3 Innistrad: Crimson Vow Control Decks to Contend With Izzet
Hello everyone! Spoiler season is in full swing and I’m excited to keep pumping out new decks that both of us can try once Thursday comes! Right now, the range of playable decks in Standard is a bit small, really just limited to a few shades of aggro and a few shades of Izzet. However, Crimson Vow looks like it may have enough juice to push newer decks into the limelight as well.
With that, today I wanted to go over 3 Control decks that may have the power to contend with Izzet for the shot at the format’s premiere control strategy! Of course building a control deck week 1 is difficult without knowing what threats you need to answer, but as long as we have a solid base to build with, this should still be extremely helpful. Furthermore, all these control decks DO NOT play Alrund's Epiphany as I believe there are other ways you can build Control beyond comboing off with turns! Let’s get into it.
First up on the list is a classic take on Azorius Control. There were a few iterations of Azorius floating around in current Standard, but all of them were centered around Alrund's Epiphany in conjunction with Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset and Strixhaven Stadium. It’s definitely a strong way to go about the archetype, but personally, think you’re just playing a less efficient Izzet Turns.
With this build of Azorius, you’re leveraging moreso what makes Azorius typically good in the first place, strong removal options. Azorius used to be all about answering every threat your opponent has, dropping your win condition, and riding that to victory. This was generally aided by all the removal options you can get from White alongside the counterspells from Blue to have an unbelievably strong defense. However, Azorius felt that it was missing one more strong piece of removal and didn’t have a good win condition beyond Alrund's Epiphany, so the deck failed to make a splash. However, Crimson Vow remedied both of those issues.
In terms of win conditions, it’s hard to get any cooler than Faithbound Judge. This card is a lot to unpack as it does so many things for the deck. First off, it’s an excellent blocker in the early game if you happen to be facing an aggressive deck. It’s not ideal that it does enable the opponent’s removal spells when you could have builds of Azorius that don’t, but forcing the opponent to spend mana on removal instead of playing to the board isn’t the worst thing in the world. Furthermore, this puts the opponent in a bind in the post board games in whether or not to keep in removal considering you have so few creatures and you can even be clever and board all of them out if you think they’re keeping in removal.
Nevertheless, one way you can easily win with this deck is that an unanswered Faithbound Judge can hit very hard very quickly. After the third turn it was cast, attacking with a functional Serra Angel is pretty great. All that said, that’s not the main way you’re presumably going to win with Faithbound Judge; the Disturb half of the card is really the way I envision winning most often! For 7 mana, you give your opponent a countdown of 3 more turns and if they can’t win by then, they simply lose! This reminds me a bit of the old Control decks with Approach of the Second Sun as a means to win, but instead of always being 7 mana and gaining 7 life, we get a 4/4 to start off with! It’s hard to say which card is better in Control, but in a format that may have a large Blue presence, I’d take the creature.
The second part of having a good Azorius deck is having good removal, which Azorius mostly had anyway, but was missing an early game piece of interaction that is generally the most critical out of the removal suite. However, with Circle of Confinement, that’s no longer a problem. This is functionally an Enchantment form of Glass Casket from last Standard, but I think this effect is significantly better now than it was then (and it was very good then!) First, there’s obviously a lot of aggressive decks so having early interaction is absolutely necessary. Second, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is going to be a pretty popular card so having something that can answer her is very important. Lastly, most of the Control decks (barring Izzet Turns game 1) are still playing some creatures whether it’s Smoldering Egg or Sedgemoor Witch which this cleanly answers. It seems like such an innocuous inclusion, but I don’t think Azorius would’ve been playable without it.
The final addition to the deck is Crimson Vow’s Foretell hate card, Wash Away. Realistically, I think this card is fine and slightly better than Saw It Coming, but it’s not going to kill Alrund's Epiphany decks or anything (not in Azorius at least, more on this later.) However, this does have a lot of nice interactions with stopping Foretell, Flashback, Disturb, or even the exiled card gotten off of Expressive Iteration so it is very versatile and I expect will be a 4 of mainstay in Blue 75s.
It’s been awhile since classic Azorius Control has been playable, but I think it may be it’s time to shine once again.
Since we were talking about a classic form of Azorius Control, I also had to brew a classic form of Dimir! Hard Azorius and Dimir are relatively similar as both have pretty much identical game plans, but they approach it slightly differently. Both decks are looking to control the board as much as they can then win with their win condition, but Azorius tends to play a more card advantage oriented game plan while Dimir has to 1 for 1, but gets to play instant speed much more. In the vein, Dimir was struggling as it was really lacking a great win condition to leverage it’s strength. I like Iymrith, Desert Doom a lot more than the average player, but with how dangerous it is to tap out nowadays, it really wasn’t good enough to keep Dimir (in this form) afloat. Of course, Crimson Vow wasn’t going to let this transgression slide.
I love Hullbreaker Horror, I love it so much. This card makes me excited to play Control as it’s like a cooler Tidespout Tyrant (can’t bounce lands, but no modern card is going to let you). This hits every beat that Dimir is looking for: it has Flash, it’s uncounterable, it kills extremely quickly, it interacts with the opponent, and it can protect itself. 7 mana is a lot sure, but it does a lot even for a 7 mana card. Tapping out against Epiphany is definitely scary, but if you can Flash this in on their end step, there’s really nothing that can go wrong as they can’t kill it. They can bounce it, but they’re down a resource and you still have your Horror. I think this card is awesome and is going to really be the card that helps Control contend with the Izzet decks in Standard.
Now in terms of new interaction, we get two really nice pieces with Hero's Downfall and Wash Away. Hero's Downfall is an old favorite from Theros Standard that is still going to be great today. Initially Dimir has to play Soul Shatter, which is a fine card when answering Goldspan Dragon specifically, but can be really awkward in scenarios where the highest CMC threat isn’t the same as the one you want to kill. This problem was especially endemic with Wrenn and Seven as you generally want to kill the token first, but it would kill the W&7 instead. Now, Downfall will always hit what you want to hit.
I already extolled the virtues of Wash Away, but I can’t emphasize enough how much better it is in Dimir than it is in Azorius. Why? If you’re playing Epiphany against Azorius, you know just to avoid Foretelling your spells to play around Wash Away. Trust me, this is still great for Azorius as they can be wasting mana they didn’t have to, but there is a reasonable counter play. Against Dimir though, what is your counter play? If you foretell your spells, you run the risk of getting Washed Away. If you don’t then you may get tagged by one of the 4 main deck Duress that’s really well positioned right now. Any type of deck building that can put the opponent into these horrible decisions I’ve always been a big fan of and will go a long way to contending with Epiphany.
Dimir has been struggling in Standard for quite awhile, but with strong win conditions and great removal, it may be time for it’s renaissance.
Unlike the first two decks, Dimir Lier is already a relatively established deck. It is quite new, but it’s had strong performances during the last weeks of Standard and boasted strong results against the field which is nice in a field where many were convinced there was nowhere to innovate. It is relatively similar to Dimir Control, but by leveraging more mid game options in Sedgemoor Witch and Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, you can accrue a lot of advantages that other Control decks simply don’t have access to. All that said, I really liked the deck when I played it, but felt it had two small issues: it needed one more win condition and one better removal spell.
Once again, I think Hullbreaker Horror is exactly what the doctor ordered. If you found your Lier, it was really easy to close out games, but there will be times where you don’t find it for awhile or it gets killed and when that happened, I did feel the deck spun it’s wheels a lot. Games won’t necessarily go as long with this deck as they do with classic Dimir Control, but ironically I would say Horror is much better in this deck than it is in classic Dimir in terms of how the decks are built. Horror likes to see cheap spells to interact with the opponent, and it’s hard to do better than 13 one mana spells to help make that happen. Furthermore with more threats to worry about, the opponent can’t feel safe just sitting on one removal spell knowing it’s going to really stall you out.
Second, the deck needed a slight upgrade to it’s removal suite which we definitely got with Hero's Downfall. I won’t beat a dead horse, Downfall is great and having hard removal for any threat is very nice.
Lastly, something that’s important here (and for the previous Dimir deck) is that you’re going to have an absolutely phenomenal sideboard for a variety of matchups. Between old cards like Go Blank or Malevolent Hermit to new cards like Wash Away or Path to Peril, no matter what deck ails you, Dimir will have you covered.
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What control deck are you most excited to play? Do you think I missed any cool cards that show a lot of potential? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading!