With the standard meta consisting of Temur energy, mono black zombies, and green/black delirium, there needs to be a force to stop this wave of aggro. That force is Mardu Control, the deck that I’ve been playing since Aether Revolt, and have had consistently strong results with. An intuitive hybrid between Midrange and Control, this standard menace comes packed with the best removal and finishers that the colors offer, guaranteed to leave your opponents in the dust.
The bread and butter of this three-color Control deck are the planeswalkers, and there is a surplus of them. The following walkers are the Finishers of the deck and are meant to be your main path to victory. Sorin is the main win condition and the only walker in the deck worthy of a play set. The plus one ability can and will drain your opponent’s life faster than they can drain yours, and the minus X will assure that nothing can touch him as you march your way to victory. Like many walkers, Sorin’s ultimate is dependent on the state of the game, and rarely would you ever want to use it. The standard meta is filled with many cheap board wipes that will render the activation as a waste of time.
Chandra, much like Sorin, is a complete package. The plus one ability creating a whopping six power with haste is often enough to swing a game back in your favor or end the game quickly. Her zero ability is good, but it isn’t something that you will need to do very often. Don’t be afraid to reload your hand if you are flooded, rather than swinging in. Chandra’s ultimate is a pseudo- board- wipe, with the largest of creatures in standard surviving it fairly easily, but it is a blowout against any aggro deck at your lgs.
Liliana, unlike the previous two walkers, is a ticking time bomb of an ultimate that is virtually impossible to overcome. Her plus one gives a creature minus two power and minus one toughness until your next turn, killing off pesky tokens and stemming the bleeding from early game aggression. You will want to activate this ability more often than her minus two, where you mill two cards and may put a creature from your graveyard to your hand. This is good for our late game threats that you will see later, but often you are either milling lands, relevant spells, or more planeswalkers that you really would have rather drawn in the turns to come.
Liliana’s ultimate, or her minus seven, create X plus two zombies at your end step, where X is the number of zombies you control. This gets very out of hand in a hurry, and your opponent will be clamoring for a board wipe in hope not to be overcome by the zombie hoard. As I said, Sorin must be a playset, as it is the complete package and is what you want to be doing. Chandra is a two of, and should not be put any higher. In play testing, I tried three of her, but we need all the room for removal that we can get. Liliana is a two of but can be any number depending on your specific style, I play two because being able to obtain two emblems at the same time is disturbing and bordering on arousing.
Just as important as the Finishers are the Support walkers or the walkers that don’t close the game out by themselves, but help us achieve our end goal of controlling the board and dominating the late game. Ob-Nixilis is an all-star is this strategy, with his plus one allowing consistent card draw, his minus three being unconditional removal, and his ultimate produces a fixed clock from which your opponent will have no hope of recovering from. Liliana, like her counterpart, focuses on graveyard synergy and a hoard of zombies. We are running a few creatures, so her plus one being a free token and a mill two trigger is exactly where we want to be. Her minus two reanimates a creature from your graveyard, and we have many worthy targets with great ETB (Enter the Battlefield) effects. Her ultimate minus seven destroys all non-zombie creatures, which is not something you should be hoping to achieve, but can be a useful fallback.
Nahiri is a new addition to the deck. Her plus two allows you to discard up to two cards, and then draw that many, allowing us to either dump some dead cards or a creature for Reanimation later. Her minus two is a very open-ended removal, exiling either a tapped creature, an artifact or enchantment. Nahiri’s ultimate is the reason she is played in modern, and it’s a welcome addition to standard, by tutoring out a creature onto the battlefield giving it haste and putting it back into your hand at the end step.
Ob nixilis is a two-of and is necessary for the deck to function properly, for without his card draw this deck would be less consistent. Liliana is a powerhouse but is only a one of due to her having a strict “win more” overtone, meaning that you have to be in a favorable advantage to play her in the first place. Her synergy with the creatures in this deck is clear, however, if you don’t have any in your yard, and you can’t seem to mill the off the top with her plus one, her minus is useless, and one of the best decks in the format happens to include exclusively zombies. She’s in here because when she’s good, she’s fantastic.
Nahiri, again, has proven her worth in the modern scene, and while she isn’t powering out Emrakuls on turn six, she does just about everything that we’re trying to do. She’s a two of, and actually resides in the sideboard, however with the increasing amount of relevant card types that she gets rid of, and the card advantage, and, obviously, her ultimate that can crank out a giant creature, pop off an ETB effect, and then pop the creature back to your hand to do it again, she comes in enough to be recognized. Not much more needs to be said about this Harbinger of destruction.
These are the only creatures in the main board, and they’re all you’ll need. Cataclysmic comes down and thins out your opponent’s board to where you can properly deal with them face to face. Combustible is either an ancestral recall on a stick, or will dome your opponent for a good amount of damage, although there is the possibility of hitting three lands off of the trigger as well. Leave it to red to make you gamble on something.
The last creature in the main board is Bonepicker. A three power two toughness flying and deathtouch bird that costs four mana are hardly standard playable. A three power two toughness flying and deathtouch bird for one black mana on the other hand that is absurd cost efficiency, and you will rarely find the time where you cannot activate the quasi-morbid ability of any creature dying to achieve this efficiency.
Cataclysmic is a three of due to its restrictive cost, but it is worth it. A bit of a non-bo with our planeswalkers, it is imperative to weigh the consequences of the symmetrical effect, and to only cast this beast when it will dumpster your opponent’s board. Combustible, on the other hand, is a two of that always shines in this deck and is always a good idea to jam one out to give your opponents a tough decision. Most of the time, this is a six power and toughness first strike beater that draws you three cards, which is powerful enough to include it here. Bonepicker is a two of, and when you can get the morbid trigger, he’s absurd. However, it feels really bad hard-casting it at four mana. This is the one slot that is up to you depending on your LGS. However, I would stick with something that flies in this slot.
We don’t have access to blue, so our responses are played after the spell has already resolved in the form of removal. Our main form of removal is in the form of sweepers. All of these removal spells satisfy a similar need: get rid of the board, and take back the edge. Fumigate gains life, and Planar Outburst saves your man-lands from getting ousted. These two unconditional board wipes are necessary to your success. As far as Yahenni’s Expertise is concerned, it not only quells early threats, but it allows us to cast other pieces of removal without paying their mana costs. Sweltering suns, much like Yahenni’s expertise is a boon to any standard threat with three toughness and has the option of paying three of any color mana to pitch it for a new card.
The breakdown of how many of each of these obviously depends on the meta of your LGS, but I play three Fumigate, two Planar Outburst, two Yahenni’s Expertise, and four Sweltering Suns. I’m not independently addressing these because they all work to accomplish the same goal: Destroy your opponent’s board. This deck will take damage in the early game, but when you can suppress your enemies fire for a turn, it will give you the edge to drop a threat and return fire.
Anguished Unmaking is your premier piece of removal. It hits everything that you care about, and unless you’re playing against Part the Waterveil, it can get rid of any threat on any turn. The three life can be detrimental, however, it is a small price to pay to remove the Amonkhet gods, and any other threat with indestructible. Unlicensed Disintegration is unconditional removal at instant speed, with occasional upside. Your gearhulks can make this kill-spell pack a nasty punch, taking out nearly a seventh of their maximum health. Ruinous path is my preferred way to deal with planeswalkers. It can produce a creature that survives a Planar Outburst and is a versatile piece of removal preferred over something like Cast Out, which is what I have seen most control decks preferring to run, and that is because of my personal LGS meta, where counterspells are a standard no-no. The removal that is in most sideboards currently to deal with artifacts can also deal with enchantments. Unlicensed Disintegration is simply Murder with possible upside, and while costing black and red, it’s less constrictive on black. Ruinous path is double black, but it’s sorcery speed, and will mainly be used in the late game. Don’t be afraid to wait to use the awaken ability, as it can add a clock to your opponent’s board.
Anguished Unmaking is preferred over something like Cast Out, which is what I have seen most control decks preferring to run, and that is because of my personal LGS meta, where counterspells are a standard no-no. The removal that is in most sideboards currently to deal with artifacts can also deal with enchantments. Unlicensed Disintegration is simply Murder with possible upside, and while costing black and red, it’s less constrictive on black. Ruinous path is double black, but it’s sorcery speed, and will mainly be used in the late game. Don’t be afraid to wait to use the awaken ability, as it can add a clock to your opponent’s board.
The rest of the slots I will leave up for debate. Everyone’s LGS is different, but I would start with this as the core and work from there. Below are the complete decklist and sideboard.
This deck doesn’t come screaming into the battlefield, and it won’t win on turn five, but you will dominate the late game and be sure to crush any opposition coming your way.
Parker “Constructed Pork” McDonald