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Pioneer Azorius Control Sideboard Guide

Oscar Franco
09/09/2022 · 7 min read

About me

Hi, my name is Oscar and I often spend my free time grinding on MTGO. In this article, I'm going to try to explain my choices and strategies for playing the deck I used to win the Pioneer Challenge last weekend: UW control .

My personal process to track the matchups

Before going into the details of the deck I’d like to share my process for preparing for a large tournament such as the LEC Sofia.

I like to use a table like the previous one. I track my results against tier 1 and 2 decks, as well and whether I was on the play or on the draw. I think this is the only way  to get the complete picture, as a match can be very different depending on the opponent or if someone has to do some mulligans.

Therefore, I have based most of my decisions about my choices in the results coming from this table.

My current UW control decklist

This is the deck that I used during the last Pioneer Challenge. I will use it  as a reference for this sideboard guide.

Sideboard guide & comments

Now that you know how I track my matches, let's talk about how this deck fares against the meta.

UR phoenix

This is probably the easiest matchup for the deck, and always has been (even when Expressive Iteration was still legal). Game 1 might be a little harder because we have some dead cards that don't do anything against them, but I still think we have a good chance of winning. For games 2 and 3 we're in a really good position after sideboarding, with our only worry being cards like Saheeli, Sublime Artificer.

We need to be careful with Galvanic Iteration  and Temporal Trespass , because they can bypass our counterspells and allow our opponent to win the game. It's also important to keep some of our removal spells  after sideboarding, because we can easily die to an early Young Pyromancer if we left all of them out.

  • In:  +2 Narset +2 Dispute +2 Rip +1 Veto
  • Out: -2 Hole -1 Farewell -1 Doomskar -1 Deluge -2 Absorb

Mono Green

This is one of the matchups that has taught me the most since I started playing this deck under the current metagame. Thanks to a few changes in the deck, I've been able to turn the matchup around and make it quite a bit better. The cards in question are Detention Sphere in the main deck and Elspeth, Sun's Champion in the sideboard.

I generally think that counterspells and wraths don't have that much of an impact, since they don't usually have more than 1-2 relevant creatures in play. For this matchup I prefer to include The Wandering Emperator or Elspeth, Sun's Champion to deal with their creatures (in addition, they have the advantage of being much more versatile if you don't need the wrath effect).

In this matchup I sideboard differently depending on if I'm on the draw or on the play. If I'm on the draw, March of Otherworldly Light usually always arrives too late. On the other side, If I'm on the play, it can kill their turn 1 Elf.

On the play:

  • In:  +2 dispute +2 Gust +2 Elspeth +1 Veto +2 Rest in Peace
  • Out: -2 veredict -4 censor -1 doomskar -1 typhon -1 wandering

On the draw:

  • In: +2 dispute +2 gust +2 elspeth +1 veto +2 rip
  • Out: -2 veredict -4 censor -1 doomskar -2 march

Rakdos Midrange

Like against Mono Green, this is one of the matchups where I've improved my chances of winning by using the table that I use to track the results that I commented at the beginning of the article. Based on my experience, Detention Sphere and Elspeth are great against this deck too, so by adding those 4 cards to our decklist we are improving our chances against two of our hardest matchups.

We also have Starnheim Unleashed as a great addition against this deck. It substitutes Dream Trawler, which is not playable anymore with the arrival of Liliana of the Veil. It is also worse than Lyra and Baneslayer in aggro matchups.

The sideboard plan is quite intuitive since they don´t have too many creatures with converted mana cost 2 or less.

  • In: +2 gust +2 elspeth +1 stanheim
  • Out: -4 hole -1 farewell

UW Control & UW Yorion (Mirror)

Not sure what to say here. I won because I played this deck a lot lately (yes, also in Modern). It's also important to say that the 80-card version is a really bad matchup because they start with one more card, and spells like Omen of the Sea prevent them from seeing bad cards or getting screwed.

Sideboarding in this matchup is quite intuitive. However, if you are reading this guide to play the deck on MTGO, you need to be aware of the time limit and how important the match time is. So don't waste your time if it's not necessary.

  • In: +2 narset +2 dispute +2 elspeth +1 veto +1 Stanheim (veredict if is 80 cards)
  • Out: -4 hole -2 veredict -1 farewell -1 doomskar

RBx Sacrifice

This matchup is always tricky and difficult to play against because there are a lot of different versions and it is hard to know what to expect. We are going to assume that the most common version is the one with Unlucky Witness, some copies of Ob Nixilis, the Adversary between main and side, and without Liliana.

If we see Liliana in any game, or if it becomes popular in the deck, we shouldn't side in Lyra or Baneslayer. Otherwise, they are great since they can usually stop everything on the table.

  • In: +2 rip +2 gust +1 lyra +1 baneslayer +1 lockdown +2 narset
  • Out: -4 censor -1 doomskar -2 veredict  -2 deluge

Mono w humans

This deck seems to have taken the place of RW heroic in the meta. The matchup between the two decks is usually close, and often comes down to a dice roll.

I tried to improve it by adding a copy of Temporary Lockdown to the deck instead of a 5th wrath effect,  since it arrives a turn earlier. I know this card has a negative synergy with Portable Hole, but I still think it's good because in the early game we need a removal at any cost. We can deal with the inconvenience in the late game when we have more resources.

  • In: +1 lyra +1 baneslayer +1 lockdown +1 stanheim
  • Out: -2 veto -2 deluge

Abzan Greasefang

This is probably the matchup where I learned more in the last few days. I beat them twice in the last challenge after a terrible set of matches against them (1-6). Seeing the situation, I decided to put 1 Lyra and 1 Baneslayer to fight against them and I think that the plan worked.

It seems that our opponents are now playing Liliana of the Veil, which may be advantageous for us because we have so many dead cards. This card is also anti-synergistic with the rest of our opponents' deck, and often provides us with an extra turn. However, after sideboarding, this card becomes better against us, since it provides a way to kill our angels.

The other key change is the addition of 2 copies of Saw it Coming instead of 2 Absorb. This allows us to foretold our counter and protect it from being discarded.

  • In: +1 lyra +1 baneslayer +2 rip +1 stanheim +2 dispute
  • Out: -4 hole -2 deluge -1 veto

Mono red

It seems that the deck is not being played too much, but this could change, as it is not badly positioned in the metagame. The addition of Phoenix Chick could make the deck much better.

Since we changed 2 Absorb for 2 See it Coming, game 1 seems harder, but games 2 and 3 seem better thanks to the addition of Lyra and Baneslayer.

  • In: +1 Lyra +1 Baneslayer +2 Gust +1 Lockdown
  • Out: -2 Saw it coming -2 Deluge -1 Farewell


  • In: +1 Baneslayer +1 stanheim +1 lyra  +2 Mystical Dispute +1 Temporary Lockdown
  • Out: -2 Veto -2 Deluge -2 Saw it coming

I hope you enjoyed the article and wish you luck in your next tournament! Thank you for reading!

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Oscar Franco
MTGO Grinder


Published: 2022-09-09 00:00:00