My black review generally went over well last week, and the main complaint I saw was that I underrated Duty-Bound Dead. My experience is that roughly half of the time my black decks are aggressive, and the other half of the time they are controlling.
So it’s hard for Duty-Bound Dead to always be good, on top of the fact that he’s pretty horrible in a deck that’s stuck somewhere in between.
Anyway, with that out of the way, this week I want to review blue. So far I have had some really good experiences with blue, but it’s a bit tricky in this format. Similar to black, I find myself with a wide range of possibilities when trying to make a cohesive blue deck in m13. Mill IS viable, as well as beatdown, and your cookie-cutter version of control.
I think the best possible pick is entirely dependent on what direction you want to take your deck. That seems to be the case a lot of the time when I write these, but that isn’t going to stop me from ranking them in a way that helps explain the cards overall power level, and guide you to making correct first-picks.
So right off the bat we have a card that I originally ranked as mediocre, but once I had a chance to play with it I came around. Faerie Invaders is just stupid good, it’s a trick that, if you don’t play around it, will own you pretty hard—and if you do, well, then it’s a 4U 3/3 flyer that gains 4 life when it comes into play. All options are pretty appealing there.
It’s just one of those cards that when you cast it, you make your opponent slump in his chair and start cursing his own bad luck that you happened to have it. On top of that, they get much MUCH better in multiples. Play around it once and you’re losing, but still feeling good about your chances. Play around it twice and you’re probably screwed unless you topdeck. Most of the time people will resign themselves to saying, “oh well what are the odds he has two of these?” It’s a beefy creature which blue doesn’t really have, its great with Unsummon and Essence Scatter, and it can defend against aggressive starts while providing a reasonable clock. This card is just awesome—A+.
First, I would just trade it off with a 2/1 and then Rise from the Grave it and return Rise from the Grave. Rise their creature and Unsummon the Archaeomancer to return something different, effectively spending 10 mana to turn an Unsummon into a better card. None of this is in any way efficient, but going deep isn’t usually about doing things in the best way possible—just the coolest.
I like this guy best in blue-black, and he is clearly at his worst in blue-green unless you like to return stuff like Titanic Growth. He is only as good as the blue cards you can return in blue-green and blue-white, but that is usually still OK—never impressive. He is at his absolute best when you return cards like Essence Drain and Searing Spear. This should go without saying, but Archaeomancer‘s power is directly relative to the card you put back in your hand—keep that in mind.
Essence Scatter is a modern day blue Doom Blade—Well, ok, it’s not that good, but it’s still quite powerful. I like to take Essence Scatters early and often, and oftentimes it will be just as good as a Doom Blade. The obvious drawback is that you have to cast it on your opponent’s terms, which means you never get to Doom Blade a guy in response to a pump spell and get the full two-for-one. These are strange cards to compare, but it’s worth thinking about, Essence Scatter can also be better when you manage to counter something like a Primal Huntbeast, Acidic Slime, or Captain of the Watch.
The only thing I don’t like about Essence Scatter is that sometimes you have to just spew it off on anything to keep yourself from losing quickly, or having it become stranded in your hand when you need to tap out several turns in a row. I mean how powerful is a card really when it just stops a Silvercoat Lion?
I am in love with Scroll Thief. It appeals perfectly to my nature of allowing you to just play a game of Magic that isn’t actually a game at all. It’s just like Faerie Invaders, which at its best makes your opponent hate life.
My ideal draw with a Scroll Thief involves Unsummon on an expensive creature, allowing me to get in the damage and draw a card, but you can do all sorts of things with it now. It works wonderfully with exalted, specifically Angelic Benediction. It makes a card like Tricks of the Trade something to consider, as well as Kitesail. If you can set it up, Scroll Thief often snowballs out of control. If you manage to connect once, then use the extra card you draw and time you gain to leverage into another Scroll Thief hit—he can make the game really dumb really fast, and I like to be on the Thieving end of that exchange.
From the start, I had friends who insisted that this was the best blue common in the set. Welkin Tern suffers from the same identity crisis as Archaeomancer. You basically never want Welkin Tern in a blue-black deck, but he fits quite nicely in blue-white with all the exalted.
He is fine-to-good in a blue-red deck trying to be aggressive, but how often do you really draft a blue-red deck with the reliable land count required to cast a turn-two Welkin Tern consistently? Finally, he is passable in blue-green. I dislike him in control, because he can’t defend like a Wind Drake, and on top of that won’t single-handedly provide a clock that can win a game.
It usually ends up as a 1U deal 6 damage, and that’s a little too far away from Wind Drake, and a little too close to Mind Sculpt for my tastes. Feel free to sideboard him in to your control decks if you suspect you can trade it for a full card from the opponent (their Wind Drake or Crippling Blight, etc.).
I was super close to ranking this above Welkin Tern, but I just couldn’t bring myself to. It just isn’t as powerful. I usually like Wind Drake a little bit more because I will always play it, whereas I have to consider the direction Welkin Tern will take me in carefully. It shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that he is ranked exactly where he is on the list, because he is just a slightly worse three-drop than Scroll Thief, and a slightly worse flying threat than Welkin Tern, but there is still absolutely nothing wrong with a Wind Drake. I will always be happy to play two in my blue decks, and if I can get him to trade off with an Aven Squire or a Silvercoat Lion then I’m not sad, as long as I can protect my life total long enough to take advantage of cards like Archaeomancer.
Vedalken Entrancer has gone up quite a bit in my estimation. On paper, you would think that, in a core set, milling them out isn’t all that likely, and that he’s simply a ¼ defender with a slight upside.
Well he is that, but he also happens to win the game enough of the time that I can confidently say that if your deck wants Vedalken Entrancer, then you can easily take him over Scroll Thief and Essence Scatter, and you will have to think about it for a bit if he’s in the same pack as an Archaeomancer.
In the end I decided to put him right here because you won’t know if you have a Vedalken Entrancer deck until later in the draft, so you never want to first pick him, and on top of that no other decks in the format really want this effect, so you can get it decently late anyways.
Unsummon‘s low power level has always stood out to me, but it shines a bit more brightly in M13. I like it quite a bit with Archeomancer and Scroll Thief as I mentioned earlier, and on top of that I seem to get paired against people who like to play Mark of the Vampire and Tricks of the Trade, so you can actually generate card advantage.
On a less important but still relevant note, many of the white and black decks in the format rely heavily on exalted, so if an opponent intends to deal his death blow with a single creature, then Unsummon can act as a much-more-flexible Fog.
Divination is totally fine in this format. I actively look for this card, and aim to pick it highly in my blue control decks, because it works well with Archaeomancer, great with Augur of Bolas, and awesome with Talrand, Sky Summoner (I know it’s a rare but still, when you draft it you need to make an effort to get enough spells or it will suck). On top of that, you actually want it in your deck anyways. I don’t have it much higher because some of the time I do play aggressive blue decks, and it is quite poor in those. Plus you can really only have so many Divinations before your deck is too durdly and lacking actual business to win the game with.
I actually like Watercourser pretty well. It wouldn’t surprise me if I was dead wrong about his ranking here, but either way he provides a good clock and reasonable defense. On an empty board he crashes in for four, which isn’t bad at all, and he can trade with Primal Huntbeast which can be problematic for blue decks. I like the Watercourser in white decks, because with exalted he becomes harder to block—and when unblocked he deals more damage than any white creature can hope to deal. This doesn’t happen all that often but when it does the Watercourser is really sweet.
That about wraps up blue. I didn’t rank Encrust, because it’s just way too bad and a sideboard card at best in almost all decks. You play it if you have to, but you should never be happy about it. I hope you enjoyed this and I’ll continue on with the series next week!
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