Quick, aggressive decks may be the most popular style to play in the new Theros format, but control players need not worry too much. Azorius (U/W) provides control players several solutions to these fast-paced decks early in the game, thereby providing players the chance to get their decks moving. Most aggressive decks tend to fizzle after turn four or five, so living through those first few turns generally gives the control player a great advantage. We’re going to take a look at the cards that will help you stay alive long enough to compete against the most popular decks in the format.
While any Azorius control deck may have some variation, these cards should be included in virtually every build. Recommended numbers are given for each card, giving players the ability to customize to fit their own preferences. Excluding any of these cards could drastically change the synergy of the deck.
Aetherling (4BB, 4/5 Creature, Recommended: 1-2)
Aetherling is the biggest powerhouse blue has to offer in the current standard format. Late in the game, Aetherling provides players with a steady blocker, an attacker that can’t be blocked, and the ability to be pumped for as much as eight damage per swing. In addition to all of the other great abilities of Aetherling, he has the ability to dodge essentially any kind of removal as long as you pay close attention to your mana.
Azorius Charm (WB, Instant, Recommended: 4)
This card has the uncanny ability to completely ruin the momentum of an aggressive deck. Early in the game, you can prevent players from drawing additional cards by returning their attacking creatures to the top of their deck. Later in the game, use the other abilities of the card to either draw a card or give all of your creatures lifelink to regain some of the life you lost early on.
Supreme Verdict (1WWU, Sorcery, Recommended: 4)
Absolutely necessary, Supreme Verdict wipes the board and gives control decks a chance to flourish. Aggressive plays tend to overextend early in the game for a quick win, surviving to turn four and destroying all of their creatures will turn the tides significantly. Most control-style decks will run an entire play set of these.
Detention Sphere (1WU, Sorcery, Recommended: 3-4)
This card is excellent for removing multiple copies of cards, though that isn’t the only beneficial play for it. Detention Sphere deals with a lot of difficult to remove creatures, enchants, and artifacts, specifically the Gods in Theros. Removing troublesome enchantments such as Whip of Erebos also makes this card extremely valuable to control.
Sphinx’s Revelation (XWUU, Instant, Recommended: 3-4)
Sphinx’s Revelation has long been considered one of the most powerful WU cards in the standard format, and nothing has changed with the release of Theros. Sphinx’s Revelation gives you card advantage, life-gain, and can be cast at instant speed – three of the most important qualities of a good control card. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to cast this card for a 1-3 card draw, waiting too long can cause you more harm than good.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion (4WW, Planeswalker, Recommended: 1-2)
This Planeswalker is either regarded as ridiculously good or bad depending on who you’re talking to. For a control deck, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is an amazing finisher. This version of Elspeth does three very important things: protects itself, provides mass creature removal, and provides a permanent buff to all of your creatures. Elspeth can be played as a replacement for Aetherling in Azorius, though I prefer it in conjunction with Aetherling.
Jace, Architect of Though (2UU, Planeswalker, Recommended: 3-4)
Just about any version of Jace proves to be a good card, and Architect of Thought is no exemption. Jace lets you draw cards, protects himself, and if you’d ever happen to reach his ultimate ability, essentially wins the game. Card drawing is extremely important for a control deck, and Jace gives you the upper-hand when he’s in play.
While all cards in a deck are important, everyone knows that some are better than others. Secondary cards generally provide a basic service that is necessary for a specific type of deck, such as: countering spells, creature removal, or card drawing. Feel free to substitute other similar cards for these secondary spells in order to create a unique play style.
Omenspeaker (1B, 1/3 Creature, Recommended: 2-3)
This creature provides control players with an adequate pseudo-wall early in the game while also allowing them to scry. Scrying helps control players ensure their next card draws will put them in position to deal with aggressive decks early in the game. Omenspeaker has been touted as the new Augur of Bolas, but he’s considerably better in my opinion – Augur of Bolas had a bad habit of putting important cards on the bottom of the library early in the game.
Celestial Flare (WW, Instant, Recommended: 1-2)
In the event that an opponent swings with one big creature, Celestial Flare is your friend. The added benefit of forcing opponents to sacrifice that creature circumvents the issue of targeting hexproof and protection from color creatures, such as Gladecover Scout and Blood Baron of Vizkopa, respectively.
Dissolve (1UU, Instant, Recommended: 2-4)
This card counters anything and allows you to scry 1 in the process. This counter has taken the place of Dissipate now that it is no longer a standard-legal card.
Essence Scatter (1U, Instant, Recommended: 1-4)
The weakest match-up for any control deck is obviously a creature-heavy deck, and Essence Scatter helps you deal with those problems. Although it only counters creatures, being able to cast this spell early on can make a huge difference later in the game.
Syncopate (XU, Instant, Recommended: 2-4)
Syncopate can potentially cost less than Dissolve and counters any spell in the game. Syncopate works extremely well early in the game as well, as most of your opponents will be tapping out in order to play their creatures as early as possible.
Blind Obedience (1W, Enchantment, Recommended: 1-2)
Blind Obedience provides you with an alternate win condition, allowing you to extort your opponents every single time you cast a spell. The added benefit of forcing your opponents creatures and artifacts to enter the battlefield tapped also gives you an extra turn to deal with them.
I hope you’ve found some of this information helpful for building your Azorius deck. Azorius is positioned very well to win most match-ups if you build your deck properly, play wisely, and have a little luck on your side. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope to see you at Friday Night Magic!
Example Deck Build: Azorius Control (Theros Standard)