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 Post subject: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-17 11:31 pm 
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Joined: 2009-Mar-31 8:25 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: New Zealand
I admit, I'm not good at slinging spells, and if a list isn't running a chunk of creatures with ETB effects (that count for both a threat and a form of CA for deck space purposes), I struggle with both list direction and finding room to fit everything needed and not feel like low hanging fruit for my opponents (because I usually end up neglecting creatures).

What's the secret? Is it a tonne of board wipes? Lots of draw?

Would R/W (as an example, and please excuse my current fixation with the colour combination) ever make a successful control list because of it's lack of quality bulk draw? Or at least always feel inferior? It has the removal in spades.

I consider my Xenagos list a control list, but it works because I'm running 17 pieces of removal mostly attached to bodies, Xenagos almost makes anything except a Birds of Paradise dangerous and he also breaks draw spells like Life's Legacy in half.

So ya, quality draw, removal and a win-con basically right?

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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-17 11:45 pm 

Joined: 2015-Jan-14 2:58 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
I've come to the conclusion that the three viable control strategies for commander are Bx sac control, Pillow Fort, and stax. You need a permanent based strategy to maintain card advantage.

That's my short pre-work answer.

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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-18 2:11 am 

Joined: 2015-Jan-14 2:58 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
To expand on the above, it seems to me that control in multiplayer is fundamentally different to 1v1 control. Counterspells and spot removal are supplemental instead of central. They are card disadvantage and must be used sparingly. Mass removal is one cornerstone, card draw is another, while repeatable measures of control (in most cases permanents) that provide card advantage are the last.

There seem to be three routes to take here. One is to play defensively and simply make yourself a hard target, one who it is too costly or ineffective to attack (Pillow Fort). The second is to create a battlefield environment that allows casting but is hostile to a significant board state, through sacrifice, discard, upkeep costs, etc. (Black Sac and related) Finally there is creating a hostile casting environment through resource denial and cost increases (Stax).

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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-18 2:43 am 

Joined: 2013-Aug-20 4:37 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Boston
Spectrar Ghost wrote:
To expand on the above, it seems to me that control in multiplayer is fundamentally different to 1v1 control. Counterspells and spot removal are supplemental instead of central. They are card disadvantage and must be used sparingly. Mass removal is one cornerstone, card draw is another, while repeatable measures of control (in most cases permanents) that provide card advantage are the last.

I think this is correct, but I think that your second category can actually go in 2 different directions. Black sac is definitely one way to do it, but you can also go for a more sweeper-heavy version of traditional control.

You're basically locked into either black or white to get a sufficient mass of board wipes (red might suffice, but the sweepers there tend to be mana inefficient). You can get away with limited counterspells, but you are probably going to need some to deal with things like Genesis Wave or Rise of the Dark Realms that are just going to give you fits even if you sweep immediately after they resolve. You need plenty of card advantage so you are probably in blue or green (Kodama's Reach is a better draw 2 than Divination in this format). Lastly, you have to have a way to close out games before your control slips away. Haymakers happen, and you aren't going to be able to contain absolutely everything with this kind of deck.

I think that the commander plays an essential part in making a control list work. Oloro gives you a hefty life buffer and can do some CA work, Zur the Enchanter can provide CA every time he swings and let you fetch out whatever category of card you need, The Mimeoplasm can either be a huge threat or turn into a bigger version of a sweet ETB creature, and Tasigur, the Golden Claw, keeps coming down for cheap and gives you a repeatable source of card advantage. There are probably other generals that can work (Ramses Overdark, Isperia the Inscrutable, and Dragonlord Ojutai spring to mind), but these are the ones that I've actually seen at the helm of more traditional-style control lists.


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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-18 5:39 am 

Joined: 2013-Jan-07 1:45 am
Age: Dragon
I play a lot of control; I agree with what everyone else had said, although, I don't think you have to use any particular color or general. It's really about how you build your deck. I've seen people do mono-W control, mono-G control, mono-B control, mono-U control... I don't really think I'd call any of the mono-R decks I've seen "control," but that's not because it's impossible to build.

Remember there's different types of control like "aggro-control" and "combo-control" and "prison-control" and they can all work. You can probably do "aggro-contro" in R/W and use equipment as control cards : sunforger is a source of repeatable removal, sword of fire and ice is a source of repeatable card draw, etc. You could run stuff like heartseeker or argentum armor.

I think you can have spell-based control decks, but they have to generate a lot of card advantage through those spells. Like, U/R melek spell-based control is totally reasonable.

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Kothophed (mono black control, ETB abuse)
Teferi, Temporal Archmage (blue pillowfort superfriends)
Glint-Eye Nephilim (combat tricks, card draw, & creature pump)
Oloro Upkeep Tribal (enchantment-based control)
and more:Decklists


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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-18 7:07 am 

Joined: 2014-Sep-13 7:28 am
Age: Elder Dragon
I would like to try to write more later, but for now just want to reiterate/agree with Spectrar.

Reusable or lasting effects make all the difference. Stoic Angel, Arcane Laboratory, Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, Chains of Mephistopheles, Stranglehold, Cursed Totem...

All have huge effects on the game and are great control cards (depending on what you are trying to do...)

Board wipes are great, since you don't lose major card advantage like 1-for-1's, and can effect multiple opponents (of course also probably some ire).

Card advantage, whether draw or selection, is usually a must since you are probably not trying to rely on Players B and C to do your job for you on D's boardstate.

Specifically RW, i could see that working with some of the tempo white dudes like Fiend Hunter, removal guys like Flametongue Kavu and Inferno Titan, asymmetrical Stranglehold types, Moat is great, Sun Titan (which could use a small suite of cards like Ratchet Bomb, Brittle Effigy, Seal of Cleansing, Soul Snare?, and of course Strip Mine), and of course some pretty wings with vigilance like Akroma, Angel of Wrath or either Avacyn.


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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-18 10:37 pm 
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Just putting it out there, but Descent of the Dragons is the best control card in the game.

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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-18 11:59 pm 
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Joined: 2009-Aug-20 7:49 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: New Hampshire
Uktabi_Kong wrote:
Just putting it out there, but Descent of the Dragons is the best control card in the game.

That's.... interesting. Not an assessment I would have made. Care to explain? I mean, it's nucking futs in a Karrthus deck, but that in itself isn't enough to make it "the best control card", especially since it DOES target, so pro red saves your dudes, and it's 'destroy', not 'sacrifice', so indestructible still saves your dudes, and of course the whole "giving your opponents dragons" aspect. I'd say Blasphemous Act is a far superior control card most of the time if you're doing red control.

mmcgeach wrote:
I don't think you have to use any particular color or general. It's really about how you build your deck.

This. It's all about what you build the deck to do, although certain colors have more options than others.

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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-19 5:08 am 

Joined: 2011-Aug-18 3:35 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Uktabi_Kong wrote:
Just putting it out there, but Descent of the Dragons is the best control card in the game.


When paired with Willbreaker, yes.


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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-19 5:23 am 
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Joined: 2009-Aug-20 7:49 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: New Hampshire
Epsilon wrote:
Uktabi_Kong wrote:
Just putting it out there, but Descent of the Dragons is the best control card in the game.


When paired with Willbreaker, yes.

That's pretty spicy.

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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-19 6:53 pm 

Joined: 2011-Apr-07 11:38 am
Age: Elder Dragon
The key to a good control deck is card advantage and the ability to recover when things dont go your way.

This is entirely possible in RW (my favorite color combo). ETB creatures are one way to due this, esp if you start to copy them (kiki-jiki, mimic vat, etc). I had a deck at one point that was an Aurelia deck with creatures that do something cool when they tap. It was a really strong control deck. I've had a few mono red control decks as well. Remember draw is not the only form of card advantage.

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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-20 2:32 am 
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Joined: 2011-Jan-16 5:36 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Toronto, ON
The most high level view of control that doesn't reference specific colours or cards has to do with the character of your game plan: A control deck seeks to stall the game until it can leverage a threat an opponent cannot reasonably answer, if at all. It is essentially a game of "don't lose" until you win.

The core tactics for doing this are to answer every opposing threat as efficiently as possible. This is done in a couple of ways:

1. Having flexible answers.

Flexible answers is one of the reasons why counterspells are commonly associated with control. Counterspells will typically answer any threat your opponent intends to leverage, whether it be a game ending combo, or a savage beater. Counterspells also protect your own threats from answers. Charms are often an option as well.

2. Having at least one more answer than your opponent(s) have threats.

This hashes out in a variety of ways; usually it means drawing more cards, or having many-for-one trades with the cards you do have. Wraths are prevalent in control lists (even in non-EDH formats) because they stop many threats at once. You break the symmetry by not eliminating your own threats. Wraths are even more prevalent in EDH because it will typically answer many threats all at once.

3. Having a threats which are resilient as possible.

Threats take any forms, but if it ends the game in your favour, it doesn't really matter what it is. Planeswalkers might be able to do it (like Jace, the Mindsculptor), inevitable mill out might work, or even a dork with a Sword of Feast and Famine.

With all that in mind, any colour can play control. Typically, control decks typically live in White, Blue, and Black, since those colours best support the first two requirements for a traditional control deck (while any colour can do the third).

For practical purposes, I have an example of a (slightly dated) control deck: Mono-red Jaya.

It's control because it (mostly) fulfills the requirements I set out.

1. Due to the colour limitations, answers are not as flexible as we'd like. Still, Jaya allows most cards to perform their usual function, or act as an answer for creatures. For example, if there are no threatening artifacts around, Vandalblast can be fuel for Jaya's abilities.

2. It tries to have more answers than their could be threats. Jaya can turn any card into an creature answer. You could say I have an abundance of Incincerates, though, only one per turn. Additionally, Jaya can trade many-for-one with her third ability. Finally, the graveyard-to-hand phoenixes and Squee make Jaya's abilities go a little further.

3. Resilient threats

The phoenixes repeatedly come back and carry equipment to victory. There are many other threats, though many of them are not especially resilient (like Inferno Titan or Godo). Jaya herself is a resilient threat as a general, since she can floor a table with Glacial Chasm, Repercussion or any equipment with lifelink.

Hopefully that helps and isn't too boring to read.

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Last edited by Sinis on 2015-Nov-22 5:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-20 5:56 am 
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Joined: 2009-Mar-31 8:25 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: New Zealand
That was great Sinis, thank you (as well as everyone else's replies as well of course :D ).

I have a Anya list sitting at 109 cards I'll post soon and hopefully better explain my dilemma of basically trying to do too much.

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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-20 8:19 am 

Joined: 2013-Aug-20 4:37 am
Age: Elder Dragon
Location: Boston
Sinis wrote:
Hopefully that helps and isn't too boring to read.

That was incredibly insightful and useful. Not boring in the least.


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 Post subject: Re: What is key to a more traditional control list?
AgePosted: 2015-Nov-20 2:10 pm 
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Joined: 2012-Feb-07 4:15 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
The biggest thing to know is that it all depends on your general. Your general has to do a couple things:

1. Give you good color combinations for control.

2. Provide card advantage.

3. Be relevant reasonably early on.

Damia is the single best example of a good control general. Gives access to three colors which provide a solid combo of all of the things Sinis outlined, and thanks to her amazing draw ability doesn't mind devoting spots in the deck to bad fast ramp like Rituals or the legal moxen.

The single biggest problem I have with control lists is the win condition. It's very hard to find that balance between threats that can actually win the game but at the same time aren't stupid and antisocial, especially considering what is socially acceptable changes from group to group. Once you figure that out, then games will become much more interesting and enjoyable.

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