TJP Control is a classic archetype that has been around since the dawn of Eternal. There have been many forms, ranging from Amaran Camels to completely unit-less Excavate decks to Combrei based 4-faction control decks splashing Azindel’s Gift. With the advent of open beta, Secret Pages and Knight-Chancellor Siraf were changed, requiring TJP Control to get an overhaul. I’ve been working on it for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve finally come to a solid list for the ranked ladder:
4 Seek Power (Set1 #408)
4 Desert Marshal (Set1 #332)
2 Eilyn’s Favor (Set0 #24)
4 Lightning Storm (Set1 #206)
2 Vanquish (Set1 #143)
2 Amber Acolyte (Set1 #93)
4 Combrei Healer (Set1 #333)
1 Eye of Winter (Set1 #210)
4 Knight-Chancellor Siraf (Set1 #335)
3 Scorpion Wasp (Set1 #96)
4 Wisdom of the Elders (Set1 #218)
2 Ancient Lore (Set1 #105)
4 Sandstorm Titan (Set1 #99)
4 Harsh Rule (Set1 #172)
1 Staff of Stories (Set1 #234)
2 Stronghold’s Visage (Set1 #339)
1 Mystic Ascendant (Set1 #116)
1 Mistveil Drake (Set1 #242)
1 Channel the Tempest (Set1 #244)
4 Justice Sigil (Set1 #126)
3 Primal Sigil (Set1 #187)
4 Time Sigil (Set1 #63)
2 Combrei Banner (Set1 #424)
4 Seat of Order (Set0 #51)
4 Seat of Progress (Set0 #58)
4 Seat of Wisdom (Set0 #63)
The list I played in my video last week had an Excavate-Elysian Trailblazer endgame plan, but that has since been cut from the deck. The combo would come together too late even against the slowest control decks, and by that point I could usually win the game by decking my opponent anyways. To replace that, I’ve added a Mystic Ascendant and a Mistveil Drake to be card advantage-producing threats (aegis is basically card advantage against discard or burn). I was also having a lot of trouble keeping up with Shimmerpack decks, and the addition of two hard-to-deal-with threats really helps there. Mistveil Drake can fly over a stalled board, and Mystic Ascendant usually can’t be killed if you don’t attack with it since Shimmerpack typically only runs Permafrost and Scorpion Wasp for removal.
To tie the room together, I added a couple copies of Ancient Lore. Besides having cool art, it helps bridge the gap between the midgame and the super late game by keeping the gas flowing. The card is bad, but sometimes you just need to draw two cards more than four times per game, and Ancient Lore is the best option left after Wisdom of the Elders.
(Editor’s note: keep your eyes open for draw spells in “Set 1.5″ as a potential replacement for Ancient Lore.”
TJP Control is a combrei-based control deck using the excellent Combrei units up the curve as offence or defence as the situation requires. You’ll be hard pressed to find any better unit for the cost than Desert Marshall, Combrei Healer, Knight-Chancellor Siraf, or Sandstorm Titan. Playing only one unit vulnerable to Vanquish and Annihilate (Titan) may seem strange, but the opponent doesn’t always have the answer, and if they don’t they are likely dead. Additionally, many decks rely on Torch, Obliterate, Flame Blast and Deathstrike for removal, and Titan matches up favorably against all of those. A turn spent dealing with Titan is a turn not spent developing their board, and any deck going to the late game with TJP Control is going to be hard-pressed to keep up with all of the card draw.
To complement all of these roadblocks is the 8-pack of sweepers, Lightning Storm and Harsh Rule. Most decks are fairly vulnerable to them right now, so running the full set is great. Be careful not to pull the trigger too early; you can often wait a while in a board stall before your opponent finally overwhelms your board position and forces you to fire one off.
The spot removal suite should be tailored to the current metagame, which right now is dominated by Rakano, Shimmerpack, and Stonescar burn and midrange. All of these decks have targets for Vanquish, so there are a couple of those, and they are supplemented by 3 Scorpion Wasp for more hard removal. Wasp can take care of aegis units with one card and is also versatile against units that didge Vanquish like Argenport Instigator and Steward of the Past. Feln-based control variants are also fairly popular, and Vanquish has very few (if any) targets against them, so having more Wasps than Vanquishes makes those matchups slightly better. I’m running 0 Permafrost right now because it isn’t very good against Sandstorm Titan, Champion of Glory or units with abilities like Statuary Maiden or Feln Bloodcaster, but keep it in mind if the meta ever shifts away from those and towards Stonescar and Combrei aggro.
Eye of Winter and Stronghold’s Visage or both basically additional removal that serve the purpose of making your sweepers better. If your opponent is only doing 1 damage per turn against your Visage(s) or their only unit is locked down by Eye of Winter, they are forced to play more units and get 2- or3-for-1’ed by your sweepers. Visage also starts padding your health total once your opponent runs out of units so you have more time to draw answers and don’t die to burn spells or ambush units. Both cards are expensive, so there are only a few copies between them.
The matchup against Rakano is predicated on the first four turns. If your opponent is able to start stacking warcrys and making every unit they draw into a large threat, you will probably eventually fall behind and lose. If you can stem the early tide and establish some large blockers they can’t attack into, you’ll win. Lightning Storm should be fired off to kill any 1-drop on turn 2; there isn’t time to fish for more value and you want to play units turn 3 and 4. Desert Marshall is an excellent run 2 to trade with a Crownwatch Paladin or Rakano Outlaw.
Block at every opportunity, even if the opponent attacks their smaller units into your bigger ones and it’s obvious they have a combat trick. You need to get those Finest Hours out of their hand eventually. Sometimes spending the power on the trick will even prevent them from making other useful plays with their turn. Scorpion Wasp and Vanquish should be saved for weapon-equipped units that are too large for you to block.
Eventually (hopefully) the early onslaught of small units will subside or you’ll stabilize behind some blockers allowing you to pull ahead with your plethora of card draw spells. Rakano’s only real reach once you’ve stabilized is Deepforged Plate and Soulfire Drake, so keep a Desert Marshall up for those if you can.
Shimmerpack (both Elysian and TJP variants) used to be the worst matchup for TJP control, but the changes have made the matchup much more reasonable. As long as you draw a sweeper or two and your opponent doesn’t draw multiple Xenan Obelisks you should be fine.
The key to this matchup is to hold sweepers as long as you can. For Harsh Rule, that is usually when your opponent has some brutal attacks if they play an Obelisk or Shimmerpack next turn. For Lightning Storm, that is the turn before Xenan Obelisk would put the enemy units out of range of the 2 damage sweeper (so once they have 7 power or one Obelisk in play already). Scouting Party will also warrant an immediate board clear if you don’t have multiple blockers in play.
All of the card draw is here for this matchup; you need a lot of cards to keep up with Shimmerpack’s 2 cost 5/5s that draw a card when they come into play. The best way to win is to deal some early damage with Siraf and Sandstorm Titan and finish off with a double-digit damage Channel the Tempest or a Mistveil Drake. If your opponent doesn’t draw multiple Obelisks or Scouting Partys they will sometimes run out of gas, at which point you can finish them off with Siraf activations. Usually Siraf activations are too little on their own unless you play Harsh Rule + Siraf once you have 8 power. They will either have a ton of blockers to buy them to find a Party or Shimmerpack, or they have no blockers and you have already won anyway.
Stonescar burn is a pretty abysmal matchup; TJP Control is just too slow to finish the opponent off before they race you with Obliterates and Flame Blasts. The matchup swings wildly to very favorable if they are playing Stonescar midrange with more units like Statuary Maiden and Infernal Tyrant instead of burn.
Since you don’t know which version it is until the late game preserve your health as much as you can in the early game. It’s better to kill enemy units first then play your units later so that an enemy removal spell doesn’t cause you to take more damage. For example, I advise playing Vanquish instead of Sandstorm Titan when facing down an Impending Doom on turn 4, since the Titan can be answered while the Vanquish cannot. Once you’ve removed all of the enemy units you can start deploying your own, forcing your opponent to decide between playing new units they draw or removing yours. If you can get the opponent on the back foot with Siraf or Sandstorm Titan you can tempo them out since you won’t run out of gas and they will.
Against the burn version, save your Eilyn’s Favor for the late game if you don’t need the Primal Sigil. An early game aegis is likely to be popped by a Favor effect or an Argenport Instigator Trigger instead of preventing an Umbren Reaper entomb trigger or an Obliterate. Desert Marshall is a critical card against all versions for preventing Umbren Reaper’s entomb or Champion of Chaos’s overwhelm.
Feln Control/Felnscar Control
Control mirrors have always been an intricate matchup. You need to squeeze the maximum value out of all of your cards, since it is likely you’ll live long enough to use all of them. You should also try to limit the value of your opponent’s cards, such as killing Feln Bloodcaster before the opponent gets to 7 power.
Your key cards are Siraf, Staff of Stories, and Mystic Ascendant. Those units should be saved until after you’ve played out all of your less-important units to draw out removal. Additionally, you shouldn’t ever play more than one or two units (and only one good unit like Siraf, Ascendant, or Sandstorm Titan) so you don’t get 2-for-1’d by Lightning Storm/Black-Sky Harbinger + Withering Witch. Don’t run out Staff or Stories until you have the board under control so it won’t get attacked. It also helps if you have an aegis to protect it from Torch, but it’s hard to keep an aegis against Vara’s Favor and Black-Sky Harbinger.
Vanquish is your least-valuable removal, so throw it out on the first target you find. Scorpion Wasp and Desert Marshall should be saved for units that are actually threats. Black-Sky Harbinger and Steward of the Past don’t even count as threats if you have a Stronghold’s Visage in play to offset their damage. Visage and Eye of Winter force over-extension, so you should always be able to get a 2-for-1 or better with Harsh Rules.
If you are able to establish the defensive position with Eye of Winter/Stronghold’s Visage, pay attention to the number of cards in each player’s deck. If both or neither player has Staff of Stories, you can just sit and do nothing if you are ahead in cards. Both decks have more removal than threats, so just don’t play any card draw and win by decking. If you are behind in cards, you need to actually draw as many as possible to overwhelm your opponent’s removal before you deck out. It may be worth it to let your Staff of Stories be destroyed if you think the game is going to go to decking. Be warned, though: don’t do this unless you have a stacked hand or a ton of health and you know for sure you can withstand anything their deck throws at you even if you hit a string of bad draws like power and Lightning Storms.
TJP is a fun and viable ladder deck with a lot of fun play patterns for the control lover. Despite playing 20 units, it’s a hard control deck with inevitability in almost every matchup. If you’re like me and love drawing cards, this is the deck for you.
Until next time, may your Siraf activations never hit Idol of Destran.