Pursuit of Knowledge - Azorius
(Azorius Guildgate | Art by Titus Lunter)
Obey the Law
Our journey into the Pursuit of Knowledge series continues this week with the analysis of the extended Command Zone gameplay data for the Azorius guild. This guild articulates around 32 mighty commanders, tied for first with Selesnya as the guild with the largest contingent of generals. The EDHREC database contains 11,101 Azorius commander decks at time of writing. Contrary to some of the other guilds, whose strength revolves around one or two themes, the diversity of Azorius generals allows deck builders to explore a wide variety of strategies. Some commanders like Bruna, Light of Alabaster naturally lend themselves to Voltron, while others, like Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, provide the basis for a Stax environment. We also have the king of tempo, Brago, King Eternal and Hanna, Ship's Navigator, or the newer Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage, who fits well in more artifact-focused decks. A number of commanders provide us card advantage from the get-go. We can go tall or wide with tokens with Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun or tribal with Sygg, River Guide. This really is an interesting guild for deck builders!
We have seen a number of articles on Azorius in recent past on EDHREC. From Kya's excellent primer on Brago, King Eternal in Bringing Magic to Life - Flickering Idea to Patrick's Combo Corner - Taxes article on Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, the most popular Azorius commanders have been covered on EDHREC. Therefore it's a newcomer who deserves our attention today: Lavinia, Azorius Renegade.
I really enjoy the asymmetrical aspects of this commander. Lavinia limits our opponents' ability to cast spells under certain circumstances, and she might be quite dangerous if we can exploit this. Lavinia's first ability can limit our opponents from making use of mana rocks, and her second ability stops our opponents from playing 0-cost spells. This could affect our opponents' ability to ramp with 0-CMC mana rocks like Mana Crypt, spells like Pact of Negation, Summoner's Pact, the imprinted spell on Isochron Scepter or the cards exiled by Etali, Primal Storm. Lavinia forces our opponents to play fair, preventing them form cheating the cost of spells.
As part of our game plan, we will stall the board with an assortment of Stax spells to give us the leeway to draw one of our win conditions. The primary win condition comes from playing Knowledge Pool. If Knowledge Pool resolves and Lavinia is in play, our opponents will not be able to play spells from this point. Secondary win conditions come from using Aetherflux Reservoir to drain our opponents' life total, playing Approach of the Second Sun a second time, bringing Platinum Angel into play, or copying Dark Depths with Thespian's Stage to get an indestructible 20/20 token.
Azorius has good support for artifacts and they will be the key card type in this deck. We will select artifact spells that support our game plan. We will also include a number of artifact tutors and some spells that add a level of protection for our artifacts.
As with other articles in this series, we will present the best ranked cards that comply with the Azorius color identity in different categories, starting with the core categories: Ramp, card advantage/filtering, disruption, mass removal, standalone creatures, standalone noncreature spells, and lands. We will also introduce three categories specific to our deck: Stax, protection and reanimation. The cards that we retain for our deck have a colored background in the various tables and the rank of the cards according the extended gameplay data is listed in parenthesis beside each card name in the table. A rank will not be present if the card cannot reliably be ranked from the extended gameplay data. The tables presented in the various categories can be used as templates to build further Azorius decks.
The Azorius guild ranked card pool contains 637 spells and 138 lands. Let's take a look at them.
With no access to green ramp spells, we have to rely on mana rocks for the core of our ramp. Our Stax package contains a little bit of mass land destruction. If we can get a couple of mana rocks on the battlefield before triggering land destruction, we will still be able to progress our board state, while our opponents are stranded, unable to play noncreature spells.
|Wayfarer's Bauble (4)||Temple of the False God (~24)||Basalt Monolith (49)||Azor's Gateway (124)|
|Astral Cornucopia (7)||Mana Crypt (25)||Shrine of the Forsaken Gods (~57)||Turnabout (135)|
|Myriad Landscape (~7)||Primal Amulet (27)||High Tide (80)||Cultivator's Caravan (147)|
|Phyrexian Altar (8)||Chrome Mox (32)||Talisman of Progress (93)||Thaumatic Compass (156)|
|Sol Ring (18)||Dowsing Dagger (36)||Conduit of Ruin (98)||Conqueror's Galleon (238)|
|Everflowing Chalice (20)||Omniscience (41)||Gauntlet of Power (99)||Tezzeret the Seeker (347)|
|Solemn Simulacrum (22)||Ashnod's Altar (42)||Mox Diamond (103)||Grand Arbiter Augustin IV (581)|
|Thought Vessel (24)||Gilded Lotus (44)||Sky Diamond (106)||Smothering Tithe|
The presence of mana rocks also enhances the effectiveness of cards like Paradox Engine, especially when Aetherflux Reservoir is in play.
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV lowers the cost of all of our color spells, but also adds a tax on all of our opponents' spell. Smothering Tithe, the new white ramp spell from Ravnica Allegiance, provides us ramp that can be set aside to play a couple of big spells in the same turn and also provides resources to reuse for tutor spells like Reshape or Arcum Dagsson.
To achieve our main goal of getting Knowledge Pool into play or drawing one of our alternate win conditions, there is a strong focus on the card advantage/filtering category in our deck. The bulk of the cards in this category allow us to either directly tutor Knowledge Pool or one of our other win conditions or a card that helps us tutoring one of them.
|Enlightened Tutor (1)||Scalding Tarn (~11)||Fact or Fiction (30)||Merchant Scroll (355)|
|Brainstorm (2)||Dig Through Time (12)||Frantic Search (31)||Sphinx's Revelation (360)|
|Skullclamp (3)||Expedition Map (14)||Chrome Mox (32)||Alms Collector (401)|
|Laboratory Maniac (5)||Bident of Thassa (16)||Ponder (34)||Tolaria West (~418)|
|Treasure Cruise (6)||Arid Mesa (~18)||Recruiter of the Guard (88)||Arcum Dagsson (432)|
|Myriad Landscape (~7)||Solemn Simulacrum (22)||Fabricate (100)||Reshape (464)|
|Polluted Delta (~7)||Mystic Confluence (26)||Planar Bridge (188)||Flagstones of Trokair (~530)|
|Mulldrifter (9)||Misty Rainforest (~26)||Conqueror's Galleon (238)||Muddle the Mixture (602)|
|Mystical Tutor (10)||Primal Amulet (27)||Flooded Strand (~242)||Inventors' Fair (~631)|
|Sensei's Divining Top (11)||Tezzeret's Gambit (28)||Tezzeret the Seeker (347)||Spellseeker|
For instance, one tutor chain leads us from Tezzeret the Seeker to Expedition Map to Inventor's Fair and to Knowledge Pool. Another chain consists in playing Recruiter of the Guard to tutor Spellseeker, to get Reshape to play Knowledge Pool. Muddle the Mixture can tutor Merchant Scroll, which can then retrieve Reshape to get Knowledge Pool into play.
The more powerful tutors comes from cards like Reshape, Planar Bridge or Arcum Dagsson that can bring Knowledge Pool into play directly, which makes it uncounterable unless a player counters the original spell or uses a spell like Stifle to counter the activated ability.
Outside of tutors, we do have a few classic card draw spells like Dig Through Time, Alms Collector, and Sphinx's Revelation to provide us some card advantage, and some spells like Brainstorm and Sensei's Divining Top to give us some filtering. Dig Through Time can help us find Approach of the Second Sun after playing it for the first time.
Expedition Map can be used to tutor Inventors' Fair, but can also be used to fetch Dark Depths or Thespian's Stage. With both Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage in play, we can turn Thespian's Stage as a copy of Dark Depths. Since the copy has no counters on it, we are forced to sacrifice the Dark Depths copy and get an indestructible flying 20/20 token, which will likely become the biggest threat on board.
This deck is highly disruptive. As such, we will create two more specific disruption subcategories to highlight some of the important aspect of this deck. The disruption spells listed in the table below do not cover cards in the Stax or protection subcategories, as these are covered in their own separate sections. The disruption spells listed in this section deal with some of our opponents' biggest threats and provide us some resiliency in case our opponents attempt to tamper with our plan.
|Laboratory Maniac (5)||Disdainful Stroke (38)||Kor Haven (~59)||Pact of Negation (178)|
|Disallow (13)||Glen Elendra Archmage (39)||Pongify (60)||Approach of the Second Sun (420)|
|Strip Mine (~13)||Scour from Existence (45)||Ghost Quarter (~62)||Arcum Dagsson (432)|
|Cyclonic Rift (15)||Temporal Mastery (48)||Rapid Hybridization (64)||Mana Drain (507)|
|Bident of Thassa (16)||Dissipate (52)||Leyline of Anticipation (65)||Cryptic Command (593)|
|Aetherflux Reservoir (19)||Swords to Plowshares (58)||Triskelion (68)||Platinum Angel (601)|
|Time Stretch (21)||Arcane Lighthouse (~58)||Collective Effort (73)||Muddle the Mixture (602)|
|Mystic Confluence (26)||Evacuation (59)||Path to Exile (142)||Knowledge Pool|
Our most important disruption spells are key components of our win conditions: Knowledge Pool, Aetherflux Reservoir, Approach of the Second Sun, and Platinum Angel.
We have a suite of counterspells to either stop our opponents from messing with our board or to prevent them from messing with any parts of our winning conditions. We display a mixture of counterspells, ranging from 0-cost spell like Pact of Negation that allow us to respond to an interaction on the board when we are tapped out, to more tempo-oriented spells like Cryptic Command.
To leverage the tempo aspect of our game plan, we need a greater-than-usual amount of mass removal. Our mass removal is split into two categories: mass creature destruction and mass land destruction. With Lavinia out, the mass land destruction stalls our opponents from casting significant noncreature spells for some time.
|Cyclonic Rift (15)||Akroma's Vengeance (167)||Whelming Wave (234)||Hour of Revelation (287)|
|Fumigate (17)||Inundate (189)||Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite (243)||Supreme Verdict (345)|
|Evacuation (59)||Devastation Tide (206)||Hour of Reckoning (247)||Terminus (440)|
|Elspeth, Sun's Champion (126)||Crush of Tentacles (231)||Ugin, the Spirit Dragon (257)||Cataclysm|
|Martial Coup (158)||Divine Reckoning (233)||Austere Command (260)||Armageddon|
The life gain from Fumigate may allow us survive a little bit longer and may also allow us to trigger Aetherflux Reservoir quicker.
In our land base, we have lands like Flagstones of Trokair, Darksteel Citadel and Drownyard Temple that can survive mass land destruction. This should allow us to recover quicker than our opponents to Armageddon and Cataclysm.
Core Synergy: Disruption - Stax
The Stax packages contains cards that prevents our opponents from progressing their own game plan.
|Dust Bowl (~86)||Grand Abolisher (258)||Rest in Peace (353)||Collective Restraint (490)|
|Thalia, Heretic Cathar (90)||Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir (265)||Conqueror's Flail (381)||Ghostly Prison (493)|
|Monastery Siege (97)||Decree of Silence (277)||Winter Orb (385)||Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur (498)|
|Containment Priest (123)||Jace, Unraveler of Secrets (285)||Ethersworn Canonist (398)||Authority of the Consuls (502)|
|Linvala, Keeper of Silence (128)||Karmic Justice (309)||Mindslaver (407)||Spirit of the Labyrinth (503)|
|Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (151)||Ensnaring Bridge (320)||Aven Mindcensor (409)||Grand Arbiter Augustin IV (581)|
|Void Winnower (223)||Crawlspace (333)||Imposing Sovereign (465)||Aura of Silence (617)|
|Rhystic Study (245)||Eidolon of Rhetoric (342)||Hushwing Gryff (480)||Cataclysm|
Dust Bowl depletes our opponents' land bases. Coupled with Drownyard Temple, we can repeat this operation and affect our opponents' ability to cast noncreature spells with Lavinia.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Ethersworn Canonist, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV and Aura of Silence limit our opponents' ability to cast spells. Since we have a core number of artifacts to play, Ethersworn Canonist's limitation is not as bad on us.
Void Winnower makes roughly half of our opponents' spells unplayable.
Grand Abolisher lets us cast spells on our turn unanswered, preventing our opponents to deal with the casting of Knowledge Pool, any of the spells that may lead to it or any other spells that can give us the win.
Containment Priest is a good safeguard against reanimation effects.
Core Synergy: Disruption - Protection
The spells in this category prevent our opponents from getting rid of our permanents by making them resilient to their interactions.
|Teferi's Protection (29)||Eldrazi Displacer (123)||Restoration Angel (326)||Eerie Interlude (446)|
|Gift of Immortality (47)||Leonin Abunas (141)||Padeem, Consul of Innovation (366)||Angelic Destiny (452)|
|Selfless Spirit (57)||Cauldron of Souls (150)||Sword of War and Peace (383)||Swiftfoot Boots (472)|
|Eldrazi Monument (76)||Shield of Kaldra (212)||Darksteel Plate (406)||Greater Auramancy (504)|
|Soul of New Phyrexia (78)||Whispersilk Cloak (223)||Sword of Fire and Ice (407)||Darksteel Forge (611)|
|Lightning Greaves (86)||Hammer of Nazahn (268)||Mother of Runes (409)||Elixir of Immortality (613)|
|Rootborn Defenses (88)||Champion's Helm (274)||Faith's Reward (425)||Avacyn, Angel of Hope (619)|
|Martyr's Cause (119)||Homeward Path (~323)||Indomitable Archangel (432)||Sword of Feast and Famine (636)|
With a power and toughness of 2, Lavinia is not a very strong creature. Lightning Greaves protects her from target removal or direct damage.
Leonin Abunas and Padeem, Consul of Innovation protects all the artifacts that are part of our winning conditions: Aetherflux Reservoir, Planar Bridge, Platinum Angel. Padeem will likely draw us some cards since half of our artifacts have a casting cost of four or more.
Teferi's Protection is our last line of defense if we want to stick around for another turn.
Core Synergy: Reanimation
We have a few spells that bring some level of recurrence to our deck.
|Fact or Fiction (30)||Marshal's Anthem (81)||Timetwister (171)||Conqueror's Galleon (238)|
|Frantic Search (31)||Buried Ruin (~83)||Jace, Memory Adept (173)||Bruna, the Fading Light (255)|
|Body Double (62)||Reveillark (104)||Myr Retriever (180)||Artisan of Kozilek (267)|
|Trading Post (63)||Junk Diver (108)||Haunted Fengraf (~190)||Jace, Vryn's Prodigy (284)|
|God-Pharaoh's Gift (72)||Cephalid Coliseum (~141)||Academy Ruins (~203)||Replenish (303)|
|Haven of the Spirit Dragon (~73)||Nim Deathmantle (144)||Crucible of Worlds (204)||Spelltwine (331)|
|Command Beacon (~74)||Time Spiral (150)||Karmic Guide (219)||Intuition (365)|
|Altar of Dementia (79)||Search for Azcanta (163)||Windfall (221)||Sun Titan (377)|
Crucible of Worlds grants us the ability to recur land removal with Dust Bowl and reuse the lands that tutor for cards or recover cards from the graveyard.
Trading Post, Buried Ruin and Academy Ruins bring resiliency to our artifacts and Sun Titan, one of the best reanimation creatures, lets us bring back any land, some of the best Stax creatures, most of our creatures that act as tutors, and some of our artifacts.
Conqueror's Galleon is not the most efficient reanimator, but its ability to also satisfy card draw and mana ramp categories brings consistency to our deck.
With such a strong focus on card advantage/filtering and disruption, there is no room for standalone creatures for our deck. Standalone creatures are creatures that work well on their own or in concert with our commander. I still listed the best ranked standalone creatures here for completeness and to help readers assess which are the best Azorius standalone creatures.
|Heliod, God of the Sun (37)||Hero of Bladehold (185)||Phyrexian Metamorph (202)||Soul Warden (276)|
|Deepglow Skate (62)||Hangarback Walker (186)||Yosei, the Morning Star (215)||Mikaeus, the Lunarch (284)|
|Metallic Mimic (67)||Clone (187)||Akroan Horse (218)||Frontline Medic (291)|
|Sakashima the Impostor (108)||Fog Bank (191)||Phantasmal Image (226)||Armory Automaton (294)|
|Soul's Attendant (139)||Sunscorch Regent (193)||Captain of the Watch (241)||Wurmcoil Engine (297)|
|Stuffy Doll (166)||Gisela, the Broken Blade (194)||Bastion Protector (242)||Geist-Honored Monk (307)|
|Chasm Skulker (176)||Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker (199)||Odric, Lunarch Marshal (254)||Rhox Faithmender (310)|
There is one slot left for a standalone spell to make it in to our deck.
|Intangible Virtue (23)||Anointed Procession (87)||Helm of Kaldra (142)||Mirage Mirror (204)|
|Spawning Pit (33)||Sigarda's Aid (103)||Coat of Arms (160)||Bonehoard (206)|
|Panharmonicon (43)||Clock of Omens (116)||Saheeli's Artistry (169)||Paradox Haze (208)|
|Increasing Devotion (68)||Sacred Mesa (118)||Phyrexian Processor (170)||Bloodforged Battle-Axe (209)|
|Swarm Intelligence (72)||Inexorable Tide (121)||The Chain Veil (173)||Rite of Replication (214)|
|Paradox Engine (79)||Nahiri, the Lithomancer (131)||Elspeth Tirel (195)||Decree of Justice (232)|
|Cathars' Crusade (85)||Migratory Route (140)||Duelist's Heritage (196)||Contagion Clasp (255)|
Our average CMC is not very high (3.25). Paradox Engine may enable us to play several spells each turn. The life gain that we can get from storming with Aetherflux Reservoir with Paradox Engine's presence may prove too strong for our opponents.
We have a variety of lands that provide us mana fixing, tutors, disruption and recursion.
|Command Tower (1)||Strip Mine (8)||Buried Ruin (33)||Flooded Strand (63)|
|Island (2)||Path of Ancestry (9)||Dust Bowl (34)||Tolaria West (90)|
|Reliquary Tower (3)||Arid Mesa (10)||Drownyard Temple (35)||Darksteel Citadel (110)|
|Myriad Landscape (4)||Temple of the False God (11)||Thespian's Stage (43)||Flagstones of Trokair (114)|
|Polluted Delta (5)||Misty Rainforest (12)||Hallowed Fountain (47)||Plains (131)|
|Scavenger Grounds (6)||Halimar Depths (13)||City of Brass (52)||Inventors' Fair (134)|
|Scalding Tarn (7)||Bant Panorama (14)||Academy Ruins (56)||Glacial Fortress (138)|
Tolaria West can tutor any land or any our 0-casting spells (Pact of Negation, Astral Cornucopia or Everflowing Chalice). Inventors' Fair can tutor artifacts.
Dust Bowl and Strip Mine can perform land target removal.
Scavenger Grounds disables our opponents' graveyards.
Putting It All Together
We have built a deck around Knowledge Pool to leverage Lavinia's second ability to prevent our opponents from playing spells. We have built our deck to slow our opponents down, granting us enough time to dig and play Knowledge Pool. We've added enough tutors to facilitate the retrieval of our key win condition, set up some protection for our key permanents, and implement some form of recurrence to support our plan of weakening our opponents' mana base and ensure we have continued access to cards that find their way to the graveyard. We have added a few alternate conditions as a backup plan. While building our deck, we have come up with a list of templates of the best ranked cards for the Azorius guild based on the extended Command Zone gameplay data. These templates can be reused to identify the most effective cards for future Azorius decks.
Lavinia's second ability to prevent our opponents from casting 0-cost spells is abused with Knowledge Pool in this deck. Other cards could be abused in a similar fashion: Dream Halls, Eye of the Storm, and Omen Machine. Dream Halls would require to rework the deck to have a stronger focus on reanimation, but the other two cards would fit in nicely with the deck.
In our next article, we will take a look at Gruul.
As always, I am curious to hear your thoughts and find out which cards you think would fit well in this deck.
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