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Thread: Miracle Control

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    Etherium is limited. Innovation is not.
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    Miracle Control

    Table of Contents
    1. Introduction
    2. History
    3. The Evolution of Counterbalance Landstill
    4. The Fall of the Legacy Legal Ancestral Recall
    5. The New Manabase
    6. A Little Gem
    7. The Removal Spell to End All Removal Spells
    8. The New Age of Control
    9. Deck Overview
    10. Why Should I Play This Deck?
    11. Card Choices
    12. Color Splashes
    13. Possible Inclusions and Cards that I’ve Dismissed
    14. Matchup Analysis and Sideboarding Strategies
    15. Tournament Results
    16. Conclusion

    Introduction

    I’m the type of deck designer that tries to often think outside of the box, adding innovation that can range from complex ideas to sometimes the simplest things that you’d be surprised you never thought of.

    I’d like to thank all of those who have assisted in my development of this deck. There are a large number of you, so I apologize for not name dropping anyone. If anyone feels as though they’ve contributed to this deck in some way, you can send me a PM and I’ll put your name in this section.

    History

    Back in 2007, before the distinction between different blue-green based aggro/control decks, when everything was still called "Threshold," the combination of Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance had become widely popular, and for good reason.

    I’ve always enjoyed playing blue-based control decks, and back in 2008 when I started designing this deck, Landstill (discussion starts on page 32) was the premier control deck of the format. Most lists at that time, mine included, were running Sensei’s Divining Top. I believed then and still believe now that Sensei’s Divining Top was and is the best card in the deck.

    Mob mentality sometimes has a way of not accepting great ideas because they seem ridiculous at the time. While working on designing and innovating my Landstill deck, I had one of those great yet ridiculous ideas: I’m already running 4 Sensei’s Divining Top and I’m playing a blue-based control deck… so why am I not playing Counterbalance?

    In all honesty, I see absolutely no reason to not run Counterbalance in a blue-based control deck. Counterbalance is, without a doubt, the best control spell in the entire format. The first spell it counters is parity, putting it at the same level as a Counterspell, and every spell countered after that makes it a Forbid without the clunky 1UU casting cost and the horrible card disadvantage. It also has the unique ability of keeping recurring cards, like Life from the Loam, off the table. Even more important, Counterbalance can and will generate card advantage over the course of the game. Counterbalance significantly improves multiple bad matchups and good matchups, with very little downside in the matchups that it does not significantly improve.

    The Evolution of Counterbalance Landstill

    Of course, at that time, many people had either attempted to just plug Counterbalance into their existing Landstill decks with little success, or had simply disregarded it as a card not meant for Landstill. I’ve seen all the various arguments before; Landstill already has a great lategame and doesn’t need it like Threshold does, Landstill doesn’t have the proper curve for it, so on and so forth.

    As I slowly designed and innovated the deck, it became further and further distanced from being a Landstill deck, until I eventually posted the original U/W/x CounterTop Walker thread.

    Originally, I tried to incorporate the CounterTop engine with the Standstill + Mishra's Factory engine. Over time, the deck had to evolve away from the Standstill + Factory engine. That engine is so bad by today’s standards, when many decks are running their own manlands, Wasteland’s, and especially AEther Vial. Even a deck without those spells, like Zoo can invalidate Standstill by dropping threats on the board before Standstill comes down.

    Control decks thrive on gaining card advantage, and it’s the reason why they have a superior lategame and ultimately win. What many players fail to realize is that not only is drawing cards not necessary to gain card advantage, it’s also fundamentally the worst way to gain card advantage because cards in hand do not directly alter board position. Counterbalance in and of itself is a card advantage engine, but rather than drawing cards from the top of the deck and putting them into your hand, you’re countering your opponent’s spells. This means that you are directly affecting the opponent’s board position while gaining card advantage.

    Just to set things straight: both Counterbalance and Standstill are blue enchantments that cost two mana and require that the deck be built around them.

    The Fall of the Legacy Legal Ancestral Recall

    Of course, Standstill + Factory didn’t become bad overnight. New card sets and shifts in the metagame have slowly lead to its decline.

    CounterTop is no worse than Standstill + Factory against Vial Aggro decks like [url=http://www.mtgthesource.com/forums/showthread.php?8158[/url], except Top is still an exceptional card in that matchup, and Counterbalance is still relevant when the opponent does not have a Vial in play.

    When Standstill was in its prime, Decree of Justice was Landstill’s best win condition, which worked beautiful under a Standstill. With the printing of Planeswalkers, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and more recently Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Decree of Justice is no longer at the power level necessary for the format.

    Elspeth and Jace are the best win conditions that traditional U/W Control decks have had, since… well, ever. At 4 mana each, both are significantly less mana intensive than any previous win condition that I can think of, and both have a commanding presence once they resolve. If not dealt with in a very short manner, they will eventually dominate the board and seal the game.

    The problem with these new Planeswalkers is that they cannot be cast under a Standstill, significantly weakening the synergy that it had in Landstill. CounterTop, on the other hand, does not have these problems.

    The New Manabase

    After removing the Standstill + Factory engine, the deck began to fall into place. With the freedom to build solely around Counterbalance, I was able to evolve the deck even further.

    Probably the most important benefit to cutting the manlands was the increased strength of the decks manabase. A strong manabase is the single most important aspect for any control deck. When you want to be tying mana up spinning Top or casting 4cc Planeswalkers, you want to make consistent land drops throughout the entire early game and majority of the midgame. Not only is the total number of lands relevant, but so are obtaining the proper color sources. Being unable to cast spells because you were flooded with colorless mana sources was an issue I constantly ran into when I played Landstill. Countertop Superfriends doesn’t have that issue. This deck has one of the most stable manabases I’ve ever played with.

    A Little Gem

    After cutting Standstill, I found myself wanting a replacement. I needed another blue spell to pitch to Force of Will, and I also needed it to be 2cc for Counterbalance. After weighing all of the possible options I had available, I remembered a little gem called Predict. Mystical Tutor was seeing heavy use at the time in both ANT and Reanimator, and Predict was not only a virtual draw 3, but it was an amazing disruption card as well. Of course, Mystical Tutor has since been banned, but I still find use for Predict as disruption against Enlightened Tutor-based decks.

    Even without its disruptive feature, Predict is still a still a very elegant card. A draw 2 for 2 is as good as it gets in Legacy without jumping through hoops with Standstill or Ancestral Vision. Obviously, Predict is not a straight up and down draw 2, and still requires hoops of its own to be enabled. However, the shell of my deck without Predict is about as perfect as it gets to accommodate it, making it such a lucky find for me. Between Brainstorm, Top, blind Counterbalance reveals, Jace, and possible help from the opponent with their own Counterbalance or E Tutors, there’s more than enough ways to enable the draw 2. Once I get a Top online, Predict is enabled for the rest of the game.

    Predict goes beyond just gaining +1 card advantage; there’s always going to be a dead spell or two when spinning Top or casting Brainstorm. Predict lets me put the dead card in the graveyard and draw a fresh 2, which is essentially a draw virtual draw 3. Now the next time I spin my Top, I get to see a fresh 3. Top + Predict is a very powerful draw engine in the mid-late game.

    The Removal Spell to End All Removal Spells

    Without a doubt, the most widely discussed topic in the Landstill thread has been about the removal package. Almost everyone agrees on 4 Swords to Plowshares, but that’s where the agreement ends. There’s a long list of removal spells that have been tried in various control shells, from Engineered Explosives to Humility.

    I was originally using [/cards]Wrath of God[/cards] myself, as my board sweeper and card advantage bomb. However, a big expensive sweeper like that no longer works well enough in Legacy. At 4 mana, it’s simply too slow; you’re likely dead before it resolves, if it ever does in the face of cards like Daze, Spell Pierce, and Wasteland. If you use spot removal to survive long enough to cast Wrath of God, it’s rarely better than a 2-for-1. Even as a 3-for-1, it’s still only a 1-shot effect for 4 mana.

    By the suggestion of a Sourcer named Doks, I decided to try Vedalken Shackles instead. At first I tried it as a singleton, and then moved to two copies, and more recently I’ve moved it up to 3 copies.

    Vedalken Shackles is what I always wanted Wrath of God to be; mass removal that generates card advantage. The difference here is that Shackles continuously does this throughout the game. It becomes even stronger in multiples, its lower casting cost is extremely relevant in modern Legacy, and being a 3 drop increases my density in that cc range for Counterbalance. For this deck, when it comes to handling aggro, there is literally nothing better than Vedalken Shackles.

    The New Age of Control

    Without further ado, I give you my current decklist (as of 4/11/11):

    U/W Countertop Superfriends

    Lands (22)
    4 Flooded Strand
    3 Polluted Delta
    1 Marsh Flats
    4 Tundra
    7 Island
    2 Plains
    1 Kor Haven

    Creatures (0)

    Spells (38)
    2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
    2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    4 Brainstorm
    3 Predict
    4 Sensei's Divining Top
    4 Counterbalance
    4 Counterspell
    4 Force of Will
    4 Swords to Plowshares
    2 Path to Exile
    2 Oblivion Ring
    3 Vedalken Shackles

    Sideboard (15)
    2 Aura of Silence
    2 Moat
    4 Peacekeeper
    4 Meddling Mage
    3 Pithing Needle

    Deck Overview

    The basic concept of this deck is the same as other control decks: control the board until you hit the mid-late game and then ride a win condition to victory. This deck has an adequate number of ways of surviving to the midgame, and then dominating the mid-late game.

    This deck thrives itself on card advantage; not just by drawing more cards than the opponent, but by gaining card advantage multiple different ways. This deck utilizes a lot of permanent-based control elements, giving it recurring sources of countermagic, removal, card quality, etc.

    The curve of this deck is significantly lower than older control decks like Landstill, and is right about on par with newer control decks like CounterTop/Supreme Blue.

    Lastly, this deck runs 0 creatures, rendering the opponents removal useless in most cases. However, stolen creatures with Shackles and tokens made by Elspeth, still give the opponent’s removal some targets.

    Why Should I Play This Deck?

    Different players have different preferences when it comes to play style. Some like to senselessly beat with aggro like Wild Nacatl, some like to set up a complicated series of play to resolve a lethal Tendrils of Agony. Others like to tell their opponents “NO!” For those that like to be in control, then this is the deck for you.

    Of course, there are a lot of other control decks out there, and so maybe the question is, “why play this control deck over those other control decks?” My answer to that is the sheer power level and synergy that this deck has.

    This deck doesn’t sacrifice card advantage to set up vulnerable two-card combos like Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek, and breaks the old traditional control shell of playing “fair” 1–shot effects like Wrath of God the entire game. This deck literally has an answer to everything between its 75. This deck is capable of preventing the opponent from doing absolutely anything from beginning to end, and often does so in dominating fashion. This deck has game against everything in the format; no matchup is an auto loss in a standard best 2 out of 3 game set. I’m not claiming that the deck does not have bad matchups, because it does. But every deck has bad matchups, and the bad matchups for this deck are not utterly hopeless. This deck is not a glass cannon and it’s very consistent.

    This deck is also prime for the current metagame, despite the common misbelief that control is bad in diverse formats.

    Card Choices

    The deck has constantly gone through changes, and I’ve play tested with a lot of various card choices and at varying amounts. Over the course of several years of development, I’ve been able to fine tune the cards and numbers. However, as with all control decks, many players have special card preferences that they either like to play with, or work better for their particular metagame. I’ll list own my card choices first, and then I’ll list possible color splash options and possible card inclusions.

    Counterbalance Curve and Blue Spell Count for Force of Will

    Throughout extensive testing with this deck, my personal guidelines for the Counterbalance curve has been a minimum of 10 1cc spells, 10 2cc spells, and 3 3cc spells. My personal guidelines for the minimum blue spell count for Force of Will has been 18 blue spells. Note that these are guideline minimums and I always strive to increase those numbers. My current decklist that I posted above has 14 1cc spells, 11 2cc spells, 5 3cc spells, 4 4cc spells, and 4 5cc spells with 21 blue spells to pitch to Force of Will… which is right on the money.

    Land

    I ran 23 lands, successfully, for a very long time. Since then, the mana costs of the deck have continued to go down considerably. In more recent months, I started to find myself needing less and less land during the mid and late game, but found myself drawing excess land fairly often. The deck definitely wants to hit consistent land drops early, and having extra mana sources available in the mid game is great too. However, the deck also wants to draw business. Finding the right proportion of lands to spells is like a fine art. So I went down to 22 lands, and it feels right.

    8 fetchlands are necessary for proper Brainstorm/Top shuffling. Islands are the most important mana source in the deck because the deck wants to hit UU by as early as turn 2, and wants as many Islands as possible for Vedalken Shackles.

    The lone Kor Haven is great. It’s the only colorless land in the deck, which is very rarely an issue. It taps for mana to spin Top or cast any of the spells in my deck that have colorless costs, and its ability to prevent combat damage is a very nice addition to my removal package.

    Win Conditions

    Jace is now widely accepted by the community, but I remember a time when it was not. However, I still see a lot of people discredit Elspeth. Elspeth is amazing in a number of situations where Jace is not, including Elspeth being the amazing Jace-slayer in the mirror. Elspeth fairs better in the face of aggro, and can be a faster clock on an empty board. Both Jace and Elspeth have their strengths and weaknesses, and both deserve to be in the deck. Additionally, the ability to have both Jace and Elspeth in play at the same time is undeniably strong; hence why they are Superfriends. Superfriends-mode almost always draws a concession. I’ve tested various splits, and I’ve come to find the 2/2 split to be just right. I don’t want my hand getting clogged early, and 4 are enough for me to find one when I need one.

    Vedalken Shackles can also serve as a win condition, although much less frequently as the Planeswalker’s.

    Draw Package

    Although my draw package isn’t drawing me a mass of cards with Fact or Fiction or Standstill, the deck really doesn’t need the mass card draw because of all of the other cards in my deck that generate card advantage. Rather than drawing a mass of cards, the draw engine is designed to increase my card quality. Making sure I draw what I need when I need it is often more invaluable than drawing multiple cards. Of course, I still have Predict, which is a blend of card advantage and card quality. In combination with Top, Predict becomes a savage draw engine for this deck. I’ve tested running 2, 3, and 4 copies of Predict at various times, and 3 feels like the right amount. I don’t want to get clogged with them early on, but they are rarely ever a dead draw by the midgame.

    Counter Package

    Force of Will should not need an explanation, and I feel as though I’ve already thoroughly explained Counterbalance. 4 Counterbalance feels like the correct amount, although I’ve seen players do just fine with 3. Personally, I’d never go below 4 in this deck, because it’s so strong in so many matchups.

    As far as Counterspell is concerned, I’ve played with 2, 3, and 4 copies at various times. The amount of Counterspells is preferential; I prefer having 4 copies, but it’s not mandatory.

    Removal Package

    The 2 Path to Exile are something that I feel is necessary in today’s fast paced aggro metagame. Simply put, there are too many fast and efficient creatures that need to be dealt with these days that 4 Swords to Plowshares alone cannot handle. The deck needs to be able to survive to the midgame, where it can cast bombs like Vedalken Shackles, and the extra Path’s help with that. Giving the opponent a basic land is well worth removing a creature from the game for 1 white mana. However, these can easily be other removal spells if splashing a third color.

    Oblivion Ring is my Swiss army knife at handling any problematic permanent that slipped past my counter wall. It’s also capable of answering Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, which is something that Vindicate cannot. Being 3cc is also a big reason for its inclusion, since 3cc is becoming increasingly more important to be able to counter with Counterbalance. 2 O Rings have been enough for me in the maindeck, although that number isn’t set in stone. Like Counterspell, the amount is preferential, and with splash colors, there are other options available.

    Vedalken Shackles I’ve already explained in detail. 4 would be too many and clog too many early hands, but the deck absolutely wants more than 2, which leaves me at 3. Against Vial Aggro, and most other aggro, the deck absolutely wants to see at least 1 Shackles, with multiples being welcome.

    Sideboard

    As a disclaimer: Sideboards are never set in stone, including mine. The point of a sideboard is to address matchups that one will expect to face in his/her metagame. When I design sideboards, I design them with large scale tournaments in mind.

    The Aura of Silence are there as additional answers to artifacts/enchantments, coming in against decks like MUD, Enchantress, and Affinity.

    The Moat’s are specifically for the Goblins matchup, although they have applications elsewhere. The ability to answer Progenitus is noteworthy.

    The Peacekeeper’s come in against Merfolk primarly, since a resolved Peacekeeper is almost always gg. However, they are also great to bring in against removal-light aggro decks, like Bant variations that run 4 StP as their only removal, Affinity, Elves, and other various aggro decks. I’ve been finding these to be extremely important lately, and I think I’ll be keeping 4 in my sideboard for a very long time.

    The Meddling Mages come in against a ton of different matchups. I will detail this more in the matchup analysis and sideboarding strategy section.

    Pithing Needles come in to answer randomness, and are especially good against control mirrors; shutting down EE, Factory, Thopter Foundry, opposing Planeswalker’s, or Top’s when the situation calls for it, etc. It’s a nice answer to AEther Vial, Academy Ruins, Qasali Pridemage, and the list goes on.

    Color Splashes

    Splashing into a 3rd color is perfectly viable, since this deck has a more than stable enough manabase to accommodate a light 3rd color splash. There are advantages to each color: black, red, and green. I’m content with straight U/W right now, but I know many who prefer a splash.

    Black is my favorite 3rd color splash. For the large majority of time developing this deck, I splashed black for maindeck Vindicates instead of O Rings. There are many advantages to running Vindicate over O Ring, but there are several advantages to O Ring as well.

    Here’s a brief list of some of the valuable cards, for both the maindeck and sideboard, available to each color splash. If you feel that I’m missing something important, please feel free to PM me and I will add it to the list:

    Black

    Red

    Green

    Possible Inclusions and Cards that I’ve Dismissed

    I’ve tested a lot of things out. Some things simply work better than others and/or have better synergy with the rest of the deck. The biggest design constraints this deck has had is maintaining the blue spell count for Force of Will and maintaining a good curve for Counterbalance. Most of my deckbuilding decisions are heavily influenced by the Counterbalance curve. When attempting to dismantle this deck and make tweaks to it based on personal preferences of card choices, paying attention to the cc curves of the deck is crucial.

    Since there are so many cards to list, I’m going to start with what I think are the most heavily discussed ones for now, and add more to this list per request.


    Engineered Explosives is a Swiss army knife. It answers a ton of random stuff, and it has the unique ability to destroy multiple permanents at once. Most control players will not play without them. I do not underestimate their power. I do not include them because they are 0cc, which does not improve the decks Counterbalance curve, and it threatens to destroy my own Counterbalances, Vedalken Shackles, etc. I’d rather not have to choose between destroying my own permanents or my opponent’s. Oblivion Ring satisfies the Swiss army knife role for me and allows me stay in 2 colors. Others have used EE to great effect in this deck, so it’s not something that I’m saying should never be used, but it’s something that I will never use. Players who choose to run EE usually include Academy Ruins, too.

    Spell Snare is a spell that I feel is simply not needed. It’s very limited in scope, and although there a lot of juicy targets for it, there are a lot of problematic stuff that it just cannot answer, unlike Counterspell. I never feel like my deck is not fast enough to keep up that I need a 1cc spell to counter 2cc spells. The main reason why I do not run it, though, is because of my Counterbalance curve. I already run a lot of 1cc spells, and the only way to fit the Spell Snares would be to cut from my 2cc and 3cc spells. I feel comfortable surviving the early game against most decks, and both Counterbalance and Counterspell are better past the early game.

    Humility is great in some matchups, and lousy in others. At 4cc, it’s extremely expensive, and doesn’t actually remove creatures; a few 1/1’s can still go the distance and kill me. Great card, but I just don’t feel like it’s necessary in this deck. Without Mishra’s Factory, it offers much less for this deck than it does for Landstill. However, it has the potential to be a great sideboard card for certain matchups.

    Moat is similar to Humility, in that it is great in some matchups, and lousy in others. It’s also sitting at 4cc, which again is extremely expensive, and it’s also vulnerable to Qasali Pridemage and other creature-based artifact/enchantment removal. However, against certain matchups, it’s absolutely bonkers, and for that reason I actually do sideboard 2 copies.

    Thopter Foundry is a combo piece, which is a mostly dead spell on its own, and requires another dead-on-its-own spell to function. There’s no denying the power of the combo, but the Planeswalker win conditions are extremely powerful on their own, and can seal the game up just fine. The combo itself is card disadvantage, needing 2 cards to be a win condition vs 1, not including any card disadvantage tutoring to assemble it. This deck is not CounterTop Thopter, and there is already a thread for that deck. For those who want to play this combo, I’d suggest continuing that discussion in that thread.

    Enlightened Tutor is a fantastic way to tutor up silver bullets, but it’s essentially a card quality enabler at the cost of card disadvantage. My deck is not lacking in card quality, and is designed around gaining card advantage. E Tutor is card disadvantage. I realize the argument is that E Tutor can grab a card that would create virtual card advantage, like Moat or Counterbalance, but this deck can find the cards it needs without E Tutor. E Tutor works well with Counterbalance, but if you want to play with E Tutor, I’d recommend going on over to the CounterTop Thopter thread.

    Cunning Wish is a great card because it gives the deck added versatility in the maindeck. It essentially fills a similar role to O Ring, by being a Swiss army knife. It’s also 3cc, and happens to be blue for Force of Will. I have considered it in the O Ring spots before, and it’s definitely something that some may prefer to play. I personally don’t like how slow it is, costing 3 mana just to find the card I want, and then however much more mana necessary to cast that spell. I also don’t like how it butchers my sideboard, requiring that I cut valuable cards for 1-of’s to satisfy the Wish. However, it’s a great card that may find its way into some builds.

    Matchup Analysis and Sideboarding Strategies

    Despite popular belief, this deck is really good against randomness and jank due to its large amount of versatile answers. Counterspell and O Ring, for example, answer a wide variety of things. CounterTop is still really good at answering the format, too. Vedlaken Shackles is universally good against aggro decks, and this deck has answers to literally everything between maindeck and sideboard.

    Since there are so many decks in the Established forum and in Legacy in general, I’m going to only include the DTB for now. I realize that the DTB section hasn’t been updated in a while, and isn’t an actual representation of the current DTB, but that’s okay.

    If anyone would like to see a specific matchup addressed, please let me know and I’ll include it. If anyone has anything they’d like to contribute to this, please let me know.

    Merfolk

    Merfolk used to be my worst matchup; early versions of this deck were not capable of consistently beating Merfolk. Any Vial-based aggro deck is going to be a tough matchup, at least preboard. However, I’ve spent a lot of time improving my Merfolk matchup.

    Merfolk is designed to prey on weak manabases, and decks with expensive spells; not only with Wasteland, but with all of the taxing countermagic like Daze and Spell Pierce. My manabase is extremely stable in the face of Wasteland, and my increase in 1cc spot removal greatly helps survive the early game. I’m no longer running clunky sorceries like Wrath of God that cannot resolve before I’m dead because of a mere Cursecatcher. Both O Ring and Shackles dodge that little fishy too, and Shackles is my MVP in this matchup. A single Shackles can literally be the difference between a win and a loss, and I cannot remember the last time I’ve lost against Merfolk when I’ve had more than one Shackles in play.

    This matchup is significantly more difficult if the opponent resolves a turn 1 Vial. Not only does Vial weaken my countermagic, but it also speeds the Merfolk player up dramatically.

    Sideboard Plan:
    -4 Counterbalance
    -2 Oblivion Ring
    +4 Peacekeeper
    +2 Pithing Needle

    Counterbalance is effective against Merfolk when Vial isn’t in play, but it is the weakest card in the maindeck. Arguably Counterspell is weaker, but the 2cc curve drops too low postboard to support Counterbalance.

    Peacekeeper is the stone cold nuts against Merfolk, and oftentimes earns a concession once resolved. Most lists aren’t prepared for it, and between 4 Peacekeeper and 3 Shackles, I have tons of answers to the little fishies. Needle comes in to shut off Vial, as well as Mutavault. Needle on Mutavault not only neuters 4 of their “creatures,” but it also weakens Standstill.

    Goblins

    Goblins is a tough matchup. Vial is problematic, and they are capable of gaining large amounts of card advantage over the course of the game with Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader. They run a much larger threat density than Merfolk, which means they are better at overwhelming me.

    There are many different versions of Goblins. The two most common versions are Mono Red and R/b. These are the two easier versions to play against. R/g, on the other hand, is the worst of the versions to play against.

    The matchup is significantly more difficult if they resolve a turn 1 Vial. Vedalken Shackles is the MVP in this matchup. Elspeth is also an MVP in this matchup.

    The sideboard plan is heavily dependent upon the version of Goblins I’m playing against.

    Sample Sideboard Plan:
    -4 Counterbalance
    +2 Moat
    +2 Pithing Needle

    Counterbalance is the worst card in the maindeck against Goblins, so removing it is the logical choice. Against most Goblins builds, Moat has the ability to lock the game down, with most Goblin lists relying on Siege-Gang Commander to win, which is an easy threat to answer when it’s their only out. Pithing Needle has a number of juicy targets; particularly Vial, but also Rishadan Port, SGC, and more.

    Against R/g Goblins, the sideboard plan varies. Dropping Counterspells for Meddling Mage is a good idea, since Mage can pre-emptively name Krosan Grip, or whatever problem card I don’t want to see. Meddling Mage is also a body that can chump block, which can be helpful. Peacekeeper is also a possible option, depending on how much removal they board out, and what removal they are running. Pithing Needle naming Gempalm Incinerator can help make Peacekeeper effective, too.

    Zoo

    Just like everything else, there are different versions of Zoo. Fast Zoo is much more difficult than Big Zoo, but both matchups are good matchups.

    It is important to neutralize the opponent’s early creature threats with StP/PtE, to minimize life loss. If the opponent isn’t capable of doing a lot of damage early, their chances for winning diminishes greatly. CounterTop is a powerhouse here, usually resulting in a hard lock once assembled. Shackles is amazing, and dropping a Planeswalker on a clean board is usually gg.

    The maindeck is built very well for handling Zoo; I don’t sideboard for this matchup.

    CounterTop

    CounterTop is a matchup that I’m comfortable seeing. Like everything else, the versions vary, from the more aggro dense versions to the ones with only Tarmogoyf (and Jace). Opposing CounterTop players have dead maindeck cards (removal), whereas I have a boatload of removal for their threats. We both have CounterTop, but I have superior card advantage engines in addition to that, which gives me a superior late game. Sideboarding for this matchup is highly dependant on the build; so much so that I cannot even list a sample sideboard. For the most part, the maindeck is pretty well built to handle CounterTop, so sideboarding is usually minimal anyway.

    Bant Aggro and Pro Bant

    This matchup is similar to CounterTop. The versions vary greatly; some run Jace and/or Elspeth, some run Natural Order, some run Vial, and the list goes on and on. Bant Aggro is significantly slower than a deck like Zoo, giving me plenty of time to get spells like Shackles, CounterTop, and Planeswalker’s online. I run a boatload of removal, and keeping up with their threats is fairly easy. Peacekeeper can come in to deal with Progenitus if they run it, and both Meddling Mage and Moat can be useful too. Just like CounterTop, the maindeck is pretty well built to handle this matchup, so sideboarding is usually minimal. Due to the large variance in lists, I’m also going to refrain from posting a sample sideboard.

    New Horizons

    Well there sure is a lot of Bant in the DTB. Luckily for me, Bant is a great matchup. New Horizons is the easiest of the bunch. Wasteland is mostly irrelevant against me, and their taxing counters aren’t backed up by the same sort of pressure that Merfolk applies. In fact, New Horizons is very threat light, which makes this matchup ridiculously easy. No sideboarding is necessary.

    Ichorid

    Ichorid is very difficult matchup preboard. Keeping Breakthrough and other early enablers from resolving is crucial to survival. StP/PtE is really helpful here; exiling Ichorid’s goes a long way at slowing the opponent down from going broken with Bridge from Below tokens. Still, against amazing dredges, it’s nearly impossible to win.

    Sideboard Plan:
    -3 Predict
    -2 Oblivion Ring
    -3 Vedalken Shackles
    +4 Peacekeeper
    +4 Meddling Mage

    Postboard, the matchup is a toss-up; if the opponent goes broken before I can drop a Peacekeeper, there’s nothing I can do. If I can drop a Peacekeeper, I stand a great chance of winning. Luckily, I have a number of ways of slowing the opponent down, preventing them from going broken.

    The opponent does have outs to Peacekeeper, like some Dread Return targets, Firestorm, and Darkblast. However, with Meddling Mage, Counterbalance, Counterspell, and Force of Will, I have enough ways to keep those spells from resolving.

    Moat is a notable mention, which could also be brought in; although I’m not sure what else I’d want to cut to fit it.

    Overall, this is not a matchup I want to run into in a tournament.

    TES

    Storm combo is another great matchup for this deck. Although my clock is slow, Storm combo has a very difficult time dealing with CounterTop. Combined with Force of Will and Counterspell, the opponent is very limited in what they can do. Against TES specifically, an early Empty the Warrens is their best bet, so long as they can do lethal before Shackles helps me stabilize.

    Sideboard Plan:
    -2 Path to Exile
    -2 Oblivion Ring
    -3 Vedalken Shackles
    +4 Meddling Mage
    +3 Peackeeper

    Against ANT, I wouldn’t bring in Peacekeeper, but against TES, Peacekeeper is much better against a swarm of EtW tokens than Shackles is. I leave my StP’s in just incase my opponent boards in Dark Confidant. Aura of Silence is a notable mention, since it makes generating mana from Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox, and Lion's Eye Diamond a pain in the ass for them.

    Tournament Results

    Since I have been unable to compete in Legacy events for quite a while (since 2006), this section will be for others who have put up the numbers with this deck. In the future, I’d like to be able to have some of my own results in this section. To anyone who has piloted this deck, please PM me a link to your tournament report or your decklist (whether it’s on Star City Games, etc). I will link it in this section and include your name, what place you finished in, and the amount of players at the tournament.

    Denny Chan, 9th Place at SCG San Jose 1/16/2011 with UWr Countertop Superfriends
    SCG Decklist
    Tournament Report

    Conclusion

    For those of you who made it this far, I want to thank you for your time. I realize that this was a rather large primer. I wanted it to be as complete as possible. If anyone has anything they’d like to see added, or anything they’d like to contribute, please let me know. I hope you have enjoyed this primer; it took a lot of time to complete. I’ve had a lot of fun designing and playtesting with this deck over the years, and I hope that this primer will help those who are interested in my work.

    Also, there are great reads about this deck in both the U/W/x Landstill thread and the U/W/x CounterTop Walker thread. I’d recommend taking a look at those before asking a lot of questions, since those questions are likely answered somewhere in those threads.

    Enjoy.
    Last edited by Hanni; 04-14-2011 at 08:08 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMogg View Post
    In porn terms, Zoo has a 11" shlong and an impressive money shot, but it's over in 4 minutes, whereas Landstill is a good 8" and can go for 30 minutes.

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Reserved

    I need to work on editing some of the links and tags, my apologies. If anyone notices any typos or other grammatical errors, please let me know.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMogg View Post
    In porn terms, Zoo has a 11" shlong and an impressive money shot, but it's over in 4 minutes, whereas Landstill is a good 8" and can go for 30 minutes.

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Very nice primer, and I was wondering why this hasn't been on Established already...

    But one thing I disagree, I still draw 3 with my Standstills 80-90% of the time even against Gobs/Merfolks, it's just a matter on when do I draw3. I don't know about you, but playing a weaker Recall that pumps Goyfs +1/+1 but allows me to make land drops and develop under it even in a slightly unfavorable board position (e.g. Dryad Arbor beating me for 1 a turn or Welder swinging in for 1 a turn) still win me games. I feel that most Landstill decks are not optimally designed or they are played in wrong metagames that make the misconception that Standstill is no longer a good draw spell. In my opinion, that's an unfair and untrue statement.

    There's one thing that a control deck definitely needs that isn't Counterbalance, it's really simply Sensei's Divining Top.

    Will be looking forward to the completed primer when it's done.

    EDIT: WTF Superfriends? I don't approve of the deck name :P
    Decks that I care about:
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    UWx Landstill
    Dreadstalker
    DDFT (10% practice)

    Mangara on MWS? You must be masochistic. -kiblast
    Quote Originally Posted by Gheizen64 View Post
    REB is a fantastic sideboard card against blue... in blue decks :/

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    This is a very nice primer, and very informative. Excellent job Hanni. I don't agree with a few of the card choices on principle alone (singleton Kor Haven, O-Ring), but I certainly don't have that much testing with the deck to back up my finickiness. This is probably the only heavy control deck in the format that can get away with just two colors.

    I really think that 2-3 Spell Pierce need to be somewhere in the 75. Team America and Tempo Thresh are the bane of controls existence, and barring a really early CB/Top or a really disruption-light hand from TA/TT, I feel you'll have a hard time against them, especially post-board when they bring in CB/Blue-hate against you.

    Again, great primer.
    "Bingo, man, bingo. 7-Minute Abs. And we guarantee just as good a workout as the 8-minute folk."
    "You guarantee it? That's - how do you do that?"
    "If you're not happy with the first 7 minutes, we're gonna send you the extra minute free. You see? That's it. That's our motto. That's where we're comin' from. That's from A to B."

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    But one thing I disagree, I still draw 3 with my Standstills 80-90% of the time even against Gobs/Merfolks, it's just a matter on when do I draw3. I don't know about you, but playing a weaker Recall that pumps Goyfs +1/+1 but allows me to make land drops and develop under it even in a slightly unfavorable board position (e.g. Dryad Arbor beating me for 1 a turn or Welder swinging in for 1 a turn) still win me games. I feel that most Landstill decks are not optimally designed or they are played in wrong metagames that make the misconception that Standstill is no longer a good draw spell. In my opinion, that's an unfair and untrue statement.
    My intention wasn't to offend those players who still play Landstill or use Standstill in their control decks. Much of this is personal opinion based off my own personal experience.

    There's one thing that a control deck definitely needs that isn't Counterbalance, it's really simply Sensei's Divining Top.
    Top is the best card in the entire deck. But what justification could there possibly be to play a blue-based control deck with Top but without Counterbalance?

    Will be looking forward to the completed primer when it's done.
    The primer is done, minus the editing I need to do to the links and any grammatical errors. There are some sections that I will add to later, per request (like the matchup analysis section), but I have nothing to add to that right now.

    This is a very nice primer, and very informative. Excellent job Hanni. I don't agree with a few of the card choices on principle alone (singleton Kor Haven, O-Ring), but I certainly don't have that much testing with the deck to back up my finickiness. This is probably the only heavy control deck in the format that can get away with just two colors.
    Well, neither Kor Haven nor O Ring are essential for the deck to function properly, but there's little downside to running Kor Haven, and the deck functions much better with a Swiss army knife like O Ring. There's alot of problematic noncreature permanents out there that O Ring can remove if they slip through the counter wall.

    I really think that 2-3 Spell Pierce need to be somewhere in the 75. Team America and Tempo Thresh are the bane of controls existence, and barring a really early CB/Top or a really disruption-light hand from TA/TT, I feel you'll have a hard time against them, especially post-board when they bring in CB/Blue-hate against you.
    Honestly, Team America and Tempo Thresh are good matchups for me, and I'd classify them in the same group as New Horizons. Nimble Mongoose out of Tempo Thresh can be difficult to answer because of the Shroud, for the lists that still run him. However, Elspeth can answer Mongoose maindeck, and both Moat and Peacekeeper can answer him postboard.

    There are several reasons why I find those matchups to be pretty good. Those decks primarily focus on attacking the manabase, which is a rather weak plan against me. They are also very threat light, and I have plenty of removal for them. If Tempo Thresh with Mongoose were to get more popular, I could always cut the Aura of Silence in my sideboard for Engineered Explosives.

    Counterbalance hate isn't that big a deal; they can go ahead and focus on trying to play around or removing Counterbalance, but that still leaves them vulnerable to Swords, Path, O Ring, and Shackles.

    Even if those matchups were difficult, I'm not sure that Spell Pierce would be the best option. Their weakness is their threat-light creature base, and exploiting that seems like a much better plan than fighting back against their Daze's and whatnot.

    Again, great primer.
    Thanks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMogg View Post
    In porn terms, Zoo has a 11" shlong and an impressive money shot, but it's over in 4 minutes, whereas Landstill is a good 8" and can go for 30 minutes.

  6. #6
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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    It is about time this deck is in the established section. Great job on the primer, Hanni! I love the name of the deck too. I always call my walkers superfriends.

    Here is my old list that took 9th place in SCG open: San Jose earier this year.

    http://www.mtgthesource.com/forums/s...-Open-San-Jose

    I am going to try out your UW version when I have a chance. The mana base seem rock solid, but I might miss EE. EE + Ruins won me ton of games.

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Sweet, thanks for the link. I'm going to head to bed now, but I'll update the tournament results section tomorrow after work.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMogg View Post
    In porn terms, Zoo has a 11" shlong and an impressive money shot, but it's over in 4 minutes, whereas Landstill is a good 8" and can go for 30 minutes.

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    my compliments hanni.
    despite I'm not a usually a counterbalance lover, I really like your deck.
    your sideboard is great.
    If I'll test your deck, I probabely wouldn't change more than 1/2 cards in your list.
    1X baneslayer angel instead of your III pithing needle
    as far as aggro players often side out remouvlas spells and having something that gives you lifes is good.
    have you thought about him ?

  9. #9

    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    I too am not a counter balance lover but I have to say that I think this deck is really good. I am testing with it playing a lot of games and overall I like it. I do have some cards that I don't really like though because of different play styles.

    O ring- I understand why you run this card, but for me I never really want it. If I would remove this card what would you think would be a good choice to add over it.

    Predict- I hate the fact that you need brainstorm or top to make this card good. I never want it in my opening hand as I feel it just clogs it up when I don't have a way to know the top card of my deck. If I were to remove this what would you suggest to swap it with.


    Also, I have to say that the mvp of this deck is shackles(favorite card in magic as well). This card is just so insane and really helps protect jace which I think is huge. I am also thinking about maybe running 3 jace as well but unsure if that would be good or needed.

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Just wanted to drop some props to Hanni. Great Primer!

    For reference, as there's no list for it up to now, the UWb variant I've been playing for some time now:

    Island, go.

  11. #11

    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    It's pretty misleading calling this deck "Superfriends"..

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigar View Post
    It's pretty misleading calling this deck "Superfriends"..
    Jeeze, way to discriminate against Jace and Elspeth being "Super-friends".
    Team Hammafist
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    What kind of fucked-up, drug-laden, alternate universe of faerie rape does this guy live in?

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Quote Originally Posted by J.V. View Post
    Jeeze, way to discriminate against Jace and Elspeth being "Super-friends".
    you guys have no sense of humor.
    Super Friends.. I sure dig it.

  14. #14
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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    A very nice primer but I don't think Shackles are still good. I played countertop for years and always had problems versus zoo and tribal running shackles due to the fact it's not faster than wrath and Mana denial hurts too of you need 3 islands to handle a nacatl which beats you for 9 until you can shackle him. I prefer V. Cliques in that slots to "Instant" kill nacatl or jaces AND rip their post-Combat-play or cycle multiple tops/cliques/etc. It perfectly fits in the 3cc slot and is also good vs. Combo unlike shackles.

  15. #15

    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    I agree with Lemnear about Clique. Also, I don't really see why Moat is sided and why 2. Why don't you main 1? Because Elspeth is in the main all of your creatures can fly over moat. Also, if you run clique, clique flies over it.

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    Amen, brotha.
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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigar View Post
    It's pretty misleading calling this deck "Superfriends"..
    Superfriends was the name of a T2 deck which utilized Planeswalkers as it's primary means of winning.

    Care to elaborate how that's the wrong name for a deck like this?

    Has anyone who runs a UWb list tested Esper Charm? I know it has a demanding cost, but it's chock-full of utility.
    This looks like a job for me.

    Most of my posts will be written from my phone, so please excuse the eventual lack of proper typing.

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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Quote Originally Posted by Nidd View Post
    Has anyone who runs a UWb list tested Esper Charm? I know it has a demanding cost, but it's chock-full of utility.
    I ran them in the sideboard for a while, but ultimately, they were only really good in the mirror and against Enchantress. I switched to more general hate cards now.
    Island, go.

  18. #18

    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    The issue with esper charm i feel is that it really doesn't do anything other cards can't do better. blue has enough draw cards that also decide what you are drawing next, black has hymn, and besides enchantress, enchantment destruction isn't to most useful thing to have.

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    Amen, brotha.
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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Quote Originally Posted by Wiseman4 View Post
    The issue with esper charm i feel is that it really doesn't do anything other cards can't do better. blue has enough draw cards that also decide what you are drawing next, black has hymn, and besides enchantress, enchantment destruction isn't to most useful thing to have.
    Of course it isn't better than Hymn, Fact or Demystify - however, it is a spell that can adapt to the current gamestate in a beautiful manner.
    You need to find answers? Esper Charm draws you 2 cards.
    You want to disrupt your opponent? Esper Charm makes him discard 2 cards.
    You have to get rid of that pesky enchantment over there? Sure, let Esper Charm do the work.

    I'd recommend testing it before jumping conclusions. Versatility certainly is a factor when making cardchoices.
    This looks like a job for me.

    Most of my posts will be written from my phone, so please excuse the eventual lack of proper typing.

  20. #20
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    Re: [PRIMER] U/W/x Countertop Superfriends

    Great primer for an interesting deck. Could you include a matchup analysis for Junk/rock decks?

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