It's there. It's twelve moves away, but it's there.
Search for Azcanta has already proven itself a winner in Standard despite how hostile a world it is for non-Energy cards. However, the prophecy of a Modern Azcanta deck has been coming to fruition as well. Now the question is, what's the best home for it?
Despite initial interest in the card as a tool for Scapeshift, R/G builds with Hour of Promise have been winning in the court of public approval, such as the list Rebecca Adlman piloted to a Top 8 finish at this past weekend's Classic:
Off-color Leyline of Sanctity?
Like, just on some "quasi-Leyline of the Void free wins" type of time?
As for Search for Azcanta, the most popular and successful way to make use of the card so far has been in Jeskai Control. A new breed of Jeskai Control decks using the card as an alternative to planeswalkers has been all the rage, cashing in the hands of several pilots this weekend.
Here's Ali Aintrazi's take on Jeskai Control with Azcanta:
Search for Azcanta further pushes this list in the direction of being a nearly pure control deck, seeking to render the opponent helpless before eventually sifting through your whole library with Azcanta tofind the lone Secure the Wastes.
You've lost. You just don't know it yet.
Ali's list has a few tweaks that give it a little different texture than most. For instance, rather than all Snapcaster Mages, as is common, Aintrazi features a split with Torrential Gearhulk. The Gearhulk is just such a bigger body for defending yourself with and a much faster clock. Besides, when you're flashing back Cryptic Command, they both cost six anyway.
Already playing a full playset of Cryptics, Aintrazi actually goes even further and packs a pair of copies of Glimmer of Genius. Despite no Energy synergies, Glimmer of Genius is just an excellent way to convert the four mana you left open to threaten Cryptic Command into an advantage.
While Logic Knot is nothing new, not all that many decks have been able to pack so many. Search for Azcanta does a pretty good job of stocking our graveyard with cards, however, letting us use our two-mana Counterspells reliably, in the mid and late game (unlike Mana Leak and Remand).
I love the use of Field of Ruin over Ghost Quarter or Tectonic Edge here. It's a little greedy, but that's not a bad thing if you get away with it. Being able to destroy opposing lands without actually losing card economy is right up this deck's alley.
Do you know what it means to have "contempt" for your opponent?
Grixis is another logical home for Search for Azcanta, with plenty of worthy cheap spells to fuel and then to find. Grixis also brings other synergies, however, in the form of delve (which Search helps fuel) and Kolaghan's Command (since discarding creatures can let us get a creature back without even needing to draw it the first time).
Thought Scour is also an option, also speeding up our delve cards and Search flips. Losing the scry really does matter, though, and I think the odds of the scry 1 mattering enough to change the outcome of the game is higher than the extra cards in the graveyard.
Playing two Serum Visions versus two Thought Scours is unclear, and I could see it either way. While Thought Scour might be better in some early spots, I think it's kind of nice to have the option of digging deeper in the mid-game, when we can afford to use our Snapcaster main phase.
Another option to consider is a similar list but without the red. All we're really losing is artifact destruction and downgrading our removal. We do, however, gain a manabase that takes a little less damage and has slightly more basic action (both total basic lands and how frequently we can afford to fetch them up).
I'm generally in favor of starting with more victory conditions if we don't have Kolaghan's Command to get them back, nor burn to finish the job. What mix we play, however, could go a lot of ways. For instance, are we supposed to be looking at Liliana, the Last Hope or Liliana of the Veil?
One big question any Grixis or Grixis-like lists need to answer is why they are better than just playing Grixis Death's Shadow.
Maybe it's better not to be the best. Then you can lose and it's okay.
Grixis Death's Shadow continues to put up good numbers each week. The only recent change has been the addition of Opt, which has in turn increased the appeal of cards like Stubborn Denial and Ceremonious Rejection (letting you capitalize on the mana you held up, like Spell Snare above).
The Lilianas in the sideboard are always sweet, but I wonder if there's any chance we might be interested in a transformational sideboard plan involved a couple of Search for Azcantas? I'm kind of imagining something like when Standard Mardu Vehicles slows down after sideboarding, replacing some beatdown with card draw engines that dodge spot removal.
And while Death's Shadow is one of the premier strategies in the format, it's not clear that Search for Azcanta couldn't be, too. Perhaps moving a little away from Death's Shadow's niche could open up a little room.
Maybe we need to move away from control at a high level anyway? After all, maybe we don't want to compete with Jeskai Search. All these Search for Azcanta decks are focused on not losing. Maybe what we should be doing is focusing on being proactive, focusing on how to win?
He didn't teach you how to win; he taught you how not to lose.
You know who loves a Search for Azcanta?
Peter Hine cashed the Team Constructed Open with his take on Sultai Search:
This is a lot of spot removal and enough discard spells that we're starting to resemble Jund or Abzan in some ways. However, with no Cryptic Commands, no Kolaghan's Commands, and no Planeswalkers, Hine's list is lower to the ground and more built for trading one-for-one while slamming into opponents with a fast threat. That said, I wouldn't mind a maindeck Liliana, the Last Hope for a little extra staying power.
Another possibility for Tarmogoyfs is Temur. It's hard, not having Fatal Push or Path to Exile, but Lightning Bolt is a pretty good card. Flipping Ancient Grudge to Search for Azcanta is kind of exciting, but are we really supposed to rely on counterspells for stopping four-toughness creatures?
Maybe we can take a page out of Kyle Good's Temur playbook. He was the highest-finishing Temur player of this past weekend's Classic, and while he wasn't running Search for Azcanta, he did have some sweet stuff going on.
- 3 Eternal Witness
- 1 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Snapcaster Mage
- 3 Tarmogoyf
- 1 Vendilion Clique
Eternal Witness is interesting, though. It's not necessarily straight-up tailor-made for Search for Azcanta, though they do synergize. More to the point, however, Search for Azcanta works well with Traverse the Ulvenwald. They fuel each other, early or late.
Traverse helps fill your graveyard to flip Search, and Search helps fill your graveyard to get delirium online for Traverse. Search for Azcanta adds the enchantment card type to the mix, and Traverse is also a spell you can find with Search that can be converted into a powerful threat.
Another possibility is to go even deeper into graveyard synergies. It's kind of tricky, since so many of the traditional Dredge cards are creatures rather than sorceries or instants.
Steve Rubin had a new take on graveyard-based aggro that was really cool, though not necessarily a natural fit with Search for Azcanta:
Can you see it now?
Lingering Souls is just fantastic in its own right and a helluva lot more exciting of a victory condition to find with Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. However, the prospect of milling our Lingering Souls on our upkeep is particularly attractive.
Besides, Fatal Push makes a fine Lightning Bolt stand-in, though we must be careful to make sure we can play cards out of our hand proactively often enough. Flipping a Search for Azcanta a couple of turns ahead of schedule makes a big difference, and Fatal Push can get stuck in our hand much more easily than Lightning Bolt or Lightning Helix.
There it is!
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you guys.
My life changed a lot on Thanksgiving, eleven years ago. While it's easy to point to that moment as some sudden paradigm change, it was more like the culmination of a lot of experiences that lead up to it. I have a lot to be thankful for, but without the pain, the hardship, the struggles, it's hard to fully appreciate it all.
Being a weirdo that struggled to fit in, to make friends.
Dropping out of school.
Being used and abused.
Getting robbed at gunpoint in Detroit.
May you live an interesting life.
All of it, however, helped make me who I am today, and for that, I am supremely thankful. There has been a lot of pain, but it's been an interesting life, to say the least.
They say, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
I agree, but that whole "not dying" part isn't always so easy, and I am so thankful for each and every person that has ever come up to me at an event, that has ever sent me a social media message, that has ever responded to one of my articles, that has ever shook my hand or smiled in a match against me.
Knowing anyone cares, well, it matters a lot. I can never repay what this community has given me, but at the very least, I want you to know I appreciate it, and I appreciate you.