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Azorius Control in Modern: The Path of Least Resistance


Hey everyone!

I'm back this week with a change of heart. Humans is still great, but I think its position in the metagame has weakened since Bridge from Below was banned. Jund is currently popular and is an abysmal matchup thanks to Wrenn and Six. If my 1-drop dies to Wren's -1 ability it feels like the game will end, and it's not as if it gets any better from there.

All is not lost because the Modern metagame moves quickly. Jund is simply the flavor of the week because it's the most obvious shell for Wrenn and Six. The metagame will adapt by players choosing to move away from creature decks in the short term, as I am. Wrenn and Six currently has the potential to be so powerful that it's poorly positioned. A similar situation happened with Izzet Phoenix when it emerged as a Modern powerhouse.

Tron might not be popular at the moment, but gained plenty with the London Mulligan. Now that Jund is popular it has a great midrange deck to prey upon. It's a close matchup between Tron and Humans. Once things have the chance to shake out there will be some fast combo decks for Humans to crush. That's when I'll beg Noble Hierarch for forgiveness.

Izzet Phoenix is also a close matchup with practice, but I would prefer to not face it. The matchup revolves around Thing in the Ice which is drawn more frequently thanks to the London Mulligan. The same can be said about Dredge; it gains more than Humans thanks to finding Faithless Looting more often.

Before Bridge from Below was banned Humans had many favorable matchups as the hive mind was focused on graveyard hate. I was happy to play a proactive deck that ignored the graveyard. The only way to race Hogaak was to kill them in the early game; this is where Humans shines. Now that Jund and Phoenix are popular the format has slowed,which doesn't bode well for Humans.

However, if I were to play Humans, this is the list I would pilot:

The maindeck hasn't changed since making the Top 8 at SCG: Pittsburgh. I lightened up on the graveyard hate because the Hogaak and Dredge decks haven't yet dominated post ban. Ravenous Trap is well positioned against Dredge where it was bad against Hogaak compared to Leyline of the Void.

Reducing the graveyard hate by two allowed me to play a third Collector Ouphe and a second Dismember. I want another way to kill Plague Engineer against Black midrange decks and it is a flexible sideboard card.

Blue-White Control

Honestly, I would rather play a deck with fewer very bad matchups and ignores the popular cards. It's not realistic to find a deck that crushes many of the top decks while being able to compete with the randomness that is Modern, so I would be happy to be even against the field, but have a good matchup against Izzet Phoenix.

Control decks take some time to get right in a new format and Azorius Control is no different. Here are the decks I have in mind when putting together my list:

  • Jund
  • Izzet Phoenix
  • Tron
  • Grixis Urza
  • Burn
  • Azorius Control
  • Humans
  • Dredge

There are a fair number of decks in the list because Hogaak being dethroned has opened up the possibilities from Modern Horizons.

Here's my current list:

Force of Negation
While my list isn't materially different from traditional builds it seeks to maximise the powerful draws. The old Azorius Control decks weren't able to jam a planeswalker without fearing the game will be over on the next turn. Many decks play two Force of Negation, but I cut the flex counters in order to play three. This was typically a Spell Snare or Spell Pierce.

Control decks can be tailored to specific play styles. I do best with control decks with a proactive element. That means adding the ninth planeswalker; a second Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. This plays well in the current metagame where you can reasonably expect to face grindy decks. uw mirrors as well as Jund matchups are about protecting your card advantage engine. I want more walkers as I will expect many of them to die.

Force of Negation got an edge with the London Mulligan. Many decks in Modern have a powerful non-creature spell that costs one mana: Amulet of Vigor, Aether Vial, Faithless Looting, Ancient Stirrings, and Hardened Scales come to mind. When these types of decks are punished less for taking mulligans their opening hand is more likely to revolve around that spell resolving. A seven card hand would have the ability to pivot to a plan B. A five card hand needs the early spells to pull more weight.

Since Force of Negation exiles the spell it counters, the Game 1 matchup against Dredge has improved. This means I don't have to maindeck Surgical Extraction. If they keep a hand with a single enabler they might not be able to recover from a Force. uw is already great against Phoenix which is the other good matchup for maindeck Surgical Extraction. Force allows me to play Surgical in the board making room for more Blue cards in the main. My maindeck spells become less contextual which is critical when making mulligan decisions Game 1.

The Tron matchup should suffer slightly because I'm unable to Field of Ruin a tron land and then Surgical Extract them, but Karn, the Great Creator has increased the number of cheap threats. While I would still like to extract their mana it's less impactful than before. Force of Negation is better than Surgical in the matchup.

Cryptic Command
While I stopped playing the singleton counters such as Dovin's Veto, Spell Snare, or Spell Pierce I still prefer Logic Knot. It's a great spell to hold up once you land a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. I'm very good at countering non-creature spells, but I need to respect Primeval Titan. Spell Snare and Spell Pierce are better in decks that play at instant-speed. I don't plan on holding up counters on turn three so I need them to be generic.

Cryptic Command is the other counter that can interact with Primeval Titan. It'smore powerful now that you can return Narset to your hand at the end of turn and draw a card.

Since I have three Forces in the maindeck I would prefer as many Blue cards as possible. This is the same deck-building restriction I have in my Legacy Stoneblade decks. Luckily there are great removal spells in Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere that go up in value.

Detention Sphere is fantastic against Izzet Phoenix and has applications against uninteractive decks, too. It can be bounced with Teferi, Time Raveler before you're about to sweep the board. If the opponent casts another copy of the spell exiled by the Sphere you can bounce it and recast to remove them all.

Remember that Detention Sphere is templated in the old style. If you bounce the Sphere with the exile trigger on the stack the permanent will not ever return to the battlefield.

Sphere was previously weak against Tron because tapping out to exile a threat left you exposed to a Karn or Ugin. Force of Negation plays a key role in protecting your enchantment removal while tapping low.

I play a total of thirty Blue cards. While this may seem like overkill I don't want to run into the situation where I Force an early spell and have to exile a planeswalker that is expected to recoup my lost card advantage. It's good to have options.

Remember to bluff a Force of Negation when it's not in your hand. Free spells gives you some opportunities to Hollywood. I would prefer to already have some cards I'm willing to counter in my head before passing the turn so I make it seem like I don't have the ability to Force. Have fun with it.

Opt gets the nod because it makes Snapcaster Mage more likely to be cast at instant-speed. Scrying with Serum Visions is less impactful when you want to draw plenty of lands for Celestial Colonnade. It's not always clear on your turn which spells you would want to keep with a scry. I cast Serum Visions early primarily when I have too many or not enough lands. It's also an early spell to cast to enable a second turn Logic Knot.

I could simply play twenty five lands and cut the Serum Visions, but it makes the fourth Snapcaster Mage more versatile. It's also an easy pitch to Force of Negation.

Despite being afraid to play Humans until the Jund menace has settled down I still am respecting the matchup by splitting my sweepers: two Supreme Verdict and one Wrath of God. I see many uw decks with just two sweepers and I think that's a mistake. It's important to keep the battlefield clear in order to get full value out of your planeswalkers. It plays out similarly to the Esper Walkers deck in the last Standard format.

I'm going to still draw my first card each turn as though I have the opportunity to miracle a Terminus. It's a low-effort way to hide information about your list.

Vendilion Clique isn't in the maindeck because I have enough 3-drops and I don't want to play a creature that dies to removal without replacing itself. It's true that Narset can prevent them from drawing a card when you put something on the bottom, but that's a niche scenario. I'm more afraid of Narset revealing Vendilion Clique, two lands, and a useless spell for the matchup. I need as many slots as possible to be non-creatures.

Teferi, Time Raveler allows your Celestial Colonnades to evade Fatal Push and Path to Exile without playing creatures that are weak in Game 1. I continue to be impressed by Teferi's little bro.

To give you an idea, here are some more cool interactions with Teferi:

Teferi, Time Raveler

Basically he's great...

Narset is also great in this deck. If you tap out for her on turn three it's reasonable to take the weakest Blue card in the matchup instead of the strongest. I would do this if there's already a Force of Negation in hand I plan to cast. My deck will contain more powerful cards which is very relevant as I see so many cards per game and shuffle with fetches and Field of Ruin.

The mana base is pretty stock. I play snow-covered lands because it could potentially throw off my opponent in the early turns. On Thin Ice is a card I could play. Many players know by now that it's just a ruse, but the only downsides are that you don't get to play sweet basics and possibly make a deck registration error. I think the rewards outweigh the costs in tournament play.

I prefer the fifth Blue fetch to Prismatic Vista because Field of Ruin encourages me to save basics in my deck. I would rather fetch Hallowed Fountain than Snow-Covered Plains. The only matchup I would want the Prismatic Vista is Burn as fetching a painless White source is valuable.

The second Glacial Fortress gets the nod over the fourth Celestial Colonnade or the first Irrigated Farmland. Since I only play twenty-four lands I don't want too many of them entering the battlefield tapped. Planeswalkers will help me make up for that lost card advantage.

Field of Ruin
Four Field of Ruin is a sacred cow at this point. Remember both players must search their library; it can't be declined like Path to Exile. The current rules state you must remind your opponent to find a land with Path. Even if you're losing a game it's reasonable to fire off a path or field to learn more about their basic land situation for the next game.

I don't care for Timely Reinforcements in the maindeck because it only shines against Burn. The issue is I don't know I'm facing Burn when I decide to keep my opening hand. In that case we need to default to putting all of the pressure on Narset to find it in a matchup where you have little time to stabilize. You have a better chance of winning with Jace fate sealing them each turn. I would rather maindeck a second Supreme Verdict or a first Oust.

Timely Reinforcements works better in the sideboard. I'll likely lose Game 1 to Burn so the second copy will let me win both post board games. It's a good substitute for Baneslayer Angel. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is decent against Burn so I would be swapping decent 5-drops. Not a good use of sideboard space.

Restoration Angel is also good against creature decks after sideboard and costs one less mana. She comes in against most decks after board since I'll need some general cards to bring in against any matchup. I'll likely cut Force of Negation or Supreme Verdict as they accomplish the opposite goals.

Spell Queller is like Vendilion Clique except it's better against creatures. I prefer a split as they are both Blue and would like to not draw two copies of either. Monastery Mentor doesn't look impressive to me as I have enough 3-drops to play at sorcery-speed.

Azorius Control is currently a great choice for Modern. Force of Negation gives the deck staying power against most of the field and is generally more proactive; that's a great place to be.

That's all I have for today. Give the deck a spin and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Thanks for reading!