UB Control: A master's Guide

Introduction


Hello, I’m nossr50 and I’ve recently achieved master rank playing UB control on MTGA. I thought I would take time and write a guide aimed at new players on how to play UB control, or at least my version of it. I do not think my list is perfect, but I have optimized it to some degree in the process of reaching master rank, and I feel it is a strong list. My list was originally based on my friend Gravez’s version of UB control, I made changes to it over time until reaching the version I play today.

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Weaknesses


I’ll be frank, if you want to climb to master rank its going to be a brutal road with UB. UB is in a weak spot right now in MTGA, most of our match-ups (MUs from this point on) are favoured against us, and we will be fighting a losing battle in a lot of our games. It’s the nature of the bo1 environment. In the current bo1 environment, the meta favours aggressive decks, and we are forced to include a lot of sideboard worthy cards into our deck because without them we’d straight up lose a majority of games, which makes putting together a strong and cohesive UB deck almost impossible. With that said, I’ve tried my best and this list is what I’ve come up with.

As UB, we will struggle to beat aggressive decks, token decks, and stuff that spams out units like vampires and merfolk.

This deck has been tailored to beat mid-range and have a fighting chance against aggro, which means a lot of the cards that would help us in the control mirror are not in this list. Because of that, if you run into control you will likely lose, and hey thats okay. We don’t care about the control MU which makes up a minority of our games. (I recorded 1/4th of my opponents were playing control decks, compared to 3/4ths playing mid-range or aggro). That’s not to say playing against control is unwinnable, it's just going to be very difficult most of the time.

Strengths


UB by its very nature of being a control deck, is great against mid-range decks, which is to say, slow decks which take many turns to establish their wincon, in particular those decks which run high manacost units and seek victory late game. We can stall our opponents strategy and slowly and methodically dissect a win.

Why play UB Control?


UB is a deck that is extremely satisfying to play for those like me who enjoy controlling their opponents strategy and slowly strangling a win out from them over the course of a long game. You have to make many complex decisions and although it may seem simple to play a control deck, you actually have to know your opponent quite well, know when to use a counter-spell and when to keep it, when to drop a unit and when not to. There are so many decisions you can make during a game with UB, you can easily win or lose a game from what seemed like a simple decision made in the first couple turns of the game. Late-game is where UB shines and almost completely removes any chance of victory from your opponent, and it's very satisfying to get there especially against aggro decks which look to take the game from you in the first 5 turns. Turning a potential loss into a win never gets old with this deck.





The Mulligan


General Rules
If you don’t have both black and blue mana in your opening hand I recommend taking a mulligan, and if you only have 2~ lands I’d also recommend taking a mulligan unless you have a bunch of low-cost stall tools in hand AND Search for Azcanta.

For some background info, I recorded what decks my opponents were playing while climbing to master rank, this helped me tailor the list to make it better for climbing in this bo1 format. As a result, the mulligan for this deck looks to grab about ~3 lands, with at least one AoE (golden demise, or bontu), and several of the low mana-cost control tools (Moment of Craving, Essence Scatter, Censor, Negate, etc). The opening hand gets that much better if you also have Search for Azcanta in it.

If you get a hand with 4 or more lands in it and you don’t have Search for Azcanta in that hand, MULLIGAN THAT GARBO HAND ASAP. The last thing you want is to be sitting on a hand full of land into topdecking land against RDW (Mono-Red).

In summary:
  • Try to have both black and blue lands
  • Try to have one AoE in the opening hand
  • Try to have multiple instances of our 2-mana cost stall tools (censor/negate/essence scatter/moment of craving)
  • It’s almost always a keeper if it has Search for Azcanta + 2-3 lands + Golden Demise


Essential Cards
If you don’t see any of these cards in your hand I highly suggest a mulligan, it is pretty much game losing to not have any of these.


High Priority


Low Priority
These cards are nice to have but are often slow and not that important for opening moves.


Notes
It is completely fine to not have scarab god in your opening hand, your finishers are often something you will draw into later and often won’t do you any good to have in your opening hand. Don’t take a mulligan just because you don’t see scarab god or another late game wincon, its not worth it.

The rules to playing UB


There are several important things you should always be doing when you play UB, a lot of these are essential to winning, most of these will be obvious to higher-skill level players but maybe not all of you will be aware of them.

Almost always cast instant-speed spells at the end of your opponent's turn

Often you may be tempted to MoC or Exile a hasted unit the moment it hits the board, but if your opponent has mana open it's often better to take the damage to the face in order to keep your reactive options open.

In general if you do something on your turn which spends mana and you do not have an excess amount of land available, you are eliminating your ability to play reactively, and playing reactively is the strongest thing this deck can do.

Play the match in Full Control mode the entire time



First of all the hotkey for this is ctrl+shift, you will see a big icon in the bottom right of your screen that looks like this when you’ve done it correctly. If you are having trouble getting it to work, hold ctrl and then without releasing it press shift afterwards.

This one might be confusing for newer players, but playing in Full Control mode is essential for bluffing. In MTGA by default if you do not have any available actions it will automatically skip through phases of your turn and it will do the same when your opponent plays cards, it will allow them to just hit the board with no pause. This tells your opponent that you have no instant-speed spells that are available to be used in your hand, which may have been holding them back from playing certain cards.

When Full Control mode is on, the game pauses at every single phase and every single action your opponent does and asks you to press a button or hit space before moving onto the next action, this gives away no information about your hand and allows you to appear as if you have answers in your hand. Which may cause your opponent to hesitate.

Full-Control is a bit buggy

As a disclaimer, sometimes Full-Control will become a bit bugged in MTGA, for example if you press the space bar to move between actions or steps it may not register and you will have to press it several times. If this happens simply turn off Full-Control by press the hotkey you used to activate it, and then turn it back on. If for some reason this doesn’t work you can alt+f4 and restart the MTGA client, which should reconnect you to the game. This doesn’t always work though and I wouldn’t recommend it in case something goes wrong and you’re unable to reconnect.

Don’t play any units for the first several turns unless you understand the MU

In general it's a pretty bad idea to play Champion of Wits or Vizier in the first 5 turns of the game, anything that leaves you unable to play your reactive instant-speed cards should be avoided unless you understand the MU very well or are going to lose if you don’t dig for cards with wits/etc.

Try not to play Scarab God turn 5

This one might seem counter-intuitive, and there are some MUs later in the guide where playing scarab god turn 5 is not only acceptable but it can be game winning. The main reason we do not play Scarab God turn 5 is we cannot protect him, if you play a unit vulnerable to removal you open yourself up to being punch’d in the face or having one of your best cards removed from play for the rest of the game. Not to mention you cannot play your instant-speed reactive cards if you have no mana. They might just drop an enchantment that wins them the game if you completely tap out all your lands just to put Scarab God onto the field.

The Cards


The All-Stars
I will now explain why cards are in this deck, how to use them, and why they are good.

Scarab God

This is probably the single card that makes it possible to get to master rank with this deck, without it we’d be in a much weaker position. I’m not going to lie, in a lot of MUs you won’t even play scarab god, but there are MUs where you will be counting on him for your win-con. It’s often not a wise Idea to play Scarab God on turn 5, but sometimes it will be in your best interest to do so. Refer to my Rules to Play UB earlier in this guide for more info on this.

Typically you will want to play him when you can protect him. Keep in mind you can use his ability at any time so long as you have the land, you can use it when he's tapped as well. You can use it when the enemy is attacking and pull out something to defend and trick them into taking a bad trade.I almost never attack with Scarab God as you run the risk of bringing him within removal range if he takes any damage the same goes for defending with him as well. Against white decks you will want to keep in mind effects like Ixalan’s Binding which will completely ruin our gameplan if we don’t keep counterspells for.

Once you get enough Zombies your ability to control your topdecks will be insane. I usually throw lands to the bottom of my deck and dig for my control tools. It dLet me runepends on your land situation though, I aim to have about 9 lands in most games, in the control mirror I go for more as it enables game winning Torment’s.

Playing The Scarab God in the UB control mirror can be tricky, if they have their own Scarab God down they might just res a chupa or a similar unit and snipe ours immediately, try to take care of their Scarab God before playing your own.In the UB mirror you can try playing Champion of Wits and Tetzimoc in order to burn through your opponents Essence Scatters and removal before bringing out Scarab Daddy. This will only work against weaker players though. Ipnu Rivulet can be used to mill the top 4 cards of a target player's library, you can use this as a hail mary if you need Scarab God targets and both GYs are empty.

Moment of Craving

This might possibly be one of the best cards in the deck versus aggro, and in many other MUs it provides utility as it can be played at instant speed. It acts as a form of removal, a way to mitigate damage, and a utility spell to counter what your opponent is trying to do. This is one of the best ways to stay in the game against aggro decks as it serves as both a form of removal and a source of healing.

As mentioned earlier in my Rules to Play UB you typically do not want to use MoC the moment a unit hits the board unless your opponent has tapped out all of their lands. And keep in mind MoC has great utility, is it worth using a -2/-2 removal on a 1/1 unit? You have to think about that unit and its potential threat, does leaving it on the board pose a significant risk?

There is some great utility to be found in MoC, since it is cast at instant speed you can use it to take a favourable block (which we don’t often do in our deck since we don’t run many units), you can deny your opponents magma spray on your Champion of Wits, and you can remove a unit before a cartouche or enchantment can be applied on it.

It will take you some time to understand when best to use MoC, as it varies wildly from MU to MU, I will be covering how to use MoC more extensively in my MU section you can find later in the guide.Often against aggro you will be using it to reduce their numbers, in the control mirror you can use it to stop Champion of Wits from drawing cards, and in other MUs it can be used to remove key low health units.

Golden Demise

This is your single wincon against many aggro decks, often you will tear your hair out if you do not have this in your opening hand or do not draw into it against an aggressive deck like RDW.

If your opening hand has Golden Demise that drastically improves your chances of winning against RDW from something like 10% to 40%, provided you have the two swamps required to activate it as well.

Keep in mind this card does not do damage, it simply debuffs all units by -2/-2 which means it can counter many cards which have triggers from being damaged or activated abilities to prevent them from dying like [Raptor Hatchling] or [Adanto Vanguard]. If a units health falls to 0 from golden demise it will die.

Using golden demise can be tricky, as it is an expensive card to cast, often you need to weigh the risk of playing golden demise against the potential reward. In the early turns, playing golden demise will lock you out of being able to play reactive cards such as Essence Scatter, Negate, Censor, and others.

You need to know your opponents deck well, do you run the risk of letting an [anointed procession] or [radiant destiny] hit the field if I play my golden demise now? There are other cards to keep in mind too, it's important to understand your opponents deck and what troublesome cards they may be playing.

Search for Azcanta // Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin

This card is a life saver, its a fairly inexpensive card which effectively allows you to control your draws as long as it remains un-transformed. Once you have 7 cards in your GY you may choose to transform it, this gives you an additional source of blue mana and gives you the ability to check the top 4 cards of your deck for a spell and place it into your hand. Once transformed you can place another Search for Azcanta down which I recommend doing if you run 2 in your deck, as the ability to control your draws is amazing. Of course this overlaps a bit with Scarab God but keep in mind Search for Azcanta can send stuff to your GY before your draw step, so if you see a bunch of undesirable stuff with Scarab God you can just kick whatever you draw to the GY with Azcanta in order to keep digging for answers.

There are some MUs where it's a good idea to leave this untransformed, for example in the control mirror if you see they have field of ruins down there is no reason to transform this as they will likely just snipe it. Of course, you can transform it and get its active ability to go off at least once before they snipe it, so that's something to keep in mind as well. Another reason to keep Azcanta untransformed is the scenario where you already have all the answers in your hand and you would like to make sure you keep topdecking good cards. It is expensive to use the Azcanta ability even when you are sitting on 6-7 lands, you might not be able to play an answer right away afterwards, so it's not always wise to transform it the moment you are able to. As an example, if I’m low on lands I will wait to transform Azcanta so that once its transformed I can use its ability freely without worrying about having enough untapped mana to play my answers.

If you see this card in your opening hand it will do so much work for you over the course of a long game, often I will drop it turn 2 if my hand is atrocious and I’m in a desperate spot, but in general you will want to wait until turn 4 or 5 to drop it so you can keep your reactive options open.If you go first it's almost never a bad idea to drop Search for Azcanta turn 2 as you will rarely if ever get punished for it.

Essence Scatter / Negate / Censor

These cards are your bread and butter low-cost stalling tools, these are available to use from turn 2 onwards and can counter extremely powerful cards. Most of the time if your opponent is dropping a low strength unit I’d recommend using MoC over any of these cards to remove it, as MoC only serves as removal for low str units but these cards can be used in a wide variety of situations.

I typically recommend using censor as soon as your opponent gives you an opportunity to do so, as its an unreliable counter to your opponent's strategy. However, if you don’t have any negates or cancels in your hand, it can be a good idea to hold onto your censor as your opponent may drop a troublesome enchantment as soon as they are able to, and since censor can counter any kind of spell (creatures are considered spells in this game) it is wise to hold onto it especially if you are against tokens. Most players will not play around censor, and in the case that they do you can cycle it for 1 blue at the end of their turn to dig for better cards.

Your goal with UB is to stall the game out, and these cards are MVPs at stalling.

Field of Ruins

It may be surprising to see Field of Ruins make it into the All-Stars section, but there's damn good reason for it. There are a lot of particularly troublesome lands in this game, and Field of Ruins is your one single counter to them.br>
Outside of sniping special lands or in addition to, Field of Ruins can also help you establish double black or double blue mana if you haven’t gotten it so far, which can save your ass when you really need to pop off a golden demise or another card with a similar mana requirement. br>
I’d recommend running 4 if you have them.

Vraska's Contempt

I hesitate to mention this under the All-Stars section because this card won’t even come into play until turn 4 at the minimum, however it is one of the best single-target removal spells in the game. Healing you and exiling a target it can help bring you above lethal while permanently removing a creature from play, this is one of the best cards to transition from the early game stall into taking control of the game. As always, typically I recommend playing this at the end of your opponent's turn, but if you are are being heavily pressured I’d use it during the combat phase on their turn, or during your turn if they are tapped out and have counterspells.

Typically you will be using this card on troublesome cards which other removals are ineffective against, in rare cases you will be forced to use this card when you have no other removal at your disposal. This card shines at removing anything from high strength units, indestructible creatures, gods which go back to their controllers hand when they die, or creatures featuring embalm or eternalize to prevent them from re-entering play.

Torment of Hailfire

II think some people will be surprised to see this card on this list, this card can be straight up useless in some MUs but I’ve found it to be an A+ card in many MUs where I had no other win condition. This is our second win condition.

I’ve been using this card as a finisher in my deck since I got my MTGA account, as by chance I got it in one of my free packs after making the account. After trying it out I’ve fallen in love with it. This is your tool to win the game when you are pushing 9+ lands and the game is going nowhere anytime soon.

Keep in mind you can set up a much more effective Torment by dealing some damage to your opponent before casting it.In the worst case scenario you can use torment to empty your opponent's hand or clear the board, I recommend casting torment when you have a threat down on the board, if you don’t have anything on the board they will often just injure themselves to avoid discarding cards or sacrificing non-land permanents.

And there will be plenty of scenarios where you have such an absurd amount of mana that you can just guarantee a kill from casting torment by itself onto a full HP opponent. Against blue decks leave enough mana for negate/cancel when casting this spell, or wait until they are completely tapped out and go all in. Normally in the control mirror we stand little to no chance of winning, but if our opponent taps out on his mana or we are sitting on an absurd amount of land, we can steal the game from them with this.

This card works well with our deck because we are effective at stalling the game, and there will be games where you don’t draw your scarab gods but you do have your torment, and in those games you will be glad you have it.It’s worth noting that once you cast Torment of Hailfire your opponent cannot concede until they finish the interaction with torment, which is hilarious. This is my favourite card in the deck.

Champion of Wits

This card really shines with its eternalize ability, often saving your ass and allowing you to refill your hand with cards. Most of the time you are not going to play Champion of Wits until turn 5 or later, as playing her early is very expensive and will leave you unable to respond to your opponent with counterspells.

If you absolutely have to dig for an answer, there’s nothing wrong with dropping her on turn 3 or 4, especially if you’ve run out of counter spells or stalling tools. Keep in mind if your opponent uses MoC on your Champion of Wits you will want to decline the ability or you will be forced to discard cards and draw none. It’s also a bad idea to use Champion of Wits if your hand only has good cards in it, as you might end up discarding something good.

When you use Wits you will want to send other Wits to the GY to setup their eternalize ability, you can also send high mana cost cards or cards that aren’t appropriate for your current opponent. Once Scarab God is on the field you can pull the other Champion of Wits you put in the GY earlier out for only 4 mana instead of 7, which is borderline OP. If your opponent tries to deny Champion of Wits with magma spray or similar exile effects and you are sitting on 7 lands you might just want to Moment of Craving your own Wits, and send it to the GY just so you can get off its eternalize ability in the next turn.

Good Cards
Cancel / Admiral’s Order

Cancel (and admirals order which is strictly better but I do not have) are solid cards for countering your opponents strategy, unfortunately it costs an absurd amount of mana, I’ve experimented with cutting cancel from the list but I’ve always put it back in. If I could, I would probably run 4x censor over including 2x cancel and see how that felt

. The nice part about Cancel is you can use it on any spell that doesn’t specifically state its uncounterable (once again creatures are considered spells in this game), so it's a very flexible card although expensive. I find it most often pays off in the control mirror, and outside of that it finds some limited use if you have used up your essence scatters/negates already.

If your opponent is playing a strong card and has tapped out their mana in order to do so, I will often use cancel over negate/essence scatter, just because it has such a high mana cost. Of course I don’t recommend doing this unless you are extremely familiar with the MU as using up a flexible counterspell is a bad idea for new players. I just find often I want it out of my hand since the other counterspell cards are much cheaper.

For example, if I want to play Scarab God and I’m worried about my opponent using ixalans binding or cast-out, I’d rather keep a negate in my hand than a cancel, as negate would mean I’d just need 7 mana to play scarab god whereas with cancel I’d have to have 8. I wouldn’t include more than 2 of this card in the current meta, and honestly I wouldn’t even consider it essential to the deck.

Supreme Will

With the current cards we have in MTGA I find it hard to want to cut Supreme Will from the list, it can save your ass by allowing you to dig for answers and in other scenarios it can be used similarly to censor. Most of the time I’m using this card to deny my opponents from placing down an enchantment or a big boy unit when they start playing around Censor.

This is basically our Plan B in case we don’t get our Search for Azcanta down when it comes to finding the better cards in our deck. If you don’t find yourself in a dire situation I’d hold onto this for its counterspell ability rather than its ability to dig through your deck.

You will rarely if almost never use it on your own turn to find land, typically in a scenario where you lack double black mana to get off your game saving Golden Demise or Bontu’s Last Reckoning or potentially Vraska or something like that. In most cases you will use it at the end of your opponent's turn if you have to dig for answers.

Doomfall / Duress

Duress and Doomfall are sleeper hits in this deck, I’ve experimented a lot with these cards and I find having each as a one-of in the deck to be the best balance in the current meta. Duress and Doomfall both serve to give you information on your opponent's hand, and can remove troublesome enchantments or strong cards from your opponent.

If you happen to have Duress in your opening hand I recommend dropping a swamp and opening with Duress as you have no other plays on turn 1 with this deck anyways. If you only have taplands available to you on turn 1, then I don’t recommend playing Duress on turn 2 as that would mean locking you out of the ability to play your reactive cards during your opponent's turn.

As for Doomfall, this is an interesting card, its mana-cost is a bit high but it has two abilities, you can either remove a non-land card from your opponent's hand and reveal their hand at the same time, or you can force your opponent to exile a card on the board. There are some interesting combos you can do with Doomfall, if you can remove weak units from your opponent's board and play Doomfall in the same turn, you can force them to exile a good card, likewise you can send a card to their hand if you happen to run cards like unsummon or rivers rebuke and follow it up with a doomfall.

Just keep in mind the mana-cost for Doomfall is high, you don’t want to use it if it taps out all your lands typically. Honestly most the time Duress is a better Doomfall, but there are situations where it pays off to have Doomfall in the deck and thats why its included.

In the control mirror Duress and Doomfall are game winning, if I saw the control MU more often I’d throw more of these cards into my deck, unfortunately in this aggro heavy meta they see limited use, not enough to warrant cutting them from the list however.

Bontu's Last Reckoning

This card is a life saver in certain MUs, for most intents and purposes it is a worse golden demise, but in specific MUs this is your only tool to turn the game from a loss into a win. This card can be used to kill pesky hexproof units, tanky units, and units buffed up from enchantments.

The card has a major drawback in the fact that it keeps your lands from untapping during your next turn, but oftentimes I’d rather have that happen then lose the game because a bunch of steroided out mecha-trex’s are about to lethal me. This is a card you should not use lightly, you should know when to use it and when not to, typically if you can make do with other forms of removal I’d use those before ever using Bontu, Bontu is a last resort card with steep penalties, and sometimes it can be your only counter to specific units your enemy is using.

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

This card can come in handy on occasion, it's typically very expensive to get out, but you can build up tetzimoc markers leading up to the turn you play him on. Tetzimoc happens to have deathtouch, so he's also useful against certain hexproof mecha dinosaurs that you might run into. Sometimes I will drop him on turn 6 with no markers built up if I have to, you need to play it by ear and if you’re getting hammered dropping tetzimoc can help quell the flow.

In a long game Tetzimoc can serve as a board wipe, and against Blue decks running Glyph Keeper you can use Tetzimoc to pop their spell shield. In most games you will likely not even play Tetzimoc, but there are times when topdecking him can save your ass.

He’s also great removal bait to throw him down before Scarab God comes out, normally I’d avoid using him if it taps all my lands, but sometimes you have no choice.

In matchups s where Tetzimoc is way too slow, just discard him with Champion of Wits.

Tech Cards
Vizier of Many Faces

Vizier is a clunky card at 2-blue 2-colorless, but in some MUs she can help a lot. Against tokens you can use it to stall by copying Regal Caracal or Sunscourge Champion, against Dinos you can copy their hexproof Carnage Tyrant and trade with it, and in the mirror you can do a lot of tricky stuff.

You can also find good value by copying your own eternalized wits as well. In a lot of games I will end up discarding her from my hand with wits and only pull her out with embalm as most of the time she just costs too much mana and I can’t justify keeping her in my hand just in case they pull out a good vizier target .Vizier’s ability isn’t considered targeted as she ‘enters the battlefield as a copy of a unit’ which means you can target hexproof units, and stuff like Glyph Keeper which has a spell shield.

Commit /// Memory

Commit
This is an interesting tech card in the deck, it can be used as a counter-spell or a way to remove non-land permanents from the board. Since it sends the the target non-land permanent or spell card into their deck second from the top, I typically pair using it with Field of Ruin or Ipnu Rivulet in order to shuffle my opponent's deck or mill their top cards after sending a troublesome card into their deck.

This card is also one of the only counters in the game to creature spells which feature the word uncounterable, such as Nezahal and Carnage Tyrant (Hexproof Mecha T-Rex). Memory
I’ll admit, I rarely make use of Memory in most MUs, but it does have its place. The most common scenario to use Memory is when you are under pressure and low on cards, especially if your opponent has a high number of cards in his hand. It’s extremely expensive to cast Memory and it goes at Sorcery speed so be careful when you use this as you may just be giving your opponent more fuel to win the game. I’d recommend using this only in desperate situations, and yes using Memory has won me a game or two.

One other scenario you may want to use Memory in is when all your good cards are in the GY and you have already transformed Search for Azcanta or other awesome Lands/Enchantments which make use of having excess mana late-game. Say for example all of your Scarab Gods and counterspells are in the GY, well then I’d probably consider using Memory to get back in the game. This depends highly on the MU but you get the general idea.

Cards I’m not using

Nezahal
This is an excellent card if all you are facing on the ladder is control, but outside of the control MU he tends to be a 7-mana 7/7 and ends up feeling like a brick in your hand in early turns. I only face control in about 1/4th of my games and found him too clunky to include in the list. I did run him for a long time though, and if you don’t have Scarab God yet I’d probably put him in the list.

Ravenous Chupacabra
In a large majority of MUs I found this card to be too expensive for what it offered, as a 4 mana 2/2 with a targeted destroy I’d much rather have another Vraska’s Contempt. Chupa won’t do you much good when an indestructible Hazoret gets slammed down on turn 4, whereas Vraska will save your life.

With that said, Chupa is actually an excellent card in the UB Mirror as he effectively counters Nezahal and can even be used to remove Scarab God from play for a turn and other pesky units, allowing you to res their Scarab God as a token zombie with your own and then destroy it (as you can’t have 2 scarab gods down at the same time) thus exiling it from the game.

Glyph Keeper
I like to call this card the mirror-winner, and if control was more prevalent in the meta I’d certainly run him in my list. I in fact ran him for a long time just for the control MU, but he has similar problems to Nezahal, the fact that he has a very high mana cost, that he's basically a brick outside of the control mirror, and that he can end up sitting in your hand instead of a better more useful card in early turns where you can’t afford to play Champion of Wits in order to discard him.

How to play common matchups


RDW (Mono-Red)
General

This is a very rough MU for us as they look to end the game by turns 4-5 and they do it very effectively. Our main strategy will be to stall with MoC (Moment of Craving) and essence scatters, and wait to drop our golden demise until they have 2-3 units on the field. Keep in mind this deck looks to put out Hazoret around turn 4 so you if you don’t have any Vraskas contempts available you generally want to save a censor or essence scatter for when they try to drop that unit.

Playing Search for Azcanta on turn 2 can be acceptable, especially if you are lacking answers in your hand such as our AoE tools or counterspells.Don’t let the fear of Hazoret stop you from playing a Golden Demise and wiping their board, if they are swarming you then you pretty much have no choice but to drop the bomb on them.


Note-worthy cards
If you see ramunap ruins drop you will want to Field of Ruin it at the end of your opponent's turn as long as you have mana open for it, if you leave it on the board they can do substantial damage with it over the course of a long game.

You will want to keep in mind hazoret nearly the entire time you are playing against them, if they get it off and you spent your essence scatters on something less important you’re going to feel real dumbo, Vraskas is one of the only ways to deal with it once it's on the board. Like-wise for glorybringer. The timing is tricky because you will often need to golden demise early and that will allow their Hazoret to go off uncountered, hopefully you have Vraska’s in your hand.

Earthshaker khenra can be brutal to deal with especially considering it has eternalize which brings it back as a 4/4 zombie, if for some reason you have Scarab God down you will want to steal Khenra before they try to eternalize it. Feel free to do this at the end of their turn if you have the mana open.

The Goal
You have two win-cons against this deck, either survive long enough to play Scarab God and have enough mana to protect it from puncturing blow or other such things or stall long enough to play a high-mana cost Torment of Hailfire which should close the game.

Once you enter sub-5 HP, you will want to keep up enough mana to negate/cancel stuff like Lightning Bolt or Hijack or any nonsense they might pull out to close the game, be careful not to spend all of your mana at the end of their turn if they have enough mana to lightning bolt you and you only have 3-5 HP left. I’ve definitely lost games from making these mistakes.

Notes
This is one of the worst MUs we face with our deck, even though the deck is tailored to have a fighting chance against aggro don’t feel bad if you lose to this deck.



Wx Tokens
General

This is another brutal MU for us, especially if they go first. It’s almost impossible to stop them from getting off their enchantments, but that will be our main strategy against them. Try not to kill their adorned pouncer if you lack any answers for when they eternalize it, as that will put us in a much worse spot than taking 2 damage a turn.

Most of the token decks you will be facing will be UW (Blue/White) but token decks are pretty varied and WG (White/Green) can also be seen. You may also see a variant of tokens focusing on Vampire cards.

Note-worthy cards

A few things will make your life hell in this MU, one is the fact that we simply cannot control them effectively until turn 5 or later which means you will have to be very selective about what you counter-spell.

After their third turn you cannot spend mana that would lock you out of negate/cancel/censor until the end of their turn, if you even let 1 anointed procession hit the board once this MU goes from hard to hellish nightmare. Be prepared for them to have multiple anointed processions, and don’t be surprised if they topdeck into it when they are sitting on an empty hand.

If for one reason or another you let them get off anointed procession (it's going to happen) we can fix that mistake with Commit /// Memory. Play commit on their enchantment at the end of their turn and immediately follow it up with Ipnu or Field of Ruin. Alternatively wait for them to play it again and this time hopefully you will have a counterspell ready.

Another problematic card they run is cast-out / ixalans binding, often they will get you low from beating you to death during the early turns and then if you put a body onto the field whether its Tetzimoc, Champion of Wits, Scarab God or something else they will simply remove it from play with cast our or binding and finish the game on that turn.

Oketras monument isn’t a huge deal, if you are low on counterspells I’d rather let that one through than anointed procession. If you are running sufficient answers in your hand feel free to deny it.

Make sure you control their Shefet Dunes / Hashep Oasis with your own Field of Ruin when you are able, if you don’t keep it under control they can potentially lethal you when you aren’t expecting it. As always, do this at the end of their turn.

The Goal
Your main win-con against this deck will be to stall long enough to play Scarab God and protect him sufficiently. It’s not going to be a fast victory as they run a ton of removal of their own and in an ideal world you’d want to buffer out 2+ counterspells on top of playing Scarab God. Unfortunately this deck is insanely aggressive and you will probably be forced into play Scarab God in less than ideal circumstances.

If they play cast out on Scarab God on your turn and you only have 1 negate I’d probably let them take him away unless you’re in a dire situation, its likely they have an ixalans binding in their hand and if you burn your counterspell on cast out then they will just permanently remove Scarab God from the game on their turn. Cast out is annoying but what's even more annoying is not being able to play our other Scarab God once we draw into him. If they lock us out of Scarab God it's pretty much game over in most circumstances.

Around turn 6-8 you will likely want to drop Tetzimoc to quell their numbers, be careful when doing this as Tetzimoc is not a reliable blocker in this MU and almost certainly going to be removed on their turn. If you don’t remove all of their units and you are low then playing Tetzimoc can be a death sentence as they might just remove him on their turn with cast out / binding and go for lethal.

Your main MVP cards in this MU will be Vraska’s Contempt and Moment of Craving, playing these only at the end of their turn (so they don’t surprise anointed procession us) to help mitigate damage and quell their numbers.

Ideally you will want to save Bontu for after their strongest token units have been eternalized/embalmed in this MU, I’d use tetzimoc to kill their non-zombie form and Bontu to clear the stronger eternalized units they resurrect from the GY.

Torment won’t do you many favours in this MU but if you’ve been controlling their numbers you can potentially use it as a board wipe or tool to empty their hand of cards once scarab god is down and backed by several friendly zombies.

Notes
If they start flooding their GY with a massive amount of eternalize/embalm units it might not be the worst idea in the world to play Memory in order to reset the state of the game to one more favourable for us, since everything they bring back from the GY will be a token and literally multiplied, this plan although desperate can work if you have no other answers available.

If you can use duress or Doomfall to remove bindings and cast-outs the turn before playing Scarab God.

Be careful using Azcanta the Sunken Ruin in this MU, if you send your Scarab Gods to the bottom of your deck and you have no way to shuffle you’re going to be in a very bad position. I’d wait until you get a Scarab God into your hand before using the active ability of Azcanta.

Stocking up 2+ golden demises can be effective in this MU although quite difficult to pull off due to the quad-black mana requirement.

Regal Caracal can be remove with a combination of golden demise + moment of craving which can help if you lack bontu’s or other removal for it, this also takes out its babies.



When to play taplands


You typically don’t want to play taplands on turn 2 or 3 if you can help it, playing them as your opening land is fine, and if you have the rare dual lands you can ignore this section. It’s important to be able to essence scatter/negate/censor as soon as possible, so keep that in mind when you play your lands. On the flipside, if you are against RDW and you have golden demise in hand, you may want to play your taplands to establish double black mana ASAP as most of their units fall under 2 health.

Budget / Replacement / Alternative cards


In this section I’ll be talking about cards you can put in your UB deck if you are lacking some of the ones found in this list, or maybe you are seeing different MUs than I am on ladder. In summary:
  • Final Reward -> [Vraska's Contempt]
    Simply put, this is a worse Vraska’s Contempt, but if you don’t have Vraska’s Contempt you will need these in your deck.
  • Reaver's Ambush -> [Moment of Craving]
    Reaver’s Ambush function similarly to Moment of Craving but without healing us, they can be used to stall although not quite as effectively as MoC.
  • Treasure Map -> [Search for Azcanta]
    This is an budget replacement for Azcanta, its clunkier to use and has quite a different purpose once transformed but it can control draw quality and give a big boost in available mana after you’ve used it three times. It can even be used to give you a bigger Torment of Hailfire earlier.
  • Arguel's Blood Fast -> [Search for Azcanta]
    This is an alternative to Search for Azcanta, it can be used to draw you cards as long as you are able to pay the mana cost (repeatable in the same turn), and after transforming it can heal you which offers amazing sustain in some MUs and offering amazing synergy with Scarab God. Wait for your opponents to cast hard removal at your units and then pop this sucker off.

    A nice loop you can do with it is just sac’ing your Scarab God over and over, provided you aren’t against a blue deck that will just counter-spell you for trying to do so.
  • Nezahal -> [Scarab God]
    If you’re an unlucky boy or girl with no Scarab Daddy I highly recommend just chucking this guy in your deck for a while, I ran him until I got 2x Scarab God, although he's dead weight in a ton of MUs he's one of few high mana cost units the game gives you for free and does find some use.
  • Pull from Tomorrow -> [Torment of Hailfire]
    If you don’t have Torment of Hailfire I’d recommend using Pull from Tomorrow as an alternative mana-sink, lategame you can use this to massively increase your hand quality, and most often this card will shine in the mirror. In other MUs you can burn this early to draw a few cards. If you’re lacking a lot of digging tools like Search for Azcanta then this can be a nice card to have in your deck.
  • Consign // Oblivion -> [Commit // Memory]
    This is a good alternative to commit /// memory, and much cheaper to cast. Try to only use this when you can follow it up with negate/cancel/essence scatter as the main purpose of it is to remove a non-land permanent that slipped by you and got onto the board. You can also use it on tokens to remove them from the game. Overall its a solid anti-enchantment tech which this deck is sorely lacking.

    The secondary ability is a nice touch but extremely expensive, I wouldn’t recommend casting it most the time unless you just sent something back into their hand with consign and they have less than 2 cards afterwards. Use oblivion with caution.


Closing Thoughts


It’s important to remember I made this deck by using the cards available to me, there are cards that I simply don’t have and therefore don’t know how well they’d mesh with my list. Experiment on your own and see if you can improve the list using the cards you have available to you.

If I had the wildcards, I would definitely add a third Scarab God and the rare dual lands to the list as I think that would increase the power level of the deck significantly. I would also like to experiment with a 4th Vraskas but I simply don’t have it yet.

Playing any control deck well relies heavily on knowing your opponent and what their strategy is, don’t feel to bad if you are struggling to win games. It will take time to understand how to play the deck properly.

If you have any questions feel free to bug me on our Discord server, I always go by the nick nossr50.

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