Last updated on May 18, 2022

Hallowed Fountain - Illustration by Jedd Chevrier

Hallowed Fountain | Illustration by Jedd Chevrier

Co-authored by Kugane

Neon Dynasty brought a lot of new toys for almost every deck out there. One of the cards that has certainly been an overperformer is The Wandering Emperor. And numbers won’t let me lie since it was one of the most played cards in the recent set championship.

One deck that benefited from it is Azorius Control. Casting an instant speed planeswalker is everything a blue mage wants to do. They tend to play long games and overcome early aggression from their opponents, and The Wandering Emperor excels in doing so.

Of course, it’s not the only card from the set that impacted the archetype. At least three other cards found a home in it.

So I guess it’s time to learn about Azorius Control, its flaws, patterns, etc., or just become a full-on time mage ourselves. Playing it is a lot more fun than being on the receiving end, after all!

The Deck

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria | Illustration by Chris Rallis

The Strategy

The strategy is simple: control your opponent until you bore them to death with your Teferi using its ultimate or, alternatively, you swarm the board with flying sharks. The deck is filled with very efficient control cards. Being in blue and white does mean we don’t have reliable 1-mana removal like Esper does.

At least that’s what you’d think, but let’s start by covering the basics for now.

This deck doesn’t run any creatures at all. In fact, its only creature available is your companion, Kaheera, the Orphanguard. You don’t need them to win but having access to one for the long game at the cost of a sideboard slot is worth having it included.

The Removal

This list runs a fair mix of spot and board removal, just like every control deck does.

March of Otherworldly Light

The most exciting card you get to play from the latest set is March of Otherworldly Light. Its flexibility to exile not only creatures but also artifacts and enchantments is crucial in a field where Witch’s Oven and Trail of Crumbs are very popular. Its ability to exile unwanted cards in matches where they’re otherwise dead is worth considering, and that alone makes it huge in this archetype.

Fateful Absence

Fateful Absence is the other spot removal from the deck. This one is less interesting than the previous card but it does something the other can’t: it kills planeswalkers.

Divine Purge, Day of Judgment/Wrath of God, and Farewell are the excellent board wipes in this deck, and they all have a purpose. Purge can deal with the most aggressive starts to delay the game enough so your other big spells can take over later. If things get out of control again you can always get rid of your opponent’s threats with Judgment or Wrath, and Farewell overperforms against most of the graveyard synergy decks.

The Counterspells

Control decks use counterspells to deal with your opponents’ most problematic cards and delay the game to some extent.

Archmage's Charm

Archmage’s Charm is very flexible. Even though your mana base gets taxed by it, it’s worth it.

Dovin's Veto

Dovin’s Veto is here to make sure your opponent’s noncreature spells won’t ever resolve.

Commit // Memory

From time to time Commit // Memory can act as a counter in a pinch.

Card Advantage

Archmage's Charm

It’s worth noting that Archmage’s Charm can also be used as a draw 2 card instant Divination, but that’s not its primary role.

Memory Deluge

Memory Deluge is an excellent way to get some selection of spells at instant speed, and its ability to reuse in the late game comes in handy.

Narset, Parter of Veils

But the best card advantage card is without a doubt Narset, Parter of Veils. Not only does it give you a card right away, its ability to shut down decks like Auras and Izzet Phoenix to some extent makes it a force to be reckoned with.

Win Conditions

Speaking of powerful cards, the last slots of the decks are reserved for the cards that are most likely to win in the long run.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

The best one is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. It’s designed to be the perfect tool for blue-based decks since all three abilities are very powerful on their own. That’s why you run four of them.

It may not happen very often but it’s usually lights out for your opponents if you can protect Teferi long enough to activate its ultimate. It’s still an insane amount of card advantage that can generate on its own and is very tough to deal with if resolved.

Shark Typhoon

Shark Typhoon is next, and it’s another annoying card to deal with. Its cycle ability is annoying against control mages since they can counter it most of the time, but its the same story as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria‘s ultimate if you can manage to hard cast Typhoon on a board and protect it.

The Wandering Emperor

The Wandering Emperor is the last win condition in your deck. This card can pull you from a very tough spot into a winning one. Killing your opponent’s threat on attacks and gaining life in the process is enormous on its own, but getting to untap with the Emperor and start creating your army of creatures that eventually grows is a game changer.

The Mana Base

With a mix of Deserted Beach, Glacial Fortress, Irrigated Farmland, and Hallowed Fountain, you have your bases covered as far as casting spells go. You also have access to a variety of utility lands, most of which are one ofs, but they’re all key when combined.

The most notable is Jwari Disruption since it can be a surprise counter for your opponents most of the time. It can also be played as a land with the bonus that it can be fetched with Narset, Parter of Veils from time to time.

Next you have the new lands printed in Neon Dynasty. Otawara, Soaring City and Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire are pseudo-removal spells that are hard to interact with.

Hall of Storm Giants

Hall of Storm Giants has been a staple in control decks since its printing, so its no surprise that you run a couple here to threaten your opponents for lethal damage. And if you get to pair it with The Wandering Emperor then your chances of losing games are suddenly very low.

Last but not least you have a couple Castles from Throne of Eldraine. Castle Ardenvale is very handy when you happen to face the mirror as an excellent way to pressure any unprepared control deck, and Castle Vantress has a role when board stalls happen.

Honorable Mention

Soul-Guide Lantern

As you may have noticed there’s a lonely Soul-Guide Lantern in the deck. Its primary role is to serve as a hate card against graveyard decks that can be tripped when needed if you happen to draw it in a less-than-favorable matchup. Its ability to shut down some decks in game 1 is worth having it in.

Mulligan Guide

Mulliganing with this deck is somewhat complicated and requires a bit of a learning curve. Still, generally, you’re good to go with the following:

  1. Have three lands, at least one of each color;
  2. Have two counterspells and/or removal;
  3. Have a clear path to either a planeswalker or a sweeper.

Thanks to the various cycling effects, you can even cycle some of your spells if your opponent is playing something your interaction doesn’t line up well against. Given the state of the meta, your spells should be able to hit pretty much anything.

Other than the occasional whiff on your Aether Gust, your deck will match up favorably with most decks. If you do happen to face that one player that doesn’t run red or green, it’s just one dead card in the deck.

Sideboard Guide

Like Alchemy, Historic is subject to rebalances and nerfs of cards every month or so. Still, its worth being prepared against the most common archetypes, and because of that, I will share with you the sideboard I would use against them:

Izzet Phoenix

Izzet Phoenix is without a doubt one of the toughest matchups. They can start pressuring you on turn 1, leading to explosive starts with Dragon’s Rage Channeler. Post-board you aim to protect and resolve Baneslayer Angel and board out everything that seems bad against them.

I won’t lie this is a tough one, and that’s why you want to bring almost all of your sideboard cards against them.

In

Out

Golgari Food

Unlike the Phoenix matchup this is very favorable and you don’t need to do much to improve it post-sideboard. Divine Purge is huge against Golgari Food and resolving Farewell is lights out. They can only win by having a nut start with Witch’s Oven, Cauldron Familiar, and Ravenous Squirrel when you don’t have Divine Purge.

In

Out

Azorius Control

The mirror is all about little details, and you’re prepared for it thanks to your utility lands that can give you the advantage throughout the games. Post-sideboard is very straightforward since you side out almost every spot removal and all of your useless board wipes.

Nezahal, Primal Tide can win games on its own but don’t cast it for seven mana right away without some other sort of protection. The issue here is that it’s shut down quickly with Narset, Parter of Veils, and a combination of planeswalkers can easily handle it.

And don’t recklessly make any big shark tokens with open mana since they can easily steal them with Archmage’s Charm.

In

Out

Gruul Aggro

This is a very straightforward plan. Try not to get killed and side out every slow card you have for more proactive ones after sideboard. Baneslayer Angel and The Wandering Emperor play a massive role in keeping you alive.

In

Out

Rakdos Arcanist

As my coach would say, if you get paired against Rakdos Arcanist, pray. This match is as bad as it looks thanks to their discard spells and planeswalkers. It’s not impossible to win, but you basically can’t take any mulligans against them. Even keeping six-landers is usually fine.

In

Out

Tips and Tricks

Always try to keep at least two mana open with one blue. Even if you have no castable cards in hand, hold priority and have your opponent think you have an answer. The goal is to get to the 5- or 6-mana territory, so fake it till you make it.

If you have the option when you’re up against decks that heavily rely on drawing, you may not even want to minus your Narset, Parter of Veils. Her passive effect may be valuable enough to slow your opponent down significantly.

It’s okay to cycle your Shark Typhoon early on. It’s a fine card, don’t get me wrong, but there are four copies in the mainboard. You should be able to draw another once you reach the 6- to 8-mana territory. Cycle it wisely so you can even block something with a flying shark.

Honorable Mentions

Settle the Wreckage

There are a bunch of cards I would personally include in a deck like this. One of these is Settle the Wreckage, a mighty card that can count as a board wipe in some situations.

Dream Trawler

Dream Trawler is another card I’m fond of that can serve as an additional win condition in the deck that Brad Barclay didn’t use.

Narset, Parter of Veils

I’m a big fan of Narset, Parter of Veils in general, so I’d even consider running four copies instead of two. The cantrip and passive anti-draw are very good. This effect will likely only get better with all the Sultai decks floating around.

Afterthoughts

So what do I think about Azorius Control? This is one of those decks that does great in a meta with few other Azorius decks. It can destroy most decks with its oppressive control spells but becomes less and less effective if more of its kind are in the same format. After all, a mirror match is technically a 50% win rate, and we want to sit around 60% or so.

The deck has a bit of a steep learning curve initially, so it might not be new-player-friendly. It isn’t as easy as “counter all the things,” after all. Once you know what your opponent’s deck’s valuable targets are, you can really exploit your knowledge. At that point, you just make sure none of their win conditions resolve or stay on the field. Against creature decks, Wrath of God or Divine Purge can take over the game.

Each grind requires a significant amount (hundreds) of games to reach the top, after all. There are plenty of players out there that feel control matchups are the pinnacle of MTG gameplay. While I really enjoy playing control decks in events and in paper MTG like Dimir, Grixis, or even Esper, I’ll continue enjoying them there.

In paper Magic, it’s much more fun since a sizeable social aspect comes into play to bluff your opponent. Of course, it’s somewhat possible in MTGA by holding priority.

Wrap Up

Aether Gust MTG card art by Tomasz Jedruszek

Aether Gust | Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek

This deck is excellent. Personally, I feel that Esper control might become better in the long term. Still, as it stands right now, Azorius is impressive. I’d love to splash some red and turn it into some sort of Jeskai build, but that’s a deck for a different time. I know many of you may hate Azorius Control or control decks in general. Still, they’re a necessary evil to keep decks like goblins or auras in check.

Lately, there haven’t been a whole lot of control decks, and these decks have had free reign. It’s nice to see that now we have a deck that doesn’t rely on just Ugin to take over the game. If you’re a control player yourself, feel free to share the variations of this deck down in the comments. I’m sure there’ll be more people that would love to see your take on this!

With that said, I’ve had fun covering this deck and hope you did too! If there’s a particular deck you want me to cover next, please let me know down below. Hit up our Twitter or Discord for some more in-depth conversations. Finally, be sure to download our app Arena Tutor to track your wins and get extra stats for MTGA. It’s awesome!

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