Hello! I hope that you are having an awesome day today! It's time for my 2nd color deep dive article where I take a look at various Blue abilities that push you to playing Mono-Blue in a Commander world of Multicolor dorks and dual and tri lands. You can check out last week's article here (Re-Analyzing Mono-Color Stuff for Commander: White | Article by Abe Sargent (coolstuffinc.com)).
Let's start with Adamant, an ability printed in Throne of Eldraine that gives you an advantage if you spend three mana of that card's color when casting it. Unexplained Vision is a five-mana sorcery that draws three, which is one worse than Tidings, but it's probably fine in Limited. If you spent three Blue to cast it, then you scry 3 as well. A scry 3 and draw three is pretty good, and you are encouraged to run it in a deck with more Blue man to get that effect. Vantress Paladin is a 4-drop 2/2 flyer that becomes a 3/3 Phantom Monster if you spent triple Blue. The Vision is better for Commander than a Phantom Monster. It's also pretty cheap on the secondary market if you don't own it already.
Check out Llawan! This four-mana 2/3 legendary will bounce all opposing Blue dorks to their owners' hands on arrival to the battlefield. Then your foes cannot recast those or other Blue things until this is answered. Nasty! Again, note that this only works on opposing stuff, not yours, and with all the multicolord things and how popular this color is in multiplayer, it's very strong in those formats where it's legal. Cough, she's legal in Commander as your leader, cough.
Pump Your Team
Now let's turn to the mass pumping of your Blue dorks with these two dorks. Grand Architect gives your Blue creatures +1/+1 for a three mana 1/3 body and can spend to turn an artifact creature Blue, so you can pump that Burnished Hart or Steel Hellkite. Or you can tap a Blue dork to make a pair of mana for use with artifacts and their abilities, not anything else. It's clearly a Blue artifact matters leader but also works in Mono-Blue. Paragon of Gathering Mists is a 4-drop 2/2 with a similar Blue boost. Then you can tap it and 1 mana to give a Blue dork you control flying this turn.
Check out this powerful common! For just one Blue mana, you can counter anything, no restrictions like Swan Song or An Offer You Can't Refuse. However, in order to make this powerhouse work, you do have to sacrifice a Blue permanent. That's pretty powerful all things considered, but the sacrifice encourages you to sacrifice things. Might I suggest a Blue token dork? Like the 0/1 Kelp token made from Wall of Kelp? Or you could sacrifice something with a death trigger in an Aristocrats or Sacrifice matters deck or get another trigger like Reef Worm for Blood Artist. It's actually pretty strong in a few places. And you cannot get cheaper and more powerful than this one-cost common that counters anything.
Ever want to tap a bunch of stuff while beating? I got you! You can cast this 9/9 for nine mana from your hand, you tap all non-Blue dorks, even yours. Then they skip a untap step. That suggests that you play this in Mono-Blue, but as long as a creature is partially blue it won't be tapped by Breaching Leviathan, so that opens up your options a little. It's also a Leviathan for that Deep Sea tribal deck.
Cards in Hand
Wanna do something cool? Show your hand then get an ability for each Blue card you reveal! Brine Seer is a 1/1 for four that taps for three to counter stuff with a Force Spike for each Blue card you reveal. Although, they'll know what you have over time. Martyr of Frost is a 1-drop and sacrifices for two to reveal X and then counter a spell unless up to X is spent just like the previous card. It's an on curve 1-drop 1/1 and plays nicely into the same game plan. The first is repeatable control and the second feels more Aggro-tempo to me. Nice pair, right?
Devotion and Chroma
Check out this pair of three cost cards with devotion to Blue and chroma. The uncommon is a 3-drop legendary 3-toughness dork with power equal to your devotion to Blue. Then dorks and enchantments your foes control cost another mana to cast. She gets better the more foes you have, so this scales up. It's also legendary for Commander purposes and then an enchantment in case you need that. Sanity Grinding is a triple Blue sorcery that reveals the top ten cards of your library and for each Blue mana symbol in the mana costs of those cards, target opponent will mill a card. The revealed cards then go on the bottom of your library. This loves deep Blue mana symbol commitment.
Check out Thassa and her counterspell. The God is a 3-drop 5/5 with indestructible that becomes a dork if you have devotion of 5 and counts herself. Then you can scry one in your upkeep for free and then activate for two each time to make a dork of yours unblockable. She's good at a lot of things, like being a Mono-Blue devotion leader in the Command Zone, in a scry matters deck, alongside any legendary dork with either attack triggers or combat damage triggers like Brago, King Eternal, or with a general high Blue mana cost Commander like one we are about to see in the next section. Thassa's Rebuff costs two and is like Mana Leak in that it counters anything unless they spend man equal to your devotion to Blue. That could be a hard counter in many decks, but it's a bit unreliable. I have run it in one of my recent Commander decks built around the Aquarium where Thassa was the god worshipped.
And now let's turn to cast triggers when you cast a Blue spell. Drowned Secrets is a 2-drop enchantment that mills target player two cards every time you cast a Blue spell. It is strong in self-mill or opponent milling brews, but it only effects one foe at a time and is pretty slow. The creature is an on curve 1/1 for a single mana. Then when you cast a Blue spell you may spend an additional mana to mill a target for two, another two cards for one person, this time on a fragile 1/1 dork and with a mana cost each time. The enchantment is better, but both are usable in a Commander mill deck. They are very strong value over time.
Gadwick is the triple Blue legendary I alluded to before in my devotion section, with his three Blue. On ETB he draws X cards equal to the X you spent. Then he has a cast trigger of your blue things to tap an opposing nonland card. Note you can target any nonland permanent, including their Sol Ring or their Gideon Jura, but it does untap like normal. Then Merrow Levitator is a 4-drop 2/3 with the ability to tap, give any dork flying (even a foe's like their Commander for a Commander Damage kill on a mutual enemy) and then untap by casting a blue spell.
Blue Creature ETB Trigger
We have a common that was recently printed that has a trigger whenever another Blue dork arrives to the battlefield under your control. It's 2/3, costs just three, and in this case you mill a target for two cards. Any target, and just one. It seems to play into the same infrastructure as Drowned Secrets and Drowner Initiate that wants to mill with the casting of things. It's very strong in both mill themes but, again, doesn't target all of your foes or scale up in multiplayer.
Blue Permanents Matter
There is a pair of common Blue instants that get better if you control Blue stuff. Spell Syphon is a 2-drop that Mana Leaks equal to your Blue permanent total. That's worse than Thassa's Rebuff that we looked at earlier that requires them to spend devotion to Blue, here it's just the Blue count. Do note that this is any Blue card, not just dorks, like planeswalkers and enchantments. Statute of Denial is a four cost spell that counters anything and it is a hard counter. Do you control a Blue creature? Like your Commander? Then draw and discard! Card flow on a hard counter. Some Commander brews might prefer the looting on this to the raw card drawing of Dismiss in order to get something to Reanimate or Zombify or to discard for your triggers like Archfiend of Ifnir. Or to trigger madness.
Every color has this Standard legal cycle. In this case, your five mana gives you a smaller 4/3 with flying. When you cast a Blue permanent spell, you can swap two life for each Blue in its mana cost like it had a Phyrexian Mana Cost. This is very strong in a 40 life format like Commander where casting your leader early is huge. It's better the more Blue in the cost. Then it also has a cast trigger for Blue - this time you draw a card when you cast a permanent that's Blue - not sorceries or instants like Deep Analysis or Opt, just the other types. It's nasty good! It's too bad this is not legendary so it can sit in the Command Zone.
There is a cycle of cards from the first Kamigawa block called "Genju of the" that enchant a land, in this case an Island. You can spend two to make your land a 3/2 flyer that's Blue and a Spirit, so that's bigger than Faerie Conclave. Also note it's Blue for things that care. Then when the Island dies, you return the Genju to your hand for another go. That means you can recast this multiple times to trigger your things like Blue cast triggers or drawing cards off of Enchantress. It's very strong in Aura and enchantment brews. It's kinda like Blue's Rancor. Nice, right?
There is a cycle of uncommons from Judgment that cost four, are usually 2/2 (Not Brawn), have an evergreen keyword, and then when in your graveyard, your creatures get that ability. Three given are evasion of some type (Flying, Swampwalk, Trample) and then red's haste and white's first strike. This gives the powerful flying, the best evasive ability in a regular evergreen keyword. It's also pretty strong in other non-Commander formats and was heavily played in Madness in Standard. It's arguably better than Anger, but the Red one has its fans and is better in some brews. This is hard to answer since you need to answer them in the graveyard, and it's great to discard to things like Looters and Catalog effects in your color.
Debuting in the first set in every color but Green was pumping, like Frozen Shade for Black, Shivan Dragon and Firebreathing for Red, Holy Armor for White, and Wall of Water for Blue. Green would get pumping a few sets later in the iconic Killer Bees. Since this requires that color of mana to use, it suggests a mono-color brew. Enter in Wall of Water, a pumping Wall like Wall of Fire that turns 1 mana into one power. It cannot attack, so it's not a major threat organically. This is a 3-drop 0/5 so there are bigger Walls for three like Wall of Stone, and then white is the color of Animate Wall, so there's no synergy there either. It's all here, with Wall of Water. I like it for modern day defender matters and then toughness matters and then with the ability to give it reach or flying to keep away flyers.
Now, let's turn to bouncing effects that are stronger in mono-color brews. Engulf the Shore is a four cost Instant that bounces all creature to their owners' hands, including yours, if their toughness count is equal to, or less than, your Island count. The more Islands you have, the nastier it gets. Scourge of Fleets is a 7-drop 6/6 that, when it enters the battlefield (ETB), bounces opposing dorks with toughness equal to or less than your Island count. A similar effect, but this one won't be aimed at you as well. Both are stronger with more Islands and again suggest dual lands in a two color build. For example, in Azorius, there are 5 non-Tundra duals you can toss in to add to your bouncery like Glacial Floodplain and Irrigated Farmland. The Scourge is also a Kraken for Deep Sea loving brews.
Want to really keep your stuff from getting mass bounced? Enter Inundate. This 6-drop will bounce only non-Blue creatures back to their owner's hands. It wants you to run this in Mono-Blue and then only the occasional Solemn Simulacrum will get bounced of yours. But in two color decks, just run this with multicolored cards like Cloudblazer and Baleful Strix. Flooded Shoreline is an enchantment that costs double Blue. You can spend two, bounce two Islands, and then bounce a target dork to their hand. This requires both Blue mana and Islands, so it's really just in a Mono-Blue brew where this was printed to shine, but today? It's also strong in landfall.
Let's swap from bounce to removal. This 4-drop 0/5 Wall is pretty cool. If it gains flying, destroy it. When this leaves play (note that works for dying, bouncing, tucking, and getting exiled) then you deal damage to each non-Blue dork without flying equal to half your Island count. This will scale up in damage equal to your Island count, so that wants heavy Blue commitment. Then it won't hit Blue stuff at all, so that's better in Blue brews. Then it won't hit flyers either, so that it wants nonblue flyers. It's strong in defender matters, toughness matters, decks with high counts of giving things flying like Archetype of Imagination and the aforementioned Wonder. It's strong stuff! I also like it in blink brews since you can blink it, and then it'll trigger and come back, and if your blink ground pounders are Blue, like Man-o'-War and Deadeye Navigator or non-Blue with flying like Karmic Guide, then that's pretty strong too.
Every color has their own unique evergreen evasive abilities like flying that is heavily in Blue and White, menace in Red and Black, and trample in Green. Walking their own land is unique to each color, save that Green has landwalkers for everyone. Blue loves and has tons of Islandwalkers. Let's start with the fat 7/6 for eight mana Benthic Behemoth which is also a Serpent for Deep Sea brews. This is a powerful islandwalk body that can swing with the best of them. It's also a powerful 7/6 in other places as well. Colossal Whale is a seven-mana 5/5 with Islandwalk. When it swings, you can swallow an opposing dork controlled by the defender until this is answered. Nasty creature control, and if they have just one untapped dork to block, attack, eat them, and then punch for 5. See how good they are with a theme? And check them out with the next group...
Lands are Islands
Ever since the debut set's Phantasmal Terrain, Blue has had the ability to turn a land into an Island. Stormtide Leviathan is an 8-drop 8/8 with islandwalk, on curve. It's also a Leviathan for Deep Sea decks. Then all lands are Islands, yours and your foes'. That's strong since it's unblockable on the battlefield, and then you can run it with your own Island caring things. Only fliers and islandwalkers can attack, so you'll want both. Aquitect's Will is a 1-cost Tribal Merfolk sorcery that turns a land into an Island permanently and draws you a card if you control a Merfolk. See how good that is here? Also don't sleep on Master of the Pearl Trident that gives your Merfolk Islandwalk with this duo.
Now let's turn away from Blue Islandwalk and Island making to other Blue based evasion. Kraken of the Straits is a 7-drop uncommon 6/6. It cannot be blocked by opposing dorks with power equal to or less than your Island count, so that wants you to up your Islands. This is also a Kraken for Deep Sea decks, and it's pretty cheap on the secondary market. Deepchannel Mentor is a 6-drop 2/2 uncommon, but none of your blue stuff can be blocked, so it's very powerful. This is very strong in Merfolk decks, Tempo, Aggro and more. I also love it with a Blue Commander that has an attack trigger or a combat damage trigger. It's also great in multicolored decks with multicolored dorks.
The Ability to Attack
There are a ton of dorks that have been printed that cannot attack unless their defending controller controls an Island. This is a disadvantage you can work around with the Island making things in your color. Deep-Sea Serpent is a 6-drop 5/5 common that needs an Island to attack, and then Whiskergill is an on curve 4/3 with flying that needs an Island to attack. They're great creatures on curve, which Blue is supposed to be bad at, so they have this weakness attached. This includes Armored Galleon, Dreamwinder, Floodchaser, Hammerhead Shark, Sea Monster, Sealock Monster, Slipstream Eel, Steam Frigate, and Commander eligible Zhou Yu, Chief Commander.
Weakness for Better than Curve Beaters
There is a 4/4 flyer that is better than the typical curve which wants you to get a disadvantage. In this case this Djinn will bounce an untapped Island to your hand from the battlefield on your upkeep, so you cannot tap it for mana for an instant. Obviously, you'll have more options to recur the more Islands you play. You can also use this as an advantage in landfall decks bouncing and then replaying Islands. It's pretty strong.
And now let's turn to dorks that have some size based elements based on how Blue we are. The first is Charix, the Raging Isle, a 4-drop 0/17 toughness Crab that's legendary for Command Zone purposes and has ward 2. Then you can spend three over and over again to pump its power and drop its toughness based on your Island count. It wants a bunch of Islands. It's amazing in toughness matters brews and can really do some Commander Damage wincons in just a couple of hits with a fat Island count. Serpent of the Endless Sea is a 5-drop X/X where X is your Island count. This cannot attack unless a foe has an Island since it's pretty beefy, so it plays into the same infrastructure of making Islands to attack if opponents don't have one. In a four player game, it's likely you'll have multiple options to attack in Commander where most people are running 2 or 4 color decks.
Here's another color sized dork, this time a four-mana flyer with power and toughness equal to your Blue permanent count. Not creature, but permanents, so that's great in a Blue token deck as a backup beater or with Blue stuff like Aggro, Tempo, Planeswalkers, and Enchantments. Good stuff! And don't sleep on that flying.
Blue Pitch Spells
Now let's turn to alternate cost spells that are a key part of this color. The common is a Force Spike that costs two mana, counters anything, but only if they are tapped out. If you're tapped out and someone taps out to cast their Commander or other key card, you can counter it by bouncing an Island to your hand. The uncommon is the most iconic pitch spell ever printed! Five mana to counter anything. Or you can lose a life, exile a Blue card from your hand, and then counter it for free without spending any mana. It's card disadvantage at the multiplayer table, so it only makes sense when you are drawing 3-5 cards each turn for filling up your hand with something like Edric, Spymaster of Trest. One wants an Island on the battlefield and the other wants you to have another Blue card in hand. See how they push Blue? But a dual land or a gold card or split card will work fine too. See also Thwart and Foil for other free counters.
Check out this pair that don't counter. Gush is an instant that draws you two. Pretty behind the times. But then you can return a pair of Islands to your hand and draw two for free. This was very powerful in decks like Turbo Stasis where you returned two Islands for two more turns of upkeeping Stasis while drawing two and being proactive. Then this was heavily played in Vintage and was so strong there that it was restricted. Now check out Ensnare. This will tap all dorks at instant speed, but yours too. Do it after you tap to attack but before blockers are declared. Or do it at the end of your foe's turn, untap and attack an open player that others can attack and untap prior to them. This can be cast for free by another two returns of Islands, so each wants you to double down on Islands for free casts. I really like this pair and other Island bouncers in landfall brews.
Check out this pair of Mono-Blue morphs! The Illusion is a 2-drop 1/3 with morph return two Islands to your hand from the battlefield. It's basically Gush on a stick, and leaves behind a 1/3. It has all of the synergies of the above card and works in a lot of the same places as well as morph decks and Illusion brews. The Wizard is a 2-drop 0/6, much fatter for the same mana. You can morph it by revealing a Blue card from your hand and then look at your foe's hand. They see one of yours in trade to see all of theirs. I also like this in morph and Wizard brews as well as toughness matters stuff too with its fat butt. The Seer is pretty regularly played at the kitchen table since it's card advantage for three colorless mana to start.
There is one buyback spell that has been printed that cares about something Blue - this Time Walk variant. Walk the Aeons is a six cost Time Walk that can be bought back by sacrificing a trio of Islands each time you cast it. You can also target someone else for political purposes. Or it can be Deflected from another person to you, by the by. Do note that a massive three Islands to buy back does really scream out "Mono-Blue" but then you don't have to use that it either for it to be useful. It's just one more than Time Warp. It's pretty strong at holding its own.
Now let us turn to a pair of similar card draw spells. Flow of Knowledge is a six-mana sorcery uncommon that draws a card for each Island you control. Flow of Knowledge is a five cost instant that also draws cards for each Island you control, but discards two. It's cheaper and instant speed, so the double discard is the cost of admission since the sorcery is better card advantage. The discard is good for Incarnation, reanimation strategies, flashback and jump-start, madness, replaying lands with Crucible of Worlds, or just activating threshold or other effects.
Landfall is in every color that has been printed, but it's heavy in Green. Simic landfall is pretty commonly seen and iconic in Commander as a playable and powerful archetype. We have two cards that have Islandfall, the first a normal landfall that improves with Islands and the second just Islands. Guardian of Tazeem is a five-mana 4/5 flyer about on curve. Landfall, you tap an opposing dork. Island? It skips an untap. That's not nearly as strong as the White one from last week, but hey, your milage probably varies. You definitely will want to drop Islands. Tireless Angler is an online only 3-drop 1/4 that when an Island ETBs you draft a card from its spellbook. You can run it in MTG Arena formats. Fun times, right?
One common was printed way back in Fallen Empires with four art that became the dominant force in formats where it is legal - High Tide. This nasty one cost instant will double your Blue mana that your Islands make this turn. I remember running into an Izzet control deck just after its debut that ran this with four Volcanic Island splashes to kill with Fireball, Disintegrate, Shivan Dragon and Mahamoti Djinn. Powerful stuff. That two color splash can also work for you too with a bunch of duals getting two mana for each time you tap it for mana.
Each color has at least one mono-colored common dork with that color's basic landcycling, in this case Blue. White is the best with Eternal Dragon, Timeless Dragon, and Angel of the Ruins. This is just a land cycler that gets any Island, even a dual, from your library. Good stuff! And it used to be run all over since you can get a Blue land without spending Blue mana, and it has enhanced value in discard and cycling brews alongside Archfiend of Ifnir and things. It's also super secretly fun in animation brews where you can cycle and then Zombify it.
High Blue Costs
One of the key ways to encourage someone to play one color is to run powerful three and four cost things that require and to cast to suggest you just run just that color. Take a look at Archmage's Charm. This three cost instant has three key abilities - counter anything like Cancel; draw two and no discards so pure card flow; or steal an opposing 1- or smaller drop that's not a land, like Skullclamp or Sol Ring, possible in Commander. The counter is likely the default setting. It's very strong. Tempest Djinn is a 3-drop flyer with 0/4 base and power equal to your Island count. In Mono-Blue that could be an ahead of curve 3/4 on the third turn with flying that grows as you get more Islands, so that's very strong at encouraging Mono-Blue on both cost and ability.
Let's finish with this pair. Demilich is a 4-drop 4/3 that has a cost reduction on it for each instant or sorcery you've cast this turn by each time, so that can be free if you spent a lot of mana and loves cheap versions of cantrips like Opt. When it swings, you can exile from your graveyard an instant or sorcery and cast a copy. That's a one time trick and gives you card advantage over time, but attacks and sets it up for a death by combat. It likes Rogue's Passage effects which hurts your ability to cast it on the 4th turn. You can also cast it from your graveyard by exiling four of that type of spell. Good stuff. Powerful. Patron Wizard is a 3-drop 2/2 that lets all of your Wizards tap to Force Spike any spell, so it's great in Wizard brews and then you can tap when they arrive, even without haste, so that's pretty strong countering over time. It's one of the most powerful tribal leader effects ever printed. See the power with 3- or 4-drops that cost or ? And there are many more!
And there we go! I hope that you enjoyed my deep dive into this color! Next week is Black, and that's the deepest color here since it was always designed to be parasitic from the get go with Nightmare, Drain Life, Frozen Shade, and Bad Moon all in the first set! See you then!