Standard Azorius Soldiers Primer & Sideboard Guide
14/01/2023 · 9 min read
Intro: The state of Standard
As we await the release of Phyrexia: All Will Be One, Standard continues to have a solid foundation of Tier decks : Grixis, Esper, and MonoWhite are predominantly the most played decks in the format and have been getting the best results in recent tournaments.
UW Soldiers have been making a big splash in the last few weeks. The deck has allowed me to take first and fourth place in the last two Standard Challenges on Magic Online . Eight copies were seen across the top 16 decks in both tournaments, cementing its place as a top-tier competitive deck.
The secret's out: a classic aggro deck with a strong tribal synergy around soldiers.
My Current Version of the Deck
|3 Harbin, Vanguard Aviator||$0.35|
|3 Dennick, Pious Apprentice||$0.49|
|4 Yotian Frontliner||$0.25|
|4 Skystrike Officer||$0.79|
|4 Recruitment Officer||$0.49|
|4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben||$1.49|
|4 Siege Veteran||$1.49|
|4 Valiant Veteran||$2.29|
|4 Resolute Reinforcements||$0.35|
|2 Slip Out the Back||$2.79|
|1 Otawara, Soaring City||$17.99|
|1 Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire||$7.99|
|1 Deserted Beach||$8.99|
|3 Mishra's Foundry||$0.99|
|4 Secluded Courtyard||$2.49|
|4 Fortified Beachhead||$0.59|
|4 Adarkar Wastes||$4.49|
|1 Spell Pierce||$0.29|
|3 Loran of the Third Path||$6.99|
|3 Protect the Negotiators||$0.25|
|4 Brutal Cathar||$6.99|
|4 Extraction Specialist||$1.99|
Recruitment Officer is a great drop, aggressive with 2 power and a very relevant ability, granting card advantage in the mid/late game.
Yotian Frontliner isn't the best card, but unfortunately we don't have better options, however it plays a decent role by increasing the power of another soldier in an attack and even if it dies in the process, it can come back later. Slip Out the Back serves as an interesting combat trick, both removing a blocker in front and saving one of your creatures from removal.
Thalia Guardian of Thraben
Thalia remains an excellent drop2, making life difficult for decks that abuse non-creature spells and also has tribal synergy as a Soldier.
Valiant Veteran is a good lord in a low curve, and can even increase the power of its creatures even if it is removed. Resolute Reinforcements is a creature that can be made on the opponent's turn, leaving the board bigger and the deck better against spot removals.
Dennick, Pious Apprentice
Dennick is a recent addition, being an important creature against other aggressive decks, with lifelink and a relevant ability against cards like Graveyard Trespasser and Corpse Appraiser. But Harbin really shines, being an aggressive creature by itself at 3/2 with flying, but with the other 5 Soldiers it makes his whole platoon stronger and harder to block.
The highest curve of the deck is occupied by Siege Veteran, filling the role that Luminarch Aspirant used to in MonoW last season. It increases the power of your creatures, and offers some resilience against removal, replacing the soldier that was destroyed with a token. Skystrike Officer is a true card advantage machine, rarely seen in aggressive decks, and provides evasion while putting more bodies in the battlefield every attack.
Brutal Cathar is the key card vs other aggro decks. Extraction Specialist is one of the best cards for mirror matches. When life gain is relevant, such as with MonoRed and Loran decks, this card is even more valuable against decks that rely heavily on artifacts and enchantments, such as UR and MonoWhite.
Counters are essential for matches where we need to respond to cards with a higher mana cost that could disrupt our gameplan, such as UR and MonoWhite.
Below, I will list some of the major decks in the format and how I have sided against them.
The Grixis matchup really depends a lot on how many sweepers, like Brotherhood's End, they play. But even after facing them, it's possible to win; an example of this is the match from the challenge I played last week.
Despite all the removal, the deck still held strong, with great assist from Mishra’s Foundry, which kept the opponent on the back foot. Thalia was also a huge help in this match, stalling out the removals, and the dreaded Fable of the Mirror Breaker.
My opponent played Invoke Despair here, which I believe was a mistake, as this deck makes a lot of tokens and we also post-sideboard counterspells, making it difficult to cast heavier cards that don't make much of an impact on the board. Yotian Frontliner will come out in most matches, and it's no different here, bringing in more counters to combat key cards like Sheoldred and sweepers. We could bring in Extraction Specialist, but I believe Dennick is more important, as he's a great blocker for Fable's token and prevents the card advantage that Corpse Appraiser provides.
Esper has two different versions: a more midrange version with Wedding Announcement and counters, and a more aggressive version with Thalia and Toluz, Clever Conductor.
Against the first version, we don't need Brutal Cathar since it has more removal than the version with legends, where it really shines.
Thalia is great against the midrange version since it once again locks down the non-creature spellcast, but against Esper Legends it isn't as effective, albeit still better than Yotian Frontliner.
The version that has been appearing in Challenges the most is the one with legends, which is good news for our deck. Boarding up and trying to pull off a lethal attack with Harbin is the most effective way to win. If possible, try to keep Otawara in hand to deal with Sheoldred or Ao, the Dawn Sky, who interfere with our game plan.
One of the best decks in the meta, but some cards can be quite troublesome, like Steel Seraph or potential sweepers in the mainboard. Once again, playing around the table is a great plan and we don't have to worry too much about what our opponent might do. We can get around Weeding Announcement and the 1 for 1 that The Wandering Emperor does isn't too significant. Keep Harbin in hand whenever possible as it makes it less vulnerable to Lay Down Arms. After sideboarding, we can bring in some counters and Loran, which is excellent, especially against Seraph and Temporary Lockdown.
Being on the play or on the draw is very important in the mirror, as whoever puts the most pressure has a huge advantage. Harbin is a real win condition here, and usually the game is over when someone gets 5 soldiers and resolves a lethal attack, only being able to escape with Otawara or a temporary Slip Out the Back.
Another match with no secrets, keeping aggressive and curved hands. After sideboarding, the game improves a bit with the help of Brutal Cathar. Thalia does not help at all here. We can also swap some Dennicks for Extraction Specialists, but the lifelink on a soldier creature ends up being a bit more relevant and the two together end up canceling each other out.
Thalia really shines in this match, but our opponent probably already has sweepers in the main deck, making our life a bit harder. Here, we switch out Dennick for Specialist, as it's a great play after removals, especially bringing key cards like Thalia and Recruitment Officer back. We add some counters to try to fight back against the removal onslaught, but we don't need them all and Loran ends up being great, since the deck usually has Thran Spider post-sideboard.
UW Soldiers are standing out as an aggressive, resilient, and highly synergistic tribal deck. For lovers of aggressive decks, it's a great choice for upcoming tournaments and it'll likely be my go-to until the release of Phyrexia: All Will be One.
Until next time!
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Published: 2023-01-14 00:00:00