Evolving Mono-Blue

Posted in Reconstructed on February 4, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

When a new set comes out, it can send you in all kinds of new directions. Sometimes, a crazy new card will open up a new archetype. (Such as my Ephara deck last week.) Other times, the one or two missing pieces you need for a deck finally come together and snap into place.

This is one of the latter instances.

Mono-Blue Devotion has been one of the strongest decks in Standard since Theros was released. Players have tried out different variations on the colors—but Mono-Blue has managed to edge out any of the other splashes.

...for now.

With the advent of Born of the Gods, it might be time to reconsider that notion. A couple new cards might finally give the deck a worthwhile push into another direction.

Let's take a look at Michael Remijan's Simic version of the deck. (And appropriately colored just in time for the Seahawks' Super Bowl win!)

Michael Remijan's Blue-Green Synergy

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The Battle Plan

This deck is full of powerful cards and a rather diverse game plan.

Sometimes you can just land an early, devotion-fueled Master of Waves or Thassa and absolutely crush your opponent under your heel before he or she can recover. Other times, you'll play a more drawn out game, where you take maximal advantage of the cards you accrue over time, leaning on Kiora and Bident of Thassa. Your opening hands can move in so many different ways.

The keys to improving this deck are twofold: maximize the individually powerful cards in the deck while also keeping the diversity of game plans active. For example, Master Biomancer into Master of Waves is an incredibly powerful start—and playing additional ways to fuel that to happen is going to be well worth it.

At the same time, there need to be tools so that isn't the only thing going on—a deck full of mana acceleration and creatures is going to find itself with a thermal exhaust port that's the perfect size for a Supreme Verdict of a proton torpedo. Some elements of resilience are going to be added in to help keep this decks's strongest cards around.

Ready for some changes? Let's get started!

Deck Breakdown

What can stay and what can go? Let's take a look at the deck card by card and see what will be tweaked in this wave of modifications.

Master of Waves

This is one of the cornerstone pieces of this strategy. While you'll generally make fewer tokens in this deck than the straight mono-lue version, the bonus is that you can cast Master of Waves quicker and potentially be aided by Master Biomancer as well. The Biomancer is particularly crucial in adding resiliency; it means you can't just kill the Master of Waves to remove all of the tokens.

In any case, this deck certainly isn't playing fewer than four copies of one of its strongest cards. This deck wants four Master of Waves for sure!

In addition, a card to come out of Born of the Gods that is very strong with Master of Waves happens to be Fated Infatuation. The combination of the two is enough to put away most games, creating a ton more Elementals and also pumping them all again. An Infatuation on either Biomancer or Master of Waves is going to be pretty incredible for you. (And fun!) Not to mention you can cast it on your opponent's turn and produce a huge threat out of nowhere. I definitely want four of those as well.

Sylvan Caryatid
Elvish Mystic

These are the two pieces of the acceleration package. This deck is packed with four-drops, and even though I'm going to cut down on some of them, getting to the strongest ones quickly is still going to be worthwhile.

Sylvan Caryatid is great: it blocks and also fixes mana to ensure this deck can get the colors it needs for triple-blue cards like Fated Infatuation.

Elvish Mystic is nice, but it doesn't fix mana at all and, also, on turn one I may want to put a Temple of Mystery or Guildgates (that I'll be adding in) onto the battlefield tapped. Additionally, there's not a lot to accelerate from one mana to three: there's just Thassa and that's it.

The card I would much rather have than Elvish Mystic is Kiora's Follower. Being a two-drop still fits the curve just fine, it fixes my mana well, and it also has the all-important blue mana symbol in its mana cost to help push devotion higher. Plus, it even has 2 power to boot! Top that off with the delicious frosting that it can also untap creatures in a pinch and we have a winner. This deck is definitely going to sport four copies of both Sylvan Caryatid and Kiora's Follower.

Prophet of Kruphix

Prophet of Kruphix is a very fun card that has a lot of appeal—and in this deck, it can definitely do some powerful things. End step Master of Waves? Yes please!

However, I'm already actively looking for ways to push this deck's mana curve down, and while Prophet is excellent with a high curve, I don't want a bunch of five-drops in my hand early on and it doesn't help with the resiliency problem. (Casting creatures in response to Supreme Verdict is, unfortunately, not a great plan.) Something has to go, and Prophet is one of the weaker links of this deck. Goodbye, Prophet of Kruphix!

Thassa, God of the Sea

Thassa is an immensely powerful card. The only three-mana God in Theros, she boasts two strong abilities—and a 5/5 body once online, to boot. While she's going to be a bit harder to turn on in this deck than in its mono-blue counterpart, the ability to scry toward your crucial pieces is plenty strong.

With four copies in a deck where she won't always become a creature right away, I'm a little concerned about drawing multiples early and having dead cards—in mono-blue she is usually a 5/5 for , which makes the dead-card problem a bit more manageable, since you are threatening with a 5/5, whereas here it might take another couple turns after casting her to turn on her devotion. As a result, I'd like to move down to three copies. Still strong, and now you don't risk your hands being full of Thassa, God of the Sea as much.

Master Biomancer

As mentioned earlier, Biomancer is a component of some of this deck's strongest draws. Turn-two Kiora's Follower into Master Biomancer into Master of Waves presents 20 points of power! (And you can't just wipe all of those Elemental tokens away by killing the Master of Waves either, thanks to Master Biomancer's counters.) As the creator of Master Biomancer, the card always has a soft spot in my heart, but this is definitely a deck where it is legitimately good.

Whether being copied with a Fated Infatuation—laying down a Master of Waves afterward—or just simply enhancing each creature you cast, Master Biomancer is a great fit for this deck. Although it does cram my four-drop spot a bit, all of the accelerators help with that. I'll take four!

Additionally, I'd like the deck to have a couple more two-drops and I could use a mini–Master Biomancer. I'm going to play two Zameck Guildmage since it's both good against board sweepers (converts counters on dying creatures back into cards) and also plays nicely with Master of Waves in a similar fashion to the Biomancer. If you flood out, the Guildmage gives you a pretty nice way to make use of all your mana.

Fathom Mage

This deck is full to the brim with four-drops, and something has to go. While Fathom Mage certainly has some nice potential for card advantage, it takes time to get rolling—especially when you could be using a Bident or Kiora instead. It's a bit slow and doesn't help create robust, powerful draws like the other four-drops. Out of all the four-drops in this deck, this is one I don't mind dropping. Goodbye, Fathom Mage!

Nylea's Disciple

This is a deck that wants to slant toward blue devotion, so gaining a ton of life with this is going to be tricky. While it might be a reasonable stopgap sideboard card against red decks to buy time (and be awesome with Fated Infatuation) the main deck already has enough four-drops that this can be eschewed.

What I'm interested in is a card that helps make my blue devotion tick even better. The key card in most Mono-Blue strategies is Nightveil Specter—and that's a good direction to go here as well. While it does cost in a two-color deck, this deck is going to feature very few Forests to mess up casting the Specter on time. I'm confident playing four Specters will work out fine most of the time, once I've tweaked the mana base. (Especially with eight mana-fixing two-drop accelerants to help out.) Plus, as a two-color deck with Sylvan Caryatid, that makes it even easier to cast your opponent's spells!

Kalonian Hydra

The Kalonian Hydra is a single creature that hits hard. Although I'll admit it's entirely win-more, you should definitely take a moment to fantasize about attacking with this after you have Biomancered several creatures with counters.

Taken a moment to enjoy that fantasy? Good. Now it's time to slice your dreams in half and cut Kalonian Hydra. Alas!

As a single creature that's plenty vulnerable, the Hydra doesn't help to plug the removal problem this deck already faces. While it's nice to turbo one of these out with acceleration, I want to push the curve down. This deck already has a ton of four- and five-mana plays, and I don't need Kalonian Hydra sitting in my hand on top of it all. Outside of Master Biomancer, it doesn't really synergize that well with the rest of the deck. While it's a hard-hitting card that's a lot of fun, Kalonian Hydra just isn't what this deck is looking for.

Cyclonic Rift

I can appreciate the tempo plays that Ætherize sets up. Against any kind of midrange or aggressive deck, you can build up your board and then Ætherize your opponent's when he or she finally finds it safe to attack. However, it's a highly reactive, situational card and requires four mana. Playing a couple Cyclonic Rifts accomplishes the same goal as Ætherize without needing to play a situational card.

Speaking of Cyclonic Rift, in a green deck with mana acceleration, Rift is a great fit. I only want two of them so I'll find one on occasion or if the game goes long, but it makes for a great card to break open a matchup—and even control decks have targets for it thanks to all of the Detention Spheres running around.

Kiora, the Crashing Wave
Bident of Thassa

These two cards serve similar roles. They're both four-mana noncreatures that are good against control decks.

Bident of Thassa is fantastic when your creature engine is rolling. Kiora, the Crashing Wave can only draw you one card every few turns, while Bident can load you up if you have an attacking force. On the other hand, my primary concern against control is it clearing your board—which makes Bident much weaker (especially with no Mutavaults). You can also build toward Kiora's ultimate against control, which will take the game away. Additionally, I'd rather accelerate out a turn-three Kiora than a turn-three Bident in most situations. And, to top it off, Kiora is better against a lot of creature decks.

I have three slots I want to spend on this noncreature four-drop. In the end, both cards have their merits and I'd rather draw one of each than two of one. I'm going to split it two Kiora and one Bident.

The only other thing I'd like to add into the deck is Thassa's Rebuff. While it can't counter Supreme Verdict, having some permission to protect your board will help seal the deal in a lot of circumstances. Three copies, enough to find one reasonably often but not so many that I draw a ton of them, sounds about right. With all of those changes in mind, and some extra slots carved aside for adding lands into the mana base, that brings us to:

Gavin Verhey's Wavemancer

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There are a lot of tweaks you could put on this deck depending on how you'd like it to play. Playing a full set of Tidebinder Mages main deck, for example, over Zameck Guildmage and two of the spells, is completely reasonable if you want to turn on your devotion early on and expect a lot of green decks. You could also pretty convincingly play another Kiora if you wanted. Thassa's Rebuff may be good or bad depending on your metagame.

However, regardless of metagame, the core is still strong. Biomancer into Master or Master into Infatuation will steal plenty of games. It may be a bit cheesy, but fortunately I have a degree in cheese-making and am playing to win. Support the core with enough strong cards around it, and you'll be in good shape.

Is this better than Mono-Blue? That's hard to say, but I can certainly tell you this: it's a blast to play with! Kiora's Follower adds a huge piece that was missing before.

Have fun!

Honorable Mentions

What were some of the other great decks sent in this week? Take a look!

David Schuessele's Xenagos Jund

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Michael's Chromanti-control

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Mark Ian Alloso's Naya Auras

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Niall's Orzhov Weenies

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Johnny Wrights's Immortal Infatuation

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Enomoto Yuuki's Rakdos Beats

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Paul Wilhelm's Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday

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Dylan Beazer's Man on Fire Burns Everything

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Patrick Coffman's Weird Aggro

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Itou Kazunari's Kiora, the Crashing Game

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Hirano Yasuhisa's BUG Phenax

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jtargonaut77's "What's Yours, Is Mine!"

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Modern Born

In just a couple weeks, it will be time for Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia! Featuring Modern, this one has a double-whammy of freshness: not only is Born of the Gods legal, but the new bannings and unbannings are in effect. With Deathrite Shaman gone, Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom back, and a whole new set in the mix, who knows what is going to happen?

Well, perhaps you could offer up a bit of what you think we might be able to expect in your deck-building mission for this week:

Format: Modern
Restrictions: Your deck must contain at least one card from Born of the Gods.
Deadline: February 10th, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time

Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)

Yourname's Deckname

20 Land
20 Land
4 Creature
4 Creature
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
4 Planeswalker

Modern challenges are always some of my favorite weeks thanks to the wide range of decks I receive. I can't wait to see how you use Born of the Gods in Modern—there are, no doubt, some exciting synergies out there!

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or comments on this article, please comment in the forums or send me a tweet. I always love to hear what you think.

I'll be back next week with a look at an inspired Standard deck for Inspired Week. Talk with you then!



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