Setting Standards – Out With the Old


I know it’s a new year and we should be leaving all things old in the past but I’ve got one more crack at an old archetype to put under a new lens. This one comes from my good friend Blair who played this deck at GP Portland. Spoiler alert, its another 4 color energy deck, but this time its not a mid range clunker full of Longtusk Cub and Whirler Virtuoso.


Energy Control


4 Rogue Refiner

1 Noxious Gearhulk

2 The Locust God

2 Torrential Gearhulk


3 Fatal Push

3 Abrade

1 Vraska’s Contempt

2 Essence Scatter

4 Harnessed Lightning

2 Negate

3 Disallow

2 Supreme Will

1 Sweltering Suns

4 Glimmer of Genius

1 Commit//Memory



4 Aether Hub

2 Blooming Marsh

3 Botanical Sanctum

1 Canyon Slough

1 Drowned Catacomb

1 Evolving Wilds

1 Fetid Pools

1 Forest

4 Island

1 Mountain

1 Rootbound Crag

4 Spirebluff Canal

1 Swamp



3 Crook of Condemnation

1 Negate

1 Appetite for the Unnatural

1 Fiery Cannonade

2 Sweltering Suns

2 Vizier of Many Faces

1 Hour of Devastation

1 Carnage Tyrant

1 River’s Rebuke


When you know the field is full of mid range decks it might just be the right time to slow things down and sleeve up your control deck.

It seems to have been universally agreed throughout the community that energy is the best mechanic in the current meta. We’re not interested in contesting that assumption at this point so instead the attempt here is to find a new way to use the same mechanic. In other words, find a way to use their best weapons against them.  Most people trying to beat temur were trying to go wide or go under, where this deck tries to just road block their game plan by using energy in a different way.

Like most control decks the plan here is to keep the board clear by countering their spells and drawing more cards than your opponent so that you can win the long game by landing one or two giant threats and just drown them in card advantage. There’s no real difference here in that respect but there are a few surprises to keep opponents on their toes.

This deck has access to the best and fastest removal in standard, as well as all the card draw and counter magic blue has to offer. Fatal push, abrade, harnessed lightning, and Vraska’s Contempt round out a full dozen pieces of removal and most at 2 mana or less. Counter magic and card draw is a given in any control deck playing blue but it’s the way it uses it card draw that makes it something different. Most 4 color energy decks are running temur colors (blue, green, red) and splashing a small amount of black mana so they can cast The Scarab God but this old dog has a few new tricks.

In this age of temur (red, blue, green) this deck is running grixis colors (black, red, blue) and only splashing green for the most played creature in standard, Rogue Refiner. I know I’ve said it before but this card is amazing. I was shocked at how many times this deck won with Rogue Refiner alone.  If this deck could land one of these guys early and protect him with counter magic while killing opposing creatures for 2 mana or less it didn’t take long for the game to end. Make no mistake, losing a match to one Rogue Refiner is not fun.

A trio of gearhulks is not exactly new tech in a control shell but the addition of a couple copies of The Locust God made this thing really sing. Between Glimmer of Genius, Supreme Will, and Rogue Refiner drawing you extra cards each turn it was easy to lose control of a match once this giant grasshopper hit the field. A huge flier with the ability to pile on the card advantage and spam out more creatures is just what the doctor ordered for a finisher. The fact that temur deck can never get rid of him is just the icing on the cake.

The most interesting part of this deck was how people reacted to it; no one knew what was going on. It plays a control style match but uses a few of the mid range pieces and then pulls out a set of fatal push. Opponents were never quite sure what was coming next and that gave it such an advantage. People have become so used to seeing the same cards in the same decks that anything outside the typical list was a complete unknown. I think it was peoples reaction to this deck that made me finally realize why this standard has become so boring.  Players are at the point that cards outside the best decks have fallen off to a point that no one even bothers to consider using them.

There were basically 3 decks at GP Portland and Im sure that has been the case at many a GP these past few months. Not only are they the same decks, but they are the EXACT same decks. The lists waver by one or two copies of a few cards but are almost identical. Almost no one even knew what The Locust God did. They had never seen the card before.   This, to me, is the real crux of the dilemma with standard right now:  the best list has been set, the best mechanic is energy, and the 25 different cards used in those decks are the only cards anyone bothers to look at. I hope this is due in part to the fact that Ixalan is only a half set at the moment and that the season is wrapping (Xmas pun) so players are on auto pilot waiting to see what shake ups the new year has in store before getting back to brewing.

Here’s to a happy new year full of new decks, new dinosaurs, and less energy lists.


Dan MacKinnon

Dan MacKinnon

A freelance artist and illustrator by trade, magic geek by choice. I've been playing on an off since the 90's and have recently gotten much more serious about magic and game design. Sometimes I think I like building decks more than I actually like playing them. Drop me a line or check out some of my work at

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