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Subject: Help! I can't build a blue deck! rss

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Josiah Fiscus
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Usually when we play, we are using various decks that I have made of my (very limited) collection of cards. So I like to make decks with various different colors and themes that are fun to play against each other. However, I've had a lot of trouble building a decent blue deck. It seems the creatures are so much more expensive than in other colors, and the amount of countering requires you to leave lands untapped, meaning you get a much slower start.

I read the Everything I Know About Magic article here, and I'm thinking that may have helped identify the problem. Basically, almost all the decks I've made are aggro. Green gets tons of mana and plays big threats, red has little guys and creature control, white gets rid of creatures and defends well, etc. Black was tough, but I have a decent vampire deck going now. But it seems unlikely I will build a combo deck. I wouldn't even know where to start, and it seems like most combo decks would be very expensive to make anyway. Nor would it be very much fun to play against these aggro decks, since it would just win all the time. But that leaves blue with nothing important to counter. Is there such a thing as a blue aggro deck?

Or, have I completely missed something else? Is it silly to just play with aggro decks all the time? Is there another reason blue seems so bad (perhaps it's just weak in the past few sets)?

I also worry that if I do build a combo deck, that it will be very hard to just pick up and play. If you don't know all the pieces of the combo, you won't know to look for them and your opponent won't know to defend against it. It seems difficult to really explore the many types of decks when you only play casually.
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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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Blue leans much more towards the control end of the spectrum and relies more on winning long-term wars of attrition. That said, there's been many highly aggressive blue decks over the years. Merfolk relies on cheap "lords" that give each other bonuses blended with the standard blue card drawing and counterspells. Faeries relied on creatures with Flash, so you could cast them at the end of your opponent's turn if you didn't need to counter anything, so you didn't waste any mana.

In Standard right now, Delver decks built around Delver of Secrets are all the rage. If you forgo including Snapcaster Mage, you should be able to assemble a still-quite-effective mono-blue delver deck for under $20. Here's a starting point for a really cheap version
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/28714083/M... and a pricier tournament-worthy one http://magicgameplan.com/blog/mono-blue-delver-illusions-dec...
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Eric Jome
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Quote:
Basically, almost all the decks I've made are aggro.


All colors can do all strategies mentioned in this article.  It's true that it is harder to make a Red/Green control deck than it is a Blue/White control deck, but it's usually possible.  So, it's fairly normal for it to be harder to build an aggro blue than a control or combo blue.  But it can surely be done.

Blue aggro specializes in fast small creatures with evasion.  Look for 1/1 to 2/2 flyers that cost 1 to 3.  Support them with cards that punish people for playing expensive things (bounce and counter) - nothing should really cost more than 3, with the vast majority costing 2 or less.  Here's how Blue Aggro usually works;

24 Islands
4 creature with useful ability (draw and discard/etc) that is a 1/1 for cost 1
4 creature with evasion (flying/unblockable/shadow) that is 1/1 or 2/1 for cost 2
4 creature with evasion that is 2/1 to 2/3 for cost 2
4 creature with evasion that is 3/1 to 3/4 for cost 3
4 creature with board control effect (o
4 instant that costs 2 and counters spells
4 instant that costs 3 and counters spells or enchantment that costs 2/3 that locks a creature
4 instant that costs 1/2 and returns a permanent to owners hand
4 instant that costs 1/2 and draws cards

Equipment can sometimes feature in this sort of deck, just like it does in lots of aggro decks.  Classic components are things like Boomerang, Mana Leak, Sage Owl, and the like.  The oldest form of this was Flying Men and Unstable Mutation.

The Tao of Blue is evasion and board control when playing aggro.  You bounce creatures that get in your way back to hand and counter the spells that will disrupt your game.  You generally play just a few creatures and hold lots of cards in your hand.  This different than Red's rush or Green's flood - they're hoping to play a big meaty thing and crush with it.  You are playing Mana Leak or Cancel on that thing long before they get it in play.

Quote:
But it seems unlikely I will build a combo deck.


A combo is defined as a set of cards that once in the proper position will win the game.  This is not to be confused with "synergy", which is just a deck of cards where many things work well together.  And it doesn't have to directly win the game instantly, but instead slants the results in your favor so much that it is highly unlikely your opponent will recover.

The oldest "combo" is Wrath of God and patience.  You hold them off until they run out of cards, nuke everything they have in play, then play a Serra Angel.  This would often win games because the opponent would not have any way to draw into a defense fast enough.  But, opponents get wise quickly and hold things back now.  The important thing is the lesson, not the specific cards...

So, of course you can build a combo deck.  Often a combo deck can be nothing more than 3 components;

1) Get lots of mana.
2) Search your deck for the right card.
3) Play that right card at the right time.

This is why you often see this more in Black and Blue than others - they draw cards or search their deck more frequently.  So, to build such a deck, all you really need is finding that "right card"; a card that will win the game when played.  Like say Pestilence or a really huge creature.  You can just defend yourself until it comes up or actively hunt it down; those are different approaches to point 2.

Quote:
But that leaves blue with nothing important to counter.


There are always useful things to counter.  The problem is finding the most useful thing to counter and not just some random thing or some bait thing.

Also, counters can be used on offense or on defense.  If you're thinking only one or the other, you're missing out.  An offensive counter is one that counters something the opponent will use as defense.  So, got a little flyer in play?  Counter their flyer.  That's offensive countering.


Quote:
Is it silly to just play with aggro decks all the time?


Many elite, experienced players consider it naive and simplistic to just build decks that play a few creatures and march them to victory.  This doesn't mean it's a bad strategy, just that it's very easy.

If you're having fun doing that, it's all good.  But you should try to build other types of decks.

Quote:
Is there another reason blue seems so bad (perhaps it's just weak in the past few sets)?


I wish I could come to visit you to show you that blue is not that bad. 

Quote:
It seems difficult to really explore the many types of decks when you only play casually.


It is.  This is why most people who like the game end up with giant collections - more toys to try more things.
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Mark McEvoy
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happyjosiah wrote:
almost all the decks I've made are aggro .... white gets rid of creatures and defends well


That's not aggro. It's quite the opposite (control).
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Tommy Occhipinti
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It is worth noting that "I have built a blue deck, but I always lose with it" does not imply that the deck is bad. It could just as easily imply that you are not playing it well (or more likely, a combination!). Deciding what to counter and what not to, and deciding when to leave up mana to counter something and when not to is incredibly complex, and requires intimate knowledge both of your own deck and your opponent's.

I'm sure if someone handed me a Caw-Blade deck (one of the best blue based standard decks of all time) and threw me into a tournament I'd do pitifully, and I've been at this a while!
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Josiah Fiscus
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delirimouse wrote:
It is worth noting that "I have built a blue deck, but I always lose with it" does not imply that the deck is bad. It could just as easily imply that you are not playing it well (or more likely, a combination!). Deciding what to counter and what not to, and deciding when to leave up mana to counter something and when not to is incredibly complex, and requires intimate knowledge both of your own deck and your opponent's.

I'm sure if someone handed me a Caw-Blade deck (one of the best blue based standard decks of all time) and threw me into a tournament I'd do pitifully, and I've been at this a while!


Oh, I'm sure you are right about that. That's part of the concern. If the only blue decks I can create require much more skill to play well than the red or green ones, it will be hard to get anyone interested in trying them out. Like I said, we just play for fun; no one is trying to win a tournament or anything. However, I would love to create a really good blue deck and get good with it. I'm up to the challenge there, even if no one else I play with is.

I'm going to see what I can come up with following the pattern laid out above and see if it gets me anywhere.
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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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delirimouse wrote:
It is worth noting that "I have built a blue deck, but I always lose with it" does not imply that the deck is bad. It could just as easily imply that you are not playing it well (or more likely, a combination!). Deciding what to counter and what not to, and deciding when to leave up mana to counter something and when not to is incredibly complex, and requires intimate knowledge both of your own deck and your opponent's.

I'm sure if someone handed me a Caw-Blade deck (one of the best blue based standard decks of all time) and threw me into a tournament I'd do pitifully, and I've been at this a while!


Yeah. Agro-disruption decks like Caw-Blade and Faeries are very sensitive to the pilot's skill and experience with that particular deck. You have a limited ability to keep your opponent from doing stuff, and you have to deploy it very carefully, knowing what you need to stop (and will need to stop in the future) versus what you can survive if it resolves. This requires lots of playing with your deck and against the archetype that you're facing. In environments where they dominate, "rogue decks" that your opponents aren't familiar with and transformative sideboards that let you completely change up your strategy between games in the match start looking very appealing because they negate the information advantage needed to play such decks well.

By contrast, something like a Red Wins Deck is much less sensitive to the player running it. You can more or less put everything on the table, turn it sideways, and throw all your burn at your opponent's head and still be very, very dangerous. Knowing how to play around combat tricks, avoid over-extending, and choosing between burning your opponent, his creatures, and his planeswalkers will make you play better, but the advantages to be gained are less with this style of deck.
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Josiah Fiscus
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Well, I think I'm starting to see the problem here. I may just not have very good cards in blue. Here's my attempt to follow this structure:

cosine wrote:

24 Islands


Got it

cosine wrote:

4 creature with useful ability (draw and discard/etc) that is a 1/1 for cost 1


Already we are in trouble. I literally have 3 1-drops in blue. A Vedalken Certarch (not an artifact deck, so he's a no go), a Skywatcher Adept (can get flying later...) and an Enclave Cryptologist (I like this card). So I will put in the Skywatcher and Cryptologist and have to sub in a couple two-drops. I am going with Augury Owls. They are 2-drops, but at least they fly and have a nice scrying ability.

cosine wrote:

4 creature with evasion (flying/unblockable/shadow) that is 1/1 or 2/1 for cost 2

1 Welkin Tern
3 Hada Spy Patrol (they don't start unblockable, but they are my only 2-drops with any kind of evasion. The others are Merfolk Looters)

cosine wrote:

4 creature with evasion that is 2/1 to 2/3 for cost 2

We are really reaching here, but I am going to put in:
2 Merfolk Looter
1 Screeching Silicaw
1 Tempest Owl

cosine wrote:

4 creature with evasion that is 3/1 to 3/4 for cost 3

1 Neurok Commando (does shroud count as evasion?)
3 Neurok Invismancer (only a 2/1, but it's the best I can do)


cosine wrote:

4 creature with board control effect (o

Aether Adept fits great here, but I have only 1
I also add 1 Vedalken Anatomist
1 Surrakar Banisher
and, an actually good card: Surrakar Spellblade

cosine wrote:

4 instant that costs 2 and counters spells

Essence Scatter 2x
Negate
Spell Pierce

cosine wrote:

4 instant that costs 3 and counters spells or enchantment that costs 2/3 that locks a creature

Cancel 4x

cosine wrote:

4 instant that costs 1/2 and returns a permanent to owners hand

I can do this!
Disperse 4x

cosine wrote:

4 instant that costs 1/2 and draws cards

Preordain 2x
See Beyond
Twisted Image



So that's what I come up with. If it looks like a good start to you guys, I'll give it a try. My other alternative, is to try to improve the Blue/White/Artifact deck I pulled apart to make this one instead. I have a card list of it in the next post.
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Josiah Fiscus
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Blue/White/Artifact Deck

LANDS
Island 17x
Plains 2x
Celestial Colonnade

ARTIFACTS
Chromatic Sphere 2x
Flight Spellbomb 2x
Isochron Scepter
Tumble Magnet
Prophetic Prism 2x
Darksteel Sentinel 2x
Gold Myr 4x
Leaden Myr 3x

GOLD CARDS
Sphinx Sovereign

WHITE
Dispense Justice 2x
Rest for the Weary
Auriok Sunchaser 2x
Serra Angel 2x

BLUE
Unsummon 3x
Preordain 2x
Disperse
See Beyond
Augry Owl 2x
Merfolk Looter 2x
Aether Adept
Enclave Cryptologist
Reckless Scholar
Lumengrid Drake


So what do you think? Is there something worth improving here? It has a horrible time doing anything against my red burn deck, but maybe I'm just playing it wrong. Or is a mono-blue deck like the one above a better option?
 
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Nick Short
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Blue Aggro decks tend to work best when angled more towards an "Aggro Control" style, where you play out early cheap threats, then use other spells to control the game for a few turns while you finish off your opponent.

The main reason, is that blue doesn't typically get all that great of creatures. Blue's creatures tend to be a little smaller than those of other colors, and quickly get outclassed. However blue is very good at creating a short-term advantage, where some of those early creatures can remain useful for a few extra turns to get through enough damage to win.

Here are some examples of the sort of cards you might want to consider for a blue aggro deck. There are many more that work, but these are just some examples:

Cheap Aggressive/Evasive creatures:
Delver of Secrets
Phantasmal Bear
Invisible Stalker
Latch Seeker
Horizon Drake/Skywinder Drake
Serendib Efreet
Fetttergeist

Creature Enhancement:
Unstable Mutation
Runechanter's Pike
Spectral Flight

Tempo Spells (things that build short-term on-board advantage):
Aether Adept
Silent Departure
Vapor Snag
Unsummon

Efficient Counterspells:
Mana Leak
Rune Snag
Remand
Memory Lapse
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Jason Cawley
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There are two main archetypes that rely mostly on blue. They can be paired with other colors for other effects, usually 1 other, occasionally 2 others. But they stick with the archetype and it is the power of blue in that type that makes them go.

The two types are tempo and control.

The idea of tempo is to stick 1-2 threats quickly, and then protect them until the enemy is dead. Without giving the enemy time to set up or do anything too powerful. The threats do not need to be strong but they do need to be (1) evasive - typically flying, sometimes "unblockable" and (2) come down early (1-2 drops, a few 3s). The whole deck should use very inexpensive cards, compared to average decks. A large number should be *cantrips* or other two-for-one effects. Do something minor and draw a card, or a creature with a spell-like effect when it enters the battlefield. The deck should be full of instants and cards with flash. The underlying idea is to *do twice as many things as the opponent* - hence the name, "tempo".

Tempo decks stress the opponent's *mana*, and then turn that into pressure on their life total. Your own life total is basically ignored, spent as a free resource. You never want to be blocking if you can help it, because you expect to kill him 2-3 turns before he could kill you.

Notice, counterspells can stress the opponent's mana by trading a cost 2 card for a cost 4-6 card. Countering the enemy's plays is much more threatening if you have 3-5 power in flying creatures already on the board, than it is when the board is empty.

Notice, "bounce" effects ("return target creature to its owner's hand") also stress enemy mana. They spend 6 mana on a giant wurm, and you spend 1 mana on Unsummon. Yes you are out a card and they still have the wurm. But they are out 6 mana and a whole turn. The effects can also double as protection for cheap threats - they target your 3 power flyer with a doom blade, and you unsummon it in response. Their blade fizzles, you replay the flyer, and the pressure is back on.

Tempo decks want to play as many of their cards *on the opponents turn* as possible. You want to be inside their decision loop, in military terms. Mess with whatever they try to do to get the pressure off themselves. If they play a guy that just threatens you but can't block your flyers or gain them life, ignore it. If they play a spider with high toughness and reach, "essence scatter" it away.

A tempo deck needs 12-16 evasive threats, all costing 3 mana or less. t can only go as low as 12 if a lot of the deck cantrips (do x and draw a card). It needs 4 to 8 counter effects, 4 to 8 bounce effects, card draw and two for ones. It may strengthen its evasive threats with equipment or cheap creature enchantments ("+2/+2 and flying" on a hexproof Geist of Saint Traft, for example). It can be pure blue, or splash white for stronger creatures or permanent removal, or splash black for the same things. Some versions splash red for direct damage spells to finish off the opponent after the evasive creatures have lowered his life total, maybe for a few larger Dragon or Phoenix creatures.

Delver of Secrets is an example of a recent tempo deck in Standard.
Blue White flash is an even more current version.

The second main blue archetype is "draw go" control, classic or deep control. It is called "draw go" because in the early turns the deck seems to do nothing - it just draws its card, plays a land, and passes. It just wants to counterspell whatever the opponent is trying to do, if it is sufficiently threatening at least, and otherwise advance the game to a higher mana state.

Control decks try to win late in the game after defending fiercely for most of the game. Besides counterspells, their characteristic card is a wrath - a spell that says "destroy all creatures" or similar. They also want card draw spells to pull ahead in card count, usually split between 4 cheaper ones and a few more expensive ones that can draw many cards, and may also use planeswalkers to get continual card advantage. Then they need a few big "finishers", supersized threats that cost a million but can win the game on their own if they survive. Big flying Sphinxes are the blue version of that, but they might instead be big flying angels in a blue-white version, or big flying demons in a blue black one. Whatever it is will generally be big and flying. They may or may not have a few cheap utility creatures to be played earlier as speed bumps, more for their abilities than as creatures (snapcaster mage, augur of bolas, merfolk looter as examples). Sometimes they will have a different route to victory than sticking a finisher and winning with it, like milling the opponent's whole deck, or (in blue-black) a way of getting a whole army in one turn (Army of Zombies, or Grimoire of the Dead perhaps).

A control deck needs 4 to 6 finishers (I've seen cases with only 2, but consider that unsound), 4 to 8 wrath effects, 4 to 8 spot removal effects (often white or black rather than blue), 0 to 4 cheaper utility creatures, 0 to 4 planeswalkers, 6 to 8 counterspell effects, and 6 to 8 card draw effects.

Here is a sample Standard blue white control deck -

2 Entreat the Angels
2 Sphinx of Uthuun
4 Terminus
3 Divine Verdict
3 Detention Sphere
2 Azorius Charm
3 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Dissipate
2 Syncopate
3 Essence Scatter
2 Sphinx's Revelation
4 Think Twice
2 Temporal Mastery

4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Azorius Guildgate
2 Reliquary Tower
6 Plains
8 Islands

From turn 2 on, it wants to be holding up the mana for Essence Scatter or Syncopate, but just playing Think Twice if the opponent doesn't play something you absolutely need to counter. With 26 land and Think Twice, you should make your land drops and march up to the 6-7 mana level. The deck runs 8 "miracle" effects, and you can increase the chance of hitting one by casting Think Twice or Azorius Charm on the opponent's turn, with BW open to pay for a Terminus or a Temporal Mastery.

After the opponent has a board, lower the boom with Divine Verdict or Terminus to sweep away his creatures. Counter his follow up plays to keep him from rebuilding, cleaning up the few spells he gets through in between with Detention Sphere.

Then when the opponent has no board or new threats, play a Sphinx, large Entreat the Angels, a Jace, or a large Sphinx's Revelation. Which can kill him by damage in the air or by milling him, and / or draw enough cards to find such a threat, as well as more counterspells to protect it.

I hope that helps understand the main blue deck types.
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JasonC wrote:

3 Divine Verdict


That should be Supreme Verdict, I assume. Very nice post btw.
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Laura Gwinn
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I wouldn't have thought that having an entirely blue deck would be effective, or any other color for that matter. I have a really great blue and white deck, centrally focused on damage prevention and countering enchantments-good for defense as well. I suppose it was designed around combating a specific deck that kept kicking my ass! lol but it did the trick-he switched decks after I was able to beat him 4 times in a row! I believe it is all about deciding which two colors can compliment each other well enough for the theme of the deck you choose.
 
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Laurajo1990 wrote:
I wouldn't have thought that having an entirely blue deck would be effective, or any other color for that matter.


Since the introduction of Theros, monocolored decks have been doing very well. That whole "Devotion" mechanic is really causing people to lean heavily on monocolor, and no color has gotten more attention than Blue. Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea are two of the most valuable cards in Theros with good reason - they're bringing a lotr of people a lot of success using decks that are predominantly if not entirely blue.
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Laura Gwinn
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Very good point! I have been playing with some older cards, I suppose, and am still relatively novice, so I have not actually encountered a lot of 'devotion' cards, especially since I have really only played one person (excluding computers) who doesn't really utilize devotion so much either...
 
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Laura Gwinn
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Also, I find that Blue has a lot of really nice instants and sorceries that are relatively cheap and great for getting rid of enchantments (the ones that reproduce tons of tokens that will eventually gang up on me! lol)So it's really good for (idk exactly what you would call it)damage prevention/control??
 
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