As this article goes live, the Kaldheim Championship should be getting ready to begin. This is a dual-format event, featuring both Standard and Historic, but for now I'll be talking about Historic. It's been a while since I've played a true control deck in any format, let alone for a major event, but here I am. I chose old school Azorius Control for the Historic portion of the Kaldheim Championship.

The Path to Choosing Azorius Control

For pro magic, most players work within a team to prepare for an event, known as their testing team. For this event, it was no different. I had the great minds of Stanislav Cifka and Ivan Floch who were testing Azorius Control for a while, but I wasn't convinced to play it until the last moment. Maybe I was scared of playing a control deck against such talented competition, but in the end I decided it was the best choice.

The first and most important step to choosing a deck is identifying a metagame. The Jund Sacrifice strategies, whether they're the food-based variants, or the Collected Company versions, are the most popular in Historic. This was obvious after looking through results, so we knew playing a deck that doesn't do well against Jund wasn't an option. When identifying weaknesses in the Jund decks, we found their biggest weakness was in fact Azorius Control.

This alone wasn't enough for me to choose Azorius, though. For a while I thought I'd play either Gruul Aggro or Orzhov Auras in the tournament. I thought both decks had acceptable Jund matchups, but then we saw new decks like Elves starting to do well. It seemed more and more that board sweepers like Doomskar and Wrath of God would be well positioned. I realized this Historic format is actually fairly balanced once you move past the Jund Sacrifice decks. So landing on a deck that has a good late game and card selection seemed like a good move. The Azorius Control decklist we came up with was ultimately why I finally chose to play it, as it's very well tuned.

The Decklist

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Azorius Control by Seth Manfield

'Azorius Control' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Seth Manfield

Event:

Rank:

Historic

Market Price: $265.39

Cards

Tale's End

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.51

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192791_200w.jpg

Counter target activated ability, triggered ability, or legendary spell.

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Aether Gust

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192535_200w.jpg

Choose target spell or permanent that's red or green. Its owner puts it on the top or bottom of their library.

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Castle Vantress

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.95

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199284_200w.jpg

Castle Vantress enters the battlefield tapped unless you control an Island.
{T}: Add {U}.
{2}{U}{U}, {T}: Scry 2.

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Glass Casket

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199004_200w.jpg

When Glass Casket enters the battlefield, exile target creature an opponent controls with mana value 3 or less until Glass Casket leaves the battlefield.

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Dovin's Veto

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $1.51

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/187186_200w.jpg

This spell can't be countered.
Counter target noncreature spell.

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Hallowed Fountain

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $7.85

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182831_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {W} or {U}.)
As Hallowed Fountain enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

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Censor

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.20

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/130042_200w.jpg

Counter target spell unless its controller pays {1}.
Cycling {U} ({U}, Discard this card: Draw a card.)

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Narset, Parter of Veils

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.07

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/188705_200w.jpg

Each opponent can't draw more than one card each turn.
−2: Look at the top four cards of your library. You may reveal a noncreature, nonland card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

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Field of Ruin

Market Price: $0.18

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/248181_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
{2}, {T}, Sacrifice Field of Ruin: Destroy target nonbasic land an opponent controls. Each player searches their library for a basic land card, puts it onto the battlefield, then shuffles.

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Sphinx's Revelation

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $3.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/128596_200w.jpg

You gain X life and draw X cards.

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Mystical Dispute

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.92

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198683_200w.jpg

This spell costs {2} less to cast if it targets a blue spell.
Counter target spell unless its controller pays {3}.

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Wrath of God

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $4.89

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218452_200w.jpg

Destroy all creatures. They can't be regenerated.

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Mind Stone

Market Price: $0.66

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/243923_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
{1}, {T}, Sacrifice Mind Stone: Draw a card.

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Commence the Endgame

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/188626_200w.jpg

This spell can't be countered.
Draw two cards, then amass X, where X is the number of cards in your hand. (Put X +1/+1 counters on an Army you control. If you don't control one, create a 0/0 black Zombie Army creature token first.)

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Shark Typhoon

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $11.27

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212133_200w.jpg

Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, create an X/X blue Shark creature token with flying, where X is that spell's mana value.
Cycling {X}{1}{U} ({X}{1}{U}, Discard this card: Draw a card.)
When you cycle Shark Typhoon, create an X/X blue Shark creature token with flying.

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Hengegate Pathway

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $5.63

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/229207_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {W}.

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Doomskar

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $1.87

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230872_200w.jpg

Destroy all creatures.
Foretell {1}{W}{W} (During your turn, you may pay {2} and exile this card from your hand face down. Cast it on a later turn for its foretell cost.)

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Glacial Fortress

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $3.63

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/142037_200w.jpg

Glacial Fortress enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Plains or an Island.
{T}: Add {W} or {U}.

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Absorb

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $0.84

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182492_200w.jpg

Counter target spell. You gain 3 life.

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Castle Ardenvale

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $2.23

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199390_200w.jpg

Castle Ardenvale enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Plains.
{T}: Add {W}.
{2}{W}{W}, {T}: Create a 1/1 white Human creature token.

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Baneslayer Angel

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $1.60

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215372_200w.jpg

Flying, first strike, lifelink, protection from Demons and from Dragons

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Cast Out

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212338_200w.jpg

Flash
When Cast Out enters the battlefield, exile target nonland permanent an opponent controls until Cast Out leaves the battlefield.
Cycling {W} ({W}, Discard this card: Draw a card.)

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Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $24.88

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/162150_200w.jpg

+1: Draw a card. At the beginning of the next end step, untap up to two lands.
−3: Put target nonland permanent into its owner's library third from the top.
−8: You get an emblem with "Whenever you draw a card, exile target permanent an opponent controls."

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Irrigated Farmland

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $0.39

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212418_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {W} or {U}.)
Irrigated Farmland enters the battlefield tapped.
Cycling {2} ({2}, Discard this card: Draw a card.)

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Behold the Multiverse

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.15

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230140_200w.jpg

Scry 2, then draw two cards.
Foretell {1}{U} (During your turn, you may pay {2} and exile this card from your hand face down. Cast it on a later turn for its foretell cost.)

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Plains

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215715_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {W}.)

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Grafdigger's Cage

Market Price: $1.84

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192909_200w.jpg

Creature cards in graveyards and libraries can't enter the battlefield.
Players can't cast spells from graveyards or libraries.

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Island

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/235543_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {U}.)

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Seal Away

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.18

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/162208_200w.jpg

Flash
When Seal Away enters the battlefield, exile target tapped creature an opponent controls until Seal Away leaves the battlefield.

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Discontinuity

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.21

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215672_200w.jpg

As long as it's your turn, this spell costs {2}{U}{U} less to cast.
End the turn. (Exile all spells and abilities from the stack, including this card. The player whose turn it is discards down to their maximum hand size. Damage wears off, and "this turn" and "until end of turn" effects end.)

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Commit // Memory

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.61

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/130160_200w.jpg

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Baffling End

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.16

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/155676_200w.jpg

When Baffling End enters the battlefield, exile target creature an opponent controls with mana value 3 or less.
When Baffling End leaves the battlefield, target opponent creates a 3/3 green Dinosaur creature token with trample.

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This version of Azorius Control is geared toward beating creature-based strategies. We don't have cards like Shark Typhoon in the maindeck, though. We made the card choices realizing we're likely behind against other control decks in game one. We didn't expect as much control as other strategies, so we decided this was a gamble worth taking. We also used a lot of the space in the sideboard to give us a good plan after sideboarding.

Having five sweepers is at the very top end of what the Azorius decks play right now. In addition, we fit three copies of Aether Gust into the 75—another card we thought was worth prioritizing for the current metagame. Grafdigger's Cage is a necessary tool against the Jund decks, though it's not typically a card I would maindeck. If the format changes, Grafdigger's Cage could easily move from the maindeck.

The deck takes over the late game with its planeswalkers. You'll win the majority of your games with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria by accumulating card advantage. Castle Ardenvale activations can close games out fairly quickly once you have a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria going. Narset, Parter of Veils is also great here, and works nicely alongside the Commit. Behold the Multiverse and Sphinx's Revelation gives additional card advantage. In many ways this reminds me of Azorius Control decks from years ago.

Don't be overly concerned about win conditions. It's a natural reaction to ask how the deck actually wins the game, but a Teferi emblem or Castle Ardenvale can get the job done. Just keep drawing cards, and eventually the opponent will be buried under all the card advantage you've created. So many of the cards in this deck draw cards, including the cyclers. You go through your deck very quickly, so you can find specific cards more easily. Seal Away provides an answer to larger threats so we wanted access to a copy of that to go alongside Baffling End.

The Matchups

Jund Sacrifice

Jund players don't like playing against decks that have better late games. We have the better late game, though we need to respect Trail of Crumbs in the food decks—it will likely be the reason we do lose to Jund Food. Trail of Crumbs by itself isn't enough to win the game—they'll also need a Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven most of the time. Grafdigger's Cage can help stop this, but doesn't always get the job done. Be aware of Binding the Old Gods—a very versatile removal spell in the Jund deck. This card can deal with both Grafdigger's Cage and planeswalkers.

After sideboarding, the Jund deck often brings in more reaction and hand disruption. Thoughtseize comes in while Fatal Push goes out. These types of swaps are going to make the sideboarded games more challenging. We aren't bringing in much for the matchup, while the opponent can take out cards that basically do nothing against us. Creature removal is awful against us, so the Jund player will use Claim the Firstborn to give their creatures haste. This is important for correctly timing when to deploy a planeswalker.

Generally, we are a favorite game one, and slightly behind after sideboard. I'm not claiming the matchup is insane, but I feel like we're a bit of a favorite overall, and I'm not sure you can do much better than that against Jund. I'd prefer to have a great game one against the most popular deck in the field, and that's the case here.

Orzhov Auras

I was surprised how popular Orzhov Auras was as a choice, since I think it's behind against the Jund decks. However, this is a tough matchup for the Azorius Control deck. You'll be hoping your removal spells like Baffling End properly line up against the opponent's draw. The thing about the Auras deck is it often looks amazing or completely falls flat. This makes the games a lot about the first couple turns. Do they get one of their two-mana threats down and start drawing lots of cards, or are you able to stop that? Having another Baffling End and a Glass Casket after sideboard certainly helps.

Green Elves

This is one of the best matchups for our Azorius Control list, because of the amount of sweepers in the Azorius deck. If we have an early Wrath of God or Doomskar it normally stops the Elves deck in its tracks. The Elves deck is almost all creatures and Collected Company, so it doesn't have the luxury of waiting to deploy its threats. I honestly believe the best plan from the Elves side is to cross your fingers and hope the Azorius deck doesn't have a sweeper. If you play too conservatively it lets the Azorius deck buy more time, and dig through more of the deck.

Gruul Aggro

One of the reasons I wanted to play Gruul in the Kaldheim Championship is because I believed it was a good matchup against Azorius Control. I do still think Gruul is ahead against the standard Azorius Control lists. In fact, when looking through recent results, the matchup appears fairly lopsided in favor of Gruul. But, this is why you play the games rather than just relying on data from tournaments. Our Azorius list is different, and more geared toward creature decks. It's actually decent and possibly even favored against Gruul.

Having a ton of two-mana spot removal alongside sweepers is key. The Gruul deck doesn't play many cards that are non-creature threats. Similarly to the auras matchup, the games will often come down to answering their early aggressive start.

The Mirror/Other Control Decks

I already mentioned game one won't be great here, but things get better after sideboarding. Of the various control decks you can play, I believe the Azorius mirror is the most difficult matchup. Part of this has to do with our decklist. We have cards like Aether Gust maindeck, alongside lots of removal. If for instance, our opponent is on Bant Control instead of Azorius, our removal spells like Wrath of God are not completely dead, and can answer the opponent's creatures. These were the matchups I was most scared of, because of how bad our game one is against decks that do play Shark Typhoon in the maindeck.

That's why after sideboard, we have our own Shark Typhoon and Commence the Endgame as essentially the 5th Shark Typhoon. Even beyond that, the Discontinuity is a card I chose to play to answer my opponent's Shark Typhoon. The sideboarded games primarily come down to Shark Typhoon, since you have enough counterspells to answer the big mana threats the opponent might play on their own turn. In order to feel okay about the control matchups, you need to dedicate a lot of the sideboard to them, since you have lots of bad cards here in game one.

Other Strategies/Wrap Up

There are of course other decks in Historic, but I believe the decks I covered above are currently the main pillars of the format. Decks like Goblins that were once tier 1 have now dropped off significantly. Luckily, we're well prepared for tier 2decks like Sultai Ultimatum, Goblins, and Abzan Midrange. There are decks that can try to attack Jund Sacrifice, but then are quite soft to counters and card advantage—which we have in spades. After playing a lot on the MTG Arena ladder, I'm quite confident in our deck choice, and fully expect that to translate in terms of strong results in the event itself. Make sure to tune in to watch all the action!

Thanks for reading,
Seth Manfield