UW Control - The deck that took down Worlds | Standard
Updated: Feb 26
I’m sitting down and this is my view right now.
Yes, I’m writing this article from the venue of the World Championship watching Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa battling for the crown. (spoiler alert - he won). You probably already know that this tournament didn’t go my way. There's a bunch of reasons why that happened, but the TLDR is that I got little unlucky in the draft rounds and I played poorly in the constructed rounds. I think I know why that happened, and I will have to work harder to fix the issues in my game, but that’s maybe a topic for another day.
Anyway, I believe we brought the best deck to the tournament and hopefully Paulo proved it. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about us metagaming for this tournament, but I just believe UW is the best deck in the format. We were a little lucky that there was only one Cat deck, and zero Ramp decks, which are the worst matchups for our deck. Those aren’t unbeatable or anything, and also you can tune this deck in a way to have a better chance against literally anything. The good part about having a deck with so much card draw is that you see a lot of cards, so adding a single card to your sideboard can meaningfully improve your chances.
Here’s the 75 we played.
Looks perfect, right? Our version of the deck is a lot different from the stock lists that did well at the SCG. Let’s break down the differences.
I think the biggest thing that separates our list from the decks Corey Baumeister and Zach Allen played is the number of Dream Trawler. While we usually see 3-4 copies of the flying beast, we have only one. Don’t get me wrong Dream Trawler is an amazing card, and there are lots of matchups in this Standard where it shines, like against all the black decks for example. However when you look at the current metagame it looks more like an expensive 6 mana sorcery. Mono Red wants to kill you before you can Trawler, you can’t afford to tap out against Reclamation and in the mirror it just trades for a Wrath. You need to have some win conditions and while the preferred way of winning games is Castle Ardenvale, sometimes you need a faster solution. Like I already mentioned, you draw a lot of cards, and you also scry a ton, so one copy is more than enough.
We also have a second creature in our main deck, which is the Archon of Sun’s Grace. We wanted a second win con, and this card is amazing versus Mono Red, while being alright against all the other tier one decks. I’ll talk about this card more later, because it plays a unique role in the postboard games.
Thirst for Meaning is another card that’s not super common. We had four copies for the longest time, but swapped the numbers of Thirst and Omen on the last day. Thirst is awesome, and we actually added two copies of Banishing Light to make it even better. We have 12 enchantments which makes this a draw two, discard one quite often. Games go long in this standard format, so having access to such a powerful card selection spell is essential. One small interaction I’d like to highlight is discarding either a creature or planeswalker that you can later bring back with Elspeth Conquers Death. There are games in which you need to play Elspeth, but you don’t have anything in the graveyard, and Thirst can help you can get a free planeswalker or an unkillable flying monster.
The rest of the numbers are in flux, and could change based on the metagame. Lots of the decklists I’ve seen play mostly four-offs, but I think this is the better way to build the deck. Sounding like a broken record, but you draw a lot of cards, so it’s better to have many options available.
The main deck Dispute is there because we expected lots of Temur and UW, because they were pretty clearly the most dominating decks in the format. It’s nice bonus that the other most played deck were Jeskai Fires, where Dispute shines as well. If your meta is full of Mono Red, you can leave those in the sideboard.
We spent a bunch tinkering with the manabase. In the end we figured out that white Castle is more important in the mirror than the blue one. Tokens pressure planeswalkers, while scry 2 isn’t that big a deal. Field of Ruin is there for killing a Castle and rarely fixing your mana. It’s awkward at times with Veto and Absorb, so we had only one copy. I liked having only very little Plains, because it’s the worst land in the deck, Fabled Passage coming into play tapped was never an issue for me.
The way Stan builds decks is making a 75 and then determining which cards should be main deck, and which should be in the sideboard. Therefore there are lots of extra copies of cards in the main deck, that you want to maximize in specific matchups. Cards like Narset, Dispute, Veto all fall into this category.
I think four Gust is a must, it’s great against Mono Red, Reclamation, Fires and even Ramp, which is like almost the whole format. If it wasn’t for UW, I’d maindeck it.
Pegasus is there for when we want to switch gears, and for decks that have a hard time dealing with it. This means deck like Jeskai Fires and Ramp, Paulo showed how great it was in the finals.
Cerulean Drake was our last minute addition for the Mono Red matchup. This card is a house. Watch out for Stomp, the adventure of Bonecrusher Giant, which stops damage from preventing. Therefore if you block with Drake and they Stomp you lose it. The nice part is that if you block one toughness creature, they lose the creature and if you block a bigger one you can counter the Stomp or they have to shoot themselves. If they don’t have Stomp or you counter, it basically wins the game on its own.
Commence the Endgame is the best trump we found for the mirror. Spectral Sailor is also an option, but we had some games where you simply didn’t have enough time to activate it. Commence plays much better with the “make a token every turn” plan. The token being bounced by Teferi and Brazen Borrower is unfortunate, but the card is still worth it.
I’m going to post a sideboard guide, but I’d like to stress out how complicated this stuff is. We were sideboarding drastically different against various people in Worlds, who were playing the same archetype. So even more than usual, don’t follow this guide blindly, but rather try and think, what cards you’ve seen and how to adapt.
This is a resourceful deck, so don’t mulligan much. Basically any hand with 2 to 5 lands is a keep. Mulliganing is also way easier with open decklists. We thought our matchup against Red was still pretty decent, because you could just mulligan to Wrath, but that obviously won’t be the case for any tournament. Might be something to look out for if your meta is full of Red.
This deck had a target on its back going into the weekend, but it had kinda poor showing. We felt quite comfortable in this matchup. Game one is a cakewalk if they have the stock version, because you just need to counter 4 Explosions, kill some Brazen Borrowers, exile 3 Uros and then they can no longer kill you. It gets harder postboard, because they have less dead cards, and more good cards. We improve only marginally. I recommend testing this matchup thoroughly, especially practice playing fast, because this matchup might go to time. Also, I hope the Chris Kvartek 4 Nissa version doesn’t become stock, because that one spells trouble for us. Sideboarding changes a lot based depending if you see Krasis (Narset is better), and if they have creatures. This is how I would sideboard against Autumn Burchett’s list.
4 Gust, 1 Veto, 2 Dispute, 1 Pegasus, 2 Commence the Endgame, 1 Narset
3 Birth of Meletis, 3 Shatter the Sky, 4 Absorb, 1 Dream Trawler
Not sure how popular this deck will become moving forward. It did just win the tournament, but this deck is super hard to play, so people might do poorly with it and shy away from it. The SCG stock version had very little counters so it was kind of easy to win games. I expect our version to become the stock, so here's a couple things that matter in the mirror. If you have the Castle you can sit back, make tokens and win the game. If you don’t have tokens, you have to jam planeswalkers and snowball their advantage. Pay attention to deck sizes. This can be easily done by counting permanents + cards in hand + cards in graveyard. If you drew more cards, you need to be the aggressor. Postboard the games shorten, but the basic principles are the same. This is another skill intensive match, so have fun and good luck. Here’s how I boarded in the tournament, but if you’re playing against our version just keep the Archon and board out another Shatter.
2 Commence, 2 Dispute, 1 Veto, 1 Narset
2 Birth of Meletis, 2 Banishing Light, 1 Archon, 1 Shatter
The premium aggressive deck of the format. The first game isn’t ideal, but it gets better if you know what you’re facing. Postboard you improve a lot, you board in nine cards after all. This Mono Red version is kind of underpowered, Shatter is good against them, you should watch out for Embercleave and Anax. Overall, I think this matchup is slightly positive.
2 Cerulean Drake, 1 Glass Casket, 4 Gust, 2 Archon
3 Veto, 2 Dispute, 2 Narset, 2 Elspeth Conquers Death
You can swap Thirst and Elspeth if you see a lot of expensive cards.
If you want a quick class on playing this matchup, I recommend watching the Worlds final. It’s also great entertainment. Game 1 is favorable, they have a bunch of expensive spells that trade with your cheap counterspells. Elspeth Conquest Death is huge beating, and Narset is also awesome. Postboard gets trickier. They remove their dead cards and replace them with cheap threats. I believe we came up with a solid sideboard plan that makes the matchup kind of even. Here’s how Paulo boarded in the finals against Marcio.
4 Gust, 2 Pegasus, 1 Dispute, 1 Narset
3 Veto, 2 Absorb, 2 Shatter, 1 Dream Trawler
4 Gust, 2 Pegasus, 2 Dispute, 1 Narset, 1 Glass Casket, 1 Cerulean Drake
3 Birth, 3 Veto, 4 Absorb, 1 Dream Trawler
A lot changes depending on play or draw, because of Legion Warboss. On the play, you can counter it with either Absorb or Dispute. On the draw it gets tougher, so you need more answers like Wrath, Glass Casket and even Cerulean Drake. This dynamic means that you’re favored on the play, while being an underdog on the draw. Overall this matchup is close, but it leads to interesting and dynamic games, like PV and Marcio showed us.
One of the harder matchups for us, but again it depends on the version. In our internal testing we had a version with 4 Agent of Treachery, which was really hard to beat. The issue is that this deck attacks from too many angles. It can be an aggro with Nissa, late game card drawing machine with Krasis, and the Agent aspect of stealing lands or Elspeth Conquers Death makes everything even more complicated. The most common way to win this matchup is via decking. They draw a lot of cards between Cavalier, Uro and Krasis that this is possible. Try and be mindful of how many win conditions they have left and play accordingly.
4 Gust, 1 Narset,
2 Veto, 1 Dispute, 1 Shatter, 1 Trawler
This was the matchup I wanted to face the least in the tournament. You could improve by adding Heliod’s Intervention, which can blow up all the Trails and Ovens they manage to find over the game. Your best cards are the creatures. Try and stick one of them and ride it to victory.
1 Casket, 2 Gust, 2 Pegasus, 1 Narset
3 Shatter, 1 Teferi, 2 Dispute
I truly believe this is the best deck in the current format. I thought it was going into the tournament and then it won the whole thing. It has been a pleasure watching PV pilot it, so if you want to pick up some free lessons on how to play it, just check his feature matches. Don’t watch mine though, because that was just kind of embarrassing. Once again, put in the work, if you want to do well with this deck. It’s not something you can just pick up and do well with right away. Hope you enjoyed this article, if you did, you can support us on our Patreon now. We will have some more content over there and access to Discord, where we will be active on a regular basis.
Thanks for reading.