In every format I play I like to build a deck I call "Forget You Blue," or FYB for short. FYB is the purest essence of blue mage hate, regardless of the format. The kind of deck that punishes countermagic, theft effects, bounce spells, and artifacts. Which makes it strange that I've never gone out of my way to build a deck dedicated to making blue mages suffer in Commander.
Time to fix that, right now.
As I'm not intending on building a truly "competitive" deck today, this is going to work on a bottom-up, rather than a top-down approach.
What's the difference?
- A "top-down" approach focuses on the Commander and uses cards to support the game plan that it entails. Cards usually have to "fight" to be deemed worthy enough to get onto the list.
- A "bottom-up" approach starts with a vague sense of what is supposed to be accomplished and with the entire card pool available. Cards are winnowed out along the way and eventually a Commander is selected.
With a bottom-up approach I'm less inclined to use the competitive deckbuilding rules I've advocated recently. No doubt the deck will be far less tuned as a result.
Before I begin I know I'll be messing with a pool of red, green, white, and black spells. At some point I'll likely want to drop one of these colors in order to make the deck more streamlined, but at this early stage I'm keeping my options open. As almost all the "can't be countered" spells are in green and red, either black or white will be dropped.
"Uncounterability" is the first item I'll look at. There currently 26 green and red spells that can't be countered that are Commander legal, but not all of these are cards we necessarily want to play.
From the cheapest to the most expensive, here are some thoughts them:
- Autumn's Veil: Helps protect against blue magic, and has some nice collateral damage against necromancers as well, but unlikely to make the list.
- Insist and Overmaster: They both cycle, which is hardly the end of the world, and can push through the spell I need, but only on my own turn. They fail the Erayo, Sorotami Ascendant test, however (as they can be countered themselves).
- Blurred Mongoose: An interesting card. A 2/1 for two mana ain't great, but never underestimate the power of shroud in Commander. A few pump effects, plus a Stonehewer Giant (who gets around shroud effects), and I'll get some bang for my buck. To be considered.
- Gaea's Herald: If this was an enchantment I'd be in love wih it. As a 1/1 Elf I'm far less so. Small creatures in Commander die quick, so the chance the Herald will help out much is a little unlikely. She also makes all creatures uncounterable, which might hurt me as much as help me. She, too, fails the Erayo test.
- Vexing Shusher: So much better than Gaea's Herald as she's primed to push through a flipped Erayo. Sure, her ability costs a mana, but I can use it selectively to help or hinder my opponent's board development. While the 2/2 body is only slightly better than a 1/1, it does help prevent it dying to the various pingers that sometimes float around. The Shusher will certainly make the build.
- Isao, Enlightened Bushi: Unless I'm going to be running a bunch of Samurai in the deck , which I'm not, a three mana 2/1 with regeneration is probably not going to make the grade. I can get better value.
- Urza's Rage: 10 damage is a lot. So is 12 mana. However it is both uncounterable and unpreventable at instant speed and 12 mana is hardly an impossible amount of mana to achieve, especially when I'm running green. To be considered.
- Great Sable Stag: Passes the Erayo test and dodges a heck of a lot of removal. Can be equipped with a Sword or Jitte to put a fair amount of pressure on any blue mage. Will likely make it in.
- Volcanic Fallout: As a sweeper it's perfectly passable, and considering that I'm usually dealing six or more damage for the low cost of two to myself the cost works out fine. We'll be eternally grateful Wizards tried in vain to print all that Faerie hate to stick it in the deck.
- Root Sliver: Another tribal effect, it would make it in if we were playing Slivers, but we're not. A good card though, one that should be in every Sliver Commander deck.
- Leyline of Lifeforce: One of the weaker Leylines, it's not that crash-hot if all my creatures can't be countered anyway. We'll start with it in the deck and consider it as we're cutting cards.
- Thrun, the Last Troll: Here's every blue mage's worst nightmare. Can't be countered, targeted, and can be regenerated. Clearly specifically printed to give the finger to blue mages everywhere, Thrun is absolutely going in my deck.
- Wreak Havoc: It's a shame it's a sorcery, but it does blow up the one thing blue mages love to run, artifacts. Targeted land removal never goes astray as I can kill that frustrating Maze of Ith, or blow up the Academy Ruins the blue meanie is using to recur his beloved artifacts. It will certainly make it in the deck.
- Spellbreaker Behemoth: A four mana 5/5 that passes the Erayo test and then helps his buddies hit the board is exactly what I want. In.
- Scragnoth: A great FYB card as he essentially becomes unblockable against the blue mage (except for Duplicant and Darksteel Colossus and yeah yeah). The stats aren't great against Spellbreaker Behemoth but he'll almost certainly make the cut.
- Vexing Beetle: Sure, the bug can't be countered, but when in multiplayer Commander does no opponent control a creature? Never. He's not going to make the list.
- Kavu Chameleon: He's the five mana 4/4 beater I don't need. With an ability I don't need.
- Terra Stomper: Despite the lack of protection, a six mana 8/8 with Trample is nothing to sneeze at. He's on the shortlist. Also, I think he looks like a giant wombat. Why couldn't he have been printed with the creature type wombat?
- Gaea's Revenge: Passes the Erayo test? Yup! Passes the Control Magic test? Yup! Has haste? Yup! And and all on an 8/5 body. If I were LSV, this is where I declare I'll have my revenge on Blue. But I'm not, so I won't make that terrible blunder.
- Petrified Wood-Kin: I've not been a huge fan of the Wood-Kin, but if I can give him flash he's pretty fantastic in mulitplayer. Considering the pseudo-protection from removal, he makes the shortlist.
- Akroma, Angel of Fury: Flying, trampling, uncounterable, protection from blue and firebreathing on a 6/6 body. Perfect. We'll be playing the Angrrrl for sure.
- Obliterate: A card I want to use, but only if I can use it to win the game, rather than drag. it. out. for. ten. more. turns. because. that's. pretty. darn. boring.
- Banefire and Demonfire: You'll be amazed how often a carefully placed X-spell can end the game for an unsuspecting Commander player. I should note that Demonfire exiles creatures, something I learned when 'firing an Abyssal Gatekeeper for 1 in order to kill all my opponents' creatures. Or not, as it turned out.
- Boseiju, Who Shelters All: A great land that helps our entire deck push through Erayo. Harder to remove than most permanents, the 2 life is relatively inconsequential in Commander. It's in.
The next pseudo 'can't be countered' cards are those that have Split Second.
- Angel's Grace: More a combo-enabler (or opponent-win spoiler) than anything else, it won't do enough in my deck to make it worth playing.
- Celestial Crusader: Great in a mono-white deck and usless just about everywhere else, I'll be skipping the big 'ol sky knight.
- Extirpate: The pinpoint graveyard removal is fine, but not great, in Commander. I'll likely pass on this one.
- Krosan Grip: A card found in every green Commander since the dawn of time, it's perfect for dreamcrushing blue mages. Did I mention that it kills Sensei's Divining Top? Because it kills Sensei's Divining Top. [Editor's Note: It kills Sensei's Divining Top.]
- Molten Disaster: Another X spell to go with Banefire and Demonfire, it's also the perfect spell to play before sticking a Petrified Wood-Kin (if I have the mana).
- Quagnoth: With three abilities that help me punish both Black and Blue mages and a reasonably sized 4/5 body, Quagnoth might be as ugly as Jersey Shore, but he's going in the deck.
- Stonewood Invocation: Pump spells don't get a lot of love in Commander. No, they don't.
- Sudden Death: Uncounterable removal is exactly what we're looking for. I should note that this can kill a Necrotic Ooze before it goes off, which means it's an immediate 1-of in any black deck that can run it.
- Sudden Shock: It's a fine card, but there's a lot better things to be doing with two mana in Commander. It's not going to make it in.
- Sudden Spoiling: It's an interesting card that can make very strange board state. If I'm running it I'm also running Massacre Wurm. I'm getting shivers of delight just thinking about that. Also works with Volcanic Fallout.
- Sulfur Elemental: I've never run Sulfur Elemental but he kind of gets me wondering. The combination of flash, split second, and a color-hoser on a fairly efficient body means it at least makes the shortlist.
- Word of Seizing: A great spell with more utility than it seems, I'll be running it.
The upshot of all this is that split second has pushed me towards running Black cards over White.
The next step is to look at cards with protection from blue. Beyond those already mentioned above, we have the following:
- Bloated Toad: Frog trial. Not where I'm headed.
- Blue Ward: An boring white card I don't even want to try to play.
Crypt Angel: A nice 3/3 flyer, but not what I want. I must remind myself to grab a copy for my Nicol Bolas deck sometime.[As noted in the comments, Crypt Angel has protection from White, not Blue]
- Dominaria's Judgment: This card deserves a home in a Commander deck somewhere, but not this one.
- Goblin Piledriver: A perfect example of something being great in Legacy but terrible in Commander. I'll just move along.
- Guma, Karoo Meerkat, Nacatl Outlander, Voice of Reason, Windreaper Falcon, and Yavimaya Barbarian: Not good enough, not even as filler.
- Karplusan Strider: He's a four mana 3/4 which isn't terrible, and he can get around most removal the Blue and Black mages run. However he can still be Shackled, Duplicant'd, or Shard'd, so he's not that great.
- Oversoul of Dusk: A very good card, but will likely be dropped due to the white mana requirement.
- Sabertooth Nishoba: Nishoba is a Cat Beast Warrior, which is kinda awesome, and I do like the mix of abilities. However I'm still leaning away from white.
- Scryb Ranger: Again, more a combo enabler than anything else, at least she can eternally block from the air. Shortlisted.
- Shield of Duty and Reason: Um, no.
- Sword of Body and Mind and Sword of Fire and Ice: Both make our deck with ease. Playing white would mean we could use Stoneforge Mystic and Stonehewer Giant to tutor these up, but I'm sure we'll have enough tutoring as is in black.
So that was kind of a bust. I found two equipment to add and not much else. No doubt I'll be playing Lightning Greaves, which means a few cards with troll shroud wouldn't hurt. That would give us the following:
- Asceticism: A fine Commander card, and one that lets me push through Wraths and eliminate the threat of Control Magic. Blue has a hard time dealing with enchantments, so that's also good.
- Canopy Cover: A bit corner case, and I don't think I'll run it.
- Drove of Elves: Fine for an elf deck, but not for this one.
- Imperial Mask: More a Two-Headfed Giant card than a Commander card, I have better things to do. Plus it's white.
- Leonin Abunas: Cats aren't getting much love from me today. Our low artifact count and high artifact hate will mean this card doesn't make the list.
- Leyline of Sanctity: I haven't run this in Commander, but I really should try it sometime.
- Plated Slagwurm: If he had Trample he'd be perfect, but I'm fine running him regardless as he avoids Control Magic and bounce effects like a pro.
- Privileged Position: A surprisingly strong card, one that almost makes me regret dropping white; but with Asceticism around, the redundancy is redundant.
- Sacred Wolf: I have a soft-spot for critters like this, especially in a deck running powerful equipment. On the short-list. Woof.
- Silhana Ledgewalker: Another great card to add equipment to. Little utility cards like this sometime just get a deck firing on all cylinders. Here's hoping it performs to expectations.
- Spirit of the Hearth: It's ok, but not great. Well, not good enough.
- Taoist Hermit: I like the old wording better, "Whenever your opponent chooses a creature in play, he or she can't choose Taoist Hermit." Very Taoist.
- Troll Ascetic: As the reason why we have "troll shroud", Troll Ascetic will absolutely make it into the deck. [Editor's Note: And it's now called 'hexproof' as of Magic 2012!]
- Uril, the Miststalker: Another card that makes me wonder whether cutting white is premature, I don't actually see running enough Auras to make Uril worthwhile. If you build around him, he makes an excellent casual Commander, an underpowered Zur, if you will. But probably not right for this deck.
- Veilstone Amulet: I like this janky card and I think we'll include it.
- Vines of Vastwood: Another Green 'Counterspell', this one probably doesn't do enough to warrant inclusion in the deck.
- Zuo Ci, the Mocking Sage: Forget you, too.
Having found a few more cards for the deck, it's time to focus on punishing blue mages directly. First I want things that can straight-up kill blue permanents.
- Active Volcano, Pyroblast, and Red Elemental Blast: All of these will make the deck. Remember, I'm not here to wail on foolish black, red, green, or white mages, but just on blue mages.
- Filigree Fracture: A bit corner case, but there are certainly worse cards about. At least this will occasionally replace itself.
- Gloomwidow's Feast: The 1/2 is fine but more limited fodder than anything else. I'll pass, for the moment.
- Jaya Ballard, Task Mage: Oh, Jaya, where has that finger been? I mean, look at it. Not that I care - you're in the deck. But seriously, invest in tissues or something.
- Reign of Chaos: Yes, of course you make it in. The fact we can accidentally hose a white player as well is fine by me.
- Spinal Villain: Thank-you, color hoser.
- Wallop: A little too specific on the casting requirements, so I'll pass.
- Burnout: Probably too narrow, but it does replace itself. To be considered.
- Gutteral Response: Similar to Burnout but doesn't draw a card. Again, to be considered, but probably unnecessary considering all the Pyroblasts I'm running.
- Chaotic Backlash: I might actually run this one as it can deal out a brutal amount of damage in a short time, at instant speed. On the shortlist.
- Ignite Disorder: Probably not good enough, even though it does deal well with pesky Wizards. But I'll have Pyroclasm effects for that.
- Lightning Dart and Parch: Worse than Combust but slightly more flexible. Eh.
- Slingshot Goblin: Ok, but not good enough.
Next up I want things that punish Island players.
- Cryoclasm: A context-sensitive Stone Rain I'm willing to live with, as the extra damage can be diverted to a Planeswalker in a pinch. Blue mages, just like any other mages I guess, love their mana, and taking it away is all part of the brutalisation process.
- Marshdrinker Giant: A 5five mana 4/3 is not great, but one that blows up Islands is just fine by me. Shortlisted, but can be cut.
- Mogg Salvage: I might run this for the surprise factor, but I have better artifact removal options available to us.
- Choke: I'm absolutely playing this. In fact, I'm windmill slamming this while laughing.
- Curse of Marit Lage: Another Island hoser, this card is happily heading into the deck. I'll teach that annoying Arcum Daggsom player that Winter Orb effects aren't fun when you're on the receiving end (if I ever find the mana to do so)
- Boil: Even better than land entrapment is land destruction and Boil is the Island destruction poster child.
- Boiling Seas: Hey, it's a second Boil. So clearly I'm playing both.
- Monsoon: Although you can't catch people with 'mana burn' anymore, at least this prevents the degenerate Blue mage from countering your spells with land-based mana.
- Omen of Fire: A key reason why I'm going black, not white. This card can do serious damage to a Sharuum the Hegemon player and has nice fallout for monowhite players. I'd play it for certain, except for the fact it's not available on Magic Online.
- Tsunami: Boil in Green. Of course it makes the list.
- Tropical Storm: A one-sided Earthquake for Blue creatures is great for us. The fact it can take out emergency fliers is icing.
And then there's a mix-bag of cards that punish Blue mages in general:
- Radiant Kavu: Fine if I were in Naya colors, as it stops all combat damage from blue and black creatures, not just a single blue or black creature.
- Mold Adder: Miracle Grow effects aren't great in Commander as the creatures don't often stick around long enough to get out of hand. Unlikely to make the cut.
- Eyes of the Wisent: It's simple but it punishes countermagic. It's hard for a Blue player to deal with, but it is very easy to play around. I'll see.
- Snake Pit: Triggers during anyone's turn, so it's not that terrible. Triggers on black spells as well, so I think it may well make it in. Blue mages tend to have a hard time with tokens, their only real out being Echoing Truth, so more tokens is fine for our deck. Anything I can strap a Sword onto and send in to battle.
- Magistrate's Veto: This one is interesting and I'd certainly include it to stop our opponents from chump blocking our monsters, if only it were available on Magic Online. The fact it hoses white mages as well is great.
- Magnetic Mountain: It's Choke for Blue creatures, and the mana investment to untap is very, very high. We'll run this for sure.
- Ricochet Trap: It's cute, but not great.
- Seedtime: How to punish blue players in one easy step. No-one expects it, no-one plays it, but it's the kind of janky card that has no other home that is perfect for Commander. I'd even trial it in a competitive Commander deck as you'll be fighting Blue decks all day, every day, and a two mana instant isn't hard to pull off.
- Sirocco: I can see this as being brutal in that moment when the blue player has decided to draw his entire deck, especially if protected by a Vexing Shusher. Oh, you drew like 99 cards? Here, take like 396 damage.
- Spellbane Centaur: Absolutely makes the deck, hosing all sorts of Control Magic and bounce effects.
- Thelon's Curse: Not quite as brutal as Magnetic Mountain, it does come down a whole lot earlier. High on the list for consideration.
Ok, that's a whole lot of cards to choose from. Time to build a skeleton in Magic Online and see what we have. Considering the scope of cards on Magic Online is not as complete as the results from the Gatherer some won't be available, but we can live with that.
Based on experience I'm going to add the following cards to the deck:
- Aether Vial: An important way to avoid counter magic, it will help me push our creatures through the control mages.
- Sensei's Divining Top: One of the best library manipulators in the format, helps me dig for what I need.
- Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor: The great thing about adding black is gain access to some of the best tutors.
- Sol Ring: The format's best accelerator, it will help push a blue mage's slow start.
- Expedition Map: Primarily to search up Boseiju.
- Three Vists, Nature's Lore, Kodama's Reach, and Yavimaya Elder: Helps put lands into play to accelerate faster than my opponents, and fix my mana.
- Survival of the Fittest: Uncounterable creature tutoring.
- Ancient Grudge and Chainer's Edict: Perfect, because if they're countered they can be flashed back, an excellent way to gain value over a blue mage.
- City of Solitude: To break the back of counterspell-reliant blue mages.
- Brooding Saurian: The best Control Magic hoser in the format, far better than the one-shot Brand.
- Green Sun's Zenith: A brilliant card for finding the exact critter I need at the right time.
- Lightning Greaves: One of the best Equipment - if not the best - in the game, it helps me get around Control Magic until my opponents removes it.
- Genesis: Helps my countered/killed creatures get back into my hand, providing long term answers and card advantage.
That leaves me with the task of finding a Commander. I picked... Darigaaz, the Igniter. Blue mages tend to have a lot of cards in their hand. This both forces the wizard in question to reveal their hand (so you can play around it), and deals damage to them for hoarding cards. What more could you want?
Here's a final blue mage griefer decklist. Remember, the chances of winning a game against anyone other than a solid blue mage is pretty slim, but that's not why you're going to play this deck anyway.
Alright, maybe it's not the most competitive of decks. However, the cards within might give you some thing to think about when building your next competitive deck and how to combat the metagame in which you find yourself.
Speaking of which, last week's article had a lot of positive feedback and a request that more deck-tuned articles get run. If you're interested in having your deck tuned for competitive play by myself and the QS readership, drop me an email or hit me up on Twitter and we'll see what we can do!