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Budget Magic: $64 (19 tix) UB Key Control (Standard)

Na ngeen def, Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. This week, we are heading to Standard for a deck I'm super excited about: UB Key Control! Why am I so excited for the deck? Well, for two big reasons. First, we get to use an old card in a new way. We've seen the namesake Key to the City before, mostly in aggressive decks that use it to make threats unblockable, but in our deck, we are using Key to the City to enable a control strategy, allowing us to leave our mana open for removal or counters, and then tapping Key to the City to play massive madness cards at the end of our opponent's turn. Second, we get to use a card that I was super excited about during spoiler season because it looked a bit like the black version of Sphinx's Revelation but hasn't really found a home yet in Standard: From Under the Floorboards!

We'll talk more about UB Key Control after the videos, but first a quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel to keep up on all of the latest and greatest.

UB Key Control: Deck Tech

UB Key Control vs. GB Delirium

UB Key Control vs. GR Aetherworks

UB Key Control vs. GW Humans

UB Key Control vs. RB Aggro

UB Key Control vs. RB Tower

The Deck

UB Key Control is, as its name suggests, a control deck at heart, but in reality it's really a very controlling build of a UB Madness deck that can play almost exclusively at instant speed. While it has some removal and counters, it also have the ability to play some huge finishers that close out the game fast, which means that unlike some control decks in Standard, we aren't trying to play a 30-turn game that we eventually win with Wandering Fumarole. Instead, we are using our control elements and card advantage to hold our opponent back for just long enough to play a haymaker and finish the game in a turn or two.

The Keys

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Key to the City is, well, the key to the deck, and while it might seem strange in a deck that's not especially aggressive and doesn't especially care about making its creatures unblockable, it's actually amazing. First, and most importantly, Key to the City is a free discard outlet that allows us to hold up removal and counters during our opponent's turn, and if our opponent doesn't play anything we care about, we can then use Key to the City to discard a huge madness card at the end of our opponent's turn. Second, it generates a stream of card advantage. While it might not be obvious because Key to the City looks like a loot effect rather than card advantage, when you consider that our deck has 19 cards that we can discard for profit, most of the time we are actually just drawing an extra card every turn for two mana. This gives us a steady stream of card advantage and makes sure we always have threats and removal when we need them. Third, Key to the City is almost unkillable in our deck because most opponents don't understand just how important the card is to what we are trying to do. As a result, I've never had an opponent bring in artifact destruction to deal with Key to the City, and over the long game, the advantage that Key to the City generates is nearly insurmountable. Finally, while it isn't really our primary plan, we do occasionally use it to make a creature unblockable and get in some free damage. 

Meanwhile, Stromkirk Condemned is basically a bad Key to the City (since it dies to removal), but it's still important to our deck because we really need more free discard outlets to facilitate our game plan. The problem with Stromkirk Condemned is that we don't really care about Vampire synergies, which means it's pretty much just a hard-to-cast 2/2 that can occasionally become a 3/3. However, it does allow us to do all the same tricks as Key to the City, assuming it doesn't die to our opponent's removal. 

The Payoffs

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From Under the Floorboards is one of the most powerful cards in Standard that doesn't see play. While casting it for three 3/3 Zombies and three life is fine, if unexciting, in a deck that can consistently cast it with madness, it's pretty much a massively upgraded version of White Sun's Zenith, with a little bit of Sphinx's Revelation thrown in thanks to the life gain. Since we have eight free discard outlets, we can play From Under the Floorboards almost exactly like Sphinx's Revelation, leaving up all of our mana to counter or kill our opponent's threats and then, when we have a window, madnessing it for five or more Zombies at the end of our opponent's turn, which allows us to immediately untap our 2/2 Zombies (which enter tapped) and attack our opponent for 10 or more surprise damage. 

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Welcome to the Fold is our second big madness payoff, and while it might look lacking, it is actually extremely powerful at instant speed. As a budget deck, we don't get to play Smuggler's Copter, but since everyone else is playing with the Vehicle, we can simply use Welcome to the Fold to steal our opponent's copy and put it to good use looting and scooting. More commonly, Welcome to the Fold is an expensive instant-speed removal spell that gives us the creature, rather than putting it into the graveyard. It can lead to some blowouts if our opponent is playing things pre-combat (when we can steal an untapped creature after our opponent declares attacks, use it to block, and hopefully 2-for-1 our opponent) and also wins games by stealing the creature our opponent was counting on to block during their end step, allowing us to untap and attack for lethal. 

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Voldaren Pariah is a pretty absurd card when it always has flash, which it does in our deck thanks to the ability to consistently madness it with Key to the City and Stromkirk Condemned. Even just a flash, flying 3/3 for three mana would be fine as a surprise blocker, but Voldaren Pariah does so much more. First, it's one of our best answers to Smuggler's Copter in conjunction with Stromkirk Condemned, since we can madness it on Turn 3, giving it +1/+1 thanks to Stromkirk Condemned, and then eat the Smuggler's Copter in combat. On the other hand, it's also one of our best answers to things like Eldrazi and other big, hard-to-interact-with threats, since we can flip it around and force our opponent to sacrifice three creatures. Once we flip it, it's also a huge, fast clock in their air, and we win some games by beating down with a 6/5 flyer backed up by some counters and removal. 

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Prized Amalgam and Haunted Dead do double duty in our deck. First, they give us exactly enough creatures to flip our Voldaren Pariah. With a Prized Amalgam in our hand or graveyard, getting back a Haunted Dead leaves us with exactly three non-Voldaren Pariah creatures, so we can sacrifice everything, make our opponent sacrifice their board, and then get everything back from the graveyard again. Second, they work really well with Key to the City. In the early game, we simply discard them to Key to the City, which allows us to draw extra cards, and then in the late game, we can get them back (using the extra cards we get from Key to the City to discard to Haunted Dead). Finally, since Wizards decided to leave graveyard hate out of Standard, they also offer a recursive way to finish the game over the long haul, since even if our opponent can kill them or sweep the board, we can just keep getting them back from the graveyard until our opponent eventually runs out of removal and succumbs to our threats. 


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The biggest advantage to building our deck so we can play entirely at instant speed, with the help of discard and madness, is that this allows us to leave up removal and counters. Grasp of Darkness is one of the best removal spells in the format, killing nearly everything in the early game, which in turn allows us to clean up the leftovers by flipping Voldaren Pariah. Meanwhile, Spell Shrivel is one of the best ways to deal with Aetherworks Marvel, which is on the rise in Standard; plus, it exiles the spell it counters, which is great against Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Emrakul, the Promised End out of GB Delirium, since they can get cards back out of their graveyard with ease. Blighted Cataract and Blighted Fen are just two low-opportunity-cost lands that we can activate at the end of our opponent's turn if we decide we don't need to counter anything or kill one of our opponent's creatures. 

The Sideboard

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The sideboard is overloaded with answers to the big decks in Standard, mostly counters, discard, and removal. Against various Aetherworks decks, we can bring in four or even six counters along with four discard spells and play like a straightforward control deck. Against other Emrakul, the Promised End decks, we get discard and Summary Dismissal, and against more aggressive builds, we get Biting Rain as a sweeper against inexpensive, low-toughness creatures and Murderous Compulsion, which is great when it can be discarded consistently. 

Ultra-Budget UB Key Control

Since the build we played in the videos was pretty close to ultra-budget, coming in at $64, I almost didn't include an ultra-budget build this week. Eventually, I just ended up cutting some dual lands and changing the Transgress the Minds in the sideboard to Pick the Brains. This drops the price down to $42, but at the cost of making our Voldaren Pariahs a little bit less efficient, especially when we are trying to madness them on Turn 3 (since the madness cost requires triple black). All in all, I think this version is fine, but you should try to upgrade by adding in as many UB duals as possible as quickly as possible. 

Non-Budget UB Key Control

The changes to the non-budget version of UB Key Control are small in number, but they add a ton to the budget. In the main deck, we mostly just trim a bit of removal to add in a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Liliana, the Last Hope. In the sideboard, we get a couple more copies of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, which seems like one of the best possible cards in aggressive matches and really helps the deck, since the budget build is focused primarily on beating control and midrange. All in all, these changes represent an improvement, but I'm not sure I'd run out and spend $200 on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Liliana, the Last Hope just to improve UB Key Control—the deck works fine without them. On the other hand, if you have some copies in your collection, you might as well toss them in. 


Anyway, that's all for today. We finished 3-2 in our video matches and 4-3 overall, winning a rematch with an energy deck and losing to a Mono-Black Eldrazi deck. All in all, the deck felt really good, and I really do believe that it is fairly well positioned in our current Standard format, having the tools to fight against all of the big decks in the format. If you are looking for something fun, different, and competitive to play, try it out, I don't think you'll be disappointed! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at

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