Tolarian Tutor: How To Be A Better Control Player in Magic: The Gathering

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Long touted as one of the most difficult archetypes to master, Control players require insight and stamina to reach their endgame. Long known for denying their opponents key resources and creatures, Control players can be seen as cruel and unyielding, always saying “No” and never relenting. However, there can be times when saying “yes” is as important as saying “no”, and knowing when to do that is one of the many topics we’ll cover in today’s lesson. We’ll be looking at common mistakes that Control players make, evaluating cards and situations, and how to handle match-ups against the other archetypes.

Time benefits the Control player, and the best players use that time to disrupt their opponent’s threats while making their own unanswerable. Since Control is reactive by nature, knowing when and what to react to is key in making sure your strategy isn’t sabotaged.

Control is *not* about reacting for the sake of reacting, or providing an answer. If you do decide to counter a creature or a spell, it must done with purpose and with a specific goal in mind – your endgame. Knowing this can help you determine which cards you’d like to counter, and which you’d like to resolve.


Colvin Atchison says:

Always great videos, always a class act, great work professor!

Mark says:

You want to know how to become a better control player? Play Jund in modern, learn to prioritize your cards and jund them out. It’s helarious when you 2-0 control players becuse they have been under your thumb the whole game with out them knowing it untill it’s too late

Playtester 74 says:

Love the merfolk art in the background. Fishy ponder is a good ponder.

Pedro Alves says:

love u

Nimble Sloth says:

I think in specific situations using a counterspell on something such as Serum Visions can be justified. Let’s assume there is an empty board and you have a hand with 2 counterspells and maybe a removal spell and/or draw/dig spell and a Celestial Colonnade on board. The only card your opponent has in hand however is a Serum Visions, is it then worth countering? In my opinion yes. The ability to dig through your deck to try and find a card should never be underestimated. By countering the Serum Visions you still have a 2nd back up counterspell to answer whatever potential topdeck they draw next turn, but you prevent them from drawing a card and gaining any knowledge of the top 3 cards of their deck, whilst making it knowingly clear that your opponent has no answers to your Celestial Colonnade for that next turn. It’s all circumstantial, sometimes countering a card can simply be a tempo play made to give yourself more of a short term advantage and preventing the opponent from gaining any advantage themselves.

Alex says:

Waiting for the video on how to be a better COMBO player!!! May your storm counts be high and your emrakuls be breached!!!! great vid btw

Badwuff Koma says:

Oh wow, I loved your video ALMOST as much as I loved your outfit lol! I have a lot of questions as I’m piloting U/W Approach of the Second sun. My toughest matchup IS the mirror (U/W approach, Esper Approach, and U/B Scarab God). I’m struggling on knowing what to counter exactly (Glimmer of Genius? Search for Ascanta?) . Most of the time it just ends up a counter war with 4+ counter spells when someone tries to resolve a Gearhulk and I’m not sure if I’m looking at the match from the right angel, an advice?

Lionel Morton says:

This is the one I was waiting for. Keep it coming Professor, your videos are what got me started.

Troy McAlister says:

You nailed it by pushing the control mentality, because everything else with control is situational; you really can’t draw out a flowchart on how to react to what because it depends on your build, the match-up, what’s on board, etc.

Ultimately, if one wants to be good at control, they need to put in the rounds with the deck until they’re familiar.

Berkanna says:

One of the more difficult decisions I come across using control is on turn 3. Usually I have a creature I can play but I also have a cancel or negate. I’m never sure if I should play the creature or leave the mana open.

ringotomb says:


I O'Neill says:

I really liked this video! And I enjoyed the quizzes throughout it!!

shano dragon says:

Thank you this video helped with some of the problems I was having

EnjoyColorTV says:

You rock professor

Daemon Jack says:

The tolarian tutor song sounds like a yugioh theme song

Parker Savoldi says:

I want to see a deck tech on anafenza the foremost

JoMa Ha says:

OK, wait i am confused now. Newb here so can someone explain a few things ? First of all, if the opponent plays Winding Constrictor which i guess is an enabler card for combos and whatnot, why wouldn’t i counter it ? Why would i try to counter everything after it that is going to benefit off of it as the prof says ? Isn’t it better to remove the one thing that enables all the other cards to go off ? On the other hand, we have Thalia. I know that as a control player you want the game to drag on, but why wouldn’t i want Thalia gone immediately ? It makes my opponent be constantly one step ahead of me, if i don’t have a creature down it’s going to enter tapped (so dmg to the face) and then Thalia’s first strike is going to make it difficult to get through unless i remove her later or play something big !

Kyle Maxwell says:

I love when the Professor gets fully into character.

0 07 says:

new control card idea: “Cosplay Quit” allows you to leave your game and lets other people playing magic to jump over to your game and team up on your opponent for you. if he loses, he is banned from the store and you get foil SJW emblem token that you can rip in half, since you respect MTG so much.

Fadian Wickstrom says:

As a bad magic player please continue this series

Mike Peterson says:

Yay! Drama free!

TristamWolf says:

Even as someone who no longer plays Magic the Gathering, I’ve been enjoying watching these videos quite a bit. They do ask you to have a general understanding of MtG, but beyond that it’s been super useful (although sometimes not easy) to parse the information you give us into other games.

shizo66 says:

this is like how to play control the basics

Chris Jones says:

LOVE LOVE LOVE this series. Great job, keep it up, and more PLEASE!

Deck Builders' Society says:

New MTG YouTuber here! I make commander content and just dropped my first video. I’ll have a new video out on Monday! Check me out if you’re looking for drama free, new content.

Colonel1142 says:

Professor, could you do a video for beginner’s on how to properly go through the steps and phases of a turn? I have a friend who is new to magic and I believe your video would be the best one out there if you did one. Thank you.

Blubber Flubber says:

Sooooo, who won the iconic masters box?

TommioRS says:

Man i hate Counter vs. Counter…. one wrong move and your gone!

Squatch says:

Always have admired your video content Professor, informative and entertaining.
keep up the good work!

Teamppappi says:

thank you very much!, most of my tcg life has been yugioh and now playing magic with friends and being a complete noob trying to upgrade my deck, it rly helps to discover new cards every single video that you make 😛 🙂

Felix says:

Great video! But you didn’t mention how most control decks use card advantage to provide all the answers to their opponents threats while also presenting their finisher. If you have your Cancels and other 1 for 1 trades you will both be empty handed and at the mercy of the top deck gods! That is never fun for a control deck that typically runs more lands than other decks, this means more of your draws are going to be dead answers to your opponents threats.

Максим Шилов says:

Great video, Professor, as always. If anyone in the comments wants to see control vs control matchup, I recommend watching the world championship video that’s mentioned in MagicManSam’s video “Bolt”. That was real hardcore stuff, total carnage

Pontus von Geijer says:

Against someone like the professor I always make sure to play Marsh Gas. Its very effective against people like him.

Væst Døvæhkiin says:

horseshoe crab + hermetic study + gilded lotus = controlling the battlefield by direct damage

Tristen Moncada says:

I find analyzing the control greats such as Guillaume Wafo-Tapa to be particularly helpful in becoming a better control player.

Andrew Traynor says:

As a hardcore control player I have to disagree with many of the examples and solutions you gave. First of all, in a void I would counter the Thalia, I think that when both players are so light on resources it is extremely valuable to untap on an empty board with glimmer in hand. I think you try to answer all your opponents threats until they brick on their draw step and you have the chance to cast glimmer. Second, I would most certainly kill the winding constrictor. Over the course of a game constrictor decks are built to use its ability to the best effect possible. Almost all of the cards in the deck gain slight or huge amounts of value with a constrictor in play. You also don’t know if your opponent will give you an opportunity to kill it later, if they cure rishkar into 2 more 2 drops you could be in serious trouble.

ShadowTron says:

4:35 But how can you counter anything if the 5 lands are in your hand???

bchesney says:

My control strategy is to get Stormtide Leviathan on the field and prevent the opponents creatures from attacking. It is hard to pull it off sometimes because of the high casting cost of Stormtide. For this reason, I implement other strategies that can help me win regardless of whether I can get my true endgame out.

razor blade says:

carefully build your control deck….learn the intricacies of every match-up….

…still lose to RDW

We Are Borg 478 says:

Is this all common sense, or am I just a blue prodigy?

Spike Zod says:

Yes 100% digging this.

Eli Allison says:

This video was nice but the “should you kill/counter” questions were not great. For every case there are many kinds of options based on colors, kill/counter spell quantities in your deck, what else is in your hand, etc. for example, if you’re flush with fatal pushes then just kill the constrictor

Venefica82 says:

Playing control is leaning to just say no. 😛

Kiddomike says:

Very informative tutorial!

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