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Order Is Restored: The UW Control/Midrange Primer

Modern Budget Competitive Control Midrange Primer W/U (Azorius)


Hello! Welcome to my primer for UW midrange/control, this the third primer in my series of primers for the modern format. I've done what I can to condense as many of the primers online as I can to create the best primer I can. I personally play a variation of this deck, it is under the examples tab.

UW midrange/control is a powerful, adaptable, and budget friendly control deck that focuses on blue control cards and white removal and finishers. The midrange strategy differs as being more aggressive, and swaps late game wins for strong starts with synergistic creatures.

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Most players building UW Control opt to play value creatures early on the curve with cards such as Wall of Omens and Kitchen Finks keeping the board under control and promoting over-extending into a wrath like Supreme Verdict. One of the more difficult parts is determining when to turn the corner and start attacking with finishers like Celestial Colonnade. Adept pilots will identify the earliest opportunity to turn the corner while either bluffing or holding interaction. While UW control tries to win the long game, we still can't afford to allow the game to linger as many Modern decks have very powerful draw steps. The midrange strategy has a similar start, but chooses a more aggressive approach, such as playing creatures like Geist of Saint Traft and Dragonlord Ojutai as maindeck finishers.

Cryptic Command is by far the most flexible answer in the deck, but at 4 cmc can be slow for some metagames. This card opens up many lines of play, such as bouncing your own detention sphere at opponent's end step to set up a main phase Supreme Verdict.

While tight play is important for this deck, the deck offers its greatest rewards at the deckbuilding phase. Properly identifying a metagame and choosing the appropriate answers is a skill required in order to optimize this deck for each event. A good example of this is Spreading Seas and/or Crucible of Worlds finding their way into the maindeck when powerful non-basic lands run rampant across the meta, or increasing your Supreme Verdict count when aggressive creature strategies become more common.

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Ancestral Vision: Since it's unbanning this card has been seen in many builds of Uwx control, as it a great turn 1 suspend to come down on turn 5, and is great for refueling the hand. It's downside is that you have to make it at least to turn 5, and in the mid-late game this card loses a lot of value.

Surgical Extraction: Hate for combo, tron, and scapeshift, Surgical allows us to get rid of problematic cards that mess with our gameplan, can be run from 2-4, all in the sideboard usually.

Celestial Colonnade: The main heavy hitter in many UW builds, colonnade functions as both a color fixer and finisher, as it is almost always a 3-4 turn clock, depending on what deck you are facing.

Hallowed Fountain : The UW shockland, usually 2-3 are seen in the maindeck to ensure that color fixing happens.

Eiganjo Castle: Only really used when Geist of Saint Traft is pivotal to the deck.

Seachrome Coast: The UW fastland can be very effective depending upon the build.

Prairie Stream: Popular in budget builds.

Mystic Gate : Typically played as a one-of, this card ensures that you have the mana to pay for spells like Logic Knot.

Ghost Quarter: Ensures the destruction of the troublesome Tron lands like Urza's Mine , as well as win-cons like Valakut, the mountain pinnacle. Has a combo with Surgical Extraction. Usually run as a playset.

Glacial Fortress: A conditional dual, Glacial ensures that color fixing happens without having to pay life.

Flooded Strand& other fetchlands: They ensure color fixing by giving us the ability to search for mana, Scalding Tarn is usually run as the 5th-6th fetch if necessary.

Tectonic Edge: This is run when 4 Ghost Quarters aren't enough, tec edge is additional land destruction.

Engineered Explosives: Often run as a 1-2 of in the main or side, explosives is great at blowing up decks like affinity and lantern control.

Minamo, School at Water's Edge: Really only run in decks that play Dragonlord Ojutai, and are played as a one-of.

Island & Plains: Basics usually high enough that we don't have to worry about Blood Moon as much.

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Spell Snare: This control piece is almost always a staple in many builds, this card is good against a lot of decks in the current meta, most lists play 2-4.

Dispel: A tempo card that is played in some maindecks, but most play 1-2 in the sideboard.

Spell Pierce: While it loses value quickly, this card is helpful against discard strategies and decks like burn. Usually played in the sideboard if at all.

Mana Tithe: The white version of Force Spike, this card is sometimes seen as a one-of to "get" players when they tap out for a spell thinking you don't have an answer because you only have white mana available.

Path to Exile: The best white removal spell in modern, Path is great at dealing with threats from Tarmogoyf to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, always played as a 4-of.

Dismember: Not a path, but it can appear. Never more than one used.

Condemn: Only really seen in aggro metas as it's conditional usage decreases popularity. Only played when 4 paths aren't enough.

Fragmentize: Cheaper than disenchant at the cost of max 4 cmc and sorcery speed.

Grafdigger's Cage: Turns off some graveyard or chord/collected company strategies. Useful against dredge.

Pithing Needle: Turn off planeswalkers, fetchlands, Knight of the Reliquary, Griselbrand and a host of other relevant cards. 1-2 in the sb is common.

Sunlance : Narrow usage, but can be better than condemn. Only played when 4 paths aren't enough.

Serum Visions: The lack of card advantage and sorcery speed has many players eschew this modern staple in UW control in favour of more mana intensive options that yield card advantage rather than selection. If selection is important in your build, consider playing this card.

Myth Realized: Perfect synergy for less popular draw-go builds. Pairs well with Supreme Verdict,Snapcaster Mage and Secure the Wastes.

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Remand: One of the best tempo spells in modern, remand is great against cards that are 2 cmc or greater, and in many situations, remand can act like a Time Walk and make your opponent waste their entire turn. However it feels bad to play this against decks like Elves and Affinity. Ususally 2-4 are run in the main if at all.

Mana Leak: The knock-off Counterspell is great in the early game, but loses value in the late game, usually 2-4 are run in the main.

Rune Snag : Similarly to Mana Leak, this card is great in the early game, but unlike leak, Snag rewards you for playing more than one, as snag's "stack" effect makes it far superior in the mid-late game.

Logic Knot: Another knock-off Counterspell. Knot is great if your graveyard is full, but when it's not it can be difficult to work, this usually is during the late game.

Negate: This control staple is great against decks like Tron and Scapeshift, and is starting to see maindeck play.

Condescend: This card is sometimes run as a mana leak with an upside, otherwise it's too mana intensive.

Blessed Alliance: A newer option that can get around hexproof and regeneration. This card is flexible enough for maindeck play, quickly finding itself the second-choice removal after path to exile.

Valorous Stance Flexible card that can also protect your own threats. The role this card fills is not generally valued, and it therefore sees little play.

Azorius Charm: Flexible but only temporary answer. Combined with targeting restrictions, this card sees little play. Still, some find the flexible valuable and play 1-2.

Journey to Nowhere: Abrupt Decay makes this card a bit unreliable. However, it is faster than Detention sphere - if more narrow. Often played over path is budget builds.

Declaration in Stone: A budget removal spell that can kill lots of tokens, but it's big downside is that that the clue tokens you give your opponent can definetly add up, so I'm unsure if I would play it over something like Ratchet Bomb.

Wall of Omens: Perfect way to stonewall cards like Wild Nacatl. When combined with Restoration Angel or Ojutai's Command , the card advantage can really add up. 3-4 find their way into many builds.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip : Slowish addition to the deck, might be too slow/low impact. Still, the card advantage offered is tempting many players into including 2-3 in their maindecks. It helps that Ojutai's Command can bring him back into play.

Think Twice : Card advantage with upside against discard. This source of card advantage is very mana intensive, but can be spread across multiple turns. Many decks opt to play 2-4.

Anticipate: Card selection at instant speed. Again not consistently played, usually 2-3 when it appears.

Secure the Wastes: Moderate efficiency at instant speed to go wide. A new tool that improves the flash game of the deck that works with Snapcaster Mage.

Snapcaster Mage: Amazing card. Works with more spell heavy builds. This card is so good that we should always be looking to play as many as possible. Snap + cryptic is incredibly strong. 2-4 in the maindeck.

Phantasmal Image: Flexible card with varied application. A bit vulnerable, but also very efficient. Not seen often, but 1-2 appear in some lists.

Thing in the Ice  Flip: Cheap threat that might not control the board well enough for the expenditure of tempo on-curve.

Celestial Flare: Strictly worse than Blessed Alliance

Celestial Purge: Mainly used as an answer to Liliana of the Veil, Keranos, God of Storms, Nahiri, the Harbinger, Prized Amalgam, Bloodghast and Blood Moon, this card is flexible enough to frequent sideboards. 1-2.

Disdainful Stroke: Big mana can be an issue, and this is a straightforward answer that sees only fringe play.

Disenchant: Easy sideboard tech with high variance, very worthwhile thanks to snapcaster.

Ethersworn Canonist: Tool against some combo decks, it is not a tool often kept at the ready. 1-2

Kor Firewalker: Watch out for Skullcrack when blocking, but otherwise is the perfect answer to burn. 2-4 depending on how much burn is seeing play.

Meddling Mage : In the matchups where sweepers are less important, mage can turn off key cards from the opponent. 2-3 can see play if less aggressive metas.

Rest in Peace: Turns off your snapcasters, ojutai's command and finks, but against dredge in particular it can be a knock-out. Usually run as a 1-2 of if at all.

Runed Halo: Answers random combo like Lightning Storm or problematic permanents such as Slippery Bogle.

Shadow of a Doubt: Answers Scapeshift, Chord of Calling, Expedition Map and fetchlands while cantripping. Excellent out of the board but you'll never want more than 2.

Spellskite: Another anti-aggro card that infect, affinity, burn and bogles all hate to see.

Spreading Seas: Great option to shut down non-basic lands. This card is good enough to see maindeck play if the meta is warped around powerful lands.

Stony Silence: Affinity, and to a lesser extent, Lantern control and Tron have a hard time playing through this card. Always include at least 1, and let the concentration of affinity in the meta dictate if you need 2 or even 3.

Sword of the Meek & Thopter Foundry: This unban had little effect as the combo isn't particularly quick to assemble, and still takes several turns to win the game. This remains an option, yet only some esper/gifts player have seen even moderate success with it.

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Detention Sphere: Highly flexible answer to any (non-hexproof) permanent, and can be abused with Cryptic Command (bounce/draw) into Supreme Verdict to reuse as needed. Many decks play 1-3.

Compulsive Research: Card advantage at sorcery speed for at a reasonable price. Not commonly seen, but 1-2 are occasionally tried.

Thirst for Knowledge : Card advantage at instant speed for a reasonable price. Most lists do not play enough artifacts to warrant its inclusion.

Timely Reinforcements: This card is great against most aggro decks, often played in the sideboard, but can be maindeck if needed.

Vedalken Shackles: Depending on the mana base, this card can have plenty of usage. Usually in the sideboard.

Kitchen Finks: Great anti-aggro card that promotes over-extension into a Supreme verdict. Restoration Angel combo! to reset the counter and gain life can grind through many aggressive decks. Present metagame conditions find players including 3-4 in their maindeck.

Filigree Familiar : Lacking synergy with Resto puts the pup decidedly behind Finks, but if you need more finks, it's an option. It's also very budget friendly.

Vendilion Clique: Flash evasive threat with hand disruption makes a great way to close out the game while still disrupting. 1-2 can be found in many maindecks.

Geist of Saint Traft: One of the fastest clocks available, weak when the ground isn't clear.

Aven Mindcensor: Threat that can hose search effects. Often brought in to slow down Tron builds and Scapeshift.

Crucible of Worlds: In case 4 Ghost Quarters just isn't enough, you might need to recycle them. Meta's don't often require this level of Redundancy.

Ghostly Prison: While not the most effective, it is strong against decks like Zoo or Goblins.

Threads of Disloyalty : 2 for 1 that is vulnerable to enchantment removal and Abrupt Decay.

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Ojutai's Command : This card has a lot of potential, and is often used with cards like Snapcaster Mage, sees play from 0-3 in the maindeck.

Summary Dismissal: Very powerful answer to some threats that were previously unanswerable. This includes Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.

Cryptic Command: The control staple, Cryptic sees usually 2-4 in the maindeck depending on the build.

Sphinx's Revelation: Our ultimate source of card advantage - the only question is if it is too expensive to ever cast. 1-2 can be seen in some maindecks with lower creature counts.

Supreme Verdict: Source of card advantage, tempo gain and ultimate comeback card. Bring 2 only when the metagame is low on aggro, otherwise you'll need 3-4 in the maindeck.

Glen Elandra Archmage : Good in control mirrors if you run Restoration Angel.

Wrath of God: Answers regeneration if that matters.

Jace, Architect of Thought : Slows the board down and gives card advantage on a stick. It would not be unexpected to see 1-2 in the 75.

Restoration Angel: Pure synergy here on an evasive flash threat.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant: This card has seen play as a finisher, but is often cited as too low impact for the top end.

Narset Transcendent: Having seen sparse play, Narset never cemented her place. While her stats/abilities are solid, none make her particularly attractive considering opportunity cost. Recently the Esper Transcendent deck has spiked her price.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar: Newer option widely considered better than Elspeth, Knight-Errant in non-geist builds.

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Tamiyo, the Moon Sage: It protects itself, and supplies plenty of card draw, one can be seen in the 75.

Venser, the Sojourner: Interacts favourably with the creature package often seen. The ultimate is quite strong as well, but minimal board impact makes it difficult to tap out for it while behind on the board. Again possibly 1 in the 75.

Fracturing Gust : Sweeping away artifacts/enchantments is relevant, although this is a slow way to do it. The symmetry can also limit your own deckbuilding.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir:Flash threat that, upon resolution, will win blue mirrors and some combo matchups. Value limited when blue decks are not common.

Jace, Memory Adept: Sometimes used as a way to mill out an opponent.

Gideon Jura : Everything we want in a planeswalker/win condition - it can protect itself or the player, and still hits hard. 1-2.

Batterskull: Great for grinding out the game, this threat comes with built-in protection. 1-2 would be reasonable for the maindeck.

Hallowed Burial: A hoser used to beat dredge, as we put all their stuff back into their deck.

Baneslayer Angel: Most efficient 5 drop around. All the key words. However, tapping out for 5 without protection can result in tempo swings via Terminate or path.

Dragonlord Ojutai: Hexproof with attached Anticipate are great features of a finisher. Minamo, School at Water's Edge is used help keep hexproof. 1-2 are starting to appear in lists.

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AEtherling: Typically seen in budget builds, Aetherling acts as an exceptionally difficult finsiher to deal with, as you can blink it to wrath, or when an opponent targets it, and is great for the long game.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion: If you want a 6 mana card to grind through the grindiest matchups, look no further. 1-2 in the 75 can make for a potent top end.

Sun Titan: You certainly get all the value, but the mana cost can be prohibitive in some metas. Usually ran as a one-of if at all.

Wurmcoil Engine: Resilient threat that can stabilize troublesome board positions quickly, again ran as a one of if at all.

Torrential Gearhulk: Snapcaster #5+, gearhulk can only hit instants which means cryptic is the best hit. 1-2 are possible as the top end of the maindeck.

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GOOD MATCHUPS: The Good Matchups for this deck are midrange and aggro decks.

FAIR MATCHUPS: Control and combo decks are grindy games that we can usually win.

POOR MATCHUPS: The poor matchups for this deck are Tron, Burn, and Lantern Control.

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In addition to this decklist, here are some examples:

A Guide On How To Be Boring

Competitive Azorius Control on a Budget

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If you like this primer, check out my profile @ Sargeras to see more primers in this series. Also, if you like this primer, give it an upvote and/or leave a comment, I always love hearing constructive talk about deckbuilding.

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Date added 1 year
Last updated 1 year

This deck is Modern legal.

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 2.53
Folders Modern
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