Dragon’s Maze: Azorius Authority Review (Part 2 of 2)
We’re in for another round of detention today as the Azorius once again take to the field. This time, we’re testing out the new Azorius Authority deck, to see how it stacks up not just itself, but to its previous incarnation. Joining me at the table is the lovely Sam, who’s shuffling up Gruul Siege with barely-contained glee.
Sam and I swap opening Guildgates as we kick things off, after which she follows with a Zhur-Taa Druid which I match with a Silvercoat Lion. Next turn, she taps the Druid for mana (pinging me in the process), then drops down a Viashino Shanktail. For my part, I tap out for a Wind Drake.
Now turn 4, Sam sends in the Shanktail for 3 to take me to 16, then follows with a Kraul Warrior. I deploy a Stealer of Secrets and pass. Back to Sam, she hammers in through the red zone with both barrels for 5, then adds another point atop that with the Druid as she taps it to help fuel a Cobblebrute. With things looking grim, I detain the freshly-summoned Cobblebrute with an Azorius Arrester, then play Righteous Charge. This lets me slam Sam for 12 points of damage right on the chin, hoping she’ll start to hold off on all-out attacks. It also puts me up a card from the Stealer of Secrets.
Now turn 6, Sam is undeterred, and attacks for another 5 with the Shanktail and Warrior. I trade the Arrester for her Warrior, dropping to 6. Sam then burns out my Drake with a Ground Assault before passing. For my part, I counterattack for 4 with the Stealer and Lion. Sam blocks the Stealer with the Cobblebrute, killing them both, but takes 2 from the Lion to fall to 6. I then add an Azorius Cluestone and Haazda Snare Squad. Sam pings me at the end of my turn, and I’m down to 5 life.
She taps the Druid again on turn 7 to bring out the Saruli Gatekeepers after laying down her second Gate. This provides a massive, crucial influx of life as she shoots back up to 13 even as I fall to 4. With her place ahead cemented, she ends her turn. Meanwhile, an Azorius Justiciar buys me a little extra time, detaining Sam’s Druid and Gatekeepers. Next turn, Sam kills me off anyway. Although I block the Shanktail with my Squad, Sam bloodrushes a Ghor-Clan Rampager to give the Shanktail the all-important trample, then piles on lethal by bloodrushing a Zhur-Taa Swine.
Again Sam and I swap Gates, this time with me on the play. I double down with another Gate on turn 2, while Sam finds the Zhur-Taa Druid.
Now turn 3, I deploy a Wind Drake off an Island, while Sam brings out the trusty Cobblebrute thanks to the stinging assistance of the Druid. Next turn, I counterattack in the sky for 2, after which Sam returns fire for 5 with the Cobblebrute. She follws up with a Gruul Cluestone, while I retaliate with an Avenging Arrow to kill the Cobblebrute.
A third Gate touches down for me on turn 5, after which I attack for 2 with the Drake and summon a second. Sam, after pinging me with the Druid at the end of my turn, next summons forth a Ripscale Predator. Next turn, I bring Sam to 12 off the Drakes, then detain the Predator and Druid with a Lyev Decree. Sam sits pat, playing a Mountain and passing for her turn.
Now turn 7, I play a Righteous Charge to blast Sam in the air with the Drakes. Down to 4 life, she pings me with the Druid at turn’s end, taking me to 12. Now on a one-turn clock, Sam’s done if she can’t take either me or a Drake out this turn. She opts for the former, attacking with the unblockable Predator then bloodrushing now one, but two Rubblebelt Maakas for the win.
Sam’s turn-2 Kraul Warrior is the game’s first play as I look to avoid the sweep. Next turn I drop down a Stealer of Secrets, which Sam attacks past. Although shes offering me a free card, based on the play of her deck the past two games I can see her logic at work in slapping me down quickly. I counterattack on turn 4 with the Stealer, drawing us level at 18 before playing an Azorius Cluestone and passing. Sam fires back with the Warrior, then ends her turn.
Now turn 5, I attack again with the Stealer, claiming 2 more life and another free draw. I next tap out for a Jelenn Sphinx and pass. Sam keeps the pressure up with the Warrior, which I let pass. Obligingly, she pumps it to a 5/5, taking me to 11. Back to me, I play a Silvercoat Lion after attacking for 4 behind the Stealer and Sphinx. Down to 12, Sam attacks with the Warrior for 2, declining the pump to add a Cobblebrute.
Undaunted, I cast Righteous Charge- and then another. With my creatures massively boosted, I turn the trio sideways for a total of 19 damage. Not even the Cobblebrute can save Sam, and I take the win!
Thoughts & Analysis
Detain is a wonderful mechanic, simple and accessible while adding a lot of advantage to a deck built to maximise it. When we reviewed Azorius Advance for Return to Ravnica, we gave the deck mediocre marks because it didn’t seem all that inclined to do so. Having now had a go with the sequel, it’s difficult to say that it improved upon the original.
The thing about detain is that the benefit it provides is fleeting. After a turn, it’s as it it never played, as it adds nothing to your board position. That means you need to be able to take advantage of the narrow window of opportunity that it provides, such as with the meddled version I posted on Gathering Magic last November. A fast, aggressive, tempo-oriented deck is well-positioned to swarm the opponent, detaining its way past any defenses. In these Intro Packs, though, it almost feels a bit like a side act.
Instead, we get a splash of the guild’s mechanic surrounded by a deck filled with weenie-sized creatures. Many of these have flying, but in a way there’s almost an anti-synergy there with detain. Detain wants to support a blitzkrieg-style deck, where you don’t confrnt an emeny’s defenses so much as go arond them with wave after wave of cheap creatures. Although evasion lets you also get around a spirited defense, it comes at a premium in the form of a pricetag. That 2/2 you’re summoning isn’t necessarily touching down on turn 2 as much as turn 3, in the form of a Wind Drake. Unless you’re up against a committed opponent with an air force of their own, detain is almost redundant. In fact, it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy: we’ll give you a deck slow enough to make use of a mechanic letting you get past the defenders the deck gave your opponent plenty of time to set up. Eh?
In fairness, the rare selection is certainly better the second time around, with the splendid Lavinia of the Tenth and Martial Law versus the overpriced Archon of the Triumvirate and Righteous Authority. Still, if you’re keen to get the full detain experience, you’re probably better off building it from scratch.
Hits: Improved rare selection; guild mechanic detain is a lot of fun…
Misses: …but you don’t get much of it here; deck’s mana curve a bit high for what detain is really wanting to do; twenty-six land and two Cluestones is over-saturation
OVERALL SCORE: 4.00/5.00