Magic: The Gathering – Azorius Commander Staples Guide
Magic: The Gathering – Azorius Commander Staples Guide
Commander is the most popular format in Magic: The Gathering. With libraries made of 99 different cards and one legendary creature, it lets you build the deck that best represents you — whether that’s calling on your planeswalker superfriends, rushing in with an aggro deck, or controlling your way to victory.
Related: Magic: The Gathering – What Is A Tempo Deck?
Azorius combines the balance of white with the curiosity of blue to create decks focused on control, blinking, fortelling, and more. Often making you very adaptable at the expense of your opponents. So in this guide, we’ll go through the Commander staples that make up the basis of most white-blue libraries.
Having enough mana to cast what you want is essential to play, let alone win games. There are lots of permanents to help with mana generation, but land ramp is focused on having easy access to the right colour — known as mana fixing — over quantity.
As a good example, Temple of Enlightenment enters tapped, can produce white or blue mana, and also lets us Scry 1 when it enters the battlefield — given the mechanic, these are known as Scry Lands.
Hallowed Fountain produces both mana sources we need, and by paying two life, we don’t have to tap it on entry. Known as the Shock Lands — after the red spell: Shock — these cards offer quick mana flexibility with a one-time cost.
Next, we’ve got Azorius Chancery as part of the Bounce Lands. This land still enters the battlefield tapped, but it also produces a white and blue mana when tapping it. However, when it enters the battlefield, you need to return a land you control to its owner’s hand.
Smothering Tithe by Mark Behm
Even if you consistently play one land per turn, you’ll still need nonland mana sources to keep up to pace with the rest of the table. Nonland cards that generate mana come in three kinds: Mana Dorks are creatures, Mana Rocks are artifacts and enchantments, while Rituals are instants and sorceries.
In Azorius, the focus is less on gaining mana and more on reducing mana costs, such as with Stenn, Paranoid Partisan and Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Stenn makes a chosen card type other than creatures or land one generic mana cheaper to cast. Whereas Augustin makes white spells and blue spells cost one less generic mana, and makes your opponents’ spells cost one more generic mana.
There’s more traditional mana ramp too. Gilded Lotus is a five-cost artifact that can be tapped to add three mana of any one colour to your mana pool, which is great for casting multiple spells of the same colour.
However, our most potent ramp comes from the three-generic and one-white enchantment: Smothering Tithe. With this, every time an opponent draws a card, they may pay two-generic mana — giving you a treasure token if they refuse. These can be tapped and sacrificed to produce one mana of any colour, making some of the most potent ramp in Azorius.
You’ll notice a theme of opponents being asked to pay costs if they want to interact with you or even the board. These abilities, known as taxes, encourage people to look for trouble elsewhere, giving you time to prepare uninterrupted.
Related: Magic The Gathering: What Is The Ideal Mana Curve For Your Commander Deck?
Rhystic Study by Terese Nielsen
Since we’ve got the fuel to burn, now we need to make sure we don’t run out. Having good draw is important because it means you’ll have more options in hand, and your opponents will be uncertain about what you’ve got.
The classic blue draw card — loved to play, loathed to play against — is Rhystic Study. A two-generic and one-blue enchantment that forces an opponent to pay a generic mana whenever they cast a spell, or you draw a card. Simply put, it either slows their pace or increases your resources.
Sometimes, you just need cards in a hurry. For that, we recommend Treasure Cruise. A seven-generic and one-blue sorcery that lets you draw three cards. What makes this card so good is that you can Delve the cost — each card you exile from your graveyard while casting the spell pays for one generic mana. Letting you exile seven cards and pay one blue mana to draw three cards.
But maybe you aren’t drawing well, or another player is a little too smug about their 13-card hand. Windfall, a two-generic and one-blue mana sorcery, can change that. Each player discards their hand and draws a new one (known as wheeling), the number drawn equalling the greatest number of cards one person discarded, so that player now has a new 13-card hand… along with everyone else.
Mystical Tutor by Lindsey Look
Taking its name from the card Demonic Tutor, tutoringis an ability that lets you search your library for a specific card and put it somewhere easier to reach, usually into your hand. These cards are key to winning reliably since you can get straight to the card you need instead of hoping to draw into it.
As a one-white instant, Enlightened Tutor lets you search for an artifact or enchantment card, reveal it, and then put it on top of your library. This is excellent at pulling up mana rocks, tax cards like Rhystic Study, or creatures with artifact or enchantment types. The downsides are that revealing the card lets people gauge the threat, and it goes to your library where it’s vulnerable to discard effects.
The one-blue instant Mystical Tutor works the same as Enlightened Tutor — search, reveal, put it on top of your library — but you look for instant or sorcery cards instead. It’s a great way to find removal, counterspells, or another tutor; however, it shares the same drawbacks of revealing the card and placing it on top of your library.
It’s also worth mentioning Solve the Equation. At two-generic and one-blue mana, it lets you search for an instant or sorcery, reveal it, then put it into your hand instead of the top library spot. It has a higher casting cost, and is a sorcery instead of an instant, but is more affordable to buy.
For graveyard tutors, Hall of Heliod’s Generosity is a land that can be tapped for one-generic and one-white mana to put an enchantment in your graveyard to the top of your library. While the land, Academy Ruins, is another non-basic land that taps for one-generic and one-blue mana to put a target artifact from your graveyard to the top of your library.
Related: Magic The Gathering: What Is A Midrange Deck?
Swords to Plowshares by Terese Nielsen
Keeping your opponents’ boards in check will make sure they don’t pull too far ahead, making it important to have targeted removal — or spot removal — in your deck.
The go-to for any commander running white in their colour identity is Swords to Plowshares, a one-white mana instant that exiles a target creature. The catch is that its controller gains life equal to the creature’s power, yet that’s nothing compared to removing a significant threat altogether.
In a similar vein is Path to Exile, another one-white instant that exiles a target creature, but instead lets the controller search their library for a basic land and put it on the battlefield tapped. This might look just as good as Swords to Plowshares; however, giving your opponent extra land in the early game is shooting yourself in the foot. Save this spell for the mid-game or later to get the most out of it.
If you want flexibility, we recommend Generous Gift. A two-generic and one-white instant that destroys a target permanent and gives its controller a 3/3 green elephant creature. While it doesn’t get past abilities like hexproof, shroud, or indestructible, and is on the expensive side for casting costs, being able to hit anything from lands to enchantments is brilliant.
Group Removal And Board Wipes
Cyclonic Rift by Chris Rahn
At times, your opponents will have more threats on the battlefield than you can handle, so we need a way to remove lots of permanents, otherwise known as board wipe. They’re more expensive to cast when compared to spot removal, but are worth their weight in mythical red, thanks to their massive scale.
The most common board wipes only deal with creatures, such as Supreme Verdict. This sorcery costs one-generic, two-white, and one-blue mana to destroy all creatures. What makes this spell potent is that it can’t be countered. However, the con with “destroy” abilities is that they can be negated by indestructible, replayed from the graveyard, or regenerated before they get there.
Yet, destruction isn’t the only way to wipe a board. Cyclonic Rift is a one-generic, one-blue instant that returns a target nonland permanent you don’t control to its owner’s hand. But if you pay the Overload cost of six-generic and one-blue mana, you can return each nonland permanent you don’t control to its owner’s hand. Leaving your board intact and your enemies having to recast all of theirs.
Want to cause some havoc? Find an opponent whose maximum hand size is still seven cards, then cast an Overloaded Cyclonic Rift in their end step — effectively sacrificing their battlefield.
Another tactic is to cast the Overloaded Cyclonic Rift in your main phase, then follow it up with a Windfall, which forces everyone to discard their hand and draw the highest amount discarded.
But if all else fails, you’ll want a nuclear option. Farewell is a four-generic, two-white mana sorcery that lets you choose to exile one or more of the following: artifacts, creatures, enchantments, and graveyards. This will remove almost anything on the board from the game, including your own board state — so pick your moment well.
Ghostly Prison by Daarken
While Azorius has many great creatures, they won’t stand up to the raw power of a green and red stampede. To avoid this, you need a few tricks up our sleeves to make a full-frontal assault too risky for any combat-focused decks.
Nearly all decks with blue or white will run Propaganda or Ghostly Prison. These enchantments cost two-generic and one-blue or one-white mana respectively; any opponent wanting to attack you must pay two-generic mana for each creature attacking. If both cards are down, that’s four-generic mana per attacker! Be warned: these cards are prime removal targets for many creature-heavy decks.
Related: Magic The Gathering: What Is A Control Deck?
An Offer You Can’t Refuse by Dallas Williams
If prevention is better than a cure, then countering a card is better than removing it. After all, threats can’t become problems if they don’t hit the board, and there’s no better colour for countering spells than blue.
We’ll start things off with the blue staple, Counterspell. For two-blue mana, this instant will counter the target spell… that’s it, nice and easy. Other counters will either be more specific, demand more mana, or cost you a lot more money, which makes this spell a true-blue hero.
Since we’re playing blue and white, it only makes sense we should use both colours. Dovin’s Veto is a one-white and one-blue mana instant that counters a noncreature spell, but crucially, Dovin’s Veto cannot be countered. Avoiding any runaway counter duels with another player at the table.
An Offer You Can’t Refuse and Swan Song are cheap counters to throw your enemies off. At one-blue mana, these instants counter specific cards but give their controller something in return. An Offer You Can’t Refuse bribes your opponent out of a noncreature spell with two treasure tokens, while Swan Song counters an enchantment, instant, or sorcery spell and gives its controller a 2/2 bird token with flying.
Approach of the Second Sun by Noah Bradley
Finally, you’ll need a way to close out the game. Your commander will usually decide your victory, but there are some win conditions that fit nicely in most Azorius decks. Understandably, these cards will put everyone’s attention on you; if this is how you plan to win, be quick, and watch out for any denial.
Approach of the Second Sun is a six-generic and one-white sorcery that wins the game if you cast it twice. After the first cast, you’ll gain seven life and the card is placed seventh from the top of your library, setting a timer, and putting it comfortably within drawing distance. Though if the card is countered, you’ll need to find a way to grab it from your graveyard instead.
Finally, Thassa’s Oracle is a two-blue mana creature that can give you the win when it comes into play. On entering the battlefield, you look at the top X cards of your library,where X is the number of blue mana symbols on permanents you control (lands don’t count), put one card on top of your library, and the rest in a random order below.
If X is more than the number of lands you control, good news! If not, you can try to bounce it back to the battlefield, re-entering and causing its ability to trigger again. Otherwise, it’s a quick and cost-effective way to find a better card.
Next: Magic: The Gathering – Colourless Commander Staples Guide