A Guide to Modern Blue White Control
Intro – Flexibility is King
The number of ways a player can be killed in the Modern format is enormous. One could get beat down by Ragavan, outgrinded with Lurrus or Eternal Witness, hit with a giant Murktide, combo-killed with Scapeshift, Karned on Turn 3, creature-combo'd with Yawgmoth, or simply burned out with Lightning Bolts and Boros Charms. In such diverse formats, control decks have often struggled. If you nail exactly the correct metagame, and are able to focus on beating the subset of decks you think will be most prevalent, then you can be successful. But if you build to fight Burn and then Tron shows up every round, you're going to be in trouble.
The last several years of Magic have led to decks like Murktide, which consist solely of brand new threats. Players joke that some people are playing “Modern Horizons Tribal.” Yet an often overlooked beneficiary of new cards is UW Control. Outside of the manabase, only Spreading Seas, Supreme Verdict, and Chalice of the Void are “old;” everything else has been printed in the last three years.
The new cards that UW Control has added to its repertoire have made it an excellent choice for modern not, for the most part, because of their power levels, but because of their flexibility. Archmage's Charm is the poster boy for this phenomenon. With three modes that fight on three different axes, it will never be a dead card. Whereas Path to Exile is dead or bad in creatureless matchups, Prismatic Ending and both Teferi's gave the deck ways to answer any type of permanent cheaply and efficiently. Solitude not only gives the deck mana-free creature removal, but it gives UW access to mainboard lifegain, something the deck has desperately wanted. And it's a win condition that can close quickly (for a control deck).
In the end, the only cards in the main that are occasionally dead are Supreme Verdict and Chalice of the Void. When you have only four cards in your maindeck that maybe won't line up against what your opponent is doing, your control deck is in a fantastic spot.
While there have been some upgrades purely in power level (Counterspell and Memory Deluge), the deck's playability is mostly thanks to its flexible cards and to the enormous amount of time and energy Guillaume Wafo-Tapa spent fine-tuning the list on his stream. Thanks to his efforts, I felt confident playing his list in the Modern Challenge on Christmas Day, going undefeated in the seven Swiss rounds before falling to Grixis Death's Shadow in the quarterfinals. Because UW is a control deck, it's plan shifts from matchup to matchup, but can broadly be summarized by disrupting early, stabilizing midgame, and closing late. Let's take it one matchup at a time.
Against Hammer, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should do everything you can not to leave yourself dead to Hammer – they always have it. This might mean holding a white spell for Solitude or casting Prismatic Ending on a Sigarda's Aid. You also have access to more unusual lines, such as taking control of Sigarda's Aid with Archmage's Charm while a Hammer or a Stoneforge activation are on the stack. Just remember – their creatures are all awful by themselves, which means they don't actually pressure you very effectively if you can ensure you don't die to Hammer. As a result, particularly on the draw, there's no need to Prismatic or Solitude their Esper Sentinel; instead, Prismatic their Aid or their Springleaf Drum so that you disrupt their “kill you” gameplan. Once they put out a couple creatures, Verdict everything away, and try to stick a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria on Turn 5.
You should try to hold Spreading Seas unless you need to cantrip to hit lands. They'll often try to bait by playing out an Inkmoth, and follow up afterward with Urza's Saga. You really want to nab an early (Turn 2-4) Saga with Seas or by bouncing with Teferi. This is especially true in Game 1, where we don't have Dress Down to answer the Constructs non-awkwardly. Once you've hit the late game, then you should Seas their Inkmoth so that your Planeswalkers can operate in peace.
The game state you're trying to reach against Hammer is a mostly clear board with Hero of Dominaria and a counterspell. If you can do that, you'll probably win.
-1 Dovin's Veto
-1 Memory Deluge
+2 Dress Down
Hammer deploys so many threats so quickly, that you can't afford to get clogged up on countermagic. That's why we shave Counterspell and Memory Deluge. Dovin's Veto is narrow and just not very good in the matchup.
Post-board, Dress Down is your biggest pickup. The primary use is to kill Construct tokens, but you can also drop Inkmoth out of the air and have it lose Infect, shut off a Puresteel Paladin with a Hammer on the stack, or ambush a Gingerbrute. Other than that, the plan mostly remains the same. If you're against a UW or GW version, you care a bit more about sticking a Teferi, Time Raveler so you don't have to worry about Mana Leak or Veil of Summer. If you don't have one down, and you can choose between removing and countering a threat when an opponent has mana up, err on the side of removing.
This is definitely a tough matchup, not least of which is because of Wrenn and Six. Especially on the draw, Wrenn can run away with the game single-handedly if you can't find a Prismatic Ending or an opponent can protect it. If you don't have it right away, tapping out for a Prismatic can give them a chance to counter it and deploy a Teferi, Time Raveler. Even if you do answer it right away, many lists still play some number of Force of Negation. If they stick a Turn 2 Wrenn, you're in trouble.
If they don't stick a Turn 2 Wrenn, the game is much more winnable, but still tricky. Because all of their creatures get value when they enter, countermagic is at a premium. You want to counter Eternal Witness, Omnath, and their Planeswalkers, which stretches you thin. If you can stick your planeswalkers, on the other hand, you'll be in a much better position to win. If you can afford to tick Teferi, Time Raveler up to get it out of Fury range, you should. Shutting off the instant-speed Ephemerates and their own countermagic is big game. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria also wants to go up to keep up countermagic and get to an emblem, but it will sometimes be forced to downtick on a Wrenn or Time Raveler and then die.
The game state you're trying to get to is safely resolved Planeswalkers. If you can get that far, you stand a chance. Without walkers, you'll probably lose.
One other note: if you're playing on MTGO, play briskly. The 4C Blink deck is actually slower than UW Control. They have lots and lots of clicks and other finicky game actions, so it is entirely possible that they time out.
+2 Dress Down
+2 Dovin's Veto
Chalice and Seas are pretty bad in the matchup, so we cut those. Killing their creatures one at a time after they come in is a losing proposition, so Solitude comes out, though it's definitely the best of the cards we're cutting.
Dress Down helps a lot against their creatures, particularly when it can be followed up by a Verdict. Veto and Shark Typhoon are more viable answers to planeswalkers, but remember to watch out for Veil of Summer.
Post-board, your plan is to live long enough to cast Emrakul. With plenty of pitch elementals and tons of stack and board interaction, 4C Blink can do tons of damage to itself. Remember if you're playing on MTGO to hold CTRL to hold priority. Also remember that if you have a Teferi, Time Raveler out, you won't be able to have your opponent counter their own spells when you take their turn. Nor will you be able to counter your opponent's spells when taking their turn if the opponent has a Teferi, Time Raveler, though that can usually be removed through a combination of downticking, Fury, and Wrenn pings.
Don't concede if behind post-board; Emrakul is a very real catchup mechanism, particularly if you can afford to have Counterspell mana up against them Solituding it.
This matchup is all about card advantage. Pre-board, you want to make sure you have a counterspell or a Verdict for Lurrus. Don't be afraid to let Ragavan hit you if answering it by pitching a White card to Solitude would leave you defenseless to future threats. Remember that Solitude can kill small Death's Shadows by exiling Dragon's Rage Channeler, but most Shadow players will know to play around that.
Their only counterspell in the main is Drown in the Loch, which means if you can keep your graveyard empty of fetches, you can stick a Teferi, Time Raveler right on Turn 3. You'll typically tick down to bounce a DRC and they'll kill it with an Unholy Heat the next turn. This is fine; you're looking to survive long enough to get card advantage; this means resolving a Memory Deluge, sweeping multiple threats with Verdict, hard-casting Solitude, or sticking a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.
Things get much tougher for us post-board, so you're really looking to win the first game. Rather than seeking a particular board state, you're simply trying to reach the game state where you have more cards than they do. In that vein, use removal on their threats like DRC and Shadow, Counterspell their Expressive Iteration if you can. This is also the matchup where the steal mode on Archmage's Charm comes the most in handy.
-1 Dovin's Veto
-1 Memory Deluge
Outside of Chalice, this is the matchup I'm the most uncertain of sideboarding. Counterspell is pretty bad against their large number of one-mana threats and hand-disruption, but Tourach, Dread Cantor is an enormous problem. This card single-handedly makes the post-board matchup significantly worse than the pre-board. In that vein, I might consider leaving in some number of Counterspell in lieu of some number of Shark Typhoons. In theory, the Typhoons are nice because they're built in card advantage, but in reality, the Shark is rarely trading with a threat, making it more of a cycling Fog.
Supreme Verdict is another way to deal with Tourach, but at that point, it's already hit you for two cards (perhaps including a Verdict you were holding), so it's not actually that great a plan. It might seem odd to keep Spreading Seas in against a Blue deck, but this is actually another way to fight Tourach; try to target their Black sources if you can, since triple Black isn't trivial with Seas running interference. Blood Crypt is obviously the best target.
Rest in Peace is only okay against them; outside of cheesing with Chalice, you're looking to buy time and set up a way to answer Tourach, Lurrus, and their other sources of card advantage. With so many must-answer axes, you can see why the matchup is trickier after sideboarding, as they certainly pick up more tools than you do.
UR Murktide is one of the more straightforward matchups. Nearly all of your answers deal with nearly all of their threats. Use Prismatic Endingss first, as they're the narrowest. You should also Solitude Ragavan by pitching a White card (usually Verdict or Teferi) more aggressively than you would against Shadow. You do not want them building up extra mana in the form of Treasures, as your strategy revolves around them needing to tap mana at sorcery speed more often than you do.
After you deal with the early Ragavan/DRC, they're going to have to tap two or more mana for Murktide Regent at some point. Often, they'll do it on Turn 4 or 5 so that they can hold up Counterspell or Archmage's Charm. This is the point of the game you're playing toward; Counterspell it, and if they counter back, play a Time Raveler and bounce it. If they don't counter back, that's one Murktide down, three to go. For later Murktides, it's fine to let it resolve and then Verdict it away, especially if you can get a two-for-one.
Memory Deluge is one of your best cards in this matchup. As an instant-speed form of card advantage, it either puts you up cards or can force your opponent to tap out at an inconvenient time.
Once you can set up a turn where you play Time Raveler, you'll often bounce something, and they'll kill it with Heat, which is fine. You're simply looking to run them out of cards. With more sources of card advantage and more answers than they have, this isn't too tough to do, but it does often take a while. Hero of Dominaria will take over the game eventually, usually alongside Time Raveler to shut off their countermagic.
Game losses to Murktide usually involve Lightning Bolt, so be conscious of your life total, and remember that you can steal a DRC with Archmage's Charm so that you can Solitude it and gain three life. The other way you can lose is if they're playing mainboard Blood Moon, and you don't fetch basics or have Spreading Seas. Remember that if you do have Seas, you can Seas your own lands to turn them into Islands.
You definitely feel the lack of double White, however, in the inability to cast Solitude or Verdict. Remember that if you have a single Plains and a Hero of Dominaria, you can float a White, untap the Plains, and Solitude on your own end step. If you have a Time Raveler as well, you can instant-speed Verdict on your end step in the same way. Though you could also just bounce the Blood Moon, you often will not want to. Blood Moon often constrains Murktide to only two sources of Blue mana (another reason to deal with Ragavan aggressively), which benefits you because they're going to have to tap it eventually to cast Expressive Iteration or Murktide Regent.
+2 Dovin's Veto
First off, I'm not totally sure you want to cut two Hero of Dominaria. You may just want to cut one and perhaps bring in only one Veto.
Regardless, post-board, they'll definitely have Blood Moon, so be sure to fetch basics aggressively. Rest in Peace is much better against them than it is against Shadow, and remember the only way they can answer it on Turn 2 is Counterspell. Since they often deploy a threat on Turn 1, you can usually resolve RiP if it's in your opening hand.
Shark Typhoon really pushes you over the top post-board. It easily kills Ragavan and DRC while putting you up a card, or it eats up Unholy Heat so that your Teferis will be stickier in the midgame. It can also deal with a resolved Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The four-mana planeswalker is definitely something to watch out for; if you've been fetching basics (like you should), you likely won't have Raugrin Triome + Breeding Pool to Prismatic Ending with four colors. As such, you really want to try to counter it when it comes down or kill it immediately with a big shark. Luckily, Jace is an expensive planeswalker that forces them to tap a lot of mana, so you can usually find a way to capitalize off their casting it.
Burn used to be a tough matchup for UW Control, especially in Game 1. It's still close, but I'd give a slight edge to UW these days. Solitude, Counterspell, and Ending are big. The fact that Ending doesn't give them a land like Path to Exile does and that it can be cast for extra mana to dodge the Eidolon tax is great. As in the Murktide matchup, it's not uncommon to steal a one-drop and then Solitude it. Additionally, remember that Solitude is a may trigger. If the opponent is tapped out or you have countermagic up, you may prefer to not exile anything and block with the Elemental to bump your life up by a Lightning Bolt's worth.
Teferi, Time Raveler almost always goes up in this matchup, unless you really need to draw cards to avoid dying to a top-deck or something. Time Raveler makes their top-decked Rift Bolts clunky and mana-intensive, and the walker prevents death by a chain of Burn spells in response to a Solitude. He similarly prevents Skullcrack when you start hitting with Solitude.
As you might be able to tell, Solitude is the name of the game. The game state you're trying to reach against Burn is one where you are attacking with Solitude. Two attacks and you can generally feel pretty safe.
In the late game, don't be picky with what you're using your countermagic on. If it deals damage, counter it.
+2 Dovin's Veto
The post-board games play out pretty similarly to the pre-board games, except now you have a couple more counterspells for their burn. Burn does sometimes have spicy things like Roiling Vortex or Exquisite Firecraft, so again, use your countermagic aggressively. You're going to feel pretty sad if you don't counter a Bolt, and then you die to Firecraft with a Veto in hand.
With the printing of Teferi, Time Raveler, UW Control mirrors became all about who could stick the three-mana planeswalker first. It's still true that doing so will give you a big edge, but Prismatic Ending has leveled the playing field just a bit.
The way the preboard games are usually won are by a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria being in play for multiple turns. Whether it emblems or not, the card advantage it generates alongside the awkward plays it forces your opponent to make to get rid of it will usually be enough to pull you far ahead.
While you'll likely want to end up with a Spreading Seas on their Celestial Colonnade and Hall of Storm Giants (and Castle Vantress as well!) eventually, you should feel no hesitation in cycling them early. Hitting land drops and countermagic is still king in the control mirror, and you can always pick Seas back up later with Time Raveler. Besides, if the game gets to that point, it's not uncommon to Prismatic a Seas to turn on the Hall.
Hall of Storm Giants in particular is another way you can steal games. If an opponent ever taps down to two or fewer lands up, then they can't kill Hall with an Evoked Solitude, thanks to Ward 3. If you suspect your opponent's hand is mostly reactive spells, then don't be afraid to get in there aggressively with Hall.
Another instance in which you should aim for a Hall kill is if your opponent is winning the card advantage race, but you have a Teferi, Time Raveler. Flashing in a Solitude on their end step and attacking with Solitude + Hall is 10 damage, which can quickly put your opponent on the back foot. Simply the threat of a Hall kill can be leveraged to buy you time, stick a planeswalker, or net some cards.
+2 Dovin's Veto
The cards to bring in are pretty straightforward. Chalice is bad, Seas is fine but your worst card, and Verdict is mostly bad. I keep in a singleton Verdict because it's a fifth way to deal with Emrakul, the Promised End. There's also nothing an opponent can do about it unless you control a Time Raveler with 3+ loyalty when they take your turn, thus bouncing Emrakul and casting Verdict into an empty board. As you might imagine, this is a pretty rare situation.
Post-board games are more interesting because the threats are more varied. The planeswalker plan is still central to gameplay, but has significantly more counterplay thanks to Shark Typhoon, especially when casting Time Raveler. Solitude is tempting to use on Sharks, but remember that you need to have a Solitude if they Emrakul you. Thus, Prismatic Ending becomes more appealing to use on Sharks, but then you may not have an answer for Time Raveler. In the end, the best answers for opposing Sharks and planeswalkers are your own Sharks and planeswalkers.
If you can afford to wait to cycle Typhoons, it's not a terrible idea to do that, since whoever cycles second has creature size advantage. Realistically though, it is far more important to hit lands and find countermagic, and the creature size advantage of a 3/3 versus a 2/2 is not typically all that important. So cycle early and often, unless you can truly afford to wait.
Looming over all the post-board games is Emrakul, the Promised End. Much like how it behaved when it was in Standard, it warps gameplay not just after being cast, but in the turns leading up to it being cast. You should keep a careful count on your opponent's graveyard to have a sense for how far away Emrakul is. On a turn leading up to a possible Emrakul turn, do not have your mana tapped. You need to be able to both answer the Emrakul and expend your remaining resources in the least painful way possible. This means cashing in your Archmage's Charm to draw 2 so that your opponent can't make you target them with it when they take your turn, ticking down one or both your Teferis to limit your opponent's options, and casting Memory Deluge to select lands or hard-to-abuse spells.
If you have the option to Emrakul first, you need to consider the possibility that your opponent has an Emrakul in hand, and how that will play out. Sometimes, it may be more advantageous to Emrakul second instead, depending on the texture of your hand and the game state. While it's a bit counterintuitive, this is more true the worse your hand and board are. If all you have are an Emrakul and an answer for the opposing Emrakul, then absolutely let your opponent Emrakul first.
Though the gameplay itself is pretty different post-board, the way games end is roughly the same. Sometimes you can sneak in Hall hits and kill them (though this is trickier, since they can make a Shark to chump through a Time Raveler), but often you're chipping in for a few points here and there with Solitudes and Sharks once you've built up advantage with planeswalkers.
Both pre-board and post-board, any time your Memory Deluge finds you another Memory Deluge or a Shark Typhoon, you should almost always take it. Instant speed card advantage is huge, but be cognizant of your hand size. Unless you're already planning to deploy a threat the following turn, you probably shouldn't cast Deluge on your opponent's end step if you have seven cards in hand.
One final note – some players are opting for Fire//Ice over Memory Deluge, and I'd strongly encourage you to try out the three Deluge. Instant speed, non-planeswalker card advantage is powerful in so many matchups, and once you find one, you never run out of gas. Drawing two isn't always great, but you always want to see one of them. More than any other card in the deck, Deluge was the one that I found myself wanting to draw the most.
Having access to a mainboard Chalice, four Time Ravelers, and eight counterspells in the main gives you a pretty big edge in this matchup. Additionally, Spreading Seas is surprisingly good, since you can often shut them off Violent Outburst for a few turns. If they do resolve a Crashing Footfalls, you can usually Verdict the board away. In fact, it's not even that big a problem if you deal with a resolved Footfalls by bouncing one Rhino and Prismatic Ending another.
Generally, the goal is to stop the Footfalls in the early game and get to the point where they're falling back on their crappy midrange plan. Fury is worth watching out for, and another reason to almost always tick up Time Raveler. Once you stop the Cascade plan, you should be able to out-card-advantage them and run away with Hero of Dominaria.
The game state you're looking to get to is the one where they have expended most of their resources, and have maybe one card in hand to your several. Planeswalkers or not, Rhinos does not compete well on the card advantage axis, so if you can out-card them and not get Cascaded on Turn 3 or 4, you should win.
-4 Prismatic Ending
+2 Dovin's Veto
With additional countermagic, it's less likely that you'll need to Verdict away a board of Rhinos, so I like shaving on a Verdict.
As always, fetch basics to play around Blood Moon. As in the case of Murktide, you can Spreading Seas your own lands to make more Blue, and you typically don't want to bounce the Blood Moon right away if you have your colors. They'll bring in Endurance against you, and Moon can leave it stranded in their hand. They'll also have Mystical Dispute, so be cognizant of that when choosing what to counter when. Of course, the best plan is to stick a Time Raveler so you don't have to worry about it at all.
More recently, I've been seeing some scarier post-board cards in the form of Thrun, the Last Troll and Chandra, Awakened Inferno. If these cards pick up, you'll likely want to shave two Spreading Seas or a Spreading Seas and a Hero of Dominaria or a Memory Deluge for two more Shark Typhoons, even though they can get Petty Thefted. A big Shark can blank a Thrun, kill a Chandra, and, most importantly, close out the game before they find a Chandra. Dress Down also deals with Thrun in conjunction with a removal spell, but doesn't do much else, so I don't love it.
Against Yawgmoth, Prismatic Ending and Supreme Verdict are your friends. You want to Prismatic away the Strangleroot Geists (the Young Wolves are less threatening as 1/1's), counter Grist and Chord, and Verdict the rest of the mana dorks away. Time Raveler is great in this matchup because it shuts off sneaky Chords on your end step and gives you access to instant-speed Supreme Verdict, which is particularly huge against Undying creatures attacking or if the opponent tries to go for the combo.
While not quite as bad as Wrenn and Six, Grist, the Hunger Tide is a huge pain. It requires multiple answers if it resolves, kills your planeswalkers, and will kill you in conjunction with their aggro plan if it ultimates. As such, you really want to have a counterspell for Grist. It's fine to let the Undying creatures resolve if you have limited countermagic; it's much easier to mop up Undying stuff than it is to handle Grist. Similarly, this means countering Eldrtich Evolution and Chord of Calling, either with actual counterspells or by keeping their board Clear. Don't feel bad if you have to use Time Raveler as an Into the Roil that soaks up some damage. This is another matchup where you'll sometimes be in a situation where you just need to buy time.
Remember that you can steal Ignoble Hierarch for a nice little mana boost. Chalice on X=1 is usually the way to go in the late game, as it means you won't have to deal with annoying Hierarchs and Young Wolves.
-1 Dovin's Veto
They'll definitely have answers to Rest in Peace post-board, but it can set you up for a nice Verdict. Additionally, as is the case in any Green matchup post-board, watch out for Veil of Summer. Their best get post-board is probably Thoughtseize; other than that, the matchup plays out pretty similarly.
First, the more obvious stuff: you should pretty much always Prismatic Ending their Amulet of Vigor, Spreading Seas their Urza's Saga, and kill their Dryad of the Ilysian Grove as soon as humanly possible.
Unlike other matchups, where you can Spreading Seas to cycle and then pick it up with Time Raveler later, bouncelands prevent that here. Seas is a fantastic card, but you have to use it carefully. Outside of nailing a Saga, if your opponent ever gives you a window to Seas a Cavern of Souls, don't look a gift horse in the mouth and #JustDoIt.
Otherwise, Spreading Seas and Teferi, Time Raveler exist to buy you time in this matchup. If you can Spreading Seas a bounceland when it's the only land they have, that's great, as it prevents them from untapping and playing Dryad. If you can Teferi bounce their Amulet or Dryad right before they're going to cast Titan, great, you just bought yourself another turn.
Your goal is to get to Turn 5 and immediately cast Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. After that, you're not looking to play a long game, and should expend your resources aggressively in an effort to get to the emblem. This sometimes means going down on cards dealing with things like Urza's Saga. You might have to steal one Construct, chump, hardcast Solitude and exile another, chump, etc. You're just trying to keep Teferi going!
If you get lucky and draw your singleton Chalice in Game 1, setting it on zero cuts the number of Titans they have from twelve to four, forcing them to draw it naturally. Even if you draw it late, slam it on zero – but play out Time Raveler first if you have it so they can't respond by Pacting.
Your goal is to make the game as awkward as possible for them. Doing so will force them into situations where, say, they need to play Dryad off of normal mana because they can't deploy a bounceland to reset their Cavern from Giant to Dryad. You're looking for every small edge you can get, and you can create these opportunities for yourself by aggressively interfering with their plans.
Keep in mind that you should likely counter their Pact if you can because your counterspells won't work on Cavern-protected Titans and Dryads.
-1 Dovin's Veto
+2 Dress Down
None of your mainboard cards are all that terrible against Titan, but you get a lot out of your sideboard. The matchup is tough pre-board, but post-board it becomes substantially better, and you get a lot more than they do (Tireless Tracker is their most annoying sideboard card).
Dress Down allows you to more confidently deploy Hero of Dominaria on Turn 5 into Titan mana. Even if you're missing a Solitude, you can Dress Down with Titan on the stack and they get a vanilla 6/6. Even better, if they're playing Cultivator Colossus, Dress Down turns it into a 0/0 when it enters and it dies with no trigger. And, of course, Dress Down also deals with the Urza's Saga Constructs. Dress Down is so good because it's a blanket answer to every threat in their deck – except for Dryad.
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove's ability to turn all lands into Basic lands of all types is a type-changing ability that lives in Layer 4, while Dress Down's ability-removing effect is in Layer 6. As a result, lands will remain all basic land types while Dress Down and Dryad are on the battlefield together, so do not let Dryad live under the impression that you can save yourself from a Valakut kill with the enchantment.
The best thing about the post-board games is that you can often end them in a single turn, rather than hoping you have Teferi on 5 and hoping he lives for several turns while you don't die. Instead, cast Emrakul, the Promised End pretty much whenever. Dress Down adds the enchantment type to your graveyard, so you can cast Emrakul for as little as seven mana.
The best time to cast Emrakul, of course, is after they've resolved a Summoner's Pact. You can then choose not to pay for the Pact trigger, and they die. The second best time to cast Emrakul is any other time. If you're comfortable with Titan lines and they have access to a Dryad and a Titan, you can likely kill them with their own Valakut (it can target anything!) You can also use bouncelands to shut them off double Green or quadruple Green and then cast every Summoner's Pact they've been holding.
You can't, however, downtick Karn, the Great Creator to fetch something from their sideboard (like a Pithing Needle to shut off Karn). When controlling another player's turn, you cannot look at their sideboard, even with cards that explicitly instruct you to do so, so Karn's downtick can only fetch cards from exile.
Typically, after the early-game flurry of action, the Titan player will be building up resources and trying to set up a powerful turn or two that will overwhelm the UW player. As a result, there's often a lull in the mid-late game where the Titan player appears not to be doing much, but is subtly setting up the pieces to strike. This is why, even with no Pact triggers to choose not to pay, Emrakul is so devastating. Even if you're unable to kill them, you will set them back so far that they have no hope of catching up, not to mention you've got a lovely 13/13 that will be swinging shortly after.
I have never yet seen Amulet beat an Emrakul, the Promised End; it's that good.
Jund Saga is another Wrenn and Six deck, and there's nothing tougher for UW than the planeswalker deployed on Turn 2. While they can Thoughtseize away your answer for it initially, they can't protect the Wrenn once it's on board, so any future Endings will deal with Wrenn easily, making it less good out of Jund Saga than it is in 4C Blink.
While Wrenn isn't as likely to reach Emblem in Jund, it causes far more problems on the way there by rebuying Urza's Sagas and making endless Constructs. Then, of course, they'll play Lurrus and rebuy a Wrenn they Surveiled into the yard or you attacked with a Solitude, and use the Wrenn to rebuy a Saga, and now you've entered The Nightmare Scenario TM, where Jund has generated three different threats in one turn from a bonus card.
The difficulty in beating Saga correlates with how many types of threats they find. If they only have creatures, you're fine. If they have creatures and a Saga or a Wrenn, things get tougher, but doable. But if they assemble early pressure backed up by the threat of a Wrenn, and then deploy a midgame Saga, you're going to have a bad time. So how do you fight them?
Jund Saga is another deck where you want to try to maximize your card advantage. With plenty of Unholy Heats, Memory Deluge is one of your best cards in the matchups. Jund is midway between Murktide, where you should aggressively Evoke Solitude and kill Ragavan, and Grixis Shadow, where you really would like to get to hardcasting Solitude. As such, the decision of Evoking and exiling a Ragavan is much more contextual. Do they have a Wrenn anyways, so their mana situation is fine? Did they play a Turn 2 Saga, so they might need the Treasure to make a Construct? Do they have something like Swamp + Blood Crypt, where they're missing a color?
Their mana is bad. While Spreading Seas is a great answer for Urza's Saga, remember that you can pick it up later with Teferi. Particularly if you have multiple Seas, it's often pretty easy to shut them off a color. You should absolutely Seas them aggressively. Forcing them to stumble so that you can set up a Planeswalker or a hardcast Solitude into attacking a Wrenn is where you want to be. As is the case against Amulet, you want to make their early turns as awkward as possible, crippling their threat deployment so that you can reach your more powerful spells in the mid game.
-1 Dovin's Veto
+2 Dress Down
Dovin's Veto is too narrow against them, and Time Raveler is largely unexciting. Like against Grixis Shadow, Jund's curve is so low that Counterspell often feels clunky and dead. Hero of Dominaria isn't necessarily slammed on Turn 5 in this matchup due to Unholy Heat and easy Delirium, so we shave one of those. The third Memory Deluge is good, but I think it's the worst card left in the deck, so we shave there as well.
Chalice will be removed, but it can slow them down, particularly if you focus on Spreading Seas their Green or Black mana so they can't Abrupt Decay or Assassin's Trophy right away. Dress Down is usually used to kill Constructs, but can also be used to shut off a Tarmogoyf and drop a DRC out of the sky to be ambushed by a Shark or a Solitude. Rest in Peace is obscenely good against Jund, and alongside Chalice, it strains their removal, so one of them will often stick around longer than they'd like. Shark Typhoon does the usual, which involves netting cards, killing Planeswakers, and ambushing Ragavans. Just remember that, unlike against Shadow, where it sometimes comes up, you almost never want to hardcast the Shark Typhoon against Jund. Unless you have a high degree of confidence that they're out of Assassin's Trophies or you are flush on countermagic, you're asking to be blown out.
Mill is a lot like Burn in Game 1. You should Prismatic their Crabs if you can and use your counterspells aggressively. Play a Solitude as soon as possible to attack them; pressure alongside Hall or Colonnade is one of the few ways you can steal Game 1. You can try to Emblem Hero of Dominaria, but it's honestly a losing battle. You are poorly equipped to fight this deck in Game 1, and you're probably going to lose. Time Raveler is strong here, as it shuts off their Drowns and Traps.
One note which can be helpful: if you are flush on non-fetchlands and able to play the game with only nonfetches, but have one fetch in hand, don't crack it. If, on the other hand, you need to crack your fetch, do it immediately to minimize the odds they have Archive Trap. But if you are in between, then try to refrain from cracking the fetch until you can cast Teferi, Time Raveler, and then crack the fetchland.
-3 Supreme Verdict
-4 Spreading Seas
+1 Dovin's Veto
The post-board games are much more winnable. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn helps insulate you from a “normal” mill win, and both Emrakul's plus the expensive Shark Typhoon mitigate the effectiveness of Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Additionally, Shark Typhoon gives you four more creatures to apply pressure with. Again, you should kill their crabs and counter their mill spells, and pressure them as quickly as possible.
Of course, you need to get to a point where you can play a Teferi, which means countering Recross the Paths or rituals and Spreading Seas targeting either their Red or Green lands. They have a couple more Red than Green, so if given the option, Green is probably better. They also have Manamorphose, so you're really hoping they only have a single of either.
-1 Prismatic Ending
+2 Dovin's Veto
+2 Dress Down
Nothing really changes post-board. Sticking a Time Raveler and upticking (they'll have Fury) remains your number one priority. We cut the dead removal spells and bring in our remaining countermagic alongside anything in our sideboard that says “Draw a card” so that we can more effectively find counterspells. Post-board, they'll have Veils of Summer alongside Pacts of Negation, so the importance of Time Raveler is only enhanced. The plan is the same: counter Recross and rituals, Seas their RG lands, and stick a Time Raveler ASAP.
Graveyard decks resurge every time they haven't been around for a while and people drop their guard. I suspect that might be happening again soon, so I think it's worthwhile to talk about Dredge.
Against Dredge, if you're fortunate enough to be on the play, you should counter their Turn 2 enabler (Cathartic Reunion/Thrilling Discovery). You'll want to be wary of Ox of Agonas and Conflagrate as other Counterspell targets, and you're hoping to exile Prized Amalgams with Solitude or Prismatic Ending so that you can Verdict away Narcomoebas without Amalgams returning. You want to get attacking with Solitude as soon as you can to move yourself out of Creeping Chill range. Bloodghasts aren't too scary because they can't block your Solitudes.
As in similar matchups, Time Raveler exists to make them stumble. Bouncing an Amalgam or a Bloodghast can make things just awkward enough to give yourself one more turn of setup.
-4 Prismatic Ending
+1 Dress Down
+2 Dovin's Veto
The plan remains the same: counter their enablers, Ox, and Conflagrate. Post-board, you can also counter their hate for your Rest in Peace if you're lucky enough to have a fast one. Solitudes should exile Amalgams in non-Rest in Peace games and Stinkweed Imps in Rest in Peace games, then it should get attacking as quickly as possible.
UW Control is a highly flexible deck that has realistic plans to fight and win every matchup in Modern. Being successful with the deck, however, requires that you understand your plan and role in each matchup, what board state you are trying to achieve, and how you can lose to your opponent. Hopefully this guide has been helpful, and may you always have Hero of Dominaria on Turn 5!
Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic.