Meddling Azorius Authority

Lavinia of the Tenth
By any account, 1995 was a noteworthy year. Toy Story and Batman Forever topped the box office, while Braveheart won a well-deserved Best Picture Oscar. The first-ever X-Games were held in Rhode Island, while a company called AuctionWeb launched, two years before they’d change their name to eBay. TLC, Mariah Carey, and Boyz II Men dominated the Billboard Number One. Founded in 1974 as the Kansas City Scouts, the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their franchise history. And setting the culinary world alight was an ordained Baptist minister who might have also have had a background in boxing, George Foreman, whose grill “knocked the fat out of cooking” for millions.

However, amongst all this greatness, a dark stain on the tapestry of history also took hold in 1995. Like a drop of glistening oil on Mirrodin, it perverted and corrupted something that was noble and great and left it a ruin of its former self, a thing of sadism and barbarity and cruelty.

1995 was the year Judge Dredd was released in theaters.

Its flaws are too many to detail here, but it featured a director who should have known better (thanks to an actual background with the source material), a lead actor who’s since said that the problem with the film was that it took itself too seriously (way to twist the knife, Sly), and . . . Rob Schneider.

Although no single act will redeem this tragedy, we will attempt to restore the spirits of our law-and-order brethren with our meddling today of the two Azorius Intro Packs from Dragon’s Maze and Return to Ravnica. If this is the first time you’ve joined us for this series, we’re doing something a little different for our Intro Pack deck-building series for Dragon’s Maze. We’ll be taking both Intro Packs for each guild and combining them into a single, one-hundred-twenty-card pool. From there, we’ll chisel away until we arrive at the best sixty-card deck we can build from them.

So, start practicing saying, “Halt, Citizen!” in your most authoritative voice, as we’re returning to the world of detain. Joseph Dredd would be proud.

The Early Game (1- and 2-Drops)

New Prahv Guildmage
In our earlier meddling of Azorius Advance, we found that the rule of law in Ravnica really liked to be delivered in an aggro–tempo shell. Flood the board with early attackers, and keep turning sideways while you detain anything that could mount even a reasonable defense. That required a very focused build, and this time around, that's not a luxury afforded us. Instead, we need to make do, so that means making some compromises.

Although we won't have quite the start we'd like with this pool, there are still some vital pickups here. The Caracal and Lion elicit that familiar refrain—that they don't do enough to justify their slots. The Caracal's lifelink is almost entirely useless since unaugmented, you can expect it to fall in battle the first time it meets opposition. The Lion is a simply vanilla. There might be a Cat deck out there that makes both relevant through mighty Auras, but that won't be this deck today.

Instead, we'll happily draft in all four Arresters, being an early source of the vital detain mechanic. The New Prahv Guildmage is not only a slam-dunk, but it ties together both strategies of the deck we're making. Since we don't have the tools for aggro-detain, we'll instead be taking a page from the more traditional white weenie tactic of transitioning from a ground assault to an aerial offensive in the midgame. The Guildmage can give any creature flying for a small investment while detaining anything that gets in the way.

Finally, we'll begrudgingly take the pair of Pegasi. Their feeble power is disappointing, but as an early, evasive threat, they make the cut in an admittedly middling field.

The Midgame (3- and 4-Drops)

Azorius Justiciar

Here's where the deck will be doing the bulk of its work. For detain, we'll immediately snatch up both of the Azorius Justiciars and Vassal Souls. Thanks to unblockability, the Souls make a nice complement to the evasive core of the deck. The Justiciars leave behind humble 2/2 bodies—no great shakes for 4 mana—but they do give you the option to detain two targets. The Lyev Skyknight is another slam-dunk card, supporting both of our deck's main themes.

The Vassal Souls are in thanks to flying, and we'll grab the Ascended Lawmages as well. Finally, we'll grab the Stealer of Secrets. The Stealer isn't evasive, so it pushes the very limit of we're willing to take in a card that doesn't directly support the overall aim of the deck. Here, it's more like a wild card, a second-tier player with a first-tier reward. It will be able to get through for damage off the occasional detain or it can gain flying from the Guildmage. It's an opportunist's choice, but better than the alternatives.

Although it might seem tempting to go for the tapping power of the Haazda Snare Squad, their 1 power takes them out of consideration. They're a defensively-built creature, if only to give them extra survivability in the red zone when they have to be attacking to be most useful. It's a nice ability, but it’s one not worth the tradeoff in offensive power when we already have ways to neutralize defenders.

The Wind Drakes are left out since they're simply worse versions of the Vassal Souls here. You can cast the Souls off any 3 mana, but the Drakes necessitate your having found at least one Island. Finally, we're leaving out the Gatekeepers as they, too, don't really do much to support the deck.

The Late Game (5-Drops and Up)

Skyline Predator

We're spoiled for choice here, but we need to be very judicious in our selection lest we end up with too many fat cards in the deck. This can see us effectively mulligan ourselves since an Archon of the Triumvirate is the very last thing you want to see in your opening hand. Indeed, for 7 mana, we're going to want to see it anywhere—it's a cut. Same with the Bazaar Krovod, which gives us only 2 power for 5 mana. The Battleflight Eagle offers a useful ability, but after that, you're left with a 5-mana 2/2 flyer. With flash, that might be worth considering as a combat trick, but it's just not potent enough for us.

The Skyline Predator does have flash, but it costs 6 mana and does nothing else. If we're going for closing options, we'll start with Lavinia of the Tenth. Sleep effects are always dear in the preconstructed environment, and Lavinia brings along something delightfully similar. Her protection is a bonus, and she offers a sizable body—all for only 5 mana. She's a keeper. We'll also grab the Jelenn Sphinx.

The Sphinx on first blush seems to violate our aversion to expensive, 1-power creatures, but the anthem effect it offers the rest of your attackers is very strong. In addition, its 4 toughness makes it a difficult creature to remove. Altogether, then, we have a nice ground-to-air transition game based on a core of twenty-four creatures backed up by a liberal dose of detain. That alone won't be enough, though. To fill out the rest of the deck, we'll need to look at our noncreature supporting suite.

The Spells

Martial Law
Here's the rundown of what we have to choose from, and we'll be taking twelve of them.

Protect // Serve
Let's start with the removal. Arrest is another obvious choice, and Dramatic Rescue is a useful Unsummon-like effect. Both Inaction Injunction and Lyev Decree give us some added detains, and we’ll somewhat begrudgingly take the Avenging Arrows, too. The Arrows are the worst kind of removal for this deck. We want our removal to clear the lanes of defenders so our attackers can push through for damage. Arrow doesn't help with that at all, instead coming around after the fact to clean up one creature. Sure, it does remove one potential blocker from the board, but you'll have to wait a turn to see the benefit.

With three slots left, we'll take the Martial Law. Although it does nothing when it arrives and needs a turn to become effective, it still offers a way to keep our creatures hammering in turn after turn. Many of our creatures are on the smaller side, so they will often welcome the help as the game goes long. Protect // Serve is a nifty little combat trick that can serve as ersatz removal, particularly when fused. For our last card, we'll up the general fun factor of the deck by slotting in Righteous Authority. Sure, it's an Aura, with all the usual vulnerabilities of its type, but who doesn't like drawing extra cards? With so many evasive creatures in the deck, you'll seldom want for useful targets, and it goes best of all on the unblockable Soulsworn Spirit.

The Playtest

Feral Animist
Sam set an alarming tone early as she steered Gruul Siege to a commanding first-game victory, as we recreated the playtest match from Ertai's Lament. In fairness, though, it's hard to stand up to a Feral Animist inswinger with two Rubblebelt Maakas bloodrushed and enough mana to trigger the Animist twice thanks to early Cluestones. After that, though, the forces of law and order were calmly in charge.

Pleasingly, there was more than enough detain in the deck to keep Sam's ground beaters locked down. Even an early Zhur-Taa Druid was the perfect target for my Azorius Arrester, and I'd keep flooding the board after that. Time and again, my air force made the biggest impact, but thanks to detain, even the smaller groundlings had a role to play at most any stage in the game.

Avenging Arrow was even worse against the Gruul, as you'd rather prevent the opponent from getting bloodrush off than simply react to it once the dust settled, but in general, the deck had enough ways to deal with opposition creatures that you didn't have to rely on it. The Stealers of Secrets were good fits as well, and I was more than happy to send them in against her Animist or Cobblebrute knowing that whether or not she blocked, I'd come out happy. All in all, it was a fun one to play.

Here's the final decklist:

Thanks for joining me today on this latest preconstructed adventure. I'm keen to hear your feedback—in particular what choices you might have made differently from the card pool available. See you in two weeks when we're back with the Gruul.

Jay Kirkman

@ErtaisLament