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Brine Comber Art by Olena Richards

Anatomy of an Archetype: Blue-White in Innistrad: Crimson Vow Draft

Welcome to the second edition of Anatomy of an Archetype where we will be going deep into the most disturbing deck of Innistrad: Crimson Vow, Blue-White (the color pair also commonly known as Azorius). I made a few changes to the formatting based on some of the feedback you provided so keep it coming and AoA will continue to evolve to meet your needs.


Play Style

Look at archetypes objectives

There are two different main styles to play in Crimson Vow Azorius. One is a low curve tempo deck while the other is a more control oriented version. Obviously a lot of decks will end up as a hybrid version, but I would recommend trying to stay closer to the extremes than the middle.

The low curve tempo version tries to get underneath the opponent before they can deploy their bombs. Drogskol Infantry is one of the key cards in this version as it applies early pressure and once it is dealt with, it pumps up another creature to keep the beats coming. The disturb auras allow you to accumulate value while keeping your opponent in the hot seat. Sigarda's Imprisonment is typically the removal of choice for this variation because of the low cost. 

The other version is more control oriented with hard counters for opposing bombs. This seeks to create a long game and win through evasive threats. Fierce Retribution plays better in this version as you are more likely to be on the defensive early.


Navigating the draft

What gets you into the archetype

There isn’t a first pick in the set that is going to get me into Azorius right off the bat. Even Dorothea, Vengeful Victim isn’t good enough to set yourself into two colors from the start. The way I usually end up in this color combination is to start out with a white removal spell and let the draft show me that blue is open as well.

Brine Comber can’t be taken as a sure-fire signal that Blue White is open until around pick five or six. I don’t mind taking it earlier than that, but I don’t read it as a signal because I assume other people are hesitant to take a two color card early.

While late white removal is a great sign you should be moving in, that is rarely going to happen. Instead I look for late Drogskol Infantry and Lantern Bearer to help guide me into this deck.


Top 5 Commons

It’s important to not just look at the data for highest win rate for games in hand in that particular color combination, but to think through why they are performing well in that particular archetype.

Traveling Minister is just such a brick house in every deck that plays white. Keep in mind that just because this is the top performing common, doesn’t mean you should grab it pick one. You can still get extra value out of other people undervaluing this. In this particular deck, it keeps you in the game with the life gain while pushing extra damage on your evasion creatures. That two point life swing every turn off of your one drop is usually the underappreciated reason you’re on the path to victory.

Sigarda's Imprisonment is just a cheap, efficient removal spell in a format that needs exactly that. The ability to cash itself in for a blood token is actually relevant since Azorius doesn’t produce much blood, making it worth almost a whole card. 

Fierce Retribution is a flexible, comprehensive removal spell. Being able to pick off any attacking creature for two is just great if you are in a race or playing the control role. Six mana might be expensive to kill any creature, but in a format full of expensive bombs that kind of coverage is worth the price of admission.  

Lantern Bearer gets in there for a few points early before chump blocking or being cashed in for an exploit trigger. After softening the opponent up, it gives you an aura trigger as well as taking one of your big guys to the sky. Similar to Traveling Minister in that it does a ton of work for minimal investment, but you can pick it up later than you should because of the pre-existing bias against one drops in limited.

Kindly Ancestor plays many versatile roles for the Azorius deck. It can blank most of your opponents board while you win in the air or it can get suited up with the backside of a Drogskol Infantry to turn into an extremely difficult to race threat. If they do kill this, it just gives another creature lifelink continuing to make life miserable for your opponent.


Top 3 Uncommons

Based off of the color pair specific data

Diver Skaab has been going bafflingly late recently despite it’s great numbers and performance. There are plenty of good things to sacrifice here like Wretched Throng or any disturb creature. The five toughness is huge and blocks the majority of the ground creatures in VOW. The Revenge of the Drowned effect is great tempo or wrecks anything with an aura.

Brine Comber creates two bodies including one in the air. From there it either blocks or is great exploit fodder and creates another flyer when it comes back. The targeted by another aura clause is actually relevant with all of your disturb creatures kicking in even more value. One of the things to do against opposing white decks is to put this on the creature most likely to have Sigarda's Imprisonment played on it as you get the flying token even off of opponents auras.

Lunar Rejection is fine against any deck as the card draw negates the usual drawback of a bounce spell. It is a total beating against wolves or werewolves though as two mana Repulse would be good enough for constructed.


Top 3 Rares

We’re going to ignore Mythic Rares here because you’re less likely to get them. It’s also pretty obvious which ones are busted and should go in any deck that can make the mana work.

Wedding Announcement is just an absurd Magic card and I’d go as far as calling it a total bomb. Glorious Anthem was already a very strong limited effect and this gives you some combination of three creatures or cards on top of that.

Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr is usually going to be between a 3/3 and a 5/5 when you play it. As you can imagine, that makes this really hard to race. If they somehow deal with it, it just comes right back on another creature to keep the beats coming. Unlike werewolves in MID, vampires are everywhere in VOW so the protection is a great cherry on top of an already great card.

Welcoming Vampire is a slightly above rate flyer that usually ends up drawing a few cards. If that sounds like a busted limited card to you, you’re right.

You might have noticed Hullbreaker Horror didn’t make the top three win rates for UW and that’s because it’s a bit expensive for this deck. You should still windmill slam it though since it is just an unfair card that goes into any deck that can reasonably play it.


Curve considerations

Is there a part of the curve with a glut of playables (i.e the four drop slot in blue in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt)?

The curve on the tempo version tends to be really low as you want to be able to pay for the more expensive disturb costs later in your curve.

The more controlling version has a very high curve and might have a very low number of two drops. In this case, Syncopate acts as a two drop being able to pick off an opposing two or three drop on two mana.


Adjusting card grades

It’s important to think about what cards are going to perform differently in the archetype you’re drafting so you can take advantage of picking them up later. It’s also key to find cards that provide a lesser, but similar effect to other cards that you haven’t been able to pick up.

Bump Up

Nurturing Presence is pretty unplayable in most other decks. Here it can go on a Stormchaser Drake to draw a card or a Brine Comber to trigger an additional flyer. It also provides a small damage buff along with that slightly overcosted two mana 1/1 flyer.

Scattered Thoughts performs quite well in this deck as the discarding to the graveyard plays with disturb. It’s very possible to get a three or four for one with this and the instant speed plays very well with counters.

Syphon Essence is the preferred counter in Azorius because you don’t have many other ways to produce blood so in a lot of cases it’s just Exclude which is a cube worthy counter.

Bump Down

Cobbled Lancer seems like it would fit right in here. The problem is that you don’t want to exile most of your creatures and even if you discard this to something, it’s just four mana draw one  card.

Dollhouse of Horrors is a slow, but powerful card in most decks. Unfortunately this isn’t where you want to be playing it. You are forced to choose between disturbing your creatures or bringing them back to the dollhouse. Between that, counters, and tricks you just aren’t going to have much to bring back with it.

Skywarp Skaab is another victim of your graveyard being emptied for value. Still a solid play that will sometimes draw a card, but bump it down a bit because you usually won’t have two creatures you want to exile.

Replacement

Chill of the Grave is a great replacement if you don’t have removal. Locking down a creature for two turns while drawing a card will usually have a similar effect on anything that doesn’t have a static ability. 

Make sure you grab a Syncopate if you don’t have Syphon Essence. It’s extremely important to have a way to answer the bombs in the format and counters are a clean way to do it.


Card advantage

What sources are available and how much do they matter to the archetype?

This deck does naturally create value through disturb creatures, but it gladly welcomes a Scattered Thoughts or Inspired Idea.


Combos and Synergies

Hallowed Haunting with a pile of disturb creatures sounds like a meme, but the couple times I saw it in action it rolled over the competition. This does require the deck being built around it though, otherwise you just have a four mana do nothing.

For a trip down not a combo avenue, don’t put Dorothea on a Gutter Skulker. If you attack with it, it will make the creature before blocks allowing your skulker to be blocked. Total Nonbo.


Splashing

Is it supported in this archetype and how much should you look to do it?

I don’t think you ever want to splash in the tempo version, even if it’s an “almost free splash” as your mana being off for even one turn could be the difference between sweet victory and crushing defeat.

The control version is capable of splashing off of Evolving Wilds, but most of the cards you would want to splash are double pips making it very awkward.


Deep vs shallow

Can the table support multiple drafters?

Variably deep color combination dependent on the packs opened. VOW Azorius can typically support 1.5 drafters per table.


Biggest Trap Cards

These sounded like a good idea….

The logic of Boarded Window keeping you alive while you attack in the air sounds rational enough. In reality you fell behind by playing a three mana do nothing that went to the graveyard when they attacked.

Thinking that Nebelgast Beguiler has a home here because of it’s big butt and ability to tap down an important creature is an easy trap to fall into. It just costs too much and is almost strictly an Orzhov card.


Sideboard

Obviously ignore this in Bo1 land, but be on the lookout for these cards late in Bo3.

Adamant Will is a card that I don’t mind playing in the main, but sometimes it is hard to find a spot for tricks in a deck filled with creatures and card draw. I’d recommend having at least one of these to bring in against removal spells if you don’t have a Cradle of Safety.

Any of the counterspells can be key against any of the bombs besides Hullbreaker Horror.


Wrap up

Well that brings us to the end of the second edition of Anatomy of an Archetype. Thanks for reading and I hope this will help you disturb your opponents on the way to your inevitable victory.

I’m always open to feedback, let me know in the comments section what you loved, what you hated, or what you would like added to the next edition.

You can contact me in the comments section below or at:

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j2sjosh
j2sjosh

Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

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