Pursuing Perfection, Part 2: Mono-Blue Commanders
Posted on June 5, 2021, 1:19 p.m. by Mana_Mythic_Legendary
Let’s be clear and open this by admitting I’d never considered building a mono-blue deck before now. In fact, I can clearly remember only one in all my years on playing, and we didn’t finish the game (he left for a Killer Instinct tournament). That said, blue forms the backbone of several favorite decks. Those of you who have braved the mono-blue challenge, I salute. Or rather, I salute those of you who didn’t shuffle islands and counterspells together until you had ninety-nine and then threw Talrand, Sky Summoner on top as the world’s most unimaginative cherry.
That lone blue deck I saw? The first spell in the game gets played. Mr. Talrand peers at it, then nods and says “I’ll allow it.” You could see his name appearing in neon at the top of the table’s hit list, and he hadn’t introduced himself or even played a spell yet. This, I think, is what a lot of folk unjustly assume of mono-blue: that attitude, that play style. But at its best, blue is a beautiful game of dancing on the edge, bringing grace and guile to the table beyond anything the other colors can manage.
Blue has enough mass in squelchy things from the deep to square off with anything but the swollest green, and the islandwalk to not bother. Curse of the Swine and Rite of Replication are only two of the many mean, mean things you can do to a board state. Just the knowledge that counters exist leaves blue players resigned to suspicious looks whenever opponents so much as breathe. And yet, for all this power, blue truly outshines the other colors in three areas: draw, artifact manipulation, and control. Let’s talk commanders for these archetypes, shall we? Again, please bear in mind the point isn’t to discuss the competitive but rather to celebrate the thematic. Happily, blue has a bounty of legends loaded with both!
Ah, Blue Sun's Zenith . Only blue can kill with this peculiar species of lunatic kindness. While there isn’t a mono-blue commander that has this exact effect… yet… it highlights the singular relationship blue has with drawing cards. Whether you want to draw or deck, if you like a full hand then look no further.
Tribal is an archetype available to all colors. While I’m trying to steer away from that as a theme, we must talk Azami if we talk draw engines. There are many, many good wizards, and her ladyship is an absolute powerhouse of card advantage. Arcanis the Omnipotent is omnijealous, bitterly sulking in the 99.
For the more political blue players we go once more to Kamigawa. He’s little, group-huggy, and a fantastic choice for those who appreciate the challenge of treating their commander as an afterthought. Besides, nobody resents an extra card until you drop the sphinx. You know the one.
Can’t be countered. No maximum hand size. Whenever your opponent goes noncreature, draw a card. Blink. I hope the Scots are pleased, because Nessie is quite the monster. Seven mana is a lot, but so, so worth it to play this unholy avatar of blue. Give thanks and happy chortles as she pours cards into your endless hand and flickers past everything that isn’t Molten Disaster .
Where Red abuses artifacts the way black abuses… well, everything, blue takes it to full symbiosis, protecting, enhancing, and eating the pancreas of anyone who offends their precious toys. Blue has the tutors, the synergies, the splendiferous Tezzeret the Seeker . If you like artifacts but aren’t quite crazy enough to go full colorless, blue is your in.
In a singleton game, tutors are king. Long live Arcum. Bonus points if you take out somebody’s combo piece with him while taking a break from digging for yours.
Here’s a pancreas eater for you: theft-by-tutor is unorthodox, but undeniably fun. Blue delights in theft and, as anyone who has siblings will tell you, stolen treats taste better. You’ll never appreciate using your own high-powered tin crap half so much as using your opponent’s high-powered tin crap. Stockpile extra turns and go shopping on the opposition’s dime.
You talk blue artifacts, this guy is in the conversation, if not THE conversation. Lord High Wombo Himself is not here because he makes a goon. Lord High Wombo Himself is not even here because he has mightily potent mana sink if you break infinite. Lord High Wombo Himself is here because of that middle line, turning things like Winter Orb from “our” problem to “your” problem, and that’s just the tip of this degenerate iceberg. Go nuts.
When my wife tells me not to break my toys, this is NOT what she means. No other color manages the sheer mind-bogglery of bouncing, tapping, stealing, and otherwise screwing with other people’s toys without breaking them. No other color boasts this heinous plurality of extra turns, to say nothing of counterspells. Control is the glory and the terror of blue: Laboratory Maniac might take the game for you, but it’s control that will get him there.
Blue is the heavyweight champion of yoink, and Memnarch holds the belt. Just be ready for everyone to treat you like a male dog with a full bladder whenever he takes the field, especially if you had your Mycosynth Lattice in the morning.
Honestly, the pay X bit of this is only tangential for me. Blue is all about minimal force, and tapping something whenever you Opt has very interesting applications. After all, the phrase “doesn’t untap during their untap step” is patented in blue ink. I’m not even sure building around this is a good idea, but you have to admit that Ol’ Gadwick is frightening to any command damage chaser who left their Lightning Greaves at home, especially when Dismiss into Dream is lurking.
We all have strong feelings about counterspells, one way or the other. Forbid is a personal favorite. While Baral’s not that special in a vacuum, he offers hellacious support if you really are all about counterspam. He won’t break the game on his own, but the play-style he encourages certainly has potential for other broken things. Like friendships. Or noses.
And, for my personal favorite... I love perpetually affordable commanders. Rock a few token generators and you might go a whole game paying a single blue mana for this marvel. Sacrifice artifacts are suddenly scary, Sacrificing them suddenly isn’t, and your opponents are suddenly scrabbling for exile effects and that wretched bog. Please remember to bring your self-milling kit, a Mirran Spy , a Mycosynth Golem , and a jar for the tears of your enemies (no sense wasting all that blue mana). First prize if you win with the Phyrexian half of Mirrodin Besieged .
That's it for this round. Thoughts and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed it, and will come back next week for Black!
Prior Articles: Mono-White
One of the first decks I made, after getting into commander, was The Briny Deep. One of my favorite aspects of having these theme decks is perusing the spoilers as they come out looking for an ocean card (or torture, or haunted house, or natural disaster, etc). The ocean themes are often delightful; Encrust , Crush of Tentacles , and Giant Oyster are straightforward enough... but the powerful push and pull of Breaking Wave takes it up to eleven for me. What a fun color and theme!
June 5, 2021 8:21 p.m.
Memnarch was swiftly replaced by Padeem, Consul of Innovation in my first mono blue deck for exactly the reasons you mentioned. I later went Jeskai for artifacts, and have had trouble enjoying mono blue since. I prefer playing on the board, not on the stack, and blue's way of doing so just doesn't cut it for me in most cases.
My playgroup has an incidental preference for cEDH though, I'm keeping a Naru Meha, Master Wizard list at hand for just that purpose, with a short sideboard in case the game needs to be more casual. Wizard tribal is tricksy enough to enjoy from time to time.
June 6, 2021 5:24 a.m.
Why him, Dromar? Lots of graveyard abuse in your area?
June 6, 2021 7:02 p.m.
Mana_Mythic_Legendary Exiling creatures before they can hit the board is the best removal. I remember once getting someone's Craterhoof Behemoth and Avenger of Zendikar it was fun. Also most people don't run cards like Riftsweeper . The only down side is that he costs 3.
June 6, 2021 8:49 p.m. Edited.
Great article, just like the White one was! One thing I'd like to add to it is that Blue is also the color of evasion, from flying to unblockable.
June 8, 2021 1:21 p.m.
Barrin, Master Wizard has a special place in my heart, and was the only mono-color commander I'd ever built until very recently.
Truthfully, though, he's more of a black commander? Sacrificing things for fun and profit is kind of my schtick. Make a pile of artifact tokens, use those tokens to make mana, bounce my opponent's everything forever or re-use my ETB's.
June 15, 2021 11:05 p.m.
As part of these articles I check out all the legends in that color. Barrin was in the running; wonderfully nasty!