Top 10 Azorius Spells for Lavinia, Foil to Conspiracy

(Lavinia, Foil to Conspiracy | Art by Chris Rahn)

Any % Clue Run

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Unwind is the only three-mana Counterspell with two generic mana in its casting cost that can untap lands?)

Oh, hey look, another Azorius "reward you for casting instants" commander.

But wait, this one ramps? Well now suddenly I'm on board!

Top 10 Azorius Instants with Two Or More Generic Mana in Their Mana Cost

This one seems pretty simple, but as always, there are a few corner cases we need to talk about. First off, when trying to trigger Lavinia as often as possible, we really care about instant speed, not instants specifically.

Creature, artifact, or instant, it all triggers Lavinia the same, so when we're building this deck, we're going to lean hard into flash stuff. Instants are great and all, but permanents win games.

Secondly, what we're trying to take advantage of here with our commander is the extra mana we'll be getting during opponent's turns. Sure, it's kind of meant to crack Clues, and we'll definitely use it for that, but when you have a Worn Powerstone in the command zone, you use it! With that in mind, as tempting as it is to go ham on some free spells to get two and three triggers of Lavinia per turn cycle, it doesn't really fit into the kind of card we're trying to find here.

Does this mean we aren't going to be playing Fierce Guardianship? Absolutely not. But these cards infamy precedes them, what we're looking for is stuff that doesn't already see play in every blue deck.

Criteria: Spells within the Azorius color identity that can be cast at instant speed, have at least two generic or colorless mana in their casting cost, and do not have an alternate casting cost. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Ghostly Flicker

(93,729 Inclusions, 5% of 1,732,244 Decks)

Now, at first I bristled at the idea of making Lavinia into a blink deck. Looking at the card pool, however, an absolute ton of creatures that you can play at flash speed have enter the battlefield (ETB) effects, not to mention an easy infinite mana combo that could help us close out the game in a color combination not known for doing so.

Put simply, sneeze in the wrong direction and you're bound to find an infinite combo with Naru Meha, Master Wizard. The most popular, however? That's with Ghostly Flicker. Combine that with a healthy heaping of other flash-speed ETB creatures like Spellstutter Sprite, Venser, Shaper Savant, and Snapcaster Mage, and there's more than enough reason to head straight down this blink path.

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9. Aven Mindcensor

(96,931 Inclusions, 6% of 1,607,710 Decks)

The world's friendliest Stax creature is back, and flying in for more. Aven Mindcensor might be slowly being stripped out of more powerful decklists by the likes of Opposition Agent, but as far as Hatebears go, it's still one of the few that's unlikely to get you rude comments from the table. And if it does? Well then tell them to cry into their folded hundred dollar bills they've stuffed into sleeves. Or at least, the top four of them they can look at.

8. Dig Through Time

(104,010 Inclusions, 6% of 1,732,244 Decks)

Can I be honest? I don't like Dig Through Time. I kind of never have. Don't get me wrong, at two mana it feels pretty great, but literally any other time I draw this card and have to pay more to cast it, I often make the decision not to instead. Six cards sounds like it's not that many to get in the graveyard, but with the amount of decks that use those cards as a second hand, it starts to add up quickly. All in all, it really takes the right deck to consider this one for me these days, and with Lavinia looking to go for big mana stuff that will inevitably utilize the graveyard, I just don't think this is it.

7. Hullbreaker Horror

(113,796 Inclusions, 7% of 1,732,244 Decks)

Speaking of big mana finishers that more or less win you the game, Hullbreaker Horror! For those of you that have never had the delight and/or dread of seeing this hit a table, yes, it plays as good as it reads, if not better. Uncounterable, and often cast at the end step of the person who was silly enough to tap out. Usually, the owner of Hullbreaker Horror gets to immediately untap with it and do nonsense. What kind of nonsense? Well, everything from winning the game outright kinds of nonsense to slowly choking the game out over time as every relevant spell and permanent your opponents cast gets returned to their hand. What people most often forget, however? It's also a 7/8 that is a game ending threat on its own once those pesky blockers are swept away!

6. Unbreakable Formation

(118,298 Inclusions, 7% of 1,607,710 Decks)

Unbreakable Formation is yet another card that I've never been that high on. Three mana is a clunky amount of mana to hold up that generally means putting game plans on hold, which is precisely what you don't want when it comes to cards you may or may not use in a given turn cycle. Sure, the Addendum has some upside to it that can translate to an alpha strike, but all too often it's just asking for removal in response to you casting it. In short, I think there are just better options these days, whether that be the free version in Flawless Maneuver, the cheaper creature version in Selfless Spirit, or the more flexible version in Your Temple Is Under Attack.

5. Akroma's Will

(149,248 Inclusions, 9% of 1,607,710 Decks)

None of which mentions the more expensive version that I do like - for any other deck. Akroma's Will is everything Unbreakable Formation wants to be: protection, an alpha strike, or protection for an alpha strike. Even if you don't win the game, the lifelink and vigilance more or less guarantee you aren't losing it, and the double strike and evasion guarantee that a bunch of damage is coming across the table.

With that said, I don't know that Lavinia is going to be winning with huge alpha strikes very often. Sure, sure, there will inevitably be tokens and Hullbreaker Horror's out there, along with some fliers, but this just feels like the kind of deck that is happy to get its chip damage in where it can, take its lumps from the board wipes, and then recover with excessive card draw. Azorius isn't about that flashy win, it just wants to stay alive and in control until it can grind out the win.

4. Fact or Fiction

(151,076 Inclusions, 9% of 1,732,244 Decks)

Clues are great and all, but how about drawing three cards for the same mana? And having some choice in the matter? Fact or Fiction is notorious for good reason, from stories of awful or hilarious splits, to the fact that with as much use as graveyards get, it often just says "draw five cards" on it. Even better, with Lavinia's penchant for playing draw-go, holding up the awkward four mana feels as natural as can be.

3. Frantic Search

(206,450 Inclusions, 12% of 1,732,244 Decks)

Why have card advantage for four mana, though, when you can have card disadvantage for zero? Frantic Search has been one of the best "free" draw spells ever made since the day it was printed, and it's certainly no worse for wear in a deck that's commander can pay for two-thirds of its cost. Just keep in mind that you only get to untap lands, and you should do fine.

2. Teferi's Protection

(332,581 Inclusions, 21% of 1,607,710 Decks)

Seven years in, and Teferi's Protection is still an almost $40 card. That is both astounding and almost completely unsurprising, given just how ubiquitous this three mana instant has become. While it's not entirely a get-out-of-jail free card, it does solve most problems that you'll encounter in casual Magic that would otherwise end the game. What else can be said? The card is good. If you can afford it, or find a means to get your hand on it, you should probably be playing it. Which is exactly the kind of card I heartily endorse nixing in favor of cards that people haven't seen in every game of their lives.

1. Generous Gift

(418,345 Inclusions, 26% of 1,607,710 Decks)

Generous Gift. The white mage's Beast Within. In similar fashion to Teferi's Protection, although nowhere near to the same extent, there's not much to be said about Generous Gift. It's extremely flexible removal that you'll never be unhappy to see in your hand, provided you have a reasonable amount of mana. And with Lavinia in the command zone, it's likely that you will.

Honorable Mentions

Our list had some very popular cards on it this week, which usually means we weren't prying deep enough. With that in mind, let's look at the rest of the Top 25.

Top 25 Azorius "Instants" With Two or More Generic or Colorless Mana in Their Casting Cost

11. Return to Dust
12. Aetherize
13. Eerie Interlude
14. Mithril Coat
15. Shimmer Myr
16. Rewind
17. Call the Coppercoats
18. Stroke of Midnight
19. Mystic Confluence
20. Unwind
21. Rootborn Defenses
22. Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
23. Sublime Epiphany
24. Venser, Shaper Savant
25. Clever Concealment

A good portion of what will be the meat of the deck lies here in the bottom of the Top 25, with great removal available throughout. What will really shine through, however, is the various flexible, expensive counterspells like Mystic Confluence and Sublime Epiphany, which we won't look weird holding up mana for as we'll always be playing at instant speed.

Speaking of, we should take a look at the decklist! I've always liked building decks with restrictions, to keep myself from just having a collection entirely made up of high-powered decks. With this one, it was tempting to go for a deck that was entirely flash speed, but that ended up being too slow even for my tastes.

Even with the instant speed untap spells like Rewind, Unwind, and Frantic Search, which can be ramp if you have bounce lands in the deck, the options at instant speed more or less ensured that you wouldn't be at a place where you were casting several spells per turn until turn six or so. With that in mind, I went ahead and built the deck with an exception for artifacts not needing to be at instant speed. Everything else, though...

Commander (1)
Artifacts (14)
Instants (32)
Enchantments (2)
Creatures (19)
Lands (32)

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The deck durdles a bit, as Azorius likes to do, but can fairly easily win with combat damage or with a Naru Meha combo into drawing out the table with Blue Sun's Zenith. Most importantly, however, outside of mana rocks, it plays entirely during your opponent's turns!

Everyone's gonna love us, I'm sure of it.

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion…), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

There have been loads of both Clue commanders and also instant speed commanders of late, and I'm not sure that I could articulate exactly why this one finally drew my attention. Perhaps it was as simple as Lavinia being a mana rock, or maybe it was the combination of the two together. Either way:

And finally, what is your favorite expensive, instant speed spell? Is it in Azorius? Can Lavinia cast it, or is she relegated to cracking Clues?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table with a mysterious new stain on it. I'm sure it's fine, nothing to investigate here.

Read more:

Too-Specific Top 10 - Counter Spellslinger

Wombo Combo - Azorius Edition

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.

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