Amonkhet: 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.)

As for my rating system, after a lot of feedback I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:

  • 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
  • 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
  • 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
  • 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback.
  • 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around.

Moving right along, blue is the next color waiting to be evaluated. Blue seems to be changing and getting better after being knocked down a few notches for being too oppressive back during Return to Ravnica and Theros blocks, but you’re not going to find a Fatal Push type of power level in this color just yet. Counterspells got much better in Aether Revolt, and in Amonkhet it seems like both looting effects and tempo cards have gotten a bump in power. Card advantage was already a theme, and with cycling back that should be pushed to the forefront in this limited environment. Let’s see what it has to offer.

 

Trial of Knowledge

Where to start, where to start. There isn’t a card that jumps out to me as being overpowered in either creatures or spells in blue, but since I talked about card advantage being a theme I guess that’s good a place as any to begin. As you know, the god Kefknet can’t do anything unless you have 7 cards in your hand, so it’s only natural that there would be a lot of card drawing effects in blue. Trail of Knowledge is a pretty good looting effect by itself netting you one card, but it becomes even better when you are playing 1-2 Cartouche in your deck. Out drawing your opponent gives you more resources and lets you set the tempo for the game, and this card does it well. It’s not a must have in every blue deck, but one that focuses on tempo or cycling could really benefit from it.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Open into Wonder

Yikes. Talk about a tempo swing. Now only can you use this card to alpha strike your opponent to death in the late game, but early on in the game you can attack with a few of your creatures and draw tons of cards. This card is amazing. I don’t card if the creatures in blue seem somewhat underpowered. This card would be splashable in a non-blue deck to me. I’d play 2-3 blue sources just to be able to cast it. First pickable in draft, incredibly powerful effect. The only thing that would make it better is instant speed.

RATING: 4 Stars

 

Cartouche of Knowledge

As far as Aura’s go, Cartouche of Knowledge isn’t that bad. Flying and +1/+1 for 2 mana is a good effect, and it also draws you a card. If you’re playing one of the trials and looking to reactivate its effect, this is a decent Cartouche that is borderline playable in limited. I still believe flying will be an important ability in AKH limited, so the enchantment is welcome. It’s not completely necessary, but if you’re looking for some evasion or to be slightly more aggressive with your creatures, it’s a good choice.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Galestrike

I’m always kind of underwhelmed by blue’s tempo effects as they are barely playable, but at least they’re trying this time and letting you draw a card. The positive thing about Galestrike in this format is that it lets you bounce a creature you Exerted back to your hand while giving you card advantage. Sure you’ll probably want to save it for those nasty creatures attacking you, but when your opponent learns to play around it you can still use it to your advantage. Attack, Exert, play again, Exert next turn as well for value. It should also be amazing against zombie tokens from embalming.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Shimmerscale Drake

Now we start to get into the creatures that can help you get card advantage as well as create a powerful board presence. Shimmerscaled Drake doesn’t seem pushed, but seems powerful nonetheless. It trades with most of the non-angel flyers in the air, and its casting cost isn’t too prohibitive. The Cycling is also nice to have in case you find yourself mana screwed early on and unable to cast him on curve. Early pick in draft. Not a limited all star, but should help you to put pressure on your opponents in the air.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Angler Drake

A little bit heavier, but Angler Drake is worth the extra mana since it gives you one more power and also bounces a creature. As I said before, this could be useful on both offense (your opponent) and defense (your exerted creature). If you’re able to blink it, the Drake’s playability goes up immensely. Other than that, I think it will be great for hitting your opponent hard in the air and his ETB is going to be amazing against all of these zombie tokens from embalm effects. I expect this flying creature to be one of your first picks in draft, sometimes even going before the rare in some packs. 

RATING: 4 Stars

 

Zenith Seeker

Blue’s army of the skies is starting to looking pretty overpowering. If your opponents aren’t playing with many flyers, you can easily take over a game and win it in the air. Zenith Seeker is a great card if you have a decent amount of cycling cards or looter effects, but I realize that not every limited deck will have playable ones. You’re still looking at about 5 of these effects in the average sealed deck, but that number should go up when drafting. Being able to use cycling at instant speed should make for some interesting combat tricks on both offense and defense as well.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Hekma Sentinels

Another card that benefits from having multiple cycling/looting effects is Hekma Sentinels. They fit well on your mana curve and have great synergy with a lot of the other blue cards. You probably won’t be able to activate their trigger more than twice a turn, but that should be more than enough to power through a strong defender or block a powerful attacker. One of those cards that I wouldn’t take first in draft, but would have trouble cutting from my 23 card limited deck. I think it’s a solid 3 drop.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Seeker of Insight

With all of these awesome bonuses from cycling or discarding cards, you think there would be better looting effects on creatures, but sadly there aren’t that many options. Seeker of Insight should give you a few looting activations per game if you him early, but it’s a little inconsistent. Still, a 1/3 body blocks well early and can really excel in the right build with lots of synergy.

RATING: 2.5 Stars

 

 

With all of these looting and discard effects, it shouldn’t be a problem to find value from any of these cards. Scribe grabs you back one of your removal cards (which as I said in white’s article will be pretty important, especially if they exile), River Serpent is a good beater and one of the strongest non-rare creatures in blue that you shouldn’t have a problem activating, and Cryptic Serpent could be powered out earlier than you think if you loot/cycle away your instants and sorceries. Turn 5 seems realistic for playing it. I wouldn’t think any of these are high picks in draft, but in the right deck they can be important pieces.

Scribe of the Mindful – RATING: 3 Stars

River Serpent – RATING: 2.5 Stars

Cryptic Serpent – RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

 

The next batch of cards also work well with the looting effects in this set. The Naga Oracle is good at helping you filter out unneeded cards, but also at filling up your graveyard to help you take advantage of cards like the River Serpent. Think of it as a 2/4 body that says “scry 3”. If you’re playing cards that have a cheaper Embalm effect like Honored Hydra it can help you play them faster, but I think in blue you’ll like its synergies with Cryptic Serpent and Enigma Drake. I like it both early and late game and think it’s worth a spot in your 23 card limited deck. It can be really powerful in the right deck.

As for the Embalm creatures, I actually like Labyrinth Guardian slightly more than Aven Initiate. Yes the initiate has flying and trades with most stuff in the air, but that 7 mana embalm cost is pretty high. Labyrinth Guardian, on the other hand,  is a great 2 drop that blocks a lot and is difficult to kill. If your opponent ends up wasting a removal spell on it, who cares? I find it to be a very efficient creature for this format. If you’re playing blue, you’ll probably be focusing more on either a UW flying or UB zombie/embalm deck. The Guardian is good in both, gumming up the ground while you attack in the air or build up your army.

Naga Oracle – RATING: 3 Stars

Aven Initiate – RATING: 3 Stars

Labyrinth Guardian – RATING: 3 Stars

 

Illusory Wrappings

The last few cards in blue I’d like to go over are the remaining “removal” cards, aka tempo cards. Illusory Wrappings might as well be a removal spell, because whatever it hits is basically removed from combat. It’s just too bad the card doesn’t have Flash so you can cast it at instant speed. It’s more like Pacifism, except your opponent can still block with that creature. It should be great against Gods and also be really effective against green creatures.

RATING: 2.5 Stars

 

Decision Paralysis

Yay it’s Sleep! I mean it’s basically the same thing but at instant speed. I guess the upgrade to instant speed is welcome. Really good for tempo strategies and a great card on both offense and defense like many of the other blue spells this time around. I’d rather have a card that kills something or removes it from combat outright for the remainder of the game, but Decision Paraylsis should do well in this format. I see it more as a 5th-6th draft pick. It’s not something that you’d want to first pick of course, but it could end up being really effective in the right deck. I especially like it in UW flying decks when your opponent has limited blocking options and you’re threatening them in the air.

 

Winds of Rebuke

Damn. An instant speed spell that can bounce a planeswalker, enchantment, or any other troublesome permanent back to its owner’s hand? And it’s only 2 mana? Pfft, I don’t really care that I have to mill 2 when I use it. I’d gladly pay that tax in order to deal with any problem. I like this card more than Decision Paralysis or Galestrike simply because of the threats you can target with it.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Lay Claim

Seven mana might seem like a lot, but this is a late game card that steals anything you want, including lands, permanents, and enchantments. It basically steals your opponent’s win condition and lets you keep it for good. If your opponent’s deck seems too fast to get it off, just cycle it away for a card. If you’ve always wanted that Gideon or Liliana, just take them ^_^. Not for every blue deck of course, but the more midrange type would love this. Something like UG or UR.

RATING: 2.5 Stars

 

Other Cards that Will See Play

  • Essence Scatter – get rid of it before it’s a threat! It should do a lot of work in a format with 13-17 creatures per deck.
  • Floodwaters – 6 mana is a bit much, and at that point your opponent will probably be able to recast their creatures right after you bounce them. Good against tokens though!
  • Tah-Crop Skirmisher – all of the Embalm cards are probably worth playing. Good as fodder, and with synergy.

 

Coming Up Next

I have to admit, I’m impressed with the tempo cards in Amonkhet. There are some good combat tricks and bounce effects, and you will be rewarded for playing your deck correctly. There are also lots of flyers that I think will be sought after since there aren’t many other ways for opponents to block. Beware of UW decks.

Luckily I have the day off on Wednesday so it will be no problem to knock out the “black” article. I haven’t seen too many of the removal effects, but I do think that there are a good number of embalm effects and tons of zombies. We’ll figure out how black fits in with the spectrum soon. Thanks for reading and be sure to post any comments, synergies, or disagreements down below. Take care!

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