Teferi, Hero of Dominaria Art by Chris Rallis

Historic Azorius Control Deck Guide: Prison Control Is Back

Looking to not let your opponent do anything? Then Skura has the deck for you! Find out his favorite list of Azorius Control and why adding Prison elements is the way to go!

Azorius Control has been very popular in Historic and usually when high level events took place, professional players chose it frequently. This was due to the deck giving a lot of agency and can be tuned very well for a given meta. Frequently, the meta-call of choice has been maindeck graveyard hate and that’s also what I opt to do as you’ll see later in the article.

Over the years across formats, UW specifically has been leaning a bit more towards prison elements in addition to its control core. In Historic, I also believe it’s the right thing to do. Playing a prison-control deck allows you to both adapt and have some easy wins thanks to powerful narrow effects.

UW Control
by Skura
Historic
best of 3
6 mythic
46 rare
4 uncommon
2 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Companion
Planeswalkers (6)
Instants (16)
2
Dovin’s Veto
$7.98
2
Fateful Absence
$3.98
2
Memory Deluge
$1.58
Sorceries (6)
2
Divine Purge
$0.00
2
Supreme Verdict
$13.98
2
Farewell
$17.98
Artifacts (2)
Enchantments (4)
2
Rest in Peace
$15.98
2
Shark Typhoon
$37.98
60 Cards
$756.64
15 Cards
$55.9

Deck Tech

As with all the control decks, there are three elements usually found – removal, countermagic, and win conditions. In this case, we’ll add and start with the fourth.

There are two main prison elements that I play main deck. Rest in Peace is a card that can be a one-card knock-out punch for a lot of decks like Greasefang or Arclight Phoenix. There is always a safety valve in the form of March of Otherworldly Light that you can pitch RIP to, should it be completely dead in a given matchup.

Chalice of the Void is a new addition from the newest Historic Anthology. The card usually shines against one drops, especially as the deck is built in such a way that it does not play one drops itself. Very rarely will you use Chalice on 0, but it could be useful on the play against a Mox Amber or Ornithopter deck. Chalice on 2 or 3 could be good in later stages of the game against decks like Burn when you want to cut them off of top decks. Be careful not to lock yourself out when you play Chalice on higher numbers than 1.

The number of them and potential relegation to the sideboard will vary on the meta. One week you’ll play as I do now and the next you might want all those cards in the board. However, I do not imagine cutting them completely.

For the removal, the deck plays various means of interaction. First, there is mass removal. I’ve decided to diversify the effects and the proportion could change.

Farewell is a supremely strong catch-all. In a lot of games, you’ll prolong for as long as possible to just be able to wipe the whole game clear. Albeit expensive, it’s your best stabilizer.

Supreme Verdict is another new addition from Anthologies. Its uncounterability shines against cards like Spell Pierce or Drown in the Loch. The fact that you know the mass removal is resolving changes the way you’ll think about your in-game decisions.

Divine Purge is a card that you won’t find in other formats like Explorer, Pioneer, or Modern as it’s a digital-only card. Its relevance lies in the fact that it’s the cheapest mass removal. It can very quickly thwart your opponent’s early plans. Once the opponent has pumped a lot of mana into recasting the creatures, you can wipe the board clean with some other mass removal spell. While it’s a temporary measure, it’s enough.

There is also some point removal.

March of Otherworldly Light is a flexible instant speed removal that can tag more than just creatures. Its ability to pitch cards to it allows you to kill a three-drop on your turn two. Card disadvantage hurts, but you’d have a worse problem otherwise – dying. When control loses, it’s frequently with cards still in hand.

Fateful Absence is your main way to get rid of planeswalkers. This deck has historically had a lot of problems with planeswalkers, so when you see an uptick of those, up the number of Absences. While giving the Clue is a clear disadvantage, you’ll be happy to see the opponent spend half their turn to draw a card. March can also exile the Clue while they’re tapped out.

For countermagic we play Jwari Disruption, which doubles up as a land, Dovin's Veto, and Archmage's Charm. Veto is a flex slot that now I dedicate to this powerful anti-noncreature effect. It could be replaced e.g. with Censor or more Jwari Disruption.

Archmage's Charm is a Swiss knife of a control card. It’s certainly the biggest game changer compared to its Explorer counterpart. Being able to pass the turn and hold up a split card of Divination and Cancel is the ultimate flexibility in a reactive deck. Usually, when control passes the turn, it risks wasting the mana that could otherwise be used. In this case, if the opponent does not play into your countermagic, you can just draw two end step and further progress your own plan. Taking control of a one-drop also does come up. It’s usually used as a removal spell of sorts for one-drops like Soul-Scar Mage, Gilded Goose, or Esper Sentinel. Sometimes you’ll gain control of a token like Nettlecyst Germ or a Clue token.

Win conditions include what you’d expect. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria has been and will be played in all the UW decks for the foreseeable future. It’s a card advantage machine, has a catch-all removal stapled onto its -3 and a game-ending ultimate.

The Wandering Emperor acts in a similar vein to Archmage's Charm in that it offers instant speed versatility – here it’s interaction or clock.

Shark Typhoon is a mix between an early chump blocker which cycles and a game-ending evasive threat.


Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Supreme Verdict Art by Sam Burley
Supreme Verdict Art by Sam Burley

Izzet Wizards

INOUT
+1 Baneslayer Angel-2 Rest In Peace
+1 Lyra Dawnbringer-2 Dovin's Veto
+2 Aether Gust-1 Memory Deluge
+1 Divine Purge

There are a lot of Wizard versions, but most of the threat base overlaps. You have to be careful not to get caught by a sided-in Mystical Dispute or Spell Pierce. Supreme Verdict shines in this match-up as it does not care about the countermagic. The Lyra might die to their burn, but if it does, it means it’s soaked up enough that we’re happy about the situation. Aether Gust catches Soul-Scar Mage, Expressive Iteration, and Dreadhorde Arcanist, to name a few targets. Be liberal about pitching cards to March of Otherworldly Light. As long as the battlefield is clear, you’re good. Remember that they can deal a ton of damage seemingly out of nowhere e.g. through Dreadhorde Arcanist and Reckless Charge.

This is very much a Chalice of the Void on 1 matchup.

When you side in the angels, Kaheera, the Orphanguard won’t be your companion for the game.

Selesnya Lifegain

INOUT
+1 Divine Purge-2 Rest In Peace
+2 Archon of Absolution-2 Dovin's Veto
+2 Aether Gust-1 Chalice of the Void

There are two things they can really do. The first is early aggro, but it usually won’t work well unless you’re counterspell flooded. They have no reach so you can easily take 19 damage and stabilise with mass removal and planeswalkers. Another way they can win is through their combo of Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Scurry Oak. They will gain, let’s say, 100 life, 100 tokens and a 100+ power Oak. In such a case, a mass removal does the job. If they combo on your end step thanks to Collected Company, you can hope you’ve sided in Archon of Absolution which makes them unable to attack with the swathe of threats and you can chump the Oak.

Mono Red Aggro

INOUT
+1 Divine Purge-2 Dovin's Veto
+2 Timely Reinforcements-2 Rest in Peace
+2 Aether Gust-2 Memory Deluge
+1 Baneslayer Angel-1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
+1 Lyra Dawnbringer

Post-board we have plenty of life gain effects which are going to be critical as they have a lot of reach. Especially annoying are Ramunap Ruins which are not counterable. Aether Gust is both a removal spell and a counterspell. The angels can stabilise and let nothing go through or turn the corner very quickly. Do not keep slow hands, especially on the draw.

When you side in the angels, Kaheera, the Orphanguard won’t be your companion for the game.

Golgari Food

INOUT
+1 Divine Purge-2 Dovin's Veto
+2 Aether Gust-2 Shark Typhoon
+1 Lyra Dawnbringer-1 Memory Deluge
+1 Baneslayer Angel

It used to be a nightmare match-up, but now there are all the tools necessary to combat all sorts of permanents. March of Otherworldly Light, Farewell, and Divine Purge get rid of all the Food tokens, small creatures, Witch's Oven and their card advantage machine Trail of Crumbs. I do not side in the additional Rest in Peace, but I keep the two for the Cauldron Familiar combo.

When you side in the angels, Kaheera, the Orphanguard won’t be your companion for the game.

Azorius Control

INOUT
+2 Dovin's Veto-2 Rest In Peace
+2 Mystical Dispute -2 Chalice of the Void
+1 Lyra Dawnbringer -2 Divine Purge
+1 Baneslayer Angel -2 Farewell
+2 Archon of Absolution

Unfortunately, there are not enough cards to cut all the removal. That’s why I bring in additional threats instead of having even more dead removal. There won’t be many games where you stick an angel, but there might. If there is more mirror matches in the meta, I suggest both trimming on main deck removal a bit and adding more cards to the board. As is, game one will probably be won by the person who has drawn fewer dead cards. Your lands will be of high significance as they generate value and can’t be interacted with.


Tips and Tricks

Chalice of the [card name=
Chalice of the Void Art by Mark Zug
  • You can put Kaheera, the Orphanguard to hand and use it as a pitch white card for March of Otherworldly Light.
  • When you play Chalice of the Void x=2 and want to play March of Otherworldly Light to exile a one-drop, you can overpay as March says ‘X or less’.
  • If you have Chalice of the Void x=2 and you play your own Dovin's Veto, it won’t get countered as the card itself states that it can’t be countered. The same goes for x=4 and Supreme Verdict.
  • You can exile your own creature with The Wandering Emperor to gain life in critical situations.
  • In the end step with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria‘s trigger, you can float mana to then untap lands. You can use it to float two mana, untap, and then pay two more to cast Memory Deluge.
  • You can pitch multiple cards to March of Otherworldly Light.
  • You can destroy your own permanents with Fateful Absence to get the Clue. It is useful when you have a lot of lands, maybe a single 1/1 Shark token, and need to draw something really good.
  • Memory Deluge cares about the amount of mana paid. If there is an effect that says ‘Noncreature spells cost 1 more to cast’ such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, then when you do, you look at more cards. Same goes for Elite Spellbinder’s tax.
Card Kingdom - Double Masters 2022
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Skura

Also known as Skura or IslandsInFront on Twitter and YouTube, Filip started his career upon the release of Gatecrash and has been passing the turn in all formats ever since. He coaches and creates written and video content, mainly centered around the control archetype. He is passionate about Magic game theory and countering spells. Outside of Magic, he is a fan of snooker/pool, chess and Project Management.

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