In my preparation for the upcoming Grand Prix Vancouver I have done my fair share of drafts on MTGO, and today I wanted to give you a rundown on one of my favorite colors to draft in AVR: blue.
Blue has proven to be an excellent main and support color, and it pairs well with just about everything except black. In fact, my first five drafts were all blue-black—for some reason, black is underdrafted on modo; and although I did do a ton of losing with these decks, it was not for nothing. I quickly learned to never draft blue-black.
However, blue remains one of the best colors to draft in AVR—so here are my top 10 commons for blue:
Now this pick order is not set in stone, this is how I would draft them assuming I am mono-blue. Basically, this is the order to take these cards early in a draft, when you haven’t solidified your second color just yet. These rankings are based purely on power-level in the context of the format.
Mist Raven should be obvious—this card is first pick quality in any draft format in Magic’s history. In Avacyn Restored especially, he is even more sought after since there is very little direct removal.
Mist Raven does what no other card in the format does, with the exception of Peel from Reality and Bone Splinters: it removes a creature from the board unconditionally, and it does so at a bargain price. If Mist Raven cost five mana, it would be just as high a pick, and it would still be playable at six—so at four you can see why it’s so powerful.
Gryff Vanguard is pretty awesome as well. It goes without saying that it combos well with all the same cards that combine nicely with Mist Raven, though slightly less effectively. The effect of Mist Raven, when repeated, can dig you out of a losing position, whereas you just want the board to be even so you can repeat ol’ Griffs effect.
I often find myself excited to slam Gryff Vanguard on turn five, only to be forced to trade off with a creature that costs less. When you trade you get the extra card and don’t die, and when the board is even a three-power flying creature that cantrips is enormous.
Amass the Components is a card whose value has changed the most for me when playing with this set. At first you look at this card and see Compulsive Research, and assume it should be a first pick—but in practice it is something else entirely. I like Amass the Components a lot in blue-white, since you can use Defangs and Angelic Walls to stall while this gets you card advantage.
I also like that often I don’t have enough playables, so I have to run 18 lands, and Amass helps alleviate some of the stress associated with mana flood.
But, I dislike Amass in other color combinations like blue-green and blue-red, because often you can’t cast it if you are behind on board. There are no cards in the format you can draw to dig you out of a losing position. Plus, UG and UR are often a lot more aggressive overall based on the playability of the good red and green cards, so when your options are Amass the Components or Nettle Swine the decision becomes much easier. Don’t get me wrong, I will usually pick Amass highly, and always play it, but you have to understand what the card can do for you before you take it over something that could have more influence on the board.
Peel from Reality shines brightest in blue-green decks—that’s where you are applying the most pressure, have extra creatures you wish to return to your hand (like Timberland Guide and Borderland Ranger), and it’s a color combination which contains no removal. So, if you want to remove a creature from the table, you aren’t going to get much better than this.
I have found Peel to be a little hard to utilize in blue-black and blue-white since you don’t often have cheap creatures to return with it, and also few creatures that allow you to gain full value from its effect.
I find myself having to play Wingcrafters that aren’t all that impressive, and Nephalia Smugglers that can be poor, just to justify multiple copies of Peel from Reality. All that said, at its worst it’s a good late game trick, and at its best it’s one of the most devastating tricks in the format. So certainly try to pick these up when drafting a blue deck.
Galvanic Alchemist may seem a bit high on this list, and he is, but this is because the deck I like to draft the most is blue-white where he is an all-star. Just having a Horned Turtle that lets you live long enough to see those turn 4 Amass the Components and turn 5 Gryff Vanguard starts is really important. I have had moderate success pairing the Alchemist with Stern Mentor and Holy Justiciar, though admittedly those are both super late game applications, and not reliable game plans. He can also be quite useful in blue-red if you happen to pick up any Lightning Prowess. Overall, I’d say this card is excellent in blue-white, fine to bad in blue-green (clearly going up in value if you have Flowering Lumberknots), and totally reasonable in blue-red, unless you are all-in on Kruin Strikers and Fervent Cathars.
Crippling Chill is another card that can range from mediocre to all-star. Many of the things I said about Peel from Reality can be said about Crippling Chill, in that it’s awesome in an aggressive deck and pretty average in a controlling strategy. You would greatly prefer to have a Nettle Swine in play rather than a Seraph of Dawn if you are using Crippling Chill to lock down a blocker and get in some damage.
I will basically never cut a Chill from a blue deck, and that should give a good indication of its power. I could easily see a creature heavy blue-green deck in pack three taking Crippling Chill over Amass the Components.
Scrapskin Drake is a card that is deceptively much less powerful than it appears. In many formats, identical reprints to this have been highly playable and considered high picks, Scrapskin Drake is worse than those, though not by a lot.
I actually hate this card in blue-white, but will sometimes play one if I had to—he does have decent stats for his cost. My biggest problem with him is that he can’t block basically anything that matters, so against any good red or green draw you want to tear Scrapskin Drake to pieces. It’s terrible to waste your third turn doing this if an opponent has a Wandering Wolf or Kruin Striker, and in my experience things can quickly snowball. In red they can go from Kruin Striker to Thatcher Revolt, or a bunch of Fervent Cathars and you’ll be stuck wondering where it all went wrong. The same can be said for green with overpowered cards like Trusted Forcemage and Blessings of Nature. I dislike Scrapskin Drake, Gloomwidow, and now Angel's Tomb for these reasons.
Alchemist's Apprentice is a card I have grown to love. This may sound stupid, but I like it because every single turn you have it in play you have to make a decision, weighing the cost of possibly drawing a good 3 casting cost permanent on turn three, versus the amount of damage you can prevent by waiting to block and draw a card, versus the likelihood of drawing a miracle card and potentially paying the discounted price on an opponent's turn.
It’s excellent with Tandem Lookout, since you can sneak in a hit and soulbond with a new creature whenever you please. This happens more than you might think purely based on the insane lack of two drops in this format. It’s just a cheap flexible defensive card in a color that wants that the most, and that’s more than I can say for about 90% of the cards in this format.
Wingcrafter is another card I put in the same camp as Crippling Chill and Peel from Reality. It ranges from playable to excellent in an aggressive strategy and close to unplayable if you aim to play control. Wingcrafter is a bit lower on the list, because even in some aggressive decks he can be underwhelming.
On the surface he is a 1/1 for one mana and that is unplayable, so you can imagine that you need to be getting some real mileage out of his soulbond ability to make it worth your while.
In a red deck he is fine and pairs best with two drops, of which there are not many. If you can live the dream with Falkenrath Exterminator, then you basically win the game. But more realistically you’ll be pairing him with Kruin Striker and Hanweir Lancer. In blue-green Wingcrafter shoots way up the list, turn 1 Wingcrafter into turn 2 Timberland Guide can end games much more quickly than you might expect. It’s also a given that he is a pretty nutty pair with Flowering Lumberknot.
Elgaud Shieldmate is bad. No seriously, she sucks. In this format you’ll find yourself playing a lot of cards that meet that description, and of all the bad spells I have been slinging I might say Elgaud Shieldmate is near the top of the heap.
What she lacks in stats she makes up in versatility. She’s borderline excellent against black decks, blanking some of their best cards like Death Wind, Bone Splinters, and Undead Executioner. One of the most devastating starts against a black mage is Farbog Explorer into Elgaud Shieldmate. Other times I have been impressed by the Shieldmate is while using her to protect game-breaking creatures like Dark Impostor and some of white’s expensive Angels.
Just outside the top 10, I have Fleeting Distraction, which I actually like quite a bit—but can’t quite justify ranking it over any of the cards I listed above.
Geist Snatch is pretty good, but basically a 23rd card that you would need a strong reason to include like ‘I’m out of playables’ or ‘I have no four drops’.
Lastly, the Spectral Prison. It's playable, but I will try with all my might to find a reason not to play with this card. Call me conservative, but it takes a lot for me to want to play with a card that has the potential for just getting me utterly blown out.
Overall I love blue in this format. It is easily the color I have had the most success with, and although I think green is a slightly better color that doesn’t mean that both aren’t super good, and that if green is overdrafted blue can easily be better. I hope this has been a helpful rundown of the top commons for blue in draft. If you liked this, please let me know and I can either continue on with the uncommons and rares, or the top commons in other colors.
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