t's Azorius week! That means it's time to talk about all of Isperia's provisions! Let's buckle down and get started.
...No, just kidding. This week, I won't be putting you in jail or reciting the entirety of Isperia's 14th proclamation. In fact, we're going to rebel a little from the Azorius code—it's time to go on the offensive!
Lyev SkyKnight | Art by Johannes Vess
Although many know Azorius for its droning bureaucrats, its fierce skyknights are certainly no slouches. And, most importantly, they're also Humans!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. This week, we're going to take a look at Izzy Goodman's Azorius Humans deck. Let's get started!
Izzy Goodman's Azorius Humans
The Battle Plan
White-blue beatdown decks are a little different from your average green or red beatdown deck. The creatures in white-blue are seldom on the power level, sizewise, as those of other colors, but blue has an advantage over those other colors: tempo.
Countermagic, bounce, and temporarily disallowing a creature from blocking—by, say, detaining it—all play into blue's beatdown advantages. If you create a quick board presence and then sit back with countermagic up, any play your opponent makes is subject to being rendered useless—while buying you another free attack in the process.
I'm sure the first place many of your minds will go when I mention white-blue beatdown is Delver—but this deck is far different. Izzy's deck certainly leans more white than blue. It uses an aggressive Humans base that can come out of the gates quickly, as opposed to some of the Delver hallmarks. In fact, it has such a different, creature-focused core that it doesn't even play two of the most ballyhooed cards in the Delver deck: Snapcaster Mage and Delver of Secrets itself!
Instead of Delvering and Snapcastering, this deck is going to deliver some good ol' fashioned white beatdown with a touch of blue for tempo.
Let's begin looking at the individual cards, shall we?
The champ is here! This one-drop is your ideal opening play. He can quickly grow to absurd sizes considering most of your creatures are Humans, and so the longer the game goes, the larger he becomes! If your opponent can't deal with him, he or she is going to be in trouble. I definitely want all four of these.
Getting 2 power for one mana is a good exchange in a beatdown deck, and the fact that this also hurts Snapcaster on top of that is awesome. Now, there is the downside that this isn't a Human Militant, meaning she sadly won't trigger your Champion. I also know I want to add Doomed Traveler into this deck, and so there are only so many spots on my curve to go around (especially for non-Humans). However, Dryad Militant is strong enough that I'm willing to play her here.
War Falcon's drawback is pretty easily negated in this deck, as practically every creature allows it to attack. A 2/1 flier for one mana is pretty good—but I think there's only room for this guy or Militant to ensure your Champions are fully powered up.
Overall, I would rather have the Militant since she can always attack and hurts Snapcaster Mage. I do think two War Falcons is worth considering over two Militants if Snapcaster Mage isn't popular in your metagame, though. (I wouldn't play four because a War Falcon–heavy draw is problematic.)
Thalia is fantastic. A 2/1 first strike for is reasonable, but her ability really shines against many of the decks in Standard. It delays Supreme Verdict by a turn, reduces the number of removal spells your opponent can cast at one time, and makes Farseek look way less attractive. I don't want four because of her legendary status but playing three copies is pretty clear to me.
Ah, another 2/1 for . The exalted bonus on this guy is nice and certainly relevant, but the real reason I'm willing to play four copies main deck is his protection from black. When you already have reasonable stats and a useful ability (exalted), you're in the mix for discussion. With Zombies's high prevalence in the Standard metagame, main decking him makes your Game 1 chances go up drastically.
If Zombies is not popular in your metagame, I would consider other cards. For example, I would probably play Loyal Cathar here instead as a resilient two-drop that's strong against Supreme Verdict decks. However, if your metagame is the typical Zombies-infested craziness, then keeping these Knights around is a good call.
Attacks with 6 power. Hexproof. Only . Yeah, you can sign me up. He's not a Human, which is unfortunate, but with Geist and Militant being the only outliers our Champions should be just fine.
While Geist is legendary, I'm fine playing four simply because if your opponents don't kill him right away they're probably going to lose. He dies so easily that having another waiting in your hand doesn't usually hurt too much.
This awesome Return to Ravnica card is perfect for this kind of strategy. A 3/1 flier for are stats that at least make me look at the card. But the fact that he can detain a blocker on the way down and allow you to get past—while also not being counterattacked by that creature next turn—is perfect for this kind of tempo strategy.
It's also worth noting that he can detain noncreatures in a pinch! If Jace, Architect of Thought is giving you fits, for example, you can lock him down for a turn so you can easily remove him the turn after. It's always a good option to keep in mind!
Having some form of removal is always something to look for in this kind of deck. Lyev Skyknight lets you push through for a turn and has aggressive stats, while this guy is far less aggressive but takes a creature out of the picture for (hopefully) longer.
I definitely want to play some of these, but I also need to shave some three-drops from the deck. The deck has twelve, which is too many for a deck that relies so much on turns one and two. I don't want an opening hand with three three-drop creatures. Fiend Hunter is the one I'm going to cut down on, especially as it is pretty weak against any deck that isn't heavy on creatures.
This deck fundamentally runs on a low curve, and four-drops are beginning to push it a little. With that said, if you're going to push the curve, this Archangel is certainly the place to do it.
Ultimately, if I didn't have as many three-drops I'd keep a couple copies of the Archangel in. However, I can't really justify more on the top of my curve, as I need to ensure my opening hands are as aggressive as possible.
There are a lot of awesome three- and higher-drops for a deck like this. Ajani and Sublime Archangel are two that have already been brought up, and I would also love to play something like Silverblade Paladin. While it is a lot of fun to play with such powerful cards, it's extremely important that a tempo deck remains focused and not clunky.
Especially because I'm going to want to add a couple counterspells to the deck, I really want to land a board presence with my one- and two-drops. Excess three-drops have to go—and Ajani fits into that category.
Adding to Azorius
With those changes made, let's next go into what I'm looking to add into this deck!
Doomed Traveler is fantastic for this archetype. While he's only a 1/1, his ability to come back as a 1/1 flier makes for an excellent source of pseudo-card advantage. A card a deck like this doesn't want to see is a sweeper like Supreme Verdict, and Doomed Traveler helps protect you from being as hurt by that. He also buys you a ton of time if you're racing by blocking twice. On top of it all, he's also a Human, so he triggers your Champion. I definitely want four.
This card has a lot of great things going on for him. First of all, he's a 2/2 first-striking Human for , which is reasonable in its own right. But his ability is what really makes him as cool as a bow tie, singlehandedly generating a one-man army. Against control, you don't need to extend much more while Precinct Captain is on the battlefield. His ability will churn out a slew of threats—which is especially problematic for your opponent if you're keeping countermagic untapped.
Unfortunately, his Soldier tokens are raceless soldiers taken from the streets of Ravnica, so those don't pump up Champion as well, but his ability is still plenty powerful. I want to play the full four.
I love having access to countermagic in these kind of decks. It lets you push through so much extra damage and helps you defeat any huge spells your opponent might have. Granted, Supreme Verdict and Cavern of Souls are in the format, so countermagic isn't at its peak right now, but there are still enough crucial targets that I'd like access to some.
Syncopate is a reasonable option, especially because it only has in the mana cost, but this deck can't really out-mana anyone. I'd rather have Dissipate, which is going to work most of the time, and accept there may be an occasional game where I struggle to hit as opposed to having a Syncopate I can cast that is ineffectual anyway.
Although not a spell, I just want to quickly point out that I added Moorland Haunt into this deck. And although it is a colorless land, it's a fantastic way to win the long game and grind out some extra damage. It especially works well with countermagic up, since you can threaten a Dissipate and then activate Moorland Haunt if your opponent doesn't cast anything to counter.
That brings the updated decklist to this:
Gavin Verhey's Azorius Beatdown
With a bunch of powerful low drops and some strong turn-three plays, this deck has some very robust draws that can tempo out a lot of different decks!
My largest advice is to not overextend into board sweepers. Supreme Verdict is especially the one to watch out for since it can't be countered—you don't want to be caught out of cards when that hits. Try and save a Geist or some other powerhouse card for after a Verdict if you can.
Play around board sweepers and use your tempo cards wisely, and you should be able to take down many of Standard's top decks successfully. Give it a try!
Supreme Verdict | Art by Sam Burley
Looking for a different take on Azorius that this? Well, look over just a few of these other exciting decklists that were sent my way!
Ricky Crawford's Safety Bubble
Seth W.'s The Bird is the Word
Doug Peters's Mirror-Mad Mill
Guillaume Leclerc's Blinking Humans
Robert Martin's Azorius Midrange
Jethro's Elocutor Control
Jonnie Alexandro's Azorius Delver
Benjamin Wheeler's Ethereal Azorius
Charles Alcantara's Miracle Azorius
Alex Holloway's Azorius Closet
To Izzetfinity and Beyond!
With Selesnya and Azorius out of the way, that means it's time to hit the next guild on the list: Izzet! Two weeks from now is Izzet Week, so it'll be time to look at decks from that guild. Here are the requirements!
Restrictions: Your deck must be blue and red and no other colors. (Overlapping hybrid cards, such as Judge's Familiar or Rakdos Shred-Freak are okay.)
Deadline: Monday, November 5, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Start preparing your most maniacal Izzet brews, and—like a true Izzet mage—we'll see what comes out of it. (And hopefully the answer to that isn't a boatload of Izzet puns.)
In the meantime, feel free to send me any feedback you might have! You can reach me on Twitter, as always, and I also read through the forums for all of my articles in case you decide to post your feedback there.
I'll be back next week as I go all Reconstruct-ception and tweak a deck that somebody else has tweaked based on a deck that was sent to me. It should be quite the experience!
Talk to you then!