Good Day Spell Slingers,
I’d been peddling RUG Control in Modern like a drug for the past few weeks, and I finally feel comfortable enough with my list to write a Primer. So, why should you give RUG a try?
For starters, how about the fact that I keep winning a high % of my games with the deck even though I consider myself an above average player at best (I miss triggers like I get paid to do so). Over the past month I’ve finished with a record of 12-3 in PTQs (Top4, Top 16) and was able to acuminate a ~64% winrate over 150 games on MTGO in paid games, a majority of which are Daily Events. You can check the full record of games in google docs here.
The modern competition is first rate online, and with a 64%+ winrate my tix has finally reached the mythical “infinite” zone that people talk about but I had never experienced before now. However, the real reason to love the deck is because it’s a friggin’ blast to play! It has great matchups vs all the top tier decks and really rewards decision making and tight play in grindy games where you have the late-game advantage and good interaction vs almost everything in the field–including Bogles!
I present to you guys, the third love of my life:
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Huntmaster of the Fells
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Keranos, God of Storms
Instants & Sorceries (21)
4 Serum Visions
2 Flame Slash
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Cryptic Command
4 Mana Leak
2 Spell Snare
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Breeding Pool
2 Steam Vents
2 Hinterland Harbor
1 Rootbound Crag
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Stomping Ground
2 Tectonic Edge
1 Raging Ravine
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Anger of the Gods
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Thread of Disloyalty
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Spell Snare
1 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Magma Spray
1 Sowing Salt
Changes: I decided the Vedalken Shackles was not where I wanted to be at when the META online is filled with Burn and U/R Delver decks, where shackle feel hopelessly slow. They also forced me to play more islands than I wanted to and without them I can free up my mana base to play more tap lands and avoid pining myself to death and getting locked out vs Choke/Boil/Sundering Titan. Initially, I replaced them with Kitchen Finks (16 sources of green) which is an all-star vs aggro/burn decks and makes Liliana look silly but I found GG on turn 3 to be really hard on the mana and often times just unremarkable as a beater in the early game compared to my other creatures. I decided to go with an extra Mana leak + V-Clique maindeck. Mana Leak is absurd in this deck compared to UWR because 1.) You’re not ramping them with Path, 2.) You have Tectonic Edges, and 3.) You apply early pressure via Goyf/Ooze so they have to play into your counters to deal with pressure. An extra V-Clique is an absolute house against combo decks such as Scapeshift and Tron.
General Gameplan: Make your opponents play around the Twin combo that’s not in your deck. Pressure early with goyf and scooze, answer threats with counter/removal, and win the late game attrition war with snapcaster + cryptic, huntmaster, and Keranos/Batterskull. You can out topdeck almost every fair deck in the meta , including all variations of BGx.
Favorable Match-Ups Where to exceptВ
Burn (16-3 Matches, 33-15 Games)
It’s very difficult for burn to deal with an early Goyf, as well as the lifegain you have in Ooze & Huntmaster. Your counters buy you many turns for you get a threat on the table. Avoid playing Goyf unless it can survive a bolt/blaze, and don’t play Huntmasters into Skullcrack effects unless you have counter backup or they’re tapped out. Also, sequence your lands to avoid taking more than 3 points of damage every game and always have a bolt/spray at the ready for Guides/Hellsparks. I don’t like Batterskull in the matchup as it’s slow & turns on their artifact hate.
SB Out(5): Keranos, 1xCryptic, 1xElectrolyze, 1xVClique, 1xFlame Slash.
SB IN(5): Spell Snare, Negate, Magma Spray, Spellskite, Dispel
Jund/Junk/BG (11-4 Matches, 25-13 Games)
What you’re trying to do in this matchup is keep the board position favorable or cleear for the first 4-5 turns with burn and counter. NEVER play a Goyf or Ooze into a potential Liliana unless you have a bolt or electrolyze to finish her of. In your opening hand, make sure you have a way to kill a turn 2 Bob and ideally a backup as well in case of discard. The easiest way to lose a game is if they go discard into Bob, and Bob out values you. Mid-game discard does not really effect you as you’re happy to trade 1:1 and goto top deck mode. Other than that you have plenty of answers for everything they can bring in against you and a far superior late-game thanks to Snapcaster/Cryptic/Huntmaster. Your SB plan is much stronger than theirs as Fulminators Mages are very MEH compared to Batterskull/Threads/Thrun/Spell Snare.
SB Out(5): 2xV-Clique, 1xEletctrolyze, 2 Mana Leaks,
SB In: Batterskull, Spell Snare, Threads, Thrun, Huntmaster
Against the Junk Variant with souls, you want to keep electrolyze in and SB in 1 copy of Anger. Dismember is also a good option against the Rock variant but bad against Jund/Junk which pressure your life total.
UR Delver (7-4 Matches, 16-9 Games)
The key to this matchup is to protect your life total at all costs. You have better spells and the same number of counters, and the only thing they have going for them is tempo. If they go turn 1 delver and you don’t have a burn spell immediately, you’ve probably lost the game already as they’ll have counters up later. Like most UR decks, they have a hard time dealing with an early Goyf or a late-game Scooze or Huntmaster. Huntmaster is big game against them if he resolves (and so is Thrun post board). Play around Blood Moon post board and sideboard accordingly. You’re going to win the late game if you get there.
(I will note there is one particular Delver player MayoMayonnaise or something that plays a variation of RUG Delver with Goyfs, Shackles, and Multiple Threads of Disloyalty AND Blood Moon out of the sideboard and I’m 0-3 vs him. Threads are the perfect answer to Goyfs UR players.)
SB Out: 1xCryptic Command, 2 V-Cliques, Keranos
SB In: 1xAnger, Spell Snare, Dispel, Thrun
UWR/UW Control (4-2, 10-5 Games)
Against UWR Control I try to play game 1 like I’m tempo and pressure them as much as possible with counter backup. Paths are really not that bad for you as ramping to extra lands is crucial in control mirrors where counter wars are prevalent. I find vs UWR Control there’s always a key point in the game where they misplay and you land a Keranos/Batterskull and take over the game. This usually happens when you play a V-clique on their draw step or EOT and if they counter it then you’re good to go with your big threats. It’s perfectly fine playing land/go vs them as you have just as many counters as they do and all their burn spells are basically useless cards compared to your creatures. The best card in your 75 is Thrun followed closely by Keranos. A turn 4 Thrun feels unbeatable vs them. Don’t play anything and let Resto resolve if you don’t have a flame slash, as a mid-size flier is kinda problematic for you to deal with burn.
SB In: Thrun, Negate, Dispel, Batterskull, Spell Snare (SB out Flame Slash if they don’t play Resto Angel)
SB Out: 2xElectrolyze 2xLightning Bolt, 1xMana Leak
Bogles (6-2, 12-9 Games):
When I first played Bogles I felt like the matchup was hopeless, but the more I played them the more I kept winning, even if the games were incredibly intense where one misplay would win/lose the game. The key to beating Bogles is letting them beat themselves. Bogles mulligans a LOT, which matches up particularly poorly vs mass counters. You must NEVER let a daybreak coronet resolve, and ALWAYS hold up mana to prevent that from happening (spell snare and leaks are big game). Your threats are fine, but the key here is to let them have their 2/2 Totem Armor creature vs your big Goyf and counter everything else. Also have an instant burn at the ready for the Kor spirit guy.
SB In: Negate, Spell Snare, 2x Anger, 1x Spellskite
SB Out: 2 Flame Slash, 1xElctrolyze, 1xKeranos, 1xHuntmaster
Affinity (4-2 Matches, 9-6 Games):
I’ve played this deck in person much more than the 6 times I met it online and it feels fine. Just slightly less so than the above decks. It’s very possible to win G1 vs Affinity with tight play and smart mulligans. Robots don’t matchup well to RUG’s plethora of removal and good cheap creatures. Also, Electrolyze is just a blowout vs them. The game is all about the opening hand, where you need to have an answer to Cranial plating/Arcbound ravager with removal or counter. Two Spell snare in your hand is nigh unbeatable for them. Post-Board, you want to save the grudges to use on only the cards that matter. Never grudge something you can bolt, unless you absolutely have to. The best card they have against you post-board is Etched Champion, which you pretty much need to race unless you have a way to mass remove all their artifacts to deal with them.
SB In: 2xAnger, 2xAncient Grudge, 1 Spell Snare
SB Out: Keranos, 4xMana Leak
Melira/Kiki Pod (6-4 Matches, 15-2 Games)
Game 1’s are tough vs Pod because they can win in one of 3 ways: Pod, Gavony, or Flood Value creatures and your hand is often just not setup to match what mode they’re usually pushing. However, post board you have a clear advantage with Anger + Grudge to answer everything they can throw at you. Serum vision’s is great in this matchup letting you find your electrolyzes, magma spray, and angers. Huntmaster of the Fells is very difficult for them to deal with. They can usually beat an early goyf or scooze or two, but once Huntmaster resolves and they’re out of abrupts… they’re in trouble. Always bolt a turn 1 bird/noble, and try to play safe with your oozes since they’re such a house vs them eating persist, combo, and gaining life. Honestly I would say we’re 55/45 vs Pod as my in person results are much better than my online results: I was undefeated vs 3 Melira Pod decks in my PTQ runs.
SB In: 2xGrudges, Huntmaster, 2xAnger, Magma Spray
SB Out: 2xMana Leak, 2x Spell Snare, 2x Vendilion Cliques
G/R Tron (3-6 Games, 7-14 Matches)
It’s very hard to interact with Tron so you’re mostly hoping they do what other combo decks do half the time and fizzle out on their own. Look for hands with an early Goyf or Clique and plenty of counter backup. Tectonic Edges can buy you a turn, but they usually have so many ways to get around a missing piece. I’ve lost to Tron a fair bit in person as well so this is your number one enemy in terms of popular decks you want to avoid.
SB IN: Sowing Salt, 2xAncient Grudge, 1 Negate
SB Out: 2xFlame Slash, 2xElectrolyze
Scapeshift (3-5 Games, 6-10 Matches)
Similar to Tron but the matchup is slightly better since Tectonic Edges hit a lot harder and gives you time to finish them off. You are the beatdown vs them 100% of the time so look for Goyf/Clique + Counters as usual, aggressively counter their ramp spells, and apply the beatdown.
SB In: Sowing Salt, Negate, Dispel, Spell Snare, Spellskite, Thrun
SB Out: 2xFlame Slash, 2xElectrolyze, 2xOoze
Merfolk (1-3 Games, 2-6 Matches)
Initially, I thought Merfolk, like most Zoo and other aggro decks would be a favorable matchup. After all we have 10+ removal spells, goyfs, and sweepers out of the board. But I’ve played merfolk in person many, many times and I just can’t seem to win on the draw. The real problem stems from Kira which some lists have as many as 3 now, post-board. (Note, they can’t Aether in Kira to “counter” a spell). Do you keep in Mana Leaks as answers to Kira and risk them being a dead card vs. Caverns + Vial? I’m not sure. A combust or two would be ideal vs Merfolk is it’s popular in your meta game. I don’t feel comfortable with this matchup to recommend any SBing…
That’s it! I hope this will give you a good introduction to tryout a sweet deck that feels as good as Modern/Standard Jund did back in the heyday.