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In Magic, there's a style of deck known as "aggro-control", which plays a mixture of cheap threats and disruption (especially counterspells). Against a pure control deck, aggro-control seeks to set up quickly in the early turns and then protect its board position from sweepers and spot removal using countermagic, long enough to get an opponent to 0 life.

From a control player's perspective, this can be a difficult situation because you're on a pretty fast clock, but your normal tricks against aggro decks (like Day of Judgment on turn 4) just don't work with any degree of consistency.

What are some strategies that you can employ, either during deckbuilding or in play, to improve a control deck's performance against aggro-control?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You could try playing more spot removal (such as Condemn or Path to Exile) instead of mass removal. Typically aggro-control decks have problems if you succesfully remove their first threats. This way the control deck won't die in the early turns and will be in a good position to win the game, because it has a better late game.

The reason behind spot removal being better than mass removal in this kind of match-up is that it demands more answers: they only need a single counterspell to deal with your Day of Judgment, but they will need two if you play two Condemn. However, they'll need two answers if you play a second Day of Judgment, but usually you wont survive to your next turn if they counter the first one.

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Welcome to the site! –  Alex P Jan 13 '12 at 1:08

I often had good luck with cheap creature removers or delayers that are often underestimated, like unsummon, twiddle, swords to plowshares or similar. Another card that usually makes people laugh but that can serve you well in this situation is force spike and sometimes mana short cast on the opponent at the beginning of their turn. At times I used with some success island sanctuaries and even stasis and maybe kismets, but you need to build quite a complicate deck around them, and requires some luck to have a good combination of cards in your first draw...

What really made my aggro-control decks struggle where the quick discard+control decks. If you are forced to discard your creatures before you can put them in play on the first few turns, then you're probably doomed...

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This depends greatly on what deck you are playing and in what format. One of the best ways to stop (or more like delay) a Tarmogoyf is play one of your own. It's cheap, stops his goyf, is probably bigger than his other guys and beats very well if you want him to.

A good way to get around his disruption with mass removal is cards like Pernicious Deed or Engineered Explosives which you can play any turn you think it's safe.

Since most of the aggro-control decks rely on tempo and you'll probably win in the long run, siding in cards like Daze or other cheap counterspells/removal might help you get through the tough early game and still have enough power for the late game.

Maybe you want to disrupt his hand before he gets the chance to cast what he wants (Thoughtseize and the likes)?

It all depends on your deck and what you're up against. If you want to give a more specified question we'll be able to give a better answer.

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