About the Deck
Azorius Control is a classic representative of the Control archetype and one of the top Pioneer decks today, being both loved and hated by many players. The truth is that it is powerful and will hardly lose its space in the format.
In recent weeks, I embarked on a trip to the competitive Pioneer on Magic Online, and the deck chosen to venture into Leagues was Kaheera Control, a version of Azorius that runs Kaheera, the Orphanguard as a companion. The list I've been using is as follows:
Here we start with a big difference in relation to the conventional Azorius Control lists. This build has Lay Down Arms as its main removal, which is a card that has synergy with Plains-type lands.
Kaheera needs two white mana to be cast, yet another reason it has so many plains. Despite having such a different manabase, not counting fast/slow lands or checklands, the deck manages to guarantee the necessary colors to cast its spells without many problems.
The list has a good variety of counterspells, and they play a key role in the deck's strategy.
Change the Equation is indispensable in the current meta, Saw It Coming and Absorb can counter just about anything in the format. Censor can be used either as an early turn Force Spike or as a late game draw.
The deck also features a variety of removal packages to clear the board.
Lay Down Arms is a wonderful addition to this list, being able to get rid of small creatures early game and even remove bigger threats late game.
March of Otherworldly Light manages to deal well with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Reckoner Bankbuster, essential cards in the strategy of Azorius' main rival, Rakdos Midrange, and still manages to get rid of a wide variety of creatures.
Hallowed Moonlight is a card that will act as a removal against decks with Creativity and Transmogrify.
Winconditions and Card Advantage
After countering stuff and getting rid of all threats, with the game controlled and the opponent out of resources, the deck needs to win somehow, in addition to finding ways to find a finisher before the opponent can get back into the game.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and The Wandering Emperor are an almost unbeatable duo, while one serves as an engine and can end the game with his ultimate, the other acts by populating the board with creatures.
Memory Deluge is the deck's main engine, fetching the parts you need at the most appropriate time. Shark Typhoon is also very versatile and can either give you that extra draw or put a 5/5 creature with flying into play.
With the board cleared, the deck can still use manlands to end the game in just a few turns.
Mulligan and Postures
Like every Control deck, our posture here is to play "backwards", responding to the opponent's threats and controlling the game until we stabilize and exhaust the opponent's resources, only then we start to play our winconditions.
Speaking of Mulligan, Azorius is a deck that plays 26-28 lands, depending on the build and has a heavier curve, having many spells costing 4 or more. With that in mind, an ideal hand should look like this:
Don't be afraid to mull. The deck manages to do so well, and in some matchups, it is essential to have the proper answers against them.
The sideboard on this list is very versatile and will help in virtually any situation, and this is where the list's great differential is.
Regal Caracal is a very interesting addition to the deck's strategy and the big reason we have Kaheera as a companion. Putting a lord with two more creatures from its tribe in play with just one card is extremely powerful. In many situations, you will trade Teferi or even some removals for the kitty plan.
Starnheim Unleashed is another alternative wincon, being very useful against Rakdos Midrange, as it can evade discards with foretell.
Change the Equation is one of the best cards that March of the Machine brought to the format and is extremely versatile. Summary Dismissal fits very well in games against Creativity, Rakdos and other Control.
Rest in Peace is the ideal graveyard hate for the deck and is indispensable in a format where we have Greasefang and Izzet Phoenix.
Vs. Rakdos Midrange
A very complex matchup. Our opponent can always have Thoughtseize on turn 1 and post-side will have even more disruptions. Their creatures are also quite effective and can do damage quickly. Keeping the threats under control and ensuring the breath in game 1 is essential.
Starnheim Unleashed is very powerful post-side, as it escapes discards with Foretell and angel tokens can block and attack well, while being hard to deal with when they come in multiples. Hallowed Moonlight is another interesting card, as it can "counter" Fable of the Mirror-Breaker's token and draw a card.
Regal Caracal is also strong. Even if the opponent kills it, the cat leaves behind two tokens that grow with Kaheera in play.
Vs. Abzan Greasefang
Our opponent needs to have Greasefag on turn 3 and needs to have a full graveyard. Killing Greasefang, Okiba Boss and countering the spells that feed the graveyard is essential. Board wipes will also play a big role in this match up.
There are a few different versions of Greasefang in the format, but the most popular is Abzan, which features a discard package and other threats that can beat the game even without Greasefang.
This is one of those decks where either you have the answer and win, or you don't and you end up losing. In this case, Azorius is good enough. Despite the opponent having very explosive starts with Greasefang + Parhelion on turn 3, it is still possible to turn the tide.
Remember that long games are all a Control needs. Rest in Peace is key on the post-side.
Vs. Nykthos Ramp
This is another tough match and I consider it a big bad match. The opponent can have very explosive turns and Karn can end the game alone.
Field of Ruin can help by destroying Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, but it's important to keep the opponent's devotion as close to zero as possible and counter Storm the Festival. Under no circumstances should you allow Karn to join the board.
Opening a hand with as many counterspells as possible is very advantageous in this game. If you can control the start of Mono-Green and ensure that the opponent runs out of resources, then the road to victory is clear.
Vs. Gruul Midrange
Here we have an example of a good match. Gruul can be quite explosive as well, but is very susceptible to removals and sweepers.
Don't leave the elves alive and don't save removals, with the minimum space to develop their game, Gruul can cause great damage.
Post-side the opponent will have a few more resources, but stick to the original plan, keep the board clean and finish the game with planeswalkers or Shark Typhoon.
Vs. Azorius Control
As always, it's important to know what to do in mirror matches, as they provide the most complex games. The game will boil down to a cold war, where removals are practically dead cards and the quality of draws will define the winner.
It is important to note that this version with Kaheera can be more vulnerable in the mirror, depending on the opponent's build. Classic versions of Azorius have more countespells in the main deck or run Yorion, Sky Nomad, and sometimes also have the Narset, Parter of Veils + Day's Undoing combo. The important thing is to think that their game plan is the same as yours, and the answers are almost always similar.
Play it cool, save your answers. In this matchup, managing to resolve an Emperor on the pass with a backup counterspell can be decisive, and rushing in and making a mistake can be fatal.
Shark Typhoon is a powerful card on the mirror and evades counterspells. Teferi is difficult to bring into play, but if successfully resolved, he can also turn the tide. Hall of Storm Giants is another possible wincondition
Azorius Control is one of the best in the format, there's no doubt about that, and this new approach with Kaheera and Caracal can surprise many matches.
Despite the deck looking monotonous and anti-game, I assure you that piloting the Azorius is a lot of fun (but maybe not fun for the opponent at all). This strategy guaranteed me a good start grinding on Pioneer, the format I've been playing the most these days and in which I'm looking to specialize.
If you are looking for a really competitive deck, if you like a lot of interaction and powerful spells, Azorius Control is the right choice for you!
Well, here's the end of another article! Leave your questions and suggestions in the comments. I will try to answer everyone.