Tap-Down Control

Modern Deck Help forum

Posted on June 3, 2019, 1:18 a.m. by Cipher001

I want to make a deck based around tap-down control. As in, Downpour and Feeling of Dread control. For years, I’ve been trying to make this idea work, ever since I first started playing, in Return to Ravnica. It started with the cards Gideon's Avenger and Sunblast Angel . I thought I could make something work, and I sort of did. I made a budget deck that achieved mild success on T/O called Frozen Solid. People liked it because it was cheap and gimmicky, but I wanted it to be more than a cheap trick, which is unfortunate, because that’s all it could have really been at the time. The deck suffers from a core weakness that other forms of control don’t have to deal with, namely that after your cheap tap-down spell has resolved, all your opponent has to do is wait another turn and build up their army even further. Sunblast angel requires a land drop every turn for six turns. The game ends up being about prolonging an inevitable loss instead of winning. Nevertheless, I tried my best to make it at least semi-competitive.

I tried every combination of U/W/X. I tried esper with its access to cards like Royal Assassin and Murderous Compulsion . A way to get rid of tapped cards is great, but why would anyone ever spend two mana on a Murderous Compulsion when they could spend it on Doom Blade , Ultimate Price , Walk the Plank , Cast Down , or half the mana on Fatal Push ? Royal assassin at least sticks around to be able to make use of a mana-free kill to complement your tap-down effects, but it dies to even the gentlest of creature removal. It dies to Lightning Bolt . It dies to Shock . Heck, it even dies to Darkblast . And aside from the assassin, there isn’t a whole lot to support tap-down control in black.

U/W/G has Glare of Subdual , which answers one problem the deck has, namely of a lack of creatures to serve as a wincon. At the same time though, you’re still tapping them down, so they can’t be used to attack with (unless you have something to untap them with, which splits your available resources even further) and if you have a big enough field presence to control the board by tapping stuff down, you could have probably won already through some Overrun kind of playstyle instead. I found merfolk a flavorful and surprisingly synergetic tribe for what I was going for here, as seen by cards like Merrow Reejerey , Merfolk Trickster , and Harbinger of the Tides . I thought that of all the ideas I’ve made thus far, this had the biggest chance of doing what I wanted, with built-in tribal support that aligned with a tap-down aesthetic. You could even finish games with a well-timed Wake Thrasher .

In R/W/U, I experimented with Aurelia's Fury . With cards like Assemble the Legion , stalling becomes a legitimate strategy. Battlefield Thaumaturge could be used to make the spell a two mana overloaded Blustersquall . Along that route, Gridlock and Glimpse the Sun God could be used to support it, but the idea is heavily reliant on thaumaturge, which doesn’t always see play, even as a 4-of.

A truly depressing match against Red Deck Wins made me realize that the deck is entirely reliant on the opponent’s having creatures. Thus, the idea to include something from the hunted cycle was born. Hunted Phantasm , for example, provides me with a good beater and plenty of things to make use of for my spells.

Every now and then, some piece of deck-tech makes me have that flutter of naïve hope, like when we got Time of Ice in Dominaria or Verity Circle in Ravnica Allegiance. Verity circle could be the answer, the missing link. It provides me with the ability to refuel my spells and dig through my deck to get to the wincon, whatever it should be. In any other kind of deck, it’s mediocre at best, but it’s the best support my jank idea has ever gotten. I could be missing something that comes clearly for you. I’m asking you to help me realize my seven-year-old dream: to create a tap-down control deck that holds its own against at least semi-competitive decks. (Decks that have a reasonably achievable means to win and efficient support to help it achieve its chosen way of winning.) I’m not asking for anything that’d make the top 8 list anywhere, just something I can be satisfied with. So long as the primary theme of the deck is controlling the field through tap-down effects, I’m happy.

Please help me out here. I’m at my wits end lol. A big thanks to any and all who put their two cents in.

Flooremoji says... #2

Well, I like Curse of Chains and Narcolepsy as draw with Verity Circle , while also getting rid of the creature permenantly. Sleep effects can act as Fog s, which lets you experiment with a sort of Turbo-Fog stratagy that uses tap spells, extra draw artifacts and VC to draw enough cards to potencially win with Nexus of Fate and Temple Bell . Forbidden Orchard , while not great, is probably the best option for beating control, aside from somthing like Boseju + a Gain 2 life every turn card.

I like Pwks as a potential win con, because they aren't vulnerable to Creature removal.

Hope this helps!

June 3, 2019 1:37 a.m.

xtechnetia says... #3

If it's within your budget range, Cryptic Command is a stock modern control card, and one of its modes does just what you want.

June 3, 2019 1:47 a.m.

Cipher001 says... #4

Flooremoji those are great suggestions! I really like enchantments, too. Curse of Chains and Narcolepsy would be great answers to the problem at hand. What planeswalkers would you suggest? Gideon Jura works to blow up tapped creatures as well as a beatstick himself. Do you think Gideon's Avenger is a viable card, or just removal fodder?

June 3, 2019 1:50 a.m.

Demarge says... #5

hell take a stock w/u control list with some Feeling of Dread to buy yourself turns into big board wipes.

June 3, 2019 1:52 a.m.

Cipher001 says... #6

xtechnetia It is sadly out of my budget range. With the mana fixing and the card itself, it's just too expensive. It is a really good card though, and definitely falls under what I want from the deck. I'll consider it as a non-budget option. Thanks!

June 3, 2019 1:52 a.m.

Cipher001 says... #7

Demarge Planeswalkers would be the wincon there, I'd assume. I wonder if there's been a recent w/u control deck that's had success lately. Appreciate the input. Field wipes mean no flavorful creatures like Gideon's Avenger , but also answer a growing board presence. The only problem with it is that I like tap-down to be the primary form of control, and that would feel like it would just be secondary to the field wipe. I will definitely consider it, though. It's a solid idea, even with creatures in certain circumstances. Thanks for the input!

June 3, 2019 1:56 a.m.

Flooremoji says... #8

Personally, I feel Gideon's Avenger is fodder, but I haven't played with him yet.

I feel that the less creatures you run in a deck, the more likley they are to be fodder :)

June 3, 2019 2:13 a.m.

Demarge says... #9

Lately w/u control has been really into the tap out superfriends/ Narset style, Verity Circle might be the most playable type of tap tribal (though Gideon Jura is also perfectly in the tap tribal deck as a playable, oh and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage ) There is a limit to how useful tap effects can be when it's pretty much one deck in the meta that is married to just attacking you to win and a good chunk is burning you, out valuing you, or locking you out, then maybe killing you with dmg after those are done.

The mtg goldfish meta page is what I've mostly been checking out to see deck ideas or what is overall popular atm. Though I imagine horizon's will make some big swings to what is good in modern w/u control, my playtesting so far is pulling me towards playing as few non blue sources as possible trying to get triple blue on turn 3.

June 3, 2019 2:49 a.m.

You're going to have the majority of your main deck idea, the cards that work amazing against creature strategy, in your side-board. I know that's going to sound like it's going against what you want, but game 1 is going to be feeling out your opponent, which also means that you're going to have main-board several of your silver bullets. Hunted Phantasm for RDW, good all-round 'walkers if those are interesting to you, Gigadrowse , stuff that works on most any deck, especially ones that are light on creatures. Then, when you sniff out an opponent that would just absolutely get wrecked if their stuff were tapped out turn after turn, that's when you bring in your game plan and tap them down without mercy.

June 3, 2019 5:06 a.m.

Gidgetimer says... #11

Look up the deck "Pickles". It sounds like it would help with what you are trying to do. I forget how you get Brine Elemental early enough to be relevant, but the deck uses it and Vesuvan Shapeshifter to keep your opponents tapped down.

June 3, 2019 11:55 a.m.

Funkydiscogod says... #12

Quiet Contemplation has a powerful synergy with Verity Circle , and would let you get away with running fewer "tap target creature" spells, in favor of more traditional white and blue control spells.

I haven't seen anyone mention Frost Titan and Dream Leash yet.

June 3, 2019 1:59 p.m.

Cipher001 says... #13

Flooremoji I think you're right. It pains me to get rid of one of the cards that inspired the idea, but it's just removal fodder at best in most matchups. One mana to get rid of a three mana card that doesn't do anything but possibly get bigger isn't a great trade-off from my end.

Demarge I went ahead and looked at the mtg goldfish meta page as well. Humans is the most popular deck, which uses a ton of creatures, but it's pretty much the only one, yeah. Right now, decks are very non-creature spell oriented. I think Gideon Jura would fit if I can justify his being a finisher for the deck. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage can at least keep lands and troublesome artifacts tapped down, and serves as draw power when enough creatures are tapped down. If you had to choose one, which would you choose? I'm leaning toward Gide on for the 6/6 indestructible for 5 mana.

aswordforthefallen As Demarge pointed out, the bulk of the decks right now aren't going to be focused on using creatures, so using creatures for them is a good way to go, I think. Hunted Phantasm is a good way to ensure that I can still get value from Verity Circle . That does incur the question for whether I should go wide with temporary effects that hit multiple creatures like Downpour and Feeling of Dread , or whether I should keep a smaller number of creatures consistently being tapped with enchantments like Curse of Chains . As for all-around value planeswalkers, what do you have in mind? I see Narset, Parter of Veils , Teferi, Time Raveler , and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria used a good deal.

Gidgetimer I don't think Pickles is what I want to go for. It's a neat way to work tap-down control, but I'd rather focus on cards that work specifically with tapping rather than abusing the morph mechanic. Thanks for the suggestion, though! It is a really interesting deck.

Funkydiscogod Quiet contemplation is a really good fit for the deck. The only problem I have with it is that by freeing up space for more traditional cards, I move away from my preferred aesthetic. Part of the problem here is that I've chosen a really inefficient form of control. For the one mana I could use on Gigadrowse , I could spend it on Path to Exile . What cards would you suggest to complement Quiet Contemplation while staying true to having tap-down effects being the primary method of control? Opt , for example, is a one mana draw card that can turn into a two-mana Frost Breath hybrid. I can't think of much else other than draw cards, though, that fit in the control scheme that don't remove the need for tap-down effects entirely. Do you think Frost Titan is too expensive to play, or is its built-in protection enough to warrant using it at 6 mana?

Thank you so much, everyone that's contributed! It means a lot to me that you're helping me out. I've had this idea for the longest time, but I just haven't been able to make it work by myself. You people rock!

June 3, 2019 4:40 p.m.

Cipher001 says... #14

Do you think focusing on noncreature shut-down would be a good idea in the mainboard? Stuff like Dovin's Veto or Negate , for example. I want creatures to hit the board, so I can milk them for value, but I don't want stuff I can't actually tap making an impact to the flow of the game. Even the decks with the small amount of creatures do still use them, even if they're in the form of a Celestial Colonnade or two, and if the opponent has no blockers, it's a free swing for me every turn, possibly with the 6/6 Gideon Jura .

June 3, 2019 4:46 p.m.

Cipher001 says... #15

I've put together a very rough draft if any of you want to take a stab at it: A Lullmage's Dream.

June 3, 2019 5:29 p.m.

shelob144 says... #16

I have been trying to work out the same idea for 3 years now. Here the list I’ve cone up with so far:


I hope this can help you out and wonder if maybe you’ll be the one to break the meta

June 4, 2019 8:17 p.m.

Cipher001 says... #17

shelob144 Let's work on this together! Maybe the community of T/O will be the one to break the code. We only have about a million tap cards by now. It's high time we find a place for them.

When thinking about the deck, I typically tend to worry about its weaknesses, but there are a few strengths the deck has. I think it's more important to worry about why a deck like this can work at all rather than bemoan its often-ephemeral board control.

Tapping creatures down has the following benefits: - Prevents the opponent from attacking - Prevents the opponent from blocking - The spells are often cheap, with four mana being the maximum amount needed to spend to tap out your opponent's entire field - Synergy with a few select cards, most notably Verity Circle

I believe that tap-down control has access to one of the greatest draw mechanics in modern with Verity Circle in play. With it, a Sleep becomes mass draw + turbofog. In this way, we can play a game of attrition, keeping the opponent in a constant state of Exhaustion , while we work our way to our wincon.

... Which is where the problem begins to appear. Well, technically, problems begin to appear even before that. If the opponent has no creatures to tap, what's the point of having Verity Circle , or a tap-down playstyle at all? It's not like you can play creatures for the opponent.

Except you can! Multiple ways, in fact.

Giving your opponent a creature might be bad for most archetypes, but our goal is to milk the hell out of 'em. With enough cheap draw and four copies of Verity Circle , the hope is that we'd be able to snag ourselves our draw engine. With a way to replenish our resources and keep those tap-down effects going, we don't need to worry about fighting the good fight empty-handed.

Now the problem becomes what to do with all this stall potential. Turbofog uses lots of cards like, well, Fog to stall to a mill victory, but we don't necessarily have to. Bant Turbofog can't attack because while the creatures have been temporarily rendered powerless, they can still block. We don't use fog to achieve our version of stall, we use tap effects, which render the opponent unable to block. To that end, we are capable of using creatues. Even small utility creatures like Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique can become a threat if they go unchallenged.

To that end, we make use of blue's penchant for counterspell-control. Since we don't want to deny the few creatures the opponent might have from hitting the board (for reasons explained above), we can focus solely on noncreature spells. We found ourselves a really good one in our colors in Dovin's Veto . Of course, Negate is also a thing. In that way, victory becomes about hitting the opponent with small utility creatures, while tapping creature threats down and preventing noncreature threats from happening.

June 4, 2019 10:22 p.m.

shelob144 says... #18


I think we should try to work on this a bit, however, I’m on vacation right now and won’t be home for awhile so it’s really hard to type all that much. I’ll be looking at cards and we can converse when I return

June 6, 2019 9:38 a.m.

Cipher001 says... #19

shelob144 Sounds great to me! Let me know when you're off vacation. We can figure this thing out together.

June 6, 2019 2:09 p.m.

DonaldFuck says... #20

I was thinking about a deck like that using verity circle as a draw engine, along with Time of Ice . Now I thought, why not adding Goblin Rabblemaster and the likes to attack while their creatures are tapped? We could also play a little prison style adding Chalice of the Void . We want our deck to be good generally, because most decks don't run creatures. Yes we can create for them but we need counterspells. Specifically tempo counterspells. So Remand and Condescend must be a playset to the deck. I also thought about Simian Spirit Guide to have turn one chalice but that is an other story. As for tappers expect time of ice I would run about 2 Sleep but no more. You can add 2 more in the SB. If everything goes wrong add 1 panic button in the form of Banefire

July 19, 2019 2:41 a.m.

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