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Much Abrew: Cruel Control (Modern)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Last week during our Instant Deck Techs, we had a bit of a surprise with a Modern control deck built around Cruel Ultimatum coming out in first place. As such, we are heading to Modern this week to play Cruel Control! Personally, I really enjoy playing control decks, but we don't play them all that often for videos for a bunch of reasons (one of the biggest being they don't make for great deck techs, since they are usually just piles of removal and card draw), so I'm pretty excited to get an excuse to play control this week. Plus, we're not just playing any control deck; we're playing Cruel Control, and Cruel Ultimatum is one of the most fun cards to cast in all of Magic! Is the Modern format in a place where Cruel Ultimatum can be competitive in a Grixis control shell? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Cruel Control (Deck Tech)

Cruel Control vs. Death's Shadow (Match 1)

Cruel Control vs. Esper Goryo (Match 2)

Cruel Control vs. Living End (Match 3)

Cruel Control vs. Ad Nauseam (Match 4)

Cruel Control vs. Esper Mill (Match 5)

Cruel Control (Wrap-Up)


  • First off, as far as the record, we finished 2-3 in our video matches but were actually 3-3 overall. What happened is we started off playing a league in which we finished 2-3 but played against Death's Shadow twice, so rather than showing you a duplicate matchup, I played one match in the two-player queues (which happened to be against Ad Nauseam), and we won.
  • Obviously, finishing a league 2-3 isn't ideal, but I actually think the deck is solid. While I didn't know it at the time we did the deck tech, YouTube pointed out that the deck was built by Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, who is one of the best control players and deck builders in the world, so I'm not going to spend too much time quibbling about deck building and card selection, since I'm pretty sure Wafo-Tapa is better at building Grixis Control than I am.
  • However, I did want to mention two things about the deck. First, while the deck is called Cruel Control, we don't actually cast Cruel Ultimatum all that often. While Cruel Ultimatum is a great finisher when we need it, in a lot of games, we simply run our opponent out of resources and then win by beating down with Snapcaster Mage and Creeping Tar Pit.
  • Second, it feels weird to not play Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek in the main deck. While I'm not saying this is wrong—again, I've got a lot of faith in Wafo-Tapa building good control decks—it does seem strange, since Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are the two best black cards in Modern, and pretty much any deck that can cast them wants them.
  • The other reason I didn't want to spend too much time talking about the deck is that our losses do a good job of illuminating some of the challenges with playing a control deck—any control deck—in the Modern format, which is an important and interesting topic.
  • Our first loss came to Living End, and in game one, our opponent quite literally had the Turn 2 kill on the play. We played a single land, and our opponent cycled a couple of cards and with the help of Simian Spirit Guide reanimated two creatures, which killed us two turns later. This is something that occasionally happens in Modern, and no amount of deck building or answers can really stop it. There are a lot of powerful, fast strategies in the format, and it's impossible to build a control deck that will have an answer to everything in every situation (although I feel like our deck actually has a pretty good matchup against Living End outside of their Turn 2 hands, thanks to all of our counterspells). When you randomly get Turn 2'ed, it doesn't mean your deck is bad or even that you played badly; it just means you're playing Modern, and you have to shake it off and move on to the next game. 
  • Our second loss was to Mill, which feel like a fairly challenging matchup. The thing about Mill is that the archetype only makes up a tiny fraction of the Modern format (you might play it once in 100 matches), but it helps to show just how many decks there are in Modern. This is especially important for control decks, which are looking to have answers to everything. It's challenging enough to build a Standard control deck that competes with both Ramunap Red and Energy, but in Modern, there are probably 30 decks that can win a tournament any week and a bunch more than can spike a tournament when the conditions are right. How does a control deck even start in trying to answer so many different decks? That's the biggest challenge of building control in Modern. The bottom line here is that because Modern has so many decks, you literally can't beat everything, so sometime you'll just run into bad matchups, and again, it doesn't mean your deck or play was bad; it's just a characteristic of the Modern format.
  • So, should you play Cruel Control in Modern? I think the answer is yes, if you are looking for a control deck and like casting Cruel Ultimatum. Just be warned: there will be matches you lose that are no fault of your own, both because people get super-fast draws that you just can't stop and because with so many decks in the format, you'll run into things you don't have an answer for, but this is a challenge for any control deck in Modern, not just Cruel Control. The good news is that this build of Cruel Control feels solid and does answer just about everything possible, so if you're looking to Cruel Ultimatum people, it's a good choice!


Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck by liking, commenting on, and subscribing to Instant Deck Tech videos! 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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