I’ve recently reached my goal of logging 100 matches with Grixis Azcanta Control and have kept track of the results along the way. In fact, I’ve completed more than 100 matches, but have removed a few ‘outliers’ from the data to represent a more realistic modern metagame (excluding the likes of Paradox Engine, Possibility Storm, and Twin End).
In 100 matches with Grixis Azcanta Control, I’ve recorded a 67% win rate against the field.
Today, I’m going to dig into that data and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this deck. We’ll start by sharing the current list (which has very few changes from previous postings (Notably, one Hero’s Downfall in place of Dreadbore).
For prior posts about Grixis Azcanta Control, visit:
Corey Murphy’s Grixis Azcanta Control (1/2018)
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
1 Gurmag Angler
3 Fatal Push
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Thought Scour
1 Spell Snare
2 Logic Knot
1 Hero’s Downfall
3 Kolaghan’s Command
3 Cryptic Command
2 Search for Azcanta
1 Blood Crypt
3 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
2 Watery Grave
2 Collective Brutality
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Anger of the Gods
2 Fulminator Mage
1 Spell Snare
1 By Force
Keep in mind, these results were taken exclusively from games in which an entry fee was paid (Primarily Modern leagues and queue matches but a few paper events with buy-ins as well). Take this as it is. I haven’t had nearly enough time to test this deck at many larger scale events like GPs or Opens, but I would argue that the MTGO games represent competitive magic played by competitive players. The variety of decks logged in the results prove that as many of the most represented decks in the results are solidly tier 1.
Original Goals Met?
When I originally built this deck, I had been playing UW Control similar to the list that Benny Hillz designed. I struggled against the slew of Humans decks that I was running into on MTGO but was quite happy with my ability to beat big mana decks like Tron (I have historically had a knack for picking decks that were weak against Tron). I knew I wanted to play some sort of reactive deck, however, and spent quite a bit of time switching between the Jeskai and Bant variants that have been appearing lately. As my Play Point and Tickets began to diminish, I found myself turning back to Grixis Azcanta as it was consistent enough to be counted on when I needed to re-coup my supply of entry fee fodder. With the exception of a few difficult match-ups (every deck has them), Grixis Azcanta proves to be a total rock, resilient to the diverse meta, and to it’s own misfortune (more on that later).
Vs. Humans (100% WR / 7 Matches)
I can’t say enough about this match-up. Four of those matches were 2-0. It just feels dirty…
We’ve got stacks of the best, most efficient removal spells vs. Humans, diversity in mass removal options (Anger of the Gods, Damnation, Engineered Explosives, and Ratchet Bomb), and…Search for Azcanta to find even more of it.
I have been very happy with Kolaghan’s Command as well, as it provides three maindecked answers for Aether Vial. Destroying a Vial AND a creature at once can be rather difficult for the Humans player to recover from.
As far as beating Humans, and similar tribal aggro decks goes, I feel that this deck has exceeded my expectations.
Vs. Gx Tron (75% WR / 4 Matches)
Vs. Mono U Tron (100% WR / 2 Matches)
Vs. Eldrazi Tron (100% WR / 2 Matches)
While these three decks are quite different, the kinds of tools that shine in this match-up are often similar. In general, certain decks can really struggle against opponents whose plan is to assemble Tron and play something huge. As I previously mentioned, I always feel like I am playing those types of decks and am quite tired of trying to play the “Dodge Tron” lottery at events.
Grixis Azcanta has a great game against Tron decks (as is evident from the results) despite having a few cards during game one that do very little (notably Fatal Push). We’ve got so many counterspells that are live to big splashy plays like Karn Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine and can usually run them out of options when we start to reuse these spells with Snapcaster Mage. Though there are only two Fulminator Mages to be found, surviving long enough to locate them is made possible by these types of spells (ie. Countersquall, Cryptic Command, Disdainful Stroke, Ceremonious Rejection, Logic Knot) and once we start to use Kolaghan’s Command to return Fulminator and do it all over again, we can establish a resource advantage in our own favor.
When that plan doesn’t work, Snapcaster, Lightning Bolt, Vendilion Clique, and Creeping Tar Pit allow for some instant speed damage to be followed up with an attack on the next turn, often for lethal. I’ve won quite a few of these games in that fashion – many times while I am one turn away from dying myself.
My original goals? Far exceeded.
Grixis Azcanta is, miraculously, a control deck that’s packed with enough efficient removal to make aggressive creature cry and enough roadblocks to go toe-to-toe with the haymakers that big mana hopes to cast. In fact, that’s the beauty of this deck. It has an incredible ability to look very differently in different types of situations. As I mentioned earlier, Grixis Azcanta is resilient to its own misfortune. Let me elaborate…
Which of these hands is a mulligan?
While neither is ideal, neither is bad either. I’d keep either one.
I find myself mulliganing very infrequently with this deck due to the plethora of cost-efficient cantrips and removal spells that allow me the time or resources for find more land and the inclusion of spells that provide card advantage or can serve as a mana sync when I’ve drawn an a lot of land. Search for Azcanta, in particular, is a great example of the perfect fit in both situations. This card can provide the card selection needed when I am drawing plenty of lands OR it can help to filter draws to find lands and then become an additional mana source itself. The card is just so damn good.
Before I go too far with that point, let me redirect back to the data that brought you here in the first place. Here are the remainder of the results that I would consider favorable match-ups…
Vs. Storm (67% WR / 6 Matches)
In this one, I have the perfect one-mana removal spells to aim at their cost-reducer creatures at the end of turn three. Typically, with this comes “cast a ritual in response?” to which have I have Logic Knot, Countersquall, or Spell Snare at the ready. I always have to remind myself to have patience here as it can be very tempting to tap two mana for a Search for Azcanta or one mana for a Tasigur to begin attacking. The value of holding all available resources to react to an attempted storm turn is much more important, though, and will often require two to three removal or control spells (which will require quite a bit of available mana) instead of just one. Once I’ve fended this off, the doors are open for some proactivity.
Vs. Affinity (50% WR / 6 Matches)
This one is better than it looks. I found myself blown out by some very fortunate draws in a number of these match-ups but, on paper, my deck stacks up rather well against Affinity. K Command and early interaction have been very good here.
Vs. GR Ponza (75% WR / 4 Matches)
Vs. Scapeshift (50% WR / 2 Matches)
If my deck manages to not miss any land drops, I can sustain a Stone Rain or two and fend off the more explosive spells with counter magic. Against Valakut, I can stop Scapeshift and Primeval Titan from resolving with some consistency but we need to be careful not to die against Valakut triggers as my opponent top decks lands later in the game.
Vs. Merfolk (100% WR / 3 Matches)
Vs. Vizier Company (100% WR / 3 Matches)
Vs. Elves (100% WR / 1 Match)
Vs. Infect (75% WR / 4 Matches)
We’re highly favored in these match-ups for the same reasons we crush Humans. We’ve got removal for days.
Vs. Grixis Death’s Shadow (66% WR / 3 Matches)
Vs. Jund Death’s Shadow (100% WR / 1 Match)
This one is not terrible and the results represent a history of success against these decks but there is always a possibility that our opponent will cast Thoughtseize or Inquisition in the first two turns taking our most valuable reactive cards and finding quite a bit of useful information about our options against the rest of their plays. It can be devastating to get blown out by Stubborn Denial as it is so much more efficient than all of our counter magic that we often will need to tap out to cast in early turns. We’ve got Fatal Push which is fantastic against Death’s Shadow, Snapcaster plus Lightning Bolt which is a great way to close out the game, and Creeping Tar Pit which is an all-star against Liliana of the Veil.
Vs. Burn (40% WR / 5 Matches)
Again, the results don’t do a great job of representing how I actually feel about the burn match-up. There are games where I win thinking, maybe this is actually a good match-up for me and others in which I am wishing I had more Dispel in the sideboard. We just need to remember to be careful with our manabase here, shocking ourselves only when it is necessary. The inclusion of Opt over Serum Visions helps us in this type of situation, especially, as we are not required to commit to a fetch/shock in the first turn to tap out for a set up spell before we even know what we’re up against. With Opt, we can hold a Push or Bolt for Goblin Guide and cantrip at the end of turn after finding a basic land if our opponent doesn’t play one.
Vs. Jeskai Control (33% WR / 6 Matches)
This is a tough one. Geist of Saint Traft is obviously very good against us as we have little to do besides block it and hope our creature doesn’t die in game one. When sideboarding, we’ve got to include some sweepers to deal with Geist but, unfortunately, they are just worthless against most of the rest of the deck. Bolt is quite useful against Spell Queller in the first game but these typically are removed against us in game two anyways.
Vs. Mardu Midrange (50% WR / 2 Matches)
I’m not totally sold on this being a bad match-up due to the lack of experience against it but I would say that Lingering Souls and Young Pyromancer attack us on an axis that makes us feel very “out-of-our-element”. Yes, we’ve got mass removal and Ratchet Bomb and Engineered Explosives to deal with tokens but the multitude of creature tokens that these decks are able to create each turn makes the one-for-one removal spells that make up a large portion of our deck seem really bad.
Vs. Soul Sisters (33% WR / 3 Matches)
In many ways, we win by casting burn spells and attacking with Snapcaster Mage. It only takes one Martyr of Sands to make this very difficult to do. Beyond that, so many of the creatures in Soul Sisters are just one-mana, making it quite easy for them to get under our counterspells and overwhelm our removal early on. If our opponent is playing Emeria, the Sky Ruin and meets the threshold of basic plains in play, we’re toast. If our opponent resolves Ranger of Eos and reloads his hand, we’re toast. If our opponent resolves Auriok Champion and is smart enough not to attack into a Snapcaster Mage or Clique we’re…you guessed it…toast.
Keep in mind, this document will update as I continue to test this deck and may reflect more than the 100 matches at the time I wrote this post.
The purpose of this is to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of this deck to inform you of whether or not it might be a good fit. With control, players benefit immensely from finding that fit. This deck suits my play style very well as I am a former Delver player. I’m not interested in playing a Modern deck that has more than 22 lands and I value utility above all else. Grixis scratched that itch and, as it turns out, its been very effective against the field to boot. After some seventy-five-ish match hours with this deck, I feel like I’ve come to the best possible set-up to stand up to the MTGO metagame. Take this and innovate. I’m not here to debate Opt vs. Serum Visions or whether or not five delve spells is too many. I’m here to share what works for me. I believe 100% in this list but if you are skeptical of any choice I’ve made, try something else and let me know how it works. Let’s keep discussion constructive and stay open-minded in our brewing. There are a lot of cards in Modern and I have a hard time believing that tier 1 represents the absolute best that the format has to offer.