(Modern) Grixis Azcanta Control Follow-Up

Earlier this month, I shared my initial list for a deck I like to call Grixis Azcanta Control.  I’ve continued to test the deck since then and have made a few changes to it based on my results.  Today, I’ll go over those changes (and the reasoning behind them) and share some results from my testing and a guide to sideboarding the most likely match-ups.


Corey’s Grixis Azcanta Control V2.0

Creatures (8)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Gurmag Angler

Spells (28)
Fatal Push
Serum Visions
Lightning Bolt
Thought Scour
Spell Snare
Countersquall
Logic Knot
Terminate
Dreadbore
Kolaghan’s Command
Cryptic Command

Enchantments (2)
Search for Azcanta
Lands (22)
Blood Crypt
Creeping Tar Pit
Flooded Strand
Island
Swamp
Mountain
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Watery Grave
Steam Vents

Sideboard (15)
Ceremonious Rejection
Izzet Staticaster
Countersquall
Collective Brutality
Engineered Explosives
By Force
Surgical Extraction
Disdainful Stroke
Ratchet Bomb
Anger of the Gods
Fulminator Mage
Damnation
Spell Snare

Updates

2 x Mana Leak replaced with 1 x Countersquall and 1 x Spell Snare

1 x By Force replaces the Countersquall moved to the main from the side.

I definitely want to be countering spells in this deck but the limitation of Mana Leak being functionally dead in a long game made it not worthwhile.  Leak functions pretty well against aggressive decks that run low land counts and hope to cast some of their most effective spells in the early game, but the problem is, we are already favored in those match-ups.  I’ve opted for two spells which, however narrow in their own way, provide functions that outweigh their limitations.  I’ve addressed the need to deal with Rest in Peace in my original write-up of the deck and highlighted Spell Snare as the ideal answer to such a thing, but it was fellow CKL writer, Francesco Neo Amati, whose Spell Snare Guide made me realize how potent this spell was in Modern at the moment.  Amongst the options on this list, I found some of my most feared spells in Modern as ‘counterable’ options for Snare.

In the case of Snapcaster Mage, since I haven’t left myself many options to deal with the graveyard aside from a single Surgical Extraction in the sideboard, this is particularly scary in a control mirror (for fear of opposing Snapcaster Mage, Logic Knot, and Search For Azcanta).

For many of the strongest decks in the meta, one of the previously listed two-drops is a crucial piece of the plan.  Spell Snare allows you to deal with them even while you are on the draw, and for a control deck that doesn’t pack a plethora of mass-removal to catch up (like our UW Counterparts), doing so is vital.

Countersquall is just plain good.  I can hardly think of a deck (besides Humans which typically runs just 4 Aether Vial) that doesn’t play non-creature spells worth countering for two-mana.  Packing 4 Snapcaster Mage in the deck allows your to reuse either of these two pieces when they are live and cards like Search for Azcanta and Serum Visions that allow us to bin them or scry them away when they are not.  I’ve been happy with both of these changes so far and am rarely disappointed when I draw either of them in game one, even when its not against a match-up that I’ve specifically included them for.

1 x By Force added to the sideboard

In my testing I came across a lot of Affinity.  I originally thought that my deck was favored heavily in this match-up with 3 maindecked Kolaghan’s Command, plenty of efficient creature removal, and some help from the sideboard (Ceremonious Rejection, Damnation, Anger of the Gods) but the most aggressive starts from Affinity proved too much to handle so I wanted one more tool at my disposal.  By Force provides a fantastic one-sided board wipe for Affinity but is also quite useful in other match-ups, namely KCI, Lantern, and a very interesting Coretapper/Astral Cornucopia/Paradox Engine brew that I came across.

1 x Izzet Staticaster added to the sideboard

I have to admit that I totally forgot about this guy.  Izzet Staticaster is even more relevant now that Infect decks seem to be sneaking back into the meta.  Beyond that, I have very little to do in the Dredge match-up beyond hoping that my opponent doesn’t win the dredge lottery every time he mills the top 6 via Stinkweed Imp and I like Staticaster here as it is quite good at shooting down Bloodghast and Narcomoeba.  While cutting the second Surgical Extraction seems contrary to this problem, the little help it seemed to provide didn’t seem worth the spot in the sideboard.  A wise man once said, “you’ve got to know when to fold ’em.   This option, which may not be as potent in this particular match-up provides useful utility for a wider range of other match-ups including Storm, Affinity, and Snapcaster Decks.

Cut 1 x Rise // Fall in favor of 1 x Lightning Bolt

I thought I loved this card (specifically for the Hymn to Tourach impression that Fall is able to provide) until I bricked three games in a row.  In one of those games I did hit one non-land card.  It happened to be Think Twice.  Go figure.

I wanted to find a way to squeeze another copy of Bolt in the deck and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do so.  While I had previously argued for the value of Rise as a way to recoup a win condition in the graveyard that was targetable by Azcanta’s impulse ability, I’ve also been happy being able to find damage spells off the top of my deck to close out the game in that way.  Bolt is that damage spell.  I’ve heard of Search for Azcanta control decks that go as big as Cruel Ultimatum to include a non-creature, non-land win condition but I’m just not that ballsy…

I’ve thought about Blightning as a happy medium between Fall and Bolt but it’s likely too expensive and competes with a rather crowded 3-drop spot.


Results

I’ve kept track of the previous 25-ish games that I’ve played (only including matches in which an entry fee of some sort was required) and the results are as follows…

Keep in mind that the previously mentioned changes were made during these matches.  These results reflect games in which the deck and sideboard were being tweaked resulting in Version 2.0 shared above.

I haven’t encountered anything, besides the aforementioned Dredge match-up, in which I feel like I am heavily unfavored (but as you can see I managed to snag one game from Dredge anyway).

I’ve played against quite a few aggressive creature decks as these seem to be the flavor of the month for modern.  This is where we thrive.  In some cases, Fatal Push, Lighting Bolt, and Terminate are enough to get us through these tough times, in others, we just have to go to our sideboard in bring in even more to ensure that we’ll see some answers in an opening hand.


Sideboard

Speaking of sideboard.  Here is a guide for sideboarding in some of the most common match-ups in modern.

Affinity

+ 1 Ceremonious Rejection, +1 Izzet Staticaster, +1 By Force, +1 Engineered Explosives, +1 Ratchet Bomb, +1 Anger of the Gods, +2 Fulminator Mage, +1 Damnation, +1 Spell Snare

-1 Countersquall, -2 Cryptic Command, -2 Search for Azcanta, -2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang, -1 Gurmag Angler, -2 Serum Visions

We’ve got a lot to bring in here as the Grixis wedge provides a lot of efficient artifact destruction.  Engineered Explosives and Ratchet Bomb remain our only answers to a resolved Etched Champion (which is typically pretty backbreaking) while providing additional upside against resolved Ghirapur Aether Grid (also quite difficult for us to deal with).  I like Fulminator Mage here in favor of our delve creatures as our non-fliers have little to block in this match-up anyways.  Fulminator provides a very useful anti-Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus option that is repeatable with one of our most valuable spells, Kolaghan’s Command.

UR Storm

+1 Countersquall, +1 Collective Brutality, +1 Surgical Extraction, +1 Disdainful Stroke, +1 Spell Snare, +1 Izzet Staticaster

-3 Kolaghan’s Command, -2 Cryptic Command, -1 Dreadbore

Disdainful Stroke can counter the two most important pieces of the Storm deck in Gifts Ungiven and Past in Flames.  We’ll want Countersquall for the same reasons, though it is live against ritual spells, especially Manamorphose.  Cryptic Command is, unfortunately, a little steep on the curve based on the fact that we’ll need answers to the storm combo as early as turn three.  I’d keep one in as it provides additional upside in being able to tap down an army of goblins created by Empty the Warrens and provide an additional turn (or two with Snapcaster Mage).  Izzet Staticaster is another relevant way of dealing with goblin tokens.  I like Collective Brutality as a way of killing a Goblin Electromancer and discarding a Gifts Ungiven in one shot but is otherwise rather lackluster so I only bring in one copy.

5C Humans (and similar tribal aggro)

“Woah” -Keanu Reaves

+2 Collective Brutality, +1 Engineered Explosives, +1 Anger of the Gods, +1 Damnation, +1 Spell Snare

-2 Logic Knot, -1 Countersquall, -1 Kolaghan’s Command, -1 Search for Azcanta, -1 Cryptic Command

Counterspells are generally pretty terrible if your opponent manages to find one of 4 Cavern of Souls or 4 Aether Vial so we’ll cut all but one Spell Snare, especially on the draw, as it can catch one of many turn two creatures when Souls and Vial aren’t involved; most importantly Thalia’s Lieutenant, Meddling Mage, or Kitesail Freebooter. Also, Cryptic Command, while rather slow here, can tap down all the attackers and dig for a Damnation or Anger of the Gods.

Collective Brutality is not the most exciting inclusion as its Duress option is useless in this match-up but I typically pack as many removal options as I can and this happens to be a fine way to kill most of the opposing creatures before Thalia’s Lieutenant makes them too big.

The case could be made that Ratchet Bomb should be included here too, however, I find it particularly slow on the draw.  You will have been attacked twice by Champion of the Parish before you can destroy it with Ratchet Bomb.

Blue-Based Control

+1 Countersquall, +1 Surgical Extraction, +2 Fulminator Mage, +1 Spell Snare

-3 Fatal Push, -1 Kolaghan’s Command, -1 Terminate

Generally, this is the plan for control decks, however, these decks can look a bit differently depending on whether or not they are Jeskai Queller or UW Spreading Seas-style.  In either case, I like Spell Snare for opposing Search for Azcanta, Snapcaster Mage, Rest in Peace, Mana Leak, Negate, and Spreading Seas.

Fulminator Mage is a fine way to deal with a flipped Search for Azcanta or an attacking Celestial Colonnade/Creeping Tar Pit.  Additionally, it can generate quite a bit of advantage, or disadvantage for your opponent, when recouped with Kolaghan’s Command.  In a control mirror, the player who’s found Azcanta is at a significant advantage.  Fulminator makes sure that no one else is allowed to hang out there.

Burn

+1 Countersquall, +2 Collective Brutality, +1 Spell Snare

-1 Vendilion Clique, -1 Dreadbore, -2 Kolaghan’s Command

This one is pretty explanatory.  Collective Brutality is a powerhouse against burn decks.  With Snapcaster, we can really take advantage of this.

I don’t hate Fulminator Mage here and the case could be made that boarding both in would be a fine choice.  Burn tends to play a small mana base that is quite light on white mana sources so this is easy to take advantage of.  If you can catch them with Boros Charm and Lightning Helix stuck in their hand, they can be discarded with your Kolaghan’s Command.  Attacking the hand in this way works quite well.  If you can run them out of resources, you can counter everything they’ll be able to draw off the top of their deck.


Conclusions

The deck is strong.  It will likely continue to evolve as I continue to test it but I feel that what I’ve presented is a very strong core that does a fine job of taking advantage of all of the aggressive creature decks that are currently in the format.  Some games seem like a cakewalk, others seem like a ‘grindfest’ but nothing seems un-winable.

Corey Murphy is one of two hosts of the Card Knock Life Podcast. He started playing magic in 1999, lives in Wisconsin, can touch his tongue to his nose, plays the trombone, and focuses his MTG content efforts on Modern. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You’re here for the magic content right? Ok, I’ll shut up now…

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