Bo1 Standard Azorius Control Deck Guide: Classic Control is Back

Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset Art by Heonhwa Choe
Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset Art by Heonhwa Choe

Hello fellow gamers,

I am not going to say Wizards of the Coast got it wrong this time around but with each printing of a certain time-traveling wizard, we all hold our collective breath and see if the meta is warped. I saw someone dub Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset as “Te-FAIR-I” because it seems fair. When I first saw this card, I quickly dismissed it myself before evening playing him. First, it has been my experience that any planeswalker has a bare-minimum litmus test to be considered good: it must be able to defend itself. This Teferi really does not have that, it’s plus one loyalty ability can tap down a creature, but that is only if you are planning on attacking, it cannot be used defensively. It can, in a way, give your creature’s vigilance. But Azorius (blue/white) decks tend not to play early creatures that could benefit from such treatment.  

Where does that leave us then? Surprisingly, Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset is better than I thought, is it as good as Wrenn and Seven? No, not quite. But it is also not a planeswalker who will be relegated to the trash heap of forgotten, nigh unplayable ones. (Sorry Kasmina, Enigma Sage maybe someday you will have your moment in the limelight).

I recently took this list for a spin in the ranked BO1 queue and it performed quite well. I played a lucky number of 13 total matches and ended up posting a 9-4 record (a healthy 67%-win rate). I know for certain, one of those losses was variance-based as I got stuck on 2 lands (perhaps my fault for not taking a mulligan).  There was a rank reset this afternoon so be aware this was in the platinum tier 4 bracket (the grind begins again).

Let’s talk about where Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset fits in. Now I warn you the list I am about to show you may make you scratch your head.  There are some—shall we say–unconventional card choices but if you give this a go and if you are a control-mage at your heart, you will begin to understand why. Ok, with that disclaimer aside let’s take a look shall we:

Bo1 Azorius Control
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Control
best of 1
Cards
$

Yes, the first thing you may have noticed is that, in true control fashion we are rocking exactly zero creatures. At least outside of token creatures that is.

Card Choices

Strixhaven Stadium Art by Piotr Dura
Strixhaven Stadium Art by Piotr Dura

Planeswalkers

Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset – One of my favorite things about Teferi is that its plus one grants you two life which is actually quite significant against certain decks. I have managed to get the ultimate off once. I will say it did not end the game on the spot, but over the long haul this emblem will give you the edge. The minus 2 ability is fine if you are in a bind and need to find an answer quickly. Generally, I like to keep Teferi at a healthy loyalty. Unless I am playing against a non-red control deck; then sometimes it is the right to immediately -2 him to at least gain a card before a Soul Shatter or some such kills Teferi.

Artifacts

Strixhaven Stadium – This is one of the cards that really might make you wonder what I am thinking. Funny thing is this card has gotten me most of my wins; other than my opponent conceding in despair that is. First of all, it is a great target for Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset to allow you to keep up two mana for any of the following: Jwari Disruption, a foretold Saw It Coming, or a Fateful Absence. Secondly, this card has great synergy with crow tokens from Alrund’s Epiphany. (What do you really think a time-traveling mage would hang out with a deck that doesn’t take extra turns?) The idea is to build up a lot of tokens on this via tapping and untapping with Teferi and then just winning by resolving Alrund’s Epiphany. 

Mysterious Tome – Ok onto the next questionable card in the lineup. This card I feel like was tailor-made for Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset. The ability to draw a card, then untap this book with Teferi to keep it up as an Icy Manipulator for your opponent’s biggest threat is priceless. Before you immediately cut this card give it a try trust me.

Enchantments

The Raven’s Warning – Oh man do you remember this card? It now and then rears its head and many players scoff at it for not being impactful enough (me included). To be fair, I would not consider using this card in Best of Three. I have discovered it really shines in B01. I was playing a main deck Test of Talents because it is so very effective against certain decks; even though it’s completely trash against others.

Azorius Control cannot afford to spend too many turns stabilizing. It has very limited defenses. If you do not see an early Doomskar it can be a quick exit. Having a Test of Talents rotting in your hand against mono-white will generally mean game over. At least Raven’s Warning provides a body and 2 life points to help buy you some precious time. The real tech was when I decided to add in a Vanquish the Horde into the sideboard as well. This is the perfect way to hedge your bets, you have one killer card versus aggro and one killer card versus control and two ravens to fetch them!

Sorceries

Alrund’s Epiphany – Yes, another deck that uses this card. Although the application here is slightly different in some ways, you are going to be hard-pressed to defeat opponent’s straight up with crow tokens. But this card buys you valuable time and helps stabilize the board; coupled with Strixhaven it can lead to victory.

Doomskar – I really miss this card it has been a while since I rocked a white deck. It absolutely toasts mono-white aggro and while it’s not as effective against mono-green it still takes the wind out of their sails too.

Emeria’s Call – This is flood protection along with Jwari Disruption; it lets you run functionally 28 lands and not run out of gas. One cute play with this I had come up a few times is giving my crow’s indestructibility which could help get the last few ticks of Strixhaven Stadium.

Vanquish the Horde – This is not a main deck card but I wanted to call it out here, I chose this over something like Devastating Mastery or Ondu Inversion because I do not want to destroy non-land permanents such as my Strixhaven Stadium or my Mysterious Tome. It certainly is not as good as Doomskar, but that is why it’s there to be fetched by The Raven’s Warning.

Instants

Jwari Disruption – As mentioned in the Emeria’s Call section this helps you pad out your land total but also gives you a way to interact with your opponent early. It is so very satisfying to counter something with Jwari Disruption, you feel like you are getting away with the crime of the century. Sadly, many players are wise to this card or maybe just unintentionally leave one mana up. Therefore often you are just using this to add another blue source which is fine. This deck can be mana hungry.

Saw It Coming – Has there ever been a counterspell with a more braggadocious name?  I have seen versions of Azorius control that run a full playset of these and that seems reasonable. It is great to use in conjunction with a Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset who can serve as a mini Teferi, Hero of Dominaria by allowing you to keep mana up on your opponent’s turn.

Divide by Zero – You should know by now that I am obsessed with this card. It is really hard not to include in any B01 blue deck. It buys you so much time and card advantage.  

Memory Deluge – This and Mysterious Tome are your main forms of card advantage in this deck. I have seen some people play both this and Behold the Multiverse, but I feel like that is a tad excessive.

Negate – I am keeping this one main deck because it at least has valid targets even versus mono-white and mono-green. It is extremely valuable against other control decks.

Test of Talents – As mentioned this is a sideboard card only accessible via The Raven’s Warning you obviously want to fetch this versus Izzet and other Alrund’s Epiphany decks and to a lesser extent any list that contains Blood on the Snow or Storm the Festival. All of these are awesome targets that when exiled by Test of Talents can really shut down a large portion of your opponent’s game plan.

Fateful Absence – I know a lot of people panned this card especially in Limited, but I was quite high on it when it was first spoiled. This is pretty much an unheard-of effect in white. Much like it was unheard-of heard that black got targeted enchantment removal with Feed the Swarm. Granted white has gotten things like Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile, but can you think of any instant speed planeswalker removal spells that white has gotten?  Like most white removal of this sort, it does give your opponent a conciliatory prize in the form of an Clue token. The logic here is that your deck should have superior card advantage to most decks and the decks that it doesn’t outmatch in card draw have fewer premium threats anyway. It is also excellent that this targets creature-lands too which can be critical after landing a Doomskar.

Lands

Pretty typical land selection, since we are running a straight forward two-color mana base I find that adding the three Field of Ruins is really not too tough on your color balance. I think Jwari Disruption and Emeria’s Call help in this regard. I find myself less often attacking with my creature-lands in this deck. I think it’s because you often want to keep open mana to interact on your opponent’s turn.

Lessons

Nothing much to add here, only that some of my sideboard space is being taken up by The Raven’s Warning targets. It is sometimes hard to get value out of Teaching of the Archaics with this deck as your clutch of cards is often larger than the opponent’s; though foretelling aggressively can help mitigate this.

Notable Card Exclusions

Sunset Reverly Art by Antonio José Manzanedo
Sunset Reverly Art by Antonio José Manzanedo

Sunset Revelry – If this was B03 I would one-hundred percent have this in my sideboard. It can be a very efficient effect versus aggro decks, but it is so bad against decks like Izzet Turns I really can’t justify it mainboard.

Iymrith, Desert Doom – As usual I am down on this card, I did see a new blue/black list that has this as its main win condition so maybe it has found the right home?

Sea Gate Restoration – This card actually might make sense in this deck. I would even consider swapping it with Emeria’s Call. I need to test it out first to find if it makes sense.

Disdainful Stroke – This could definitely be a consideration in the Negate slot, but Negate can help you power through opposing counter magic whereas this is only a defensive card.

Devious Cover-Up – Maybe if control decks become super prevalent this makes sense but it’s too much of a liability to mainboard against decks like Mono-Green and Mono-White.

Elite Spellbinder – I know a lot of players want to jam this card into any white deck… If your game plan is to take an opponent to turn 10 or beyond to win you do not want this card in your 60 as it has diminishing returns the longer the game goes.

Starnheim Unleashed – I experimented with this card in my main deck and it actually is fine, it generates significant card advantage versus decks that don’t run board wipes but I found that It would not often close out the game by itself like I would expect it to. I think one issue is you present so few creatures for removal to your opponent when this hits the board it’s like open season on angels. Unless you are really committing to the beat down plan to end your opponent, stick with Strixhaven Stadium as the main win condition.

Consider – Consider not running this card. It is not a card advantage. This card has a very narrow set of uses and a control deck is not one of them.

Fading Hope – I do like this card but I could find no room for it as it is competing with real-estate from Fateful Absence and Divide by Zero. I could see cutting one or two copies of Fateful Absence for two of these but your deck is not fast enough to gain too much tempo from this.

Faithful Mending – Just like Consider this does not offer card advantage unless you are playing a plethora of flashback or disturbed effects. 

Niko Aris – I actually forgot this was still in standard. It might be an interesting card to add. It does have a small pinging effect to take out creatures and it can allow you to amass some serious card advantage so it is definitely worth testing.

Matchups

Doomskar Art by Piotr Dura
Doomskar Art by Piotr Dura

As always, this is a best of one guide so we will be eschewing a sideboard primer and sticking with helpful notes on the most common matchups.

Dimir Control

This is a tough matchup. It is not unwinnable. Landing a Mysterious Tome can help a ton as this deck has limited ways to interact with it. The same goes for Strixhaven Stadium as they can’t easily remove this so if you can build up sufficient counters on it, only one resolved Alrund’s Epiphany can mean they lose. If you get to resolve a The Raven’s Warning, fetch your Test of Talents. The mind games of them using Siphon Insight are unbearable. Did they steal your Alrund’s Epiphany?

Mono Green Stompy / Werewolves

Getting an early Doomskar is critical here to stabilize and try to delay as much as possible, even if that means walking out a Teferi into a certain death. Fateful Absence is great versus their creature lands or Esika’s Chariot.

Mono White Aggro

It is even more critical that you find a Doomskar against this deck as it is faster than Mono-green and goes wider. The Raven’s Warning can act as board wipe numbers 5 and 6 respectively to help you find Vanquish the Horde and the small crow can do work blocking an Elite Spellbinder. If you see your opponent play a plains turn one make sure to foretell your Doomskar ASAP to hide it from Elite Spellbinder.

Izzet Dragons

Don’t tap out on when they are about to hit 5 mana so you can either bounce or kill the Goldspan Dragon on the spot. Then you have to be wary of letting them resolve an Alrund’s Epiphany, but you have ways to block this. Unfortunately, many of these lists run Prismari Command which can be a bummer against your juicy artifacts. If only Esika’s Chariot wasn’t a thing we would not be getting this incidental artifact hate. You definitely want to fetch a Test of Talents, if possible, you can keep their creature lands on lock by always leaving a Field of Ruin and two mana open to destroy it in response to activation.

Rakdos Treasures / Mono Black Control

I don’t mind this matchup as much. Rakdos does have Immersturm Predator which can be difficult but you have a lot of ways to delay it and bounce it if it gets out of hand. They also have very little way to interact with your artifacts or prevent you from casting Alrund’s Epiphany. Play defensively and you should be fine.

Party Decks

Pray that you can Doomskar them past a Concerted Defense in order to stabilize. I am so glad this deck is so seldomly represented because I think I literally cannot beat it no matter what I am playing. Maybe I just have the worst luck versus it? Your Fateful Absence should be reserved mainly for Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate.

Tips and Tricks

  • If you are playing with an empty board and you have Mysterious Tome in play note that you can activate Chilling Chronicle on ANY non-land permanent including targeting itself (Yes you are allowed to tap something that is already tapped or will be tapped, the rules do not prevent this) in order to transform it back into Mysterious Tome.
  • Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset can increase your mana total. If for example you have 4 lands and a Strixhaven Stadium in play you have functionally enough mana to hard cast Alrund’s Epiphany at 7 mana. Simply “float” your mana, that is manually tap a land and Strixhaven Stadium to get two mana then activate Teferi’s loyalty ability to untap them.
  • The Raven’s Warning can also grab your lesson cards too so don’t be afraid to cast it even if you don’t need a Test of Talents or Vanquish the Hoard. Also, the ability to fetch a card is optional, sometimes it might be best to skip it.
  • Note that getting 10 counters on Strixhaven Stadium through tapping it is not enough to get you the win (not knowing this cost me a game!) you must have a creature attack to get the final counter on it to trigger the win condition.
  • Knowing when to use Jwari Disruption as a land and when to keep it up to counter a spell is a fine art. I will say the later the game goes the more likely you are going to want to make this a land. Although if you have more than sufficient lands maybe hold on to one copy. I have gotten folks with one of these very late into a game. People do tap out after all, even late into a game.
  • It is rare but I have targeted my own crow tokens with Fateful Absence in order to get the investigation token, just remember this is an option.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Josh

Josh has been playing Magic: the Gathering since Ice Age (that came out in 1996 for you whippersnappers out there). He was a MODO grinder and early beta tester for MTGA where his handle is Parabolian. He is no stranger to Mythic ladder and has frequently finished in the top 1200. Josh loves to brew decks but he loves to win too. Sometimes those two interests align and sometimes he goes on epic losing streaks.