Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Draft Report - Jan 20, 2013

- UR Midrange-Control (Naka) 5-1, 10-4
- BR Aggro (Kam) 4-2, 9-6
- BR Aggro-Midrange (Jão) 3-2, 7-6
- W Aggro-Control (Lula) 2-3, 7-7
- WU Control (Germano) 2-3, 5-7
- WG Control (Mauro) 1-3, 4-7
- WG Midrange (Marcos) 1-4, 4-9

UR Midrange-Control

6 Island
6 Mountain
Shivan Reef
Faerie Conclave
Ghitu Encampment
Shelldock Isle
Mystifying Maze

Mana Leak

Cyclonic Rift

Lightning Bolt
Hammer of Bogardan

Seagate Oracle
Augur of Bolas

Card Drawing
Fact or Fiction

Kiln Fiend
Lighthouse Chronologist
Taurean Mauler
Conundrum Sphinx
Oona, Queen of the Fae
Meloku the Clouded Mirror
Crater Hellion

Chromatic Lantern
Gitaxian Probe

My draft started pretty well when I picked a couple of counterspells and good burn spells during the first pack. Afterwards, I got the other pieces for a UR control deck, but the good counters and burn stopped coming and I had to settle for what I had. With only 2 counters that could protect my finishers, the threat count had to be upped. This created a deck too unstable as control, but beefy like a midrange deck in the long run. The two manlands were invaluable to thicken the threat density when necessary.

The most important section of the deck was the part that controlled the opponent's creatures enough to last the first turns and generate card advantage. Pyroclasm and Crater Hellion were incredible for that. Gitaxian Probe also played a very important role, and its performance made me wonder if the card should not be played more often even outside blue.

Oona, Queen of the Fae was lethal as usual, and Taurean Mauler was either good bait for removal or occasionally a board dominator when backed up by counters. Meloku the Clouded Mirror and Kiln Field didn't do well. The former may be a good finisher for control decks, but underperforms as a threat in a midrange deck. The latter is nearly always a 1/2 - instants aren't as effective in the wrong time - and is probably going to be replaced by something else more interesting in the cube.

BR Aggro

8 Swamp
9 Mountain
Lavaclaw Reaches

Flayer Husk
Rakdos Cackler
Jackal Pup
Genju of the Spires
Nezumi Graverobber
Gore-House Chainwalker
Goblin Furrier
Knight of Infamy
Phyrexian Rager
Splatter Thug

Fire Imp
Flametongue Kavu
Rend Flesh

Goblin Bushwhacker

Card Advantage
Dusk Urchins

Creature Buffing
Lightning Greaves
Loxodon Warhammer


A deck filled with aggressive creatures, with Unleash creatures making their true debut in the cube. Gore-House Chainwalker, Rakdos Cackler and Splatter Thug were great additions for two colors that already tend to be used in beatdown. The deck is about 1, 2 and 3 drops, with the curve stopping at 4 mana, for the gamebreakers Flametongue Kavu and Manabarbs. The aforementioned enchantment was the MVP of this deck, which was so aggressive and its cards so cheap that it's hard to imagine a better home for Manabarbs.

While the creatures used to beat up the opponent weren't all top notch, they were efficient and very potentialized by the supporting spells. Dismember and Rend Flesh, two of the most versatile creature removal spells in the cube, teamed up with Flametongue Kavu and its younger brother Fire Imp as a very efficient removal suite for an aggro deck. Browbeat, Banefire and Goblin Bushwhacker provided reach, and often dealt the killing blow. Skullclamp and Blightning just win games.

This deck did suffer with a matchup that isn't commonly seen: WG Control. It is so loaded with early defense and big creatures that the BR deck's removal can't deal with all of them, causing it to fizzle and get overwhelmend by fatties. Manabarbs does work well in this matchup, but all the rest of the deck doesn't.

BR Aggro-Midrange

8 Swamp
9 Mountain

Grim Lavamancer
Dauthi Horror
Oona's Prowler
Child of Night
Goblin Wardriver
Tuktuk the Explorer
Goblin Ruinblaster
Hero of Oxid Ridge

Tragic Slip
Arc Trail

Pulse of the Forge
Hell's Thunder

Removal or Reach
Magma Jet

Card Advantage
Hypnotic Specter
Phyrexian Arena
Blazing Specter

Creature Buffing
Sword of Light and Shadow

Mox Diamond

Artifact Removal

Note: When we were building decks, I found out I had added Smash to the cube when there was already one copy. Apparently the card is so innocuous that I didn't remember playing or drafting it before.

In this draft, we had a very unusual situation: two deck with the same archetype, BR Aggro. While it's always interesting to check the intersection of two decks of the same archetype to find out what cards are that archetype's cornerstones, this time there is no intersection because they were both on the same draft.

This basic strategy is the same in both decks. Play small creatures quickly, remove blockers and "elves", beat face and then burn what's left of the opponent. The aggressive creatures aren't as numerous in the second deck as in the first one, but the curve is smoother, leaning towards midrange, which is less explosive and more powerful in the long term. Hypnotic Specter, Phyrexian Arena, Blazing Specter and Sword of Light and Shadow dominate opponents that have no answer for them. Hero of Oxid Ridge is a very serious threat and Skinrender consistently turns the game.

The creature curves are:
Deck 1 (Kam): 1-5-4-4-1 (average CMC 1.93)
Deck 2 (Jão): 0-2-4-3-4 (average CMC 2.69)

Which means deck 1 has strong 1-3 turns and deck 2 has strong 2-4 turns. Following the principle of "you want to be either slightly slower or a lot faster than your opponent", deck 2 theoretically had a matchup advantage, which was confirmed by a 2-0 match result.

Comparing removal and reach:
Deck 1: 4 removal spells, 3 reach spells
Deck 2: 4 removal spells, 2 reach spells, 2 removal/reach spells

Not a big difference at all here. Black and red have a lot of redundancy when it comes to these categories.

Comparing card advantage:
Deck 1: Skullclamp, Dusk Urchins, Blightning
Deck 2: Hypnotic Specter, Phyrexian Arena, Blazing Specter

Deck 1 is more about one shot fast effects, while deck 2 can grind opponents down slowly. There is again a significant difference is speed here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Grid Draft - Dec 03, 2012

This week we tried a format I read about in the MTG Salvation forums, called Grid Draft. Designed as an alternative to Winston Draft for 2 players, it's supposed to create more focused decks that tend less to tricolor midrange.

"Traditionally", Grid Draft is a format for two players, with the following drafting method:
1 - Randomize 18 packs of 9 cards.
2 - For round 1 to round 9:
2.1 - For each player P:
2.1.1 - Place the cards from a closed pack face up in a 3x3 grid.
2.1.2 - P drafts an entire row or column from the grid (3 cards).
2.1.3 - P's opponent drafts an entire row or column from what's remaining of the grid (2 or 3 cards).
2.1.4 - Discard the remaining cards in the grid.

We modified this method slightly to work with 3 players:
1 - Randomize 24 packs of 9 cards.
2 - For round 1 to round 8:
2.1 - For each player P:
2.1.1 - Place the cards from a closed pack face up in a 3x3 grid.
2.1.2 - That player drafts an entire row or column from the grid (3 cards).
2.1.3 - The player at P's right drafts an entire row or column from what's remaining of the grid (2 or 3 cards).
2.1.3 - The player at P's left drafts all the remaining cards (3 or 4 cards).

The decks that came out of that draft were very focused, despite the pools being much more colored that in regular drafts. I liked this small group draft variant much more than Winston or Winchester, especially considering it's a fast draft with fun decisions to make.

BR Aggro-Control (Kam) 3x0 WG Midrange (Max)
BR Aggro-Control (Kam) 1x2 UR Milling (Naka)
WG Midrange (Max) 0x3 UR Milling (Naka)

UR Milling

6 Mountain
6 Island
Shivan Reef
Mystifying Maze
Soldevi Excavations
Evolving Wilds

Mesmeric Orb
Curse of the Bloody Tome
Archive Trap

Force Spike
Psionic Blast
Burst Lightning
Flametongue Kavu
Brittle Effigy
Oblivion Stone

Man O'War
Sphere of the Suns
Dungeon Geists
Tuktuk the Explorer

Card Draw/Filtering
Thirst for Knowledge
Gitaxian Probe

Wild Ricochet

A deck completely focused on milling the opponent, which sacrifices control capacity to take games more quickly by running more win conditions.

I started out by drafting UB Aggro-Control, but it did not work out as black was very sought after. After toying with the idea of going to UR Aggro, one of the packs opened had a row of Curse of the Bloody Tome, Tuktuk the Explorer and Millstone. Archive Trap soon joined a pool that already had Wild Ricochet and Reverberate and I was set for playing a deck as close to combo as I had ever dared to.

The deck is mostly about tempo control and finding win conditions. Mesmeric Orb is beastly, Curse of the Bloody Tome is consisnteny and Millstone is... well, it's Millstone. The Archive Trap + Reverberate or Wild Ricochet combo took more than one game - milling 26 cards in limited is game over. I kind of regretted running 16 lands, as I had mana issues in some games, but the benefit I got for doing so is hard to evaluate.

BR Aggro-Control

9 Mountain
8 Swamp
Akoum Refuge

Bladetusk Boar
Goblin Wardriver
Dauthi Horror
Precursor Golem
Reassembling Skeletone

Creature Buffing
Flayer Husk
Dolmen Gate
Vulshok Armor
Sylvok Lifestaff
Dolmen Gate
Grafted Wargear

Hymn to Tourach

Fire Imp
Hammer of Bogardan
Arc Trail
Shrine of Burning Rage

Mox Diamond
Night's Whisper
Orcish Settlers

A BR Aggro deck a bit light on creatures, which makes it closer to Aggro-Control than plain Beatdown. There is a lot of creature buffing - 4 pieces of equipment - which increase the value of every creature tremendously, especially Dauthi Horror and Bladetusk Boar. The other half of the deck is built to keep the way clear and create card advantage. Shrine of Burning Rage turned out to be a good Aggro-Control enabler, acting as a fast pinger.

While the deck aims to win before the opponent fully develops, it's tuned to roll out slower than a typical BR Aggro, but much more consistently. The card advantage built in the 2-3 mana spells makes the deck keep pressure for a long, long time.

WG Midrange

8 Plains
8 Forest
Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree

Sakura-Tribe Elder
Explosive Vegetation
Solemn Simulacrum

Great Sable Stag
Obstinate Baloth
Archon of Justice
Serra Angel
Eternal Dragon
Phantom Nishoba
Protean Hydra

Creature Support
Lightning Graves
Armadillo Cloak
Scout's Warning
Fauna Shaman

Faith's Fetters
Oblivion Ring
Swords to Plowshares
Magus of the Disk
Leeching Bite
Story Circle
Goldmeadow Harrier

The classical WG Midrange deck, tending towards a control build rather than ramping. The deck has a great long-term plan, but is slow in the early game, which led to its 0-6 record against an Aggro-Control and a fast Milling deck.

A positive aspect is how broad the removal suite is. Faith's Fetters, Oblivion Ring and Magus of the Disk are very versatile, and there are several other more specialized cards which will solve about any situation. I feel the creature support was too heavy for a midrange deck that had no mana elves. Splitting those cards between acceleration and medium threats would have made it faster and less vulnerable to removal.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Emergent Archetypes Part 4 - Aggro-Control

Aggro-Control is probably the hardest archetype to draft, with lots of ways to go wrong about it, but also with a great high end potential. It requires specialized cards that are always in high demand and is difficult to play well. The recipe for an Aggro-Control is as follows:

- Two cups of clocks - efficient, preferably evasive small creatures like Dauthi Slayer and Flying Men.
- Plenty of cheap disruption - counterspells and discard are best, like Mana Leak, Hymn to Tourach and Force Spike
- A cup of tempo spells - bounce is the most obvious, Man O'War and Repulse
- Two pinches of card draw/filtering - costing as little as possible. Good examples are Standstill, Preordain and Night's Whisper
- Serve with Equipment and Auras - Bonesplitter and Rancor are the best, but any offensive one will serve

In a clean table, drop an evasive clock and start attacking. Protect it from removal with your disruption. Add creature buffing to make the clock tick faster. Stir vigorously with bounce to keep opponent's big creatures at bay. Cook with card drawing until you win.

UB Aggro-Control

Cube Decklist: UB Aggro-Control
Constructed Decklist: Faeries
Relative popularity in cube: Uncommon

UB is the most common combination for Aggro-Control. The reason is how well black supports this strategy, having access to cheap and offensive creatures with evasion and providing extra disruption with discard. Combining blue's flying and shadow creatures with black's fear and (also) shadow creatures, there should be enough clocks available to make the strategy work. Discard is the most important black component - cards like Stupor, Duress, Hymn to Tourach are invaluable to protect your creatures from the opponent's answers.

Blue is the base of Aggro-Control, and here it should focus on counterspells to complement discard and card drawing. Since this archetype has the most disruption, the pressure will be sustained for longer than other builds. This is where card drawing comes in handy. Black's creature removal plays a lesser role here, but it can be used effectively to force attacks through and keep troublesome creatures away.

UG Aggro-Control

Cube Decklist: UG Aggro-Control
Constructed Decklist: UG Madness
Relative popularity in cube: Rare

UG Aggro-Control draws extra creature power from green's beaters and auras. Since green has no evasion, it becomes less valuable in this archetype, and because blue does not have efficent non-evasive creatures, its creatures are less relevant. This build becomes, therefore, about green creatures and blue spells.

Blue bounce is great when the game's tempo is accelerated, which will be the case as you are attacking with medium creatures aggressively. Card drawing also plays a key role to sustain the offense, and works great with cheap creatures. Green requires cheap and medium creatures, in the 1-3 mana range. They will create very fast clocks quickly, and the biggest vulnerability in this kind of strategy should be circumvented with counters. Auras like Elephant Guide and Rancor help equipment in buffing those creatures, and their weaknesses to removal should, again, be patched with counterspells. The most important cards for UG Aggro-Control are, of course, counterspells.

UG Aggro-Control decks vary a lot, but these are the important components, that can appear in smaller or greater numbers in each deck. It's a flexible archetype, combining green's raw power and blue's trickery, very difficult to play against.

UR Aggro-Control

Cube Decklist: No register
Constructed Decklist: UR Fish
Relative popularity in cube: Rare

While UG Aggro-Control is built to force the opponent to make bad blocks, UR is built to prevent any blocking at all from happening. Although red lacks evasion, the ability is more valuable here than in any other Aggro-Control build, because of direct burn spells. Clearing the path, however, is also red's strength, so creatures that like to attack unblocked like Jackal Pup and Ninja of the Deep Hours can be used for great effect, combined with efficient creature killers, like Arc Lightning.

The disruption will be solely blue's counterspells, so out of all Aggro-Control archetypes, this one has the least capacity to keep momentum. This problem is balanced out by the reach that red provides. Direct burn spells such as Acidic Soil and Browbeat make the offense necessary only to lower the opponent's life total. These burn spells should be played along with their best friends: card drawing.

UR Aggro-Control is an inconsistent archetype, but has explosive draws and excels against beatdown decks that play a lot of burnable creatures. Due to topdecking burn, it's also never truly controllable, so very slow control decks struggle against it as well. It has issues with life gain however, and with midrange, which quickly outclasses its spells.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Emergent Archetypes Part 3 - Aggro

Aggro, or beatdown, is the family of decks that are extremely offensive, playing cheap cheatures and spells to close the game as fast as possible. It is essential to have 1 and 2 mana creatures for this archetype to work, and in general, burn, creature improvement and combat tricks help a lot this sort of deck.

A good read on aggro strategy is this article.

RG Aggro

Cube Decklist: RG Aggro
Constructed Decklist: RG Madness
Relative popularity in cube: Common

The most common color pair for beatdown, RG creates consistent and powerful Aggro decks with ease. Green's creatures are inherently efficient at all points of the mana curve, and provide the bulk of cheap and offensive 1 and 2-drops necessary for this strategy. Red's main role is to provide burn that removes early blockers and extends the deck's reach, which is important to kill opponents that managed to stabilize the red zone.

As a general rule, every single card in the deck should work towards winning as quickly as possible. Most cards should be creatures, creating a critical mass that overruns removal and blockers. Besides direct burn, lasting effects that create inevitability have a home here - see Sulfuric Vortex, Manabarbs and Zo-Zu the Punisher.

Creature improvement in the form of equipment and auras add a lot of lasting power to this kind of deck, as well as midrange creatures. Of course, a build without these slower elements will be faster and more lethal to opponents that have had a slow start, but will be also more vulnerable to defense, life gain and mass removal.

Rare Variation: RG Midrange

When RG Aggro gets too slow, that is, does not have enough low curve creatures, it becomes RG Midrange, running bigger creatures and relying more on winning an attrition wars than outrunning the opponent. More expensive burn will work better in this archetype, especially recurrent or X ones. Mass burn will make the aggro matchup easy, but generally, this build is weaker than RG Aggro against control, for not attacking control's biggest weakness - the speed.

R Aggro

Cube Decklist: Rb Aggro
Constructed Decklist: Deadguy Red
Relative popularity in cube: Uncommon

The traditional monored burn deck, or Sligh, also called Red Deck Wins and probably several other names. Fundamentally, this sort of deck goes all-in on the plan of pushing through damage as fast as possible. At the start of the game, it casts cheap creatures like Jackal Pup and starts reducing the opponent's life total to a number low enough to attack with direct burn.

It sounds a lot like RG's plan, but there is a subtle difference. RG usually wins with creatures, with the support from burn spells to clear the way and sometimes takes those last hit points. Monored uses its creatures to help get the opponent's life total within burn range, then throws burn at him. It is a plan that requires more commitment and fails more often, but besides being faster, it is harder to control completely. As long as the opponent doesn't grab the win with a finisher, you'll be topdecking burn.

Some cards reward Sligh for using its burn to control the board, like Genju of the Spires. That creates a dilemma for the player - should I use my burn against the opponent's creatures or hurl it at him? Playing this sort of deck may look easy, but contrary to that general belief, playing it optimally involves a lot of thought, planning and decisions based on probability and knowledge of your own deck.

Rare Variation: R Midrange

Similarly to RG Aggro, if R Aggro doesn't get enough cheap creatures, it'll become Midrange. In this case, there is a fundamental strategy change. Because there will be no creatures to push damage through at the start of the game, the opponent's life total will be out of burn range. The obvious plan in this situation is using that burn to control the board instead and then casting bigger creatures to take the opponent's life in bigger chunks. Annother change in the deck list is the possibility of using expensive burn spells, especially X spells.

Games involving R Midrange have a weird tempo, because the longer the game lasts, the less gas R Midrange will have, but the more dangerous its spells will be. Since like R Aggro it's hard to be completely controlled, it's an even worse problem to control decks that take too long to kill. This build hasn't shown up many times, so it's hard to tell its true potential, but it looks like a good option when red is wide open.

BG Aggro

Cube Decklist: BG Aggro
Constructed Decklist: BG Aggro Rock
Relative popularity in cube: Uncommon

Combining green's good cost-benefit and black's suicidal cheap creatures, BG Aggro offers a lot of raw power, fueled by black's strategical virtues - discard, removal, card advantage. This archetype usually get good results when drafted, but it's tricky to put together, and double costs tend to be a problem. Since it's an aggro deck, there is no room for dedicated mana fixing, so dual lands like Llanowar Wastes are invaluable to smooth draws.

The average BG Aggro deck will ideally curve 1 and 2-drops, use discard to disrupt the opponent's answers and creature removal to remove blockers, play some more cheap creatures to keep pressure, then replenish its forces with a card drawing spell - albeit not necessarily in that order. BG Aggro has more flexibility than other aggro archetypes, making it very close to an Aggro-Control deck, and the exact play pattern may vary depending on the card selection. This flexibility makes it good against control, but hurts its raw power, which leads to a bad midrange matchup.

BR Aggro

Cube Decklist: BR Aggro
Constructed Decklist: BR Zombies
Relative popularity in cube: Uncommon

Being the kings of efficient creature removal, black and red combine to create the aggro that most enjoys keeping the other side of the battlefield board clean and attacking without pesky blockers. With the way clear, the cheap creatures can quickly bring the opponent to 0 life. If he manages to stabilize, this deck can turn to direct damage mode and start throwing burn at the opponent and keep attacking with whatever evaders it has. Discard helps to disrupt the opponent's defenses, and black card drawing can be used to get extra gas. As mentioned in a previous post, card drawing plus burn is a powerful combination.

BR Aggro is great against other aggro decks and creature-based decks in general, and will trade two-for-one frequently, creating card advantage. Against control, its dedicated creature removal becomes dead and frequently even turns on the deck itself because of a Fire Imp or Flametongue Kavu. This matchup can be improved by prioritizing resilient offense such as Genju of the Spires and Lavaclaw Reaches, and prioritizing versatile burn that can be used on both players and creatures.

Rare Variation: BR Aggro-Control

A modified version of BR Aggro would be having less cheap creatures, which is a common problem in red and black, and in those free slots, include more discard and card drawing. This creates a disruptive and more resilient build that works better against control. Offensive discard like Blightning and Blazing Specter fits perfectly, as well as aggro-friendly card drawing like Night's Whisper and Browbeat.

G Aggro

Cube Decklist: G Aggro
Constructed Decklist: Stompy
Relative popularity in cube: Rare

Without access to shenanigans from other colors, a monogreen aggro deck has a very straightforward plan: play a lot of creatures, enchant/equip them, and turn them all sideways. Green has a lot of creatures that are fit to carry this plan, and the best auras and combat tricks, so it's well geared, but it is also an archetype that's hard to force, since any other playing sharing green aggro with you might make it infeasible.

The major advantage of this strategy is consistency. It adds the mana consistency that monocolored decks profit from to the wide range of good green creatures. The curve can't be too low - there simply won't be enough cheap and offensive green creatures to fill a whole deck - but it can (and must) be smooth so that the deck gains momentum quickly and steadily. Equipment and auras are essential to provide lasting power, and combat tricks prevent the deck from becoming too predictable.

G Aggro has a bad matchup against control, and suffers with pinpoint removal, especially the sort that doesn't care about toughness. The compensation is that it outclasses and outraces other aggro and aggro-control archetypes with its pumped up efficient creatures. To improve the control matchup there are only a handful of cards that help effectively. Some do so with tempo control, like Plow Under, others with sheer card advantage, like Hunter's Insight.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Emergent Archetypes Part 2: Control

The second part of the emergent archetypes series talks about control decks.

Control is a family of decks that are built to last for many, many turns, completely control the game (hence the name) and end it with a single finisher, which is usually a creature but may be a repeatable effect or big instant, sorcery or ability as well.

UB Control

Cube Decklist: UB Control
Constructed Decklist: Psychatog
Relative popularity in cube: Common

Perhaps the most classical combination of colors for control decks, UB combines blue's counterspells, card drawing and versatility with black's efficiency at creature removal and hand disruption. Those two colors, together, can attack the opponent's plans through pretty much any angle. For this archetype to work, it is important to have a deck with answers to everything, so counterspells are a must. Creature removal, discard, finishers and card drawing complete the core of UB Control. Card advantage is very common in these two colors, so typically there will be a lot of options available to overwhelm the opponent as the game goes on.

This is a powerful and easy to draft archetype, making it a good option when blue and black are open. What it's good against and bad against varies too much from build to build. It can be weak to aggro if it doesn't have enough removal, to midrange if it doesn't have enough counterspells, to aggro-control if it doesn't have enough discard or to other control if it doesn't have enough card drawing. The key is making a balanced build that can do well against all sorts of decks.

Rare Variation: UB Milling

A twist on UB Control is UB Milling, which works the same way, except it doesn't use big creatures as finishers, but milling. As games typically last at least 15 turns with UB Control, this means milling 20 cards from the opponent while controlling him is enough to win. This plan is typically slower than using fatties, but more reliable because there isn't much for the opponent to do about it except win before he is decked.

To make UB Milling work, simply replace finishers with milling cards. Archive Trap is very efficient, and even Millstone does alright in limited. Assume the game will last 13 turns, which added to the 7 cards in the opponent's starting hand makes his "life total" regarding milling around 20. Archive Trap would therefore be a burn that deals 13 damage, and Millstone would deal 2 damage a turn for 2 mana each activation.

Milling also has synergy with reanimation that can take creatures from your opponent's graveyard. While they will attack a different dimension than the rest of your deck, it'll be invaluable for defense and using utility creatures that end up there, or eventually some big creature that can take the game by itself.

WU Control

Cube Decklist: WU Control
Constructed Decklist: Mirari's Wake
Relative popularity in cube: Common

Blue's main weakness is its inability to deal permanently with creatures, and that's why monoblue control decks are nearly impossible to be successful with. Black solves the problem with its removal, but so does white. In fact, white is better than black to deal with creatures - its removal is generally more powerful - see Swords to Plowshares - and it has access to several mass removal spells. Also, it adds the important ability to remove enchantments and artifacts that are already on the battlefield. Lastly, white has good defensive creatures and life gain, making it a great color to stop aggressive decks.

The downside in comparison with black is the lack of discard, which increases the importance of counterspells. Another disadvantage is that white does not generate as much card advantage as black does, so on average it's a better deck to deal with beatdown, but worse in the control matchup.

Rare Variation: WU Aggro-Control

This not-so-great control matchup causes WU Control to want to kill the opponent as soon as the situation becomes favorable. One good option is using evasive creatures and protecting them from the start of the game, and focusing more on tempo control than mass removal, while retaining the counterspells, creature pinpoint removal and enchantment/artifact removal. This creates an aggro-control build that deploys clocks early, at the expense or long term power. It's a delicate build to brew, which can only work with good evasive creatures, but quite effective when done right.

There is also the option of using this as a plan B with a transformative sideboard. When WU Control faces another slow, grindy deck, it can become WU Aggro-Control by replacing mass removal and expensive finishers with cheap and prefarably evasive creatures.

UR Control

Cube Decklist: UR Control
Constructed Decklist: Counter-Burn
Relative popularity in cube: Rare

Lastly, blue can combine with red, which has access to tons of creature removal, creating the archetype known as Counter-Burn. While it does not offer discard and card advantage like black does, or versatile removal and defense like white does, red is very, very efficient at killing creatures and artifacts, making it even better than white against aggro. Another plus is that expensive burn spells can be used as finishers, combined or not with fatties - a slower but harder to stop win condition, analogous to milling.

It's easy to draft burn for UR Control since there is so much of it in the cube, but an important detail is to prioritize expensive burn, like X spells or recurrent ones like Pulse of the Forge and Hammer of Bogardan. The blue part should have the usual - counterspells, card selection, and more importantly than in other archetypes, card drawing. Burning has the capacity of turning card advantage into victory quickly - there are few cards you would rather draw a lot of than Lightning Bolts.

WB Control

Cube Decklist: WB Control
Constructed Decklist: Decree
Relative popularity in cube: Rare

A control deck without blue will miss its counterspells and card drawing, which are key elements in the archetypes described before. White and black can, together, fill these holes partially with black's card advantage and discard and white's removal versatility. Since both colors are great at killing creatures, this won't be an issue at all for WB Control, so its aggro and midrange match ups are pretty good. It suffers, however, against decks that are light on creatures and run removal, like control and aggro-control. The only mechanism to protect your finishers will be discard, which is unreliable near the end of the game.

It is important to avoid putting too much creature removal in WB Control. It's easy to fall for this trap when drafting WB, but overloading your deck with Doom Blades and Journey to Nowheres will make it very bad against creature-light decks, especially control. It is preferable to fill some of those spots with resilient win conditions, even if they are suboptimal. You will have time to cast expensive spells, but remember you won't have a grip of counterspells to make sure they stick.