Dominaria United has brought several very powerful tools for control decks. There are bits of interaction, but also threats or spells. In this article I present you decklists for control decks in Explorer, Historic and Standard! Each section will focus on a different map.
Liliana of the veil
It still feels unreal that Liliana of the Veil herself is being 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 gets another chance to distort the format. The main purpose of the map was to play an attrition game, but it focused on stripping resources rather than collecting them. In terms of gameplay, it’s an interesting change of dynamics compared to all the cards whose goal is to draw a card in one form or another upon entry.
She’s seen control games from time to time, but not too much. I think the lower the power level of the format the more she justifies a shot as playing a removal spell in Liliana minus games will distort. Realistically, she’d be better at control decks, a little less focused on counter-magic stopping, but more removal and possibly tapping.
The scenario you are aiming for is immediately -2 upon entry and then you can decide whether you want to check it or not. It’s worth noting that you don’t have to use one of her skills every turn. Sometimes you can wait a while; it is not a race that reaches the ultimate faster. Speaking of which, the ultimate isn’t as game-winning as the ultimate of some other walkers, like Teferi, Hero or Dominaria. However, for a 3-mana walker, it’s still quite game-changing. If you successfully controlled the game, it could just be a triple Stone Rain. A common split is spells vs land assuming you can either cast spells but the board is empty or you don’t play Magic and the board is all you have access to. The pressure is on you, the Liliana player, to give them a tough choice. You don’t want a situation where the board is kept and you die from what’s already there.
Historical Dimir Controls
In this historic Dimir shell, she will be particularly effective thanks to Yahenni’s Expertise. She’s also paired with discards to really poke holes in the opponent’s game plan. If you’re left empty handed, Narset, Parter of Veils will shine. You can play Narset, then activate Liliana and after the skill is solved, activate Narset.
Explorer Grixis Controls
The idea in the Explorer shell is similar. We combine Thoughtseize with Liliana and all the traditional control tools you would expect.
This card can play in tempo-style decks like the poor man’s Murktide Regent, as well as in control decks as a top-end finisher. The idea is that you would play the game as you normally would, and at one point you would drop a large snake for a meager mana. It’s a huge body and even has a little bit of protection built in.
Thanks to the cheap price, assuming you play it for 1-2 mana, you can still hold back more interaction and counter magic for opponent stuff. You can further protect it with counter magic, but always make the opponent pay the Ward cost before playing your Cancel. The last thing worth remembering is that it faces the graveyard, but doesn’t banish anything like Murktide Regent would. That means you can set turns if you play several.
Standard Jeskai Control
I’d play it in a spell-cast shell. There is no cute self mill, you fill your graveyard as you go. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker may be able to help you fill it faster thanks to the removal of the second chapter.
At first glance, it seems like there’s no reason to play Cut Down when there’s Fatal Push. However, Standard doesn’t have Fatal Push, so Cut Down can shine. In Explorer and Historic where you have Push, it’s still pretty hard to turn on Revolt, so if there’s a lot of 3-4 drops that would kill Cut Down without the need for Revolt, it might turn out to be better.
From now on I would focus more on Standard and use Cut Down Down as the best Fatal Push imitation.
STANDARD ESPER CONTROL
This is a classic Esper shell with Cut Down being the primary removal from the early game. You could try going for pure Dimir, but I don’t recommend it. Play The Wandering Emperor if you can.
While it’s obvious when a powerful removal spell is printed, it might be a little less true for cards that don’t do anything flashy or affect the battlefield. Here we are dealing with a card selection spell that looks at the top four cards at instant speed. For people who haven’t played with such effects yet, four cards is a lot, and I mean a lot. The key to playing this card is identifying what you’re looking for when casting. If you cast it to cast it, you may not really benefit from the effect. Before you put it on the pile, ask yourself if you need card advantage, some form of interaction, or a win condition.
While it’s sometimes okay to delay casting a cantrip, it would still cast Impulse if nothing else. Going four deep is valuable and it can be hard to squeeze a two mana spell otherwise.
Last but not least, the value of such cards goes up massively if you are actively looking for a hate card. If there’s a three mana hate piece you’re looking for, you’re 14 cards deep, count your opener and take steps to turn three and Impulse.
This is a card I expect to play in Standard. It’s a twist on Preordain, Omen of the Sea and Growth Spiral. Without the kicker it wouldn’t be played because you have the aforementioned Impulse. However, Kicker makes it unique enough that it should be included in some decks. If you’ve ever thrown it past turn three, you can pedal on it and take off a bit. In control decks whose curves are naturally higher than normal, it is desirable to have more lands. In addition, you can cast a more expensive spell earlier, such as Farewell, or start multispelling earlier.
Standard Bant Control
This is a version of the digital only Divine Purge. I’ve long thought that removing three mana masses is very strong, and cards like Anger of the Gods are underplayed. Similarly, I think Lockdown will be played in Explorer because it’s so cheap. The thing is, sometimes you’re just too slow to play Supreme Verdict; a difference of one turn is a ton in Magic terms, because one turn later is also one battle later. It also means that after the mass removal, your opponent will cast a stronger spell or cast multiple spells.
Lockdown will shine against aggressive decks that are low to the ground and that naturally play a lot of one and two drops. Your Mono Red opponent might think their triple one drop opener is an easy win and it normally would be, but Temporary Lockdown is turning the tide heavily in control’s favor.
Lockdown not only banishes creatures, but all non-lands, so it affects food, clue or treasure tokens. Be careful not to pick enchantments with your Farewell as you would bring back all the perms previously banned with Lockdown.
Explorer Esper Control
Obviously the set has revived control and if you’re a control enthusiast like myself you’ll love brewing around with all those tools. The list I have provided is a starting point for you to explore further the possibilities DMU has given us.