SCG Daily – Blue Mana for Beginners Part 3: Mono-Blue Control

I originally had plans to unveil a decklist after a couple New England tournaments to test-drive it. I decided not to do that when I rediscovered my affection for Shortbus Severance Belcher, and ended up winning with that instead. However, I’ve received a lot of requests to release this decklist anyway, and who am I to say no

I originally had plans to unveil a decklist after a couple New England tournaments to test-drive it. I decided not to do that when I rediscovered my affection for Shortbus Severance Belcher, and ended up winning with that instead.

However, I’ve received a lot of requests to release this decklist anyway, and who am I to say no? For those of you who have prior experience with Mono-Blue, especially last summer, you know that Control Slaver was the matchup from Hell. Their card advantage is better than yours, they have more broken spells, and they run Goblin Welder. They’re even close to immune to Wasteland and Back to Basics, and can play around Mana Drain way better than you can.

In an effort to reduce these problems from both Control Slaver and Gifts Ungiven decks, I had to make some drastic changes to my testing lists.

1) Chalice of the Void was awesome, but it is no longer good enough.

Chalice of the Void was absolutely crucial last year, as it allowed outs against decks like Food Chain Goblins, since 14 counters can’t really answer a deck of 28 goblins. This time of year however, it’s pretty terrible since all the relevant non-moxen spells cost three mana. Being on the play and having a Chalice or two is simply not common enough to run four mediocre slots, and as such I had to make room for the much needed one-mana spells, which coincidentally were not Brainstorm.

2) Mana Denial is tempo.

You can argue this however you want, I don’t really care what your definition of tempo is since everybody thinks about it differently. However, I came to the realization that I needed much earlier and faster effects to stall my opponent and directly affect their manabase. Control Slaver needed to be not allowed to get its basics. Gifts decks had to be not allowed to resolve the early setup spells like Merchant Scroll. For those who hadn’t noticed, Merchant Scroll is fairly consistently followed by Ancestral Recall with Mana Drain backup and Misdirection in hand or something similarly ridiculous. Stopping the Merchant Scroll while they’re off Mana Drain mana is about as good as you can do.

3) You have to abuse Back to Basics.

The only reason – the only reason – to play Mono-Blue is Back to Basics. If you are arguing here, you are wrong. There are plenty of other, better decks that do things that Mono-Blue does better, except for Back to Basics. Therefore, when designing a good Mono-Blue list, it’s absolutely imperative that you maximize your Back to Basics effect.

With these in mind, I designed the only Mono-Blue list I’ve ever seen to have game against Control Slaver and Gifts decks.


Ben Kowal

4 Ophidian

2 Vedalken Shackles

4 Force of Will

4 Mana Drain

4 Disrupt

3 Stifle

3 Mana Leak

2 Echoing Truth

1 Pithing Needle

1 Tormod’s Crypt

2 Powder Keg

3 Back to Basics

1 Time Walk

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mox Pearl

1 Library of Alexandria

1 Strip Mine

4 Wasteland

3 Flooded Strand

2 Polluted Delta

8 Island

A couple things about this list are immediately evident. For starters, there is no powerhouse game ending creature or effect. There is no Tinker, there is no Morphling, and there is no Serendib Djinn or whatever people were suggesting on the forums. Such a slot is completely unnecessary, as they will never ever win a game you were previously losing. When it comes time to kill people, it doesn’t matter if you’re beating down with Darksteel Colossus, Morphling, or Ophidian.

The Vedalken Shackles however I’ve gone back and forth on a lot over the past year. On the one hand, resolving one is game over for Fish decks and gives you some solid game against Goblins and Stax pre-sideboard. They’re horribly dead slots in the control matchups, since you don’t want Control Slaver to have Goblin Welders anywhere on the table including under your ownership, and Gifts decks generally don’t have anything to grab unless you somehow conjure up 11 Islands, which I see being a little tricky if you only run 8 in the whole deck.

The biggest key to this list is the Disrupts and Stifles. These two cards fit all three slots in my list of problems above, and solve them better than anything else I’ve found. Stifle is huge because it slows your opponent enough to walk in to Mana Drain/Leak, and it keeps them off their basic lands so Back to Basics is far more effective. Disrupt is the real prize winner here though. With four Disrupt, you can really aggravate Control Slaver and Gifts decks because they either have to slow themselves down to your pace, or they have to blindly walk in to Disrupt all the time. There are few things as painful as losing a counterwar that involves a Disrupt or two, and even if the game progresses to a point where they can pay the mana, or your opponent is playing a deck very sorcery and instant light, you can just effectively “cycle” it off a trash spell from your opponent or even off your own spells.

The only part of the maindeck that really requires explanation beyond these is the stack of six seemingly random spells in the middle of that list. Powder Keg shouldn’t be so surprising, but I found myself wanting the Echoing Truths fairly regularly due to the fact that everybody and their mother is playing Tinker Colossus or something similarly annoying for Mono-Blue, and having answers to things that slip through the wall became far more important over time. The other two slots, the two one-ofs, seem very random and they are. However, they are both useful effects that you usually don’t want to see more than one of over the course of the game. Both of these cards do come up from time to time, and you’ll find yourself loving them as one-ofs, but detesting them when you start seeing more than one of them in a game.


I have long said that I think Pithing Needle is trash. Let it be known that I still do, but Mono-Blue doesn’t really have a hell of a lot of better options. This is similar to how I think Energy Flux is a pretty terrible hate card for Stax since it allows them to play around it, but it’s better than any other options Mono-Blue has and it even has synergy with other hate already in the maindeck.

Second, this deck never left the testing stages to play on the tournament scene. Not once. If you try this deck out and it doesn’t show you any love, it’s entirely possible I designed it suboptimally, or you’re playing it wrong. I won’t say which, but please acknowledge that I know this deck has its limitations and that I don’t need fifty thousand angry responses in the forums from people who don’t win their local tournament with this deck.

Tomorrow: Non-Vintage? What the heck?

Ben Kowal

Vintage Punk