May The Force Be With You: Force of Negation in Azorious Control

There are many important aspects of Force of Negation to discuss. The two main ones are its similarities to other cards in eternal formats and how it stacks up to the power level of modern. Most people could make the argument that the power level of Force of Will is in no way comparable to its Modern counterpart. I feel differently. In many ways, Force of Negation has a lot to bring to the Modern table that Force of Will could not. Yes, Force of Will counters any spell. This is undoubtedly more powerful than Negate. However, there are important differences to note between these two cards. First and foremost, the most noticeable advantage to Force of Negation is its converted mana cost. For the cost of 1UU, this card gives you the convenience of a reasonable alternate casting cost. Force of Will does not have this luxury. Another advantage of Force of Negation is that it exiles the countered spell. This can be relevant in many matchups where fast graveyard combos are involved.

The Need for Speed!!!

So what do we gain from a card like Force of Negation?

In recent years, Modern has evolved from its casual-competitive diversity, to an incredibly fast and overpowered format. It was only recently that the Azorious Control archetype received enough powerful cards to exist in the Tier 1 promised land of the Modern format. Part of the recent success of UW/x control decks in modern is due to the adoption of cheaper interaction in earlier turns of the game to mitigate the drawbacks of registering a fair deck in a field of unfair deks doing very unfair things. Cards like Spell Pierce, Spell Snare, Dispel, Mana Leak, and Logic Knot help us to interact in the early turns of the game so we can get to our more powerful cards like Cryptic Command, Narset, Parter of Veils, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Supreme Verdict, etc.

Transitioning Between Reactive and Proactive Strategies

One of the biggest benefits that Force of Negation gives us is that it allows us to skew the advantage that exists between being on the play and being on the draw. Force of Negation gives us the ability to counter spells on “turn zero”. Additionally, having an active Force of Negation allows us to make land drops at our own convenience. Allowing us to be more conservative with our life total as well as playing lands like Celestial Colonnade to keep up on mana economy. With all that being said, perhaps the biggest benefit of playing Force of Negation is the ability to play a proactive strategy with a free counter spell to provide us some insulations until we are able to put the shields back up. An example of this is jam a Jace on turn four on an empty board and have Force of Negation as backup to protect Jace or to counter an opposing threat for “free”.  From now on, your opponent’s snide comment/question “you tapped out?’ has never felt so good. This card blows the door wide open for potential new clock pressure strategies such as Monastery Mentor.


With the new London mulligan rule just over the horizon, it is to most player’s speculation that the format is going to go through a degenerate transition. I believe that the more degenerate the format becomes, the more UW Control will gravitate towards Force of Negation. Force of Negation is technically identified as card disadvantage, meaning that it does make your deck weaker against value match ups such as GB Rock and Grixis Death’s Shadow. However, Force of Negation is exceptionally good against degenerate strategies reliant on casting one or two very busted spells. An example of this is Cathartic Reunion in the Dredge deck. This card, along with other cards like Amulet of Vigor, Neoform, Expedition Map, etc. is one of the scariest spells in Modern if it resolves.  Playing Force of Negation is going to give the UW/x archetype a considerable amount of reach especially against degenerate strategies.

Breaking Down Force of Negation using Hypergeometric Probabilities


Tony’s UW Control [6/2019]

Creatures (5)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique

Spells (22)
Path to Exile
Opt
Force of Negation
Cryptic Command
Spell Pierce
Mana Leak
Logic Knot
Supreme Verdict
Wrath of God

Enchantments (2)
On Thin Ice
Detention Sphere

Planeswalkers (7)
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Narset, Parter of Veils
Teferi, Time Raveler
Lands (24)
Flooded Strand
Prismatic Vista
Hallowed Fountain
Glacial Fortress
Field of Ruin
Celestial Colonnade
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Plains

Sideboard (15)
Monastery Mentor
Celestial Purge
Vendilion Clique
Surgical Extraction
Rest in Peace
Ashiok, Dream Render
Lyra Dawnbringer
Ceremonious Rejection
Disdainful Stroke
Dovin’s Veto
Supreme Verdict


Above is a rough adaptation of an Azorious Control list I have been experimenting with in testing the past few weeks. The most notable inclusion is a full four copies of Force of Negation. This is to maximize the chances of having a castable Force of Negation in your opening. So what are the chances of having a turn 0 Force of Negation?

Using hypergeometric probabilities, the chances of having a Force Negation in your opening hand can be calculated. You have approximately a 40% chance of having a copy of any four-of in your deck in your opening hand. However, there are other variables to consider including having an additional blue spell to pitch, land count, and being able to cast the rest of your cards on curve. Considering the decklist above we have:

  • Number of lands: 24
  • Number of Blue Spells (including FoN): 30
  • Total Number of Force of Negation: 4
  • Total Number White Spells: 6
  • Total number of non-blue Cards: 30

Considering we need between 2-4 lands in a standard seven card hand, the probability of this occurring is about 90%. The chances of having an additional blue card is about 94%. This gives us a combined probability of having a castable Force of Negation while still hitting our first land drops at about 34%. This chance drops significantly to 26% with three copies, and 18% with only two copies of Force of Negation.

Conclusion

While I’ve written quite a bit about the applications and benefits of moderns newest counter spell, what I haven’t touched on is the restriction to playing Force of Negation. Perhaps the most important things to note when you sign up to play multiple copies of Force of Negation are the deck building requirements that come with it. More specifically, it is important to pay mind to the density of spells with blue identity in your deck. Additionally, the importance of having more sources of card advantage (draw advantage) is made abundantly clear based off of my testing with Force of Negation. You want an appropriate density of blue spells in your deck (between 26-30) to make Force of Negation consistent. The most useful thing to note about this statistic is the considerations for sideboarding. If you keep Force of Negation in your deck post-board, it is in the player’s best interest to note how many spells with blue color identity remain in the deck after boarding.

Draw spells like Opt, Serum Visions, and Hieroglyphic Illumination are important to your success for multiple reasons. As mentioned in earlier sections of this article, Force of Negation is considered card disadvantage. Having draw power in your deck helps keep you from feeling the effects of Force of Negation in the mid-to-late game. The new addition of Force of Negation is a strong endorsement for cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Fact Or Fiction.

Of course, the biggest question on everyone’s mind is “does Force of Negation have playability in Modern?”. After a considerable amount of testing, I can say with a great deal of confidence that Force of Negation is here to stay. It is the card that we always needed. In a future fast and degenerate format that the new London mulligan rule is poised to cultivate, this card gives us early enough interaction to stay relevant in the tier one bracket. The conclusion that I have drawn is that the number of Force of Negation will vary based off of how fast and degenerate the meta becomes.  But for now, I feel like three copies maindeck is the sweet spot.

One last note: I’d like to credit Christopher Hohman for his work on this topic.

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