I keep a pretty good number of Commander decks on me at any given time. My collection is certainly deep enough that I could have a bunch more, but generally I prefer to keep on hand decks that I really enjoy playing, and that I can fit into one backpack for easy transport. Once a deck runs its course, or if I think of something better to do with the cards in that deck, I’ll take it apart and make another deck, so I usually have twelve to fourteen decks at any one time.
I also like to have some balance between the colors represented in my decks, and when I take stock of that, there can be some surprises. For instance, I still seem to have more red in my decks than any other color! Not too long ago, when looking at the color make-up of the decks, I realized that I had four monocolored decks, built around these commanders:
Apologies for having a Razaketh deck. I call it my evil deck, and I only break it out for those who want to play ruthless, cut-throat Commander. And also, to evangelize my position that the card really should be banned in Commander. It’s an absurd card in every way.
Anyway, you may notice as I did that I have a monocolored deck for each of Magic’s colors… except for blue. I used to have one built around Jalira, Master Polymorphist and it was a lot of fun. I kept it together for a few years. But after a while I found that I just never played it anymore, so I took it apart.
Now, I’m not opposed to blue Commander decks, and have quite a few with blue in them. But like most Magic players, when there’s an incomplete cycle, it bugs me. I tried to ignore it—I mean, I’m a human being, I can resist urges, and feeling the need to complete a cycle is just your mind playing tricks on you.
You know where this is going. I ended up building a mono-blue deck. Resistance is futile. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of blue’s controlling nature, and over the years I’ve raged about it being too good a color and have hated the sort of game play blue spells tend to encourage. But at the same time, I’ve accumulated single copies of some really good blue spells for the time when I wanted to play on the dark side:
I just recently traded for a Mana Drain, a card I’ve secretly coveted for over twenty years, but thanks to a reprint I was able to pick up an Iconic Masters copy for a reasonable exchange. I really like Raymond Swanland’s art too.
Okay, so a blue deck. Who should I choose as a commander? Well, I definitely don’t subscribe to any sort of heavy control style of Commander deck. My personal philosophy is that counterspells should be held to protect your own active agenda, keeping someone from killing you, and occasionally stepping in and stopping someone from doing something obnoxiously degenerate. You’re not going to see me rocking Ertai, Wizard Adept. But what sort of blue theme is active rather than reactive? Well, blue does have some really good artifact synergies, and I do like artifact shenanigans. The mana your get from a Mana Drain is colorless, so that seems ideal for casting artifacts. There are even counterspells that make artifacts – Confirm Suspicions and Spell Swindle.
There are a few blue commanders I’d be willing to choose with this in mind:
Of these three, I decided to go with Thada Adel. For one thing, I like that she can steal Sol Rings from other blue players. And for another, I like the side benefit of being able to scout people’s decks. If I suspect someone of shenanigans, being able to know the sort of spells I should hold my counterspells for could be crucial. And as someone who’s had a long history of hating on blue, I kind of like the irony of having a blue deck that punishes opponents for playing Islands.
Yeah! Sounds fun—let’s do this!
In addition to Sai and Padeem, there are all sorts of other interesting options here. The best of the bunch is obviously Trading Post, a card that I love in all sorts of Commander decks as it is, but it does a ton of heavy lifting here. I’m also a big fan of Vedalken Humiliator, a very weird new card from Commander 2018 that I haven’t really seen in action yet but know will do some good work here.
As with any good Commander deck, I want to have some number of mana ramp spells. I particularly like Inspiring Statuary in this deck due to all the artifacts, and it’s especially good with Equipment cards. Of course, you can’t use it to cast artifact spells, but that’s where Etherium Sculptor and Chief Engineer come in.
The Equipment selection I’ve made here include some of my all-time favorites, but I’m particularly excited to use the tricksy blue spells Fumble and Grip of Phyresis for instant-speed shenanigans that will often end up with me gaining control of a sweet piece of Equipment!
We still need more artifacts! I particularly like Chaos Wand here. If you’ve got a counterspell in hand because you’re worried about stopping someone’s fiendish plans and you don’t need to use it, you can instead activate Chaos Wand during an opponent’s end step and target a nonblue player—you’re bound to run across some fun instant or sorcery spell to cast for free!
Like any blue mage worth their salt, you want to have plenty of card drawing power in your deck. I really like Mystic Archaeologist from Core Set 2019 for this role. I also wanted to lean toward artifact sources of card draw too, which is why I’ve included Bident of Thassa, Smuggler’s Copter, and Coveted Jewel.
I notice that not enough people put Rapid Hybridization and Pongify in their decks that don’t have better removal options, but I’ve long been a fan. Instant-speed removal for just one blue mana is clutch, and often well worth the price of leaving behind a vanilla 3/3 creature. Carrying this polymorphing theme a little further, we can make good use of Transmogrifying Wand here, turning three threats into 2/4 Oxen. And between Master Transmuter and Trading Post, once we run out of charges on the Wand, we can get it back fully charged!
I have a foil Coveted Peacock I’ve been wanting to find a home for and I think I’m going to give it a try here. Goading a non-flying threatening creature sounds like a pretty good deal, especially if the creature is a problem that other opponents agree needs to go.
Here we go, the control suite! These include many spells that will provoke eye-rolls galore, but some are super-cool haymaker spells like Illusionist’s Gambit, Spelljack, and the amazing Time Stop!
Other Cool Blue Stuff
I’ll wrap up the deck with these three cards. Chasm Skulker goes with the theme of punishing the opponents who dare to play Islands, and the other two let you get in on the fun whenever opponents play something big, bad and in desperate need of copying.
Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up with the lands added:
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Junk Diver
- 1 Etherium Sculptor
- 1 Sharding Sphinx
- 1 Master Transmuter
- 1 Sea Gate Oracle
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Psychosis Crawler
- 1 Spellskite
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Sigiled Starfish
- 1 Chasm Skulker
- 1 Chief Engineer
- 1 Hangarback Walker
- 1 Whirler Rogue
- 1 Coveted Peacock
- 1 Torrential Gearhulk
- 1 Padeem, Consul of Innovation
- 1 Vizier of Many Faces
- 1 Spellseeker
- 1 Sai, Master Thopterist
- 1 Mystic Archaeologist
- 1 Vedalken Humiliator
- 1 Ancient Stone Idol
- 1 Mana Drain
- 1 Force of Will
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Time Stop
- 1 Arcane Denial
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Spelljack
- 1 Pongify
- 1 Cryptic Command
- 1 Negate
- 1 Dream Fracture
- 1 Rite of Replication
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Elixir of Immortality
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Blue Sun's Zenith
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Trading Post
- 1 Rapid Hybridization
- 1 Bident of Thassa
- 1 Curse of the Swine
- 1 Swan Song
- 1 Illusionist's Gambit
- 1 Blade of Selves
- 1 Confirm Suspicions
- 1 Imprisoned in the Moon
- 1 Smuggler's Copter
- 1 Grip of Phyresis
- 1 Inspiring Statuary
- 1 Spell Swindle
- 1 Blackblade Reforged
- 1 Fumble
- 1 Chaos Wand
- 1 Transmogrifying Wand
- 1 Coveted Jewel
- 1 Retrofitter Foundry
What do you think? I know I’ve probably overlooked some other artifact synergies that could go in here, so please let me know anything crucial I missed. Would you have gone with a different mono-blue commander if you were in my shoes?
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Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January 2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith” and the commander name into Google and it should pop right up. I’ve written a lot about Commander — and Magic in general — so if you want to explore further, the Star City Games article archives have my articles all the way back to January 2000!
The Haunt of Hightower, Teysa Karlov, Prime Speaker Vannifar, Rakdos, the Showstopper, Nikya of the Old Ways, Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, Judith, the Scourge Diva
SCG CON Winter 2018
Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, Grothama, All-Devouring; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis; Feldon of the Third Path; Ramos, Dragon Engine; Inalla, Archmage Ritualist; Prossh, Skyraider of Kher; Brago, King Eternal
Guilds of Ravnica
Niv Mizzet, Parun, Emmara, Soul of the Accord, Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments), Tajic, Legion’s Edge, Etrata, the Silencer, Izoni, Thousand-Eyed
Aminatou, the Fateshifter, Xantcha, Sleeper Agent, Lord Windgrace, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer
Core Set 2019
Sai, Master Thopterist, Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire, Chromium, the Mutable
Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, Grand Warlord Radha, Arvad the Cursed, Muldrotha, the Grave Tide, Slimefoot, the Stowaway, Yargle, Glutton of Urborg, Squee, the Immortal, Firesong and Sunspeaker, Jodah, Archmage Eternal, Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker
Rivals of Ixalan
Azor, the Lawbringer, Etali, Primal Storm, Nezahal, Primal Tide, Zacama, Primal Calamity, Tetzimoc, Primal Death, Zetalpa, Primal Dawn, Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Grusilda, Monster Masher, Dr. Julius Jumblemorph
Vona, Butcher of Magan, Tishana, Voice of Thunder, Admiral Beckett Brass, Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith, Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist, O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami, Mairsil, the Pretender, Taigam, Ojutai Master
Razaketh, the Foulblooded, Zur, the Enchanter (Mummy’s Curse), Djeru, With Eyes Open, The Locust God, Karona, False God (All the Deserts), Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal
Oketra the True, Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun, Atogatog (Cartouches & Trials), Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, Samut, Voice of Dissent, Rhonas the Indomitable, Hazoret the Fervent
Yahenni, Undying Partisan, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (Five-Color Energy), Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, Sram, Senior Edificer
Breya, Etherium Shaper, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender
Other Commander Decks
The Ultimate Golgari Deck, Anafenza, the Foremost (shutting down shenanigans), Momir Vig, Simic Visionary (no green creatures), Kytheon, Hero of Akros (Tribal Gideon), Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Commander Compare & Contrast: Nahiri, the Lithomancer
Commander Compare & Contrast: Feldon of the Third Path,