Modern UWb Nightmare Control

WRITTEN BY

Hello fellow PucaTraders. I love the Modern format, and today I'd like to share my take on UW control with you. I am pretty new at this whole writing thing, so hold on because it may be a bumpy ride!

Since picking Magic back up around Avacyn Restored—I had to abandon it before Lorwyn was released—Modern was a new format I hadn't experienced yet. While searching for the right deck to suit my playstyle, I went through about every type of deck out there. I started with Mono-White Humans, and then tried Affinity, Stompy, Titanshift, Tooth and Nail, Grixis Delver, Lantern Control... Just kidding, I didn't stoop quite that low.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that control was the style that suited me best. I'd learned about other decks and noticed that I prefer a conservative playstyle over an aggressive one. I noticed that UW Control had put up some good results, and started with the list below:

Stock UW Control - Modern

Creatures
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Wall of Omens

Spells
4 Path to Exile
3 Supreme Verdict
3 Cryptic Command
4 Serum Visions
1 Logic Knot
2 Negate
1 Sphinx's Revelation
2 Detention Sphere
4 Spreading Seas
2 Gideon of the Trials
1 Condemn
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Gideon Jura
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Lands
4 Flooded Strand
4 Celestial Colonnade
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Glacial Fortress
5 Island
3 Plains
1 Tectonic Edge
4 Ghost Quarter
1 Irrigated Farmland

Sideboard
2 Stony Silence
2 Rest in Peace
2 Dispel
1 Wrath of God
2 Timely Reinforcements
1 Blessed Alliance
2 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Celestial Purge
1 Negate

Core Strategy

UW Control's aim is to keep the board clear until it can land its own finishers, like Gideon Jura or Celestial Colonnade. Supreme Verdict, Path to Exile, and Detention Sphere help you accomplish this.

Besides keeping the board clear, you also want to make sure that "nothing bad happens," so you will need a counter suite to deal with key spells. Cryptic Command is a great catch-all and an auto-include. Negate hits a lot of problematic spells like Scapeshift, Cranial Plating, etc. Logic Knot is a good option because of the delve ability, allowing it to outperform Mana Leak in the late game.

One of the other angles that UW Control uses to control the game is its mana denial package with Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge, and Spreading Seas. It can attack Tron lands, punish greedy mana bases, or deal with other problematic lands like Inkmoth Nexus.

Paint It Black

I like the core strategy of UW Control, but I always try to put my own spin on an existing strategy by adding some cards that I feel could push it over the edge. This led me to the following brew:

UWb Nightmare Control - Modern

Creatures
4 Snapcaster Mage

Spells
4 Path to Exile
3 Fatal Push
3 Supreme Verdict
3 Cryptic Command
4 Opt
2 Logic Knot
2 Negate
1 Sphinx's Revelation
1 Detention Sphere
2 Think Twice
4 Spreading Seas
2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
1 Gideon Jura

Lands
4 Flooded Strand
2 Polluted Delta
3 Celestial Colonnade
2 Hallowed Fountain
2 Watery Grave
1 Godless Shrine
3 Island
1 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Ghost Quarter

Sideboard
2 Stony Silence
2 Rest in Peace
2 Dispel
1 Wrath of God
2 Timely Reinforcements
1 Disenchant
2 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Celestial Purge
1 Negate

You'll recognize that most UW ontrol elements are still present, and that the differences between my deck and a stock UW Control list are minor.

I dropped Condemn and Wall of Omens to make room for Fatal Push. I feel that Push is great in the current meta, and it warrants a place in a control deck. I also replaced three of the Gideons with two Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and an Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Here's why:

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver: This is one of the most underrated cards in Modern. It does work against almost every deck in the format. You can “steal” your opponents' Snapcaster Mages, Death's Shadows, and Reality Smashers. Not to mention, against control based decks it allows you to attack their library, and if unanswered, her ultimate is backbreaking. In short, Ashiok is a threat that requires an answer.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion: Being able to drop three soldiers allows us to go wide fairly quickly, and it also leaves Elspeth protected from your opponent's creatures.

Match-ups and Sideboard Options

Based on the changes above and the core strategy of UW Control, I'll try to explain some common match-ups that I have experience with.

Death's Shadow and Delver

This should be favorable thanks to our removal suite.

Sideboard Plan (Grixis Shadow)
+2 Rest in Peace
+1 Celestial Purge
+2 Timely Reinforcements
+2 Dispel

-1 Think Twice
-4 Spreading Seas
-2 Logic Knot

Rest in Peace cuts off Delve, Kolaghan's Command, and their Snapcaster Mages. Spreading Seas is less important since they will likely play their threats before the card becomes relevant. Timely Reinforcements gives us blockers that will stall them.

Sideboard Plan (Jund Shadow)
+2 Rest in Peace
+1 Celestial Purge
+2 Timely Reinforcements
+2 Dispel

-1 Detention Sphere
-2 Logic Knot
-2 Snapcaster Mage
-2 Think Twice

Unlike the Grixis variants, here it is a bit easier to punish their greedy manabase, so I opted to take out cards like Snapcaster Mage and Think Twice instead of Spreading Seas, as both are potentially impacted by Rest in Peace.

NOTE: You will notice that I leave Snapcaster Mage in against Grixis. I would rather have Snapcaster Mage as a blocker instead of Logic Knot, which has more potential to be a dead card in my opinion.

Eldrazi / Tron Variants

The goal is to cut them off from Tron through Spreading Seas and Ghost Quarter, then land your own threats before they can play through your land disruption.

Sideboard Plan (Eldrazi)
+1 Crucible of Worlds (Aww-yeah!)
+2 Ceremonious Rejection
+1 Disenchant

-2 Negate
-2 Think Twice

Crucible of Worlds with Ghost Quarter can really grind them to a halt. Ceremonious Rejection is a more effective counterspell and Disenchant gives us extra options against Chalice of the Void should those come in.

Sideboard Plan (Tron)
+1 Crucible of Worlds
+2 Ceremonious Rejection
+1 Disenchant
+1 Negate
+2 Stony Silence

-3 Fatal Push
-3 Supreme Verdict
-1 Logic Knot

A Crucible of Worlds / Ghost Quarter lock really sets them back. Fatal Push and Supreme Verdict are fairly irrelevant since they don't tend to go wide. Stony Silence is superior to both pieces of removal since it turns off Expedition Maps and Chromatic Sphere / Chromatic Star.

Aggro (Affinity / Zoo / Merfolk)

Our removal suite allows us to keep things under control until we can play Supreme Verdict and play a Planeswalker.

Sideboard Plan (Zoo)
+1 Wrath of God
+2 Timely Reinforcements
+1 Celestial Purge

-4 Spreading Seas

Removal and blockers trump Spreading Seas any day in this match-up.

Sideboard Plan (Affinity)
+1 Wrath of God
+2 Timely Reinforcements
+2 Stony Silence
+1 Disenchant
+2 Ceremonious Rejection

-4 Spreading Seas
-1 Jace, Architect of Thought
-1 Sphinx's Revelation
-2 Think Twice

There are plenty of options after sideboarding, which should slow them down a lot. Spreading Seas is too slow, as are Jace, Architect of Thought and Sphinx's Revelation.

Sideboard Plan (Merfolk)
+1 Disenchant
+1 Wrath of God
+2 Timely Reinforcements

-4 Spreading Seas

I think the choices are fairly obvious. You could bring in Crucible of Worlds if you want to handle their Mutavaults or Cavern of Souls consistently with Ghost Quarter.

Burn

This is a tough match-up, and you will most likely lose game one. Thankfully we have a sideboard to help.

Sideboard Plan
+2 Timely Reinforcements
+1 Disenchant
+2 Dispel
+1 Negate

-3 Spreading Seas
-3 Supreme Verdict

Dispel is an effective counter and becomes better with Snapcaster Mage. Disenchant allows us to deal with potential cards that may come in against us like Rest in Peace or Grafdigger's Cage, and at the very worst can attack their Eidolon of the Great Revel. Supreme Verdict is slow and Spreading Seas are fairly useless in the match-up.

Control Decks

Our advantage lies with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. Once resolved, Ashiok slowly eats away at their library and becomes a must-deal-with threat for your opponent.

Sideboard Plan
+1 Crucible of Worlds
+2 Dispel
+1 Negate
+1 Disenchant

-3 Supreme Verdict
-1 Path to Exile
-1 Fatal Push

I've added more countermagic to win the counter wars. Crucible of Worlds is there to try and cripple their manabase. Disenchant is a catch-all option, depending on what your opponent plays. Potential targets could be Detention Sphere, Crucible of Worlds, etc.

Storm

This comes down to keeping Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer off the board, and countering their crucial spells.

Sideboard Plan
+1 Negate
+2 Rest in Peace
+2 Dispel

-3 Spreading Seas
-1 Path to Exile
-1 Supreme Verdict

More countermagic is needed, and Spreading Seas does not do enough to set them back. I want to keep some number of Supreme Verdict in, just in case the storm player goes for the Empty the Warrens plan.

Jund

This is a true 50/50 match-up and will likely be decided by who has the best draw. I try to cut them off from double sources so their key spells cannot be cast.

Sideboard Plan
+1 Crucible of Worlds
+2 Timely Reinforcements
+1 Celestial Purge
+1 Wrath of God

-2 Think Twice
-1 Snapcaster Mage
-1 Logic Knot
-1 Jace, Architect of Thought

This is the toughest match-up to sideboard for. I chose to get more removal and ways to deal with possible Planeswalkers. They may bring in Thrun, the Last Troll, so Timely Reinforcements and Wrath of God are good answers. Liliana, the Last Hope is particularly troubling for us since she picks off Snapcaster Mages and tokens. Celestial Purge is a good way to get rid of her in case we are unable to counter.

Where do we go from here?

Gideon of the Trials is an option as well, and may require some tinkering to fit him in. With my choice to play Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, I haven't had the time to test with him yet, but he is very much on my radar.

The recent hype around humans is not something that concerns me too much. While not having played this match-up yet, it does help that their manabase is a bit greedy and light on basics. Ghost Quarter and Spreading Seas along with the various amounts of removal should be able to keep them at bay. This is one match-up where the three Fatal Pushes over Condemn and Wall of Omens will definitely pull their weight.

The sideboard is something that I will continuously re-evaluate. Disenchant has its uses, but there may be other options that could also prove valuable such as Vendilion Clique, Disdainful Stroke, and Geist of Saint Traft to name a few. Since sideboard choices are very dependent on your local metagame, there will be plenty of variation.

Lastly, Storm is a bit of an uphill battle game one. Maybe Disallow could make an appearance in the 60, replacing either a Negate or Logic Knot.

Conclusion

As with a lot of control decks, there is always space for minor changes and tweaks based on your local metagame. As a reactive control player, let the metagame shape your deck and sideboard choices.

Don't be afraid to experiment and go against the grain. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is a card that will raise eyebrows with some people, but I have been happy with how it's performed. I generally dislike tapping out early on, so I stayed away from Wall of Omens and replaced Serum Visions with Opt, but you may want to do something different. Let me know what you think on Discord!  

Before I get out of here I want to thank all the Puca traders who helped me build this deck by sending me the cards for it- you all rock!

Dennis Gabriels is an avid Modern player. Currently he’s rocking casual Modern FNM's with the occasional drafts when a new set is released. Before moving to the USA from Belgium, Dennis' best finishes included several regional top 8 finishes with Izzetron in the Ravnica block / Time Spiral block Standard era. Dennis is also looking to expand his horizons to the Legacy format after having completed the Pox deck entirely through Puca.

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