Return to Ravnica: Azorius Advance Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s our final match with Return to Ravnica until next week when the Event Decks get their turn. Today we take the Selesnya to task with Azorius Advance, a White/Blue creature-based deck that looks to stamp its opponents with the force of law through its detain mechanic.
Now turn 3, Sam next summons a Seller of Songbirds, letting her add a 1/1 Bird token. Back to me, I tap out for a Keyrune of my own. Next turn sees the game’s first attack as Sam animates her Keyrune and sends it in alongside the Bird token for 4. She then follows with a Centaur’s Herald and passes. For my part, I bring out a Battleflight Eagle, valuting my Lion past Sam’s defenses and giving it a power boost to boot. We’re now even at 16 life.
Now turn 5, Sam animates her Keyrune and sends it in again, while I counterattack with my Eagle in the air. I then tap out to drop a pair of Vassal Souls before ending my turn. At the end of it, Sam pops her Centaur’s Herald for the 3/3 Centaur token, then once her turn rolls around proper she sends it in alongside the Keyrune for 6 points’ worth of beats, leaving me at 7. Undaunted, I counterattack with my air force- the Souls and an animated Keyrune- for 6 of my own, leaving Sam to note, “it’s a race!”
Down to 8 life, Sam attacks in with only the Keyrune this time, and I gang-block it with the Lion and Eagle (Sam kills the Eagle). She then plays a Risen Sanctuary, her massive 8/8 vigilant beatstick. Has it arrive too late? I send in the Souls and Keyrune for another 6, which puts Sam at a very uncomfortable 2 life. Next turn, she attacks in with the Sanctuary, the Elf, and the Seller. My Lion explodes in front of the Sanctuary, leaving me to take the remaining 2. Sam then draws level with a Centaur Healer. When I attack next turn, she neutralises the threat with a Heroes’ Reunion, and I can’t beater her down fast enough to outlast the bashing Sanctuary. A close one, but a loss.
Now turn 4, I attack for another point of damage with the Pegasus, then deploy my Keyrune. Sam sends in the Courser in to get things started, then plays another one to replace her defenses. Next turn, I supercharge the Pegasus with a Righteous Authority, turning it sideways to bash in for 4. With its work safely done and Sam down to 14, I then play an Island I’d held in hand and pass my turn. For Sam’s part, she swings in for 6 with the Centaurs, then drops the Centaur Healer to go back up 3 life.
Now turn 6, I draw an extra card off the Authority, letting me swing for 5 with the Pegasus. With nothing else to do, I pass. Sam plays a Centaur’s Herald, then attacks with the trio of Centaurs for 9. I flash in a Skyline Predator, using it to block and kill the Healer. I still take 6, though, going down to 5. Next turn I send the Pegasus in for 6 after drawing two cards, then summon the Archon of the Triumvirate. At the end of turn, Sam pops her Herald for its 3/3 token, then again thunders in with a trio of 3/3′s. I block one with the Archon, another with the Predator, and the third is chumped by the Stealer of Secrets. Sam then turns a Chorus of Might to kill my Archon, spilling over with a point of trample damage.
It’s a fine play, but ultimately futile. After activating the Keyrune alongside the Pegasus, I’ve got lethal in the sky.
Our first two turns are spent developing our manabases, and we each have both colours covered. Then on turn 3, Sam summons the Seller of Songbirds, while I play an Azorius Arrester to detain her. Back to Sam, after laying down the Grove of the Guardian, she attacks in for 1 with the Bird token the Seller produced, then plays a second Seller to get another Bird. For my part- any alliterative timing is strictly coincidental here- I summon the Stealer of Secrets.
Now turn 5, Sam fires into the red zone with both Birds, then follows up with a Wayfaring Temple. A second Arrester locks the Temple down for a turn, after which I attack with the Stealer to nick Sam for 2 and go up a card. Next turn, she attacks again with the Birds to put me to 15, then adds the Centaur’s Herald. Stuck on three land and with nothing to play, I’m forced to discard the Archon of the Triumvirate, while Sam pops her Herald at the end of the turn for the Centaur inside.
Now turn 7, Sam begins by cracking the Grove to bring out the 8/8 token. She then attacks in with her Birds, the Centaur, and the Temple. I use a Show of Valor on the Stealer, triple-blocking the Temple to kill it, though I do lose an Arrester and Stealer. Down to 10 life, I play a Silvercoat Lion and pass.
Smelling blood, Sam comes at me with everything next turn. My Lion kills a Seller of Songbirds, while the Arrester takes one for the team and steps in front of the onrushing 8/8 Elemental token. it matters little- Sam’s got a Chorus of Might, and takes the game on the spot.
Thoughts & Analysis
Every once in awhile, we playtest a deck and it leaves us with the impression that it just didn’t get a chance to shine. Usually, the next question is, could it have? I’d like to think so, but it’s hard to say with Azorius Advance. I certainly didn’t get a lot of mileage out of the detain mechanic, though in fairness it certainly seemed like a very useful one that just failed to show up much for me.
That said, the keyword only appears on six different creatures as an enters-the-battlefield trigger, with an additional one creature having it as an activated ability (the New Prahv Guildmage). There’s also a single sorcery (Inaction Injunction), and the cards are sprinkled somewhat evenly throughout the mana curve. This means that at any particular point in the curve, there’s not a ton of options for detention.
Of course, this is in keeping with the prevalence of the new guild mechanics in the Return to Ravnica decks, which vary between only six (Izzet Ingenuity) and nine (Golgari Growth, Selesnya Surge) occurrences of the keyword. We’re a bit ambivalent on this particular point, wavering between enjoying the fact that the deck isn’t propped up by the mechanic and wishing there was more of it to go around.
Another strike against Azorius Advance was that it didn’t support its own tempo strategy. Although stifling your opponent’s creature for a turn is solid and useful, the deck suffered somewhat by the absence of a single card: Unsummon. Sure, there’s Dramatic Rescue, but it costs twice as much for a minimal bonus, and there’s only a single copy. Being able to bounce and detain consistently would have given the deck more room to work with with its creatures, many of whom are a bit too fragile to stand up to the rigours of combat in the red zone.
Overall, the deck was something of a disappointment. There wasn’t enough flair and support to cover over the fact that at the end of the day, most of your creatures are weenie-sized with midsize pricetags. If you can’t build up a quick head of steam and take advantage of your tempo plays, you’re more or less left holding the bag as your creatures get quickly outclassed. You’ve got some hope in the air, though unlike the original Azorius Theme Deck, Azorius Ascendant, you don’t have as many defensive options on the ground.
Hits: Detain mechanic is deceptively fun and has a lot of potential for an aggressively-minded tempo deck; deck delivers a solid stream of creatures
Misses: Poor supporting suite, including weak removal and poor tempo options; missed an opportunity by foregoing added bounce effects
OVERALL SCORE: 4.00/5.00