Amonkhet Standard U/R Control Primer

7 min read

Howdy everyone. My name is Scott McNamara, but I’m probably a little better known from my Magic Online handle, OafMcNamara. I am happy to say that I’ve been invited to join the team here at and I’ll be creating some content of my own. I look forward to having a platform to express myself and share my thoughts, results, and ideas. Generally, I will be focusing on Standard of the competitive variety.

My inaugural piece here is going to be a quick primer on U/R Control, some notes on the deck, and my sideboard plans. Let’s see if I can help you gearhulk your opponents out of the game.

found in an old dictionary

[d title=”Amonkhet Standard U/R Control”]
4 Torrential Gearhulk

4 Magma Spray
4 Harnessed Lightning
4 Censor
4 Disallow
4 Glimmer of Genius
2 Essence Scatter
2 Negate
2 Hieroglyphic Illumination
1 Commit // Memory
1 Pull from Tomorrow

3 Sweltering Suns

4 Aether Hub
4 Wandering Fumarole
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Mountain
9 Island

2 Dragonmaster Outcast
3 Thing in the Ice
2 Glorybringer
1 Summary Dismissal
2 Negate
1 Essence Scatter
1 Release the Gremlins
1 Brutal Expulsion
2 Dispel

Notes on deck construction:

Since the deck’s inception upon Amonkhet being released, it’s been changing constantly to adjust to the weekly metagame. Although I think the deck is very flexible and can be tailored to beat mostly anything in a given week, there is a core set of cards that I would consider untouchable.

These are cards that I would never cut or remove from the deck, regardless of the metagame. They’re too essential to the deck’s primary gameplan, and allow it to function. In my humble opinion, this is where you start when building this archetype.

  • 4 Magma Spray
  • 4 Harnessed Lightning
  • 4 Censor
  • 4 Three Mana Counterspell
  • 4 Glimmer of Genius
  • 1 Commit / Memory
  • 4 Torrential Gearhulk

As you can see, that’s quite a few cards. I think it’s good to have a solid base to start from. The only card on this list that I feel like needs explaining is [mtg_card]Commit // Memory[/mtg_card], as there are several lists that omit this card from their maindeck entirely.

I believe it’s important to have at least one copy in the maindeck to give you an out to situations that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to handle, such as an indestructible creature, or a resolved planeswalker. We also randomly get to cast the Memory side of the card on our opponents end step sometimes (due to the interaction with the split graveyard cards and [mtg_card]Torrential Gearhulk[/mtg_card]’s ability), which is utter nonsense. I will concede it’s a little clunky, but it’s earned the singleton slot.

After these 25 or so cards, you really only have 10 slots in the maindeck to work with. These are usually taken up by a mix of two mana counters, [mtg_card]Sweltering Suns[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Pull From Tomorrow[/mtg_card], or other pieces of interaction. You should be adjusting these flex spots depending on what your particular metagame looks like.

Another point of contention with this deck is the debate between more land vs. playing more copies of [mtg_card]Hieroglyphic Illumination[/mtg_card]. I have seen builds that were successful with 27 lands and 0 Illuminations, as well as lists with 24 lands and the full 4 copies of Illumination that also did well.

The jury hasn’t reached a verdict yet for me as to which build is “more” correct. For now, I split the difference and play 25 lands with 2 copies of Illumination, and that’s been working out well.

Let’s discuss some specific matchups, and how I generally sideboard against them.

vs. Temur Aetherworks Marvel

At the time of this writing, Temur Marvel with [mtg_card]Glimmer of Genius[/mtg_card] is by far the most popular version of this deck, so I am going to be focusing on that specific build. Some of the logic will still apply to other flavors of Aetherworks Marvel though.

Now, depending on who you talk to, you will hear vastly different things when asking how good this matchup is for U/R Control. In my experience, I believe this is a favorable matchup as the U/R player. But before we get into sideboarding for this matchup, there are a couple of important play patterns in game 1 that I want to point out.

Obviously, we want do everything in our power to not let a Marvel resolve. As clear as this seems, it leads to a lot of unintuitive sequences. For example, unless your hand is flush with counterspells, you almost always have to let creatures resolve, even the ones that get value when they come into play. Sure, it feels bad killing a Rogue Refiner after they’ve already got their value, but saving your counterspells for Marvel is the most important thing.

Additionally, you often have to let their [mtg_card]Glimmer of Genius[/mtg_card] resolve. Unless you have enough mana to counter their Glimmer as well as a Marvel on their next turn (assuming this is happening on your end step), you have to just let them draw cards.

And a final note about the Marvel matchup: don’t let your Gearhulks get [mtg_card]Censor[/mtg_card]’d. These Marvel decks generally play 3-4 copies of Censor in the main. Do not walk your Torrential Gearhulk into a Censor on turn 6.

Out: 1x Sweltering Suns, 1x Pull from Tomorrow, 4x Magma Sprays, 2x Harnessed Lightning

In: 1x Essence Scatter, 2x Negate, 2x Dragonmaster Outcast, 2x Dispel, 1x Summary Dismissal

vs. Mono Black Zombies

The game 1 matchup against Zombies is a lot about whether or not we find one of the maindeck [mtg_card]Sweltering Suns[/mtg_card], as it’s pretty hard to win without casting that at least some point in the game. Trying to 1-for-1 a deck like this is a losing proposition.

However, I do believe this is another great matchup due to how much card draw we have to find the sweepers, and how efficient [mtg_card]Magma Spray[/mtg_card] and counterspells in general are at handling their threats. Their removal also lines up poorly against Torrential Gearhulk, making that card really, really good if we can survive to the late game.

Games 2 and 3 are where things get a bit tricky, because they’ll typically side in some hand disruption which is good against us. Fortunately, we also have a few cards that can make life significantly easier after sideboarding. [mtg_card]Thing in the Ice[/mtg_card] in particular has been incredible in this matchup, as it requires them to keep in removal spells against you, or just continue to overextend into a [mtg_card]Sweltering Suns[/mtg_card]. It also gives us an additional way to close out the game if [mtg_card]Disposses[/mtg_card] ever resolves.

Out: 2x Negate, 3x Censor

In: 3x Thing in the Ice, 1x Essence Scatter, 1x Brutal Expulsion

vs. W/B Zombies

Most of what I said about the Mono Black version applies here, the key difference being Anguished Unmaking and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Stay aware of these cards as you navigate the matchup, and play around them accordingly.

For example, don’t play [mtg_card]Torrential Gearhulk[/mtg_card] on 6 and expect to block, as they probably have an Anguished Unmaking ready to go. In these spots it might be necessary to flashback a removal spell, whereas against Mono Black we would’ve had the luxury of flashing back a [mtg_card]Glimmer of Genius[/mtg_card].

Against Gideon, try as hard as you can to not play [mtg_card]Sweltering Suns[/mtg_card] until you can hold up a counterspell for the Gideon they’re sure to follow up with. Post-board we will bring in Glorybringer, which really helps against the omnipresent Ally of Zendikar.

Out: 2x Negate, 4x Censor, 1x Torrential Gearhulk

In: 3x Thing in the Ice, 2x Glorybringer, 1x Brutal Expulsion, 1x Essence Scatter

vs. Mardu Vehicles

This might be the toughest matchup, as all of Mardu’s threats require very specific answers. We have to have [mtg_card]Harnessed Lightning[/mtg_card] for their Heart of Kiran, a Magma Spray for the Scrapheap Scroungers, in addition to having a counterspell for their Gideons. Just be cognizant of this fact and don’t waste your answers on the wrong threats.

If they board into a slower type of game after sideboarding with things like hand disruption, Painful Truths, and more planeswalkers, then I believe this actually favors U/R Control. We have the advantage in the late game with Gearhulk, so we’re okay with them slowing the match down.

Our sideboarding can be tricky, because it depends on how much they slow down, but here is where I start going into game two, and reassess things if necessary for the third game.

Out: 2x Essence Scatter, 4x Censor, 1x Pull from Tomorrow, 1x Commit // Memory, 1x Sweltering Suns

In: 2x Glorybringer, 2x Negate, 3x Thing in the Ice, 1x Release the Gremlins, 1x Brutal Expulsion

vs. U/R Control

Just like all control mirrors in game 1, it’s about hitting your land drops. Please, attempt everything in your power to do so. Another bit of advice I’d give you about game 1 is to wait to cast Glimmer on turn 5 – it is so much more likely to resolve on turn 5 because they can’t Censor it, and they’re forced to respect the fact that you can untap and cast a Gearhulk, so often they have to let it resolve.

Post-board I’m a big fan of Thing in the Ice and Dragonmaster Outcast. These are cheap, must-answer threats that can very easily get underneath counterspells and make [mtg_card]Sphinx of the Final Word[/mtg_card] completely irrelevant.

Out: 3x Sweltering Suns, 4x Magma Spray, 2x Essence Scatter, 1x Pull from Tomorrow

In: 3x Thing in the Ice, 2x Dragonmaster Outcast, 2x Dispel, 2x Negate, 1x Summary Dismissal

And that should cover most of the main matchups in Standard right now. I’d love to hear some feedback if you disagree with me about anything, have any follow up questions, or have any suggestions for content you’d like to see in the future. Let us know via the Facebook page or give us a shout on Twitter.

We’ve also enabled comments directly on the website as well, so feel free to reach out to us anywhere.

[Spirebluff Canal Art by Adam Paquette]

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