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Maintaining Control

Written by Scott Campbell on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Maintaining Control

Scott Campbell

Scott Campbell, also known as MTGPackFoils, has played Magic: the Gathering since Revised. He mostly plays Azorius based Control, or Golgari based Midrange decks. He also enjoys MLB, D&D, and is a former DJ.

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first of many articles about Magic: the Gathering here at Legit MTG. My name is Scott Campbell, and I have been playing the game since Revised. Modern is my favorite format, and I look forward to sharing some of my insights with you. I present my ideas from the perspective of a casually competitive player who looks forward to Friday Night Magic to have some fun competition with friends. While I do attend the larger events on occasion my focus is at the local game store level. Please note my contact information at the end of this article as my next article will be more of a proper introduction where I will answer your questions about me. Thanks for stopping by. Now let’s get to today’s article.

Magic: the Gathering, also known as the greatest game in the world by many, has been around a very long time. Through the years the game has grown by adding new cards, sometimes subtracting cards, and even creating new formats. There are all types of decks available for players to choose from such as aggressive decks with a lot of creatures, to decks that play giant creatures, and even decks that play a flurry of spells in a specific combination to achieve victory. However while those deck choices are fine for those who enjoy them in a world full of change I choose to maintain a sense of control. Today’s focus will be on Azorius Control in Modern.

There are two ways we can approach this in the format. Yes, even though Modern is currently populated with decks playing Primeval Titan, Urza, Lord High Artificer, and Conflagrate (just to name a few cards) one can play a blue based control deck in this format. The two ways to play are Proactive, and Reactive. Let’s first start with the more traditional, or Reactive, style by taking a look at an example deck.

Why should you play this deck? 

  • You want to play on the opponent’s turn as much as possible.
  • Playing counterspells preventing your opponent’s cards from being successfully cast is fun for you.
  • With so few creatures you blank the removal your opponents will be playing focusing on powerful Planeswalkers.

Why you shouldn’t play this deck.

  • You hate blue (but why??).
  • Sometimes you draw the counterspell after the card you wanted to counter has resolved.
  • It’s too challenging, and maybe too slow, for you to play in a reactive manner.

The reactive approach allows you to always be waiting for your opponent to cast something. By countering an early spell you can gain an advantage by digging further into your deck to find answers for the opponent’s spells, and then when they have little to play land a game ending Planeswalker. If you are able to play an early Teferi, Time Raveler then the majority of your spells can be cast at instant speed while your opponent can only cast at sorcery speed.

Keep in mind that this way of play means you have to play quickly on your turn to have more time on your opponent’s turn. You also have to think of your possible future turns while maintaining an idea of what the opponent may play, and if they are playing multiple spells in a turn which ones to counter, and which ones to resolve. You can’t counter everything (I’ve tried).

Another way to play is with a Proactive approach. Let’s take a look at an example.

Why should you play this deck?

  • The creatures in the deck provide enough utility that they act as spells sometimes more than creatures.
  • You still have a somewhat reactive control strategy, but you are able to apply pressure to your opponent. Sometimes unopposed.
  • You played Caw Blade in Standard, and are glad you can finally play Jace, the Mind Sculptor as well as Stoneforge Mystic in Modern.

Why you shouldn’t play this deck.

  • Restricting the deck to just two colors does not provide enough flexibility that you are used to when it comes to possible inclusions in the deck.
  • Since the rise of Urza, Lord High Artificer everyone is targeting artifacts.
  • You feel the deck is still too slow, and / or too fair.

With the addition of Force of Negation this deck bleeds as close to it’s Legacy counterpart as it can possibly get. This allows you to cast Stoneforge Mystic on turn two, allowing you to counter any spell targeting it if needed. Playing Teferi, Time Raveler will provide additional protection until you are ready to activate Stoneforge Mystic to place your equipment into play. The true addition to this deck though is Spell Queller. Coupled with the smaller Teferi you are able to exile opposing spells in the early game, and with the proper protections (and counterspells) your opponent does not get them back when the spirit leaves play as long as Teferi remains on the board.

In either of these decks though you may have noticed the inclusion of Mystic Sanctuary. This island (yes, it’s an island so you can fetch for it) allows you to put your previously used instants back on top of your library. As long as you have a way to draw an extra card every turn, such as using Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s 0 ability, you can effectively lock your opponent out from casting spells.

Regardless of which option you choose you will want to craft your sideboard to fight against decks such as Amulet Titan, Breach Combo, Burn, Dredge, Jund, Tron, and Urza…just to name a few. That’s a lot. Finding cards that can help against multiple matchups will help keep your deck in focus, allowing you to maintain control in the ever changing world of Modern.

Control decks can be difficult to master, however what these decks do provide you is time to study what the opponent plays, and how. Oftentimes the best way to master the control archetypes is by learning the opposing decks.

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this look into the options for Azorius Control in Modern. What are your thoughts on this? Do you play control? What challenges have you faced that could help others? Please leave a comment below, and make sure to follow me on Facebook, and Twitter.

Next time

I will have a proper introduction article so ASK ME ANYTHING!

Until then…



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