What a week that was…
Right after the Grand Finals where Gaby (Gabriel Nassif) and I worked together and both made top 4, I asked him if we would continue our cooperation for the season to come and most importantly, the first League weekend. He had to see with his regular testing team first.
A few days pass and he gets back to me and tells me they’d rather limit the size of their team, which is completely understandable. My backup plan was to test with the other Frenchies in the MPL and Rivals (Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, Louis-Samuel Deltour, Théo Moutier). But they had already started playtesting, and they didn’t want any additional member, which is also understandable. It sucked, but I was gonna be on my own for that one.
So like I usually do, I take most decks for a spin on the ladder and see what’s good and what’s not. My selection process consists mostly of eliminating the decks I don’t like or that I don’t think are not strong enough. The only deck that I liked was Azorius Yorion.
The Reason I Splashed Red
While I liked the concept, I didn’t particularly like any of the lists out there. Some had too many creatures and relied on 《Thassa, Deep-Dwelling》 too much. Some were “trying too hard” to be the control deck and had too many counters/sweepers. The main concern I had with these decks was that while they had a strong late game, the early game could be tough against an aggro deck with a fast draw.
Looking at the Azorius versions, the only interaction they had on turn two was 《Glass Casket》. 《The Birth of Meletis》 was usually there, but it’s too slow, doesn’t actually work so well with Yorion, doesn’t give you that much advantage when drawn in the late game. It’s basically a 《Plains》 that costs two mana.
Most versions filled the two-mana slot with 《Mazemind Tome》. I’ve had length discussions about that card in Azorius Yorion and I believe I was one of the only players claiming that card wasn’t good.
When I tried it, I never wanted to draw it too late as it takes some time to get some value out of it… But I also didn’t want to play it too early and I would prefer to draw some kind of interaction early. Tapping two mana on turn two when your deck runs 《Essence Scatter》 really opens the window for a rough punishment. If it’s a permanent, you want something that plays well along Yorion, and resetting the counters just doesn’t do that much.
Blue and White just didn’t have any answer to early aggression so I had to look somewhere else.
I realized that adding red didn’t actually cost anything. We already have 4 Triomes, and we have the 8 new dual lands that enable the splash: 《Needleverge Pathway》 and 《Riverglide Pathway》. Along with one 《Mountain》 and 4 《Fabled Passage》, that’s 17 sources of red, which should be enough, even in an 80-card deck.
Red offered 《Omen of the Forge》 which answered all of my concerns. It’s a cheap removal spell for 2 mana, reusable with Yorion that even fits perfectly against other Azorious decks as it’s a clean answer to 《Skyclave Apparition》.
I found that Blue-White versions of Yorion decks could be lacking against creature decks in the long game if you couldn’t kill the small monsters. You have Casket and Apparition, but it’s just not enough and they sometimes get destroyed.
One other addition I made was 《Golden Egg》. At first, I was worried that I wouldn’t find my red mana often enough (turned out, it was fine already), but that in some long games, you’re lacking the ability to take advantage of Yorion. If you don’t have 《Omen of the Sea》 on the board, your Bird Serpent might end up doing… not much. I wanted other permanents to draw cards. Along with the ability to gain life, 《Golden Egg》 was the perfect fit.
I had been plowing the ladder like no one for days, until the very last day where I lost 10 matches in a row. My confidence sunk. At 10pm on Tuesday, the day before deck submission, I started to panic.
I turned on twitch, looking for inspiration. I ended up on Krowz’s channel, playing his Abzan Yorion list. I had never met Krowz before, but we started chatting. I tried his deck but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. When his stream was over, he joined me and Christian Calcano to try to figure it out. We played till 430am and I still had no clue. I decided to go back to the Jeskai list I had been playing and would make a few changes. I was in bed at 5.
At 830, Monica (my wife), told me it was time to get ready, ready to go the hospital to give birth to our second child. We got to the hospital at 10, Ayla was born at 1130. Quick work!
The second delivery came from Monica, who brought Little Two to this world… Lavan is also looking forward to meeting his baby sister. 🦖— Raphael Levy (@raphlevymtg) October 21, 2020
Welcome Ayla 👶🏻❤️
While she was busy pushing a baby out, I was working on the last slots, with the help of Krowz and Ozan, one of my students. I left the hospital at 3pm, just in time to get home and submit my decklist before 5pm (the deadline).
Here’s the list I played:
4 《Fabled Passage》
4 《Raugrin Triome》
4 《Needleverge Pathway》
4 《Riverglide Pathway》
4 《Temple of Enlightenment》
1 《Castle Ardenvale》
1 《Castle Vantress》
-Land (34)- 1 《Giant Killer》
4 《Charming Prince》
4 《Skyclave Apparition》
1 《Alirios, Enraptured》
1 《Barrin, Tolarian Archmage》
3 《Yorion, Sky Nomad》
2 《Glimpse of Freedom》
4 《Omen of the Forge》
4 《Omen of the Sea》
3 《Omen of the Sun》
4 《Elspeth Conquers Death》
4 《Shark Typhoon》
4 《Glass Casket》
3 《Golden Egg》
The Cards I Didn’t Play
There are other cards that Azorius Players tend to auto-include in their lists that I didn’t think were worth it.
The Mythic cycle of MDFC is very popular, and I personally don’t like it. I first told you about them in my previous article on Mono Black Suicide where I didn’t want to play 《Agadeem’s Awakening》. My arguments are going to be roughly the same here.
You’ll find 《Emeria’s Call》 as a 4-of in most Azorius list, but in my experience of double/triple-digit games with Yorion decks, the two Angel tokens were never relevant. Not a single time. However, I lost a lot of life having them come into the battlefield untapped. From 4 to 0, easiest cut I made in my life. We’re playing less basic lands, so the 《Castle Ardenvale》 (that I’m not a big fan of either) would come into play tapped even more often.
This is a very interesting topic. Again, most lists run 1 or 2 《Dream Trawler》 and this deck has a hard time dealing with it. You can 《Essence Scatter》 it (one of the main reasons this is one of the only counterspells I’m running in the main deck), or block it with a Shark from 《Shark Typhoon》.
Why am I not running it? Simply said I don’t think the card is very good in this metagame. Sure, once in a while, you’ll play against a deck that has close to no answer to it and it will be a leisure cruise once you’ve cast it.
However, in most cases, it will either not resolve (in the mirror or against Rogues) or will come too late. It does protect itself, but you’ll be putting a lot of faith in it to win the game, since you’ll most likely tap out when you play it (so you probably won’t even be able to back it up with counters when you cast it). You already have a plan for the long game, why bother with 《Dream Trawler》.
It might be good against us, but I don’t think it’s good against the other decks. The same goes for 《Sublime Epiphany》. It’s a super powerful spell that costs a lot of mana, but it’s just too slow and not very good in the mirror (when facing counterspells) or Rogues.
How many sweepers do you want in your deck depends on your strategy and on the metagame. Our deck wants to deploy creatures (《Skyclave Apparition》, Yorion) and deal with threats on a one-to-one basis until you can blink your removal. 《Shatter the Sky》 feels like you want to make up for a start that you missed.
In a format where creatures have flash (Rogues), Haste (《Questing Beast》, 《Brushfire Elemental》), where Planeswalkers will punish you (《Garruk, Unleashed》, 《Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate》), and in a deck that will net your opponent a creature when it dies (Apparition), I don’t want to run any Shatter. It would be way too situational and actively work against what you want to do.
The addition of red in the deck opens up the possibility of running 《Scorching Dragonfire》 in the sideboard. The main drawback of 《Omen of the Forge》 is that it doesn’t kill 《Soaring Thought-Thief》. Dragonfire does. Exiling is also important when they’re running 《Agadeem’s Awakening》 and 《Call of the Death-Dweller》.
Going into a tournament not fearing any particular matchup is a good thing. The deck can beat anything, the sideboard is solid, given that you know which strategy to adopt against each deck.
vs. Dimir Rogues
Classic versions of Azorius have a tough time dealing with Rogues as most of their answers to creatures are at sorcery speed. They’ll be trading one for one until they can resolve an 《Into the Story》 and the White-Blue player is going to start to fall behind. Counters won’t be as useful as they’ll play at the end of your turn, opening windows on their turn to cast a punishing spell. Our strategy is much stronger as we can deal with 《Merfolk Windrobber》 and 《Thieves’ Guild Enforcer》 at instant speed (and Thought Thief after board).
Try to be aggressive, get rid of all of your opponent’s threats and rely on your 《Charming Prince》 and Apparitions to do the work. 《Alirios, Enraptured》 is a very good way to put a lot of pressure on them as they will have to kill the Illusion at some point.
vs. Gruul Adventures
Grull has a few ways to win the game. They either rush the early game while you have no answer and play a lethal 《Embercleave》 (it mostly works when they’re on the play, not so much on the draw). They play creatures after creatures that you can’t deal with (when they have an 《Edgewall Innkeeper》 that you didn’t kill in the first turns), or they resolve a 《Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate》 or a 《The Great Henge》 and start going nuts.
You have ways to prevent each of these scenarios. The games are tense but I believe you’re ahead in the matchup.
vs. Azorius Blink
In this matchup, you’ll be the proactive player. With extra counters in your sideboard, you’ll be able to setup a board presence and will keep them from deploying a threat. Your biggest concern is 《Dream Trawler》, but you have 《Mystical Dispute》 and 《Essence Scatter》 to deal with it.
The Tournament Report
Here’s how the tournament went:
|Round 1||Jean-Emmanuel Depraz
|Round 2||Márcio Carvalho
|Round 3||Piotr Głogowski
|Round 4||Lee Shi Tian
|Round 5||Ondřej Stráský
|Round 6||Martin Juza
|Round 7||William Jensen
|Round 8||Rei Sato
|Round 9||Gabriel Nassif
|Round 10||Brad Nelson
|Round 11||Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
|Round 12||Javier Dominguez
Overall score, 7-5, 7th place.
Individual Matchup Scores
|Against Azorius Blink||3-0|
|Against Dimir Rogues||2-2|
|Against Gruul Adventures||2-2|
|Against Rakdos Midrange||0-1|
The deck was good. And while some may question the addition of 《Omen of the Forge》, I think they were the key to my relative success in that tournament.
Moving forward, I’d probably try to fit in a pair of 《Brazen Borrower》s in the main and maybe a third one in the sideboard, and switch a 《Soul-Guide Lantern》 for a 《Tormod’s Crypt》 to add a 5th way to empty your own graveyard. 《Alirios, Enraptured》 also overperformed in all matchups (Azorius, Rogues and Gruul) and might deserve more slots.
All the matches were recorded and you can find them here.
For in-depth explanations of every single card, tune in to my youtube page to find my tournament debriefing (Click here).
I’m gonna to take a few days off to get to know Little Two and spend some time with my people until the next League Weekend… next week.