Hello and welcome to another installment of Treasure Cruisin'! After the past few weeks of Commander articles, it is finally time to return to Modern. Today I have a control deck that explores the upper echelons of our budget, but is one of the most fun decks to play in the format. While it is more expensive than most budget decks I do—just under $200—it is a strategy that has seen top-tier play in the past and is well worth its cost. Hop on board the treasure cruise and prepare to land in Value Harbor, because today we are exploring Azorius Titan!
|Azorius TitanMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
3 Court Hussar
3 Lone Missionary
3 Pilgrim's Eye
4 Sun Titan
4 Wall of Omens
3 Supreme Verdict
3 Detention Sphere
2 Ojutai's Command
4 Path to Exile
3 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
3 Flooded Strand
4 Ghost Quarter
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Prairie Stream
2 Blessed Alliance
2 Kor Firewalker
2 Tormod's Crypt
2 Stony Silence
Titan Control is a tap-out style control deck. Rather than holding up counterspells and removal, we tend to play creatures early and often and use them to generate obscene amounts of advantage with our engine: the deck's namesake Sun Titan and Emeria, the Sky Ruin. Because of how the deck plays, I highly recommend it to any Standard control player looking to hop into Modern because of how prevalent tap-out control tends to be in Standard over the draw-go varieties.
To start the deck breakdown I want to discuss the marquee cards, Sun Titan and Emeria, the Sky Ruin. Sun Titan is a our finisher, and with good reason. The card is completely absurd with our army of creatures and recurs a new threat every turn. Every creature in our deck has some kind of enters-the-battlefield trigger. We seek to get the most value out of each one—this archetype is sometimes referred to as Mono-Value Control. Sun Titan not only has an enters-the-battlefield trigger, but also has the same trigger whenever it attacks. This means that as we try to close out the game, we are crushing our opponent under more card advantage than they can deal with. Vigilance is nothing to scoff at either because it is difficult to race a 6/6 body that recurs more threats while it sits back on defense. To supplement our Titan, we also run some noncreature permanents to keep Titan relevant when more creatures are not necessary.
Emeria is our second value machine. While it is much slower than Sun Titan, it is difficult to get rid of and near impossible to stop once it gets going. Being able to recur a creature every turn is a surefire way to grind out any opposition. Emeria is slightly less flexible than Sun Titan because it cannot recur our noncreature targets. However, Emeria has some perks despite not being strictly better. First, it does not demand resources to turn on. We only need to play lands to bring our value machine online, whereas Titan demands a hefty six mana. Additionally, Emeria can give us back a Titan that died earlier in the game, which can generate even more value. Lastly, Sun Titan can target Emeria. In this way, the two protect each other, and once both are active, they become an unstoppable force of card advantage.
An important distinction to make when evaluating our super duo of value is that Sun Titan is an active value generator—we have to actually do something to get something out of it. Be it casting, blinking, or attacking, Titan requires that we take an action and progress our gameplan in order to advance us further in the game. Emeria, on the other hand, is a passive value generator; we do not need to do anything besides playing lands in order to use the ability. It does not require using our mana or any other resource to make Emeria relevant, and it cannot be abused with cards like Flickerwisp. While both Sun Titan and Emeria can turn a game around, keep in mind that Sun Titan is abusable, but requires mana or an attack step where it could potentially die in combat to be at its full potential; Emeria does not require us to actively play Magic and advance our gameplan to be useful, but it is not abusable.
Every creature in our deck can be returned to the battlefield with Sun Titan, except itself of course. At the bottom of the curve we have a playset of Wall of Omens. This is everything a control deck wants, especially in one revolving around enters-the-battlefield abilities. It is a solid blocker in the early stages of the game, difficult for aggro decks to get around. It also replaces itself, drawing us a new card to keep our hand full. At face value, this seems like an excellent early game play with marginal usage late game. However, combined with our recursion effects, the Wall becomes a card-drawing machine. It is not uncommon to loop the same Wall from the battlefield into the graveyard and back again at least two or three times before taking over the game. Even in the late game, casting one is fine because it functionally cycles. An excellent blocker in the early game and a cycler late game, Wall of Omens gives us everything we need to get our engines rolling against an aggressive strategy.
Speaking of card advantage, Court Hussar is an interesting inclusion. A 1/3 for three is underwhelming, especially when we have spend at least one white mana to keep it in play. Hussar makes up for its poor stats by Anticipate-ing when it enters the battlefield, giving us card selection to find us our missing land drop, a removal spell, or whatever tool we need. It is another blocker that gives us card selection, which is passable. The most powerful part of this card, however, is in its wording. Hussar states that if white mana was not spent to cast it when it enters the battlefield, it is sacrificed. That means that if it enters the battlefield by any other means, it is sacrificed. This means we always have a target for our and Sun Titans because the Hussar always sacrifices itself due to its own trigger. In essence, when a Hussar is in our graveyard, our Emerias and Sun Titans will always be doing something, never doing nothing. We will get to Anticipate once per turn, which is incredibly powerful in a control deck like ours. Court Hussar is one of the main culprits behind our crushing card advantage, and is arguably more powerful when it is in the graveyard than in play.
Returning to two drops, we play a trio of Lone Missionary. One of the major issues with this deck is its speed—we are very slow. An aggressive start from our opponent can spell disaster for us, and often times starting the game at 24 life gives us enough time to stabilize. That being said, it is also fantastic in grindy matchups where lifegain can push us out of reach of our opponent's creatures. It trades with many of Modern's most powerful creatures, such as Goblin Guide and Dark Confidant, and when its ability is good, it is very powerful. If anything, Missionary is another card that keeps us alive in the early game against aggro decks, but also has a relevant effect in the late game, just like Wall of Omens. Lone Missionary is better in this deck than it looks on paper, and it would be mistake to discredit it in the aggressive state Modern is currently in.
Because of how Plains-intensive Emeria, the Sky Ruin is, we run three copies of Pilgrim's Eye. The Eye performs a couple of key functions. Not only does it grab us Plains for Emeria, but it also can fetch our singleton Island when we desperately need blue mana. It is also an excellent target to reanimate because it guarantees our land drops while giving us another creature to gum up the board with. Thinning our deck of lands is useful, and while one trigger may only be a marginal effect, three or four triggers is certainly relevant. If grabbing lands is not exactly what we want to be doing in a given metagame, we can replace it with several other possible targets that will be covered later. Azorius Titan is a deck with a creature package that can be modified to suit the needs of the pilot, and this flexibility is key in Modern's ever-changing climate.
Finally, we run four copies of Flickerwisp. Given that we have many enters-the-battlefield triggers, Flickerwisp is an unquestionable staple in our deck. It gives us value with our creatures already on the battlefield and makes us less reliant on our graveyard. We can also remove our opponent's troublesome permanents for a turn or reset an opposing Planeswalker. There are innumerable tricks with this card despite the fact that we cannot put it into play at instant speed like many of the decks which seek to abuse it. One of my favorite plays is to cast Sun Titan, grab Flickerwisp and target Titan, and then put another creature into play when Titan returns. For six mana, we can put at least a whopping nine power on the board! It is even a three-power flier, which often wins us the game on its own due to the lack of fliers in Modern. Flickerwisp is a miniature Sun Titan because of the amount of value it creates, and it is rarely a bad draw. It is certainly one of our most powerful draws, and can take over a game by itself.
Despite our heavy creature base, we run a supplement of noncreature spells to control the opponent's board. A pair of Negates make an appearance here as a utility answer. It is one of the few cards that stops Planeswalkers, removal, and win conditions such as Scapeshift. If this was not enough reasons to include it, Negate also only costs two mana. The cheap cost makes permission accessible while also leaving mana to cast more creatures. Mana efficiency is a key factor in playing this deck, and leads to the most value both short term and long term.
To aid our Negates, three Detention Spheres serve as utility removal spells and even mass removal in some cases. Additionally, Sun Titan can resurrect it from our graveyard if our opponent destroyed one. Sometimes it is only locking up creatures and just an expensive removal spell. Other times, it gives us an opening to win the game by exiling cards like Ensnaring Bridge and other backbreaking permanents. Even if our opponent plays another copy of what we exiled, our playset of Flickerwisp can blink the Sphere and exile both. Detention Sphere is an extremely potent catch-all answer that can turn the tide of a game, and its plethora of applications make it a staple of the deck.
For spot removal, we play four Path to Exile and a singleton Condemn. Path is familiar to anyone who plays Modern—it is one of the most powerful removal spells ever printed and deserves the full four slots. Interestingly, Path is also a ramp spell in our deck! If we are a land shy of meeting Emeria's requirement or casting a Sun Titan, we can simply exile one of our own creatures to get our last Plains or our single Island to get around Blood Moon. Path's ability to be a virtual Rampant Growth should never be underestimated, and it may be what we need to push ourselves over the top. Condemn is simply a fifth Path with the bonus of killing any Death's Shadow because the opponent's lifegain from Shadow's power will always equal 13; the exact life total to kill Death's Shadow. Condemn is a passable removal spell, and while it does not permanently remove the creature, it does keep it from killing us.
Like most other white control decks, we do play a board wipe. Supreme Verdict is here as a three-of. Having an uncounterable, four mana reset button is key for stabilizing against aggro decks, and it is also an excellent trap for midrange opponents who over-extend themselves to get around our creatures. It is rather color intensive, and in the matchups where we want a boardwipe we have to craft our early land drops in such a way that we can cast Verdict on turn four. While we also play many cheap creatures, keep in mind that Emeria and Sun Titan give us an enourmous advantage over our opponent. There are few plays as crippling to our opponent as a turn-five wrath into a turn-six Titan. The deck is prone to absurd moments such as this, and the fact that we have the ability to manipulate them into giving us what we want makes these plays even more ridiculous.
To round our our noncreature spells, we play a pair of Ojutai's Command. Command is a utility spell specifically designed to fight creature-based control decks such as ours. We can use this as either an answer or a value play, a versatile and powerful aspect of this card. We can recur either a Lone Missionary or Wall of Omens, which is excellent in almost all matchups in Modern aside from Tron and Ad Nauseum. This also gives us target diversity—if we are low on life, we can reanimate a Missionary, but if we need cards we can always target Wall of Omens. The remaining two abilities are the most peculiar, and knowing when to use them is critical to understanding how to use Command. Gaining four life is very useful in aggro matchups, but is purely situational because we have to decide if returning a blocker to play or drawing a card is preferable over undoing some of our opponent's work. It is also interesting in grindy midrange matchups as way to buy more time, but it is less relevant in these situations. A more confusing mode is the function to counter a creature spell. It is seemingly more useful in control matchups where the opponent's creatures are winning the game, and thus we can both stop the opponent's win condition and generate more card advantage. In midrange matchups, it is more of a removal spell, and in aggro matchups it is rarely relevant. While there is so much more I could say about using this card properly, it takes experience to understand Ojutai's Command properly. It is easy to mix and match the modes to what we need the spell to do, but making it do exactly what we need is an entirely different matter. This is a deeply complex card in this deck, and utilizing it is a subject of skill and knowledge.
Because we are a tap-out control deck and need plenty of lands to bring our value train to life, we run 24 lands. Our manabase is carefully crafted to supply Emeria, the Sky Ruin with a sufficient amount of Plains to bring it online. That being said, we only run three copies of Emeria because they are not Plains themselves; multiple copies are a hindrance. In order to ensure we have enough plains for Emeria and Islands when we need them, I managed to fit three copies of Flooded Strand into the budget. Fetchlands are flexible in that they get two land types, and we also run four Hallowed Fountains and a pair of Prairie Streams. This gives us a functional nine copies of our dual lands, enough to satisfy our color requirements. In general, it is better to fetch Hallowed Fountain over Prairie Stream because if we draw the Stream later, it may come into play untapped and just be a Tundra. Fountain, however, will always demand two life regardless of the board state. I also recommend avoiding the two life payment whenever possible. We are prone to sluggish starts, and the life payments adds up in Modern's aggressive metagame. If we have a Lone Missionary or two in hand, we can sometimes make multiple payments. If not, one shock is the maximum I would pay. We do not have any double-blue mana costs in the deck, so we should not need to shock more than once in the early game anyway.
Emeria requires seven Plains to get going, and thus our basic lands are skewed towards white. We play seven Plains a lone Island. We only need one Island for our blue requirements, which gives us space to run more Plains for Emeria. With two double white casting cost cards, and one at three mana, we need to fill out the rest of our basics with Plains. I would never cut the Island for another Plains, nor would I trim a Plains for a second Island—we need the single blue to fight through a Blood Moon and to fetch when we get hit with Ghost Quarter—we cannot run a second one because it hurts Emeria. This is a section of the deck I would not adjust because of the needs of our deck.
This leaves us with four utility land slots, and here we find four Ghost Quarters. On its face, it is a control tool for removing problematic lands. It is an excellent method for breaking apart the
Tron lands, creature lands, or fragile manabases. However, when combined with Sun Titan, Ghost Quarter immediately turns into Strip Mine. On every attack, we can recur our Ghost Quarter and destroy a land once each turn. Eventually, our opponent will no longer have basic lands to search for, and we can start systematically destroying their mana bases and transforming their board into a barren wasteland! One of the most fun things to do with this deck is to destroy someone's lands until they cannot keep pace with us and crush them under our massive card advantage engine. Additionally, we can use Ghost Quarter to destroy one of our spare Emerias and grab our last Plains to turn on another copy of Emeria, an often overlooked trick that we can utilize to start recurring our creatures.
Sideboards are, of course, subjective and meta dependent. What I have listed here is what I used for testing with some minor tweaks. This can be adjusted to suit your metagame, and it should be changed as the metagame shifts.
- Two Tormod's Crypt serve as free graveyard hate.
- An additional pair of Condemn is for aggressive matchups and Death's Shadow.
- Two Dispel is excellent against control and tempo matchups alike. It can also be brought in against spell-based combo, such as Ad Nauseam and—to a degree—Storm.
- Two Blessed Alliance give us more life gain against aggro decks and extra removal against decks that typically only attack with one or two creatures, such as Jund and other midrange strategies. It is also useful for hitting creatures with protection from white, but this is an incredibly rare occurrence.
- A single Disenchant is our artifact and enchantment removal of choice. While it may seem sparse, our mainboard Detention Spheres can hit anything as well.
- A pair of Kor Firewalker are exclusively for Burn and other red-based aggressive strategies. These decks can get underneath us and close out the game before we can pull ahead, which warrants a specific sideboard card for these matchups.
- Our last two Negates reside in the sideboard. Bring these in against opposing control decks and spell-based combo alike.
- Lastly, two copies of Stony Silence—Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, and Walking Ballista are much easier to play against when they cannot do anything.
Playing the Deck
This deck is very straight forward, but that does not mean it is necessarily easy to pilot. This deck is not as complicated as Storm or Eggs, but it does require working knowledge of control decks or the Modern metagame to play confidently. If you're new to Modern and new to control, there is a much steeper learning curve.
In this deck, we end up doing more chump blocking than most strategies. It is often better to sit back and let our opponent attempt to churn though or board of creatures than to offer trades on our attack step. We may even end up triple blocking a large creature with all of our weenies because the majority of our creatures are small. Again, this deck is slow out the gate, but by turn five or six we can start to beat our opponent back or even turn the corner with a Sun Titan. A large part of playing this deck is knowing what creatures to bring back into play. Against an aggro deck, it is almost always better to get Lone Missionary because of it gains life and has a reasonable body for trading with other small creatures. Plus, if it dies in combat, we can always bring it back to gain more life. In midrange and control matchups, it becomes much more difficult to know what we should resurrect. If we are low on cards in hand, Court Hussar is an excellent target, but if our opponent is swinging with creatures the aforementioned Lone Missionary is also great. Wall of Omens is a nice in-between choice here because it has a great blocking body and draws a card. Detention Sphere is also a Sun Titan target—it is easy to be so focused on grabbing creatures that we miss the removal spell in our graveyard. As a final pointer, treat Flickerwisp as an additional copy of whatever enters-the-battlefield ability we have on the battlefield and deduce if one of those abilities is what we need. We can also use Flickerwisp to reset a Planeswalker's loyalty counters or a Detention Sphere, or simply remove a blocker for a turn. It can even hit lands, which means we can just play it as a two-mana 3/1 flier and hold up mana for removal.
Upgrades and Adjustments
In terms of upgrades, there is very little that actually needs done. This list is the complete, full version of the deck, and any additional cards will be personal choices, not necessities. Many lists are playing Gideon of the Trials, and at nine dollars USD it is easily within financial reach. Some players like having only three Sun Titans and use an extra value creature. Mortarpod used to be a staple of the deck but has since fallen to the wayside. Spreading Seas, a Modern control favorite, is seeing more play recently and could become a future staple of the deck. Blade Splicer is excellent against aggro, but I ultimately cut it for Pilgrim's Eye, which I believe supports Emeria much better. There are also some hilariously broken plays that are possible with Panharmonicon, but it is a four mana do-nothing until an engine is assembled. While it is costly, Crucible of Worlds is a borderline staple of the deck, but it is not a card that we absolutely need. Lastly, Emeria is not limited to blue and white; there are Selesnya, Esper, Orzhov, and even Mardu variations that have seen play! It is very easy to brew with the Sun Titan and Emeria setup, and there is space for pet cards if one wants to play some of their favorite cards.
That brings us to the end of this week's Treasure Cruisin'! What do you think of Azorius Titan? I have to say it—this deck is the most fun I have had playing Modern in quite some time. The deck is awesome, feels incredibly powerful, and is a control player's delight. It is absolutely capable of taking down an FNM and other game store events, and it can certainly compete on Magic Online. It is an excellent choice for avid control players looking to buy into the format on a budget. If you have any questions about the deck and want to talk to more experienced players, or if you want discuss the deck, you can do so at our Azorius Titan primer here. If you have any questions for me, you can always PM me or ask in the comments.