Limited Lessons – Mono-Blue in Shadowmoor / Eventide Draft

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Tuesday, August 26th – According to those in the know, drafting mono-color decks is quite the cat’s whiskers in Shadowmoor / Eventide draft. While the whole world knows about the power of Mono-Red, and Mono-Black has always been a favorite, it seems that Mono-Blue Aggro is a strong contender. Nick takes us through the finer points of the strategy…

I initially planned on using BPM’s awesome new walkthrough program for this week, but with the return of Drafting With Rich I decided to hold back until next week. Instead I’m going to do an archetype strategy guide for a deck I’ve been tinkering with lately in the 8-4 queues.

Anyone who’s done a lot of SSE drafting will likely agree that mono-colored is the way to go in this format, if you can do it without sacrificing much card quality. While everyone in the 8-4s is gung-ho on drafting mono-Red, I’ve been experimenting with forcing mono-Blue.

Yes, actually forcing it regardless of what I open.

So far the results have been mixed, but I need to do more drafts to really be sure. The idea is that there are tons of underrated Blue commons that are excellent in the archetype, and you can bank on getting plenty of great cards with your late picks.

If you remember back to SSS, I did a strategy guide for the Mill deck. The problem with that archetype was that it always looked like it would work perfectly when you had the deck laid out, but it had trouble buying enough time to actually deck someone. The mono-Blue archetype in SSE takes the base of the Mill deck and instead relies on aggressive fliers to win, which is much more reliable than milling.

I’m not going to cover every possible Blue card since there are so many… instead I want to focus on the strategy as a whole and the cards that are most important.

Dream Thief
This guy is the main reason I started experimenting with this strategy. Everyone I’ve talked to rates him as fine but unexciting, since they assume you are playing him in a normal deck where his ability will rarely ever trigger. When you draft mono-Blue, you need to get in a Dream Thief mindset.

What this means is that you need to start taking as many one-drops as possible so that you can reliably enhance a Thief on turn 4. Dust off those Zealous Guardians as they’re very playable in this archetype, as well as other obvious mainstays like Oona’s Gatewarden, Stream Hopper, and Cerulean Wisps.

Briarberry Cohort
Pick them highly and feel good about it, because they are the backbone of a deck like this. Your number one goal is to power out cheap, aggressive fliers and kill the opponent before his “better” spells can get online.

Ghastly Discovery
I’m trying not to overlap too much from the mill deck, but this card is very important. Absolutely nobody picks or plays this card, so you can easily end up with two copies which are excellent in a deck full of cheap men to power up Conspire. I’d compare this to Compulsive Research, but it’s not really anywhere near that good. In this deck, though, it’s still the best card drawing option behind Flow of Ideas.

Spell Syphon
Redundant enough yet? One mana 1/1s make this into an actual counterspell, and this is another card you can easily get 13th. I’m totally happy playing two copies of this, and actually like it more than Put Away in most situations. Another nice benefit is that you can just discard this to Ghastly Discovery in situations where it’s not going to be good.

The main thing is to make sure you’re running enough one-drop guys to enable this on turn 2. Nothing in this format really steals tempo back better than this card.

I usually like running one of these because it can act as a big wall while you’re putting on the finishing touches with an army of fliers. Multiples of these out of the board are also great against big Green men or another Blue deck. Finally, you can turn on his engine with a timely Cerulean Wisps or Scuttlemutt activation.

I’m mentioning this because it doesn’t really carry over completely from the Mill deck. It’s still decent enough because you have some guys who don’t have flying which are there simply to power up the Spell Syphons and Ghastly Discoveries.

The difference is that in the Mill deck you didn’t care about attacking and so you could always Conspire this whenever you needed to. This deck will only be keeping the 1/1 ground guys back and so it may be fairly transparent if you leave back a flier and keep four mana up. That being said, you can build on this in situations where you are behind by bluffing Aethertow against a good player. Simply leave back a flier in a situation where it would only make sense for you to have Aethertow and it should work. Initially your opponent will be confused, but then he will figure it out and think he’s a genius for not attacking into your obvious double Repel. You do have to be careful though, because this will usually only work once, and he’s going to attack eventually so you can’t rely on it to totally stop his attacks.

Banishing Knack
This one should go without saying. Usually it involves three steps.

1) Play an untap creature of choice.

2) Bounce the opposing side.
3) Win.

It’s also cheap and still quite good even if you only bounce one guy. Don’t forget you can bounce your Dream Thief for a second go if you’re set up for it. It’s worth picking up a Pili-Pala late if you have a shot at one, simply because this card isn’t taken highly at all and you’re a near lock to get one if it’s opened.

Gravegill Duo
This guy isn’t super special but he does just fine in this deck. The key thing here is that you’re playing lots of cheap spells and also drawing cards with Ghastly Discovery. This should keep the Duo powered up for the majority of the game, and it’s another card that basically nobody wants.

Torpor Dust
If the plan is to buy time, I’d recommend investing in a couple copies of this. There’s really nothing else to say except that I’ve been very happy with this and it fits the overall gameplan of the archetype nicely.

Wingrattle Scarecrow
Oh look, yet another card that no other archetypes really go looking for. Sure, it gets played, but nobody goes into a draft thinking “Man, I really hope I get a couple Wingrattle Scarecrows this draft.”

This all changes when you’re forcing mono-Blue.

Unfortunately you can’t Conspire off it, but it’s still an aggressively costed flier, which is what you want in this deck.

Oona’s Grace
While it may seem surprising to some, I’m not really that big of a fan of this card in the archetype. I’ll still play one copy when I don’t get my standard two Ghastly Discoveries, but in most circumstances I think the digging power of a Conspired Discovery is much more desirable. All the Grace really does is prevent mana flood, and I really haven’t had problems with that since the archetype either gets a fast draw or is able to sift with the Conspire Sorcery.

Clout of the Dominus
If Dream Thief was the driving force behind my curiosity to experiment with this deck, Clout was a very close second. The thing I first noticed about Clout is that even if you just have the Blue half, the opponent is in deep trouble if they aren’t already way ahead.

Put this on any evasion guy and watch as the opponent is put in a situation where his only answer is to kill you before his time is up. These types of situations usually work out best for the person applying the clock rather than the one trying to race against it.

Slippery Bogle and Favor of the Overbeing
This started out as somewhat of a joke between a couple of friends of mine, and actually turned out to be pretty good when it comes together.

We were drafting some EEE and realized that Stream Hopper and Clout of the Dominus were the best strategy in the format. He then suggested that we try forcing Slippery Bogles instead because they can’t even kill the guy in response to the enchantment.

This is all well and good, but I wouldn’t recommend playing Favor of the Overbeings unless you have multiple UG men. +1/+1 and Flying is not really that exciting in a deck that is already full of fliers, if you get my drift. I will still usually play a Bogle though, simply because it’s better than Zealous Guardian in most circumstances. There are also the times where you just get multiple copies of each and assemble the full deck but those are rare.

Selkie Hedge-Mage
This guy is just awesome in the archetype. It’s as close to an actual Man ‘O War as we’re going to get, and you can reuse it with Turn to Mist. I’m mainly mentioning it because it seems to go late and that alone makes it a perk of drafting mono-Blue. Wisful Selkie is another card that most people can’t reliably cast, and so you’ll end up with it more often than other Uncommons.

Those are most of the highlights for the strategy. Some other things I’ve been experimenting are splashing for Presence of Gond (or obviously Power of Fire) or some Red removal. One of the best decks I had featured triple Presence of Gond on the splash, five creatures with the Untap ability, as well as the best Altar Golem that ever lived.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Put Away in this deck. If you get a quick start it’s awesome because it ensures that they won’t be able to stop your fliers. On the other hand, it sucks on the draw and I do find myself tapping out pretty often. I like it much more in builds with fewer top end spells, but I’d say in general it will make the cut.

The strategy is to draft quick fliers and also take advantage of the wealth of underrated Blue commons available. If you have further questions, feel free to ask in the forums, and I’m going to end with a decklist from last week.

Oona’s Gatewarden
Clout of the Dominus
2 Stream Hopper
Slippery Bogle
Cerulean Wisps
2 Briarberry Cohort
Turn to Mist
Shorecrasher Mimic
2 Spell Syphon
Ghastly Discovery
Wingrattle Scarecrow
Noggle Bandit
Thistledown Duo
Gravegill Duo
Silkbind Faerie
Barrenton Cragtreads
Kinscaer Harpoonist
Dominus of Fealty
Flow of Ideas
17 Island

Mono-Blue has been an attractive alternative for me so far in this format, and I definitely encourage you to give it a try.

Nick Eisel
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