Written by Dylan Feeman

It has generally been accepted that, aside from the occasional UW list, control is dead in Modern. With the combo decks being resilient to counterspells and conventional removal, and the aggro decks killing you on turns 3 or 4, it’s definitely tough trying to play draw-go. You’ll see the successful control lists playing sets of Ghost Quarter or Tectonic Edge alongside Spreading Seas to cut off the big mana decks like Tron and Valakut from overpowering their countermagic. It’s still not enough to stop the Valakut player from eventually killing you or the Tron player from casting a Karn or an Ulamog. There is a solution available, though it does have its own sacrifices.

The solution to many of the woes of UW (in addition to giving an edge in control mirrors) is to play a different kind of control. A kind of control that has its own linear combo, but is also reactive enough to have a game versus every deck. This deck is Madcap Moon, a type of UR control deck built around Blood Moon. For those unfamiliar with the origins of the name, the deck is built around abusing two particular cards in modern. The first is Blood Moon, where the Moon comes from. Play a deck chock full of UR dual lands and a bunch of blue fetches, and you’re able to have 2-3 blue sources after casting a Blood Moon, somewhat mitigating the symmetrical nature of Blood Moon. The other part of the name comes from Madcap Experiment, a recent addition to modern from Kaladesh. You play a couple copies of Platinum Emperion as the only artifact in your deck, turning the first Madcap Experiment you cast into a 4 mana Emperion.

It may not be obvious as to how these cards contribute to a successful control deck, but in Modern both complement control decks perfectly. Two of the biggest problems with blue based control decks in modern are ways to stabilize the game vs aggressive decks, and ways to stabilize against decks like TitanShift, which normally just pressure your counterspells and eventually pick you off with lands. Blood Moon shuts down Valakut and Tron lands game 1, while Madcap Emperion brickwalls aggressive decks. An inherent problem with both Madcap and Blood Moon is that they draw the game out. When you have a platinum emperion out against dredge, the game isn’t over. You can’t attack into 8+ power on board without losing your emperion, but you’ve stabilized. You just need to draw a way to win the game. Typically the best way to push through with an 8/8 isn’t with a sweeper, but with cryptic command. With cryptic you can both protect the emperion from annoying answers like Conflagrate or Path to Exile and push through damage with it. One swing and most opponents are just a couple of lightning bolts away from dying.

Blood Moon in many ways is the combo deck analog of Platinum Emperion. Scapeshift decks can’t kill you without removing it, and decks like Ad Nauseum can’t cast their spells through it, without resolving something like Lotus Bloom. With a Blood Moon in play, the game you’re playing isn’t magic anymore – it’s a minigame where only certain cards matter. However, even in matchups that are vulnerable to Blood Moon, it has a similar weakness as Platinum Emperion. Blood Moon doesn’t win the game, it simply lengthens it. You need to draw a way to close out the game before the opponent can draw out of the Blood Moon. That’s where Madcap and the blue package comes in. Blue cards like Snapcaster Mage and Serum Visions let you dig through your deck quickly, making your average draw better than that of an opponent, while Madcap Experiment can produce a threat hard to answer under Blood Moon. Similarly, Remand becomes similar to Time Walk with a Blood Moon in play, giving Remand power in the stages of the game where it normally is bad.

With a strong linear “combo” plan involving Blood Moon on turn 3 and Madcap Experiment on turn 4, many matchups that would normally have a strong game 1 against most of the field are soft to you. Valakut decks lose on the spot against that. Burn and Affinity can almost never beat it. Eldrazi Tron has to get a Wastes and hope to double block a Platinum Emperion. Dredge has to get 8 cards in hand or they lose the game. Naturally, you will draw dead copies of the cards, and sometimes you draw Blood Moons when you need Lightning Bolts, but that’s just the nature of midrange and control strategies in any format. With enough cantrips and some early countermagic, you can usually buy yourself a ton of time while digging for a way to eventually close out the game. With the presence of a trump card like Madcap against decks like Burn, taking lines of play just to not die is the same as playing for the win.

There are, however, problems with Madcap Moon. It’s hard to deal with big creatures, a problem that Dismember and Roast can help, but that ultimately makes a turn 2 or 3 Tasigur scary. Death’s Shadow is also a bad matchup for the deck. They can sometimes lose to Blood Moon, but it doesn’t crush them very hard since they only need 1 basic in play to play Kolaghan’s Command – the best card they have in the matchup. In addition, hand disruption and countermagic together are brutally strong against decks looking to play draw-go. We don’t have any way to both turn the corner and stabilize the board against them as they possess clean answers to madcap experiment. Even though they typically only play a couple copies of Kolagan’s Command and Terminate, they can find them with the Thoughtscour + Snapcaster Mage interaction. Postboard we can utilize the power of Young Pyromancer and tempo oriented counterspells, along with more answers for their creatures in the form of Dismembers and Kefnet’s Last Word.

It wouldn’t make sense to end an article talking about this deck without a decklist, so here is a recent version of Madcap Moon, with a sideboard focusing on Eldrazi Tron and Grixis Death’s Shadow.

Maindeck

4 Snapcaster Mage

2 Vendilion Clique

1 Nimble Obstructionist

2 Platinum Emperion

4 Blood Moon

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Remand

3 Cryptic Command

1 Electrolyze

2 Spell Snare

1 Dismember

1 Abrade

4 Scalding Tarn

1 Polluted Delta

8 Island

2 Mountain

2 Steam Vents

3 Sulfur Falls

2 Misty Rainforest

1 Flooded Strand

4 Serum Visions

4 Madcap Experiment

Sideboard

1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar

1 Keranos, God of Storms

3 Young Pyromancer

2 Negate

3 Dispel

1 Ceremonious Rejection

1 Dismember

1 Abrade

1 Anger of the Gods

1 Kefnet’s Last Word

 

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