facebook
Magic: The Gathering Outlaws of Thunder Junction available today!

CoolStuffInc.com

MTG Outlaws of Thunder Junction available now!
Magic: The Gathering Outlaws of Thunder Junction available today!
   Sign In
Create Account

A Complete Guide to Azorius Control in Standard

Reddit

After weeks and weeks of theorizing, practicing, and finally acquiring all the cards, I can happily say that I've put up a worthwhile result with my take on Azorius Control! Recently at Dreamhack Denver I made the elimination rounds of the Sunday Standard 5k. While I didn't clutch the RC invite, I put up a solid 5-0-2 record to put me in the top 16 cutoff for the event.


How did we get to Azorius Control in Standard? Control decks have long since been a thing of the past, but I've always been a huge fan of the archetype. I've always enjoyed decks that played from behind, waiting for a precise moment to turn the corner. However, in recent years it's been hard to build decks like this, since card design has favored threats more than answers. Cards like Wedding Announcement // Wedding Festivity and Atraxa, Grand Unifier are examples of this - threats that present bodies and also draw cards. It can sometimes be hard for decks that rely on counterspells and wrath effects to keep up.

I first built Azorius to mirror that of its Pioneer counterpart. I included counterspells like Make Disappear and Dissipate, wraths in Sunfall and Farewell, card draw in the form of Memory Deluge, and endgame threats in The Wandering Emperor. While I liked my chances against aggro decks I kept finding myself losing longer games to decks that could draw lots of cards, like Esper and Domain. I turned to Jace, the Perfected Mind as a way to instantly win the game, as prolonging a game to the point your opponent only has 30 cards in deck means drawing both Jaces is an instant win - no attacking required!

From there I kept iterating on the deck, making adjustments here and there. I won a Standard store champs back in December, made a top 8 of RCQ, but I kept feeling like the deck was missing something. Enter: Murders at Karlov Manor.

Murders at Karlov Manor completely turned Azorius on its head, as it gave the deck a number of upgrades and new cards to push the deck from an idea to a well-performing tournament deck. No More Lies outperformed for me and was incredibly better than Make Disappear. The extra mana was relevant in a number of games, especially against Slowgurk where at the 5k I used No More Lies to get my opponent to tap out in instances where they could have had 1 mana open to channel a land.

Ezrim is a new Dream Trawler-esque threat that replaced my copies of Boon-Bringer Valkyrie. Deduce replaced my Impulse and Quick Study and was very flexible - it also provided a later sac-outlet for Ezrim. Intrude on the Mind was passable and could be replaced for another Ezrim, but the real star of the show was Meticulous Archive. Archive helped me keep sketchier hands and find my land drops, or pave the way for me to dig to my spells when I didn't need lands on top of my decks. Did I mention you can fetch it if your opponent Boseijus you?

After my tournament in Denver I'm very confident in my list, as most of my matches felt under my "control." Joking aside, I felt powerful turning the corner against decks like Golgari and Rakdos Midrange, and being able to get Domain to the point I could mill them for 30 cards. While I wouldn't change any cards in my list, let's go over what makes the deck unique compared to other versions of control and what you need to know about piloting this deck at your next RCQ!

Removal

The removal suite has a lot of applications. Get Lost is your universal removal spell that is a catch-all. It can destroy anything from a Leyline Binding to a Raffine. While giving maps is definitely some value for your opponent, it's a necessary evil. March is flexible and a way to interact early against aggro, but it's also very relevant against Rakdos and Golgari to hit their creature lands. Elspeth's Smite was a later addition to the deck, and it's mainly for aggro and Toxic, as it cleanly kills a Crawling Chorus.

For the wrath effects we start with two copies of Temporary Lockdown. While Lockdown is better in some matchups than others, it's necessary so you don't get trampled by decks like Mono-Red, Toxic, and other aggro-variants. Against Domain it's a respectable way to counter a Herd Migration. Sunfall and Farewell are your catch-alls, Sunfall sometimes leaving behind a way to end the game in its stead. The Eternal Wanderer falls under the "threat" category, but her -4 is another way to reset crowded boards, especially if you want to control your Toxic opponent's board before they can Rotpriest plus March of Swirling Mist you.

Card Draw

Deduce is the new hotness that allows you to bridge the gap. In previous testing against decks like Rakdos and Domain I noticed one outlier in my game - the games I won I always cast a Memory Deluge. Deluge is such an important part of your plan to get to the long game - and subsequently turn the corner. Deduce is a cheap way to bridge that gap to Deluge, especially in turns where you can double spell with a Get Lost or No More Lies. This wasn't possible before as Impulse only gives you one card and Quick Study requires you to use all three of your mana in one go, as opposed to spacing it out to two and two to draw your two cards. The Celestus will always be a keepsake of this deck, as it gives you reach to churn through your deck and get to flashback Deluge mana.

Countermagic

In previous builds of this deck I was playing multiple copies of Dissipate, sometimes Negate maindeck. I realized after the printing of Cavern of Souls into Standard that countermagic honestly just kind of sucks when you can't deal with your opponent's threats. No More Lies is for sure a four-of, as it's an early game catch-all that can also snag Invasion of Zendikar // Awakened Skyclaves and Wedding Announcement // Wedding Festivitys. I ended up cutting the rest of the countermagic, save for one Confounding Riddle, which at least has the alternate text of finding you a wrath or Deluge, depending on what key card you need in a specific situation. While we do have Field of Ruin to counter a Cavern of Souls, it's unnecessary to have any more countermagic than four or five spells. I'd even consider cutting Confounding Riddle for a 27th land, like a Mirrex, or just the third copy of Deduce.

Planeswalkers

As mentioned earlier Jace is your "Splinter Twin" two-card combo. If you can push a game to the point your opponent has sub-30 cards in library, Jace is your ticket to victory. However, Jace is weak in a number of matchups where you aren't trying to mill them out, so he gets the sideboard boot a lot of the time. Jace always felt like insurance against Domain, and random control decks, that at least has some application in aggro or midrange matchups, even if he gets boarded out most of the time in those said matchups. The Wandering Emperor needs no explanation. This card has been around enough for you to know how powerful it is, and how she can turn a combat step in your favor. The Eternal Wanderer, while less flexible, is a hammer that can completely warp and turn the tide in a game. She can reset Urabrask's Forges, wrath any board, start putting fast pressure into play, all while slightly protecting herself with her static ability. More often than not you'll use her +1 ability to force your opponent to play into the board before whisking their threats away with one of your wrath spells or her -4 ability.

Endgame Threats

Remember the days where Azorius Control simply won with one or two threats in your deck? Well now you have a gazillion. Besides winning the game with Jace combo, any of your planeswalkers, or your opponent simply quitting out of frustration, the deck has lots of cards that accrue value while also acting as threats. Ezrim, Agency Chief, as I mentioned before, is akin to Dream Trawler in that it's an endgame threat that also draws cards (and can protect itself). Horned Loch-Whale is another 2-drop semi-removal spell that also can be a sweet way to end the game, as it can just chill in exile after turn two until turn ten or so when you actually need to start applying pressure.

Restless Anchorage doesn't always win games, but it's some extra value in your lands that can either trade for a two-toughness creature, or take some lands off the top of your deck with map tokens. It also has the hidden text of just winning the game at some point written on it. Lastly, Chrome Host Seedshark is the silver bullet creature that actively overperforms the games I cast it. While I don't think you can make room for more than two copies (you don't want to let your opponent have live cards in a matchup where otherwise they'd be dead, Go for the Throat, Witchstalker Frenzy, etc). However, the games you can "go off" with Shark are the ones you win - it's certainly a powerhouse against decks like Domain.

Shark also provides artifacts for Ezrim, creatures that lay dormant until after you cast a Sunfall, and a target for you to +1 your The Wandering Emperor on. I can't tell you how many games I've won by casting a Shark, having it sit in play for a couple of turns, and eventually killing my opponent with a handful of flipped Phyrexian tokens.

Mana Base

There's not a ton to be said about the mana base. I included Field of Ruin initially to deal with Cavern of Souls, but with counterspells still being pretty weak at the moment Field more often than not snags a creature land like Restless Cottage, or mills your opponent one more card as you approach Jace-ing them for 30. Archive is busted, as mentioned above, and while I do like Restless Anchorage, I'm wary of including too many taplands in my deck, especially because this deck can do things with its mana every turn of the game.

Sideboard Configuration

Before getting into a sideboard guide it's important to understand what cards you want access to and why. Elspeth's Smite is for Toxic (while also being good vs other aggro decks) due to the fact that it cleanly deals with Crawling Chorus. Destroy Evil usually comes in against any Sheoldred or Domain deck. Disdainful Stroke, Negate, and Jace are primarily for Domain. Temporary Lockdown again is for Toxic or aggressive strategies, especially Convoke. Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition and Knockout Blow are primarily for Red, but I actually board in Dennick as a buffer against Toxic's early plays - he buys you time to set up your wraths.

Chrome Host Seedshark is another midrange threat against Black Midrange strategies and Domain. Tishana's Tidebinder is kind of a flex spot, but you can realistically bring it in most matchups. I like that Tishana's Tidebinder can also protect YOU from getting Jace'd out, as one of the games I lost in the 5k was in a close mirror-match where I got Jace'd for 45 cards in Game 2.

Overall, I'd approach the metagame like this: Domain is easy, you outgrind them and Jace them. Golgari and Rakdos are also easy, but Esper is harder due to No More Lies, Make Disappear, and flash threats. Convoke and Mono-Red are decent, but you can die out of nowhere to Warleader's Call or random burn spells.

Toxic is the most polarizing matchup. You can just crush them with Temporary Lockdown some games, and others get completely demolished by Venerated Rotpriest. Rotpriest is a must kill threat, as they can pull off nasty combos with March of Swirling Mist. Sequencing is incredibly important here.

Sideboard Guide

Before getting into exact card numbers I do want to note that you shouldn't take this guide word for word. A lot of times I use feeling to pick which exact cards I board in and out, it's never Black and White. However, I do have general practices when approaching certain matchups, so here's my basic guide on how you should be sideboarding with this deck.

VS Domain:

+1 Destroy Evil, +1 Disdainful Stroke, +1 Negate, +1 Jace, the Perfected Mind, +1 Tishana's Tidebinder , +1 Chrome Host Seedshark

-2 The Wandering Emperor, -1 Elspeth's Smite, -2 March of Otherworldly Light, -1 Temporary Lockdown

VS Toxic:

+2 Elspeth's Smite, +1 Temporary Lockdown, +1 Chrome Host Seedshark, +1 Tishana's Tidebinder, +2 Dennick, Pious Apprentice, +1 Negate

-2 Memory Deluge, -2 Jace, the Perfected Mind, -1 Sunfall, -1 Confounding Riddle, -1 Deduce, -1 No More Lies

VS Mono Red:

+2 Elspeth's Smite, +1 Negate, +2 Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition, +4 Knockout Blow, +1 Chrome Host Seedshark, +1 Tishana's Tidebinder

-2 Memory Deluge, -2 Jace, the Perfected Mind, -1 Confounding Riddle, -2 Sunfall, -2 Get Lost, -2 No More Lies

VS Convoke:

+1 Destroy Evil, +4 Knockout Blow, +2 Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition, +1 Temporary Lockdown, +1 Tishana's Tidebinder

-2 Jace, the Perfected Mind, -4 No More Lies, -1 Memory Deluge, -1 Confounding Riddle, -1 Deduce

VS Golgari/Rakdos/Esper:

+1 Destroy Evil, +1 Disdainful Stroke, +1 Tishana's Tidebinder, +1 Chrome Host Seedshark

-2 Jace, the Perfected Mind, -2 Temporary Lockdown

Note: Depending on the version of these decks I could see not bringing in the creatures and not cutting Lockdowns. Some versions of Rakdos have Inti which Lockdown is better against. Elspeth's Smite is also a consideration against Golgari specifically for Mosswood Dreadknight and Deep-Cavern Bat.

I'd also board the same against Esper, with the caveat of boarding in Negate instead of Disdainful Stroke.

The metagame is always changing, so be wary of what your local meta might be adapting to. For example, there's a Dimir Reanimator strategy on the rise that uses Reenact the Crime to bring back Atraxa, Grand Unifier as early as turn four. I'd consider cutting two Knockout Blows for Kutzil's Flanker. I haven't played a ton with Flanker personally, but as it sees play in Pioneer Azorius Control and is a flexible card that can interact with the graveyard while also being fine against various aggro decks, I think it's a reasonable swap for two Knockout Blows.

So, there you have it, a thorough guide to Azorius Control from the best performing list at a paper event in North America (so far). If you're considering playing this deck at Magic Con Chicago make sure you know the ins and outs, especially keeping in mind how you sequence your cards, manage your removal spells, and plan your endgame.

Azorius Control isn't the hardest deck to play, but it's important not only to know your deck inside and out, but what threats you're up against. It's not only vital to know your enemy, in the form of opposing decks, but also what forces could turn your tournament to ruin. Never turn your back on the clock and make sure you're always budgeting at least 15 minutes per game. When I played Azorius Control in Atlanta to a 10-4 finish, I was complimented by a few opponents on my pace of play, as I never drew a match. I did go to time at three different matches in the event, but I won all of them in turns due to my diligent planning. At Denver I unintentionally drew against Five-Color Slowgurk, but that was on me as I should've conceded Game 2 when I was heavily disadvantaged, and thus didn't have enough time to win a Game 3 where I felt pretty far ahead. Unintentional draws happen, but on average they shouldn't.

I hope this article was helpful for you Azorius mages out there, or those of you who are interested in dipping your toes in a not so popular Standard strategy.

Best of luck out there!

-Roman Fusco


Register for CommandFest Orlando today!

Sell your cards and minis 25% credit bonus