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As timeless an archetype as any other, Azorius Control (or UW Control, prior to the creation of guilds), utilizes the unconditional removal of White with the card advantage and counterspells provided by Blue. While control decks in nearly every Blue color combination have existed, Azorius Control proves itself a legitimate contender among the best decks in Modern.

In this article, I’ll be briefly discussing the card choices, as well as highlighting when you would want to play more or less copies of a given card. Additionally, we’ll be digging into other potential card choices, as there is no currently stock build of Azorius Control.

The Threats

Snapcaster Mage | An outstanding control threat since its printing, Snapcaster Mage gives Azorius Control access to a proactive game plan that can double up on Path to Exile against aggressive decks. While four copies is rare, due to the high number of permanents, at least two copies is recommended. Feel free to add more in builds with fewer Narsets, or in lists playing Oust.

Vendilion Clique | Similarly to Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique serves as both a win condition and an exceptional threat, trading Snapcaster’s versatility for a unique effect. If competitive Magic has taught us anything, it’s that both information and hand disruption are powerful avenues to victory. Vendilion Clique gives Blue decks access to this effect, without losing out on instant speed functionality. One copy is normal, though you can play an additional copy if you want to.

Celestial Colonnade | While Colonnade has a weaker effect than Clique or Snapcaster, it comes attached to a land. This makes this wincon built into the mana base, rather than requiring dedicated spell slots for it. At least two copies are the minimum, though three is pretty standard right now.

The Planeswalkers

Narset, Parter of Veils | This War of the Spark take on planeswalkers has proven itself a player in numerous formats. Despite the relatively fragile nature of a planeswalker without a plus, Narset has proven herself a welcome addition to eternal formats. With a static that shuts down a variety of strategies, as well as a loyalty well outside of Lightning Bolt range, most decks will have to commit both time and resources to remove her. All the while the Azorius player progresses land drops, or uses her to find board control spells. Coming in at the three mana slot curves perfectly into a Supreme Verdict or Cryptic Command turn, often undoing much of the opponent’s progress towards removing her. While anywhere from 2-4 is common, I prefer to play four copies, seeking to maximize the redundancy of Narset as a card advantage engine.

Teferi, Time Raveler | Like Narset, this smaller Teferi has made consistent waves throughout every competitive format. From warping Standard, to creating new control archetypes in Legacy, the applications for Teferi are both broad an unexplored. Seldom do Infect, Death’s Shadow, and Control want access to the same three mana spell, yet Teferi makes his way into all of these decks. Due to the ability to cantrip, Teferi is rarely a dead card. This mitigates the drawback of including cards that can remove artifacts and enchantments in the main deck, while still giving these decks access to powerful tempo plays against creatures. This version onlly plays one, but versions playing Knowledge Pool can play upwards of four copies. Any series of spells that can abuse Teferi are justifiable in these versions — like more copies of Supreme Verdict, or main deck Wall of Omens.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor | Long holding the reigns as Control staple, Jace has only recently begun to be supplanted by other planeswalkers. No longer the bastion of card advantage he used to be, Jace is often seen in lower numbers than Teferi. Additional copies can be played, depending on the metagame or the amount of Terminus in your deck, but at minimum one should be played. Interacting favorably with Narset to sculpt your hand comes up frequently, and serving as an additional wincon is potent in low resource games.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria | Like the smaller Teferi, the Hero of Dominaria serves as a catchall answer to a variety of problems, while packaged up in a card advantage engine. Unlike the three mana planeswalkers, this Teferi has an ultimate that wins the game quite quickly, and most lists choose to play two copies.

The Removal

Path to Exile | The iconic white removal spell, Path to Exile is the most efficient removal spell available to Azorius. While giving a land can be problematic, the ability to answer a variety of permanents as well as sweep the board mitigates this drawback. Always play four copies.

Supreme Verdict | While not quite the historic spell as Wrath of God, Supreme Verdict has nonetheless supplanted the iconic sorcery in eternal formats. While more mana restrictive, the uncounterability ensures removal — even against Force of Negation or Spell Pierce. Two copies is the norm among Narset heavy lists.

Wrath of God | Mostly earning its spots due to the prevalence of Humans, Wrath of God is a slightly less restrictive Supreme Verdict — though if you don’t have access to blue mana to play Verdict you’re likely not winning that game anyway. Still, enough Meddling Mages exist to justify a second sweeper, and regeneration does come up against Welding Jar. One copy is sufficient.

On Thin Ice | A Modern Horizons addition, On Thin Ice is a non-color restrictive version of Chained to the Rocks. With a high basic count and a variety of fetches, the lack of enchantment removal among most decks makes On Thin Ice a reasonable consideration. This does cost percentage points against Burn, as the lack of Oust means Snapcaster Mage is hard pressed to gain you life. Take that into consideration, though On Thin Ice is substantially better against Arclight Phoenix.

Detention Sphere | One of Azorius Control’s catchall answers, Detention Sphere can also serve as a pseudo wrath against both Tokens and Phantasmal Image decks. While vulnerable to Assassin’s Trophy or Oblivion Stone, Detention Sphere is still worth playing due to the unique upside it possesses against Arclight Phoenix.

Spell Snare | While not explicitly a removal spell, Spell Snare serves a similar role — most targets for removal are going to cost two mana. Nabbing a Dark Confidant or a Thing in the Ice is a substantial play, though there is additional value in countering an Altar of Dementia. One copy is a safe number, though a second can be included in Jund or Rock heavy metagames.

Support Spells

Surgical Extraction | Maindeck graveyard hate gives Azorius Control a chance against the graveyard decks, while giving it a slight edge against Arclight and other Snapcaster Mage decks. Additionally, it can combine with Field of Ruin to lock out Tron from assembling the valuable trio, gaining percentage points in that matchup. An easy cut in certain metagames.

Force of Negation | A recent Modern Horizons addition, Force of Negation has replaced Dovin’s Veto in the vast majority of decks. While worse than Veto in attrition battles, the ability to protect against the fast combo decks of the format earns Force of Negation a spot in the main deck. I would strongly consider playing four copies right now, as an abundance of Faithless Looting decks exist, and Narset plays well with it (by either finding it or finding a blue card to pitch to it).

Cryptic Command | A long time Control menace, Cryptic Command strikes fear into the heart of midrange decks since its time in Standard. Giving access to yet another catchall tempo play, Cryptic Command also serves as card advantage when countering a spell, or as a huge tempo swing on the backfoot. When digging for a specific sweeper, often Cryptic Command can loop with Snapcaster Mage to stall for multiple turns. While less copies are making the lists as in prior years, at least two copies is recommended.

Archmage’s Charm | As with many cards on this list, Archamge’s Charm is a flexible addition from Modern Horizons. While not as powerful on its surface as Cryptic Command, the potential to counter a spell in the earlier turns of the game is quite significant. Additionally, Archmage’s Charm serves as a removal spell on opposing Death’s Shadows or Monastery Swiftspears, though it can even be used to nab Shapers’ Sanctuary against Infect.

Logic Knot | For as long as Counterspell is not legal in Modern, Logic Knot will have to take its place. The delve aspect reduces the amount of copies in the main deck, but I could see running two or three if the mirror is more important.

Fact or Fiction | A controversial but powerful one of, gone is the unbeatable nature of this iconic blue spell. While only powerful enough to warrant a single copy, Fact or Fiction is superior to cards like Hieroglyphic Illumination in the mid game, but significantly worse in the early game. A flex slot, and one you should consider cutting in faster metagames, though the interaction with Snapcaster Mage warrants consideration in slower matchups.


The Sideboard

Ceremonious Rejection | An efficient answer to both Affinity and Tron, Ceremonious Rejection is a clean one of in the Azorius sideboard. Cut it as necessary.

Spell Pierce | Overlapy countermagic can be highly effective in control decks, and Spell Pierce gives a way to fight opposing planeswalkers as well as on curve Tron haymakers. One copy is sufficient.

Surgical Extraction | An additional copy sits in the sideboard, acting as a sideboard card against both Tron and graveyard decks. Can be cut for a fourth Rest in Peace.

Celestial Purge | A strong addition to the Azorius roster, Celestial Purge answers most threats from Arclight, while removing Dark Confidant from Jund. It also serves as another removal spell in the Humans matchup, removing Sin Collector, Kambal, Mantis Rider, and Kitesail Freebooter. One to two copies is normal.

Disdainful Stroke | A powerful singleton, Disdainful Stroke serves as the most important counterspell in both the Titanshift and the Tron matchups. While it does not counter Expedition Map, it can counter Obstinate Baloth and Thragtusk — two of the more difficult threats to deal with in postboard games.

Dovin’s Veto | Prior to Modern Horizons, Dovin’s Veto was the go to counterspell, but Force of Negation has pushed it aside. Still, it’s the best Negate effect we can play in the mirror, as playing two spells in one turn is a rare opportunity. This makes it unlikely that you can get punished for spending two mana, and the ability to protect spells on your turn from Force of Negation is relevant.

Rest in Peace | A powerful enchantment that likely should be a four of, Rest in Peace is the single most effective sideboard card at the moment. It’s effectively Leyline of the Void, and many games are determined by whether you see it or not.

Stony Silence | With Hardened Scales on the decline and a reduction in Whir Prison, Stony Silence is less effective than ever before. Still, enough Tron decks exist to warrant inclusion, and the card selection with Narset makes one of sideboard options more appealing. Play more as necessary.

Force of Negation | In what is proving to be one of the best counterspells in Modern, Force of Negation’s copies are split among the main deck and the sideboard in Azorius Control. This is due to the relatively weak nature of the spell against Creatures and grindier matchups. Still, having access to additional copies gives Azorius Control a positive matchup against most combo decks.

Timely Reinforcements | The most important Burn-killer in the archetype, Timely Reinforcements is a life gain spell that Narset can find. Having access to one drastically improves the matchup against any Monastery Swiftspear deck, though it is less effective in the wake of Lava Dart’s printing.

Restoration Angel | The best answer Azorius Control has against Humans, Restoration Angel also serves as a proactive flash threat against combo matchups, and can allow you to outmaneuver opposing control decks. Two copies is sufficient.

Lyra Dawnbringer | The final sideboard option for the archetype, Lyra earns the nod over Baneslayer Angel due to the inclusion of Restoration Angel. Still the primary reason to play it is due to the oppressively powerful board presence against aggressive decks. Burn, Prowess, Mono Red Arclight, and Humans all struggle against Lyra, warranting at least one copy.

Other Choices

Monastery Mentor | A threat that quickly snowballs, Monastery Mentor is a relatively unorthodox card choice. Recent rising to prominence due to the quick clock and prevalence of graveyard hate Monastery Mentor also pressures planeswalkers in the mirror. I would recommend two copies right now, though none are in this list (opting for Restoration Angel instead).

Oust | Similarly to On Thin Ice, Oust gives Azorius access to another removal spell in the early game. While it lacks the instant speed and permanence of exiling, putting the creature into the library does a similar job against the graveyard decks, and serves as another answer to Dark Confidant. Additionally, Oust combines with Snapcaster Mage to bring your life total out of burn spell range. Would highly recommend Oust right now.

Mana Leak | A relatively unconditional counterspell, Mana Leak works better with Field of Ruin than Logic Knot, and gives Azorius access to a counterspell that works even with Rest in Peace. Better in lists that play four copies of Rest in Peace.