Sunday, August 8, 2010

From the Vault: Control

Decklist first, discussion after...

1 Morphling
1 Blinding Angel

4 Isochron Scepter

2 Mystical Tutor
2 Snap
3 Echoing Truth
3 Memory Lapse
4 Counterspell
3 Orim's Chant
3 Swords to Plowshares
1 Holy Day
3 Raise the Alarm
3 Wrath of God

1 City of Brass
2 Coastal Tower
3 Thalakos Lowland
2 Adarkar Wastes
5 Plains
9 Island

There are a lot of things I want to say about this deck...

I guess I'll start with the beginning. It was mid-Mirrodin block, and Darksteel was out, but not Fifth Dawn yet. My best friend Stephen had been away from the game for a couple years (he's the one who got me into it in the first place). I kept playing while he took an extended break, which included selling me his whole collection.

A few years later, I'd made some new friends, ironically not through Magic, but it turned out they played it! So we had fairly close-knit playgroup, as we all played Magic, but were friends outside of the game. Steven was part of the circle, too, and naturally got sucked back in.

I had enough cards at this point that I could build many decks at once, so he'd just ask me to build something in a certain color or something. He'd just play whatever I built for him, and that was fine for a while. Soon enough, though he wanted to actually build decks himself, and so he came over to peruse my ample collection.

He'd seen Isochron Scepter in action, but NONE of us new it's true power yet. And this is where I go on a tangent, so bear with me.

I had never heard the term "net deck" before. I didn't go online and look up ANYTHING on Magic. I read Inquest magazine, but every time they talked about tournament decks, I zoned out and flipped past it. I tell you this, so that you know: I'd never seen a single decklist from any other source with Isochron Scepter, except a really janky one that Inquest published as soon as the set was spoiled.

The one thing I DID know was that Orim's Chant was one of the absolute best possible spells to imprint on the Isochron Scepter. I had three of them, that I'd never used. I was aware that they were a high-dollar rare, because they were always in the case at Top Deck Games and usually had the highest price tag of anything in the case. So I knew they were good, and worth some dough, but I just didn't have any use for such a spell.

Then as Stephen sat in my floor, flipping binders, he decided he'd make a deck with Isochron Scepter in it. He expressed this desire to me, but didn't know what else he wanted in the deck. Oh, wait, except he'd also found my three copies of Treachery and wanted to use those too. He said he knew the two cards had little to do with one another but he asked if I could help him build a deck with both.

Well, I said that if he wanted to use the Scepter, he'd have to include white, as the best thing to pair with it was Orim's Chant. Okay, so between these three cards, we seemed to be firmly in W/B control territory. Which was something we both never really did. However, we'd both heard of control decks that played exactly ONE win condition: Morphling. That was also something we didn't really know much about. We knew such decks existed but had no clue how to build them OR play them.

So we set out to forge a new path for ourselves, and enter the uncharted realm of Control.

I pointed out to him a few more spells, but largely left it up to him to construct the deck, as getting him back in the saddle of deckbuilder was the whole point. I was just there as a helper in case he got stuck. In the end, after about an hour of thumbing through every blue or white card I owned, he'd built some 73 card monstrosity. But as I thumbed through the deck he proudly handed over, I realized that it wasn't a monstrosity, or at least not a bad deck.

It looked pretty solid, actually. It had a few issues, mainly the over-the-moon card count, but amazingly enough the main reason was that he'd gotten afraid of the whole 1-win-condition thing and threw in some extra creatures. Fine ones, such as Man-O-War, and some not-so-fine ones that I can't remember. I cut all the excess creatures, save one: Blinding Angel (Morphling was not an excess creature, it was the one that already belonged). Two creatures was still kinda scary for us, so I kept in the Raise the Alarms he'd thrown in. But it really felt right at this point. Cutting all the creatures, left nothing else but No Stick, Treachery, Bribery, and Wrath as the only non-imprintable spells. That seemed exciting to us.

I trimmed the fat from his deck, and I think I added the 3 Wrath of God but the rest of the deck was all Steven. He built it, I streamlined it down to 60, and we were off to the races!

God. The deck KILLED our poor, poor friends. At the time we thought it was great fun, being able to respond to virtually every single threat laid before us... It wasn't very fun for our opponents. It never lost a game.

Paul pretty much always played Elves. If Blinding Angel hit once, he was never going to attack again the rest of the game. Holy Day on the Stick was the same thing. Or, obviously, Chant. He could ONLY win by attacking, and had little artifact removal, which the ample countermagic was able to ward off.

Anne played... I don't remember what exactly, but I'm sure it had Blue, or Black, or both. I do remember a game against her where I got Memory Lapse on the Stick and she drew (and tried to cast) the same spell about 5 turns in a row. When I pointed out to her that she could break the cycle by NOT casting anything, she said "well, what's the point, then?!" and scooped up her deck.

Chad played a few different decks, but played against the deck piloted by Stephen maybe once, and piloted by me maybe once, and then refused to even shuffle up his deck if he knew we were playing this deck. I played it in a few 4 or 5 player free-for-all games. Counterspells should be terrible in multiplayer, but when you have near-infinite counter magic, it actually works like a charm. Bolstered by the Wraths and Bribery's it easily took down a whole table.

I think we had the deck together a month or more, but it only took about two nights of gaming before every single one of our friends learned to say "No" to the No-Stick. We literally could NOT get a game if we brought the deck out. Fortunately I had several decks built, so we still got our Magic fix, but the W/B deck was very clearly off limits.

Sad thing was, it was hands down the best deck either of us had ever built at that point. It's telling, I think, that THIS deck was banned from our table, but my Tolarian Academy deck stocked with Tinkers, Memnarch, Mycosinth Lattice and Karn was not. Oh they hated the Academy deck, to be sure. But they never expressly forbid me from playing it. I played it for months before they finally begged me to give it a rest. But the W/B No-Stick? I played 5 game at most with it ever, before it was officially blacklisted.

Steven played a few more games with it, as he was the lesser pilot, but only because he was just getting back into the game, and was still re-learning the ropes. But I honestly don't think even HE lost a game with it. Soon enough, even he couldn't play the deck.

Well, I guess that is the story of how I learned to play control decks, and Stephen built one of his masterpiece decks. And, between this and the Academy deck, I earned a reputation that I still haven't shaken to this day, despite not having cast an Isochron Scepter in over 5 years.

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