Dominaria United has brought multiple very powerful tools for control decks. There are pieces of interaction but also threats or utility spells. In this article, I will present you with decklists for control decks in Explorer, Historic, and Standard! Each section will focus on a different card.
Liliana of the Veil
It still feels unreal that Liliana of the Veil herself gets reprinted. She didn’t dominate Standard when she was originally legal but she certainly terrorized Modern for a long time. Now she comes back and she gets another shot at trying to warp the format. The card’s main purpose was to play an attrition game, but focused on stripping down resources rather than accumulating them. Gameplay-wise, it’s an interesting switch of dynamics compared to all the cards whose purpose is to draw a card in some shape of form upon entry.
She has seen some occasional control play, but not too much. I think the lower the power level of the format, the more she’ll warrant an inclusion as playing a removal spell into Liliana minus is going to warp games. Realistically, she’d be better in control decks a bit less focused on holding up countermagic, but more removal and possibly tapping out.
The scenario that you’re shooting for is immediate -2 upon entry and then you can decide whether to tick it up or not. It’s worth mentioning that you do not have to use any of her abilities every turn. Sometimes you can hold off; it’s not a contest who gets to the ultimate faster. Speaking of, the ultimate is not as game winning as some other walkers’ ultimates like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. However, for a 3-mana walker, it’s still pretty game-changing. If you’ve controlled the game successfully, it might just be a triple Stone Rain. A usual split is spells vs lands in the assumption that you are either going to be able to play spells, but the board is empty or you won’t play Magic and the board is the only thing that you’ve got access to. The pressure is on you, the Liliana player, to give them a tough choice. You don’t want a situation when the board is kept and you die to what’s already there.
Historic Dimir Control
In this Historic Dimir shell, she’s going to be particularly effective thanks to Yahenni’s Expertise . She’s also paired with discard to really poke holes in the opponent’s game plan. If you’re empty handed, Narset, Parter of Veils is going to shine. You can play Narset, then activate Liliana, and after the ability has resolved, activate Narset.
Explore Grixis Control
The idea in the Explorer shell is similar. We pair Thoughtseize with Liliana and all the traditional control tools you’d expect.
This card could see play in tempo-style decks as poor man’s Murktide Regent, but also in control decks as a top-end finisher. The idea is that you’d play the game as you normally would, and at some point, you’d drop a big Serpent for measly one mana. It’s a huge body and even has a bit of protection built in.
Thanks to it’s cheap cost, assuming you play it for 1-2 mana, you can still hold up more interaction and countermagic for opposing stuff. You can further protect it with countermagic, but always make the opponent pay the Ward cost before you play your Cancel. The last thing worth remembering is that it looks at the graveyard, but does not exile anything like Murktide Regent would. That means that you can set up turns when you play multiple of these.
Standard Jeskai Control
I’d play it in a spell-focused shell. There is no cute self-mill, you fill up your graveyard as you go. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker might potentially help you fill it up faster thanks to its second chapter’s discard.
At first glance, it seems that there is no reason to play Cut Down when there is Fatal Push. However, Standard doesn’t have Fatal Push, so Cut Down can shine. In Explorer and Historic where you do have Push, it’s still pretty tough to turn on revolt, so if there are a lot of 3-4 drops that Cut Down would kill without the need for Revolt, it might turn out to be better.
As of now, I’d focus more on Standard and use Cut Down Down as the best Fatal Push impersonation.
STANDARD ESPER CONTROL
This is a classic Esper shell with Cut Down being the primary early game removal. You could try going for pure Dimir, but I advise against it. Play The Wandering Emperor if you can.
While it’s obvious when a powerful spell removal is printed, it may be a bit less so for cards that don’t do anything flashy or affect the battlefield. Here, we’re dealing with a card selection spell that looks at the top four cards instant speed. For people who have not played with such effects – four cards is a lot, and I mean a lot. The key to play this card is for you to identify what you are looking for when casting it. If you cast it for the sake of casting it, you might not really take advantage of the effect. Before you put it on the stack, as yourself whether you need card advantage, some kind of interaction, or a win condition.
While sometimes it’s okay to hold off casting a cantrip, it’d still cast Impulse if there is nothing else going on. Going four deep is valuable and it might be tough to otherwise squeeze in a two mana spell.
Last but not least, such cards value goes up immensely post-board when you’re actively searching for a hate card. If there is a three-mana hate piece you’re looking for, you’ll be 14 cards deep, counting your opener and draw steps until turn three and Impulse.
This is a card I expect to be played in Standard. It’s a twist on Preordain, Omen of the Sea, and Growth Spiral. Without the kicker it would not be played as you have the aforementioned Impulse. However, Kicker makes it unique enough that it warrants inclusion in some decks. If you ever cast it past turn three, you can kick it and ramp a bit. In control decks whose curves are naturally higher than normal, it’s desirable to have more lands. Furthermore, it allows you to either deploy a more expensive spell earlier like Farewell or start multispelling earlier.
Standard Bant Control
This is a version of the digital-only Divine Purge. I’ve long thought that three mana mass removal is very strong, and cards like Anger of the Gods are underplayed. By the same token, I reckon Lockdown will be played in Explorer thanks to being so cheap. The thing is, sometimes you’re just too slow to play Supreme Verdict; a one turn difference is a ton in Magic terms as one turn later is also one combat later. It also means that after the mass removal, your opponent will cast a stronger spell or will cast multiple spells.
Lockdown will shine against low-to-the-ground aggressive decks that naturally play a lot of one and two drops. Your Mono Red opponent might think that their triple one drop opener is an easy win and indeed it would be normally, but Temporary Lockdown turns the tide heavily in the control’s favour.
Lockdown exiles not only creatures, but all nonlands so it affects Food, Clue, or Treasure tokens. Be careful not to choose enchantments with your Farewell as you’d bring back all the permanents previously exiled with Lockdown.
Explore Esper Control
Clearly, the set has reinvigorated control and if you are a control aficionado, like I myself am, you’re going to enjoy brewing around with all those tools. The list I’ve given are a starting point for you to further explore the possibilities that DMU has presented us with.