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Today we look into the Mono-Blue strategy from its enemy’s perspective. We’ll figure out how to fight, what actually matters as the enemy of the strategy, and take back what was stolen. Welcome to The Way of the Warrior where we Don’t MUC Around.
There’s so much Blue.
Recently, Blue has finally become the color of dominance. Present in over 75% of decks in the top eights, it has cemented itself on the way to becoming the best color...
I’m kidding. Ask around. According to a lot of players, Blue has nearly always been one of the best colors in Magic. Card advantage in a game of limited resources is incredibly good. Do you want the ability to stop someone else’s agenda with a single card? Sure. Blue can give that to you for “free”.
So why would you fight an entire color and not a deck? Well, that’s simple, 22/32 decks in the top 16 of the StarCityGames Open Series for both Kentucky and Orlando were Blue decks. Real Blue decks.
I’m not counting MUDD as a blue deck—it’s ‘colorless’. I’m not counting AdNauseum—it’s combo.
I’m talking about real Blue-Blooded decks. Decks that do what the soul of Blue does: draw cards and counter spells.
With no Tides?
There are two decks that doing this exceptionally well. In fact, you could say that’s exactly how they did so well. Mono Blue Control (MUC) and Blue-White (UW) control? Today we’re learning how to fight with you.
MUC by Chris Kronenberger
Now you may not see the name “MUC” as being as appealingly intricate of a name as “Team America”. But if you look at the deck, it’s obvious that it’s not anything like Team America. MUC is exactly what Mono-Blue Control claims to be—a slow, mono-plodding control deck. Its plan isn’t to win the game by denying an opponent’s hand, countering cards and swinging in with your neat creatures.
MUC intends to win by stealing your creatures and making use of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Gimme that Fillet of Fish
If you’re thinking Vedalken Shackles seems like a decent enough card, but limited in power by needing a ton of Islands, you’d be a little mistaken. Without an answer to it, you’ll find that a reuseable Control Magic constantly stealing your best creature(s) to be rather costly.
Anyone who played Standard right after Affinity was stripped of its power pieces understands this. For those of you who didn’t, I suggest you trust this as truth now instead of finding out the hard way by trying to find decklists from this time.
So how can you beat Vedalken Shackles? Well, Back in my day (oh man, I sound old…) we fought it with Artifact hate (Naturalize), Land Destruction (Deathcloud), and Troll Acetic (who will finally wield the keyword Trollshroud… I mean Hexproof).
Those were Standard’s Limited answers, though.
If you think those are the only answers, well, “WELCOME TO LEGACY!”
Fight the Power
While the basic idea stays the same (LD, Artifact Hate, Troll-Shroud), our tools have drastically improved.
Cards like Krosan Grip (K.Grip) have been used to fight plenty of Legacy decks. That’s the beauty cards like it. There are enough Artifacts (Equipment, Sensei's Diving Top, Engineered Explosives, and nearly every card in Affinity) and Enchantments (Counterbalance, Engineered Plague, Enchantress's Presence, Back to Basics, etc) that including 1-4 copies of it in your 75 is almost always righ when playing Green. K.Grip, however, is just one way to destroy Vedalken Shackles.
For a lot of people, Troll Acetic is the only Troll. But they’ve never met The Last Troll who is now literally The Last Troll (Shrouder). If you’re considering combating Blue through use of a Troll, I’d advise you to instead look for creatures with Shroud.
I know that you can’t target them either (if I wanted to gain some life from my Swords to Plowshares), but at least your creature is safe from everyone else’s targeted thievery spells as well.
(I want to let you all know I am aware of Brooding Saurian. I just don’t think it would be a good option against anything else... if even this).
Lastly, we have the LD plan. Deathcloud was the other Control deck in the format when Vedalken Shackles was popular. Again, I don’t want you to think since we played it back in Standard you have to play it now. There are other ways to fight lands, especially Blue lands.
Due to the power level of Blue, LD received a lot of cards that either destroy or ‘destroy’ Islands. Cards like Boil will destroy all of the Islands in play, while cards like Choke ‘destroy’ the Island by stopping it from being used more than one more time. Just realize, however, that one of MUC’s other Best Weapons is this exact strategy: Back to Basics.
Armageddon is an extreme as it not only reduces the number of Islands your opponent has, but it also clears every other non-Darksteel Forge land on the battlefield. If they haven’t activated Vedalken Shackles by the time you’re casting this, they’ll wish they had. They do get to keep the your creature after you blow up all the land, though, Vedalken Shackles only checks the number of Islands they control upon targeting.
If you’re ahead on board after resolving an Armageddon, their outs (Jace, the Mind Sculptor and more lands) are likely too slow to come back from the game.
Just don’t try blowing up their land if they have a [card]Crucible of the Worlds[/cards] on board.
The Lost One
With all that hate against Vedalken Shackles, you also have to remember the fact that this deck plays Sower of Temptation!
While only a 2/2 flier, it is a serious threat. Not only because it flies, but because it simply takes your best Creature. While Vedalken Shackles is limited in how to hate it, Sower of Temptation is much more vulnerable. Let’s face it: it’s a creature.
Remember all of that useless removal you were holding in your hand, upset at having to shoot your Shackled creature? Well, now you have a target.
So, use your Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Vindicate (if you don’t use it on [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[card]), and other forms of removal to get your creature back. MUC can’t reanimate it once it’s gone. You only have to do it once… unless they have another.
Not Created Equal?!
Nope. Take this list.
UW Control by Gerry Thompson
Gerry’s deck is essentially MUC—aside from the inclusion of Swords to Plowshares—as it functions nearly the exact same way. The biggest difference? The packages.
Gerry’s list has a recurring land package with Crucible of Worlds. Why is that important? Well, Wasteland, while nice, and Mishra's Factory provide fairly little all on their lonesome.
If you don’t understand, a 2/2 isn’t necessarily a premier creature in Legacy and Wasting one land isn’t the game winner that MUC’s clock yearns for. It’s when you start turning that 2/2 into a recurring blocker or a small army, or when you start taking out 2, 3, 4 lands… that’s when these cards become incredibly dangerous.
You’re Outta Here
Gerry’s list also contains a removal package. It may only look like Swords to Plowshares, but Repeal also counts. And there’s even more out of the board. It would seem that Gerry’s main intention stopping an opponent from resolving or swinging with everything, finally ultimating Jace, the Mind Sculptor for victory.
Gerry’s list did something else different as well. In the entire 75, there are only three real creatures—Mishra's Factory being a land. Why does this matter? It means that most of your removal is fairly useless, especially since Go for the Throat is dead against Mishra's Factory.
Lucky for us, Gerry’s list only runs one maindeck Crucible of Words—two after the side. That means that once we ‘solve’ that issue, we’re back onto dealing with Vedalken Shackles… and then Jace, the Mind Sculptor. But, THEN WE’RE DONE …if our spells resolve.
The Real Fight Begins
Fighting Counterspells can be tricky. They’re not meant to always stop absolutely everything—with conditional counters like Mental Misstep, Spell Snare, Spell Pierce, and even Force of Will to some extent, needing an additional Blue card to pitch—so mindlessly slinging spells won’t always meet the counter in hand. But they’re usually very painful when they do make a showing. So how can you combat them?
You are usually very limited in options. You can:
- Play them yourself.
- Utilize Split Second.
- Extract the rest of them from their deck.
- Make them become discarded.
- Play things they can’t use them on.
- Bait out a counterspell with a card you’re willing to sacrifice.
- Cross your fingers and hope they don’t have it.
Realize that if you’re playing counters yourself, you’re probably going to fall into those 22/32 decks above. Either way, if you are playing those counters now, you have to look at what you are countering. Don’t mindlessly burn your counters on things that have little to no effect on the game. Turn 1 Mental Misstep on Brainstorm may not always be the best choice…
Discard spells are a touchy subject in deck construction. When they’re good, they’re amazing. When it’s mid-late game… they make you wish they were anything else. The theory behind them is that are ‘advance counters’ or sorts, meaning they counter a spell before it can be played.
Empty hands beat discard strategies. That is why counters will always be more popular than discard.
People play spells. They typically don’t keep winning cards in hand.
I’d love to skip over telling you about playing things that don’t matter, but everyone plays cards we don’t really care about.
Take Affinity for example.
Your opponent plays: Land, Memnite (resolves), Memnite (resolves), Signal Pest (Important?).
If yes, counter. Otherwise it resolves.
This becomes your judgment call.
Me? I’m going to let it resolve 9-of-10 times as they‘re only presenting 2 power on board and I can just swords it, saving the counter for something more important. If the Signal Pest were a Springleaf Drum, I would most likely consider countering it as Affinity plays very little lands and requires Blue to draw more cards. I would also prefer to save the Swords to Plowshares for larger game. Besides, what other relevant one drops does Affinity run?
The point is: is it important? If the answer is no, it shouldn’t really matter. Let the spell resolve.
This is how we’re taught the stereotypical good Blue players should think. The thing is, not everyone always operates this way.
Take advantage of that.
If you’re trying to bait out a spell with cards that don’t matter, don’t be mad if they don’t earn a counter. But be grateful if they snag one. Also remember that some players will have more than one counter in hand.
I Mean Junk
So for this week’s question, “How would I fight a Blue deck with a non-Blue deck, while still having game against the rest of the format?”
How would I do it? With an update to an old favorite:
The Rock by Ian Ellis
Until next time,