The Definitive Historic Azorius Control Guide, featuring MPL pro Chris Kvartek

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (Dominaria) Art by Chris Rallis

Hello to all the Harry Potters and Gandalfs out there!

This time I will be writing about my new favorite deck in Historic: Azorius Control! I usually don’t play much Control but this one is a lot of fun! It’s also very well positioned in the metagame, on top of having an inherently high power level itself. 

The original idea came from Magic-Pro-League member Christopher Kvartek, who I worked with when constructing this list. As a result, this will be the most in-depth guide I have ever made, because I had the input of one of Magic’s greatest players (definitely check him out when you have the time, it really is worth it: twitch.tv/kavartech).

Have fun and enjoy!

The Game Plan of this Deck

This is just a very classic approach to the Control archetype: survive the early game with cards like Baffling End, Absorb and Wrath of God and finish the game by burying them in card advantage with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and then hitting them over and over with Shark Typhoon or Castle Ardenvale tokens. These win conditions don’t look like much, but Teferi is so strong that protecting him for 1-2 turns with some counterspells is usually enough to win the game. Castle Ardenvale does not look like much too, but making a 1/1 every turn in the late game ends the games pretty quickly. It is really just how I said in the beginning: Survive early game, conquer late game. 

Why Azorius?

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is one of the strongest cards in Historic, so it’s definitely worth building a Deck around him. We also got some sweet additions with Amonkhet Remastered in the form of Wrath of God, Cast Out, Censor and Irrigated Farmland. One thing that has really pushed the Control Archetype in general is the banning of Field of the Dead: that card was just impossible to out grind and basically slammed the door in front of Control decks. Counterspells in general are very good in Historic right now, since Teferi, Time Raveler is gone so they almost never turn into dead cards. Countering the important synergy pieces like Collected Company, Bolas’s Citadel, and Muxus, Goblin Grandee is critical, because they’re the most important cards in thsoe decks.

The better question would be: Why not Sultai? Why not Bant? Are Growth Spiral, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Nissa, Who Shakes the World not good enough reasons? When you add another color, more options become available!

Well, yes, they are definitely powerful, but they’re honestly just not what you necessarily need when you play Control. Teferi is more than enough to win games.

Adding another Color means that you get to play new cards, but it also makes your mana base worse, which is actually quite a big minus here: we can play 3 Castle Ardenvales, 2 Castle Vantresses and a Scavenger Grounds without significantly harming ourselves. Absorb is one of the best counterspells right now because a lot of decks try to attack your life total, Dovin’s Veto is obviously the best form of Negate, and we can play these cards because we have a clean efficient mana base.

You also have to consider that you need to cut cards if you want to add some. I don’t want to cut Shark Typhoon, some counterspells, or Teferis just to make room for other cards that aren’t even better most of the time. Believe me, I have played a lot of control “mirrors” (U/W, Sultai, Bant) in historic lately, and I have always felt ahead even though they have Uro, just because i play way more Counterspells, Castle Ardenvales and Shark Typhoons than they do. 

Some general Tips and Tricks

  • If you have 4 lands and one of them is Irrigated Farmland, don’t cycle it. This deck wants plenty of mana.
  • Don’t keep 2 lands unless you have Search for Azcanta or some cards to cycle.
  • Should the game go incredibly long and you’re looking to win by decking them, you can always use -3 on your own Teferi. If you do that, it’s impossible to die to natural decking, unless they can disrupt you.
  • If you need 1 more card to flip Search for Azcanta, it’s sometimes correct to set an upkeep stop and cycle with the trigger on the stack to guarantee it flipping. 
  • You can use Absorb on your own spells if you need to survive exactly one more turn.
  • You can use your Castles and Azcanta twice a turn if you have Teferi, Hero of Dominaria out.
  • Try to use narrow counterspells first, if you can: Absorb will be able to counter any spell later on while Disdainful Stroke won’t.
  • Most of the times it’s better to make Castle Ardenvale tokens instead of playing Kaheera, the Orphanguard, since you can do that at instant speed and leave mana open.
  • It’s usually better to use Cast Out or Baffling End instead of using Teferi’s -3, to preserve a higher loyalty.
  • Most of the time, it’s better to ignore Shark Typhoon’s enchantment mode, as it’s usually just better to cycle into a bigger shark. Most of our spells are reactive anyway so the sharks won’t be too big.

Card Choices: What I Play

absorb-art-crop

Being a good Control player means that your read on the meta is great and that you can adjust quickly, which means that most of the numbers of your cards can vary and should usually not be seen as a fixed must-play amount, but rather differ week to week, or even from day to day. I’ll explain how that applies to specific cards as we go.

We have a lot of card options for Control, and my not playing something does not mean that your choice of card has to be wrong. I will try to explain why I don’t play certain cards in the “Card Choices: What I don’t play” section, but again, there are a lot of options and only 60 slots in your Deck, so you have to make some cuts (the pain of choices worsens when you play another color by the way).

4 Absorb

As mentioned before, a lot of decks try to attack your life total, so stapling lifegain onto a counterspell is exactly what you need. Against Decks like Mono-Red Burn, this essentially trades for 2 burn spells. Even in slower matchups, this can be relevant such as when you need to survive some extra turns against a Shark Typhoon token. Counterspells are the bread and butter of Control decks, and Absorb just seems like the best 3-Mana choice to me. If the meta should shape up where the lifegain does not matter, play Sinister Sabotage or Neutralize instead, but I think that a lot needs to happen in order for Absorb’s lifegain to be worse.

2 Baffling End

This is probably the best 2-mana removal spell that you can get, because it’s not entirely dead in Control mirrors since it hits Shark Typhoon tokens and, most importantly, Uro. Rakdos Pyromancer seems to be getting more and more popular and it’s really good to exile their things instead of killing them. Assuming you play a lot against creatures, the number of Baffling End could easily go up to 4, but I haven’t seen Auras in a while and against most other creature decks, Wrath of God is enough to win the games anyway. Adjust to your liking!

4 Cast Out

This card is just so awesome, because you can just cycle it away if you don’t need it! It also answers every permanent at instant speed, so I just love its flexibility. Having a cheap way to get cards into your graveyard is also good for flipping Search for Azcanta, and it helps you find your much-needed land drops early. It’s also a great maindeck answer to Trail of Crumbs, which I don’t see often, but is a problematic card to deal with. Note that it’s pretty bad against cards that have an ETB (enter-the-battlefield) effect, if your opponents can remove the Cast Out, so be careful while using it. I would in general advise against cutting this card unless you really need a slot for another card, because the floor of cycling this is still so good.

3 Castle Ardenvale

I started with 2, but then quickly wanted 3 copies of this. Providing clutch blockers or game enders, this card wins a lot of games for me and it’s basically for free, because it’s just a land! This is really where only having 2 colors in your deck shines, because it’s really greedy to play even 2 of these in a 3-color deck. 

2 Castle Vantress

This one’s a bit worse than Castle Ardenvale, and I could definitely see playing only 1 copy. Most of the time you want to use either a flipped Search for Azcanta or Castle Ardenvale with your excess mana, but it’s still nice to have the flexibility and have 5 lands overall that you can use if you’re flooding out a bit. Castle Vantress makes it really tough to flood out because it greatly increases the chance of drawing gas once you hit the later stages of the game. 

Both Castles really shine in decks (ours in particular) that want to keep mana open for counterspells, while also having the ability to use your mana for something else, should you decide not to counter anything.

4 Censor

Another unsung hero in this deck. Having cheap cycling makes a lot of cards playable, and this one is no exception. Without Cycling, this card would be horrible and completely unplayable, but the fact that it prevents your opponents from curving out while also never being a dead card (which happens a lot with cards like Spell Pierce or Quench) is just awesome. Just like Cast Out, it helps fill your graveyard for Search for Azcanta. Always play the full playset in the maindeck – it really is that good.

1 Disdainful Stroke

It’s great for Control decks to have a large variety of counterspells, so this one slots well. Obviously it is quite narrow and it doesn’t hit anything against Lurrus decks and Mono-Red Burn, so you shouldn’t play more than 1 copy, but I’ve found that it still does enough. 1-of’s are also better than they look, because you have the ability to dig through multiple cards with the help of Castle Ardenvale, Narset, Parter of Veils, and a flipped Search for Azcanta

1 Dovin’s Veto

Much like Disdainful Stroke, you want to have a large variety of counterspells and having one against non-creatures is an easy slot in. You can play Teferi, Hero of Dominaria on curve while keeping Dovin’s Veto up in the same turn, which usually wins the game. This line of play is so strong that I would love to have 2 copies of this instead of the one Disdainful Stroke, but unfortunately Veto is just a complete blank against Goblins, which is already not easy to beat. This is the type of card that I would include 1-3 copies of, depending on the metagame.

4 Irrigated Farmland

I am not going to explain why Glacial Fortress and Hallowed Fountain are in this deck, but Irrigated Farmland might need some explanation. Being able to cash this in for a card when you’re flooding is already better than the moldy Temple of Enlightenment, but having both “Island” and “Plains” as text means that you now have 8 Dual lands that make your Glacial Fortress and the castles come into play untapped. 

2 Narset, Parter of Veils

Another card where you could easily play all 4 copies. The problem is that it’s quite tough to play her on turn 3 and have her survive a turn against most Decks, so her value goes significantly down; a lot of times you just want to keep Absorb open instead. Narset is usually way better in the later stages of the game where you’ve stabilized the board to some extent and are able to cash her in for 2 fresh cards. We also don’t play Elspeth Conquers Death, which means that we won’t be able to get her back for new value. All these reasons make me want to only play 2 copies of her in the maindeck, but she is quite powerful so I could see playing more copies. Especially in Control mirrors, her ability to stop them drawing extra cards can be crippling (and this is the reason why I have another copy in the sideboard), but for now I am happy with this number. 

2 Search for Azcanta

I absolutely love this card because it just snowballs so many games when you drop it on turn 2, and because it’s so cheap that you can always squeeze it in on turn 4 or 5 and leave countermagic open. It’s not great to draw multiples so you really shouldn’t play more than 2 copies, but I found it so strong that I wanted the 2nd copy just so I could draw it more often. Note that you can still play one after your first Search for Azcanta has flipped, you just need to hit “decline” when it asks you to transform the second copy. It gets around Narset’s passive and is just perfect in finding anything that you need in the late game.
Against beatdown decks, you can just drop this on turn 2 and then keep mana open for your counterspells for the rest of the game, while it’s a bit tougher to do with Narset because she costs 1 more. I would probably play 4 copies if it didn’t have those heavy diminishing returns and wasn’t legendary. 

4 Shark Typhoon

This card is just unbelievable. It single-handedly wins control mirrors, provides an early blocker, can’t be countered, has instant-speed, and is even a strong late game win condition when you play it as an enchantment (don’t get greedy with this, usually it’s better just to cycle). Technically, it’s not crucial to our game plan, but I really do not see a reason to play fewer copies as it does basically everything you want (apart from countering a spell).

4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Man of the hour. Cutting a copy from your maindeck is probably a punt, and I highly advise against doing so if your plan is to win games. Teferi really is the reason why you want to play Azorius Control, so it should be a no-brainer. The fact that it basically gives you 2 extra mana is just unbelievable when you try to play with counterspells, and it also protects yourself from problematic permanents (even planeswalkers! how crazy is that). Try to play him in a spot where the board is mostly cleared, as sticking Teferi is one of your primary win conditions. Don’t forget that his +1 also lets you untap your castles and the flipped Azcanta, so you can sometimes use them twice per turn. If you’re trying to use his +1 to generate extra mana in the same turn, set an end step stop and float your mana before using it, so you have more mana to work with if your opponent somehow reacts.

4 Wrath of God

This is the best defensive tool you have against any deck that wants to attack your life total (and that’s a lot of decks) or tries to use creatures for synergy (sacrifice decks for example). It is your worst card in mirror matches, but you absolutely need 4 copies or else you will be too soft to the creature decks. 

1 Essence Scatter

Another counterspell for variety’s sake, though most decks play creatures and it rarely will be a dead card.

1 Scavenger Grounds

There are a lot of Decks in Historic right now that use the graveyard effectively: Rakdos Pyromancer, Sultai/Bant Uro, and the sacrifice Decks with Woe Striders. It’s just a nice value land to have, and even though it is bad with Absorb, Dovin’s Veto, and Narset, it’s just one copy which should be fine. 

Companion: Kaheera, the Orphanguard

We don’t play any creatures so Kaheera is just an expensive 3-drop for free. Better than nothing!

27 Lands

This is quite a lot, but it’s crucial to hit lands every turn until even turn 8. You also have a lot of cards that use your excess mana in both the castles and Shark Typhoon, and 4 of those lands have cycling. It’s really hard to flood with this Deck, as you almost always have a lot to do with your mana.

Card Choices: What I don’t play

Lord of Extinction

Again, me not playing these cards doesn’t mean that they are bad; it just means that I like my choices more and I will try to explain why.

Frantic Inventory

This card is actually pretty good, as it ramps up quickly, gives you a lot of card advantage if the game goes longer, and it’s easy to squeeze one into your lines of play since it’s so cheap. My biggest issue is that, in order for this to be good, you really need to play all 4 copies and there is no wiggle room. If you have paid attention closely, you would have realized that most of our card advantage pieces don’t just draw us cards; they usually have multiple applications or are a very selective form of card advantage (like Search for Azcanta). We just don’t have room for it, so I’d rather not play it.

Seal Away

Against Aggro, this is usually better than Baffling End because you’re able to use it on your opponent’s turn, but there are a lot of cards that don’t need to tap for value and it’s annoying that you cannot finish them off. Also note that some decks are actually able to remove enchantments and while this is also a con for Baffling End, at least they will always get a 3/3 without text instead of the important creature that you exiled. This is a bit better against decks where the instant speed is relevant, but that is such a small number that I would rather have Baffling End, where I always know what I am getting for my money.

Hieroglyphic Illumination

It’s actually nice to have flexible card draw, but I think paying 4 mana for 2 cards is just not what you want to be doing these days, and it also does not impact the board at all.

Sphinx’s Revelation 

This card is powerful but clunky, even though it does have instant-speed. It’s just really expensive and you need to be in a spot where you are already winning to have the time to cast it. Even then, you are spending your mana without impacting the board. You really don’t have a lot of slots in your Deck, and I think even 1 copy is 1 too many. 

There is also this problem that it’s not even that great in the mirror, because they are either Sultai and you are pressured to cast this early or risk losing it to a Thoughtseize, or you’re against Azorius where they have Narsets and Disputes. On top of that, we already have enough card advantage. It really feels unnecessary. 

Commit // Memory

The idea behind this is that you have a removal for 4 and then cast Memory when you have Narset out, drawing you seven while they only draw one. It’s sweet but quite unnecessary; there are basically no spots where you cast this and aren’t already in a good position, and spending 4 mana for removal is what we have the Cast Outs for. 

Supreme Will/ Thassa’s Intervention

These cards are sweet because they are both either a counterspell or card advantage, and thus pretty flexible, but I think they both cost 1 mana too much unfortunately.

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets

I do not want a watered down version of Teferi. Get out of here!

Elspeth Conquers Death

This one actually stings a bit, as it really is a strong card. There are 3 issues with this: 

  1. Some decks don’t have good targets for its first mode.
  2. You don’t want another 5-drop that forces you to tap out – Teferi at least untaps 2 lands.
  3. Now that Teferi, Time Raveler is gone, there are far fewer targets for the third mode. 

All of this makes me not want to include this card, but you could totally squeeze 1 or 2 copies into your sideboard and just play them in the right matchups.

Teferi, Master of Time

I think that most people highly overrate this card, and I believe that the reason for that is that they do not realize that this Teferi is actually card disadvantage. It does not draw you a card, it just filters your future draws, and sometimes blanks an attacker. It does not even remove it. You literally go a card down! On top of that, you don’t have too many cards that you want to discard, as you need to hit your lands every turn anyway.

The difference between this deck and Bant Mid-ramp in Standard is that we do not play Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, so binning cards isn’t exciting for us. Sure, we can flip Search for Azcanta faster, but that’s really not worth it, and it flips fast enough anyway. Don’t get fooled by this card, as we win through card advantage and this card actively takes away from that plan.

Baneslayer Angel, Dream Trawler

You don’t need a tap-out win condition when the win conditions you already have don’t force you to tap out and are more than enough. Historic is a format where you want to survive by killing their creatures and not by simply having a big blocker. I know these cards are sweet, but you absolutely do not need them. Even against Mono-Red Burn, there will be enough spots where they can just burn you out the turn you cast one of these.

Settle the Wreckage

This is the kind of card that significantly goes down in value when your opponents know that it exists, and it’s quite obvious that you’re going to settle them if you have 4 mana open and pass the turn against a stacked board. Also, giving your opponent lands can be pretty punishing such as when you’re using this against Krenko, Mob Boss tokens – basically taking all the lands out of your opponent’s deck and making them only draw gas until the end of the game. It’s just kind of situational, and we just don’t need more than 4 sweepers in this format.

Shatter the Sky

As I have just mentioned, we don’t need more than 4 sweepers right now, but if we did, we would play 1-2. It’s obviously worse than Wrath of God, but you can only play 4 of those, so this will be your second choice.

Nezahal, Primal Tide

This is meant to be a mirror breaker out of the sideboard, but it’s laughably bad against Castle Ardenvale and it forces you to keep a lot of cards in your hand to protect it. You also tap 7 mana in your own turn, which is really unappealing. I can see why it never survived evolution.

Commence the Endgame

Another “mirror breaker”, but drawing 2 cards for 6 is pretty weak and it’s easy to blank the attackers. I am not saying that it’s bad, but I want my expensive narrow sideboard cards to actually win games, not just be good. As it stands, even Shark Typhoon and Castle Ardenvale are better ways to use mana.

Field of Ruin

This is a pretty valid metagame choice; if you play a lot of Castle Ardenvale mirrors, you can play this instead of Scavenger Grounds. Right now, I think there are more decks that use the graveyard, so I like having the latter more.

Brazen Borrower

This card is really good, but I just don’t know how to fit it in. It is really good against Shark Typhoon and it helps you get some tempo back, should a problematic permanent slip under your Counterspells. While it’s also good against Bolas’s Citadel, it’s not great against the rest of that deck.

I think the biggest problem is that it’s not good against enough decks main, while not being impactful enough for a sideboard slot. I wouldn’t blame you for playing 1-2 copies of this, but I would much rather prefer play 4 Shark Typhoons. 

Matchups and Sideboarding

General notes: Do not cut Teferi, Hero of Dominaria – he may be expensive, but you actively need to close games after stabilizing or you will give your opponent too many draw steps. Against creatures, removal in. Against Control, removal out and counterspells in.

Goblins

I will start with this because it is our toughest matchup, while not being really that bad. You need to keep the board clean and then always have a counterspell for Muxus, but doing both at the same time is obviously not that easy as they play a lot of haste and value creatures. The biggest problem really is that Muxus can always win the game, no matter how good it looks for you, and that just puts a huge tax onto your mana management. On top of that, it’s not easy to protect your Planeswalkers against haste creatures. If you play against a lot of Goblins, move up to 3 Grafdigger’s Cage. Don’t put Timely Reinforcements in as Krenko and Muxus, your biggest problems, easily overpower it. You sometimes die to their early aggression, but you’re going to need a sweeper anyway most of the time. Them playing Goblin Ringleaders, Goblin Matrons and Conspicuous Snoop means that it’s tougher to choke them out of resources compared to other creature decks.

InOut
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Baffling End
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Dovin’s Veto
1 Shark Typhoon

Rakdos Pyromancer

This matchup can be annoying when they get to cast a lot of Thoughtseizes with Dreadhorde Arcanist, and they play a lot of recursive threats. Try to find good windows for your Baffling Ends, as they remove the creatures forever. Use your Absorbs aggressively, as their spells are all cheap anyway and finding windows to resolve them is not the easiest. If you struggle a lot and if this deck gets even more popular, play up to 3 copies of Rest in Peace, as they cannot ever beat that card (in contrast to Grafdigger’s Cage where they will bring in Abrades). I just like Grafdigger’s Cage a bit more in general, because it is not as narrow as Rest in Peace and helps against Collected Company, Bolas’s Citadel, and Muxus. You can only dedicate so many sideboard slots to hosing graveyard decks, after all.
Be careful with creating huge sharks game 1 as they often play Claim the Firstborn, which is dead against us otherwise, and you do not want to die to your own card. Just make a baby shark (du-du-dudududu)!

Post-board, you just want to survive and then knock their infinite graveyard shenanigans out with Grafdigger’s Cage or Rest in Peace

InOut
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Rest in Peace
2 Baffling End
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Dovin’s Veto
1 Essence Scatter

Mono-Red Burn

This one of our better matchups, as it’s quite hard for them to beat Absorbs. Sometimes, they get you good with a fast draw, but your early removal is mostly going to stifle their aggression. Timely Reinforcements is insane against them and almost unbeatable when you resolve it. Cut Narset, as she is quite slow. I like to cut one Wrath of God because they usually only play a few small creatures, which are complemented by burn spells. 

InOut
2 Baffling End
2 Timely Reinforcements
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Wrath of God

Coco Citadel Decks (Jund, Golgari, Abzan)

Believe it or not, these are all good matchups! These decks are combo-ish instead of having Cauldron Familiar + Witch’s Oven + Trail of Crumbs, which is much better for us. They play all these setup cards that are -conveniently- creatures, so you can either just Wrath of God them, or counter their important payoff in Bolas’s Citadel or Collected Company. Just be careful that you don’t let either of these 2 resolve and you should be fine.

InOut
2 Baffling End
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Dovin’s Veto
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Search of Azcanta
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Essence Scatter

Jund Food

This version, on the other hand, is quite tough to beat, but it’s also less popular. It still plays Trail of Crumbs, which is pretty tough to interact with, and Witch’s Oven makes it so that your removal always gives your opponents some value. This is a matchup where hardcasting Shark Typhoon goes a long way towards winning, as they have trouble beating a lot of fliers. Again, be a bit careful though, as they play Claim the Firstborn. If they get their engine going, not even Teferi can outvalue them, and all of their pieces are pretty cheap. That being said, Grafdigger’s Cage and Rest in Peace are still pretty good against them, but they try to mitigate that by playing Thrashing Brontodon. If you are expecting more Jund, try to squeeze one Heliod’s Intervention into your sideboard, as this deals with Trail of Crumbs, Witch’s Oven, and sometimes some food tokens.

One small hint, should it ever matter: If they activate their Witch’s Oven to sacrifice the Cauldron Familiar, you can try to exile it with your Scavenger Grounds before the trigger resolves and they get the food token. Like that, they won’t be able to return it to the battlefield in time. This obviously only works if they have no food token lying around, so it is narrow, but still something to look out for.

InOut
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Rest in Peace
2 Baffling End
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Essence Scatter

Azorius Control (The Mirror)

I felt way ahead most of the time because my counterparts usually don’t play as many Shark Typhoons and Castle Ardenvales as I do. This is what’s important in the mirror: 

  1. Hitting lands almost every turn. It’s easy to lose counter wars if you have fewer lands. Aggressively cycle Cast Out and Censor if you’re missing lands, as both are not great anyway. Censor will become useless quickly when you’re both trying to hit lands, and Cast Out is almost uncastable because you risk it getting removed by their Teferi or their own Cast Out
  2. Your best cards are Castle Ardenvale and Shark Typhoon, as both of these do not require you to tap out in your turn. If you need to hit lands, cycle Shark Typhoon early, but sometimes it’s better to wait some turns to get a bigger shark as this really pressures your opponent.
  3. If you have Castle Ardenvale in your hand, do not play it unless you can activate it or you have no other lands to play. That way, your opponent has less chance to adjust their gameplan for it, and it also dodges opposing Field of Ruins, should they play it. Hiding information in general is important in magic, and it’s even more important in Control Mirrors. If you have Castle Ardenvale in play and your opponent doesn’t, and you got some countermagic, do not play Narset or Teferi. They are going to be forced to tap out first because you’re going to overwhelm them with tokens otherwise. Similarly, if they have a castle or a shark and you don’t, you’re going to have to take some risks and have to tap out, because it’s tough to beat instant-speed uncounterable threats.
  4. Playing Teferi on curve on turn 5 is pretty bad, as they are going to resolve theirs if they counter yours, so try to find a window where you’re not letting your shields down too much. On the other hand, playing Narset on turn 3 is fine, as they don’t have any plays on turns 3 or 4 anyway, besides their own Narset, so I usually just jam it. Post-board they will have Mystical Dispute, but don’t let that stop you from playing it on Turn 2, as the upside is pretty high should it resolve.
  5. Try to use your Cast Outs on Shark Typhoons, or targets where you won’t get punished if they remove the enchantment.
InOut
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Dovin’s Veto
3 Mystical Dispute
1 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Essence Scatter
4 Wrath of God
2 Baffling End

Sultai Uro/ Bant Uro

Game 1 I feel pretty favored against Sultai, because we have more counterspells and Shark Typhoons than them and their game plan relies on resolving Nissa quite a lot. On top of that, they play an incredible amount of removal, which are impressive pieces of useless cardboard in this matchup. After boarding, it gets a bit tough when they get their own countermagic, and the biggest problem is them being able to get mana quickly onto the battlefield, which will result in bigger shark tokens. Growth Spiral is pretty good, I heard! Nissa is also slightly stronger than Teferi in this matchup, as the animated land can always kill your Teferi, even if you use your -3 on it. Thoughtseize also goes a pretty long way, and Hydroid Krasis will draw cards even if countered.

This all sounds pretty bad, but the matchup overall is still pretty close and both sides have to try hard. If you manage to stick a Narset, it’s also very hard for them to win, as most of their advantage comes from Krasis and Uro. Thanks to our favourable game 1, this matchup is positive overall.

Bant on the other hand is pretty easy to beat, as the lack of Thoughtseize just makes you the better Control Deck, and you should be able to win the counter battles most of the time. Note that Disdainful Stroke won’t be able to counter Uro when they escape it.

Sideboarding against Bant and Sultai remains the same:

InOut
2 Dovin’s Veto
3 Mystical Dispute
1 Narset, Parter of Veils
4 Wrath of God
1 Essence Scatter
1 Baffling End

Gruul Aggro

I feel like this deck does not exist anymore, but I’ll still talk a bit about it. In general, it’s a good matchup, but you need to be careful of Questing Beast and Embercleave. Other than that, you just cast Wrath of God a few times and win the game. 

InOut
2 Timely Reinforcements
2 Baffling End
1 Dovin’s Veto
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Shark Typhoon

U/W Auras

With our current iteration, this is a bad matchup. We don’t have a lot of cheap removal, and Wrath of God rarely kills their important threats because of Selfless Savior. Alseid of Life’s Bounty is also tough to play around. If they get to stick a Kor Spiritdancer, they are going to outvalue you quickly. That being said, they lose against their own deck a lot because it’s so much weaker when they don’t draw Spiritdancer.

This deck dropped in popularity because of the rise of Rakdos Pyromancer, Sultai and Sacrifice Decks, all tough decks for them to beat. Should it have a resurgence, add some Glass Caskets and Settle the Wreckages.

Narset is not great because it’s practically impossible to keep alive against them. Timely Reinforcements is also not all that great because they have the Cartouche of Knowledge to fly over the tokens, and it doesn’t fix the problem of them drawing tons of cards with the Spiritdancer. 

InOut
2 Baffling End
1 Rest in Peace
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Narset, Parter of Veils

Mono-Blue Tempo

It’s easy to lose against an early flier with a Curious Obsession, but other than that it’s not all that bad. Just don’t be too scared and try to just jam, as it’s tough to win counter battles against Spell Pierces and Lofty Denials anyway. Don’t board Dovin’s Veto in, as it’s really tough to find windows for using them since Curious Obsession and Curiosity only cost 1 mana, and you’re going to lose the counter battles on average. Despite my advice to not board out Teferi, I think this is the one matchup where it’s okay, because you don’t need him too much to win and you just need to kill their threats, and he’s pretty tough to resolve. Here are some tips: 

  1. In the early turns, it is important to make them tap out as much as possible. This means that you should play Censor, even if they can pay 1 if that results in them tapping out, because you’re then going to be able to resolve a Baffling End or a Wrath of God.
  2. If you’re going to use Cast Out, use it on their upkeep. This forces them to tap out in their own turn instead of yours, and denies them a draw step to draw a counter spell. 
  3. If you resolve a Narset, Parter of Veils, it is sometimes good to never use her and just let her tank some hits, as this prevents them from drawing extra cards and their early creatures don’t deal a lot of damage. 
  4. Shark Typhoon is your strongest card, so play accordingly.
  5. Remember that Wrath of God can’t get countered for 1 mana by Mystical Dispute, and they usually don’t play a lot of Spell Pierces.
InOut
2 Baffling End
3 Mystical Dispute
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Dovin’s Veto
1 Essence Scatter
1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1 Search for Azcanta

Simic Flash

This should be tough to beat because you have no instant speed answer to Nightpack Ambusher. If they force you to use mana on your own turn, just do it, as you won’t beat a resolved card anyway most of the time. Other than that, the same rules as against Mono-Blue apply, with the difference that Narset is pretty mediocre. 

InOut
1 Disdainful Stroke
3 Mystical Dispute
1 Dovin’s Veto
1 Search for Azcanta
2 Narset, Parter of Veils

Mono-Green Karn

This matchup is pretty easy, as you just need to counter their Planeswalkers. Voracious Hydra also gets eaten by Baffling End nicely. Just play to your normal game plan.

InOut
2 Baffling End
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Dovin’s Veto
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Essence Scatter
1 Wrath of God

End Step

Historic is still new and is a format that’s evolving quickly. I still hope I was able to cover the most important matchups and help you guys get used to Control a bit. There haven’t been any huge tournaments yet, but I firmly believe that Azorius Control is the stones, and it’s hella fun to play!

Thank you so much for reading and huge thanks to Christopher Kvartek for providing me with valuable insight. As always, I look forward to your feedback and would love to discuss your thoughts in the comments below!

9 Responses

  1. EmpressGaz EmpressGaz says:

    Great article! UW control is my favorite archetype of all time, and I’ve been enjoying it tremendously in Historic since the release of Amonkhet and the banning of Teferi3.

    You didn’t mention Approach of the Second Sun, which I’ve found to be a great win condition against many decks. Is it just too slow and clunky?

    • Sorquixe Sorquixe says:

      Hey,
      I don’t think you need Approach as a wincon. With Teferi, Shark Typhoon and Castle Ardenvale we really got enough.
      I liked approach when field was legal, where you actually needed to close games quickly, and the only matchup that i can think of where you need to do this would be Goblins, but tapping out for 7 mana against them is just pretty tough.
      Good Question!

  2. damianvc31 damianvc31 says:

    Great guide. What about Aether Gust? Isn’t it worth some slots in the sideboard?

  3. Daninja Daninja says:

    Hi Sorq, nice guide. I have two questions/rebuttals:
    1) Do we really want to play Kaheera? I dislike that it gives away your deck before mulligans and your opponents know exactly what to prepare for and play around and will take mulligans if their hand does not line up well against control. Also the one slot in the sideboard could be one more RIP, helping greatly against Lurrus decks and GPG. So it’s definitely not free to play it, both information and resource-wise.
    2) I don’t like bringing in RIP against UW auras, that seems so out of place. The game is usually decided in the early turns, boarding in a card with the sole purpose of turning off their companion (and also our Azcanta), which you can also counter on the way down, seems really ill-advised. Our sideboard sucks against them, but even a Cage is better, at least that leaves Azcanta active and it’s cheaper. But I’ve been bringing in 1 Dispute instead, it interacts well with their blue auras and sometimes you just cast it for 2U.

    • Sorquixe Sorquixe says:

      Hello Daninja,
      Those are all valid points! Cage is better than rip for sure and i kind of neglected that sb a bit because i just never play against it anymore.
      I am not sure if i want disputes but its worth to try. Either way i dont think it will make the matchups better though.
      As with kaheera, i think this makes sense when you’re closed decklist, but its irrelevant in open decklists. Kaheera has not been super impressive so i will try that for sure!
      Great points!

  4. Great article! Having played against several versions of Azorius Control, I definitely appreciate how streamlined your deck is. One notable card you did not mention was Birth of Meletis. Seems like it fits a lot of the roles that this deck wants, so I’m just curious why it did not even show up in the “What I Don’t Play” section.

  5. Really nice Article! UW Controle is just my favourit way to play Magic. The way it makes ppl rage, i just love it.
    what i had to learn the hard way is that u never ever want to cast Scavengar Grounds if u have any colourd untapped mana even if its turn 12. Lost 2 Games already because it came to a counterspell war and was stuck with 2x absob and 2x vetos post board and couldnt cast them because all cost purly uw -.-

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