UB Proliferate Control

Written by Weedmonkey on February 03, 2011

Having received positive reactions to my deck both on IRC and in the forums (such as in KeySam's PT Paris thread - seriously, you should help the guy out :) ), I've decided to share my pile deck in the spirit of Magic-League innovation. I'm hoping from this article that people can pull some ideas about what to do with Mirrodin Besieged in Standard, and maybe produce some new toys to play around with in the format.

Finding a Purpose

When you're looking at building a deck in a format, you need to have a purpose behind what you're building (and no, 'building a new deck' and/or 'want to create a deck that will become part of the metagame' aren't good enough reasons on their own to want to do that). The first thing you should ask yourself is 'What am I trying to do?' Do you want to address weaknesses of an existing archetype, or perhaps exploit weaknesses archetypes share in the metagame? Perhaps a deck could improve its weaknesses in tweaking cards, or perhaps there's underused cards that you think could be utilised in constructing a new archetype. Having a purpose gives you a far superior framework in building your deck then going in with a general idea of simply building a deck for the sake of it.

For me, the idea behind this deck came from a discussion in #teamss one night about Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas in Standard. While they were discussing ideas such as running Tezzeret in a UB Infect deck, I remembered a UW Proliferate control build that dv8r top8ed a master with (the information in the link is incorrect - it wasn't a trial). What I really liked about dv8r's deck was that it took advantage of the fact that there wasn't a lot of artifact removal being played in the format, and so its business spells once resolved could be utilised to great effect.

The discussion lead me to believe that Tezzeret could be utilised as a cornerstone of a new proliferate control deck - one that could take advantage of the difficulties control decks have in dealing with artifacts.

Assembling the Team

When you're looking to build a deck, there's a number of approaches that you can take in building it (something I once explored in a series of articles aimed at deckbuilding). For this deck, I knew that the deck was going to consist of cards that needed to fill one or more roles:

  • Enough artifacts to make the deck viable. If you're going to commit to a deck with Tezzeret, you're going to want enough artifacts to make it worthwhile. I started with 15 as I felt it'd be enough to keep Tezzeret happy, and through testing I've found that 15-17 is the right number without crippling flexibility.
  • A tutor package to add flexibility. The issue with running so few instants/sorceries is that you can run the risk of running into something you can't deal with when you need to. For me, I chose to address this with a simple Trinket Mage package that gave me extra depth and fluidity.
  • Threats. While most people will read this as 'finishers', for me I also needed a way to apply pressure to the opponent while I was busy carving out the board position I needed to Go for the Throat (metaphorically). I didn't plan on Tezzeret being the only win condition in the deck, but I figured I'd be using it to kill more often than not. This lead me to employ Wurmcoil Engine. Not only was it tutorable and helped me swing the pendulum back towards my favour against aggro decks, but the two artifact tokens it generated became surprisingly relevant when it came to Tezzeret's ultimate.
  • Disruption. When you're running so many artifacts, you really need to make sure you have a way to stop the barbarians before they break down the gates. At this stage I'm at five slots dedicated to this role (ten if you count the Contagion artifacts), although this will wax and wane depending on metagame.

The first builds of the deck looked clunky - I was splashing white for Luminarch Ascension, DoJ and Gideon Jura (in the board), and my mana really looked all over the shop. After EatsMortals encouraged me to cut the white, I stripped back the deck and realised that Luminarch Ascension and friends weren't really necessary - my control matchups I was impressed with even minus ascension, and then dumped the white. The reason I'm sharing this is because I feel it's important that deckbuilders realise that good decks don't always start out as good decks - sometimes good ideas come out of complete piles.

Having continually re-evaluated cards and making modifications, this is where I am today:

UB Proliferate Control
Main Deck Sideboard
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Misty Rainforest
8 Island
4 Swamp
4 Tectonic Edge
3 Trinket Mage
3 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Preordain
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Contagion Clasp
3 Everflowing Chalice
3 Jace Beleren
3 Black Sun's Zenith
2 Go for the Throat
2 Lux Cannon
1 Contagion Engine
1 Brittle Effigy
1 Elixir of Immortality
4 Flashfreeze
4 Spreading Seas
2 Memoricide
1 Jace Beleren
1 Black Sun's Zenith
1 Go for the Throat
1 Contagion Engine
1 Lux Cannon

Some of the additions to and omissions from the deck will be surprising (and now is about the time people will be asking 'Where is Jace TMS?'). I'll explain the case for Jace Beleren and other card choices - and I promise there is a method to my madness.

On Oddities and Curios Most Peculiar

  • Jace Beleren vs Jace, the Mind Sculptor
  • The omission of Jace TMS from this deck is definitely going to be the point where I'm going to be called a lunatic, a scrub and an epic failure. Take the opportunity to look at Jaces from a new perspective - it's not like I've just thrown this together and theorycrafted every selection. The conclusions I've arrived at have come with significant testing.

    Jace Beleren
    • Helps to smooth out the consistency of the deck - you want to have four mana sources on turn four, and ideally you want to be casting some sort of business spell on the third turn (whether it be Jace, Trinket Mage or a Chalice-fueled 4cc spell).
    • Helps to ensure you reach your fourth mana source (crucial for this deck).
    • Draws cards.
    • Kills Jaces.
    • Fragile - isn't as resilient at Jace TMS unless you're happy to make card drawing symmetrical.
    • Limited scope in application - it doesn't lend itself to much other than card advantage and smoothing out consistency/curve.
    • Against aggro decks it often is only replacing itself - you don't get multiple draws out of it.

    Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    • Good drawing engine - especially with multiple search effects in the deck.
    • Incredibly flexible and efficient - can apply to a wide range of applications.
    • Strong enough to win the game on its own if left unchecked.
    • Can help keep aggro decks from devouring you.
    • Flies and makes love.
    • High mana investment - the deck is mana hungry, and there's already a number of things to do with four mana.
    • Doesn't always directly contribute to board position - something that I find difficult to articulate, but this is how I can best explain it.
    • Doesn't improve weak starting hands.

    Ultimately, the question comes down to consistency vs efficiency. Looking at the above breakdowns (and anyone who has played with Jace), Jace TMS is clearly the better card of the two on paper. However, there are a few crucial points that are specific to the deck. Between Tezzeret and Jace Beleren, Jace TMS has the potential to be 'win more' when you draw it. Additionally, consistency is crucial to this deck's success - the first few turns where you are carving out early board position hinge largely on your success, as it is often your first few plays where you outline your plays for the remainder of the match.

    Having tested both, I just can't go past how much Jace Beleren helps those first few crucial turns in the game. The ability to improve your consistency is just too good to pass up. If I were to increase the number of Jaces I run main, then I can potentially see a 3 Jace Beleren/1 Jace TMS split. Yes, it does sound insane, but there's more to a deck other than raw power.

  • Lux Cannon
  • For most archetypes, this can be far too slow. However, there are two strengths in this deck which make it decent. First, the ability to power it out turn 3 makes Lux Cannon a threat that control decks can't address. In my experiences in paying with the deck, Lux Cannon takes advantage of the few threats control decks deal by being able to take them down where other removal spells can't. Second, Proliferate can make Lux Cannon relevant even in non-control matchups by taking down key cards. Yes it can be played around (and some would argue with relative ease), but a wise cannoneer can utilise it to great effect.

  • Contagion Clasp
  • This is your workhorse. While the deck isn't stunted if you don't draw one early/it gets destroyed, it can swing things out of your opponent's control quickly. One thing in particular it excels at is allowing Tezzeret to come out of nowhere with his ultimate ability. Late-game, this can effectively read, "6UB: Target player loses 10 life and you gain 10 life." Seems expensive, but when you have Chalices backing you up, it's actually a pretty reasonable return on your mana investment.

  • Black Sun's Zenith
  • Being able to handle Thrun is always a bonus. Plus, with the amount of mana acceleration you have available, it's easier to make the Zenith relevant in all stages of the game. Being able to take out Grave Titan + Tokens or shrink an otherwise lethal Blightsteel Colossus is very, very good.

  • Brittle Effigy
  • It's cheap and you can tutor for it. This makes it excellent in a deck with few point removal spells.

  • Elixir of Immortality
  • I remember back in the beginning of this format I read an article touting Elixir of Immortality as an excellent solution to the control mirror. In testing, I've found this is absolutely true - especially where your key spells have been previously countered or otherwise manhandled. Also, it can provide a crucial extra turn vs aggro decks where you need that extra turn of development or to get enough mana to make a big Black Sun's Zenith/fire off removal + cast something else to swing the pendulum back towards yourself.

    Playing the Deck

    When I first started playing the deck, it often felt like walking on a tightrope - it can be difficult to see the right sequence of plays to get you in the right position, and so you can feel like you're struggling far more than you actually am.

    Your first 3-4 turns are crucial, as they dictate how you play the rest of the game out. A Trinket Mage for Brittle Effigy will be very different to a Trinket Mage for Everflowing Chalice, and casting a Chalice for 2 will be far different to casting Tezzeret. I've found that being able to figure out your opponent's game plan in those first few turns pays immense dividends, as future decision trees become far less expansive.

    Mid-game, it's all about stabilising the pendulum and keeping it from swinging away from you. Often, you'll be forced to decide between improving your present board position or committing an extra card to the board. One common scenario you find turns 4-7 involves Contagion Clasp and Everflowing Chalice. While proliferating and charging up your Chalices can be excellent in improving mana for future turns, you also have to take calculated risks to ensure that you aren't going to have the rug pulled out from underneath you while you're busy performing a DBZ-style power up sequence. If you can strike a balance here between developing your mana and committing business spells, you'll set yourself up well to win the game.

    Late game, you're looking to outgun them with efficiency. Even if you've lost many of your key spells to counters, by now you should have all the resources necessary to beat your opponent into submission. I've found from playing that a longer game favors me in every matchup save Valakut.

    The Matchups

    While I have put in many hours of playtesting with this deck, I don't feel it would be appropriate to give matchup percentages or the like. I will however give an overview of how that matchups fare, as well as general guides as to what you need for those matches.

    The Good

    UW Control

    This is your ideal matchup. Because they don't apply any pressure to you unless they're playing Luminarch Ascension, I've found that you can generally develop your board position unmolested. An early Lux Cannon or Tezzeret is a nightmare for them, and usually you can just win with resilience.

    UB Control

    The present UB control lists I've found reasonably good matchups. Again, little pressure means you're free to develop your board position, and if you're lucky enough to land early business spells you can take control quickly and maintain it.

    Shape Anew

    Brittle Effigy here shines - as you can slip it under a counter wall, you can neuter their Blightsteel Colossus and leave yourself in great shape to win the game. The Colossus is by far the most significant threat to this deck. Once it's gone, you're basically against a poor UB control deck with 1-3 entirely dead cards in it.

    The Fair


    The Little Red MenTM come down to how strong your hand is. If you've got multiple removal spells in hand, usually you can just stop their original rush and seal the deal with a Wurmcoil Engine. Post-board, the extra removal makes me feel like I have to go out of my way to lose matches.

    Eldrazi Green

    I find this match more often comes down to Brittle Effigy than not - if you've got it to halt Emrakul whether it's Trapped in or hardcast you're in great shape. While Primeval Titan can be a pain, unlike with Valakut you aren't quite so concerned with it whacking you a couple of times.


    Subject to how many discard spells they're running and removal spells you draw, this can range from better than decent to difficult. You have all the tools necessary to cause them serious headaches, and post-board it just gets better.

    The Ugly

    RG Valakut Ramp

    This is by far your most difficult matchup. The biggest problem I've found is that while the deck has one major strategy, the avenues of attack it has to open it make sit difficult to combat them all. Post-board gets better because I'm boarding in 8-10 cards, but even then it requires some really tight play to win.

    Where to From Here

    If I was to walk into a tournament tomorrow with this deck, I wouldn't be backing myself to win it. While I'm happy that the deck does have potential, there is still a lot more work to be done until I believe it's at its best.

    I've created a thread in the forums regarding the deck so additional tuning/tweaking/general banter can be had. I believe the deck has a shot, and I'm of the belief that two heads are better than one.

    That's All She Wrote

    Even if people think the deck itself is absolute garbage, I hope people can come away from reading this article with things to think about regarding their own deckbuilding and play. I'm by no means a professional player, and my skills to have strengths and flaws. Take this article as an opportunity to reflect on your own game, and hopefully you can improve on it :).

    - Roo

    Magic-League Needs More Articles!

    It has recently come to my attention that a number of members of the community (mostly newer members) don't realise that it is possible to write for Magic-League.

    Magic-League is somewhat known as a place for innovation - decks such as KeySam's elves that stormed Pro Tour - Berlin a couple of years ago have roots here. Times such as when new sets are first release (you know...like right now), we often provide some of the first data regarding tournaments and archeypes. Why not get in on the bottom floor?

    If you want to write about your latest decklist, set reviews, or anything else about Magic goodness, I'm more than happy to help you out however I can. Just send me an email at weedmonkey@magic-league.com and/or contact me on IRC. I'll do my best to respond ASAP!

    Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

    by P_P4E on 2011-02-03 04:00 CET

    Nice attempt at a deck.

    by TacoMaster on 2011-02-03 04:05 CET

    That's not very productive, P_P4E. Try adding 2 Inkmoth Nexus to give the deck another dynamic and all the stuff I said on IRC...

    by tecktonicboy on 2011-02-03 04:10 CET

    my master version is better (._.)"

    by World on 2011-02-03 06:56 CET

    im sure it will work out

    by Counterlife on 2011-02-03 08:13 CET

    Interesting. Lets see if it beats my Mono White proliferate when im done testing it...

    by Raybelfast on 2011-02-03 09:40 CET

    Could consider adding the removal spell that gives them a poison counter making proliferate itself a win condition,

    by ShottyHorroh on 2011-02-03 16:07 CET

    <-- Enjoys the fact you mentioned the team needs more writers. nice deck Roo... just remember the irc convo additions

    by Delicious on 2011-02-03 16:09 CET

    As I have been testing your deck roo, i have found that I am left sitting turns and turns waiting to win.

    I have been teating the deck with 3 thrumming birds and have found 4-7 damage a game when i get them out and the added bonus of proliferating

    I also think the poison destroy spell would also be a fantastic addition :)

    by Spyx on 2011-02-03 16:29 CET

    Why is it that every creative deck loses to the most mindless deck ever (valakut)

    by Bob_A_Wilson on 2011-02-03 16:52 CET

    UB should never have a bad time with Valakut if your SB contains 4x Spreading Seas and 4x Contaminated Ground

    by Kabelis on 2011-02-03 17:12 CET

    I really wish proliferate had a mythic rare (which obviously means it would actually not be underpowered, like the current proliferators).

    Clasp is soooo damn slow

    by Zerotlr on 2011-02-03 17:48 CET

    I build/tested a deck like this as soon as MBS came out. I found out that clasp + lux cannon just doesn't get there. Also inkmoth nexus is a must due to the nice interaction with Tezzeret.

    by StatikSaM on 2011-02-03 19:43 CET

    what do you think about some 5/5 flying nexus ?

    why dont you play mana leak ?

    by MikeL123 on 2011-02-03 19:49 CET

    With 2 Lux Cannons and 3 Chalices, what portion of the time can you "power out a cannon turn 3"? Like 5%?

    by Weedmonkey on 2011-02-09 08:49 CET

    I think it sits in the 10-15% range, but it's not high. Not saying that your matches are reliant on it, but highlighting exactly how brutal it is :)

    Also, I am continually refining and updating this deck :)

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