Journey into Nyx: Playing to your Weaknesses – Blue
(NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
(Please click here for a link to my Born of the Gods and Theros picks in blue)
Nobody wanted you back during M13’s limited PTQ season, and everybody despised getting Dimir or Simic during the Return to Ravnica pre-releases. Since then, blue has really come into a place of its own. Tempo cards, or cards that disrupt your opponent’s, have taken center stage in this limited format. With players pumping their mana into creature to make them monsters, or playing naughty combat tricks on you to deal more damage at the last moment, blue has come through to make your opponent play for their overzealousness. With 1-2 mana, you can totally disrupt their plans with cards like Retraction Helix of Voyage’s End. Blue will certainly maintain its role as an important support color in Theros block limited, but how would it fair as a mono colored deck or as the main color? That’s what I’m here to look into today. We all know that UW heroic, UW flyers, UB and UG are strong color combinations, but maybe we’ll be able to add UR to that list as well! Let’s see . . .
Air Elemental from the older sets was a pretty sweet card. It was a 4/4 flyer for 5 mana and was a beast in blue decks. Whitewater Naiads might not be as good as the Elemental, but making a large Kraken, Hydra, or other large creature unblockable whenever you play an enchantment is pretty good. This could combo really well with a Floodtide Serpent, ensuring that you always have an unblockable 4/4 creature that turn. It’s not a card that you’d want to play in a heroic deck, but in ever other color combination it would be fine. Great in UG since you have access to larger creatures, but it wouldn’t be bad in UW, UB, or UR either. I’d strongly consider playing it in sealed, but it might be a later pick in draft depending on whether or not you have enough enchantments to abuse it. It still has a good body regardless.
Akroan Skyguard for 2 mana was a pretty powerful card in THS/BNG UW heroic decks. The problem was that it could easily be blocked and killed by other flyers early on in the game. War-Wing Siren doesn’t have that problem however. For one extra mana you get 2 more toughness, along with evasion in the air. I would consider taking this over the Skyguard just because she can go toe to toe with the Akroan and keep on asking for more. Since it’s a 3 drop, I’d take it relatively high in draft, maybe a 4th-5th pick. Definitely a good card in sealed in just about any Blue deck.
Aside from Sedge Scorpion, 1 drops usually suck in Theros limited. This guy is pretty good though. Drop him on turn 1 and keep pinging away at your opponent each turn. He’s a great candidate for bestow creatures, and amazing in Blue/x heroic decks (especially UW). If your plan is to play Blue/x heroic in draft, take him early, maybe your 3rd-4th pick. He’ll definitely sneak some damage in for you before they get the mana to kill it or deal with it. In sealed I’d definitely play him if I had the cards for a heroic strategy, but otherwise I might have him as my 22nd or 23rd choice. I wouldn’t be afraid to cut him if I had better 2 and 3 drops in his colors.
Finally we get a wall that does something useful! Okay, so it’s not truly a wall because he can attack, but this guy will stop just about everything coming your way. Journey is taking semi-vanilla cards to a whole new level. The incremental mill will be helpful in shifting the game in your favor, and you can probably expect it to at least get rid of 8-10 cards in an average deck. This card is great with Phenax in a UB deck, but just with the Naiad up above, Floodtide Serpent and Ephara’s Enlightenment are other cards that combo with the constellation ability. In draft I think it would be a 10th+ pick, and in sealed it would be a very strong 22nd or 23rd card to round out your deck with.
Token creators like Midnight Haunting (ISD) or Raised by Wolves (BNG) have always been great in limited formats because they give you 2+ creatures for one card. Six mana seems high, but you get 4 total power that flies. How is this different from any of the Chimeras from THS or BNG? The mana cost will make it restrictive in aggressive strategies, but in blue midrange decks it should be fine. UG can ramp into it on turn 4 or 5, and it would also feel right at home in a UW flyer deck. Not a high draft pick but a solid card in a Blue deck, and I think it would be good in sealed too.
Seriously, Journey into Nyx has some of the best art I’ve seen on Magic cards in a long time. This is ten times scarier than the Crab/Shark with flash we saw in the RTR block. A 3/4 flyer for 3 mana?!?!?! Insane! Sure you have to return an enchantment to your hand, but that’s a small price to pay (thanks to Kamiken for pointing out that he’s an enchantment so he’ll return himself if you have nothing else in play). Aside from that downside, it’s absolutely amazing in ALL blue decks. I wouldn’t be ashamed of drafting him high if the bombs weren’t that good, but you definitely won’t see him a second time if you pass him along to the next player. He’s also a must play in sealed. This card is great, and also combos well with the Whitewater Naiad and other constellation effects. As long as you can feed his hunger for enchantments he’ll serve you well!
I find this card to be slightly better than Voyage’s End, even though you lose the scry 1 in the exchange. They both do the same thing, but I feel that returning a creature that has been bestowed 5 times to it’s hand along with all the enchantment creatures is much more of a tempo swing than just getting of an attacker that turn. Therefore I would take it over Voyage’s End in draft. Having some sort of tempo card in a blue deck is good, but you don’t want to take your focus away from getting creatures in a draft. This could be drafted 10+, meaning you could pass it if it’s in your opening pack and there is a chance it will make its way back around. Solid tempo card, and I wouldn’t mind having it in either of my limited decks, but not worth taking over a decent creature. Keep that in mind.
Pfffftttt *spits water all over my computer screen* Holy shi— seriously? I can pay 3 mana to exile my 1/1 and get a 4/4 flying Sphinx? Where do I sign up? Eh? You say I can pay 5 mana to get 2 Sphinxes with flying?!?!?! Dear god this is a good card. Worst cast scenario you get rid of their 10/10 Nemesis of Mortals and give them a 4/4 flyer instead, but in most cases you’ll be using this to exile your own chump blockers after they bravely stood in front of a 7/8 Nessian Asp and Polukranos to put 2+ 4/4 Sphinxes in play. First pick in draft, must play in sealed. Amazing and worth a splash in your deck I think. Also works great against gods so you if you’re not playing white or green you can deal with them.
I usually don’t play one drops, but this could be pretty strong in limited. Being able to toss their finisher into the graveyard or to draw more fuel for your deck on turn 2 is pretty powerful. I could see the card being really good in a blue midrange deck like UG, UW, or UB since you’ll be able to dig to your mana and bombs faster, but it might not be bad in heroic decks either since it can let you control the tempo from turn 2. I’d probably take this as a 5th-6th card in draft, and I wouldn’t feel bad about playing it in sealed either. It would be difficult to come up with reasons to cut it in any blue deck you play.
There are a lot more ways to destroy enchantment creatures and enchantments, but limited decks still have mostly creatures. When you consider that 13-17 of those cards will be creatures, it makes taking out a creature like this that much more difficult in sealed or draft. For 3 mana you get a 4/4, and for 5 mana you can bestow it. Just one swing for damage will more than make up for its downside. Even if your bestowed creature dies, this will still fall off and be ready to attack for 4 next turn as well. Having to waste 2 spells to get rid of it makes it a decent card. Would I take it high in draft though? That’s a tough call. Maybe as a 6th-7th pick. This is one of the most powerful 3 drops in the block, but also one of the most fragile.
A 3/2 flyer with flash for 4 mana, not bad. It’s a solid role player and fits well in both heroic and other blue decks. Worth a spot in both your draft and sealed deck. It’s especially good in UW flyers. I wouldn’t feel bad drafting this as my 4th-5th card.
Just as I said with Ajani’s Presence in white, I think Aerial Formation is a good card too. One mana for +1/+1 and flying, or 4 mana to double that effect. Amazing card in a Blue/x heroic deck, but otherwise it would be one of the last choices for my sealed deck since I’d be focusing more on creatures and tempo.
Other Cards that might see play
- Triton Cavalry – This guy won’t be winning any games for you, but his tempo can help shift the game in your favor. If you’re opponent is heavy into enchantments, he’s worth playing in your heroic deck.
- Interpret the Signs – 6 mana to scry 3, with the possibility of missing any cards with a mana cost on them. I like the possibility of revealing one of your bombs and drawing 5+ cards, but at the same time it would suck to pay 6 mana and get nothing but land or 1 card.
- Font of Fortunes – just like Divination, but it takes up your 2nd and 3rd turns in order to use it. I’d rather just play Divination.
- Godhunter Octopus – good if your opponent is playing with a lot of enchantments or if you can somehow enchant their permanents. Not sure if I’d play it main because of how situational it is. They could block with their only enchantment then you’d be stuck with a 5/5 blocker and nothing else.
- Thassa’s Ire – I like it’s ability, great in a tempo deck, but paying 4 is a bit steep. Not a bad card to round out your 23 cards with, but not absolutely necessary unless your strategy is to lock down your opponent. Great in late games.
Coming up Next
That does it for blue. The color lacks really powerful finishers, but it has some great 2 and 3 drops that really fill out mana curves well. It still is the king of tempo and card draw and I think Journey into Nyx improves the UR and UB color combinations that were otherwise rather weak in BNG/THS. Tomorrow I’ll be working on black, so be sure to check back for the article when you can. So far, what are your favorite cards from white and blue in the new set? Which color combinations became stronger? I’d like to hear from you, so leave your comments below. Thanks for reading and see you again soon!
re: Crystalline Nautilus – one mode you didn’t mention is the “I’m bestowing this on your creature and targetting it” mode. It’s a bit pricey on mana (5 plus targetting effect), but it gives you back the nautilus and kills their guy. Not a bad price to pay to turn triton tactics / voyage’s end into straight up removal.
That’s a pretty sweet trick! I’ll try using that one too. Not a bad way to kill their big finisher in long games.
You can also use your bestow creatures to target their Crytaline Nautilus.