by Shawn Massak

When I tell people I am playing Blue/White Midrange, I am often met with a confused glance and a question. Something like, “Wait, no Red?” or “Like…straight Azorius?” Despite the fact that Blue and White have been a winning combination since the Wild West days of Magic (when you could call Wizards to get on the Pro Tour), upon returning to Ravnica, people have been skeptical of basic lands having a place in their 60. “But Shawn, what about Pillar of Flame, Warleader’s Helix, and Turn // Burn? Surely, you can’t deal with many resolved threats without them.” I will usually respond to this kind of question with a sympathetic qualification: “Pillar of Flame is certainly awesome against Voice of Resurgence, or, the life gain off Helix is nice in the aggro matchups, or, it is sweet to Turn // Burn an Angel of Serenity with the ability on the stack.” I pause for a second and then go on my spiel.


  1. A two-color manabase allows you to play colorless utility lands much more effectively. In Azorius Midrange, I play two Moorland Haunt and one Ghost Quarter, whereas most American Midrange lists generally only has room for one Moorland Haunt and one Desolate Lighthouse. The additional Moorland Haunt is important when trying to close out the game against an opponent drawing off the top or for chumping creatures until drawing into a wrath effect. Ghost Quarter disables other utility lands like Kessig Wolf Run, which give decks like this headaches, while further punishing decks running no basics.
  2. A two-color manabase deals less damage to you in general. Azorius Midrange only plays four shocklands in stark contrast to American Midrange’s 11-12. While playing against a deck like Gruul Aggro, the potential life saved in running fewer shocklands shouldn’t be underestimated.
  3. Replacing the burn spells with card draw and counters makes the deck better in control matchups as well as many midrange matchups, including American Midrange. Most American lists forgo Thought Scour in favor of some number of burn spells. While the burn spells are arguably better for the aggro matchups, Thought Scour is so good at making the Azorius deck more consistent. Thought Scour helps to ensure you hit land drops, puts instants and sorceries in the graveyard for Snapcaster Mage, is itself a cheap Snapcaster target, and puts creatures in the graveyard for Moorland Haunt. Furthermore, by cutting the burn spells Azorius Midrange can play a full six counterspells, allowing the deck to play a better control game in the mirror.

This is the list I am playing:

Azorius Midrange

Creatures (12)
Augur of Bolas
Restoration Angel
Snapcaster Mage


Spells (22)
Azorius Charm
Renounce the Guilds
Runechanter's Pike
Sphinx's Revelation
Supreme Verdict
Think Twice
Thought Scour


Land (25)
Azorius Guildgate
Ghost Quarter
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Moorland Haunt

Sideboard (15)
Jace, Memory Adept
Oblivion Ring
Pithing Needle
Purify the Grave
Renounce the Guilds
Righteous Blow
Riot Control

I am playing the same maindeck as MODO user Veto, who piloted the deck to a top eight finish in a recent Standard Premier. My sideboard is pretty close to Veto’s as well, with the difference being -1 Increasing Confusion, -1 Supreme Verdict, -1 Tamiyo, Moon Sage and +1 Jace, Memory Adept, +1 Righteous Blow, +1 Pithing Needle.

I took the deck to my weekly Wednesday Night Standard event at Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 26 other players shared the busy basement with board gamers and a few small congregations of RPG enthusiasts. After showing up early and perusing the bulk bin, I sat down to play round one.

Pandemonium Basement

Round One: Jon with Junk Aristocrats

Jon is a good player and a regular at Pandemonium. While I can attest to him being a good dude who I have joked with in between rounds, during games he is borderline dour, passing the turn with a silent hand flip and donning a pair of headphones that I imagine to be exclusively playing “The Graveyard Symphony” aka the Undertaker’s theme music in  WWE. If Jon were a magic card you would certainly cast him with swamps.

During game one, I cast a turn four Supreme Verdict to wipe out his Cartel Aristocrat and a Skirsdag High Priest. The next two turns, I cast Sphinx’s Revelation for two and three respectively, while he played dual Blood Artists. I was able to play a Restoration Angel on his next end step, equip it with Runechanter’s Pike, and race the Blood Artists, who became formidable fighters thanks to Gavony Township. I ended the game at ten life while my Restoration Angel swung for 11.

I sideboarded like this:

-2 Thought Scour

-1 Runechanter’s Pike

-2 Rewind

+3 Terminus

+1 Renounce

+1 Pithing Needle

Game two, Jon started out with a mulligan while I kept my opening seven. Jon started the game with a Deathrite Shaman into Sin Collector, taking Terminus, my only spell. Things are starting to look bad for me but I untap and casually miracle another Terminus. On his turn, Jon starts to rebuild his board with Cartel Aristocrat and Voice of Resurgence, forcing me to cast a Sphinx’s Revelation on my turn and pass. On his turn he adds a Deathrite Shaman to his board, attacks, and things are once again looking bad for me. I untap, look at the top card, and once again miracle a Terminus. Jon groans and I ride a Restoration Angel and a David Ochoa Spirit token to victory.

Round 2: Brian with Five-Color Swamps

The last time I played Brian, I was playing Maze’s End Turbofog and he was playing a crazy five-color concoction that used Crypt Ghast to ramp into stuff like Nicol Bolas. I remember him beating me fairly easily after casting a Rakdos’ Return for some arbitrarily large number and leaving me with no cards in hand. I felt slightly more confident this time around since I was playing a real deck that could counter his barrage of haymakers and not just tutor up Guildgates while casting Fog.

Game one was a 30 minute affair that would be a nightmare to transcribe completely. Brian cast Farseek three times in the first four turns, then played Lingering Souls and flashed it back. I attempted to cast Sphinx’s revelation but he Syncopated it. I tried to cast Sphinx’s Revelation the following turn, but he played Snapcaster Mage and Syncopated my Revelation once again. I was forced to cast Supreme Verdict to order to deal with his horde of spirit tokens, which gave Brian a window to resolve Nicol Bolas. He destroyed one of my lands, but on his end step I used my two remaining untapped lands to cast Renounce the Guilds, forcing the opposing planeswalker to renounce his Grixis-ness and embrace the graveyard. I was able to grind it out from here with some angels and spirits. The final (muddled) board state looked like this:

Round 2 game 1


-2 Thought Scour

-1 Runechanter’s Pike

-1 Unsummon

+1 Pithing Needle

+1 Negate

+1 Oblivion Ring

+1 Jace, Memory Adept

Game two, Brian played a turn three Crypt Ghast into turn four Rakdos’ Return for six, which I countered. He responded with a turn five Thragtusk, which I Rewinded, and Lingering Souls, which I Dissipated. When he resolved Nicol Bolas and destroyed my solitary white source, I conceded the game with the following board:

Round 2 Game 2

Game three was another epic battle, in which my opponent cast an unusual sideboard card against me: Curse of Echoes. I have had no experience playing with or against this card and had no idea how to play around it. Curse negates all of my counter magic and turns all my draw spells into Vision Skiens or Skyscribing (there is no shame if you have to look these up). I almost got there on the back of Jace, Memory Adept, milling him for 30 cards before Nicol Bolas’ +1 smashed Jace in one fell swoop. The game ended in overtime on turn 5 when my opponent attempted a lethal Rakdos’s Return for 11 and I was able to Sphinx’s Revelation to draw the game.

Round 2 game 3

Round 3: Scott with Big Naya

Right before our round, Scott and I talked about a strange phenomenon in Magic: forgetting an opponent’s name but remembering the deck they played in your last match. I remembered that Scott was a gracious opponent who beat me last week in a few tight games with Naya, but could not remember his name for the life of me. Even after he reminded me, at the beginning of Round three I wrote “Steve” on top of the paper with life totals. After glancing over at the match slip I quickly scribbled it out and hoped he hadn’t seen.

Game one, I was dismantled very quickly after he played a Voice of Resurgence into Boros Reckoner. I did try to get fancy and cast Unsummon on my turn to return the Voice to his hand so I could counter it on his turn, but he played an additional land leaving my Syncopate 1 short. I was able to counter a Thundermaw Hellkite, which would have assuredly killed me, but I was just dead the following turn when he played Kessig Wolf Run.

I sideboarded:

-2 Thought Scour

-1 Runechanter’s Pike

-2 Rewind

+3 Terminus

+1 Oblivion Ring

+1 Renounce the Guilds

Game two, my opponent opened with Avacyn’s Pilgrim into Voice of Resurgence, meaning the Syncopate in my hand could not counter the Elemental Stag. Next turn, I played Augur of Bolas, revealing Supreme Verdict and putting him in the awkward position of not being able to commit too many threats to the board while still trying to push damage through. Over the next few turns my opponent played played a Domri Rade, which he +1’ed a few times before putting an Experiment One into play alongside two Flinthoof Boar. At this point, if I play Supreme Verdict my opponent can regenerate the Experiment One, get an elemental token off of Voice, and have an active planewalker threatening to ultimate in two turns. Instead, I take my turn, slam the land I had been waiting for, and cast Terminus sending the Experiment and Voice to the bottom of his library. The following turn, I was able to force Scott to sacrifice Domri with Renounce the Guilds and counter a Thundermaw. After casting two Sphinx’s Revelations I was able to grind out the match with Restoration Angel into another Restoration Angel.

Game three, Scott had a slow start with a turn three Loxodon Smiter, which I promptly bounced back to his hand. When he played it again the following turn I had the Renounce the Guilds ready. On his following turn he played a Boros Reckoner and I cast Snapcaster to flashback the Renounce the Guilds. At this point I was very far ahead and allowed him to play a few more threats into the Terminus I had in hand. Yet, despite feeling very in control of the game and a full grip of cards, to my opponent’s two, I find myself at two life when Scott goes to Boros Charm me. He has one other card in hand and I have Sphinx’s Revelation in hand. I went for the Revelation hoping he didn’t have an additional burn spell to punish me and he didn’t. With the eight new cards in my hand I am able to close out the game with Snapcasters and Spirits just as time is called in the round.

Round 4: Phillip with Aristocrats, Act One

I’ve played Phillip a handful of times over the past few years. He’s a younger kid who plays well for his age, though I can’t say for sure exactly how old he is. During game one, I spent the first few turns drawing cards and durdling around while Phillip played Knight of Infamy, Boros Reckoner, another Knight of Glory, and Blood Artist. My chances of winning the game were pretty slim, but my Augur of Bolas caused him to play the exalted game in order to protect his X/1s instead of attacking with everything. Renounce the Guilds dealt with his attacking Boros Reckoner, Azorius Charm put Knight of Glory on top of his library, and I was able to Supreme Verdict the following turn without dying to Blood Artist triggers. From there, I built up my board with Mermen, Tiago Chans, an Angel, and a David Ochoa spirit token to win shortly thereafter.

Round 4


-2 Thought Scour

-1 Think Twice

-1 Runechanter’s Pike

-1 Rewind

+3 Terminus

+1 Oblivion Ring

+1 Renounce the Guilds

The details of my last game are a bit hazy, but these four details come to mind:

  1. On Turn five, when I was tapped out, Phillip slammed a Obzedat Ghost Council, like actually slammed it on the table. He did not have the same enthusiasm when it hit the graveyard the following turn via Renounce the Guilds.
  2. When I was way ahead and presenting lethal the following turn, I tapped out to Syncopate a Doomed Traveler. I don’t know why I did this, as my spirits would kill him in three turns anyway. He looked at me in amazement, double checked his mana, and cast Blasphemous Act, wiping out my team.
  3. A few turns later, I had him at two life with a Snapcaster Mage in play. He played a Knight of Infamy, which could once again prevent me from winning on the following turn. Let me be clear, I had a full grip of cards and was at a healthy 15 life to his zero cards and two life. I don’t think there was a way I could have lost even though I was trying my best to punt this game. I untapped and cast Oblivion Ring targeting the Knight of Infamy. Philip pointed out that it had protection from white, and that my Snapcaster the only legal target that could be ringed into oblivion.
  4. I won with a Makihito Mihara spirit token.

I was happy to finish the night out at 3-0-1, especially after I played worse than Day[9] during Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze in my last round. I felt that the deck overperformed againstn the Aristocrats and Big Naya, as neither are particularly great match-ups. I was expecting to see more American and Jund Midrange, as these decks seem to be overrepresented in the local meta, but only saw one American Midrange player at the table. If Voice of Resurgence decks continue to represent a significant portion of the meta, then playing UW Flash is almost certainly wrong, and I will consider playing something that can consistently deal with the wunder-stag and his efficiently-costed friends.

Now that M14 is being legal, I’ll probably make a small change in the sideboard:

-1 Righteous Blow +1 Celestial Flare

Righteous Blow just doesn’t kill what it needs to with so many Flinthoof Boars, Boros Reckoners, and Voice of Resurgences looming around. The card is really only good against Mono-Red or Gruul Aggro lists that play Rakdos Cackler, Stromkirk Noble, Lightning Mauler, and Firefist Striker. While it’s fantastic to kill one of these creatures before they even draw first blood, there isn’t enough of these decks in the local meta (the MODO meta is a different story) to justify its inclusion. Celestial Flare is one of the only cards from M14 I think has a possible place in the 75 and one of the only cards from M14 to be included in my pauper cube. I can side it in against a bunch of aggro decks and it is much better against Bant Auras because it doesn’t require a target.

I am also considering dropping Pithing Needle:

-1 Pithing Needle +1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

Pithing Needle is one of those cards that is fine in a variety of matchups but not exciting in any. While I like the idea of naming Aetherling, Domri Rade, Liliana of the Veil, or even Falkenrath Aristocrat, I think it’s better to have a bit more of a proactive game plan against these cards. Tamiyo is a card that I have not had the chance to play with recently and after seeing Veto include it in his sideboard I figured I would give it a shot. There is no better feeling than getting a Tamiyo Emblem, except perhaps getting a Tamiyo Emblem with an Omniscience in play. A guy can dream, right?

Next week I’ll be battling again with UW flash with M14 being legal for the first time. After that, I’ll be looking for a new deck to pilot, so feel free to suggest something sweet. Preferably something with islands in it!

At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day ten years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace the Mindsculptor at PAX, and competes with LSV for the record of most lifetime islands played. When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and keeps a blog about pro-wrestling. 

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