Whether you like it or not, you've got a bit of blue mage in you. Either you're reading this article because you love blue and want to celebrate its best multiplayer cards, or you're spying on blue mages to learn their secrets—a very blue thing to do.
You might have spied on me when I wrote with Daryl Bockett or Serious Fun columnist Bruce Richard on other sites. I haven't been much of a Scrivener since I started work at Wizards of the Coast this year, but casual play is still my cup of tea—blue tea.
The best multiplayer cards combine these elements; e.g., a splashy (Gorilla) spell will be more useful if it's an instant (Spider). I'm going to discuss five of the fifty best blue cards and then build a deck that showcases another five.
Get the Party Started with...
Nobody likes mana screw. Everybody likes playing bombs. In both areas, Braids is the ultimate crowd-pleaser, allowing players to put their best cards forward. Of course, whether Braids survives to your turn depends on several things. If the person who takes the turn after you has a Meteorite, it might get thrown on Braids and then nobody else has fun. But some players will want to keep Braids—and you—alive until at least their turns, and with enough grateful opponents you can stick around to play whatever you wanted.
Now, you might be thinking, "Why should I help opponents play their stuff?" But blue is skilled at...
Blatant Thievery with...
Few cards have been so aptly named. You'd expect a 4UUU sorcery to do big things, and Blatant Thievery is one of the biggest things: stealing the best permanent from each of your opponents. I always love steal effects that don't leave a bothersome paper trail. Hypnotic Siren can be Naturalized, but Blatant Thievery is a once-and-done that's better the more opponents you're facing.
So if you've had Braids out for a turn cycle or two, it can walk opponents right into your Blatant Thievery, at which point you are legally entitled to at least six seconds of evil laughter. For that matter, evil laughter might be why you're drawn to blue. Getting to play mind games (perhaps with Mind Games!) is a fun place to be. And if you want to play some of the trickiest mind games in Magic, why not
Quiz Your Friends to Death with...
The animal ratings and the Hall of Fame help show how cards like Sphinx Ambassador are fantastic in multiplayer, even as the Sphinx doesn't seem to offer one thing in particular. You see, the Sphinx has a lot of medium-sized advantages that add up. A 5/5 flier is as solid on offense and defense as ever. More importantly, a creature that triggers on dealing combat damage to a player gets much better in a large game because it's more likely someone is open for you to hit. And Sphinx Ambassador's trigger is fascinating; when the Ambassador connects, you quiz the damaged player on the creature you want from his or her library, and if that player guesses wrong, the creature's yours! This is definitely a card that loves Commander, as most decks have at least five good creatures for your opponent to guess, and they're all one-ofs. (You can take six seconds of evil laughter here too.)
So that's a great way to play mind games. But there are two other equally devastating games in blue that are opposites of each other.
Starve Them of Cards with...
I don't know if this would be printed in blue today, but the deed is done, so you might as well take advantage. Zur's Weirding does several, well, weird things that turn the game sideways.
Second, it makes players reveal what they might draw and lets any player pay 2 life to stop that draw. Since this is done in turn order away from the player who wants to draw, this puts an uneven pressure on the board at any given time. You might be low on life, but you're the second-to-last person who can stop that Genesis Hydra from being drawn. Do you trust the remaining opponent to "do the right thing" and pay 2 life?
Third, it repeats the process for every card drawn, meaning that a card-draw spell like Blue Sun's Zenith or Opportunity might not get a player anything other than oddly distributed life loss. That might be good, but it also might not be worth sinking mana into. And the more players there are, the less likely anyone will keep a card they want to draw.
But maybe that's not the game you want. If not, how about going the other way?
Stuff Them Full of Cards with...
It doesn't read so great: your opponents draw seven cards whenever they cast spells! But think about how few spells that lets everybody cast. If you cast Forced Fruition on time (turn six), everybody has about 47 cards left in their 60-card libraries. Divide that by seven and you get the amount of spells each opponent can cast before he or she is decked or deals with Forced Fruition...
...which is six. Your opponents get six spells before they run out of cards.
Does that put the brakes on Elf decks and combo decks? You bet.
Does it make opponents think before countering your spells? Definitely.
The math isn't much nicer in Commander. And this is before you combine Forced Fruition with Nekusar, the Mindrazer; Viseling; and other friends who pair pain with card draw. Cards that you can build around while still being great if their friends don't arrive are the most consistent path to victory, and Forced Fruition, indirect as it is, gets you on that path.
That's five very different and potent directions you can go with blue cards. How about a deck with five more cards from the Multiplayer Hall of Fame?
Three of the blue cards in the Hall happen to be three of my favorites—Ixidron, Draining Whelk, and Dismiss into Dream. And they all involve Illusions, so that's practically begging me to mix them in a tasty blue stew (to go with that blue tea from earlier).
The majority of the deck is a tribal Illusion shell. Lord of the Unreal and Krovikan Mist are powerful two-mana incentives to the tribe; Krovikan Mist has a high pigeon rating for counting all Illusions on the battlefield instead of just your own (more on that in a second). Jace's Phantasm has a higher chance of being a 5/5 flier for U the more opponents you have and the longer the game goes on. Dream Stalker and Hover Barrier are solid rattlesnakes to point your opponents elsewhere.
And then there's Ixidron. Ixidron turns your opponents' nastiest creatures—Utvara Hellkite; Akroma, Angel of Wrath; Tromokratis; or a devoted Purphoros, God of the Forge—into 2/2 face-down creatures that fuel Ixidron's power and toughness. They keep their counters but little else. Meanwhile, you have Dream Stalker to bounce a creature of yours you don't want face-down, and Draining Whelk—the best counterspell creature in multiplayer—keeps its +1/+1 counters to outshine all the other face-down creatures.
Of course, Draining Whelk is its own headache. Showing six open mana makes your intent obvious—spoil the next big spell you see and get a huge flier for dessert—but the existence of the threat doesn't make it any easier to play around. And occasionally that six mana won't represent a Draining Whelk but a Gather Specimens, which in the right circumstances—e.g., Sepulchral Primordial or Warp World—is far more powerful than "just" an 8/8 or 9/9 Whelk. Sometimes, opponents will choose not to cast their best spells and swing at you until you and your Whelk leave the game—but Illusionist's Gambit can punish that too, forcing all attacks in a new direction away from your face.
The real fun, though, is with Dismiss into Dream. Like Cowardice before it, Dismiss into Dream sends your opponents' creatures away when they're targeted; Cowardice bounces them and Dismiss into Dream kills them, with a side benefit of shutting down Equipment, bestow, and similar power plays. Old-school pigeon Riptide Mangler is fine enough as a high-power blue creature, but with Dismiss into Dream its activated ability becomes the absurd "1U: That creature over there is gone." There are no legendary creatures in this deck, but Minamo, School at Water's Edge (no reason not to include it over Island #24!) works with Dismiss into Dream just as effectively as Riptide Mangler. (Feel free to untap opponents' legendary creatures for surprise blocks until Dismiss into Dream arrives.)
A Bluedazzling Array
So, we packed a quirky tribe, creature steal, combat redirection, counterspells on fliers, and roundabout removal into one loving tribute to blue. But blue's got plenty of other tricks in its sleeves, whether you assemble 60 or 100 of them. Be sure to look through the blue Hall of Fame section and see if there's something you want to try out. Discovering new interactions and intricacies is my favorite part of Magic, and multiplayer gives the most opportunities by far to discover them.
"Go forth and conquer!" isn't much a blue slogan—and "Go forth and sneak around!" isn't as catchy—but make sure you enjoy some Island magic this week, whether it's with the cards in this article, others in the Hall of Fame, or your own favorites.