M19 – 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. For the most part, I will focus mainly on cards from 2.5 to 5 stars in my article. 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. Example: A creature that fills the curve, a spell that destroys an artifact.
- 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. Example: A creature with a good ETB effect or decent activated ability. A spell that has a great effect but costs too much or has a big drawback.
- 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. Example: A creature that will win the game on its own if left unchecked and wins head to head battles often. A spell that has multiple effects or creates a huge swing in tempo.
- 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. Example: A creature that is almost impossible to due to special abilities or recursion. A spell that wipes the board or gives you massive card advantage.
First off, let me apologize for not posting on time. I thought I would have been able to with a 2 week head start, but 5:30 am – 9:30 pm work shifts for the last week and a half and late trains laughed at that plan. I’ve been in work sleep work sleep mode for the last 10 days or so, and if I’m lucky I’ll get black out before the weekend.
I’m honestly not that psyched about blue this time around either. I mean, blue usually doesn’t have any good creatures to begin with, at least not in the common/uncommon rarity, but it usually has some decent tempo cards or card advantage. I’m having trouble seeing much of that either though, which has me starting to worry that M19 limited will be bomb/rare dependent. I surely hope that ends up not being the case, because being at the mercy of your rares instead of building a deck with good synergy or incremental value is not a fun way to play sealed or draft.
Exclusion Mage is your typical bounce a creature card and nothing new, but definitely playable in limited at 3 mana. Mirror Image is an interesting take on Clone. It doesn’t target ANY creature like Clone does, and doesn’t die when targeted like Phantasmal Image, but it does require that you target YOUR creature. This could have some interesting applications in the right deck, especially if you’re playing a deck with traditionally large creatures like UG. If you’re looking for a card to help build synergy with, consider Mirror Image.
The other card I like is Skilled Animator. While it requires you to play a few artifacts to be effective, the payoff is incredible. Turning something like Fountain of Renewal or other two drop artifact into a 5/5 on curve is going to crush a lot of people, especially if they don’t have good removal. Even if Skilled Animator is killed the following turn, I would say that playing a 3 mana that says “turn an artifact into a 5/5 until end of turn” is worth considering for your deck. Blue simply doesn’t have the power level of the other colors, so it needs it wherever it can get it. It will be better in draft though since you can get enough artifacts to make it consistent.
Exclusion Mage – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Mirror Image – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Skilled Animator – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Our next stack of playables are good ole flyers. I have never seen a limited format without a flyer archetype, and that’s not going to start any time soon. Snapping Drake is slightly better than filler thanks to the evasion and fitting early on your curve, but if you’re looking for better flyers than look no further than Aven Wind Mage and Horizon Scholar. The Wind Mage continues the Prowess effect that Adeliz super charged in Dominaria. You won’t be activating too much in a regular limited deck, but the ability makes it a much better of pick in draft than Snapping Drake.
Horizon Scholar makes a return to standard for the first time since Theros block, and while he won’t see constructed play, it’s a decent top end for blue decks. It has a good body and the scry two on turn 6 is a nice bonus effect. It’s one of the few blue cards I’d choose Mirror Image to target. I don’t think any of these will be high pick in drafts, but I think they are good choices to fill out your curve.
Snapping Drake – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Aven Wind Mage – RATING: 3 Stars
Horizon Scholar – RATING: 3 Stars
Another staple of blue cards is the unblockable ability. Departed Deckhand brings back the Phantasmal Image effect that kills it when it’s targeted, but in limited if your opponent is playing any type of spell it’s going to kill your creature anyways. The deckhand isn’t totally unblockable either, but with only a handful of spirits in the set it might as well be. What I really like about this card is the 3rd ability. Sure you’ll be able to get in some damage early with it, but late game it becomes extremely dangerous if your opponent isn’t play any color with spirits in it. Making your bomb unblockable will end the game real quick. It’s because of this I would take this high in draft and not pass it by. It begs your opponent to waste a spell on it, and if they don’t they are in trouble.
Frilled Serpent isn’t as powerful as some recent blue serpent creatures, but it has a bigger back end than most of them with 6 toughness, and while the 4 damage will take longer to finish a game, it gives you a decent mana sink later on in the game. I’d prefer to pay 6 mana for cards that impact the board a bit more, but this card should be fine if you have nothing better to play.
Departed Deckhand – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Frilled Serpent – RATING: 3 Stars
The only other cards I think worth playing in M19 limited are Omenspeaker and Aviation Pioneer. They’re both on the lower end of playability but they have a role to play in the format. Omenspeaker is a good blocker against go wide token decks and gives you some pseudo card advantage with scry, but it’s not going to win you any games. Aviation Pioneer might not be good in a vacuum, but in a deck with cards like Skilled Animator and Sai, Master Thopterist, it offers you some much needed synergy. Great card for that deck, probably something for that final 22nd or 23rd spot in other blue decks.
Omenspeaker – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Aviation Pioneer – RATING: 2.5 Stars
I love what they’ve done with the traditional weakening enchant in blue. In the past you’d be able to effectively stop a creature from attacking, but Dwindle makes it incredibly problematic to block as well. Your opponent will get one block out of their creature and then it’s gone. Great design and art. One of the better spells in blue in this set in my opinion.
Sleep is also back in standard finally, and this card is going to be absolutely nuts in limited. If there was ever a reason to play blue, it’s this card. We’ve seen similar abilities on creatures in recent sets and know how strong they can be, but Sleep does one better and taps not only the turn you play the card, but also the following one. This effectively gives you two attacks without blockers, and if that doesn’t finish off your opponent then it’s going to put them in such a bad position that they’ll lose soon after. Great card for limited, first pickable I think. The question is what deck it would work in. Blue/White flyers is the obvious choice so far, but I’d like to think there is a Blue/Green archetype out there that can get much more value from playing this.
Dwindle – RATING: 3 Stars
Sleep – RATING: 4 Stars
Other Cards that Will See Play
- Aether Tunnel – enchantments are always tricky to land, but if it does then this one will mean big trouble for your opponent, especially if you have a strong creature to put it on.
- Disperse – Bounce effects are good in the right deck, but I’ve learned more often than not that they are a trap. Great effect, but stopping their bomb for one turn doesn’t stop it from killing you a few turns later.
- Essence Scatter – With the heavy concentration of creatures in limited decks, Essence Scatter is sure to find a target. Not a bad card to have in blue, especially if you have counterspells.
- Psychic Corrosion – a fun card to build around in limited, but not good as a top deck late game when you need a creature or some removal.
- Surge Mare – not bad as a big blocker early on, and becoming a 4/1 on an open board is a nice trick, but I think the main reason people will want to play it is the looting effect. Not a first pick, but something to consider when building your deck, especially if it has a lot of bounce effects.
Coming Up Next
Well we finally got through blue. I don’t think it’s going to help most of you who were doing the pre-release this weekend, but it might come in handy in the near future if you’re doing some limited events. The color has some good tempo effects and the creatures have some playable abilities, but I don’t really see any developing archetypes that are going to be that impressive. Just like white before it, it seems like the color has some great support options, but nothing that’s going to win games by itself. The synergy is even lacking outside of the blue artifact theme. If your pool has a lot of blue, you’ll have your work cut out for you. That’s going to do it for today, but if you have any comments or suggestions you’d like to make, feel free to do so down below. I’ll be working on black tomorrow and should be able to finish it up by Monday at the latest, but the entire set review will probably have to wait until just before the cards are released. Thanks for reading but more importantly thanks for being patient. Hopefully I’ll have more time when the next set comes out and I’ll be able to finish my series in time.