The Best Control Deck In Modern

Since when did Jeskai Control become a respected deck? Shaheen isn’t having it, and he wants to make the case for what was the de facto control leader in the format! Which do you think is the real control king?

I’ve had a lot of fun with Ironworks in Modern. It gives me an outlet to
draw a bunch of cards and ultimately kill my opponent with an abundance of
resources. This illusion of control satisfaction doesn’t satiate the urge
to cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor though. I know the best planeswalker of all
time is Modern legal, and I’d like to think that I helped stir the
conversation for a good year prior to its unbanning. It feels almost
blasphemous to not cast it in every format it’s legal in, even if the
environment is not conducive to control’s success.

There was a time where I was adamant that control was completely unplayable
in Modern. Since Jace, the Mind Sculptor was freed, that’s not the case
anymore. I do believe that it’s underpowered still and needs a little more
help to truly be a tier 1 strategy, but it can easily get you into the
elimination rounds of any competitive tournament as is. Azorius Control has
the most success out of the control options out there in Modern, but Jeskai
Control gets a little love from the professional community. When the SCG
Tour hit Baltimore a few weeks ago, Seth Manfield and Brad Nelson had
easily costed through the swiss rounds with their take on Jeskai Control.

I attribute some of their success to their deck choice, but most of it
falls under the play skill department. These are arguably two of the
greatest players in the world, so I would expect them to perform well with
any weapon they choose to equip for any given tournament. It’s always
important to take into consideration the pilot of a decklist that you
choose to adopt. Skilled players will typically choose good decks, but
that’s not always the case. My good pal, Brian Braun-Duin, decided to play
Jeskai Control at SCG CON Winter last weekend that contained multiple
copies of Sailor of Means. Was this a good decision? Of course not, but
he’s a very skilled player. I tend to fish for decks that land in the Top 8
of a competitive event and have pilots that may not be household names just

There was an additional Azorius Control success story that isn’t posted
above from GP Liverpool, but this list is a bit closer to what I plan on
playing soon. There are lists floating out there that are in love with one
copy of Ancestral Vision, and I can’t imagine charging into a tournament
with that card draw configuration. Hieroglyphic Illumination is the
high-end upside card that also costs one mana, can produce card advantage,
and that can allow a timely Terminus on an opponent’s turn. Ancestral
Vision doesn’t fit the mold for these new age Azorius Control decks, as
they yearn to be consistently hitting land drops in the early game and
hitting big pay off planeswalkers in the lategame. This is only possible
when the card draw is cheap, immediate, and opens the doors to the mass
removal occurring on either players’ turn.

What I Like

Blizzard’s planeswalker and creature package is perfect. Teferi, Hero of
Dominaria has proven to be a staple of the Modern control decks moving
forward. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is still the king of the Miracle, but
Teferi can protect himself with the built-in mana reduction upon
resolution. Untapping two lands in Modern can provide instant safety
against combo, control, and aggro decks. Path to Exile is the marquee
removal spell from white-based decks and only takes one mana to remove most
creature threats out there. The counterspells in the format are just as
efficient. Logic Knot, Negate, Spell Snare, and Dispel all cost two or less
mana to have a disruption shield against a plethora of Modern staples.

The addition of Spell Snare is a very smart move in today’s Modern. The
card has fallen in favor over the years, but I employed four copies in my
Azorius Control deck from GP Richmond many years ago that landed me a solid
13-2 record. I know the format has changed heavily since 2014-2015, but
there are still plenty of control-defeating monsters out there that cost
exactly two mana. Luckily for us, Dark Confident is seeing barely any play
as that creature has been the bane of Path to Exile decks for years now,
because the earliest removal spells we use on it provide a huge advantage
to the owner of the dark Wizard.

Spell Snare was a powerful answer to Dark
Confident then, but it hits different all-stars today. Humans has plenty of
ways to sneak in creatures under countermagic, but they don’t always have
an Aether Vial or Cavern of Souls. When they don’t, the scariest threats
they have cost two mana. Spell Snare is also great against decks with
Snapcaster Mage, Affinity of all types, Storm, and a slew of other decks
that lay threats in the early game.

Having only one Search for Azcanta is a smart move. Search for Azcanta is
another beautiful addition to Azorius Control in Modern, but it has been
overplayed in many lists. There’s only so much card quality you can run
through cantrips and planeswalkers. Hands with too much card selection can
result in an auto loss versus fast aggro and combo decks. It’s a necessary
cog in the control wheel, especially with four copies of Terminus, but it
shouldn’t be more than a one-of in Azorius Control.

The other great one-of in the deck is Supreme Verdict. The fifth sweeper is
a must have in Azorius Control strategies in Modern. Besides the obvious
need to diversify battlefield sweepers due to Meddling Mage, the format has
seen a record influx of Bant Spirits. The matchup is great for control, but
there’s a need for a mass removal spell that can be used efficiently when
drawn early, as well as can’t be countered. The combo decks will already be
a bit tough game 1 with all the other dead cards in the maindeck, so this
addition of Supreme Verdict was a great move.

The rest of the common Azorius Control pieces are intact, and for good
reason. Four Field of Ruin, with a copy of Ghost Quarter for a fifth
effect, is a must. It took years of writing Spreading Seas hate mail to
encourage control enthusiasts to cut the card and thankfully, Field of Ruin
helped expedite that process. Some folks were still using both together,
but eventually they saw the light. Spreading Seas fell under the same
umbrella as multiple copies of Search for Azcanta. Turns must be spent
setting up big plays or being proactive in Modern. Since we can’t be as
proactive as others with Azorius Control, we must limit the amount of empty
turns that have little impact on the battlefield. Tron is a deck that
punishes control decks, but luckily the land destruction that comes
naturally in the manabase gives us a fighting chance.

Four Cryptic Command is the new norm for Azorius Control and I love it.
When people think about control counterspells in Modern, the first one that
comes to mind must be Cryptic Command. I was one of the Logic Knot
champions since day one and will always have at least two in my control
decks, but Cryptic Command saves us from resolved spells, those that
haven’t resolved, and the armies that must wait for us when the game has
gotten away. These pluses, with the ability to hand them a Terminus with
the card draw attached, makes Cryptic Command the go-to blue card
in Modern control.

What I’d Change

No one should ever accept a full 75 without considering a few modifications
to better address a different metagame or pilot’s playstyle. This version
of Azorius Control is very close to the deck that I developed individually,
but Blizzard did influence some changes in my list you’ll see below.

My changes are barely noticeable, because Blizzard really knocked it out of
the park with his take. Timely Reinforcements is not a maindeck card for
me, and the one Supreme Verdict takes the place of that slot. I understand
the logic behind my control brothers and sisters having one lifeline
available when the hit points drop to an alarming level, but it simply
isn’t necessary. A one-of miracle lifegain spell isn’t required to beat
aggro decks game 1 and it’s horrific against everything else. Even against
Humans it doesn’t do a whole lot, so leave it in the sideboard for the
specific matchups that require those types of reinforcements.

The second maindeck Negate was moved to the sideboard to make room for a
second Logic Knot. Logic Knot is worse in Azorius Control than other
archetypes because of the low fetchland count. Even with just four
fetchlands, it’s too good of a card to be a one-of. Early on, it acts as a
Force Spike, but later it might as well be labeled as a hard counter. It’s
the perfect hold after untapping some lands with Teferi or to defend a Jace
on turn 6. It is disheartening that more fetchlands take away from the
beautiful basic count, so I must accept that a third copy of Logic Knot
isn’t in the cards.

The other changes occurred in the sideboard. There were two Baneslayer
Angels and now there’s a split with Lyra Dawnbringer. This strategy has
been the norm for quite some time and it’s a possibility that Blizzard
overlooked this when crafting his list. Lyra Dawnbringer is a freebee,
helping Baneslayer Angel hit a little harder if you live the dream and have
both out. It’s a marginal, perfect world scenario, but it is correct.

The rest of his sideboard was fantastic. You’ll see the only other changes
were some maindeck cards moved in and only two cards were completely
removed. The second Dispel was an easy cut for the additional Negate.
Dispel is a great card when battling enemy control opponents, but Negate is
much more versatile. I really dislike losing to Tron and combo decks, which
Negate helps prevent. The manabase alone cannot defeat Tron, but a resolved
planeswalker with effective countermagic can help seal the deal. The same
goes for combo decks that aren’t easily hated out by Stony Silence and/or
Rest in Peace. There aren’t many decks that dodge both hate enchantments,
but Negate is an old, trusty friend that will always help thwart them.

Settle the Wreckage was the final cut from Blizzard’s take on Azorius
Control. With four Terminus and a Supreme Verdict, the sixth sweeper was
unnecessary. There are decks that Settle the Wreckage is better against,
namely Dredge, but the one copy in the sideboard isn’t the impact card I’m
looking for in that matchup. Rest in Peace helps make your other sweepers
exile threats, and your aggro matchup is just fine with the five other
answers you have when they go wide.

With some small changes, Azorius Control is primed for Modern success
moving forward.