Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Control Deck Building in Magic
Magic's "control" decks seek to stall long enough using removal to overtake the long-game with sheer card advantage. Blue represents the quintessential control thanks to its counterspells and draws, and it's usually backed up by either white or black for creature removal.
Green is also used for mana ramping, but no matter the exact shape, control decks tend to be light on creatures and heavy on board-nuking instants and sorceries. But that doesn't mean there aren't troops to assist your long-term victory—here are ten great monsters for control decks in MTG!
10. Ascendant Spirit
Use in: Snow decks
Spirit is easy to cast at one mana and begins as a simple 1/1. But by spending snow mana (of any color), he gradually upgrades, and since this can occur at instant speed, it spends mana saved for counterspells to good use if your opponent holds off on casting.
The first upgrade costs two mana, making Spirit a 2/3 warrior. The next costs three and turns him into a flying 4/4 angel. After that, each additional three mana grants two +1/+1s and lets Spirit draw when it hits an opponent with combat damage.
9. Palladium Myr
Use in: Artifact decks
Myr costs three mana, but since all are colorless, he's easy to fit in any deck and can be played surprisingly early with commander staples like Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, and Ancient Tomb. Myr taps for two more colorless; give him haste with either Lightning Greaves or Swiftfoot Boots to access the mana immediately!
8. Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Use in: Artifact decks
Emry's cost of three can be discounted by up to two per artifact you control, potentially letting you cast her for just one (even with commander tax penalties)! While she's weak at 1/2, she has both merfolk and wizard synergy, and by tapping, she lets you cast an artifact from your graveyard that turn (still paying its cost).
Again, using Lightning Greaves accelerates access, and you can even perform infinite combos with the permanent-untapping artifact Paradox Engine (at least where it's allowed, as it's currently banned in commander).
7. Azorius Guildmage
Use in: Blue/white decks
Guildmage accepts either white or blue mana, is a respectable 2/2 wizard, and her abilities provide outlets for leftover mana, spending three to either tap a creature or counter an activated ability.
These abilities get even better when you realize they don't require tapping, meaning you can spam them with infinite mana-combos, and you can discount their cost from three to one with blue's Training Grounds enchantment or Biomancer's Familiar creature.
6. Etherium Sculptor
Use in: Artifact decks
Sculptor is deceptively strong, a simple 1/2 wizard who makes your artifact spells cost one less. Since he's not legendary, you can also clone him with cards like Spark Double to double the bonus.
Plus, as an artifact creature himself, he reduces the price of other copies of himself (useful in non-singleton formats) and synergizes with cards that have affinity for artifacts.
5. Baral, Chief of Compliance
Use in: Instant/sorcery decks
Baral's a great choice to lead budget commander decks, offering a 1/3 wizard who makes an effective early-game blocker. Better yet, he discounts your instants and sorceries by one, making blue's counterspells ridiculously easy to cast..
He also loots (draws and discards) when you counter a spell or ability, letting you quickly mill cards with graveyard abilities like flashback or embalm.
4. Hullbreaker Horror
Use in: Mana-ramping decks
Often, high-cost spells are risky because you still lose all the mana if countered, but Hullbreaker avoids this by being uncounterable (at least in paper play; online MTG Arena nerfed this aspect).
Either way, he not only enters at flash speed as an impressive 7/8. often letting you bait and kill aggro, he lets you return a spell or non-land to its owner's hand just by casting a spell!
This effectively offers ongoing removal and counterspells, and can even form infinite mana combos by bouncing mana rocks such as Sol Ring and Mox Amber.
3. Agent of Raffine
Use in: Ability-reducing decks
An Arena-exclusive card, Raffine only takes one mana, has workable 1/2 stats plus rogue synergy, and taps and spends two mana to exile the top card of an opponent's deck face-down, conjuring a duplicate of that card into your hand. At any point after that, you can then cast that card using mana of any type (or simply play it if it's a land).
Not only does this edge your opponent closer to a deck-out mill loss, it's a great way to maintain advantage, and the mana cost of the activation can be reduced to one with Training Grounds.
2. Esper Sentinel
Use in: Creature-boosting decks
Esper has artifact synergy and an amazing ability, drawing a card the first time an opponent casts a non-creature each turn unless they pay Esper's power as mana. This punishes counterspells and other control decks, and the tax gets much higher if you can get some +1/+1s on Esper.
1. Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Use in: Sacrifice decks
Even with the new rules regarding the companion mechanic, requiring you first pay three mana to add them to hand from outside the game (but you have to build your deck around it's requirements, in this case only having permanents of cost two or less), Lurrus is pretty busted and banned in many formats.
Not only does he offer a 3/2 cat with lifelink who accepts either black or white mana, he lets you cast a non-land of cost two or less from your graveyard each turn. This provides ridiculously easy advantage, especially with black's sacrificial creatures or even just mana rocks like Terrarion. Where legal. you definitely want this card.
Other Cards for Control Decks
In addition to today's creatures, you might want some planeswalkers for your control deck—their once-per-turn abilities can really pay off the longer a game extends. Instants and sorceries are crucial as always for clearing the field if things get rough, but for now, vote for your favorite control theme and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2022 Jeremy Gill