Test Drive – Standard Sultai Control
Hello all and welcome to another edition of the Test Drive! Today I’m going to be talking about a Standard deck that isn’t one of the big three decks in the current Standard meta-game. Since Kaladesh came out in September, there has been a card that is extremely popular and powerful from that set that I’ve never played up until now. It’s not that I didn’t believe it to be powerful, or know that it was a great card, it was more that my deck choices leaned towards decks that didn’t use this card. This wonderful card is none other than Torrential Gearhulk. It’s a little bit odd, as I was a big fan of Goblin Dark-Dweller, and Torrential Gearhulk is clearly an upgrade to that, but I just never played a deck with it before this past week. This week I took for a Test Drive the Sultai Control deck. This deck utilizes a lot of removal in the form of creature removal, counterspells, and hand removal to control the state of the battlefield. Torrential Gearhulk is a key card in the deck to help you get ahead in the resource management game and start taking over the game.
So, let’s have a look at the version of Sultai Control deck that I put through the Test Drive treatment.
3 Torrential Gearhulk
2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
2 Tireless Tracker
1 Noxious Gearhulk
1 To the Slaughter
1 Fatal Push
1 Pick the Brain
1 Appetite for the Unnatural
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
3 Grim Flayer
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Yahenni’s Expertise
1 Transgress the Mind
2 Pulse of Murasa
After playing with this deck, here are some of the things I’ve learned that you can help you win some Standard games at your local game store.
1) This deck has a very greedy mana base. In the main deck alone you have 5 x double blue mana cards and 6 x double black mana cards. You also want to be able to play both Grasp of Darkness and Disallow on turn two and three, which can be difficult to do. The sideboard can bring in even more double mana cards as well. For a deck that wants to be able to cast 5-mana and 6-mana cards, it has 12 of its 24 lands that come into play tapped. Sequencing of land drops and thinking many turns ahead will help guide you in making the right decisions to make sure you an cast the cards you need to cast on curve.
2) Don’t be afraid to use your life total as a resource to set up your mid-to-late game. Against aggressive decks, you will most often be taken down to a low life total early on, and that’s okay. Being able to setup Delirium, and your mana base early on will allow you to turn the corner once you hit turns five and six thanks to cards such as Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Torrential Gearhulk. Using your life total as a resource will be dependant on how strong your late game is being setup in those early turns, so make sure you always think two, three, or more turns ahead, so you can make sure you have an escape route against those aggressive decks.
3) Changes I would make to the deck. I would start off by taking out the 2 x Aether Hub and replace with 1 x Botanical Sanctum and 1 x Hissing Quagmire. There are too many times when you are stuck using this as a coloured mana source only once, and with the greedy mana base we talked about before, I believe that having these permanent coloured mana sources will help. After playing the deck, I would like to be able to fit in more ways to straight out kill any creature of my opponents. This could include adding Murder, so it can be cast again from Torrential Gearhulk or adding an additional copy of Noxious Gearhulk to search up with Traverse the Ulvenwald.
4) Sideboard Guide vs. the Big Three – What do you want to bring in for these matchups?
a. Mardu Vehicles – This is a matchup in which we will be bringing in lots of cards from our sideboard. 2 x Pulse of Murasa will help against falling behind early from their aggressive start and help you make sure you are hitting your land drops. 1 x To the Slaughter will help take care of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. 1 x Fatal Push and 1 x Appetite for the Unnatural will help with an early Heart of Kiran on the other side of the board. 1 x Ishkanah, Grafwidow, will add to your existing spider total and help you when the Mardu Vehicles deck goes wide to kill you. 1 x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet will help you gain some life as well as negate the attacking threat of most of their ground attack. 1 x Yahenni’s Expertise will allow you clear out their non-planeswalker, non-Vehicle threats from the battlefield. 3 x Grim Flayer will give you some ground defence early to stop an aggressive start from your opponent.
b. 4-colour Saheeli Combo – This can be a tough matchup for the deck, but the sideboard helps us out in the matchup. 1 x Transgress the Mind and 1 x Pick the Brain will allow you to remove combo pieces. 1 x Negate and 1 x Disallow will help you counter part of the combo or stop a Saheeli Rai Planeswalker ability. 1 x To the Slaughter will allow you to get rid of a Saheeli Rai that’s in play. The 4-colour Saheeli Combo deck will often try and beat you with a multitude of creatures, which is why bringing in 1 x Yahenni’s Expertise can clear off all their creatures minus Felidar Guardian and Elder Deep-Fiend.
c. Black/Green – This is a matchup that could go long, so you want to make sure that you set yourself up to get some more resources. 2 x Pulse of Murasa will help you get back a needed card as well as gaining some needed life if they have an aggressive start. 1 x Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet will help you gain some life as well to be able to play a longer game. 3 x Grim Flayer, especially on the play might surprise your opponent who has removed a lot of their spot removal against smaller creatures. 1 x Transgress the Mind and 1 xPick the Brain will help remove any of the larger threats they might possess. 1 x Disallow will help trade with a larger threat they possess as well.
I believe that the Sultai Control deck has a great chance of being a force in this Standard format, but it is a deck that will take some experience and practice to master. I think that post-Sideboard it has an advantage over the big three Standard decks and this will help it win a lot of matches if you can win some game ones during your matches. It was nice to try a Control deck in this Standard format to see how it would do in the current meta-game.
Thanks for joining me on the Test Drive this week and I look forward to trying out another deck next week. There are still a lot of deck strategies out there that could make an impact in the Standard format, and I look forward to giving them a Test Drive!