Last week, I explained how I decided to play B/U/G and finished third in a Magic Online PTQ with it. This week, I’ll give advice for anyone who wants to try the
deck and anyone who wants a leg up when they’re paired against it.
I often see R/U/G referred to as “R/U/G Control.” While R/U/G players are sometimes well served by taking a controlling posture, to call the deck
“control” is misleading. R/U/G and B/U/G are ramp decks, and they usually fail when they’re piloted in a classic control style.
Against aggro, use removal and permission to live long enough to resolve a game-changing threat. Against control, leverage mana advantage to resolve a
quick threat, and threaten to do worse things if the opponent taps out to answer it. The strategy can never be to answer everything the opponent does
because these decks simply don’t have enough answers in their sixty cards to do so, even with an active Jace, the Mind Sculptor drawing extra cards.
One of my main points from last week’s article is that discard spells fit much better into this strategy than permission spells. Discard is more mana
efficient, can be played at your convenience, and gives critical information about the opponent’s tools. The ideal B/U/G hand has a discard spell, a
ramp spell, lands, and a threat. My decklist is built to maximize the chances of having such a start.
The Why, When, and How of the B/U/G Cards
The mana base is a little bit better in B/U/G than it is in R/U/G. Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Deprive, and Volition Reins have difficult blue mana
requirements, and more importantly, it’s common to need to play multiple blue spells in a turn between Preordains and permission spells. In R/U/G,
where the blue lands only produce one color of mana, to say that these requirements are inconvenient would be an understatement. If you have four or
fewer lands, it can be difficult to set up your mana in a way that allows you to cast all of your spells on time because two or more of them need to be
Islands. The problem is even greater if the opponent is playing with Tectonic Edge or any other spells that affect your mana.
In B/U/G, green is the color that relies on basic lands. This is the most convenient setup because you only need one green mana in any game (unless
you’ve sideboarded in Obstinate Baloth). Also, if you need green mana, it will likely be on turn 2, so it’s important that every green source in the
deck comes into play untapped.
Creeping Tar Pit is the best manland and is one of the most important threats in the deck. I wish there were a way to play with more than four copies,
but every other manland is significantly worse than Tar Pit, and there’s no way to access more than one manland anyway if green and blue are two of
your three colors. Oracle of Mul Daya is an actual threat and not just a value card in B/U/G because of how effective and mana efficient Creeping Tar
Pit is. If you ever have Oracle and Liliana Vess in play at the same time, consider tutoring for a Tar Pit. It gives you card advantage in addition to
an unblockable threat that doesn’t die to sorcery-speed removal.
There’s only one Halimar Depths because there are plenty of blue-producing lands already (fifteen others), and drawing multiples is inconvenient,
especially since the discard spells lose value if they aren’t played at the ideal moment. However, Depths is excellent with Oracle of Mul Daya and
great for finding that one ingredient that your opening hand is missing.
Preordain and Explore are the best cards in the deck. Preordain, like Halimar Depths, helps you to find the right early-game cards on time. However, it
plays the double role of finding threats in the late game, which would otherwise be a problem for a deck that devotes so many slots to mana and
disruption. Think a few turns ahead with Preordain. Don’t cast it unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, or you know that you’ll be spending
all of your mana for the next two turns and just want to cycle it while you can. If you already have an Explore, consider declining to cast Preordain
on turn 1 and instead play it after the Explore on turn 2. This way, you see two cards deeper if you’re looking for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and you’ll
have more information about what cards you do and don’t need to draw.
Explore provides an irreversible mana advantage, cycles when you already have enough mana (therefore the two mana to cycle shouldn’t hurt), and combos
well with Oracle of Mul Daya. These are the only nonland cards that you should never touch during sideboarding.
I have mixed feelings about Lotus Cobra, as it’s vulnerable to removal, and ramp decks don’t trade one-for-one very well. However, if it’s not answered
immediately, it’s extremely powerful. In this metagame, many of the top decks also struggle to consistently remove it on turn 2. Consider it as a
sideboarding cut against a red deck that can kill it easily.
This may come as a shock, but Jace, the Mind Sculptor is excellent in this deck. I’d play more than four if I could. It’s so much more powerful than
the next-best threats that some matchups play out completely different depending on whether or not you draw it. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to
find it quickly. I recommend trimming one or two copies in aggro matchups, but it’s an essential part of the deck, and you should always keep at least
two. Even against decks full of haste creature where Jace seems bad in game one, he becomes much better after boarding in extra efficient removal
Oracle of Mul Daya can’t stand alone like Jace can, but she’s the next-best four-drop and performs better and better as the deck gets going. In
combination with Jace, Oracle runs away with the game in a turn or two. It’s possible to lose when you’re drawing additional nonland cards every turn,
but not when you’re also making two land drops every turn! Think things through carefully with Oracle. If you know you’ll be casting one, save your
Explores and Preordains because any way to manipulate the top of your library is immensely more powerful with an Oracle in play. There’s usually no
need to draw a land or a bad card when Oracle is in play. As I mentioned above, I wish there were more lands with abilities to combo with Oracle of Mul
Daya. I may try adding Tectonic Edge at some point, though I’d probably have to increase the total number of lands to do so. Oracles are good cards to
sideboard out in matchups where you need your threats to stand on their own, but I’m happy to have two in the maindeck.
I discussed Liliana Vess, Grave Titan, and Mana Leak in last week’s article. Liliana is a powerful threat that attacks from a different angle than
everything else in the deck, and she’s very powerful to accelerate out. Grave Titan is simply a sick card, and I wouldn’t consider cutting one. It’s
almost as good as Avenger of Zendikar, and it costs two less mana. If you want to add a different threat to this decklist, make it an addition to the
Two is the perfect number of permission spells for this deck. They aren’t a crucial part of the game plan but can be devastating if the opponent stops
playing around them. Sideboard them out on the draw against Caw-Blade and against most aggro.
As far as removal, I like having four Go for the Throats/Doom Blades in the seventy-five for Valakut and R/U/G. The one Doom Blade is out of fear of
Precursor Golem and artifact-based decks, but I’m not willing to have one of my maindeck removal spells be dead against Vampires, as it remains one of
the most popular aggro strategies. Tumble Magnet is good in small numbers to deal with equipped creatures.
The Big Matchups
This is about 50/50, which, in my opinion, is much better than R/U/G can claim. The three-color builds are easier than straight W/U, as Tectonic Edge,
Inkmoth Nexus, and Day of Judgment are among the best cards against B/U/G.
This matchup is the reason why I emphasized that B/U/G is not a control deck. It’s much faster, but Caw-Blade can answer everything B/U/G does, and
B/U/G can’t answer everything that Caw-Blade does. If there’s no action in the early game, you’ll be at a big disadvantage, so be selective about your
There are options about what to cut. Mana Leak is bad on the draw. You don’t want to lean too heavily on Grave Titan if you suspect that they have
three or four Day of Judgments. Trimming a land is fine, especially if you lower the mana curve, and you can dodge removal by cutting Lotus Cobra if
you think they’re overloading on Mortarpod, Oust, or removal in their splash color. Oracle of Mul Daya shines in this matchup, but if you’re at a
complete loss, it’s better than blindly cutting one of the deck’s linchpins.
Keep them from equipping Sword of Feast and Famine at all costs. The best time to use Inquisition of Kozilek is right before their turn 2, to take
their Stoneforge Mystic. Duress should be saved until there’s a specific card you’re worried about. Examples: They just searched for an equipment with
Stoneforge Mystic; you’re ready to clear the way for a threat; you want to strip their Day of Judgment before playing Grave Titan; or you can’t beat a
Jace, the Mind Sculptor or a Gideon Jura if they play it next turn.
The R/U/G vs. R/U/G mirror is pretty terrifying because the die roll matters a lot, and a single resolved threat will usually end the game. I’d much
rather be playing B/U/G in the pseudo mirror because it has better answers, and the discard spells give you a fine chance to win on the draw.
They have no answer to Grave Titan, so there’s no point in fooling around with the other threats. Just strip their hand and resolve a Grave Titan. It
shouldn’t be hard because Flashfreeze is useless against B/U/G.
This is another matchup where B/U/G is better than R/U/G. (Is anyone seeing a pattern?) Black removal can kill Overgrown Battlement, Titans, and
Avenger of Zendikar, meaning every creature is pretty pathetic against you except for Primeval Titan, and that’s where Mana Leak, Flashfreeze, and
Memoricide come in. Discard spells are also good, particularly because seeing their hand helps you plan out the next few turns.
Lotus Cobra is bad because it’s so easy to kill, and you don’t want to one-for-one unless you have to. Don’t let them slow you down on your quest to
reach six mana.
Something that BUGs Me
B/U/G is not a lazy man’s deck. Even small decisions like what order to play your lands in and how to stack the top of your deck can make a big
difference. Most important is the fact that being light on answers means you never have complete control. You can run away with the game in terms of
card and mana advantage, but that doesn’t mean your life total or your board presence is safe.
The most dangerous pitfall with B/U/G is to get sloppy when you’re winning. Caw-Blade in particular has the ability to turn around a board state
quickly with Day of Judgment and Gideon Jura, or alternatively just kill you with unblockable threats. When you’re winning with an Oracle or a Jace
going, try to assemble the widest variety of threats and answers that you can because the Tide of War can change quickly.
In live play especially, I know that I sometimes feel like I’m being rude when I take an hour on my turns with Jace and Oracle and all the other
library manipulation spells. After all, it’s clear that I’m going to win once I’m doing all those things, right? Wrong! Your opponent is free to
concede (if they’re bored) any time they feel the game is decided. If they haven’t conceded, that usually means that they’re still trying to win, and
you need to be prepared for anything. Continue to maximize every little advantage, and keep working towards setting up your own kill and protecting
your life total.Â