Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh Art by Bryan Sola

Standard Azorius Artifacts Guide: The Best of a Control and Synergy Deck

Having played about a week of this new Standard, I can say that it’s definitely been a long time since I had this much fun in this format. Unlike last week when I wrote about Mono Red and everything was somewhat uncertain, some archetypes have already started to establish themselves as strong options in this new meta.

From my point of view, I think the strongest candidates to be part of the Tier 1 decks are: Selesnya Enchantments, Jeskai Hinata, Mono Red Aggro and Azorius Artifacts. Although, some archetypes of the previous standard are still popular like Orzhov Control or good tournament options like Mono White, I believe that understanding the evolution of the format and thoroughly analyzing the emerging archetypes is key to obtaining good results.

I first started hearing of two high caliber players experimenting with the archetype in a similar way: crokeyz and Zan Syed. I started researching it, and that’s when I suddenly started running into it in ranked games. The deck became quite popular, to the point of being my 3rd most played match, only behind Jeskai Hinata and Orzhov Control.

In Magic, playing the right deck at the right time is often the key to good results; That’s why we decided to bring this guide to you so that you can understand how the deck works, and most importantly, that now is the time to play it when you can undoubtedly defeat a large part of the meta without much problem.

Before I introduce you to my adaptations, let me show you the lists of the originators of the archetype. It’s important to note that crokeyz’s approach is for Bo1 and Zan Syed’s is for Bo3.

Bo1 UW Artifacts by crokeyz
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 1
5 mythic
31 rare
8 uncommon
16 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (5)
Creatures (7)
1
Lion Sash
$1.49
4
Ingenious Smith
$2.36
Sorceries (4)
4
Doomskar
$7.96
Artifacts (19)
4
Portable Hole
$11.16
2
The Celestus
$2.98
60 Cards
$236.72
UW Artifacts by Zan Syed
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 3
8 mythic
35 rare
8 uncommon
9 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (6)
Instants (5)
2
Fateful Absence
$3.98
Sorceries (4)
3
Doomskar
$5.97
1
Emeria’s Call
$6.99
Artifacts (12)
4
Portable Hole
$11.16
1
The Celestus
$1.49
Enchantments (8)
Lands (20)
3
Treasure Vault
$29.97
2
Island
$0.50
4
Plains
$1.00
4
Deserted Beach
$47.96
60 Cards
$286.68
15 Cards
$31.95

As you can tell, both retain important similarities, which are important to understanding which are the key pieces of the deck.

I think the main reason behind this archetype’s existence centers around Reckoner Bankbuster, an extremely strong card that definitely reminds me of Mazemind Tome. A key piece of the control decks until a few month ago was the existence of the Tome. Not only did it provide us with a constant draw source but it also allowed us to drive the top of our library and gain some life along the way.

The differences between the Tome and the Bankbuster is that, unlike the Tome, the vehicle stays on the field as a source of constant pressure or a fairly solid defender (and crewing it is not hard, thanks to the pilot it provides). Changing the Tome’s ability to scry and gain life to attack or block with a 4/4 makes Reckoner Bankbuster an incredible option for keeping us in play during attrition games.

The two planeswalkers present in both lists, Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh and Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset are fundamental pieces in this strategy. While Tezzeret would seem to fit well in any deck that plays around artifacts, it’s the aforementioned Reckoner Bankbuster that’s the main reason it’s included. Passively, this blue planeswalker reduces the cost of any ability on our artifacts by 2 colorless mana, making the Bankbuster ability free in addition to being able to gain 1 life and loot with The Celestus for just 1 mana.

On the other hand, Teferi allows us to carry out an endless number of important interactions that can get us ahead of our opponents turn by turn, making this deck work like a perfectly oiled machine, where all the pieces work perfectly together. We can draw with Reckoner Bankbuster, crew it with Ingenious Smith, and then untap both for attacking. We can untap two lands thanks to our four Treasure Vault, we can untap a land and then choose the Vault to untap since it’s an artifact. We can also use Moonsnare Prototype or The Celestus twice… without a doubt this archetype is Teferi’s best place to shine.

Speaking of Ingenious Smith, it is the first key difference between both lists. Zan Syed opts to use Professor of Symbology, however, I think the advantages of opting for a more themed deck build (artifacts) bring substantial benefits. Certainly Professor of Symbology can bring useful lessons to our hand from our sideboard, but the first problem is the fact that it cannot crew the Reckoner Bankbuster, something easy for the Ingenious Smith that grows as we play artifacts.

Second, although the combination of Wedding Announcement and The Restoration of Eiganjo gives us an incredible engine that establishes a strong field presence with some card drawing and recursion in the middle, after watching Zan play for a few months now, I think he could be a little bit biased towards Wedding Announcement. It’s true that he was the one who introduced the card to the Alchemy and Standard metagame, and yes, the card is incredibly good, but forcing the card into all decks that play white might not always be the best option.

If we focus the deck around the artifact theme, we can use the 8 slots from Wedding Announcement and The Restoration of Eiganjo Zan uses and give ourselves better synergies in general terms. 1 more The Celestus, 1 The Blackstaff of Waterdeep and 2 Mirrorshell Crab means more targets for Ingenious Smith, making it possible for it to find removal (Portable Hole), counterspells (crab), ramp (Moonsnare Prototype + The Celestus), and threats like the Blackstaff or Reckoner Bankbuster. Being able to do this with the Ingenious Smith seems incredible to me and is reason enough to prefer it over the Professor of Symbology.

I think that with what has been explained we have already covered the main differences between both lists and at the same time we have talked about the key pieces that both share, making it clear which are the cards that allow this deck to exist. Certainly cards like Portable Hole, Moonsnare Prototype and Disruption Protocol help a lot, which in combination with the good removal that white can offer with cards like Doomskar, March of Otherworldly Light an Fateful Absence round out an incredibly strong deck.

Without a doubt, this archetype can be played in Bo1 or Bo3 without any problem, so before moving on to the rest of our usual sections, I’m going to present to you the list that I have worked on to try to develop this archetype a little more in search of solidifying it as an option in the new meta.

Bo1 UW Artifacts by Bohe
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 1
5 mythic
30 rare
8 uncommon
17 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (5)
Creatures (6)
4
Ingenious Smith
$2.36
Instants (6)
Sorceries (4)
4
Doomskar
$7.96
Artifacts (19)
4
Portable Hole
$11.16
2
The Celestus
$2.98
60 Cards
$238.98

It is known by most that the queue metagame in Bo1 ladder tends to be much more aggressive, which is why I have increased the number of Doomskar to 4 and March of Otherworldly Light to 2. I know that it would seem that not considering Fateful Absence could be a mistake, but let’s explain why.

With 4 Doomskar, 2 March of Otherworldly Light and 4 Portable Hole, we have a solid lineup of removal spells that can help us navigate thru almost any opener an aggro deck could throw at us. Crossing our paths with some planeswalkers could be possible, but again, thanks to the nature of Bo1, adding 1 Disruption Protocol to play the full set of that counter spell plus 2 Mirrorshell Crab should give us enough tools to succeed in playing a slow game.

Another incredible advantage of playing 2 March of Otherworldly Light instead of 2 Fateful Absence (or a split between both) is how popular enchantments are now. The flexibility of the card has taken it even to Modern, so like I said in many articles before, flexibility make cards great, and March is surely a card that can help us in a very wide variety of scenarios. Artifacts, enchantments, creatures, using cards from our hand to help us cast it, and it also exiles its target. This is one of my favorite cards from NEO, and after you play it enough, surely its going to be one of yours.

Let’s go to my version for Bo3.

Bo3 UW Artifacts by Bohe
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 3
5 mythic
30 rare
8 uncommon
17 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (5)
Creatures (6)
4
Ingenious Smith
$2.36
Instants (6)
Sorceries (4)
4
Doomskar
$7.96
Artifacts (19)
4
Portable Hole
$11.16
2
The Celestus
$2.98
60 Cards
$238.98
15 Cards
$79.37

The reason behind my decks generally having the same main board regardless of Bo1 or Bo3 is simple. Despite the different nature of Bo1 and Bo3, I have always preferred not having dead cards when playing Bo1. This means that even if I use some cards that could help in a Bo1 environment, they’re not aggressive sideboard options played in our main 60 against prevalent archetypes while being useless against others.

This allows me to configure the deck in a way that it’s functional for Bo1, adapted to a slightly more aggressive and linear environment while being able to use the same main board for Bo3, opening up the possibility of adapting to circumstances thanks to my choices for the sideboard.

Unlike Zan’s version, we don’t play Professor of Symbology, something that allows us to use those sideboard slots for better purposes. Each of those cards has its own reasoning, but we go into detail on that topic during the sideboard guide. Before that, let’s quickly go through some cards that could be considered for this archetype.


Potential Inclusions

Test of Talent Art by Lie Setiawan
Test of Talent Art by Lie Setiawan
  • Depending on how the meta adjusts, Sunset Revelry can buy us a lot of time against aggro strategies.

Sideboard Guide

Lion Sash Art by Yongjae Choi

After a few hours in Bo3 ladder, my most prevalent matchups were: Hinata Jeskai, Orzhov Control, the mirror match and Selesnya Enchantments. Covering those archetypes should help us understand how we could sideboard against any archetypes we could generally face in the Bo3 ladder.

Hinata Jeskai

InOut
+2 Fateful Absence-4 Doomskar
+3 Malevolent Hermit-1 The Blackstaff of Waterdeep
+2 Negate-4 Portable Hole
+1 The Wandering Emperor-1 The Celestus
+1 Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant
+1 Hullbreaker Horror

Patience is key. We take out Doomskar since it can’t help us against Hinata, Dawn-Crowned or Goldspan Dragon. Sorcery speed removal is not optimal here. On first impression, March of Otherworldly Light could be taken out too, but Jeskai (and Izzet) tend to side in Malevolent Hermit too (just like us). March is great against it because we can exile Hermit and have an extra tool against bigger creatures in case we need it; and keeping Portable Hole just because of Hermit is probably too much.

Cards like Fateful Absence, Negate and The Wandering Emperor really shine here. Having the opportunity of playing a more reactive plan than Jeskai and checking their big plays gives us the upper hand. Playing Hullbreaker Horror is supported by the fact that Jeskai have just two Valorous Stances to kill it. It’s extremely hard for them to deal with it. Saving a counter for Valorous Stance by having Hullbreaker Horror in play is enough to take the game. The Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant choice rests on this same principle. Mixing them both is good because Jin is even better against the mirror match.

Orzhov Control

InOut
+1 Lion Sash-2 Doomskar
+2 Fateful Absence-1 The Celestus
+3 Malevolent Hermit-1 The Blackstaff of Waterdeep
+2 Negate-4 Moonsnare Prototype
+1 The Wandering Emperor-1 Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh

We keep a pair of Doomskar because they can start with a very proactive curve of creatures and they can fill the board thanks to Wedding Announcement, Lolth, Spider Queen, and Mascot Exhibition. Aim your counters carefully. Having all the board wipes is not needed thanks to our 4 Portable Holes and our March of Otherwordly Light (amazing card in this match). We side in 2 Fateful Absence that can help us with Lolth, Spider Queen or The Wandering Emperor at the same time as Welcoming Vampire. Lion Sash is important because even if they tend not to play Blood on the Snow anymore, removing Rite of Oblivion is important.

Playing Malevolent Hermit here is important because it helps us contest the field at the same time as we make them have to take care of it first before playing Wedding Announcement or any of their planeswalkers (and they often take out some removal post sideboard against us). The Wandering Emperor helps us contest the board without exposing our artifacts to creature removal (like Tezzeret does).

Finally, you have to take to things in consideration. They are going to play 2 Farewell (at least), so play with that in mind (save a counter for it) and Mirrorshell Crab is extremely important because it’s really hard for them to deal with it.

Mirror Match

InOut
+2 Fateful Absence-4 Doomskar
+3 Malevolent Hermit-1 The Blackstaff of Waterdeep
+2 Negate-1 The Celestus
+2 Farewell-2 Moonsnare Prototype
+1 Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant-1 Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh
-1 Mirrorshell Crab

Yes, my dear readers. This deck is so real that the mirror match is a thing. Keeping Portable Hole will help us deal with a lot: Ingenious Smith, Moonsnare Prototype (which is why we take out two in this match), and most importantly, Reckoner Bankbuster.

The presence of Malevolent Hermit is key. We can counter almost all the deck with it while giving us something to pressure opposite Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset and Tezzeret, Betrayer of Flesh at the same time. Fateful Absence lets us check these planeswalkers and bother any crew attempt on the Bankbuster. Negate follows the same reasoning as Hermit; the deck only plays to 8 creatures, and having more answers to their Farewell is also very good.

Having one Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant in play can end the game by itself. Having 1 Jin and 1 Hullbreaker Horror split in our sideboard is for this match particularly (instead of two Horror).

Selesnya Enchantments

InOut
+2 March of Swirling Mist-2 Moonsnare Prototype
+1 Lion Sash-4 Disruption Protocol
+2 Fateful Absence-1 Mirrorshell Crab
+2 Farewell

We take out Disruption Protocol because this opposing deck is incredibly fast. Playing while holding a counter most of the time is not possible. We keep The Blackstaff of Waterdeep here because from time to time it helps us hold them back for a turn or two. Mirrorshell Crab is also very slow, but we keep one because during the mid or late stages of the game, a 5/7 is usually good.

I can’t stress enough how many times, thanks to a survival turn it can give to us, March of Swirling Mist can be enough for winning. This card is just amazing against any aggro strategy. Have that in mind against Mono Red, Boros or any other archetype that want to reduce your 20 to 0 in 4 turns.

Finally, even though they don’t have many graveyard interactions, the recursion of Kami of Transience is very annoying. Having Lion Sash to prevent this Kami from coming back is quite important.


Tips and Tricks

Moonsnare Prototype by Fariba Khamseh
  • Something that I didn’t mention is how careful you have to be with Treasure Vault. Many red decks play Abrade and this land is also bad against Farewell. Trying to make some treasures in response (even 1 or 2) is extremely valuable. Discarding this land with Tezzeret instead of Moonsnare Prototype or other artifacts if we have enough lands is also an option.
  • Don’t underestimate Ingenious Smith. It can grab a creature, counter, land, removal, draw engine, ramp, or creature generator in this deck. Also, it can get very very big in a snap.
  • Every time you play pathways (like Hengegate Pathway), try to do it as your last possible land. Choosing the “wrong” color by playing it early is something that could be relevant.

Final Notes

Before I say goodbye, I don’t want to forget to mention that you shouldn’t think that decks are low on lands just because of what is shown in the list. For some reason the list doesn’t count Treasure Vault as land but as artifacts.

I’ve had an incredible time with this deck. And not only with this deck but with the development environment that is the new standard. Lots of new decks are still emerging, the matches are fun, and there’s still a lot to discover. Meanwhile, I invite you to enjoy this new and powerful mech that is Reckoner Bankbuster. Without a doubt it’s one of the most powerful cards in Neo and that we will see in the meta for the next few years, just as it happened with Mazemind Tome during the last Standard.

If you enjoy playing unconventional control variants, this deck is definitely for you. I can assure you that you will have an amazing time and that you will be able to reach Mythic much faster than planned (or win your next tournament, it’s up to you).

Until the next time, and like I always say: Don’t forget to to smile once a day. ^ -^

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Bohe

A full time MTG content creator. Started playing Magic in 99’ with the release of Urza’s Destiny, 3 times Grand Prix attendant (1 as a player ending #78 and 2 as a judge). Mexican, lover of coffee, Korean culture, languages and ex-LoL coach.
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