We are over a month into Dead of Winter Standard and I still could not tell you what the objectively best deck is even if I wanted to. There have been a variety of control, aggro, and even combo decks that have been doing well on both the ladder and in the HEX Bash events. It is going to be interesting to see how the format shakes out as time progresses.
Today we are going to take a look at a powerful deck in the format that has been winning a good deal – SD Control. This archetype has had top 8 finishes in almost every Bash this season. The following decklist is the one that HEX player ValueCity used to win the Hex Bash on December 3rd:
Like every competitive HEX deck – there are a lot of powerful cards in play for SD Control. The most powerful of them are likely these three:
Dark Heart of Nulzann is easily one of the most powerful cards in this Standard format. Its body can stabilize most boards against aggressive decks. Its ability to answer problem artifacts or constants our opponent might play out also makes it the perfect answer to cards that are generally good against control. Combine all of this with the Major Sapphire of Clarity to make Dark Heart of Nulzann cost just four, and it really gets pushed over the top.
Silver Talon Adjudicator is just everything a control deck wants in a HEX card. When we are behind on health against an aggressive deck, Silver Talon lets us gain some back. When we are down on cards in a control mirror, Silver Talon draws us back up. When we need an evasive threat to help close out a game, Silver Talon is three attack in the sky.
Runebind takes our already powerful Dark Heart of Nulzann and kicks it into overdrive. If our opponent does not have a board, Runebind can interrupt any card played by our opponent. This is because Dark Heart will make them sacrifice the Mysterious Rune their card is turned into. Runebind can also be used to protect our threats from removal, as well as for triggering our enter play effects again. We do this by Runebinding our own threat in response to removal targeting it. Finally, Runebind can be used to permanently shut down opposing interrupts or cards with an X in their cost.
We backup our powerful selection of cards with quality supporting tools that make Diamond-Sapphire Control one of the most consistent decks in the format:
Guidance is the best type of card a control deck could ask for. For a single resource, it is always an additional resource when we need one and always gas when we need it. It smooths out clunky draws and gives us a much larger range of keepable hands. Heart’s Whisper is kind of a “super Guidance” that generates card advantage for us. Weave into Nothing is a generic catch-all answer that again adds consistency through the Fateweave mechanic.
Next we have a few cards that allow us to stabilize the board early so our powerful cards have time to fully take over the game:
Winter’s Grasp is our best piece of early spot removal in Sapphire-Diamond this season. It answers Deathcry threats cleanly, while also picking off must answer threats like Vampire Prince and Bride of the Damned. Clash of Steel is our sweeper that is powerful on its own and totally insane in conjunction with Dark Heart of Nulzann. This is because unless the last card they choose to keep is socketed, if we keep our Dark Heart, they lose their entire board.
Into the Unknown is a Sapphire Herofall in some ways, but also more flexible. While it does not fully get rid of the card you are bouncing with it, it does provide a clean solution to all the copies of a must answer threat your opponent had in play. While the thing Into the Unknown generates is “random,” it is important to keep in mind that we have some control over the quality of card our opponent gets based on what we target. For instance, targeting a shardless card often gives our opponent resources, while targeting multi-shard cards generally creates more powerful cards.
Finally, we have a smattering of threats that all can end the game in different ways:
Eldurathan’s Glory, much like our Dark Hearts, doubles as a threat / answer split card. Not only does Glory provide a 5/5 body to pressure our opponent, but it also cleans up any smaller chump blockers they may have. Bowie Starlight is a “fun of” that is also a powerful source of card advantage. When our opponent does not have an answer on the spot, Starlight and his pup will quickly pull us ahead in a game.
Psychic Ascension is the end all be all of control finishers in HEX. It lets us start pulling ahead in games just by doing what we want to be doing anyways – playing actions. Past this, the Paragon of Thought’s power is self enabling, so it can start pulling us back into a game where we run out of actions.
While this Sapphire Diamond deck is certainly a control deck at heart, something to keep in mind is that against some of the other control decks in the format we can occasionally take a more aggressive stance. This is because many of our tools, like Dark Heart and Silver Talon, double as threats. This means that, when we have a particularly threat dense hand against another control deck, we can simply start pressuring them.
One of the most important things to know when playing any control deck is how your answers line up against the cards your opponents will be playing out. Knowing when it is a good idea to spend our resources to play Heart’s Whisper or when we should be holding up a copy of Weave into Nothing takes practice and metagame knowledge.
This is a matchup that is generally pretty favorable for Diamond-Sapphire Control. Their most aggressive draws are generally not fast enough to get under Dark Heart, and Clash of Steel is absolutely back breaking.
We reserve pretty minimally in this matchup, trimming some of our more expensive cards in order to bring in some additional cheap interaction.
This matchup is similar to the Ardent matchup in that it is favorable for us. The one major difference is that many of Candle’s powerful cards are non-troops, so we want to bring in our Verdict of the Ancient Kings post reserves in this matchup. The Candles deck’s best route to victory against us is an unchecked Scion of Lyvaanth, so keep her off of the board at all costs.
This matchup can play out fairly differently depending on what half of their deck your opponent finds. Occasionally they curve Vampire Prince on two into Bride of the Damned on three and really pressure our health total. Other games they play Demented Whispers on two into activating Primordial Cockatwice on three, and the game becomes all about card advantage very quickly.
Clash of Steel comes out in this matchup because the opponent’s board rarely gets wide. Even when it does, Eldurathan’s Glory is generally enough to clean it up. Silver Talon Adjudicator might seem like an odd cut, but I like trimming four ofs against an opposing deck with Herofall. Past this, our opponent is generally good at emptying their hand, which makes drawing with Silver Talon difficult.
This matchup is a total slog. Unlike the Mono Blood variations that generally have smaller troops in the first few turns of the game, Verdict Control generally plays little or no troops. This makes our spot removal awkward game one. Thankfully, post reserves we get a few pretty good tools for this match up:
Scouring Light is an ace in this matchup, since often the Verdict deck is leaning on constants to close out games. Because our opponent is playing so many non-troop cards, we want to reserve up on interrupts such as Verdict of the Ancient Kings.
This is a matchup that can be a bit difficult for Diamond Sapphire Control. The reason for this is that Sockets is an aggressive deck which can often play without worrying about our Dark Heart of Nulzann. Past this, they also generally have some amount of Runebinds in their main deck that can be used to delay key cards that we really need to resolve to survive the early turns.
Our reserving here is the same as our other aggressive matchups—we trim some of our interrupts and bring in some more cards that can impact the board.
If you want to see this variation of the Diamond-Sapphire Control deck in action, check out this video archive from one of my twitch streams:
I do not think it is by accident that Diamond Sapphire Control has won three of the HEX Bash tournaments. This deck has both powerful finishers in Dark Heart of Nulzann and Psychic Ascension, as well as cards like Guidance and Heart’s Whisper to ensure that your deck can do the same thing every game. If you are looking for a powerful control deck this season, then this is certainly the deck for you!
Have a question about this archetype that I did not cover in the article above? Let me know by leaving a comment in the forum!
Thanks for reading,
Jeff is a professional gamer who enjoys the competitive aspects of HEX: Shards of Fate. Constructed is his preferred format and he is always looking for that new piece of technology to give him a leg up on the competition.
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