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The Eight Things You Probably Didn?t Realize About Roman?s Azorius Control


In case you missed it last week, my beloved apprentice and sometimes podcast partner Roman Fusco once again qualified for the Regional Championships! This time with uw control.

Roman previously tricked me into playing his Store Championships version; and with an RCQ of my own coming up this weekend... Let me just say "Promo Code Flores".

In a single set there have somehow been quite a meaningful number of specific card changes; but probably more than that, attitude changes and large scale shift in strategy. The Store Championships version was much more Counterspell-heavy, with Dissipate closing the door on any game that went long enough. That deck was the first of the great Get Lost builds in Standard, so it was pretty good at keeping creatures at bay. The kind that beat you by just attacking and blocking, anyway.

This new version is a very different animal. Most notably Roman slayed his own Sacred Cow of Jace, the Perfected Mind; relegating that powerful Planeswalker to the sideboard. Previously Jace was there to put the icing on the odd Domain cake and out-last other control decks in the very long game... But the RCQ-winning version trades those in for a single The Eternal Wanderer as yet another kill card.

I was initially pretty surprised by just how many kill cards the deck plays... Two copies of new Detective Ezrim, Agency Chief to go along with solo copies of Chrome Host Seedshark and Horned Loch-Whale. Roman jokingly calls Ezrim "the new Dream Trawler" (which raises an eyebrow)... But the Seedshark and the Loch-Whale both help rule the oceans with almost built-in card advantage.

I thought the deck had maybe too many kill cards, but that's not true. In testing so far I've actually been decked more than any other way of losing a game. I've been decked more than I've been burned out by Mono-Red, which should tell you something about this deck.

The first, biggest, thing that you probably don't realize yet is that this is an early game deck. Despite being Blue-White, it is not actually a great late game deck. This comes from cutting Dissipate entirely. All of Roman's choices - up to and including the splashed Lush Portico - are about helping the deck come out quickly and early; almost to the exclusion of everything else. He only plays two Seachrome Coasts because he wants to be fast early and less-not-fast late. I hope you like racing, because this deck was quietly built for it.

Following are The Top 8 Things You Probably Didn't Realize About Roman's Deck... And the first five are mostly about Ezrim.

1. Deduce Lets You Stockpile Card Advantage for Later - Deduce is an awesome card if you haven't tried it yet. It mostly takes up the Impulse role in this deck (or at least Impulse's point in the curve). It is in fact not a very good Impulse. However it is a passable Impulse that is also a passable Memory Deluge. I actually think Roman is shy with only two copies of this card... I found it to be outstanding in a unique way. There are tons of cards that let you draw two for four mana... Inspiration, Glimmer of Genius, Behold the Multiverse, Memory Deluge itself (and more!) That you can pay for the two cards two mana at a time instead of a one-time commitment of four mana was kind of obviously good... But that you can leave a future extra card on the battlefield - rather than clogging up your hand - is outstanding. One of the problems for these kinds of decks is that they often have to manage down to seven cards in hand. A little Clue off to the side goes a long way in out-carding an opposing control deck. Plus, this build in particular can make great use of any kinds of artifact tokens.

2. Ezrim is a hungry, hungry Detective - How might you make use of these artifacts, you ask? Protecting Ezrim, Agency Chief, of course! Ezrim comes out a turn faster than Dream Trawler, but he is limited in multiple ways past that. One of them is that you need to have mana open to gobble up artifacts; and the other is that you need to have artifacts to begin with. Luckily Roman's deck has an overabundance of ways to fuel the Agency Chief. Deduce is one of them... But what about Restless Anchorage? Every uw player for the past few months has passed with multiple Map tokens in play. Why? Because we never know how many Maps to eat with our sometimes-Bird. Or we just forget to eat them. Well, Ezrim gives uw players a legitimate reason to leave Maps on the table! Notably, Roman's is a low Temporary Lockdown deck, meaning if you play it, your various Maps and Clues and whatnot are more likely to stick around. By contrast Matt Costa's RC qualifying version with four Temporary Lockdowns... Matt said he'd cut the Ezrim "for literally anything"

3. The Eternal Wanderer Makes This a Combo Deck - One of the most fun games I've played so far in testing was one where my opponent got off a Breach the Multiverse and took my Ezrim, Agency Chief. I was winning on the battlefield, and despite playing something like four big bombs in the turn, my opponent was unable to remove The Eternal Wanderer. I threw a Get Lost at Ezrim at the end of turn, which predictably drew one of the Clues in play. But my opponent was now tapped out (and clearly didn't see the combo). The Eternal Wanderer can [+1] on Ezrim, any Ezrim. If you've got one on your own side, this can be pretty good if you want to set up a Depopulate, Farewell, or Sunfall. Or if your opponent has stolen your Agency Chief you can [+1] on that one... And get him back at the end of the turn. Notably no matter whose Ezrim it was previously... You're going to start stockpiling tons and tons of Clues.

4. Play The Celestus First! - Remember a few moments ago when I said I'd been decked more than any other way of losing? One of these instances was purely my fault. It was a late-late game and I threw out an Ezrim on an empty battlefield. "I'll just protect him from Go for the Throat with the Clues" I thought; I foolishly thought. The double Investigate goes on the stack, meaning my opponent was able to kill Ezrim before the protective Clues appeared. Had I just played The Celestus first, I would have had a spare artifact to protect the card I really cared about / needed to ultimately win. I did not win that game.

5. Protect Your Chrome Host Seedshark - Picture this: The uw mirror! You've gone first and the opponent has just stumbled a little. They're not down and out, but they are running the risk of missing a land drop. They tank a second and play a two-mana card draw spell, to ensure they hit their next land. It comes into play tapped. Yes! Now's your chance. They don't have mana to react anyway, but you're going to rip a fifth land, meaning you can cover with No More Lies. Seedshark is in! Chrome Host Seedshark, resolved, in the control mirror is one of Standard's built-in breakers. You've now just executed on this plan. What do you do next? How about anything but attacking with it? "But MichaelJ!" You might think. "Didn't you just say you had No More Lies?" No More Lies does not protect an attacking Seedshark from Eiganjo, Seat of Empire. What a silly lost creature that was. I ended up losing the game like twenty turns later to a main-deck Jace, the Perfected Mind when I had exactly fifteen cards left and the opponent was otherwise dead on board. Think an Artifact Creature factory might have helped put that one away earlier? One of the other reasons to make sure your Seedshark lives is that the artifacts it produces and flips make good friends with Ezrim.

6. You Kind of Have to Win Early - This is a very poor long game deck. Here's the thing: No More Lies has fundamentally changed Standard. You can't just run your Memory Deluge out there on turn four any more. It gives uw decks a serious upgrade over Make Disappear, early. The problem is that the card has almost no text if the game gets late enough; but its functionality is taking the place of Dissipate. Especially combined with Field of Ruin? Dissipate could stop anything. In the late game, No More Lies stops almost nothing. This is why you have to win quickly. You can have a hand with multiple Counterspells but still be unable to stop anything from killing you. Repeat after me: "I pay three." I've lost from a theoretically commanding position with a No More Lies in my hand to everything from a third Breach the Multiverse to an enemy Jace with exactly fifteen cards in my deck. I was once a victim of a Deadly Cover Up with no creatures in play (or rather The Wandering Emperor in my hand and the two in my deck were). Did I mention I've lost to decking more than any other way?

7. Lush Portico is a Little Fancy - I haven't actually appreciated the surveil lands to any kind of degree like Roman did. I mean they're fine, and if you're shifting to a more early game uwdeck, they're appropriate. But I think I'd rather just play more Restless Anchorages than the Lush Portico. They're best friends with Ezrim, remember.

8. The Sideboard Needs Work - First, I'm way less into Knockout Blow than I am (in general) to Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition. Both cards are good against Red Decks, but Dennick is also a good defender against, say, White Weenie. You don't have to have the imagination of Stephen King to realize what kind of a combo Dennick + The Wandering Emperor is. But the card I really can't cotton to is Guardian of New Benalia. Why in the world would we play that over any Dennick? This is a Temporary Lockdown deck. Especially after sideboarding? Against beatdown? Your Lockdowns are in; so, you're creating a non-bo with Guardian of New Benalia. This is far different if you've got Dennick. If you've got Dennick and he's in play when you have mana and opportunity for Lockdown... Your opponent is probably getting worked over with lifelink! But the usual play pattern is that they kill Dennick; meaning he's not there to be exiled with Temporary Lockdown. You can back-side the flyer after the first initial sweep. And uw Legend to uw Legend? You probably don't need me to tell you who likes a few extra Clues. Spoilers! It's Ezrim.

I plan to pilot something along Roman's lines this weekend in my next RCQ attempt; and I recommend you do too!



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