The Road to Regionals – Breaking Dissension: Hardcore Azorius

Magic the Gathering Regionals!

Evan continues his look at the Azorius guild, with special consideration given to the control variants coming for the Regionals metagame. Two Blue/White decklists are presented for your examination… plus a successful Rakdos build that’s been performing well in testing.

Hello again everybody, I come back to you tattered and torn, destroyed from a weekend trying my hand at Heartbeat.

You know, there’s a reason I never played Tooth and Nail

But no matter. Today we cover my favorite guild, Azorius. These guys were just primed and ready to bust on the scene. Me and my control-loving buddies would sit around and daydream of the most powerful and interesting spells they could throw at us, like this one:

Super Mana Leak
Counter target spell with converted mana cost 2 or less. Gain 3 life.

Which they sorta gave us with Spell Snare. Except without that whole Healing Salve on the end. That only worked once.

After I saw Dissension I began throwing lists together left and right. Now, with my penchant for the Tron well on my mind, I threw together Azorius Tron in no time:

This was a fun, if not consistent, deck. The problem was that my all-star from the Team PTQ season, Weathered Wayfarer, was nowhere to be found. Seal of Fire plain ol’ hated him out of the format (Jushi too) What’s a deckbuilder to do?

Leave him behind for a lame imitation, that’s what! Court Hussar was the latest and greatest playtesting find, with its Impulse-on-a-stick flavor and the ability to safely block Dark Confidant, Savannah Lions, and Kami of Ancient Law with no recourse. Oh, and it has Vigilance, as it you didn’t want to swing for one just because you felt like it.

However, as good as the Hussar was at getting a deck up and running, the main problem was no countermagic. With W/r Tron I generally went for the Genju win, creating a comfortable life total and riding it to victory. That route I could get the Tron up faster and more consistently with Wayfarer, and this U/w Tron didn’t even run Genju at all!

All was not lost, however. There was hope. I began to play with every Azorius card again, every Blue and White concoction, I looked at them all closely and thought about how they might work best together.

I had been a fan of Grand Arbiter Augustin IV since the moment I saw him. I couldn’t believe he would see print. He was just so…broken.

But not quite. You still need mana to back him up, you still need counters to stop them. He, alone, would not break anything.

Overrule still stands out as a very bad card that looks good. I didn’t even have it in the Tron list above, which is surely a blunder. Anyway, five mana to Mana Leak and Healing Salve is not a spell I want to be running. It just seems silly. I used to play with Power Sink, and most times a hard counter is just better. Mana Leak is better than Overrule in pretty much every way. But you gotta have something for Block. Fifth Dawn had Condescend, Betrayers had Disrupting Shoal, Dissension has Overrule. You gotta have a Blue X counter spell, and this is it.

With that said I found a few pieces of technology which need some explaining:

Isperia the Inscrutable

Ah yes, the one that got bravo remarks from Talen and his Mrs. is quite a house in Constructed. A few facts:

1 — You’d be surprised how often you blindly guess what’s in their hand.

2 — It blocks pretty much everything scary (“Who blocks?” “Isperia, dude.”)

3 — It finds the biggest and best creatures in the format for you

You simply go get the answer you need:

Windreaver — B/G and any flavor of it cannot handle this guy. If you even smell a Grave-Shell Scarab in there you go get Reaver and show them how it’s done.

Meloku the Clouded Mirror — Just. Wins. Games. Funny how that never gets old, does it?

Yosei, the Morning Star — When Time Walks are helpful.

Keiga, the Tide Star — When they have something you want. Or when you’re simply trying to kill them.

Grand Arbiter Augustin IV

This fella is both overpowered and underpowered. Everyone balks at his four casting cost, but no one looks at how two mana Compulsive Researches and Court Hussars isn’t completely unfair. (Which, by the way, it is.)

Nevertheless, one of the benefits of this guy is that he will always, and I mean always, draw out removal. No one likes playing against Augustin, and they will do all they can to kill him.

It’s really satisfying to watch players blow their last Mortify on Grand Arbiter, and then I lay down Meloku the turn afterwards.

Okay, okay, enough teasing. Here’s the list:

Okay, a few basics with the control mindset:

1 — Your primary goal in the game is to cycle through enough answers to find threats to kill them.

2 — Your threat density is varied and deep, so you have a lot of game against a variety of strategies.

3 — Your answers are versatile (Faith’s Fetters) and cheap (Condemn) that you should have mana up for activated abilities or counterspells.

Now, with that said:

The Sifting Engine

The deck runs on an engine of 8 cards, primarily: Court Hussar and Compulsive Research. You’re usually looking at one or the other in your opening hand, and you’ll see multiples of both as you use one or the other. The benefit of this is that you look a great deal of your deck in a short amount of time.

Court Hussar is, at worst, a chump blocker. He doesn’t die to Seal of Fire. He trades with plenty of cheap, well-played creatures in the format. He is Impulse on a stick.

I don’t know if you got to play with Impulse Back In The Day, but I did. It was Some Good. I also played with Brainstorm. And anytime you can look at the top three cards of your library for any reason, you do so and you win games because of it.

Here’s a choice: Telling Time or Court Hussar? In an aggro-heavy environment, the latter is just strictly better. To me, he’s always better. I can’t imagine possibly leaving Court Hussar out of a build with Telling Time. Having a body on a great spell is just too good to pass up. I’ve been burnt by Telling Time when I’m forced to play it during my Main Phase and I know I’m stuck with an Island next turn. Hussar let’s me sift through the top 3 and no matter how bad they are (and you’d be surprised with how many times the top 3 are IslandIsland-Adarkar Wastes), you won’t see any of the three again.

Lastly, the guy takes Giant Soli-huge in the face and let’s you go with a single damage. Not to shabby.

The One Hinder

This is a personal thing. Some people like one-ofs as a versatility thing, a sort of “open option” that comes up every tenth game or so. Hinder is very much like that for me, except with the sifting engine I’m running into it much more often and it’s really nice to have a card in your deck that says “no,” completely and utterly.

Once the Arbiter is down Hinder, is just a great Counterspell and you should play it as such. Only use your ace when necessary. Most matchups can’t match your card draw or your counterspells, and between the two is how this deck comes out on top.

The Matchups

This is the part where you tell me how wrong I am in the forums. Let’s begin!


I tell ya, that first game is not going to be easy. You need to accelerate to five mana in a hurry so you can begin your Hussar-Research engine and keep Mana Leak and/or Remand mana online. Meanwhile they resolve a few Kodama’s Reaches and you could be shuffling up for game 2.

Be wary of what to counter and when. In the end, if you can’t find your Hinder to stop a crucial piece (such as Weird Harvest), you’re just racing. Keep that in mind, get out beef, and good luck with your Remanding in the meantime.

Sideboarding: -2 Condemn, -3 Faith’s Fetters, -1 Isperia the Inscrutable, -2 Windreaver, -3 Remand +2 Pithing Needle, +3 Rewind, +3 Azorius Guildmage, +3 Hinder

Hate much? I got all kinds of destruction for this deck in the sideboard, to the point where it’s actually difficult to not draw a hand that doesn’t have at least one component of these cards showing up.

Of course you should all know to Rewind only the last copy of Gigadrowse and to never Hinder the non-business spells. Otherwise, Azorius Guildmage just gets more ridiculous the more Heartbeat of Springs come into play, so keep that in mind. Just playing one of those and sitting back with untapped lands can sometimes be enough. Counter what can kill it and wait on Rewind for the inevitable ‘drowse headed your way.


This is a much tougher matchup that I expected because of the painful Rise / Fall. This little bugger is especially tough to play around when you’re busy Remanding and not Mana Leaking. A Rakdos deck with both Ravenous Rats and Rise/Fall would go a long way to keep a leg up on control and beatdown.

I ran into such a deck and thought you would be interested in seeing it. It squeezed out a victory in three tough games against Hardcore Azorius:

Crypt Champion is surprisingly scary (gets back every creature in the deck other than itself), and equipped with a Jitte is some double-striking terror.

My first suggestion (per most of the forum responses last week): Giant Solifuge needs some lovin up in here. Anyway.

Sideboarding: -4 Remand, -1 Hinder, -1 Compulsive Research, +4 Spell Snare, +2 Pithing Needle

In this matchup you keep it simple: Their best spells usually come in two-mana packages, and their Jitte must be tamed. The build above is unusable because of the Double Striking Crypt Champion, but for the most part Jitte isn’t a huge problem. Windreaver is a very expensive way of keeping counters of that little bugger, and Faith’s Fetters is an option as always.

Greater Good, Beach House Deck, G/W/b Glare, Dimir House Guard Control

This is almost a bye. You’re Wrathing their creatures and you’re stopping their tempo. The worst spell they can resolve against you is a Nightmare Void, but you’re always drawing or looking at more cards than they are, and your threats are big, scary, and tough to deal with. A few Putrefy and Mortify isn’t going to do it.

Sideboarding: -3 Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, +3 Hinder

Sideboarding (Greater Good): -2 Court Hussar, -1 Isperia the Inscrutable, -3 Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, +3 Rewind, +3 Hinder

You simply adopt the Control Suite for this matchup, where you counter anything scary and let your monsters do the talking. Since they’re running Farseeks or Wood Elves or Kodama’s Reach they’ve always got plenty of mana so Grand Arbiter doesn’t help too much. Mana Leak still sneaks up on them from time to time, so it’s best to keep the early game locked if you can.

Ghost Husk

Yes, the days of Ghost Dad are behind us, so giving you advice on that matchup isn’t quite as applicable. At least in terms of what you might see this Saturday.

The key to this matchup, as with any Ghost Husk, is stopping their momentum and in particular Nantuko Husk. That little bugger will take you down to Chinatown, if you know what I’m saying.

However, you’ve got the Wrath of Gods, you’ve got Condemn, you’ve got counterspells and card draw and Meloku is bad news bears unless they can resolve that Pontiff…

Just be careful. This deck explodes out of the gate and if you can’t draw answers in four turns or so, you could be sideboarding as such:

Sideboarding: -4 Remand, -3 Faith’s Fetters, -1 Isperia the Inscrutable, -1 Compulsive Research, +4 Spell Snare +3 Hinder, +2 Pithing Needle

The single most dangerous card against your deck is Hokori, Dust Drinker. If they’re packing it, you want to be ready for it. Hinder lets you be prepared to counter that must-counter spell, while you don’t get ripped by Castigates.

Meanwhile, the Spell Snares stop some of the most important spells in Ghost Husk: Dark Confidant, Castigate, and Kami of Ancient Law. I haven’t tested this matchup extensively, but a one-mana stopping point for Dark Confidant in game 2 (considering they will be going first if you could stop their momentum game 1) is incredible for your long game and could turn the tide right then and there. That possibility alone makes it worth it to me to bring in the ‘Snares.

With that said, if you’re playing first game 2 then you can leave in the Remands, which give you time to draw the Hinder to permanently deal with the problem much like Snare would have, except Remand can cover other game-winners like Pontiff and Husk.

Izzetron, Wildfire and Wafo-Tapa

Okay, seriously, Wafo-Tapa?! I want the Deck Naming Committee (DNC) to take a stand against decknames this bad. You can’t work this into conversation, you can’t throw it out amongst your buddies without sounding like you’re an idiot.

I know my decknames are nothing special (Mighty Bubbles, y’all), but throw us a bone here!

Okay, with that said it’s a counter war. You run more threats but they run more answers. Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is a house in this matchup and can give you the edge you need to force through something scary.

Wildfire isn’t good for this deck, but at 24 lands you should have plenty of fodder and a few counterspells later and you resolve something (like a 5/5 Flying Legendary Dragon Spirit) they can’t handle.

Nothing Is Finished — Where To Go From Here

Where else? To the forums!

Many of my readers have emailed or messaged me inquiring about decks of mine that have been polished over in the forums. Or, at the least, have been made much better through suggestions and tips. This is a great practice and I try to keep involved.

To those who build decks or play them, if you’ve got an angle on this deck I want to hear it and I appreciate the feedback. Deckbuilding and Magic playing are a constantly evolving process. I hope you join me on this journey.

Until next time, when I show you just how ridiculous Supply / Demand really is…

Evan “misterorange” Erwin
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com