Hello everyone! Today I’m going over what I believe to be the best Control deck in Alchemy: Azorius. Now this is definitely a bold proclamation considering Azorius was functionally absent in Standard, but I think I may just convince you by the end of the article. Now you might be running through the reasons that I think Azorius is so strong right now.
You do have Geistchanneler as a means to ramp out early spells. There’s Divine Purge to help shore up your creature matchups. It could even be Discover the Formula as a functionally better Opportunity. While I do like all of those options for the deck, none of those are the Alchemy card that pushed it over the edge. What is then? Key to the Archive.
Key to the Archive’s Spellbook:
Conjure one from among three randomly selected (draft) from the Spellbook:
- Approach of the Second Sun
- Day of Judgment
- Time Warp
- Demonic Tutor
- Doom Blade
- Lightning Bolt
- Claim the Firstborn
- Krosan Grip
- Growth Spiral
- Lightning Helix
I liked this card during spoiler season, but figured it would be limited to just ramp decks. Not only did I undersell its potential in slower strategies, I realized that Key has really obscene synergy with Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset as you can play “one mana” Teferis with key out. I immediately went to work on a shell only to discover that I’ve already been beaten to the punch!
Between his base and my base I realized extremely quickly that this deck was very much the real deal and had a lot of power and play to it. With some normal playing and tinkering, I’ve arrived at a list that I’ve been extremely happy with.
I think if you’re going to play Azorius, the most important aspect of the deck is what your early interaction looks like. With many lists I saw (including Seth’s), I feel like there simply wasn’t enough respect for the fast decks and you were overly reliant on drawing one of your few pieces. I put that principle into practice in my build.
To start off the curve, we have Jwari Disruption. I’m not the biggest disruption fan in the world, but it’s been pretty excellent for me as having more land drops then occasionally getting the opponent with a Force Spike is just pretty strong value.
Fateful Absence is the most recent addition to the deck and is the best its ever been in this shell. With older builds of Azorius, I absolutely hated Fateful Absence in the deck. You were a deck looking to trade resources and win in the super late game so we play a removal spell that gives them a card? Absolutely not.
While I still somewhat feel that way, one major thing has changed with this deck: it’s no longer as slow. With the introduction of Key to the Archive, the deck can win significantly faster, especially when it’s backed up by 3 Hullbreaker Horror. With that, Absence is much better than it used to be and pretty strong here.
Next we have one of the staples of Azorius with Sunset Revelry. Timely Reinforcements lite is excellent in this archetype as we will never have the most creatures, we’ll probably have a lower life total, and it’s definitely possible to have less cards in hand than the opponent. In aggro matchups this is going to be a nice stalling mechanism and in slower matchups it can do the same or used just as a cycler.
Moving up the curve we have the now ubiquitous Divide by Zero. Hard counterspells are the relic of a bygone age when you can play Repulse, but for spells! Then we have the lone Divine Purge for more aggro hate. You could definitely play two of these are cut back on Circle of Confinement, but I don’t want too many cards in my deck that tall rather than answer the problem.
Although the early interaction is what makes or break the deck, the four drops are the crux of the deck. First off we have Key to the Archive which is the card that’s super charging this deck into relevancy. Funny enough, where most lists play Key since the spell book is so powerful, we like it here much more as the mana rock! I’m not sure if I would normally play Firemind Vessel in Control, but the ramp has felt absolutely stellar alongside the free broken card you get.
As I said, Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset is an absolute house with Key to the Archive. Although it’s still much worse, going Key into Teferi gives me serious Teferi, Hero of Dominaria vibes as you can deploy your walker and hold up any interaction you please. Combine that with some nice life gain and the ability to Anticipate when needed and you got an awesome card for the deck.
The final four is less exciting, but it’s the classic Memory Deluge. This card is pretty strong for card advatantage and selection, and since we have Key to the Archive for ramp, the Flashback mode is extremely relevant as well.
Finally we have all the top end of the list. First off as no surprise, if you’re playing Azorius, you’re playing 4 Doomskar. Wrathing on turn 3 against aggro is apparently pretty good. Then we have the singleton Discover the Formula as an additional piece of card advantage in a deck already writhe with it.
Then we come to our win condition, Hullbreaker Horror. This card is an absolute house as it comes down instant speed, acts as a huge roadblock, and if you get to untap with it, you pretty much just win every time. Going turn 4 Key into turn 5 Hullbreaker Horror is a reality for this deck and is about as broken as it sounds.
Lastly, we have the lone Emeria's Call which is generally going to be a land, but sometimes it’s a few Angels when you have more lands than you know what to do with.
Despite generally not being a fan of reactive decks as threats tend to eclipse answers nowadays, Azorius has the tools to disrupt any strategy and has felt obscenely powerful for me so far.
POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS / NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS
Not including any creature lands is definitely surprising for a Control deck, but I believe it’s the right move. Closing out the game isn’t really an issue with this deck (and I also contend Hall isn’t that great at closing either) and having these come into play tapped on a critical turn is too detrimental in my opinion.
I like Hole, but not hitting 3 drops is brutal. I don’t think this deck is so tempo oriented that we need our removal to be 1 mana, but miss a lot of cards.
I like this card, but we definitely don’t need anymore card advantage.
I like a few copies of this in really aggressive metagames, but I don’t think we need them right now.
If you really want more wraths a copy of this is fine.
I normally really like Fading Hope in Blue decks, especially with Hullbreaker Horror but I don’t think it’s better than our other options. I can see it over Fateful Absence as that’s probably the weakest card in the deck now.
As I said before, hard counters are kind of a relic of the past. I like playing 1-2 hard counters in certain builds, but they clearly aren’t necessary.
We have enough basics that you could definitely play a few copies. I wouldn’t know what to cut, but this card is quite powerful.
Although this is quite strong because of the Foretell, I think Deluge is better since we can use the Flashback mode quite often on it.
Older Azorius builds had a few copies of this for filtering, but I never really liked it as it’s card disadvantage in a deck that’s trying to mostly win through card advantage.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Although we’re almost always using Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset to untap permanents of ours, don’t forget it can tap opposing permanents as well! If you think the opponent could be holding open a counterspell, tapping down a land main1, going to main 2, and then casting something is a great strategy. Furthermore, remember that Teferi untaps creatures so you can attack with Hullbreaker Horror and then untap it (if you played creature lands you could also untap the creature land and an additional land). Lastly, don’t be afraid to use Teferi as an Anticipate and gain 2 if it’s just going to die to your opponent’s attacks.
- I play out Jwari Disruption as a land 90%+ of the time as this deck really needs to hit its land drops early and often.
- You don’t have to wait for full value off of Sunset Revelry to play it. Even getting one mode can be good enough sometimes.
- Cheap interaction is generally going to be the best hit off of Key to the Archive despite splashier cards like Time Warp or Approach the Second Sun looking more appealing.
- Prioritize keeping your life total high when possible. Hullbreaker Horror can win nearly any game it survives so you need to stick around long enough to make that possible.
Thank you for reading!