Breaking Through – Blue Uprising


More than any other color, blue has usually occupied polar ends of the spectrum on the “love it or hate it” scale. This has led to some interesting decisions by R&D as they have to choose whether to make the “casual” crowd happy by limiting the counterspells in a certain format or to make the “competitive” crowd happy by printing good draw spells and counterspells in each and every format.

Blue’s slice of the color pie is so powerful that older formats tend to be dominated by the color. Sure there are other strategies and other colors have powerful tools, but in general, the power level of any randomly selected blue card is going to be more powerful than any randomly selected card of some other color.

Recently, Standard has gone through a drought so to speak, where blue was almost unplayable. Control decks have begun to emerge on the back of some not so powerful spells like Divination, which is a testament to the power of drawing cards and does not imply that Divination is in any way good. Similarly, the counterspells we have been given are efficient from a mana standpoint, but not very versatile. We have not had a Mana Leak effect that was playable since [card]Rune Snag[/card] a few years ago. This has led to an interesting trend.

Typically, control decks are only able to emerge as “good” decks once a metagame as been firmly established. This is because the deck needs to know exactly what problems exist in order to determine which answers it must run. When a control deck has versatile answers like Mana Leak, Cryptic Command, Faith’s Fetters, and Path to Exile, it is able to emerge much more quickly, for obvious reasons of course. However, with the current suite of answers we have in Standard, the exact opposite has come true. Let’s look at LSV’s winning UWR control deck from the L.A. 5K.

Ignoring the bad draw spells, what is different from this deck than say, Angelfire control decks from the days of Ravnica?

[deck]4 Wrath of God
4 Lightning Helix
3 Condemn
2 Mana Leak
4 Compulsive Research
4 Rune Snag
4 Remand
3 Demonfire
4 Firemane Angel
3 Lightning Angel
1 Urzas Factory
2 Calciform Pools
2 Flagstones of Trokair
2 Island
1 Battlefield Forge
1 Shivan Reef
1 Azorius Chancery
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Boros Garrison
1 Adarkar Wastes[/deck]

Where one deck has counterspells like [card]Mana Leak[/card], [card]Remand[/card], and [card]Rune Snag[/card], the other uses [card]Flashfreeze[/card], [card]Negate[/card], and [card]Double Negative[/card]. Given the current metagame, Flashfreeze acts pretty closely to a Rune Snag, as it is effective against a majority of the decks, while being not as effective against a minority of the field. This has developed over a long period of time however. At the beginning of the new format, Flashfreeze would never see maindeck play, as its variance is too large.

Essentially, what has happened is that due to the very specific functioning of blue cards recently, control decks have had to develop as a sort of “pre-sideboarded” strategy. This makes them good once they emerge, but requires a very well-established metagame for that to occur, meaning control decks early on for a format have been bad or altogether absent. Months into a season we may end up with a good control deck, but as soon as the metagame shifts, the control decks will suffer a long lag period again and fall out of favor. This is even apparent in the removal choices, as [card]Earthquake[/card] is much less effective than [card]Day of Judgment[/card] for a new format, but after a metagame develops and [card]Wall of Denial[/card] shows its strength, we can see why Earthquake gets the nod.

Again, this is not unusual for control decks, as they generally take some time to be developed properly, but the current states of blue has only extended the lag time, exponentially. Without Jund rising to such popularity though, cards like Double Negative, Flashfreeze, and Wall of Denial become worse. Look at the Wall against a more traditional aggro deck, like [card]Boros Bushwhacker[/card] for example, and you quickly realize that it doesn’t offer enough against them to be overly valuable.

So where does all this talk of blue lead to and why did I bring it up in the first place? For that, we must turn to Worldwake, and the reinvigoration of blue that awaits within those 145 cards. Here we are less focused on the individual applications of cards, but rather looking at to what the cards do for blue as a color, and therefore what blue does for Standard as a format.

There are some cards found in blue that have applications among the aggro fan or even combo fan, such as Sejiri Merfolk or Quest for Ula’s Temple but we are primarily focused on the control cards of the spectrum, of which there are plenty:

First and foremost, we should get it out of the way up front that Worldwake did not deliver the counterspells we would have hoped for. While both Dispel and Spell Contortion are playable, one is better at protecting a combo while the other can’t be played in large numbers as it just is not powerful enough. This said, Standard does have some counterspells that are appropriate enough as is; we just were not able to utilize them due to a lack of good card draw and manipulation. To explain further; a counterspell is typically a 1-for-1 trade off. Because of this, and the slower win route that control decks utilize, without some sort of card advantage, a control deck runs out of answers faster than the opponent runs out of threats. Usually trading 1-for-1 early is fine, as you have a fully stocked hand and your opponent is restricted in their resources. Around turn 5 or 6 however, you want to be recouping some of the lost cards while keeping counterspell mana open. This allows you to continue utilizing 1 for 1 methods of containment while you allow your other spells to generate the card advantage for you.

Contrast this to a deck like Jund, which has naturally built-in card advantage in most of its spells. This allows the deck to avoid running the sub-optimal card draw spells of the format and instead just pack its confines full of good spells. It should go without saying that the reason instant speed card draw is preferred for blue control strategies is that this allows you to keep open counterspell mana and still use a draw spell at the end of your opponent’s turn if all of your mana is not used up, therefore letting you maximize your mana usage for the turn.

This brings up what blue has gotten out of Worldwake: deck thinning, manipulation, and card draw. With good card advantage engines, bad counterspells suddenly become that much better as you are more likely to draw them when they are at their best, and are able to recover from the blank draws they become when they are at their worst.

The new class of blue:
Jace the Mind Sculptor
Treasure Hunt
Mysteries of the Deep
Halimar Depths
Everflowing Chalice
Calcite Snapper

Between these four gems, blue-based control strategies should take a firm place in the upcoming metagame. I am not here to go over each individual card and its applications since everyone and their mother has already done so, but rather the larger implications for Standard as a whole. Although one thing I would like to point out is that all the talk of turn 1 Halimar Depths, turn 2 Treasure Hunt sounds like a pretty bad idea to me. You’re talking about on the play, turning that sequence into your discard step for anything beyond 2 cards from Treasure Hunt? Seems like that is a bit of a waste for the true control player, but that’s just me.

With the rise of blue, the metagame shifts from what currently exists. Typically, blue decks tend to weed out all but the best of the midrange strategies in a format. It turns out that slower creatures are more susceptible to counterspells and thus cannot compete in the same fashion that a more aggressive deck can. Jund will be the obvious exception here, as cascade breaks the rules and gets around most countermagic pretty easily. I could see [card]Mindbreak Trap[/card] finally getting some love in this regard, as it may have now found a home.

For those midrange decks that do wish to exist, specific steps must be made in order to stay competitive. Rather than the control deck warping its every card choice to accommodate itself in a hostile environment, midrange decks will likely have to turn to things like [card]Great Sable Stag[/card], [card]Duress[/card], or Dispel (counter target instant spell for U) as ways to resolve its threats.

Meanwhile, as the midrange decks try to adapt and figure out how to thrive in a new environment, the hyper-aggressive decks should find a nice home. [card]Day of Judgment[/card], [card]Path to Exile[/card], and [card]Earthquake[/card] offer some nice removal, but these aggressive decks aren’t those from the days of old, as they have card advantage engines like Ranger of Eos backed by hasty threats and solid burn spells. While the control decks have the tools to fight these strategies, any stumble and they probably fall too far behind to recover.

A real life example of this is something along the lines of Eldrazi Green. People seem to be excited by Joraga Warcaller to be some heaven sent catalyst for the deck, but how can such a deck exist when counterspells are back on the market? Sure, your [card]Llanowar Elf[/card] or [card nissas chosen]Nissa’s Chosen[/card] will resolve, but that is nothing that a Wrath can’t clean up. Meanwhile the card advantage planeswalkers of the deck have little shot at seeing the light of the battlefield, and the few that do will probably just be flushed back [card]Into the Roil[/card].

As you can see, the exploitation of control decks leads to faster aggro decks, meaning we now have decks that occupy the outer ends of the spectrum (very fast and very slow) and have less decks falling in the middle. Combo decks, if they come to exist, would generally fall in the faster side of things as well, otherwise they can’t compete with aggro decks.

This simple shifting of speed levels also shifts what cards become more or less valuable going forward. We already mentioned [card]Duress[/card] and [card]Great Sable Stag[/card], but along the same lines, as a tool for control decks to fight the mirror, [card]Banefire[/card], and subsequently [card]Swerve[/card], both should see an increase in play. Swerve can win counterwars against everything but [card]Essence Scatter[/card], while redirecting those pesky [card]Blightning[/card]s and [card lightning bolt]Bolts[/card] at the same time.

If a green deck is to have any impact in the future Standard, I expect [card]River Boa[/card] to be a big part of said deck. Not only is regeneration going to trump everything this side of [card]Path to Exile[/card], but walking right past Calcite Snapper, [card]Wall of Denial[/card], and [card]Sphinx of Jwar Isle[/card] is sure to be a huge bonus. While his islandwalk is irrelevant when attacking planeswalkers, that is only a small chink in the armor of a very powerful but oft overlooked bear.

Lastly, [card]Traumatic Visions[/card] might see a spike in play. Obviously as a counterspell, Visions is not too exciting, but the ability to shuffle your library after a Halimar Depths or Jace activation can end up being crucial. Of course fetchlands will be used here as well, but having a versatile counterspell that acts in the same way will probably end up being a good call. I don’t expect this to be a 4-of anytime soon, but 1 or 2 of them seems like it should be fine.

There are of course other cards that will rise in value as well, not to mention the influx of new cards that are bound to be tried out. The takeaway from this is that with the reinvigoration of an old archetype, the entire framework of a format changes. Jund will still be Jund, as its cards are too powerful to hate out, but beyond that, expect drastic shifts around the corner.

The set looks to have a huge impact on limited, Standard, Extended, and even Legacy, so I expect to see a lot of new faces at the Denver Prerelease this weekend, where I will be gunslinging alongside Ken Nagle. See you guys there!

Conley Woods

57 thoughts on “Breaking Through – Blue Uprising”

  1. I thought that landwalk did allow you to attack planeswalkers, since the opponent is still the defending player.

  2. “While his islandwalk is irrelevant when attacking planeswalkers”
    Not true, he’s still unblockable. The guy with the islands across the table is still the defending player.

  3. “At the beginning of the new format, Flashfreeze would never see maindeck play, as its variance is too large.”

    I would disagree with this statement. It’s not that it’s too large, rather that there isn’t any heavy blue or white decks. Meaning most good spells have a green or red symbol even of they also contain a white, blue, or black. The same train of thought or perception should be applied to why Terror “became” good after so many years of being proxied on. Either good black creatures or artifacts saw abundant play the same time Terror saw print, hence Doomblade. Flashfreeze and other “narrow” cards like it are truly Terrors in disguise.

    People shouldn’t try to argue a “good reason” why blue is bad because “look it has Flashfreeze!” but because it has no other solid, honest-to-goodness, decent cards. Yea, we all have those fond memories of blues unique ability to counter spells, but what is really lacking is some actual meat. Not a Rhox Warmonk, Meddling Mage, Bant Charm, or any hybrid concoction. Some muscle.

    Blue has needed a facelift, a new identity, for some time. Pickles and Mystical Teachings are, in my mind, two good examples of “meaty blue decks.” Or at least what blue can do for you.

    I still love Counterspell and Force of Will, but with the color pie shifting so many times recently, blue hasn’t ever had a true face. I’m sure people will point to Mike Flores’ Tap-out Blue deck, and that’s fine, but that was some time ago where creatures were “on-par” with each other (except for Affinity) and it doesn’t necessarily gave blue any other unique facial feature that other decks couldn’t mirror.

    Excellent read as always!

  4. I do want to point out I did not play in much of faeries hay-day. To be truthful, we need a deck like faeries, sans the Bitterblossoms, in Standard. The creatures had the needed mystical muscle and made cards like Terror good. Despite all that, it’s sad most players/people will find something silly to complain about. I guess self identification does that.

  5. every time i see a counterspell i think of Isildur’s grinning face in the fires of Mount Doom … “No.”

  6. My bad on the landwalk mistake, but I really don’t think it deserves comments questioning my playskill or anything else of that nature. It is not as though the interaction comes up often, or ever to this point.

    As for the context of the Boa, that just makes him even better 🙂

  7. Good read Conley, no need to question his play abilities here. Just a mistake in interactions. I think blue has a home but needs support in 2 other colours, like in Esper or Bant.

  8. I really liked your statement about how a surge in blue will make genuine aggro decks better. I enjoy most types of decks, but feel most at home turning guys sideways, and have never been so eager to see islands back.

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  10. GREAT read, Conley. You took the thoughts right out of my head. (Er, you “seized” the thoughts right out of my head? Oh god, bad Magic puns"¦)

    I think what makes this article so good is that it’s not extremely specific to one version of a deck, and instead gives a general idea of why blue-based control will be a factor in the upcoming Standard environment. Personally, I can’t wait.

  11. Conley, i appreciate all your articles, but i have to say one thing: Blue is being murdered by the game developers. Since Shadowmoor that blue is being marginalized. This has to stop, because in every game there are players that see themselves as being control players. I cant agree that “flashfreeze is useful as it was rune snag”, because it simply isnt. U could use rune snag against absolutely everything. U cant say the same of Flashfreeze , which is clearly an sb card. It is only used in main decks because the current standard metagame sucks, like it sucked in Mirrodin Block , when u saw affinity decks vs hate, and now u see jund decks vs hate. So, when a powerful color like blue is being casted out, we have crappy metagames like we had when mirrodin was in standard.

  12. I have been running River Boas for a few weeks now, and in my deck they have become the bane of peoples games. it definitely is an MVP, especially when holding a Sledge.

  13. I think the part where he lists six cards and then starts the next sentence with “Between these four gems,” is much funnier than him not knowing rules. Though I guess it would make me less likely to hold in high regard his opinions on, for instance, M10 limited, where an Oryx or Bog Wraith walking a walker is a reasonably common occurrence.

  14. I’ve said it before and will repeat it now – Conley for president! 😛

    I have a question for you – don’t you think that increased card selection, but bad “hard draw” spells and lack of good and playable counterspells warrants not as much as pure “control” decks, but rather pure combo and combo-control decks, such as your own creation “Magical Christmasland”? I see no reason why I should not use the card selection tools to find my lotus cobra on turn 2, then cast my jace on turn 3 and “brainstorm” into the tools necessary to cast cruel ultimatum on turn 4.

    This proactive strategy to me seems inherently more powerful, compared to the passive stance control decks as of late have been taking. And bad countermagic is BAD indeed. What are they going to do, flashfreeze my ultimatum? I’m just going to out-mana and out-draw them in the long run, even if they can deal with my initial threats. It’s like jushi blue vs. monoU urzatron in mirrodin-kamigawa standard – where one deck has so much more threats and mana and the other has answers that are – at best – marginal.

  15. Hey Conley,

    Great insight into the way new cards will not only change decks which include them, but also some specific ripple effects they will have on current decks and the usage of existing cards.

    One (admittedly nit-picky) comment.. Grammar is often butchered when people write about magic – especially in the forums, but also in articles. You are generally one of the best writers in this respect (as well as in content). However, you have done something I notice over-and-over among lesser magic writers.. mix up THEN and THAN.

    Than is a comparison: e.g. “Counterspell is better THAN cancel.”

    Then has several usages, but the most relevant here is using it as equivalent to ‘therefore’: e.g. “If counterspell were legal in standard, THEN I would play it.”

    Forgive me for being anal.. you are certainly a better magic player than I am, and probably a better writer. I really should direct this comment to the writers over at StarCityGames instead… =P

    Keep up the great articles!!

  16. Nah, you’re a terrible player for not knowing the boa/planeswalker interaction. Your results that show otherwise are irrelevant. I’d think of another hobby… maybe hacking computers to stop people from making idiotic posts.

    I like the theoretical side of this article. Good points. Good examples.

  17. @ Shyft
    The 6 cards/4 cards thing happened because I originally just planned to write about the blue draw spells, but added the other good spells for blue mages afterwards.

    I’ll work on it, had to write this one in a shorter time frame than usual (got it right there!)

    I agree that they are harsh on blue, but this is for the same reason they are harsh on Land Destruction spells. They aren’t fun for s subportion of gamers. That said, I think there is a nice middle ground that they have yet to walk on, as they currently favor making those people happy instead of blue mages. We have shown that any Mana Leak variant at 2 mana, plus some of the conditional counters AKA Negat and Essence Scatter, plus some slower more versatile hard counter is all we need in a format. 4 Cards amongst about 1000 at a time. They are scared of said Mana Leak variant, but I think as long as they print it while a signet is legal, its fine, bc people misplay and tap down on turn 2, and for the big hard counter, we don’t need it to be Cryptic Command to be happy

  18. Counterspalls are in a weird place where better creatures both require them to get better and get worse:

    For example:

    Counterspells actually are not 1-1 trades anymore. For some time now the vast bulk of playable creatures have “Enters the Battlefield” clauses or some other utility ability that makes them into a virtual 2 for 1 (creature body plus spells like effect). Countering this spell is the only way to turn this advantage around. In this kind of environment countering a spell is MUCH more powerful than using removal on a creature. So why should counters be costed equivalent to other forms of removal? However, if creatures are better isn’t the need for efficient counterspells also greater? Its a catch-22 that R&D has put themselves in through pushing the power of creatures.

    I’m sure things will turn around at some point, after all most creatures were just *terrible* for years and years.

  19. I don’t know why people keep saying that counterspells aren’t fun. I think that casting a spell and having it countered is more fun than having to discard my hand so I have no options, nothing to cast and mere top-deck hope. How is it that we have so much discard, and so little counters? I just don’t see how “fun-factor” is the answer.

    Good article.

  20. This was an interesting arcticle. It also got me thinking about green’s color pie.

    If you think blue is in trouble, that’s because no one even cares about green. I used to love playing green, but it’s just “big creatures” and “pump” for the most part (and mana accel).

    No matter how bad blue seems, it can’t be worse than poor green.

  21. Good stuff. You totally lost me when you said islandwalk didn’t have any effect when attacking planeswalkers. Glad that was resolved lol. I too am glad blue is back whether I decide to run it or not. Red is still so amazing, it and I are going to have a hard time parting… Might be in Grixis in the upcoming season if RDW or Valakut Control is too heavily hated on, but I don’t see that happening.

  22. “Control decks have begun to emerge on the back of some not so powerful spells like Divination, which is a testament to the power of drawing cards and does not imply that Divination is in any way good.”

    Actually, I think that it *does* mean that divination is a good card. The fact that it is completely outclassed by draw spells from previous eras is completely irrelevant when determining a card’s power level in the current standard.

  23. Conley touched on this a little bit, but look at what Jace does for you. He lets you play a mix of suboptimal (but efficient) counterspells. Just brainstorm and shuffle away the ones you don’t need for the game state.

    @dreamfall I have to admit your idea of Lotus Cobra + Jace tickles my fancy. T2 Lotus Cobra, T3 Fetch + Jace with mana open for Dispel.

  24. Good article Conley.
    Always been a fan of the snake:)
    I tried to run my red deck against
    Wall of Denials on Monday
    I was like the worm fighting the eagle
    see you at EG soon

  25. I don’t know that counterspells are the crux of the problem. It seems like R&D is firmly in the belief that 12 good counterspells in a reasonable deck isn’t good for the game, and they are likely right. Unfortunately, the pendulum seems to be at “Playing a tapout lottery deck (Jund with it’s 4-8 instants), or a tapout creature deck (Vampires) or some other tapout deck.” There aren’t a lot of instants, and there aren’t all that many things that feel interactive outside of creatures attacking.

    Brainstorm-like instants would be cool and all, but that still kind of leads back to the “Look for my counterspells” deck. I think that I’d like to see something like Repulse or Man-O’-War, something you can do to recover from the early t2 Rhox War Monk, without having to be the second coming of Counterspell.

  26. i wish I saw these comments before I wrote my article. The whole mail back the cancels is very funny. The problem with that is that cancel is a very fair counterspell. Counterspell is to good of a card. All of these situational 2 mana counters are good for the game. blue is right where is has to be. If it got any better we would have blue dominated formats. I know its fun to be on that side, but it makes for a very bad metagame.

  27. I agree with Phil Major. In my experience recently, I’ve been making a pretty hard run on getting closer to the top players in Oregon, and I keep running into a problem against this terrible metagame… Do I hate jund, and lose to vampires? Do I hate everything but Jund and walk into a brick wall when I play them and auto-lose game one? I usually find some semblance of peace inside my own cascade variant, however vampires still consistently beats me. Do I thought hemorrhage Bloodwitch, or Nocturnus and hope for the stall? And is it relevant when they cast mind sludge the following turn? Also is it great that they printed EVEN MORE solid solid cards for vampires?

    R&D is making decisions they think are necessary to promote a happy environment for young players, but what they are doing is opening up a host of possibilities for terrible players to harvest ego boosting wins against someone like myself who goes into each match feeling as though the semi-retarded speech impedimented person across the table could do more good stocking groceries than playing turn five sludge and stomping me, just because the meta says I can’t F****** afford to play negates main. Anyways, I’m all for the ”
    Cancel Petition”. And great article Conley!


  28. *Sarcasm mode on*
    Yeah i agree with Brad Nelson. Islands should be banned and cspells erradicated.Lets all play brainless decks with Craw Wurms and Giant Growths.

  29. This is the same road YuGiOh went down, and why I quit playing YuGiOh for Magic. Anything that even resembled control wasn’t considered “fun” by some players, and Konami quickly squashed those decks. Soon YuGiOh was just mindless aggro and creature removal (gee, doesn’t that sound familiar). I switched to Magic because there were a bunch of complex strategies to play, stretched across aggro, control, and combo. Now all I see is mindless “tapout” aggro that you either run, or get run over by.

    I don’t mind if WotC gimps counterspells, but if they do then they need to be sure to fill that gap, because counterspells are blue’s only early game way of holding off their opponent.

  30. Love how anytime anyone takes a shot at Blue, suddenly you’re accused of wanting to remove it from the game entirely,. If you see Blue needs something though, then you want to go back to where Faeries beat everything.

  31. When are people going to understand that blue is good for magic!

    Haveing the ability to say no does make for a more diversified and interesting format.

    Aslong as R&D refuse to print good controllcards they also make it impossible for themselves to print cards that make true combo a possibility so basicly we get a format with a bunch of different agrostyle decks.

    I guess you can´t ask for a standardformat with 10 viable archetypes but it hurts a blue hearth when you can´t play counterspell in Extended and it will keep rotating and we will probably see a trend where extended is closer to standard and the gap between extended and legacy will just keep geting biger.

    I miss the days of Trix, Oat, Aluren and others in extended or even the days of Mind´s Desire and Goblins.

    Some times I wish they added a bunch of cards that will be legal for extended no matter when they were printed. It doesn´t have to be all blue cards but it would be nice if you had other options then choose creaturedeck X, Y or Z because that´s where we are heading with Magic being dumbed down with every new set.

  32. Very nice article. I long for a mystical teachings.

    For those questioning his play skill for not realizing the interaction between landwalk and planeswalkers, I suggest you take a look at your average pro. Most of them are not rules guru’s, but instead have a solid understanding of the main interactions of the game and the successful ones play-test and have an understanding of the meta-game they are up against. I think chapin is the most rules guruish pro I can think of (obviously if you are not out there in some form I can read I can’t judge you), but if I recall he more knows the tournament rules better than the comprehensive rules.

    Knowing how humility works with other cards does not a pro make.. (otherwise I’d be pro 😛 since the logical application of rules is something I’m good at)

    Minor issue with your article.. well really more with tv and movies I’d think. Your use of exponential is probably wrong… but I assume you are just using it as a descriptor for “this is bigger than that other stuff”. It’s not your fault… I think out of all the times I’ve seen growth described in tv/movies only one time can I remember that it wasn’t described as exponential growth… there’s lots of other kinds of growth… Yeah, if you read this paragraph… I guess it’s not really relevant to the article… just to people using exponential as a catch all term for “really big/fast” where it actually has a specific meaning.

  33. Jeez Conley you have so many fans it took me longer then expected to scroll all the way down. Anyways I really like the new artifact that allows you to draw off a landfall trigger. That in combination with other draw helps fill the gaps. Excellent article and don’t worry about the islandwalk error. Most people laugh when they see my River Boa’s in my trade folder. Most people don’t realize how efficient they are… Also I’m excited to say I’ll be playing some type 2 this season and I wanted to go to the prerelease in Colorado but its not happening. Oh well I’ll still make it to the one in my home state of Oklahoma. Keep up the good writing your strategies are spot on!

  34. How about you people learn to play a different style of deck rather than castigating R&D for not making Buehler Blue or Dralnu viable every season?

  35. yeah …. Because a metagame with only Jund and hate against Jund is so funny isn’t it? All you blue haters become frustrated cuz someone countered your Craw Wurms? I also become somewhat frustrated when someone plays discard spells against me( Thoughtseize, Duress, etc) and its not because of it that i say “Lets remove all the discard spells from MTG”. Discard spells were made in the beginning to fight control decks, so how about adding some slots for discard in your timmy decks if u hate control decks so much?

  36. Nice analysis about how the format can evolve now.

    One question: where do the new manlands fit? They can give midrange archetype a tool to play around countermagic and sweepers, but they are very slow. Are they going to become control’s bane or control’s win conditions so the deck can be filled with anwers?

    Agree with nick that now that blue has partially recovered, people will realize how bad green currently is, now that its best features are available to all colors for the sake of the block theme, and its best weapons are more of the narrow SB cards (nice terra stompers) than true strong card on themselves. Green suffers from being considered the “fun” color when the designers confuse fun with crap.

  37. Frankly I’m having a hard time seeing why blue is always toted as so skill intensive.

    “Force Spike, Counterspell, Absorb, Dismiss, Counterspell, Counterspell, Rewind, Circular Logic, Upheaval, Psychatog.”

    Well, I’d say flicking pens into the ceiling took more skill than the most skill-intensive deck ever made just there.

    Surely “Spectral Procession into Ajani Goldmane vs Woolly Thoctar into Garruk Wildspeaker” makes for far more difficult decisions than “Rune Snag whatever you play then Fact or Fiction, owned n00b”

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  39. My guess is Absorb should be Undermine so it was obv to difficult for you to even think about the correkt cards = TOG IS SUPERDUPERYPERHARD!

    Seriously though, it´s not about what deck is harder to play, way to many people asume that sligh is super easy to play. This is just as wrong as asumeing a deck is more difficult to play only because it´s blue. I don´t know why people hate Blue so much. I play blue if I can but everyone else is allowed to play whaever they want, why shouldn´t I be? Removeing controll as a true archetype take away alot of fun from the game and make it over all worse.

  40. It really annoys me how everyone is saying that Blue is getting hosed and that Wizards is intentionally screwing with blue’s color pie and making it weak. GET OVER IT!

    Did we not just roll over from a standard that was DOMINATED by control decks? The answer is yes we did. Now aggro decks are getting a chance to shine. Just because you’re a control player and you’re not a GREAT aggro player doesn’t mean you should complain when your style doesn’t get the cards you need. Learn to play something else. I for one, as someone who gets frustrated by control decks am glad for the break. It’s the reason why I refused to play competitive Standard Magic while Lorwyn/Shadowmoor was still legal.

    Never mind the fact that it’s not like Jund is straight aggro and it’s dominating the scene.

    Get over it guys and just learn to play another style and flow with the changes of the game. I would bet a year’s paycheck that when the next block comes out Control comes back big time. But Jesus…quit your whining.

    *end rant

  41. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  42. Keith Cooper.

    Makeing controll viable doesn´t hurt agro at all.
    The truth is: makeing controll viable makes agro better.
    Why? Because controll usually dominate the decks that prey on agro = combo and big creture decks.

    By not combo a viable contender you also take away other possible archetypes. If there are no counterspells you can´t print cards that would make for a combodeck because it would completely dominate the format (no Ascension or Valakuth decks are not comb.)

    You could take Force of Will as an example, I think there´s very hard to argue against FoW being the best counterspell ever and it´s probably the most important card in all of vintage when it comes to keeping the format healthy.

    How much ANT an Belcher do you think you´d see in top8 of a Legacy tournament if there were no Force of Wills to stop them.

    I can´t speak for everyone here but my concern about blue becomeing worse with every block is that it makes the whole format less versatile. I like Land Desctruction for simulure reasons, it make people think twice about how to build their decks and what cards to use.

    If you look at a deck like 5cc from last season it did not excist beacuse of the awsome blue cards in the format, It was there because of the lack of those in combination with a hilarious landbase. Same with the UWR-list that LSV took down the $5k tournament with. It´s only there because there are no REAL controlldeck. If you go further back in history decks like MonoBlack Controll and Big Red was allowed to dominate because the format lacked the tools build a good Blue deck.

    Those kind of board controlldecks dominate agro in a way that a blue deck could never dream about and blue decks dominate those kind of decks so I fail to see how you as an agroplayer prefere to go up against a red deck with 20 burnspells + sweepers compared to the blue deck.

  43. Very well written article. Who cares about a couple of oversights in rules and than vs. then. The content was complex and very interesting. Blue is mosdef stronger due to the new block.

    Other than a mono-blue control deck, the current format is fairly diverse. Most the players in here who are complaining are merely doing so as more of a tantrum than having real concerns about the game. In this format where aggro is on average more powerful than control the meta shifts toward decks like RWU/grixis control. Even though these decks are not classic control decks they win and have won tournaments and continue to be competitive. Are they overpowering? No. But would you rather have a control orientated meta or an aggro orientated meta? And either way most people will just be sheep and play the decks others have proven and won with. People are crying because Jund and Vampires are boring/mindless/typical. Not being a fan of Jund/Vamps I can’t really argue that point. But my question is this:

    Would a format dominated by blue/control be more fun than one dominated by aggro?

    It would still be full of the same kids that bag your groceries and couldn’t tell you the difference between psychosocial and psychosexual. Face it this is a very kid orientated game. Its also a game that has lots of sheep. People will play whatever is popular. God, I can’t tell you how much I hate Twillight (and have never AND would never watch it, cause its obviously retarded), but people have and DO watch it. They do so because it’s trendy. IMHO, having 55% of my deck built around waiting for the other player to play a card so that I can deny them from playing it is just boring. I understand it as a valid strategy but I personally don’t really care for it. Others don’t care for playing creature spells and beating down. Bigons.

    I make my own decks using cards I think are powerful cards in general then take into account the current meta to make small adjustments and attempt to make it synergize (is that the correct word? If not im sure I will be crucified by some English Professor :P). I do so because I think it’s fun to make a deck predominantly on my own and use it successfully. In the end that’s the point, to have FUN. Let’s not forget this.

    Many others think it’s fun to play whatever the most powerful deck is and win with it. Many of my friends are in this category and they are very good players so they succeed in doing so.

    When the format shifts more toward control it will be less fun for me, but I will still play and it would be pointless for me to complain about it. I will just shift my play/deck(s) and do what I can to be successful. That’s all I CAN do.

    And yes on average control decks are more difficult to play than aggro decks, but who cares? Magic elitists? Really? It’s simply laughable…………

  44. Its not because control decks are more elitistic than agro decks. U have players like Saito and Nakamura that prefer to play agro and, as u should know, they are in the top of this game, so dont say that agro decks are for stupid ppl and control decks are for smart ppl.
    When i started to play MTG (when Tempest was released) all the constructed formats were well balanced, with both agro and control archetypes having tools to preform really well. I, as a control player, only ask for R&D to be fair with control players and not just add good tools for agro decks, thats pretty much it.

  45. Having 2 removal spells in an entire format that kill river boa, that can’t even be played in the same deck is hardly reason to not play it… Why there are at least 10 removal spells played in the format that kill Baneslayer Angel, yet that sees play. Maybe 15 in the format that kill Putrid Leech…

  46. @vindicator

    If your comments were directed toward me then it would behoove you to re-read my statement. Because if they were directed toward me then you very much misinterpreted what I wrote…………


    The guy was mistaken but there are many more than just two spells/ways to get rid of river boa. I’m not saying its a bad two drop because it’s not, but off the top of my head I can think of at least four or five spells that render the creature useless.


    I’m really curious to see how the card works out. It looks like a very good card though.

  47. Brian Coghlan (KaGGo)

    I started the game again in July after 5-6 years off. I sucked back then.

    I jumped right into 5 Color Control and introduced myself to draw go and the innate power of cards when you pave a road for them to be cast (read : Cruel Ultimatum, Ajani Vengeant, Mulldrifter, Esper Charm, Hallowed Burial, Cryptic Command and Baneslayer / Broodmate). Being able to play defensive and REACTIVE and recognizing threats to counter and things to let resolve makes for a good reactive player. Do I Esper Charm them or Mulldrifter on their EOT.. hmmm…

    I think the blue players are “mad” because the metagame doesn’t allow for a type of deck that has to analyze threats and have cards with options (CCommand, Esper Charm). There are hardly any spells that you can just say “Ok that resolves” because of power creep. Our draw 2’s are sorcery speed for 3 mana or artifacts that cost you 4 mana. They don’t have any versatility and mock a bad limited control deck.

    Sure, it takes no brain to counterspell a spell. You can say that Blue Mages aren’t smart just because they are reactive but it isn’t true. The only real draw go is UWr Planeswalker control. There still isn’t much to think about although what you do have to decide on is very important. Having real instant speed draw spells and versatile counterspells allow for a permissive, thought provoking game which allows for a healthy slew of aggro variants which leaves a perfect gap for the combo players.

    This makes a healthy metagame.

    Pre Zendikar


    5 Color Control
    Fish (slightly aggro)


    Time Sieve



    POst Zendiakr


    Grixis (Basically just 1 for 1s everything and hopes it gets 7 mana)




    Jund (midgame aggro)
    Mono Red

    Do you see the unhealthy imbalance?

  48. A lot of the time playing aggro is harder, since your cards are inherently weaker and more narrow, and your decisions are squeezed into a small number of key turns. I say this as a diehard control player. Then again, control mirrors are often the most skill-intensive matchups in Magic.

    Also, a lot of control players hated Faeries since it made a whole class of decks (draw-go style blue that beats up on board control decks) unviable while generally being obnoxious.

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