We now know the competitive formats for SCG CON Baltimore, so it is time to prepare for battle. I was expecting some Pioneer action, to coincide with the Regional Championship Qualifier (RCQ) season, but Modern is a pleasant surprise. Azorius Control in Pioneer has been red-hot for me, providing me a good backup if I need to hit the local events should Baltimore go poorly.
While Modern is the format the bosses chose for the qualifier events, that is not the main show at the con.
Legacy is the official format for the main competitive event at SCG CON Baltimore. I rarely bow out of the main event, regardless of format; however, I have not played a game of Legacy in quite some time. Since the initiative took over, I have not had much interest in dusting off the Brainstorms and hitting the Legacy scene. The other issue I have had with Legacy is the lack of events, locally and regionally, for me to get back into the format. With that being said, I still love casting the old cards, so maybe this event will reignite that spark in me.
Modern being the format for the ReCQs, not to be confused with RCQs, in Baltimore leads me right back into the open arms of Azorius Control (Kaheera). This deck has been good to me over the years and continues to grow in power level with recent set releases.
Strategizing for ReCQs
The Modern format has stabilized in recent months, but the metagame for these ReCQs will be difficult to predict. With a requirement to go 5-0 to qualify, it creates an interesting dynamic where you only play against a few decks in the event to claim victory. When the event is Swiss with a cut to Top 8, you can better predict the decks you will need to take down in order to win it all. This may be one of those times when I bring Mono-Red Aggro as a backup for Sunday, in case Saturday does not pan out, to burn some folks five times in a row.
Each Modern ReCQ is a single-elimination event, which is quite appealing to me. As an aging man, my stamina for multi-day events has deteriorated. After Round 5, the mind fog begins to build, and it takes a few more shots of espresso to get across the finish line. I am actually looking forward to these quick events, finishing the day with plenty of time to hang out with the friends. I hope that I can make them wait at least five hours to walk away with an invitation to the Regional Championship.
It has been a couple of years since I have played on the Pro Tour. At 25 appearances, I felt retirement was a fine end to my story, but the bug is back. Watching the action in Minneapolis triggered the competitive fire once again, and I will at least play a few RCQs (and ReCQs) to try to get back there once again. SCG CON Baltimore will be my first attempt at this one, and I think Azorius Control (Kaheera) is still one of the better decks available to us in Modern.
This version of Azorius Control (Kaheera) is the best build for a quick five victories in a row against a wide-open metagame. The issue with Modern is simultaneously a benefit: the number of different decks that have remained competitive. There are some agreed upon Tier 1 decks out there; however, they barely scratch 10% of a paper metagame in any given competitive tournament. This has been the case with Modern for many years and is a reason why people love to play it.
The viability of different decks is part of the reason, where the other is card availability. Just like with Legacy and other older formats, players will scrape together a deck or two they like and stick with those through thick and thin. Some may point the finger at me, as I write about my beloved Azorius Control, but that is a different animal entirely.
The comfort factor is applicable in formats that do not rotate, where lovers of an archetype refuse to move off their deck. I would argue that I enjoy various groupings of control (Azorius, Dimir, and Esper), while also defecting to the janky combo deck occasionally. Currently, I am in my comfort zone, as many other players will be in Baltimore. I expect to not play against the same deck twice in those five rounds, so it is important to have Azorius Control (Kaheera) built to beat the spread.
No, No, Narset
Some of the big differences between my version of Azorius Control (Kaheera) and the others are the card quantities. It is tough to build this deck drastically different from others, unless you move into the Narset, Parter of Veils / Timetwister nonsense. I don’t want to yuck anyone’s yum, but I prefer to keep my wild combo separate from my traditional control decks. The innovation in Azorius Control (Kaheera) comes from how many cards of each spell category get a starting spot.
I have dedicated myself to the Teferi, Time Raveler cult, awarding four starting spots to one of my favorite cards of all time. It is too good of a card against most matchups, even providing a low opportunity cost when it is weak. The fact that it draws a card, then requires removal, is enough to justify it as a four-of in the deck. I have seen most Azorius Control (Kaheera) players drop down to three; some even go down to two, which I will not condone for this event. I recently had three copies before this, but found myself wanting a spare after the opponent easily handles the first. The risk of drawing multiples is mitigated by its fragility, ability to pitch to other cards, and necessity against specific matchups.
The partner of little Teferi is big Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. I am playing the maximum allowed, two copies, when many versions have dropped down to one. These two Teferi planeswalkers are must-draws in most matchups, with one being the early-game disruption king and the other sealing the game away. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria also serves as an answer-all, a perk that is hard to ignore in Modern. Joining these planeswalkers is a single copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who has lost a starting role in nearly every Azorius Control deck out there.
Jace: Just a Memory?
It is a sad day when Memory Deluge has conquered the most iconic planeswalker of all time. I may be wrong to still employ Jace, but there is some cosmic force that prevents me from dropping it for a second copy of the flagship draw spell. I have enjoyed the split between the two, mainly because drawing two copies of Memory Deluge (or Jace for the matter) is terrible, especially at the mana cost and limited interaction with the battlefield. At least Jace can return a creature to its owner’s hand, making it less than a liability than Memory Deluge.
The last drastically different amount in my Azorius Control (Kaheera) compared to others is Shark Typhoon. This card continues to impress and performs at a high level, with possibly the best floor of any card in the deck. Being able to ditch it for a card at two mana is crucial, especially since all of us Azorius Control (Kaheera) mages are stingy with the total mana in the deck. At only 26 lands, it is important to play cyclers to make consistent land drops throughout the game.
The reason three copies are best, beyond its general performance, is always having one to hard-cast in the late-game. I cycle liberally early on, knowing that I will have the opportunity to cast a six-cost bomb in the late-game. Shark Typhoon will end up as an enchantment for me at least once a match, simply because of the number I run.
Cutting Narrow Cards
For many of the matchup-specific cards in Azorius Control (Kaheera), I have made reductions. I am still not a fan of Dress Down and Subtlety in the main deck, even though I reserved them each one spot here. The drawback of each of these cards is minimal, since Dress Down draws a card and Subtlety just needs a creature to handle on Turn 4, but there are better cards to have in both spots.
If I thought the number of Archon of Cruelty and Primeval Titan was through the roof for this event, I would change my tune on cards like these. Since I believe that the metagame will be all over the place, my maindeck should consist of spells that have a wider application across the metagame.
Can’t Fight the Moonlight?
Most Azorius Control (Kaheera) lists are now adding two to three copies of Hallowed Moonlight. Just like Dress Down, it draws a card and can be cast at any time, making the risk of playing Hallowed Moonlight low. My issue goes back to cutting powerful cards against a wide spectrum of decks, which is what must occur to include cards like these. Watering down the overall strength of your deck, just for a chance to get maximum value on the opponent, is not where I want to be for these events.
When playing in an online metagame, where you know Five-Color Indomitable Creativity is 15% of the metagame, I can justify the inclusion, especially if you are grinding Leagues. For a five-round Swiss event with single-elimination, I want to run with high octane and minimal fillers.
Sideboard on the March
The sideboard covers the gaps made by the few main deck modifications. I have loved March of Otherworldly Light, giving us an extra removal spell at instant speed. Cutting the fourth Prismatic Ending was controversial, and March of Otherworldly Light fills that vacancy well. Past Dress Down making it to the sideboard, the rest of the lineup is the traditional Azorius Control (Kaheera) spread that I usually employ.
I am confident that this version can sweep through a five-rounder well, and I look forward to making that happen next month!