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The Good-stuff Control Archetype in Highlander

Welcome to the Good-stuff Control deck archetype for 7 Point Highlander! On this page you will find all the content related to this play style.

A Summary of the Good-stuff Control Archetype

Good-stuff Control decks plan to control the game via spells that are fundamentally good on their own (as opposed to the Synergy Control Archetype). When behind, these Control decks can leverage incremental advantage via continual two-for-one exchanges and slowly grind their way into a position of power. Whilst Blue counterspells (Counterspell, Mana Leak) and card selection (Brainstorm, Ponder) fit within any Control shell, the Good-stuff Control archetype tends to run cards that can run away with previously close game (Uro, Jace the Mind Sculptor, Kess or even just a Memory Deluge). However the iconic cards are flexible spells that can be leveraged from a variety of board states, and makes this an archetype historically defined by Cryptic command, Kolghan’s command or Mystic Confluence. This is why most Good-stuff Control decks tend to be heavily Blue, splashing into a variety of other colours for powerful threats like Leovold, or strong flexible answers like Swords to Plowshares and prismatic ending. As the format speeds up, decks in this archetype have found themselves moving away from 4 and 5 mana haymakers, and leaning on cheaper engines, like Oko, Uro and Wrenn and Six, and leaning into more colours.

Whilst these greedier 4-colour Control decks look to border on the Value Midrange archetype, they are actually fundamentally different in their play-style, most notable being their reactive nature and access to a full counterspell suite making for a much better matchup against Combo decks.  

Good-stuff Control Deck Lists and Variations

The most iconic deck in the Good-stuff Control archetype is Blue, Black, and Red (aka ‘Grixis’ colours), the historically dominant ‘Kess Pile’. Grixis Control pairs powerful cards like Kess, Dissident Mage and Kolaghan’s Command with a reliable suite of interactive spells, such as Counterspell, Hymn to Tourach, and Cryptic Command. The Grixis colours offer removal for almost every type of permanent, including Dreadbore for opposing Planeswalkers, Fiery Confluence for artifacts, and Toxic Deluge to resolve an untenable board state. Grixis Control can filter through its deck with blue card draw like Dig through Time and Fact or Fiction to find the right answer for the current situation, all the while generating card advantage as they creep ahead in 2-for-1 exchanges. While not the most dominant deck in 2022’s metagame (where control decks tend to lean on the efficient white removal), it remains an excellent exemplar of the style of deck.

Deck List (historical)Grixis Control

In addition there is a video primer available, which covers the key groupings of cards and touches on the fundamental aspects of the Grixis Control playstyle in only 7 minutes. You can watch it here:

Recent Control decks in 7PH

While traditionally the black and red removal have dominated the format, with the printing of prismatic ending, march of otherworldly light, and other removal options in every colour, UBR is no longer the default colour for control decks. In choosing to play white over the red removal spells, you can play some more of the powerful game ending threats, like monastery mentor, and teferi hero of dominaria, as well as gaining access to enchantment removal not available in grixis. Esper, Jeskai and Bant (Blue, White and Black/Red/Green respectively) have seen some success, with a plan of trading heavily with efficient removal and counterspells, and then taking over the game with late game 2 for 1s, be it planeswalkers, dreadhorde arcanist or card draw spells.

Decklist – Jeskai Control

Decklist – Esper control

Decklist – Bant Control

 These example decks all lean on the combination of Lutri and karakas, to further leverage card advantage in long games, and to maximise the number of interactive cards that the deck can play, without risking running out of threats. By playing very few creatures, and maximising interaction, these decks hope to trap cards like fatal push or abrupt decay in the opponent’s hand, until they can eventually resolve a threat on turn 7+. Maximising flexible answers in game 1 (like prismatic ending) allows the deck to ensure that they never have dead cards in long games, and they can sideboard for more specific powerful threats or answers as needed.

Another approach to control decks is to eschew the heavy blue spells and ‘draw-go’ approach, for a more threat dense collection of powerful cards, backed up by the best interaction. These decks are almost midrangey in nature, with a game plan that involves ‘just-enough’ interaction to disrupt the opponents game plan, but differentiate themselves from ‘pure midrange’ with a focus on survival first, on threats that are also 2-for-1s, and on positioning themselves to play a longer game.

Decklist – 4c Goodstuff Control

As a collection of good cards, decks in this archetype will always have the ability to win against a variety of opposing play styles. However, in some metagames the Good-stuff Control archetype’s strong spells and almost ‘Midrange’ approach to deck building can lead to a loss of focus, and therefore a vulnerability to certain linear strategies like Tempo. One variant of Grixis Control fights fire with fire by giving up a degree of ‘value’ in order to leverage a lower curve and a Tempo sub-theme. A hybrid Grixis Tempo-Control can still play a value-oriented game with conventional Good-stuff Control cards like Kolaghan’s Command and Liliana, the Last Hope. However by foregoing a few late-game spells like Mystic Confluence and lowering it’s curve, this 4C Control can engineer scenarios where it can win via a leftover monk token, push damage through with a voidwalker attack, or simply fly over blockers and race with a DRC or murktide regent when it’s opponent can’t put together a solid threat.

Decklist – 4C Tempo Control

Deck List (historical) – Grixis Tempo-Control

Highlander Good-stuff Control Video Content

Compiled below are links to some excellent YouTube resources that can help you see some older versions of the Good-stuff Control deck archetype in action.

Watch this video to see Grixis Control in action:

Watch this video to see 4-colour Control in action:

Here is another great performance by Grixis Control:


Where to next?

Did Good-stuff Control fit the kind of deck archetype you’re looking for? Want to know more about other Control decks? Visit the Control hub here.

Although predominantly a Control deck, Good-stuff Control archetypes sometimes involve a midrange sub-theme. If you’d like to know more about dedicated Midrange decks or those with a Midrange element to them, visit the Midrange hub here.

Although predominantly a Control deck, Good-stuff Control variants sometimes involve a tempo sub-theme like the 4c Tempo-Control option. If you’d like to know more about dedicated Tempo decks or those with a Tempo element to them, visit the Tempo hub here.

Michael Billinghurst

Michael has been around the Melbourne competive magic scene since 2012, and the highlander scene for almost as long. He's a huge fan of counterspells, drawing cards and is known for playing Esper control decks wherever he can, (and sometimes where he can't). His highlander accolades include a Moxing day victory in 2018, and back-to-back Online leagues in early 2021. You can find him having strong opinions on niche sideboard cards on the highlander discord, or in a BEMB tshirt at every highlander event he can get to.