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Tangled Up in Mono-Blue


Last week I challenged myself to build at least four different Standard decks in the Mono-Blue Color Challenge. I expected this to be the most difficult challenge of them all. Blue doesn't come with answers to most of the strategies available in Magic. It is rare that the color can put together some combination of a clock and disruption to remain competitive on its own.

Last season's Mono-Blue Tempo list was the exception, not the rule. Tempest Djinn provided a fantastic finisher and Curious Obsession kept cards flowing at an amazing rate. Without an amazing finisher like Tempest Djinn, and with counterspells being very vulnerable to the widely played Teferi, Time Raveler, what could a content focused brewer do in current Standard with Mono-Blue decks?

Deck #1

My first shot at Mono-Blue was trying to keep the spirit of last season's tempo decks alive. Instead of Tempest Djinn killing the opponent with damage, I turned to another uuu card in Gadwick, the Wizened. The idea was to trade resources by countering key threats while getting in some damage. Once I cast my last counter, I would cast Gadwick, the Wizened and refill my hand. The ability to tap blocking creatures is no joke either, and it makes it pretty easy to get the final points of damage across if Gadwick, the Wizened survived a turn or two.

Gadwick, the Wizened

Predictably, this deck had more problems than the loss of Curious Obsession and Tempest Djinn. My build ran a lot of Mystical Dispute to respect Teferi, Time Raveler and the many other Blue spells in the meta. Unfortunately this card is too narrow to see a lot of maindeck play. Other early counters like Essence Capture are very narrow while Sinister Sabotage is often too expensive. This deck was such a dog on the draw that even control builds full of four-mana sorceries felt like uphill battles. Even if we got to counter some key cards, it just meant we entered a topdeck war. If Gadwick, the Wizened did show up he could rarely draw more than two cards, and that wasn't enough to carry most games.

PanJ went 5-0 in a league on MTGO with this list, and if I think this is where I would have ended up with more time. Winged Words is the good part of Gadwick, the Wizened. The new rare triple-Blue card from Throne of Eldraine will have a new home later in this article.

Deck #2

I knew my time playing Blue decks wouldn't be complete without a mill pile. The current card pool offered me options. Should I mill my opponent or should I mill myself?

The original list came from kanister in October 10's Fandom Legends tournament. I replaced Watery Grave with Mystic Sanctuary to keep me from violating my own flavor rules in the Color Challenge and casting a Black spell in Creeping Chill. In my mind, if I cast an Arclight Phoenix or Creeping Chill with mana that is a violation of the color challenge, but if I cheat them into play or onto the stack in other ways it is fair game. This keeps the door open for spicy reanimator brews down the line!

Drowned Secrets

I love this self-mill strategy. The deck folds to almost any strategy that puts large creatures onto the battlefield. Questing Beast is a huge buzz kill in particular. The matches against control decks and Golos Ramp decks make up for it. They are often helpless as you mill all the Arclight Phoenixes and Creeping Chills from your library to the graveyard and crash it for tons of damage. Go ahead, sweep the board, they will be back next turn thanks to a graveyard full of Radical Ideas and Maximize Altitude.

Deck #3

I knew I wanted to make a deck that set my mill sights on my opponent's library instead of my own, but I wasn't having success with Turbo Mill and Control Mill strategies. Even a new hot list, Adventure Mill, didn't perform well enough for me. Eventually I ended up combining a pile of planeswalkers with a mill theme, and while the results were far from meta-shattering I did enjoy seeing many a Golos deck scoop to turn three Ashiok, Dream Render.

Saheeli, Sublime Artificer helps make an army of chump blockers to protect your planeswalkers. The deck already has tons of early critters that help the mill plan with Merfolk Secretkeeper, Overwhelmed Apprentice, and Wall of Lost Thoughts. Unsummon buys time against aggressive creatures but it can also bounce your own creatures and create more mill triggers from Drowned Secrets and various Enters the Battlefield effects. Interplanar Beacon gives a rare life bump to Mono-Blue, and it is one of the main draws to the strategy. Unlike most mill decks and Mono Blue decks, this build doesn't immediately fold to a creature-based aggro strategy. I am not saying you are always favored, but it is better than the typical pile of Blue cards.

Ashiok, Dream Render

When the deck shines it is because Ashiok, Dream Render is great in the matchup. The card is great against Golos Ramp if you have it early. It is also excellent against reanimator strategies and Arclight Phoenix decks that you pair up with every now and then. Most of the time we are an underpowered Superfriends deck, but of all the mill decks I have experimented with I found this one the most fun so far.

Deck #4

We all know that a self-aware A.I. is coming to kill us someday. I watched all the Terminator flicks, I know the drill. There are a number of artifacts in Standard that have an aggressive leaning, and this pile of robots proved a formidable force.

This deck was extremely fun, but it was also capable of creating some very powerful boardstates quickly. Steel Overseer is Plan A. The ability to grow your army of artifacts with +1/+1 counters each turn is a very strong ability. If you have a Corridor Monitor or Manifold Key you get multiple pumps each turn. Your Gingerbrutes and Inquisitive Puppets become serious threats quickly.

Renowned Weaponsmith
Stonecoil Serpent

If Plan A meets a removal spell, Plan B is to use Renowned Weaponsmith to make plenty of quick mana and play a giant Stonecoil Serpent. Protection from multicolored is no joke with all these Ravnica sets still in Standard. Trample and Reach give this snake the ability to rumble with most threats you will encounter. If Plan B is matched, Plan C is to use Emry, Lurker of the Loch to keep playing larger and larger Stonecoil Serpents. Like all of our Blue decks, removal is not our specialty. This deck fights opposing threats by making massive boardstates. When in doubt, get as much power and toughness on the battlefield as possible. Speaking of massive...

Deck #5

With Green decks having all this card advantage these days, I figured I would make a Blue deck that behaved like a Green deck and ramped into big Mythic monsters.

This deck wants to play a turn three accelerator like Heraldic Banner, Midnight Clock, or Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, and use the extra mana to play a massive battlefield-dominating mythic like Mesmerizing Benthid or Cavalier of Gales ahead of schedule. From there the deck can draw tons of cards off Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner's static ability or Gadwick, the Wizened's ETB trigger.

Brazen Borrower
Fae of Wishes

The adventure creatures in this deck provide critical action early while producing value later on. The sideboard is completely dedicated to targets for Granted, with the most popular being Mass Manipulation and Sorcerous Spyglass. Since most of our games don't get interesting until turn four, it is essential to have a turn two play. Don't be afraid to run out a Fae of Wishes for the 1/4 Flying body or to bounce anything you can with Petty Theft. One underrated interaction in the deck is Heraldic Banner and anything with three power. Once you have a Heraldic Banner in play you draw a card when you cast Brazen Borrower or Gadwick, the Wizened (in addition to his ETB trigger) if you have a Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner in play. It comes up more than you would think.

My rankings for the five Blue decks from the Color Challenge goes as follows;

  1. Self Mill - easily the most fun and rather competitive, a very cool deck.
  2. Artifact Aggro - explosive, aggressive, with the ability to grind. Solid.
  3. Tempo - Fragile if anything resolves, not a very quick clock, an annoying playstyle.
  4. Monsters - Fun to play, but soft to all kinds of better endgames, unable to pressure slow decks.
  5. Superfriends Mill - More of a meme than a deck, but milling the opponent is about the journey, not the destination.

I feel accomplished as I expect Mono Blue to be the most difficult color challenge in ELD Standard. Next week I dive into Mono-Green. Here is a bonus Historic list for the road.

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