Azorius Control Lexicon: Part I Key Fundamental Principles & Skills
There’s numerous strategic factors required to efficiently and effectively play Azorius Control, but the following are some of the most important skills and fundamental principles associated with the archetype:
Note: Contextual circumstances and various nuances are factors that can influence decisions and improvisations between games, which is based on experience and intuitive knowledge.
Patience is arguably the most quintessential skill for any Control player. It’s the foundation that other fundamental principles are built around. Maintaining composure through difficult situations, knowing when to be conservative or turn the corner, taking advantage of different phases to play lands and spells instead of using them impulsively, and reading the game by evaluating all possible options and scenarios, are some common examples of the ways to exhibit patience.
Knowing how to sequence spells and abilities, from knowing when to cast cantrips, to determining when to resolve (and use the abilities of) creatures and Planeswalkers, is essential to establishing board position and advancing your gameplan.
- Resource Management
Resource management covers a few key areas. Using your life as a resource to progress your plan is one of the most important, such as knowing how low your life can go before acting and stabilizing. Others include being mindful of time management, knowing which spells to hold onto and which ones to cast or use as bait, and finding ways to generate the most value/card advantage each turn without exhausting too many resources, including mana investment.
- Role/Threat Assessment & Situational Awareness
As a Control deck, we’re generally planning to take over in the late game after we’ve exhausted our opponent’s resources and have established favorable board positioning. In order to execute this plan, it’s important to evaluate what the high value targets are in order to effectively utilize our counters and removals for higher pay off. If a player has poor threat assessment, they're more likely to spew removal/counters on low value targets, then die turns later to something more threatening. You don’t have to counter or kill everything that’s played. It’s the difference between knowing when to allow or deny what your opponent is attempting to do.
That being said, there’s certain matchups and scenarios where we may need to switch gears and adopt a more proactive approach, such as playing Snapcaster Mage as an aggressive beater to present pressure and turn the corner. This important skill is called ‘role assessment’ (knowing your role), which is thoroughly covered below in Part 2. Being ‘in control’ doesn’t always mean having to answer everything. There’s opportunities where the element of surprise, forcing action and demanding to be answered, can put you in a more commanding position. This is one of the best skills to leverage.
This strategic angle requires situational awareness, or paying attention to details throughout the course of the game. It includes, but isn’t limited to, knowing when to hold back or push forward, identifying what cards you’re looking for at any point of the game (even making land drops), being aware of how to sideboard on the play or draw, keeping tabs on opponent’s field (i.e. damage calculation, cards in graveyard, land count, what land types, how many tapped/untapped) and hand/library size, hypothesizing their hand and anticipating their plan based on previous plays.
It’s also about knowing when it’s worth bluffing to pivot, recognize the situations when you’re potentially being bluffed, and even determining when it’s time to concede.
- Matchup Knowledge & Experience
UW Control is commonly regarded as a deck that excels against a defined/known meta. This means that the more you know your opponent’s deck and post-board plan, the better you’re positioned to adapt. Understanding different matchup dynamics, such as the axis of attack and defense from both players, will help you decide whether to mulligan and how to sideboard, while determining your approach and role.