The Collectible Card Games Thread – In Control

Welcome to the *CG thread, where we talk all manner of Card Games – Collectible, Trading, Living, and otherwise! Feel free to chat amongst yourselves about the card games you’re playing or anything card game-related that strikes your fancy.

This week I want to come back to my loosely defined series on deck archetypes. I’ve previously talked about Combo and Aggro, so this week I want to discuss what is possibly the most maligned archetype: Control.

To refresh, Control decks seek to, well, “control” the early- and mid- games, often with efficient removal (often “mass removal” that removes much of the board at once), counterspells, or hand and/or resource denial. Control decks often will also have some form of card draw or other card advantage that gives them more options and resources than their opponent. Then, during the end game, the Control deck will play a resilient threat backed up by their controlling elements and end the game.

Playing against control decks can often be a frustrating experience – when they draw well, it may feel like there wasn’t anything that you could do, especially in formats where Control is particularly strong. The psychological aspect of counterspells is that, in effect, you spent all these resources and got nothing from them. While it’s not objectively different from having a removal spell instantly negate your play, it often feels worse somehow.

However, moreso than other archetypes, Control decks also tend to be very dependent on the skill of their pilot. They rely on accurate threat-assessment of what to allow to happen and what to stop, and good resource management to ensure that you maintain that edge over your opponents. The key to beating a Control deck will often be to time your plays to overwhelm their defenses all at once, rather than going one-for-one with their answers. for an Aggro deck, this might mean dropping threats faster than they can effectively deal with them, or for a Combo deck, it might mean crafting a turn where you can bait a Control player into expending their resources on something irrelevant and then activate your Combo.

In the metagame, Control decks are often fairly heavily represented. It’s possible that some of the reason for this is that players who are heavily invested tend towards Control due to its high skill-ceiling, but also that the types of players who play these games are predisposed towards its decision-heavy nature. Control also tends to dominate later in a format’s metagame – while Aggro functions best early, before the metagame solidifies into a predictable form, Control excels when a metagame is “known” and its answers can be tuned to effectively deal with the most common threats.

This week’s prompt: How much do you hate counter-heavy Control decks? Also talk about Control. Or don’t, I don’t care.

Or, as always, feel free to talk about anything going on with you in the world of *CGs.