll and kept Island, Tectonic Edge, Mystifying Maze, Preordain, Everflowing Chalice, Contagion Clasp, and Consecrated Sphinx. My opponent led with a fetch land into an Island and cast a Preordain. I drew another Island, cast Preordain, left a Tumble Magnet on the top of my library, drew it, and passed the turn. My opponent played another fetch land and cast a Lotus Cobra before passing back. I drew another Preordain, cast Contagion Clasp, and passed the turn. My opponent cast an Explore, played a fourth land, and passed the turn again. I went for a Preordain and my opponent let it resolve. I left a Mind Control on the top of my library, drew it, and cast Everflowing Chalice for one. My opponent Mana Leaked the Everflowing Chalice.
My opponent played a Halimar Depths, cast Garruk Wildspeaker, made a 3/3 Beast, and passed the turn. I drew an Island, played it, cast Everflowing Chalice for two, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked for 3, tapped five lands, used Garruk Wildspeaker to untap two lands, cast Inferno Titan to put me at 14, and passed the turn. I drew a Tumble Magnet, cast Mind Control on the Inferno Titan, cast Preordain, left another Mind Control on top, drew it, and passed the turn. My opponent tapped all five lands again, untapped two, and cast Avenger of Zendikar, then cast a Raging Ravine, pumped up all the Plant tokens, and passed the turn. I drew an Island, played it, cast Mind Control on the Avenger of Zendikar, and attacked with Inferno Titan, dealing all 3 damage to Garruk Wildspeaker, leaving him at 1 loyalty. (If I didn't shoot Garruk, my opponent could activate Raging Ravine and use Garruk's Overrun ability to kill me.) My opponent went to 12, and I cast my Tumble Magnet and passed the turn.
My opponent made a 3/3 with Garruk, cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, gave it -2 to bounce the Inferno Titan, and passed the turn. I drew a Tectonic Edge, played it, cast Volition Reins on Jace, and Tectonic Edged the Raging Ravine and the Halimar Depths, putting my opponent back on four lands. I used Jace to Brainstorm and found a pair of Tumble Magnets. My opponent cast a new Jace, and both died. I attacked with Avenger of Zendikar, putting my opponent to 7, then cast Consecrated Sphinx and passed the turn. My opponent drew, and I drew a Contagion Clasp and Guard Gomazoa. My opponent cast an Explore, and I drew another Tumble Magnet and an Island. On my turn, I drew Stoic Rebuttal, attacked with Consecrated Sphinx, put my opponent at 3, and passed the turn. My opponent drew for the turn, and I drew another Tectonic Edge and an Into the Roil. My opponent attempted to cast a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but I countered it, and that got the concession.
Sideboarding: -2 Into the Roil, -4 Guard Gomazoa, -1 Sphinx of Jwar Isle, -2 Tumble Magnet, +4 Flashfreeze, +1 Contagion Clasp, +1 Deprive, +3 Stoic Rebuttal
My opponent mulliganed, and I kept 3 Island, Tectonic Edge, Sphere of the Suns, Mind Control, and Contagion Clasp. My opponent led with a Raging Ravine. I drew a Consecrated Sphinx, played an Island, and passed the turn. My opponent went for the turn-two Lotus Cobra. I drew another Tectonic Edge, played an Island, and cast Contagion Clasp to kill the Cobra. My opponent played a third land and passed the turn with no other play. I drew a Stoic Rebuttal, played a Tectonic Edge, and passed the turn. My opponent played a fourth land and cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but I cast Stoic Rebuttal to counter. On my turn, I drew an Everflowing Chalice and cast it for two. My opponent played a fifth land, cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, used Jace's 0-loyalty ability, and passed the turn.
I drew an Island, played it, cast Consecrated Sphinx, and passed the turn. My opponent drew, and I drew an Island and Volition Reins. My opponent returned Consecrated Sphinx to my hand with Jace and passed the turn. I drew Deprive, played my land, cast Consecrated Sphinx, and passed the turn with Deprive up. My opponent drew, and I drew two Flashfreezes. Then my opponent played a land and attempted to cast Avenger of Zendikar, but I countered it with Flashfreeze. Jace bounced the Consecrated Sphinx again. I drew Mystifying Maze, played it, cast Consecrated Sphinx, and passed the turn. My opponent drew, and I drew an Island and a third Tectonic Edge.
My opponent zeroed out Jace to bounce my Sphinx, and cast a third Jace, but I had the Deprive. I played my land, recast the Sphinx, and passed the turn. My opponent drew and I drew a Stoic Rebuttal and a Preordain, my opponent attempted to cast an Inferno Titan and I let it resolve, he finished off my Sphinx with a Lightning Bolt. I drew an Island, played it, cast Mind Control on the Titan, and passed with multiple pieces of countermagic in hand. Two attacks later, the game was over.
In this game we saw the power of Consecrated Sphinx. Even when your opponent is getting it off the table, it's still very difficult to deal with the massive stream of cards it provides. You'll be discarding down to seven before you know it.
I lost the roll and kept Island, Mystifying Maze, Guard Gomazoa, Tumble Magnet, Sphere of the Suns, Into the Roil, and Mind Control. My opponent cast a Goblin Guide and attacked, and I revealed an Everflowing Chalice and went to 18. I drew the Chalice, played my land, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked for 2 again, revealing a Volition Reins, then cast a Plated Geopede. I drew the Reins, cast Sphere of the Suns, and passed the turn. My opponent played a fetch land, cracked it, attacked for 7. I revealed another Volition Reins and went to 9. My opponent then cast Ember Hauler, cast Lightning Bolt on me, and passed the turn. I cast Guard Gomazoa and passed the turn, but my opponent played a land and cast Searing Blaze on the Guard Gomazoa, and that was it.
Sideboarding: -4 Volition Reins, -2 Mind Control, +4 Flashfreeze, +1 Trinket Mage, +1 Elixir of Immortality
I kept 2 Island, Mystifying Maze, Contagion Clasp, Trinket Mage, and Everflowing Chalice. I played my land and passed. My opponent cast Spikeshot Elder and passed the turn. I drew an Island, played it, cast Contagion Clasp, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Plated Geopede and passed. I drew a Sphere of the Suns, played my land, cast Trinket Mage, found Elixir of Immortality, and passed the turn. My opponent played a fetch land and attacked, and I blocked. My opponent cast another Plated Geopede and passed without cracking the fetch. I drew a Consecrated Sphinx, played my land, cast Everflowing Chalice for two, cast Elixir of Immortality, popped the Elixir, went to 24, and passed the turn. My opponent played another Fetch land, cracked both fetches, cast Hero of Oxid Ridge, and attacked me for 20, putting me to 4. I drew another Consecrated Sphinx, cast the first one, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked with all his guys and I blocked the Hero, but then came a Burst Lightning to finish me off.
This deck may have trouble with red decks, but it has a lot of game against the rest of the current standard field. If red isn't very popular in your area then this might be an excellent choice for FNM. "I'll Take That!" is powerful and inexpensive.
I've been very happy to see a lot of positive feedback for the recent columns I've written. I'd love to hear your comments in the forums or in an email.