Last updated on January 13, 2022

Narset, Parter of Veils - Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

Narset, Parter of Veils | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

One of my 2022 New Year’s goals was to venture into different formats than just what MTG Arena provides. I decided to try Pioneer, of all things. Today I’ll be looking at a deck that crushed it over the first Challenge of 2022, making the finals back to back on both days and helmed by none other than Oscar Franco.

That’s right, today I’m going over Azorius Control to unravel its mysteries. Let’s get started!

The Deck

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria - Illustration by KNIIO

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (Secret Lair) | Illustration by KNIIO

The Strategy

One thing that stood out to me in Pioneer is that it’s so fast-paced. What does this mean? Some decks may start slow, but they tend to catch up on tempo with big spells or powerful midrange spells. On the other hand, an aggro deck that starts fast kind of runs out of gas fairly quickly but aims to finish the game before that happens, just like in other formats.

Control stops this big play with its counter package and aims to win the game with its planeswalkers or big sharks, and even lands in some cases.

The Win Conditions

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Most of your games will be won with multiple cards working together. Still, some are straightforward “I must answer them” cards. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the biggest one.

This is basically the core and soul of this build. It gives card advantage, protection, and its ultimate is virtually an “I win the game” button. But the trick is to protect it from standard removal or attacks and you can’t, let’s say, cast a board wipe and Teferi on the same turn if you’re short on mana since the lands only untap at the end of turn.

Still, you can protect Teferi after the ability resolves with your counterspells. There are some other applications where the planeswalker’s +1 ability can come in handy, but I’ll go over that a little later.

Shark Typhoon

Your other primary win condition is Shark Typhoon. This one depends on the context and the situation. Still, suppose you manage to resolve this and untap. It’s almost guaranteed you already won the game from that point. It’s a huge threat in control matchups (especially post-sideboard) by cycling big sharks at the end of the turn.

Card Advantage Package

Your main card advantage comes from Commit // Memory and Memory Deluge. These cards will get you the selection of the two most convenient cards from the top of your library, albeit in different ways.

Narset, Parter of Veils

Your other main source of card advantage is Narset, Parter of Veils, whose role is not only to give you more card selection but also mess with your opponent’s plans. It shuts down strategies like Izzet () Phoenix that heavily rely on drawing multiple cards a turn. Sometimes it’s better not to lower this planeswalker’s loyalty to keep it at a healthy loyalty count.

Consider

Consider, while not card advantage itself, can act as a filter for smoothing initial hands where you either want action or lands. Not to mention that looting through your deck to activate graveyard value-based spells is also great.

The last card that acts as card advantage is Search for Azcanta, which serves as a card filter with its pseudo-scry ability in the earlier portions of the game, and it can refill your hand and search for the right answer in tough spots in the late game.

Removal Package

Speaking of removal, this deck has all sorts of ways to interact with your opponent’s resolved spells. The main answer against heavy creature decks are your board wipes in the form of Supreme Verdict and Settle the Wreckage. The former is a very straightforward wrath that can’t be countered while the latter pairs up particularly well with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria since you aim to cast it at instant speed once your lands are untapped with the planeswalker’s first ability.

As for your spot removal package, Azorius Charm can help deal with any unanswered threat at the beginning of the game where it’s more challenging to cast your counterspells. Portable Hole fills the same role.

Commit // Memory

Last but not least, Commit // Memory can act as pseudo-removal for any kind of permanent and also acts as a pseudo-counter from time to time.

Counterspell Package

Absorb

Absorb is your main counterspell. The lifegain is actually relevant, especially in a field where burn decks might be around the corner.

Dovin's Veto

Dovin’s Veto is a straight “no” for your opponent’s non-creature spells since it’s tough for them to get their non-creature spells resolved once this is cast.

Censor

Finally, Censor sometimes catches your opponent off guard, especially if they’re tight on mana. But most of the time it just serves as cycle fodder for your Dig Through Time or to flip Search for Azcanta.

The Mana Base

The deck runs reasonably smoothly with a combination of Hallowed Fountains and Irrigated Farmlands as your primary source of gold mana since they’re both Plains and Islands, followed by Glacial Fortress and Deserted Beach.

The next set of lands are utility lands in the form of Castle Ardenvale to provide multiple blockers, Castle Vantress to provide card filtering, Hall of Storm Giants as a finisher, and Field of Ruin to get rid of opposing manlands and punish greedy mana bases.

Your Companion

Kaheera, the Orphanguard

Your companion is Kaheera, the Orphanguard, which acts as the only creature of the deck. You’re not going even to bring it from the bench in the vast majority of games. Still, it can be potent on certain occasions, especially in control mirrors where removal is almost nonexistent post-sideboard.

Fun fact: most of the times that I’ve managed to activate Teferi, Hero of Dominaria’s ultimate ability has been with a Kaheera on the battlefield.

Common Interactions

Glacial Fortress - Illustration by James Paick

Glacial Fortress | Illustration by James Paick

  • The deck’s most powerful combo comes with Narset, Parter of Veils and Memory Deluge. Leaving your opponent almost empty-handed while refilling yours is usually game-winning with the right board, and backbreaking in control matches.
  • Teferi, Hero of Dominaria’s +1 ability can be paired with multiple cards like Dovin’s Veto, Absorb, and Settle the Wreckage. It also can be paired with your utility lands in the long game since activating either one of the Castles twice is very good, especially in board stalls.
  • Pay close attention to your land drops in the first few turns. Cards like the Castles or Glacial Fortress need either a Plains or an Island to enter the battlefield untapped.
  • You tend to put stuff in your opponent’s library post-sideboard with Commit // Memory, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Azorius Charm, and Aether Gust. If you want to make sure they don’t get to replay a card for good, you can use Field of Ruin to make them reshuffle their library. Sure, they could get lucky and draw it again, but that’s something you can’t control.

Sideboard Guide

Pioneer is one of the most diverse fields I’ve seen. Multiple strategies overlap in the same archetype and you need to tackle every match a bit differently.

Rakdos Midrange and Vampire Midrange are very similar but one is slightly more complicated to tackle than the other, and the sideboard changes. But don’t worry, I’ll try to cover the most common ones (and the ones I’ve faced).

The Sideboard Cards

Dream Trawler

Dream Trawler

Dream Trawler is a total bomb against midrange decks and it’s almost immune to removal. Games end relatively quickly when it gets to untap.

Devout Decree

Devout Decree

When you face a field filled with aggressive red and black strategies, you can’t get better than Devout Decree. The scry part is very relevant when you try to stabilize.

Sunset Revelry

Sunset Revelry

Sunset Revelry is another card that shines against aggro decks. You don’t always get the entire upside but getting two out of three is also very good.

Dovin’s Veto

Dovin's Veto

An extra copy of Dovin’s Veto in the sideboard is great against more controlling decks.

Aether Gust

Aether Gust

Aether Gust functions like a Devout Decree. It shines against decks that run green or red.

Mystical Dispute

Mystical Dispute

Sometimes you’re up against the blue-based aggro strategies, and Mystical Dispute shines in these matchups.

Rest in Peace

Rest in Peace

Rest in Peace’s main goal is to be a hate card against graveyard-based strategies like Jund Sacrifice and Izzet Phoenix.

Portable Hole

Portable Hole

Portable Hole can shine in matches like Winota where Voice of Resurgence is hard to beat otherwise. But it’s probably only good there since other decks have ways to get rid of it, so it’s one of my first cuts in other matchups.

Izzet Phoenix Matchups

This is somewhat a favored match since cards like Narset, Parter of Veils and Settle the Wreckage hard counter your opponent’s strategy. Not to mention that their removal is dead against yours in game 1. They’re usually casting removal on their creatures just to get rid of them and activate their Phoenix’s abilities.

Post-sideboard Rest in Peace, Mystical Dispute, and Aether Gust are excellent. The only problem is that your opponent might run Hullbreaker Horror and you may find yourself in a lot of trouble since you don’t have too many ways to interact with it.

The match looks perfect aside from the Horror, and you’re very favored if they don’t happen to find the only card that can put you in trouble.

In

Out

Rakdos Midrange Matchups

This may be one of the toughest matches for you since they attack from all sides.

Bloodtithe Harvester is a wretched creature that aims to smooth your opponent’s draws while getting rid of their dead removal from hand. Bonecrusher Giant is a big body that applies pressure. Graveyard Trespasser messes with your graveyard. On top of that, your opponent’s discard package is a pain to deal with and Chandra, Torch of Defiance is annoying once it hits the battlefield.

With that said, how do you get the upper hand in the matchup? The key here is to outplay them with your value spells. Supreme Verdict can kill their board and so can Settle the Wreckage, and following that with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria can close the deal.

But your opponent also runs a planeswalker removal package, so don’t rely too much on your walkers. A hard-cast Shark Typhoon can quickly turn the tides, and you’ll be on good shape if you pair it with other value spells like Memory Deluge or Dig Through Time.

It’s all a matter of surviving the first few turns. Not letting them resolve a Chandra and casting timely board wipes are your best bets to get through this match.

Post-sideboard, the addition of Dream Trawler ups your chances since your opponent won’t have a clean way to interact with it. Devout Decree also helps, but the Trawler is the real key to winning this match.

In

Out

Jeskai Ascendancy Matchups

This deck doesn’t have tons of way to interact with yours, especially in game 1. You only really need to worry about countering Jeskai Ascendancy or Omnath, Locus of Creation and you should be good since a resolved Teferi, Hero of Dominaria seals the deal. Narset, Parter of Veils is also pretty painful for them since it almost entirely shuts down their Ascendancy.

Post-sideboard, your opponent may bring counterspells and other ways to interact with you, but so do you. You also get to side out your otherwise dead removal. While they may do the same, that only acts in your favor since Shark Typhoon threatens to close the game if they forget about it.

In

Out

Jund Sacrifice Matchups

This match is as hard as Rakdos Midrange. They play cheap spells that hit the battlefield before you have the mana to counter them. That’s generally not a problem if they didn’t generate any extra value, but it turns out Trail of Crumbs can get very annoying if unanswered. Because of this, Portable Hole shines in this match since it can also answer the Witch’s Ovens.

Post-sideboard you want to up your chances with an additional copy of Portable Hole as well as graveyard hate with Rest in Peace.

Cindervines can get problematic but they’ll be in a terrible position to win the game if they don’t have it. Last but not least, always play around Bolas’s Citadel.

In

Out

Burn Matchups

This match can feel a bit luck based. If you get a slow hand and your opponent gets the busted one, you’ll be killed before you stabilize. But you’ll be in great shape if you manage to out-tempo them and counter their best spells with Absorb.

Try to close games as fast as you can after stabilizing. Otherwise, you’ll give your opponent time to rebuild, even if you have Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Narset, Parter of Veils on the field. One thing that may come in handy is to give lifelink to any creatures you have to get back some life points.

Post-sideboard a resolved Dream Trawler is lights out for your opponent.

In

Out

Other Cards to Try

Test of Talents

Test of Talents

Some decks fall apart if you manage to kill their win condition like Lotus Field Combo. With this in mind, Test of Talents can come in handy.

Detention Sphere

Detention Sphere

Detention Sphere is a decent card that performs similarly to Portable Hole. I think I’d swap your copy of Portable Hole in the sideboard with one copy of this in the long run.

Seal Away

Seal Away

Seal Away acts as another removal spell that can be run either in the main deck or the sideboard. I don’t like that you can cast it whenever you want and you have to rely on your opponent to tap their creature. But aside from that it’s a decent alternate to Consider.

Hullbreaker Horror

Hullbreaker Horror

Hullbreaker Horror has proven to be backbreaking in Standard and Alchemy, and it also threatens to be a powerhouse in Pioneer. It needs testing but it’s hard to lose a game after it hits the battlefield, and you get to untap with it.

Wrap Up

Kaheera, the Orphanguard - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Kaheera, the Orphanguard | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Exploring new formats is an excellent way to start 2022. I highly recommend stepping into Pioneer if you haven’t already since it’s a balanced and diverse format.

As far as the deck goes, I like to run this kind of build, and it’s been a pleasure to play with it. What about you; do you like the deck? What changes would you make? Please let me know in the comments or join Draftsim’s Discord to chat about it there!

As always, take care and have a great 2022!

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