We have to face a harsh reality: Nicol Bolas is coming back. As was confirmed before Avacyn Restored even released, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker will be reprinted for Magic 2013. Spoilers are still rolling in for M13, but at 91/249 cards spoiled, I’ve decided that I want to start thinking about how I’m going to use NB. I’m settling on what will probably be the standard choice: Grixis Control (Quick side note: this version doesn’t have NB in it. Karn Liberated once the card actually releases). We live in a format that has Blue-Black Control as a viable option, so dipping into Red isn’t all that far of a stretch. Each color has a specific purpose in this kind of deck. We use Blue for counter magic and draw power, Black for spot removal and, at least in my build, win condition, and Red for burn/removal. In this three part series, I’m going to take an in-depth look at the choices each color offers in support of NB. I’m going to start with the most important color: Blue.
Admittedly, I’m a whore for Blue, but in any Control deck, it’s a must. Even with Cavern of Souls in the format, counter magic is still important. We can shut down critical support spells in most of the major decks. So, the two main Control spells, Mana Leak and Dissipate, are no-brainers for this deck. Dissipate is out of Innistrad, so that won’t be rotating out in October, and Mana Leak will most likely be reprinted. We can also pack Negate and Flashfreeze as answers to Control and R/G Aggro respectively.
We’re also going to use Blue to help us gain hand advantage. For now, we’re doing that with the two most common draw options: Ponder and Gitaxian Probe. I’m feeling relatively confident in a Ponder reprint, but Gitaxian Probe is definitely out. We should enjoy that card while it lasts; it provides great advantage for Control players. I’m also going to pack in a Blue Sun’s Zenith while we still have access to it in Standard. In the mid or late game, this can provide full hand replenishment, and you can’t downplay the importance of hand advantage in Control. There’s nothing more intimidating than staring down a Control player who has a fully stocked hand. If you plan on using a few other Planeswalkers as well, Tezzeret’s Gambit should be given some serious consideration. I opted not to use it in my final build, but I’ve seen other Control players give this one or two spaces in their deck. The Proliferation is great, especially on the path to your Planeswalkers’ ultimate abilities.
Naturally, Snapcaster Mage is a dead-lock for this deck. We’re going heavy on the non-creature spells, so he’s going to have plenty of targets. At three or four-of, Snapcaster Mage is an invaluable addition to this deck. Frost Titan is also an attractive card. Once NB hits the field, we can use Frost Titan to weigh down potential threats to our scaly friend while he charges up. In my build, I’m opting for Grave Titan just for the extra Zombie blockers, but Frost Titan is also a viable choice. Of course, Tamiyo the Moon Sage can offer the same kind of protection for NB as well. She can also help us gain back hand advantage in a tight spot. Consecrated Sphinx also deserves consideration. This is an incredibly popular choice for Control, and it’s not hard to see why. At 6 toughness, he’s a viable attacker because he won’t meet much that can take him down (doubly so considering that he’s a Flyer). His static ability guarantees that you’ll maintain hand advantage. A revision of my deck would probably see the inclusion of this card, again, for the short bit of time it has left in Standard.
So, that’s pretty much what Blue can offer us in a Grixis Control build designed in support of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalkers. Blue helps us control our opponent in the early game in order to come at them with a ferocious Black spellboard, which I’ll discuss in detail in the next part of this article series.
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