Standard Azorius Tempo Deck Guide: The Potential Meta Killer?

Spectral Adversary Art by Uriah Voth
Spectral Adversary Art by Uriah Voth

Hello everyone! Today I’m going over the most interesting deck to come out of the Worlds metagame: Azorius Tempo. This deck in particular is so exciting for me as I was actually in a similar headspace to Kushiro last week. I was trying to figure out what deck can attack the Monogreen and Turns metagame well and my first thought was Monowhite.

azorius tempo
52.8% global win rate
0.10% metagame share
Powered by
best against
vs mono-green aggro
64.3% win rate
56 tracked matches
vs grixis turns
50.0% win rate
28 tracked matches
vs izzet turns
50.0% win rate
22 tracked matches
worst against
vs izzet dragons ️
37.5% win rate
8 tracked matches
vs mono-white aggro
32.3% win rate
31 tracked matches

The issue I had with Monowhite though, is that opponents respecting it even a little bit can be disastrous. Sure, Monowhite may have a good Turns matchup now, but what if they decide to play 3-4 Cinderclasm in their 75? You’d pretty much never win. So what did I want to do? I added Blue.

Azorius Monk Class
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Aggro
best of 3
0 mythic
30 rare
18 uncommon
12 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (2)
2
Kabira Takedown
$0.78
Enchantments (4)
4
Monk Class
$3.16
Lands (22)
5
Island
$1.25
7
Plains
$1.75
4
Deserted Beach
$23.96
60 Cards
$155.6
15 Cards
$73.05

What I postulated was that the threats of Monowhite with the interaction Blue afforded us can help shore up a lot of the holes Monowhite has in this metagame. Furthermore, although the mana is far from perfect, it gets 2 solid dual lands which definitely help towards that end as well. Lastly, it’s a deck that can use the powerful Monk Class in conjunction with other double spells matters cards for a quick and brutal deck.

While the deck did perform better than I expected, it still ran into some complications. The mana base was decent, but it couldn’t really support the curve I was going for. I wanted multiple White sources early, but also needed Blue early sometimes leading to awkward scenarios where I couldn’t double spell on 2 or I couldn’t cast a Blue spell on curve.

Second, this version of the deck did perform better against the slow decks of the format, but I felt I was giving up equity against the faster decks as I was just a clunkier Monowhite in those matchups. I wracked my brain trying to come up with a solution to the Azorius puzzle, but was struggling to find it. Before I could give up though, the Worlds decklists got leaked and Kushiro came packing the spice.

Azorius Tempo by Noriyuki Mori – Magic World Championship
by Terence
Standard
Tempo
best of 3
9 mythic
28 rare
9 uncommon
14 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (10)
4
Fading Hope
$1.00
1
Fateful Absence
$7.99
Sorceries (1)
Lands (24)
9
Island
$2.25
5
Plains
$1.25
2
Deserted Beach
$11.98
60 Cards
$262.16
Sideboard
2
Loyal Warhound
$6.98
3
Brutal Cathar
$3.87
2
Legion Angel
$2.58
2
Fateful Absence
$15.98
1
Portable Hole
$1.99
1
Ray of Frost
$0.25
15 Cards
$59.87

This list isn’t built exactly how I would think do it, but I believe he solved the fundamental concept had and it’s Kushiro, he can’t play a deck without a little bit of spice. For starters, he eschewed all the 1 drop creatures which I think was definitely the correct move. Obviously without Monk Class the need for ones drops, but they just can’t perform at their best when the mana is a bit constrained. The worst feeling was keeping a White land, Blue land hand with a potential triple one drop start and whiffing, you’re much better off just making your mana cleaner and starting your threats at 2.

With that in mind, Kushiro has quite the selection of 2 drops at his disposal. Unsurprisingly, we start off with 4 Luminarch Aspirant. The card is just a proactive dream and is amazing when unanswered and rarely loses you value even when answered. In a similar vein, 4 Intrepid Adversary is also no surprise as a 3/1 Lifelink is reasonable on it’s own and the kicker ability is fantastic. Getting a little spicier, we have 2 main deck Malevolent Hermit which I think is such a heads up move in this metagame. I’m actually surprised he didn’t opt for more, but in fairness, drawing them in multiples can be awkward and it isn’t always the easiest to hold up Blue mana, especially when it isn’t the main color.

Furthermore, although acceptable against the other creature decks, they’re far from amazing. The real spice at the 2 drop slot though is the vastly underappreciated Spectral Adversary. At 2, it’s simply a Flash 2/1 Flier, which by itself probably wouldn’t see Standard play, but wouldn’t be far from it either. However, not only does the Flash combine well with the many instants we’ll discuss a bit later, but the kicker ability allows you to save creatures from potentially being killed while also scaling up the body. This was such a cool idea to go with and makes a good deal of sense in the context of his deck. The final 2 is the lone Loyal Warhound. Presumably Kushiro just liked this card and had an open slot in the deck, but this isn’t an effect you ever really want 2 of, so going with just 1 makes a lot of sense.

Moving up the curve, we have the classic Monowhite 3 drops. We have 4 Elite Spellbinder as that card is just excellent in nearly every scenario. It flies, it pressures well, it interacts, it just does everything a White deck generally wants to do. Next is another great call by Kushiro with 3 Reidane, God of the Worthy. I’ve talked about how not enough decks were respecting the power of Reidane, and I’m glad Kushiro was thinking along the same lines. There’s a lot of strong non-creature spells in Standard right now and delaying them for 2 turns can make a humongous difference, doubly so when combined with counterspells. Finally, we have the lone Brutal Cathar which is to show some respect to the other creature decks, but is actually more telling that he believed they would be a much smaller portion of the metagame compared to Epiphany. For the lone 4 drop, we have Legion Angel which I also believe is very well positioned right now. Whether you’re grinding against Turns or creature decks, Legion Angel gives you a flock of well sized threats.

Like the creature suite, Kushiro also diversified his spell slots very well. Taking a page out of the Turns playbook, Kushiro opted for 4 Fading Hope main deck. On the surface, this just looks like respect for the creature matchups. Curving out and following it up with a Fading Hope on their best blocker is definitely a brutal curve in the creature mirrors. However, I think this inclusion was really genius for the Turns matchup. Although you’re never happy to have your creatures bounced, you have a few particularly important ones against Turns like Malevolent Hermit, Reidane, God of the Worthy, and Elite Spellbinder. Having these stick around is such a headache for Turns that they generally need to devote time to killing them, but if you respond with a 1 mana save your creature and scry 1, that’s quite brutal. So Fading Hope is like this weird hybrid interaction that’s great against creatures and still very reasonable against Turns.

The second genius piece of interaction is Concerted Defense. This was another card I was looking into for the metagame and I think was a great inclusion for this deck. Since most of the non-creatures in this metagame are high cost, nabbing them with a psuedo Spell Pierce seems like a great way to punish them, and it’s very unlikely to be dead in the small Worlds field or on ladder. Now, one of the more contentious choices for me in Kushiro’s list is Jwari Disruption. I like Disruption more than most, but I personally don’t think it makes the most sense here. We’re mostly tapping out and this list already has 24 lands so 2 MDFCs seems a bit overkill. However, he may have found that he wanted more Blue sources during testing, but couldn’t afford to play more lands which is the mostly likely scenario to which he came to his conclusion. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought it was also out of place, but just the best card for his need.

Next, the single Fateful Absence just as a hedge against permanents. I don’t think there’s much significance to the one copy main beyond it’s a fine card, he wanted to play 3 in the 75, and he head some room main deck. Lastly, we have the singleton Alrund’s Epiphany so he can blend in with the Turns players. Jokes aside, this is an interesting option in a deck like Monowhite, but if Izzet Dragons taught us anything, pressure with interaction and Epiphany is an extremely brutal combination. If you get to cast this, I’m sure it’s going to be great, but Kushiro obviously knew that he couldn’t go overboard so I think the 1 copy main is very smart.

For the sideboard, nothing is too out of the ordinary and just looks like a culmination of smart decisions. I really like boarding Loyal Warhound as it’s just such a powerful effect when on the draw. Otherwise, his board is just a culmination of cards he already had in the main deck that will pad his numbers for that effect or targeted interaction. Kushiro definitely took a bit of a risk submitting this to worlds, but it’s construction is based off of extremely solid logic and just enough creativity to solve some of the archetypes endemic problems.

MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING

Fateful Absence Art by Eric Deschamps
Fateful Absence Art by Eric Deschamps

IZZET / GRIXIS TURNS

INOUT
+2 Malevolent Hermit-1 Brutal Cathar
+1 Concerted Defense-1 Fateful Absence
+2 Loyal Warhound (if on the draw)-1 Alrund’s Epiphany
-2 Fading Hope (if on the draw)

The boarding here is a bit easier since Kushiro seems functionally preboarded for this matchup. You’re always going to be the aggressor while they’re always going to be the defender so make sure you constantly put pressure on them so they don’t have time to start piecing together their win conditions.

Very aggressively use your counterspells here as many lists are going to opt for the Cyclone Summoner end game rather than an Alrund’s Epiphany win.

IZZET DRAGONS

INOUT
+2 Malevolent Hermit-1 Brutal Cathar
+1 Concerted Defense-4 Fading Hope
+2 Fateful Absence-1 Alrund’s Epiphany
+1 Ray of Frost-2 Intrepid Adversary (if on the draw)
+2 Loyal Warhound (if on the draw)

Dragons is definitely a more awkward matchup than Turns as they have two distinct win conditions that you have to beat. They don’t play many creatures, but both will absolutely rock you if unanswered so you still need to keep a reasonable amount of interaction in to compensate.

Second, they still have the Alrund’s Epiphany win condition which you have a lot of answers for, but still isn’t to be underestimated. You really need to pressure them quickly as they will kill you if you give them too much time. There is a consideration to keep in some amount of Fading Hope just for Smoldering Egg, but it’s very bad against Goldspan Dragon which makes me want to nix all copies.

MONO GREEN AGGRO

INOUT
+3 Brutal Cathar-4 Spectral Adversary
+2 Fateful Absence-1 Concerted Defense (-3 if on the draw)
+1 Portable Hole-1 Loyal Warhound (if on the play)
+2 Loyal Warhound (if on the draw)-1 Malevolent Hermit (if on the draw)

Monogreen can be scary as it’s fast and their creatures outscale yours, but a solid curve backed up by a piece of interaction is all it takes to win most of the time. With that, we have a decent amount of removal and aonly get more in the post board so this matchup has seemed reasonable so far as it’s not too far off Monowhite which also is supposed to have a decent Monogreen matchup.

Try not to keep hands with too much interaction either as Monogreen has a lot of grindy cards that can punish hands looking to 1 for 1.

MONO WHITE AGGRO

INOUT
+3 Brutal Cathar-1 Loyal Warhound (if on the play)
+2 Fateful Absence-3 Spectral Adversary (-4 if on the draw)
+1 Portable Hole-3 Concerted Defense
+1 Alrund’s Epiphany-2 Malevolent Hermit (if on the draw)
+2 Loyal Warhound (if on the draw)

Unlike the Monogreen matchup, I don’t believe this deck’s construction hurts so much in the psuedo mirror. You’re going to be a tad behind comparatively as your mana base is worse, but there are still plenty of tools to make this matchup reasonable. If you keep solid hands with a good curve and a piece or two of interaction, you’ll definitely have a fighting chance.

A specific tip for this matchup, don’t overvalue Fading Hope as bounce spells are best when you’re the aggressor, but because you have more awkward mana, it’s likely you’re going to have to be defensive and use Fading Hope at less than ideal times.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Reidane, God of the Worthy Art by Jason Rainville
Reidane, God of the Worthy Art by Jason Rainville
  • In most other decks you’d want to sandbag Luminarch Aspirant to play around removal, but in this meta, it makes more sense to run it out ASAP. You need the size against the other creature decks and the pressure for the slow decks.
  • Although holding Intrepid Adversary is great for the kicker, if it’s your only two drop play, just run it out.
  • Malevolent Hermit is really good at trading against the creature decks as it’s two bodies in one, if you already have Concerted Defenses in hand to stop scarier non-creatures, consider more aggressively trading with it.
  • It’s tempting to try and save Spectral Adversary to play around removal, but you can even use the kicker ability to blink out chump blockers to save some life. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting for the perfect moment that never comes.
  • Don’t forget about the power of Reidane, God of the Worthy‘s Valkmira side. Against Monowhite, it can prevent a lot of damage and make trading extremely difficult, but against Turns, it could help prevent them from killing you with Birds if they don’t have a Divide by Zero for it (generally the creature half is better against Turns, but it’s something to consider).
  • You shouldn’t go out of your way to hold up Jwari Disruption unless you’re positive you’re going to be able to use it. A lot of players are too eager to hold up counterspells and then savvy players either play something medium into it or just pass which can squander your turn.
  • Try to hold up interaction during the key turns which will differ by matchup. For example, the key turn against Monogreen is turn 4 and 5 (or mana 4 and 5) while the key turns against Epiphany is 5-7 (or mana 5-7).

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

7 Responses

  1. Kalessin says:

    White can also sideboard Guardian of faith to deal with sweepers or problematic removal (specially those that allow to grab a lesson).

  2. Albel says:

    Heya!
    I tested this deck and I really wanted to like it. It’s fast yet interactive and a true black horse.

    However, either I suck at it (perfectly well possible), or it is somewhat lacking. Current WC results are also somewhat disappointing.

    Against creature decks it seems to fall behind, as 1 on 1-ing monowhite or monogreen is tough. It seems to be geared towards current control, as the results in these matchups are clearly better. Still by far not unwinnable for izzet and friends.

    Still fun to play so thanks for the deep dive.

  3. HOTSPUR says:

    I’ve been playing this for about 10-15 games now. It’s a really fun deck, and helps make my old monowhite feel more interesting and flexible. The one thing I can’t quite wrap my head around is the counters just don’t feel quite right. Part of it is through weird luck, I simply haven’t pulled the more useful higher end counter at all, but the two contingent ones feel uncomfortable to me. The Concerted Defence is fine, and hermit is fine, but the jhadwari just feels less than useful most of the time (I think I’ve been able to use it to counter a goldspan once, and they didn’t make that mistake twice…) Need to take a look at some other more solid countering options and see if it feels different.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      The counter spells are a bit weird, but seem necessary in a turns dominated metagame. Jwari def isn’t great, but I’m assuming it’s a hedge to have extra blue lands that can sometimes be useful otherwise.

  4. fox says:

    Using this for a bit – has a really cool playstyle mix of the aggro vs control.

    Any recommendations for adapting this to Bo1? Just go with the base or use one of the matchup sideboards?

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Definitely a tough question. If you’re seeing a mix of creatures and control, then the stock list (sans Warhound) would be good. If you’re only really seeing creature decks, Monowhite is likely a stronger choice.