Control Zur

This is a competitive EDH deck for competitive metagames. Competitive metagames are defined by resilient, fast, combo decks that try to win by turn 3, or turn 4 with protection. The other big component of a competitive EDH metagame are stax decks. Stax decks try to slow down the game and prevent people from comboing. Control Zur beats both of these.

First of all, Protean Hulk decks (and some Hermit Druid decks) are just faster than (combo, Ad Nauseam , storm)-Zur decks. So you can't reliably plan to race them. You have to plan to slow down their first combo attempt, then either combo off yourself or just bury them with card advantage from Necropotence . So this means you have to have a bunch of quality 1 and 2 CMC counterspells, as well as some graveyard hate like Rest in Peace and Grafdigger's Cage . It's possible you might even want Leyline of the Void or Planar Void or other graveyard stuff. If you start building a deck with those elements, you start cutting some of the graveyard things that fuel combo Zur, like Yawgmoth's Will and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  , to make room for more reliably early interaction. Then you realize the combo elements in a combo-Zur deck don't usually help you early-game, and your early-game survivability is based on the density of early interaction you have. Pretty soon you end up with a control deck that uses slower but more slot-efficient combos like Rest in Peace + Helm of Obedience , and that basically gets us here.

On the other hand, Zur is super resilient to Stax. Basically the only stax piece that shuts down Zur's ability is Aven Mindcensor , so if there's some decks doing a lot of staxing, you can usually just play 4 lands, cast Zur, and then get Necropotence and start winning. Zur (with enough lands) generally has good game against stax. Zur builds that are trying to storm out can be much more vulnerable to stax. If you're not using typical combo-storm-Zur win cons, Zur decks can be built that don't have to cast a single spell beside Zur himself, making you almost immune to stax effects that tax spells, prevent spell casting, or attack your mana.

That's how we get to this deck.

This is a control deck, which is also kind of dependent upon its general. We want to get Zur out as soon as we can, so we can get Necropotence (usually), but first we usually have to blunt our opponents' attempts to win or advance their gameplan.

Early Game (turns 1-3) : Ramp and Counter Important Stuff

First, slow down faster decks while ramping to Zur. We can do this in two ways. Decks running a lot of mana elves can be faster, since they have more and more reliable first-turn ramp options. We can try to stop those with the tabernacle of pendrell vale or Cursed Totem . If the combo is general-dependent, we can use a Gilded Drake for after they cast the general. Pretty much every combo can be slowed by Aven Mindcensor . Graveyard combos can be stopped with Rest in Peace or Grafdigger's Cage . Otherwise we can hold up counterspells for key combo-spells. If possible, we can try to land Mystic Remora (with ramp), or Rhystic Study , which will help us keep enough counterspells to remain competitive. Keep in mind that sometimes you have to choose between holding up interaction and casting a signet; it's usually right to hold up interaction if you can. Although if you can only stop one person from going off, it's ok to tap out to increase your development, signaling to your opponents that they're going to have to stop each other from winning while you're tapped out.

Mid Game (turns 4-6) : Cast Zur and Get a Card Draw Engine

Next, try to play Zur while you can hold up at least 1 counterspell for him; or give him haste immediately. There's a lot of 1-CMC and 0-CMC counterspells, and two haste-cards. Usually the first thing to get is Necropotence , unless your life total is under significant pressure, or your hand is all interaction and you don't want to discard with Necropotence . In that case, maybe get Rhystic Study , or get an answer to some of the problems on-board ( Aura of Silence , Rest in Peace , or Grasp of Fate ), and set up to get Solitary Confinement in play the next turn.

Late Game (turns 6-8) : Establish Control

Then, establish control. Maybe everyone is out of gas and you have a handful of interaction. Maybe you have Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance . Maybe you can set up Notion Thief and Timetwister / Windfall . Maybe you can just sit behind Necropotence and Solitary Confinement and just counter stuff that would destroy your enchantments. Maybe you have Rest in Peace and your opponents are on graveyard decks. You're pretty much going to need some kind of draw-superiority, because there aren't that many counterspells in a 100-card singleton deck: if you have to spend your counters and interaction, you'll have to draw a lot of cards to reliably reload. So you'll need to have Necropotence and a high life total; or Rhystic Study ; or Mystic Remora and a lot of ramp; or steal some draws with a Notion Thief ; or something.

End Game (turns 9-12) : Win

Finally, set up for one of the wins. Once you have established control, decide if you can protect a Helm of Obedience long enough to take out three opponents. If not, try swinging with Zur and Empyrial Armor + Cartouche of Ambition to gain life, and then spend that life on Necropotence again. If you can get Thought Vessel or Reliquary Tower and you have 25+ life, you can draw 20 and just one-hit someone with commander damage using Empyrial Armor .

Rule #1: Fetch Necropotence

Usually, get Necropotence . This works best if you've dropped some of your hand ramping and countering other threats, so you're low on cards and filling up with necro is a good idea. Also, it's almost literally unbeatable if you happen to have no max handsize from Reliquary Tower or Thought Vessel . Don't get Necropotence if you're in so much danger or your life total is so low that you'll be under 10 life by your next turn. Also don't get Necropotence if you have a full hand of great interaction, since you don't really gain much by paying a bunch of life to discard whatever you draw.

If for some reason Necropotence isn't right...

If your life is low and you're in a lot of danger, get an answer, like Grasp of Fate , or if you have some other draw engine going, Solitary Confinement .

If your life is ok but your hand is all interaction, get Rhystic Study (or possibly Mystic Remora if you have a lot of ramp in play). This'll make it harder for your opponents to interact with your interaction, by refilling your hand and giving you more answers.

If you really need to stop graveyard stuff, always get Rest in Peace . You can even do this before getting Necropotence .

If two or three of your opponents have Tymna the Weaver or Sylvan Library go for Chains of Mephistopheles / Spirit of the Labyrinth . The other time to do this is if you already have Windfall or Timetwister in hand and are trying to discard everyone's hand, so that you can then refill with Necropotence .

Once you have a draw engine in play

...Then decide what will help you establish control the best:

Choose Arcane Laboratory if you have a lot of counters in hand and your opponents are on spell-based decks.

Choose Aura of Silence if your opponents are on artifact-fueled combo decks (anything in esper or grixis that might literally storm out or try to win with Dramatic Reversal + Isochron Scepter ) or Food Chain decks.

Choose Counterbalance if you have (or can spare a tutor to find) Sensei's Divining Top . It's also ok with just Necropotence in play because you can always pay 1 life to get a new card on top to try and counter your opponents' next spell.

Choose Solitary Confinement if you're playing against stax decks that are literally trying to beat you to death.

If you need to gain life

Then you have to fetch out Empyrial Armor and Cartouche of Ambition . It's possible you can cast one of these from your hand and do it faster than 2 consecutive Zur triggers.

The two combos we run, while they look slow, are actually terrific.

Thus far, these two win conditions have really overperformed. I thought they'd be weak, and I spent time looking for other wincons, but I now think you don't need them. Having less dead cards (like redundant or tertiary wincons) also makes the whole deck better, by increasing the amount of interaction and business the deck packs. This deck (currently) is down to 3 total dead cards for the win conditions ( Helm of Obedience , Empyrial Armor , and Cartouche of Ambition ). That's waaaaay better than most cEDH decks. And Cartouche of Ambition isn't even totally dead if you draw it, it can frequently kill something pretty important like Aven Mindcensor or Dark Confidant or Hermit Druid .


I used to think that it'd be too slow to kill with Rest in Peace + Helm of Obedience . After all, you only kill one person a turn cycle! But, it's easy to overlook how awesome Rest in Peace is in the current cEDH meta. You usually want to be fetching out Rest in Peace at some point anyway. It really helps to establish control against many of the stronger decks in the format: Protean Hulk decks, Hermit Druid decks, Razaketh, the Foulblooded decks, reanimator decks, Kess decks, Yawgmoth's Will storm decks, Doomsday decks, The Gitrog Monster , etc... Rest in Peace might be the strongest card in the whole metagame. So fetching Rest in Peace is always a tempo-positive play. Then you just have a one-card combo with Helm of Obedience ; you have to be able to protect it of course, but most decks have far less stack interaction than this one, and less card draw, so protecting a threat isn't as hard as it might sound. Usually, if you know your opponents' decks, you can make a pretty good guess at which opponent is most dangerous, or most likely to destroy your helm. Kill that player first! Then you only have 2 remaining opponents before you can kill another player. You're not actually waiting "a full turn cycle" to kill another player, you're only waiting for X-1 opponents to have turns, and then X-2, and then just 1 opponent to have a turn... It gets faster and faster to take out each opponent.

Voltron Zur

The Voltron Zur plan with Empyrial Armor and lifelink from Cartouche of Ambition is pretty slick since Zur can fetch both pieces of it. There's basically a third piece, Necropotence , which you always want anyway. But it's very cool to have a win-con that (1) doesn't require casting a single spell, (2) refills your hand by gaining you life to spend on card draw, and (3) continues to provide value on each turn by tutoring an enchantment. Gaining life and drawing cards with Necropotence also provides infinite fuel for Solitary Confinement , which is pretty key in a lot of games. It's hard to overstate how slick it is to have a win condition that just requires Zur in play; there's no tutoring required, no spell casting, you don't have to tap out, you don't have to navigate staxy things, you just swing with Zur and then the whole win is in play. It works really well under cover of an Arcane Laboratory effect. Its also possible to surprise people with a huge Zur attack. Sometimes you get the Reliquary Tower and can draw 20 with Necropotence , making Zur's next attack lethal if you choose to fetch up Empyrial Armor . This also works if you happen to land a Notion Thief + Windfall combo, although the Necropotence route to fill up your hand is much more common.

This deck was originally designed to clean up in a metagame of mostly green-based decks that were either 1) graveyard combos or 2) hatebear stax or 3) both. And, it turns out, it's easy to build a Zur deck combining stax and control elements to survive and thrive in a Stax and Hate Bears meta with tons of graveyard decks. That's this deck, right here!

Green and Graveyard decks have a lot of similarities. They all play a lot of creatures. They play a lot of mana elves. They tend to play cards like Stony Silence , Null Rod , Trinisphere , and stuff that shuts down non-creature mana. They like to win with graveyard-based plans like Razzaketh, the Foul-Blooded, or Protean Hulk , or Hermit Druid .

These decks tend to fold to cards like: Cursed Totem , Linvala, Keeper of Silence , Rest in Peace , Grafdigger's Cage , Containment Priest , Leyline of the Void , The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale . Even Porphyry Nodes is pretty good against a bunch of elves and Thrasios. A board wipe like Supreme Verdict or Yahenni's Expertise is also pretty strong.

Control Zur has the tools to beat these decks. And it turns out, it's pretty good against most things.

The exact mix of control cards you want to run should be chosen to be most effective in your own actual metagame. Some types of decks will be overrepresented and others underrepresented; you can and should adjust the decklist to have more answers for those decks you see a lot of, and fewer for those you see less of.

Control Cards

Counterbalance : This is super awesome with Sensei's Divining Top , and also pretty good with Necropotence , fetchlands, top-deck tutors, and randomly Brainstorm . But basically I now think this card is far too good to omit. Most competitive EDH decks have 35-45 spells of 1 or 2 CMC. You can randomly counter those. But besides that, it makes people slow down; nobody tries to combo through a counterbalance because it just feels so terrible to lose their spells to it. People wait until they have a bait spell to test what's on top of your library, or wait until someone else loses a spell to the counterbalance. It's basically like having a Chalice of the Void which resets itself to a random number in (0,1,2) every turn; and that number isn't even revealed until an opponent tests it. Pro Tip: don't flip and reveal for everything your opponents' cast, especially irrelevant bait spells. Wait for something that might matter. This kind of effect is very difficult to play around. Usually I won't fetch it with Zur unless I already have sensei's top, but it feels really efficient to cast from your hand for {u}{u} with or without the top in play.

Gilded Drake and Imprisoned in the Moon (and also Darksteel Mutation ): These are great if your opponents are playing decks that depend on the general. Stuff like Sisay, Yisan, Gitrog, Thrasios, Derevi, Azami, Arcum, Selvala, Animar, Edric, Brago, sometimes Tasigur, Zur, Jeleva, or Kess. If you're not facing many general-dependent decks (such as Thrasios, Triton Hero , General Tazri , Teferi, Temporal Archmage ) then you can cut these.

As Foretold : This is mostly good if your opponents are going to play some stax stuff that might really hurt us, like Stony Silence , Null Rod , Blood Moon , or Back to Basics . It's not quite good enough on its own. Bring it in against a lot of stax effects.

Chains of Mephistopheles or Spirit of the Labyrinth : This is basically for Tymna the Weaver . A lot of decks run Tymna as one of the generals. Otherwise there's less actual card draw in the format (outside of storm) - a lot of things aren't draws (e.g., Ad Nauseam , Necropotence ). But Chains is still good if you want to mind twist everyone with a Chains + Windfall and then reload with Necropotence . Another option here is Spirit of the Labyrinth which can come in against a draw-focused metagame. Spirit is fetchable by Zur unless you have Grafdigger's Cage out already. Spirit of the Labyrinth is much better against The Gitrog Monster since it prevents draws so they can't be replaced by dredges, but it's unfortunate that these get in the way of our Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora , which are some of our best effects. However, in matchups against Tyman the weaver it's probably worth using since they're likely to get their card draw going earlier than us.

Rest in Peace , Leyline of the Void , Planar Void , Containment Priest : Mostly just for graveyard stuff, if your meta doesn't have much of : Hermit Druid, Gitrog, Breakfast Hulk, Flash-Hulk, Boonweaver, Reanimator, or Breya, then you can drop Planar Void, the Leyline and the Priest (although Containment Priest is a cool surprise blocker vs. Tymna).

Grafdigger's Cage : This is like the above, but also stops Yawgmoth's Will , Protean Hulk , Yisan, and other green direct-to-battlefield tutors ( Green Sun's Zenith , Chord of Calling , Birthing Pod , etc), making it indispensable.

Arcane Laboratory and Rule of Law : these are pretty asymmetrical since you can tutor with Zur every turn and it isn't a spell-cast. These tend to make your counterspells really awesome, as compared to something like Sphere of Resistance which makes counterspells harder to use. Despite the fact that these are super strong effects, it's sometimes dangerous to put them in play. The ideal situation is where you have a handful of counterspells and Zur in play. You can fetch out Arcane Laboratory and just try to build value by swinging with Zur every turn, until you feel safe enough to go for the win. Arcane Laboratory probably works best at defending the Voltron win; you just hold up your counterspells and swing with Zur to put together Empyrial Armor + Necropotence + lifelink. Reasons to choose Arcane Laboratory over Rule of Law include the ability to pitch it to Force of Will and Misdirection , and having it be easier to cast with a mostly-blue mana base. Reasons to choose Rule of Law are that it can't be Pyroblast ed, if you cast it using a land that produces white but not blue, you're actually holding up more blue for counterspells later.

Cursed Totem , Linvala, Keeper of Silence , The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale , Planar Collapse , Toxic Deluge , Porphyry Nodes , Supreme Verdict , Yahenni's Expertise : These are the main creature-control cards; they're mostly for slowing down creature-mana elves early. The weakest are Porphyry Nodes and Planar Collapse , even though they're tutorable by Zur, they can kill Zur. Zur can survive Planar Collapse with Vanishing going on, but that is... sort of asking a lot. Similarly, you can also run Porphyry Nodes , which will hit Zur unless you get Empyrial Armor on him. But, if all your opponents play an elf, Porphyry Nodes will stay around forever just giving you value. I haven't tested Yahenni's Expertise yet, but that's also a possibility. Also Torpor Orb is possible if your meta includes a lot of... Animar, Soul of Elements or a lot of combos that are stopped by it, like General Tazri , Breya, Etherium Shaper , etc.

Winter Orb , Armageddon : If you can shut off creature-based elf mana, then some land-mana hate can really shut down some kinds of decks. This can be awkward to set up a Helm of Obedience win with no land; however if there's a ton of other stax elements in play, Armageddon works pretty good with the Zur Voltron beatdown plan. I think these are actually better against a metagame of more stax effects. But generally I would not use them since it hurts the main counterspell plan so much.

Suppression Field : This is a pretty insane card that shuts down a ton of stuff (fetchlands, strip mine, Yisan, Sisay, Razaketh, Gitrog discard outlets, Bomberman, Thrasios, Arcum, etc); but it also really hurts Necropotence . I have tried it in a more stax-focused build of Zur, but at this point I think its wrong since it does so much damage to necropotence. Could possibly bring it in against other Zur decks.

Aven Mindcensor , Aura of Silence , Grasp of Fate , Rhystic Study : These cards are basically so good you'd never cut them. Mystic Remora is close, but you can cut it if your meta is all creature-based decks.

Cyclonic Rift : While this is just an awesome spell, it can additionally lead to total locks. If you can end-of-turn overload the Rift, then do something like cast Armageddon and fetch up Aura of Silence and your land for turn is Tabernacle, this is a pretty hard lock.

Unsubstantiate , Repeal , and Into the Roil : A bounce spell or two is good (in addition to Cyclonic Rift ). So far, I've been very impressed with Unsubstantiate , which is great at bouncing creatures and also has utility as a counterspell.

Defending Zur

Lightning Greaves , Hall of the Bandit Lord : These are good for making Zur a little harder to interact with. Haste is pretty strong. Don't worry, you can still use Zur to enchant himself if he has Shroud from the greaves. You can also bring in Cavern of Souls against a blue metagame with a lot of counterspells, many of the creatures in the deck are also humans (importantly, Notion Thief ), so it can be pretty ok. However, a lot of blue decks, even those that run many counterspells, won't actually run that many unconditional counterspells that can hit a creature spell, so I haven't wanted this yet.

Swan Song , Stifle , Spell Pierce , Misdirection : It's important to have a lot of extremely cheap counterspells to help protect Zur. Stifle can be pretty key for countering a Fleshbag Marauder or Gilded Drake . Misdirection is pretty good for stuff like Abrupt Decay , which can't target Zur obviously, but does target all the good enchantments Zur gets.

Spellskite : this can stop some combos (like Selvala, Heart of the Wilds , Leonin Relic-Warder and Animate Dead , and eat Derevi, Empyrial Tactician triggers), or block a tymna, but mostly it'll just eat a bounce spell or Swords to Plowshares and let Zur live to do his thing.

Vanishing : this card is kind of marginal and sort of mana-intensive, but it can protect Zur from anything. Can be cut if you're not expecting any midrange decks or very much creature removal or wraths. Particularly, this is one of the only answers to Supreme Verdict . Supreme verdict is generally rare in competitive EDH, but does show up in some kinds of control and midrange lists.

Diplomatic Immunity : this is ok if your meta is packing a really large amount of targeted removal for Zur and other problematic commanders. Then you only have to worry about wraths, which reduces the burden on your counterspell suite. Similarly Greater Auramancy can work in this slot.

Proactive Cards

Necropotence + Empyrial Armor + Thought Vessel / Reliquary Tower : You can frequently one-hit someone if you draw 20 cards with necropotence and don't have to discard them.

Notion Thief + Windfall / Timetwister : this is usually a win.

Over time playing this deck, I've moved more away from static, on-board answers to things and more to counterspells. So, less stax and more control. Or more draw-go. Counterspells are just really flexible answers for a lot of things; they can defend your own win or stop someone else's. I'm pretty sure you want at least 12 counterspells (and you can count stuff like Stifle ) although I'm currently at 14. It's good to have more than most decks so when you get to draw a bunch of cards with Necropotence you're likely to hit one or two of them. For example, if you're running 10 counterspells, and you empty your hand fighting over Zur to get Necropotence in play, even if you then draw 20 cards, on average only 2 of those will be counters.

The top counterspells are probably these:

Uncuttable Counterspells:

  1. Force of Will
  2. Mana Drain
  3. Swan Song
  4. Mental Misstep
  5. Arcane Denial

Conditional Counters Almost Always Worth Using:

  1. Delay
  2. Counterspell
  3. Spell Pierce
  4. Negate

Conditional Counterspells Usually Worth Using

  1. Unsubstantiate
  2. Misdirection
  3. Stifle
  4. Flusterstorm
  5. Spell Snare
  6. Dispel

Counters I Don't Actually Want to Try:

  1. Mindbreak Trap
  2. Pact of Negation
  3. Dimir Charm
  4. Warping Wail

Where the orderings within tiers is a little fuzzy, and meta dependent. Some comments. Actual Counterspell is hard cause of the double blue, which makes it hard to hold up more than 2 pieces of interaction in a single turn cycle, making stuff like Arcane Denial or Delay better since it costs {1}{u} and we usually have a rock or something around to help cast the spell, making the cost almost like just {u}. Note however that Delay is less good in a long-game control list like this one, since the game frequently does last another three turns for the spell to come off delay. Whereas in a faster combo deck, the game is definitely won or lost before the spell comes off delay. Unsubstantiate is surprisingly good; bouncing a creature has been great against decks that rely on a few key creatures; and against decks that don't rely on creatures, bouncing a spell back to their hand can usually bottleneck them on mana at a critical moment and function as well as a counter. Misdirection and Unsubstantiate can also deal with uncounterable spells. Flusterstorm is very narrow. I don't run Dispel right now, but it's an option if your metagame has a lot of Ad Nauseam decks that are trying to resolve important instants, or in general if you find yourself doing a lot of fighting on the stack. I'm currently testing Spell Snare but it looks pretty good. Stifle is just great for making you pretty invulnerable to all the weird things people try to do. You can stop a lot of combos, and stop a lot of things that might wreck you, like a Bane of Progress trigger or Aetherflux Reservoir activations.

I haven't tried Mindbreak Trap but it seems bad; remember we can fetch up Arcane Laboratory . Still, would be an option to try against a meta of spell-slinger storm decks. Pact of Negation is a possibility, but I don't like the 5 CMC trigger on the next turn; it just feels to much like saying "Ok, I'm stopping you from winning now, but on my next turn, I'll be out of mana and out of options, so just win then." Dimir Charm is too narrow, and the double-color casting cost is pretty unappealing. Warping Wail is remarkably similar, although probably easier to cast.

I can't stress this enough, but you should tailor your interaction suite to your own metagame. If you're running against fewer green and graveyard decks, but more storm, you might need to make some changes. Try Rule of Law or Spirit of the Labyrinth .

Containment Priest vs. Massacre : I think these depend on how much graveyard reanimation you have going on in your meta. Whereas Massacre is better if you're playing against more hate-bears and mana elves.

Imprisoned in the Moon vs. Spell Snare : Imprisoned is currently out since I'd rather run more actual, instant-speed counterspells. But it's extremely good at shutting down general-dependent decks.

Repeal vs. Into the Roil : I'm running Repeal for now since using it on our own stuff ( Mana Vault or Grim Monolith ) is pretty cool; also you can just cycle it targeting a mox.

Search for Azcanta   or Consecrated Sphinx : sometimes you want a little more gas. Search is really good early, and then later it becomes less exciting since you can't flip it with Rest in Peace , but even just the scry 1 every turn is ok. Sphinx is a huge bomb and castable late game, but it needs to be protected. You can add one of these for something narrow and inappropriate for your meta.

Vanishing , Diplomatic Immunity , or Greater Auramancy : if you need a little more protection for Zur, these are ok.

The manabase is built to play around Back to Basics and Blood Moon pretty well. The four basic islands, one basic plains and one basic swamp help this plan. This means we can't run Tainted Pact as an uber tutor, but it's not great in a control build anyway. We also don't want to be playing High Tide since that leads to a storm build which is generally difficult to pull off against stax decks; also that would mean we'd end up playing at least 8 basic islands, which is something we don't want to do. Using as many artifact mana rocks as possible also helps to play against Back to Basics and Blood Moon , while also hedging against land destruction ( Armageddon or Winter Orb ). The high artifact count helps to enable Mox Opal , which is key turn-1 ramp for a non-green deck.

If you're not playing against Blood Moon and Back to Basics every game, you can cut the basic Swamp . This is pretty redundant with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and is generally not needed. You can also drop it for more interaction and go down to 30 mana-producing lands.

While blue is the most important color, and we frequently get limited by the amount of blue we can produce in a turn, we can't go all in on islands. There's a few cards that cost double white, so we need to have a the ability to produce most of our colors in multiples - we might end up hard casting Necropotence , Empyrial Armor and Counterspell all in the same game. For this reason we keep both Scrubland and Godless Shrine - fetching out white is frequently pretty important. We play Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to help get mana out of a Hall of the Bandit Lord or The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale . It feels really good to be able to tap the tabernacle to pay for Zur's upkeep. Urborg is also good for hardcasting Necropotence , of course. Urborg also lets you get around a lot of tricky things, like it lets you tap Ancient Tomb or Mana Confluence without taking damage; it lets you get mana out of fetch lands while someone has an Aven Mindcensor or a Root Maze .

Ramp is pretty key. The Helm of Obedience win con is pretty mana intensive, you usually have to play it for 4 and tap for 1 on the same turn, and on that same turn you'll have to be holding up a counterspell, too. The Grim Monolith and Mana Vault are here mostly to enable those plays, but also to enable a turn 1 play where you drop a Mana Vault and then 1 or two signets or talismans. You pretty much always want to make that play, because it's critical to get your counterspells on line early and get developed so you can deploy a card drawing engine and start going to value town. Similarly, Gemstone Caverns is awesome in a deck that wants to get out to fast start and then draw a lot of cards.

Necropotence : A player who skips their draw step doesn't take damage from a tapped Mana Vault .

Solitary Confinement : With this in play, you don't take damage from City of Brass , Ancient Tomb , Mana Crypt , or Mana Vault . You also cannot be targeted by an opponent's Carpet of Flowers which must target to provide any mana.

Lightning Greaves : Zur can still enchant himself or other permanents with shroud or hexproof using Zur's attack trigger. This is because Auras only target while you're casting them, and have to be attached to something to exist on the battlefield. This can be pretty key if you ever play against a Narset, Enlightened Master deck, which you can get rid of with Imprisoned in the Moon or Darksteel Mutation - but not with Grasp of Fate , because grasp is not an aura, and has an ETB trigger that targets.

Misdirection : You can counter a Counterspell with Misdirection by targeting the counterspell with misdirection. Note Misdirection has only a single target, so you don't have to announce what you plan to change the target to when you cast the Misdirection . When Misdirection resolves, you change the target of Counterspell to be Misdirection , which is still on the stack and is a legal target. Then Misdirection finishes resolving and is placed in the graveyard, and then the Counterspell has no legal target and it fizzles. Note you can do this to a Mana Drain and the Mana Drain won't resolve to give its controller any mana.

Chains of Mephistopheles : This only stops card draw which is written with the words "draw a card" in rules text. It doesn't stop other ways of putting cards into your hand, most notably Necropotence , Dark Confidant , and Ad Nauseam .

That's it! This is literally the best deck I've ever played. It might take a little to adjust to your own metagame, but I'm confidant it'll work out for you, too. Let me know (post below) if you find success or issues with it. And if you like it or learned something, please hit the +1!

Updates Add

I've been testing Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, Verity Circle, and Font of Agonies.

So far I think Lavinia is a lot worse than she looks. She's good if you can get her down turn 1, but after that people have already cast their zero-drops. And then she has anti-synergy with the Control Game Plan: which is to make the game go really long, so everyone puts a lot of lands into play, so her other ability doesn't do anything, either. Its too bad cause she looks so amazing, but so far testing isn't bearing that out.

Font of Agonies I think is too narrow. Mostly I'd rather just have Imprisoned in the Moon, but I think if you really want to swap that for Font of Agonies it might be ok vs. certain midrange metagames.

Verity Circle so far has been very good. It's dead vs. a bunch of stuff, like Kess or other Zur decks, but against anything with green it's just awesome. I think this is a keeper.

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