It doesn't come as a huge surprise that UW Control was able to take down the first Modern Challenge on MTGO with Modern Horizons cards in the hands of SOULSTRONG. Blue and White have been gaining access to quite the critical mass of powerful control cards in the last few sets, notably Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler from War of the Spark. Modern Horizons brings with it a few more powerful tools in the form of Force of Negation and Fact or Fiction.
Modern UW Control with Force of Negation
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 3 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 4 Snapcaster Mage 2 Vendilion Clique 1 Oust 2 Supreme Verdict 2 Cryptic Command 1 Dovin's Veto 1 Fact or Fiction 1 Logic Knot 4 Opt 4 Path to Exile 1 Spell Pierce 1 Detention Sphere 2 Surgical Extraction 2 Force of Negation 1 Blast Zone 2 Celestial Colonnade 4 Field of Ruin 4 Flooded Strand 2 Glacial Fortress 2 Hallowed Fountain 7 Island (335) 2 Plains (331) 1 Polluted Delta 1 Dovin's Veto 1 Celestial Purge 1 Disdainful Stroke 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 2 Restoration Angel 1 Timely Reinforcements 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Ceremonious Rejection 1 Hurkyl's Recall 3 Rest in Peace 1 Stony Silence 1 Wrath of God
While this update to UW control is not going to drastically alter the play patterns of the deck, Force of Negation does seal up yet another angle that makes this deck more powerful than ever. The 3-mana Planeswalkers are what pushed this strategy firmly into the top tier of the format and even into discussions of being the "Best Deck" in Modern. By gaining access to a Legacy-style "free" counterspell, Azorius players can tap out for their powerful permanents in the early game without worrying about having their shields down for a turn. It also makes a Jace, the Mind Sculptor much more likely to see an untap step, which we all know by now usually leads to a long, drawn-out death for the opponent.
Fact or Fiction is not necessarily an automatic inclusion in this deck, but it is certainly worthy of consideration. It provides instant-speed card draw at a better rate than anything we have had in Modern before. It fuels the graveyard for things like Snapcaster Mage and Logic Knot. And even if you're not running any copies of Cryptic Command, your opponent may choose to play their turn a bit more awkwardly if you are able to pass the turn with Cryptic mana available. As an added benefit, FoF even provides an advantage in the mirror match, since it is a form of card draw that gets around the static ability of Narset.
Two copies of Surgical Extraction in the maindeck has seemed to become industry standard and is simply a reflection of the current state of Modern. It happens to be useful in an extremely wide variety of popular matchups at the moment, and Azorius has enough card advantage engines to overcome the card disadvantage when it is not useful. This practice was already occurring even before the discovery of the breakout Hogaak deck that seemed to represent 50% of the top of the standings in the Modern Challenge.
The beauty of Azorius control is that it has such an abundance of tools that it will be able to compete in Modern for a long, long time. It now has a proactive Planeswalker gameplan, some free interaction to keep the shields up at all times, and access to some of the best sideboard cards in the format. If playing control and long games with lots of decisions sounds appealing to you, mastering UW Control is an endeavor that will yield you sustained success in Modern.
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