by David Shaffer (ShaffaWaffa5)
Editor’s Note: David wrote this some time ago for MTGOStrat but it was never published. Since David is such an excellent deck-builder, author, and Magic player, once we got permission to do so we jumped at the chance to publish it. Keep in mind that some parts of the article may be out of date.
AzoriusKitty is a midrange deck inspired by Boroskitty’s Ichor Wellspring manipulation engine. The deck was an attempt to make the midrange manipulation engine more effective against Fissurepost decks. The deck, however, plays more like a tap out control deck.
The objective is to get out a permanent, like Spreading Seas, or Reality Acid and return it to your hand via a “bounce” creature like Kor Skyfisher, or Dream Stalker. The deck wins in a grindy fashion, slowly accumulating card advantage over the opponent. The deck also gains inordinate amounts of life, which allows it to weather aggro decks designed to deal a quick 20 damage.
II. The Deck
4 Azorius Chancery
2 Azorius Guildgate
4 Kabira Crossroads
1 Lonely Sandbar
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Dream Stalker
2 Sea Gate Oracle
3 Lone Missionary
2 Reality Acid
4 Journey to Nowhere
2 Momentary Blink
2 Serrated Arrows
4 Spreading Seas
3 Piracy Charm
1 Reality Acid
1 Piracy Charm
3 Kor Sanctifiers
2 Train of Thought
2 Holy Light
2 Circle of Protection: Black
2 Circle of Protection: Red
Ideal Bounce Targets
Spreading Seas – This card is the backbone of the AzoriusKitty engine. The card is more important for its ability to draw cards over and over again via bouncing, than to impact the board state. But, Spreading Seas does have the ability to cripple the greedy manabases in the format, and often wins matches single-seasidly. If used properly, it is the best card in the deck.
Reality Acid – Although some people refer to this deck as Acid Trip, Reality Acid is one of the weaker cards in the deck. The card allows the bounce creatures to become pseudo vindicates. Originally included to interact with Cloudpost laden manabases, the card is still a catchall for the diversity of permanents in the Pauper metagame. Do not be surprised to see the card exit from the deck list as the format’s emphasis is placed more on creatures. If Tron didn’t exist, it wouldn’t be in the 75.
Lone Missionary – One of the surprising elements about the Azoriuskitty deck is its ability to gain lots of life. Lone Missionary is the primary life gain source. Often the deck needs a two drop permanent so that the bounce creatures aren’t forced to return lands to its owner’s hand. Missionary provides an additional early bounce target, and trades well in creature based match-ups.
Sea Gate Oracle – A two-of bounce target that also blocks opposing cheap threats. The three mana casting cost makes it difficult to resolve in time against some decks. So they are limited to two copies.
Mulldrifter – A perennial card drawing powerhouse is made even better through additional rebuys.
Lonely Sandbar – This land allows you to mitigate some mana flooding, by playing it early, then picking it up to cycle it late.
Kabira Crossroads – This bounce target is one that your bounce creatures will very rarely target. The “bounce lands” however are how you maximize your value from the Crossroads. In a pinch, AND ONLY IN A PINCH, you can use your bounce creatures on this land to gain a little bit of value.
Plains, Island – A basic land in this deck is sometimes – but rarely – the optimal bounce target. With so many “comes into play tapped” lands, you sometimes will need to bounce a land that comes into play untapped. Usually this happens if you’re a bit mana constrained, but you also need to get a board presence to prevent falling behind. Try to plan ahead. Once you get good at this, you’ll realize that Azorius Chancery doesn’t always bounce a Kabira Crossroads.
Kor Skyfisher – The chief bouncer in this deck. This card is very aggressively costed, and the draw back is almost always a benefit for this deck.
Dream Stalker – X/5s are very good in this format. This guy blocks Myr Enforcer for days, and its 1 power is surprisingly effective at holding back armies of goblins and elves. Look to gum up the ground with this guy before taking over the air.
Momentary Blink – This “flicker effect” works as a way to protect your creatures, while accruing more value. In match-ups where it is good, it is very good. But you really only want one at a time, so there are only two in the deck.
Journey to Nowhere – This removal spell is an all-star in this deck. You can use it to take out any problem creature. But you can also use it to reduce the mana costs on Bounce targets (i.e. Journey your own tapped Mulldrifter, then Dream Stalker, bouncing Journey, and returning your Drifter to play. This nets 3 mana). You can also do the old cast Journey, target their guy and with the target on the stack you Blink your bounce guy to return your Journey and permanently exile their creature.
Piracy Charm – A nod to the power of Delver of Secrets decks, this 1 mana kill spell is never a dead draw. Use it to take our a Turn 1 Delver, to mess up Spellstutter math, or to make your opponent discard their last Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Also, all the modes are relevant. With big 1/5 Dream Stalker Charm is a legitimate pump spell, and with main deck Spreading Seas you can make a creature unblockable against any deck.
Azorius Guildgate – The last land in the deck is not one that you want to bounce. But I’ve found the added bit of mana flexibility is important for complicated turns where there is a lot of casting and recasting of spells. Arguably this land should be a Terramorphic Expanse, and I wouldn’t fault you if you went that direction.
Affinity is one of the better match-ups if you know how to play it properly. Game one is a little difficult, but you have the edge after sideboard. Post board, you really want to recur your Kor Sanctifiers to continuously blow up your opponent’s lands and Myr Enforcer. You need to always keep in mind the presence of Atog + Disciple of the Vault or Fling. If they have one of the combo pieces and you are in danger of getting blown out if they draw the other piece, then your first priority becomes getting rid of the combo piece.
This IS the easiest match-up. If you can bounce a Lone Missionary twice it is nearly impossible to lose. Games 2 and 3, when you can land a COP: Red, their best plan is to try and mill you out by killing your threats.
This match-up is about 45/55 in Delver’s favor. Delver needs to counter a lot of stuff in this match-up, and life gain is surprisingly good for them. Post board look to land an arrows, and use Holy Light to take out a Spellstutter at a crucial time. If you don’t lose quickly, you’re in a great position. Make sure you Spreading Seas your own lands in this game, because Daze and Gush can counter them or knock them off at inconvenient times.
This match-up is slightly favorable, but they can still get the God draw on you. So I’d put it at 55/45. Landing a COP: Red usually ends the game, but they sometimes do have Flaring Pain to get around it.
This match-up is bad. It is like 40/60 bad. The entire match-up revolves around their Distant Melody. If they can resolve one of those, you will lose. Try to keep them off of blue mana as much as possible. If the meta fills up with elves look to add Negate to the sideboard.
Again this is another terrible match-up, about 20/80. This match-up is basically as bad as familiar storm was a few month ago because we don’t have enough instant speed removal, or ways to interact with their combo. You are the aggressive deck here, and look to Reality Acid and Spreading Seas their mana while you fly over the top.
This match-up is a favorable one, but Goblins can get there with a double Bushwhacker draw. We want to get guys out as quickly as possible, and Holy Light when they have an odd number of X/1s out, to increase our value. Look to Spreading Seas here for help because Goblins players tend to keep one landers on the draw.
This match-up is another difficult one, but if you expect a lot of hexproof there are easy steps to make it better. Patrician’s Scorn can do work here. The trick is to try and Spreading Seas them off white. Remember if you Seas a Forest that has a Utopia Sprawl you’ll knock the Sprawl off. Aside from that we’re using Reality Acid to bump off Ethereal Armor and Ancestral Mask.
Before Gray Merchant of Asphodel this match-up was a cake walk. Now our game plan is to keep them off pips as much as possible and to out attrition them. When we land a COP: Black, they can only Gary us to death. Sometimes they can do it, and other times they can’t. This match-up is 55/45 in our favor. But it is also build dependent. We’re much more likely to win if they run X/1s.
You get to attack this match-up from multiple directions. By Seasing their land you get to limit their ability to cast creatures; by gaining life, you mitigate their ability to play the burn game plan; and by playing solid blockers and cheap removal you drag the game out until they are in top deck mode. Keep hands that can interact early and you’ll be fine.
This match-up was abysmal and will be game one. But Train of Thought makes all the difference. If you can force them to play 1-for-1 until you get off a big Train, you’ll win this game more often than not. They only have 8 threats usually, so a big part of our game plan is to kill their threats and let them mill themselves.
This is a very tactical match-up, but I’ve found it favorable. The way you win is to follow this pattern. First, play aggressively. You want to put pressure on your opponent and make them draw as many cards as possible and to expend as much energy as they can to deal with your threats. Our goal in this phase is to force them to use a lot of Counterspells, Compulsive Research and Firebolts. Sometimes you can mise a win with the aggression, but that isn’t our primary goal.
Instead, our objective is to mill them out. The second phase, the “mill phase” begins once the tide starts to swing in their favor. In the mill phase you start killing their threats as soon as they present them. We applied pressure in phase one because we want to force our opponents to use Counterspells early so they can’t protect their creatures later. We also wanted to pressure our opponents because we want them to Compulsive Research themselves. That way they can’t point them at us later to foil our mill strategy. They will draw more cards than us, but with Arrows, Charms, and Journeys we have more than enough fodder to deal with their 11 creatures and residual Counterspells.
Also remember, try to stay above 16 life so that you don’t get burned to death. Don’t forget to bounce your Crossroads with your Chanceries. And each Firebolt they aim at an early creature is another 2 life you have access to in the second phase of the game.
This match-up plays out a lot like Stompy. But this Weenie is more favorable match-up since they are slower and tend to rely more on the permanent types that our Sanctifiers can blow up. They have resilient creatures, but our Journeys dodge all their multi-use creatures. Look to clog the ground up with Dream Stalkers and clear the skies with your removal. Their only problem card is Guardian of the Guildpact if you can avoid or race him, you’ll win.
This is a favorable and fun match-up. The objective here is to keep them off Tron as long as possible by Reality Aciding or Spreading Seasing the same tron piece over and over. Sometimes it is unclear what piece is necessary to attack, but a common situation that occurs is you Seas the third Tron piece, then they fetch out a duplicate piece. You then need to bounce the Seas and place it on a different Tron piece. While doing this, you simultaneously creature them to death.
Tron usually has access to a bit of post-board land destruction and enchantment removal, so be aware of that. Use your Blasts on the LD, and make sure you have a way to deal with having your COP: Red attacked. Their best win-con against us is Rolling Thunder.
If you’re having trouble with this match-up, I previously had Curse of the Bloody Tome in my sideboard. I have brought that in against them to great success. It allows you to mitigate their removal. You might also want to try Train of Thought if you find yourself getting out carded.