For the past several months, Standard has been dominated by two titanic threats: Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God. These two larger-than-life creatures were among the most impactful and hardest to answer in the format, and their struggle for control of Amonkhet played out on battlefields at Friday Night Magic and Grand Prix alike. While many Standard stalwarts chose one of the two sides, they’re beginning to reevaluate their game plans now that Dominaria has entered the fray.
Mox Boarding House regular Justin Salazar was a longtime member of Team Scarab God. Grixis and U/B Midrange decks were his weapons of choice on the Seattle PPTQ circuit, and the latter earned him his first Pro Point at GP Seattle last month. But with the release of Dominaria, Justin wanted to shake things up. He had his eye on Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate going into the new Standard format, and he soon found the hero his Control deck both needed and deserved: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.
Justin spent the first portion of our interview singing Teferi‘s praises, and there’s certainly a lot to love about him. Planeswalkers require a specific set of answers, so they’re good threats to lean on early in the format as archetypes are coalescing. Teferi can also answer most threats in the format, including other Planeswalkers, with his -3 ability. And most importantly, his +1 ability allows Control players do to the thing they’re most afraid to do in Magic: tap out to play a threat without giving an opponent the opportunity to play a threat of their own on the following turn. Teferi provides a virtual seven mana on turn five, allowing Justin to hold up any of his two-mana answers, including Essence Scatter, Negate, and Seal Away.
Justin Salazar’s U/W Control
4 Torrential Gearhulk
2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1 Blink of an Eye
3 Essence Scatter
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Settle the Wreckage
4 Seal Away
2 Search for Azcanta
3 Cast Out
4 Field of Ruin
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Ipnu Rivulet
4 Irrigated Farmlard
Blue-White Control decks like Justin’s are becoming so dominant in Standard that The Scarab God and its ilk have all but disappeared. “White got so many new toys with Dominaria,” Justin explained. “Now, Scarab God decks have to worry about getting blown out by Settle the Wreckage or Cast Out, which are much more prevalent now.” While Black gained access to Cast Down with the release of Dominaria, many of its removal spells are still narrower than White’s; Fatal Push can be an awkward late-game top-deck, and spending a Vraska’s Contempt on a small threat can feel like a waste.
The versatility of U/W’s answers became clear as Justin and I played some practice games. I chose a Mono-Green Ramp deck, and even my strongest starts (turn one Llanowar Elves; turn two Jadelight Ranger or Steel Leaf Champion) didn’t seem quite strong enough. Seal Away could take out an early Llanowar Elves to constrain my mana or save Justin from a lethal Verdurous Gearhulk or Ghalta. It couldn’t nab Heart of Kiran – a card that could prove to be a foil to U/W – but the creatures I needed to crew the vehicle were always vulnerable. Even Carnage Tyrant, once thought to be the bane of Control decks, didn’t seem that scary out of the sideboard.
As we talked through our games and sideboarded, we discussed some of Justin’s individual card choices. He’s not a fan of Approach of the Second Sun variants of U/W – “Approach asks questions that players know how to answer,” he said. He admits that he leans hard on Torrential Gearhulk in Game 1, but has an additional threat in Lyra Dawnbringer in post-board games. The Baneslayer-in-training has been useful in a number of match-ups, providing a game-changing ten point life swing if she sticks.
He’s also trying out History of Benalia in his sideboard, but isn’t quite sure how he feels about it yet. “I’ve had some issues with the Control mirror, so I’d just want it for that match-up,” Justin said. “It’s hard to remove, and it does so much for such a small mana investment.”
While he’s still settling on the best build of U/W Control, Justin did have one piece of advice for would-be pilots: “You have two opponents, and one of them is the clock. Your games can be very grindy, so do your best to play quickly.”
If you’re up for the challenge, you can purchase this entire deck at Card Kingdom, and stay tuned for more Standard deck techs here on the CK Blog!
Header design: Justin Treadway
Header image: “Teferi, Hero of Dominaria” by Chris Rallis