A few weeks ago, I gave you my list for the best cards that evoked the feeling of Earth and Rocks. You can check it out here.
Well we might as well make this an elemental thing, right?
Let's move to water!
Like Red's earth element, water seems to be the forgotten element of Blue. Due to Blue's love of flying, you see many Blue elemental cards with the air element. Much like Fire in Red, Air has become the default element for Blue. In my Geomantic cards article, I mentioned briefly that one way to help out might be to move the earth element to Green, which cherishes things that grow from the earth. Also the flavor of protection and strength is a better fit for the mechanics of Green than Red. But I don't have a place to send water. I don't see it in White or Black. Or Red or Green. Its identity is so tethered to Blue that it's in its mana symbol!
My goal with this list is to look at the various cards that depict the element of Blue the best, from name to flavor text (if any) to art. Does the mechanic line up? What's out there? How can we make this work?
Note that a card doesn't have to be good to make this cut! Anything that evokes the water ideals is fine, even if it may not be the best card ever. One high charting card is not good with the power, but it's perfect flavor.
In order to create this list I looked at every Blue card from blocks like Theros and Ixalan that were heavy with a sea based theme as well as searching up every string from "hydro" to "water" and more. I also looked at every card printed until Alliances, as Blue's water element was used heavily during that era, perhaps more than its air, in order to refresh my memory as to which cards were out there. I spent a few hours researching and coming up with my list, and here you go!
Honorable Mention #1 - River's Rebuke and Whelming Wave
Let's kick things off with these two folks! There are many cards that have a fun art that shows the smashery of water against rocks, people, ships, and various other things. I like these two works because one shows a different location, the river, that has been stopped. The other is a zoomed-out scene with a classic artistic appeal to it. Whelming Wave could have been a renaissance painting with its focus on Greek imagery and setting, and with a low magic piece of art. I also enjoy it's flavor text. Both of these come out of the normal setting and really do something new and innovative with the piece.
Honorable Mention #2 - Waterspout Elemental
Waterspout Elemental is weird. It's one of the few water-based Elementals that flies. It's like making Red earth spells that are direct takes on fire stuff just recast as earth. It may be a one-mana instant dealing 3 damage to any target, but it's not Lightning Bolt it's Earth Bolt! Mechanically, that's why this falls back and hits my honorable mention area, but the name, and art are great. Water is angry! And if you paid its kicker then it shows it by returning all non-Waterspout Elementals, but your shore is washed out and you miss the next turn. That's probably not worth it unless you were about to die. Anyways, there you are. Waterspout Elemental has what's needed to sooth the soul.
Honorable Mention #3 - Thing from the Deep
I really enjoy the color and power of Paolo Parente's work. He has a strong sense for using color to enhance the scene, which you can see here. In particular I enjoy the color of the water, the ship, and the details of the Thing itself. I also love the flavor text here too. It's my 2nd favorite flavor text of the ones that made the list. (#9 is my favorite, and #7 my 3rd favorite, as FYIs). The reason it didn't chart higher is that it's focus is too much on the Thing, and not enough on the Sea. While that's not a problem elsewhere, when considering their Hydromantic aspect of this article, it's a little less water.
Now let's turn to the list proper.
10. High Tide, Amy Weber Art
While there are many versions of High Tide down the years, I believe that the Amy Weber art is the one that best typifies the elements and sea. Here you can see her gorgeous water crashing onto the rocks near the top of the pieces, and then many sea creatures and coral, and flying fish and the mountains and moon above. This is a very dense scene where a lot is happening, and you get a good feel for everything. It's also a hit mechanically as well, and is a much better version of #2 below. For that reason, High Tide is an iconic card and probably the most well-known entry for our list today!
#9. Vortex Elemental
Yes it is. The sea is always hungry. I enjoy the "looking down from above" angle for this scene with the whirlpool. Now it does look a little magical, and less powerfully natural, but the card fits nonetheless. It's a fun 1-drop for Blue, but I wish they would have pushed it to a 1/1. The art is fun, and the flavor text is awesome. The name is serviceable too. Mechanically? Meh. It feels more like a "Lure of the Sea" style card than a Vortex Elemental, where you get caught looking out to sea too often and then get caught unawares. But I still like it!
#8. Tidal Influence
The one issue with High Tide's art is that it can get so hung up on the sea life that there's not enough power and majesty of water there, which is why it dropped below Tidal Influence. This? Tom Wanarstrand is a watercolor master when it comes to portraying the sea. Take a look:
Just take a look at how amazing this guy is with that amazing color and craft. Flash Flood is so good that it was on my short list and just missed this cut (it wound up hitting around 15th on my list). These are all great examples of different ways that this guy can introduces notes that will make a water-based scene sing in a new key. This guy is good.
And Tidal Influence is great as it shows the seas, the island, and more crashing against the rock. Also the mechanic of giving Blue creatures +2/+0 and -2/-0 every fourth turn is just brilliantly on theme. I actually ran it in a deck with the 0/1 Blue tokens made from Homarid Spawning Ground. They would wind up as 2/1 every fourth turn, and then remain 0/1 for the other three. They also reduced the size of opposing Blue stuff too.
7. Voyage's End
Vend's flavor text has a very similar feel to Thing from the Deep, although in this case its art sees the edge of the world, but the flavor text doesn't mention it. It's a great card with a strong image and presence and a fun flavor text too!
I had a Standard Izzet deck (at the time) I would take to FNMs and such, and typically do well with. It ran two Vends in the deck and another pair in the sideboard. I still have the deck together as I started building it around a year after I decided to never to take one of my decks apart and just keep playing with them. Want to see it?
Here you go!
Izzet Spells Matter | Standard (at the time) | Abe Sargent
- Planeswalkers (2)
- 2 Ral Zarek
- Sorceries (2)
- 2 Mizzium Mortars
And there you are. It runs a strong amount of burn like the Mortars, Jet, Strike and Charm as well as triggering Guttersnipe and the Pyromancer while doing so. It also runs counters with the Dissolve and Charm. Ral Zarek is a fun addition as a useful Planeswalker that can play a few different roles here. Spellheart Chimera is a key win card for alter in the match. My sideboard included some more counters, more Mortars, and a few answers for specific issues like Turn // Burn to take out bigger dorks or to answer problematic cards with Turn alone. I hope you liked seeing this flashback deck!
Remember when I mentioned above that some of the cards below might suck mechanically? Welcome to Riptide! It taps Blue stuff. Now, it should be the opposite. It should tap everything but blue. It's a sudden snap gush of water, wouldn't that make sense? Blue stuff can swim out and be fine. (It'd also make sense to run - why would I want to play Blue and tap my dorks?) That mechanical issue is why it's not in my top five. But otherwise? That art is incredible, and one of my favorite pieces. It shows the lethality of water. The rocks? Skeletons? Water? The art is just hit after hit after hit.
Ready for my top five?
5. Master of Waves
Hello folks! Master of Waves is likely my highest hitting card that folks will likely remember. Fondly. It led to a Mono-Blue Devotion deck that ran some stuff like Nightveil Specter to get a string enough devotion to punch. Because it was a different take on Blue decks in Standard it felt very new and exciting. The card's name is fun, and the art is perfect for it. The waves crashing up alongside the rock is very, very Hydromantic!
4. Tidal Wave
The idea of a Tidal Wave is also very, very Hydromantic as well. The name is fun, the picture strong. And the flavor text is very useful too. Waves do indeed live. Also, the flavor text ties into the mechanic. The ability to flash out a 5/5 blocker for a turn is very powerful, and shows water very differently than anything else. In other cards you'll see water tapping stuff down or bouncing it. It's tempo. But here you see it much more realistically! It can bring death. If you go charging into the Tidal Wave, you will die. I like that, and for that reason, Tidal Wave clocks all the way at #4, because it's just such a powerful slate of name, art, flavor text and mechanics meeting together.
3. Scourge of Fleets (with a shout out to Kraken of the Straits)
Unlike many of the "Beast from Below" style Blue dorks and seas we see in various images, in the Scourge of Fleets case, it really shows the setting. The water. The ship. The Kraken too, sure. But you get a strong sense of the power of the water here. I also love the name as well, as Scourge of Fleets is a cool name for a dork.
The Kraken has a slightly more traditional feel, but unlike Thing from the Deep, there's more water, ocean, and such. The quote on Kraken of the Straits is also pretty on point for what it's looking to do. My #3 spot is to Scourge, but here is a shout out to Kraken of the Straits and many more out there.
2. Deep Water
This is the card I alluded to when looking at High Tide below. High Tide is a more mechanically successful version of this idea of lands making Blue mana. Here, all your mana-producing lands will make Blue mana instead of their normal. It's actually a solid ability if it did one of one of these two things instead:
- : All mana-producing lands provide U instead of their normal mana until end of turn (removing yours so it can hose others as well as be used proactively).
- All mana-producing lands you control may provide U instead of their normal mana until end of turn (removed the activation cost and made it a may effect.)
The problem is that double Blue cost means you have to have two Blue mana available to use it, and you can only use it in a deck that needs Blue mana in big numbers. What deck would that be? No idea!
Anyways, setting aside the mechanic's lack of power, you can see the name, art, and flavor here dripping from the card. You can see the power of water. The majesty of it.
Ready for the best one of them all?
1. Sea Kings' Blessing
Randy was a classic illustrator from the early era of Magic. His pieces live and breathe with magnificence. Unlike the other cards where things are angry or deadly, this is not. It's calming. I consider this work to be an absolute stunner, and it remains one of my favorite images in the game. The name on the card is also just an absolute winner.
And there you are! I hope that you enjoyed my look at some of the best portrayals of Hydro-infused goodness. Anything in here you agree with? Anything I missed? Just let me know!