“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows.”
– From ‘Manual of Muad’Dib’ – Dune, Frank Herbert
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond. 4 Lotus Petal. 4 Chrome Mox. 4 Mox Diamond. 4 City of Traitors. 4 Ancient Tomb. Oh yeah, and 4 Fact or Fiction. That’s what you’re building a deck from.
During Legacy’s birth (we’re in its infancy now), you could be guaranteed you’d face combo decks, Sligh, and combo/control ports from Extended like Aluren (which all roll over to Force of Will). You would also expect to face control decks, like Landstill or Fish, that were popular in the old T1.5.
With those constraints in mind, Monoblue, or Blue Bulls**t (BBS) was probably the one of the best two or three decks in the format. While it’s no longer the best deck, BBS is a strong choice – and it builds the foundation for playing control in Legacy. A greater understanding of how BBS works will help out in building Blue-White Control (WUBS) or any future control decks for Legacy. Here’s my list:
4 Fact or Fiction
3 Powder Keg
3 Back to Basics
4 Mana Leak
4 Force of Will
4 Flooded Strand
SB: 4 Chalice of the Void
SB: 4 Blue Elemental Blast
SB: 4 Vedalken Shackles
SB: 3 Stifle
Force of Will:
Automatic four-of. I don’t need to say why.
This card is great. It provides a tempo swing into a turn 2 Fact or Fiction or Morphling, most likely with counter backup. A pity it’s banned.
We definitely need to run this. Because our mana base is going to be more blue and less Moxen, we can reliably run four.
Necessary. This is almost always as good as Counterspell
There’s no Misdirecting Ancestral Recall or Mind Twist in this format, but we can still turn Lightning Bolts back on their controller and win counter wars. A strong choice in a pitch counter, but this is one of the slots that can be customized.
Fact or Fiction:
Automatic include. End of Turn Fact or Fiction You Lose.
This slot is questionable. There are three real contenders for this: Peer Through Depths, Impulse, or Accumulated Knowledge. I cover the Accumulated Knowledge debate later on in the article, so it becomes a question between Peer Through Depths or Impulse. You want Impulse because you’re going to be searching for Back to Basics, Powder Keg, or Morphling as often as you’re searching for Force of Will or Misdirection. Additionally, the countermagic density is enough (roughly 25% of the deck) that we don’t need the extra card for Peer Through Depths to find a counterspell.
This is a disputed slot, but it’s proved itself time and time again. Run four and you won’t be disappointed
I really really want to fit four Brainstorms, but the list I have now can’t fit more than three. That’s still enough, at least for our purposes. You could probably also swap out the fourth Impulse for the fourth Brainstorm.
I’ve considered this card before, but I don’t think it’s the right choice. In some of the more difficult matchups having the more powerful draw would be helpful, but paying four mana at sorcery speed is not the best way to win a control mirror.
We need some kind of mass removal and this is the best and the cheapest. You could also consider Nevinyrral’s Disk – but Disk punishes you for committing permanents to the board, which is one of your greatest advantages over Landstill… and Ophidian is just too powerful not to use.
Back to Basics:
“Hosing non-basics since 1999.” This has single-handedly won me as many games as Morphling itself. It doesn’t help against every deck, but it gives game in three out of the four toughest matchups.
Everyone knows what it does and why it’s here. Two is probably the right number – but we might want three thanks to the danger of possibly having to throw one away to an Impulse, Fact or Fiction or a pitch counter. If you’re considering another kill card, you’ve never played with Morphling.
We’re Monoblue for a reason – and that’s for its consistency and immunity to Wastelands, which are becoming increasingly prevalent. This lets us run our own full set of Wastelands and avoid colorscrew as well as four fetchlands.
This is automatic, even if the opponent runs no non-basics; they still tap for colorless, and out of all of our spells, only Counterspell and Brainstorm can’t use colorless mana. Some people would suggest that there is less need for Wastelands in a format without Library of Alexandria, Bazaar of Baghdad, or Mishra’s Workshop – but Wastelands are critical in worsening manascrew, killing manlands, and denying access to colors.
4 Flooded Strand/Polluted Delta:
I end up using only four fetchlands – it’s often too few for shuffle effects for Brainstorm, but more than four and I’d be afraid to break a fetch because it would put me dangerously low on life in key matches. I won my last match versus Goblin Sligh with one life left and a fetchland on the table.
Tap for U and don’t have any drawbacks. Savage.
A card that’s been suggested by a lot of people. I’ve seen them used with quite a bit of effectiveness, but personally I think it takes the deck in a different direction; you end up playing aggro-Morphling and much of time that’s not the proper play. It also costs you life or land drops against Goblin Sligh.
It’s hard to say what to expect in an undefined metagame. There are at least twenty viable decks, so you need flexible slots as well as some that will help you out against what you can expect to face in a lot of places: aggro, blue-based control, bad combo and ATS.
After some argument and debate and testing, I’m solid on these slots for Goblins/aggro:
4 Chill/Chalice of the Void
4 Blue Elemental Blast
We need something against combo, so in addition to possibly Chalice @ 0, we can run:
I also put 3 Vedalken Shackles in the board, ostensibly to deal with Welders and its ilk, but I also bring the Shackles in against Exalted Angel control decks because it hoses the morph.
In addition to all of this, I’m also testing Submerge for the Psychatog and ATS matchups. Against Tog, Submerge is a free Memory Lapse and Echoing Truth on Tog or Quirion Dryad. Versus ATS it is a way to slow down the combo and hopefully serve as removal for Tradewind Riders, buying you time to find a Morphling. I’m not sure how good it is at either of these tasks, but it’s something I’m testing.
Here are some of the possible choices you have to make when you make your own build, and how I decided for my list.
Acceleration or No?
I’ve gotten into this debate before, so you probably already know my stance on the issue; in most decks, acceleration gains you very little while taking up valuable slots and cards. I don’t think that Mox Diamond or Chrome Mox has any place in this deck, either. There’s no color fixing needed unless you run Engineered Explosives for removal. The only reason you’d run Moxen is to accelerate into UU for a turn 2 Counterspell or Mana Leak – but you have Force of Will, Misdirection, and Blue Elemental Blast/Stifle from the board. The deck loses if the opponent gets an early advantage, and wasting cards for Moxen gives the opponent free advantage, as well as letting them turn Oxidizes into Stone Rains to push through early spells. Mox Diamond becomes marginally better if you’re on the Crucible of Worlds plan, but it’s not enough to justify running Crucible.
Chalice of the Void versus Chill:
I’ve gone both ways on this slot. The reason I ended up personally siding on Chalice of the Void is flexibility against combo, aggro and the potential to hit all of ATS’s much-needed one-drops with the same card. Chill is worse against Burn specifically and Sligh decks with a more diverse curve, but can’t help against White Weenie, Stompy and other non-Red decks.
Crucible of Worlds versus Back to Basics:
The point of both is to control and aggro-control decks that rely on dual lands and manlands. I like Back to Basics because it has that random “I Win” factor versus Landstill and multicolored control when they tap out. Crucible of Worlds is also sub-optimal against decks that pack their own copy.
The main advantage for Crucible of Worlds is fetchland recursion (and not getting REBed) – but as I said earlier, in some critical matches like Goblins you win at one life with a fetchland on the table. I’ve also found that once you hit at least four lands, you generally get enough draw to avoid clogging your hand with excess lands, although you do accumulate a fair number of them by the end of the game.
I don’t see the need for manlands in here. They improve dramatically with Crucible of Worlds, but that takes the deck in an entirely different direction. Morphling is strong enough on its own, and doesn’t have the anti-synergy with Back to Basics that Mishra’s Factory does.
A lot of people have suggested Thawing Glaciers for the deck because it provides such massive card advantage over a long period of time. The problem is how slow the Glaciers are. In the early-to-midgame, you need to hit your land drops consistently for at least four turns, or you will be fighting a long, uphill battle for the rest of the game. Besides, they’re a big walking Wasteland target (which would set you back by even more in terms of tempo and land drops) and I did everything I could to minimize opposing Wastelands. Lots of decks pack four Wastelands into a mana base that can’t accommodate it, so not giving them targets is starting them off with mana screw.
We have the most consistent mana base in the format. Leave it that way.
Accumulated Knowledge has been suggested as a replacement for Intuition and Ophidian, sometimes complemented by Intuition. I’ve found that Ophidian is consistently strong, and one Ophidian draws me far more cards than two or three Accumulated Knowledges would – and for a cheaper price. It’s easier to resolve one Ophidian than multiple Accumulated Knowledges. Once you drop Morphling, Ophidian absorbs Diabolic Edict, provides a backup target for Misdirected Swords to Plowshares, blocks weenies all day, and can swing for lethal damage. Accumulated Knowledge is worse in the mirror because you have to fire off your draw first to stop their threats, which means the opponent can get ahead on cards. Intuition isn’t any good on its own either; it puts precious cards into the graveyard.
What about Cunning Wish?
So lots of people suggest Cunning Wish, usually in the place of -1 Fact or Fiction, -2 Impulse. The problem is that Cunning Wish is slow: 2U to fetch a card that you could be running maindeck. That means that your card doesn’t come online until turn 4 at the earliest, and it fights with your other three-drops of Ophidian and Back to Basics. Sure, you have the potential to Wish into Fact or Fiction…. if you have 5UU to burn.
The problem is that the majority of your losing games are lost in the early turns, at or before you’d be casting Cunning Wish. That means the only thing it can do you for is help you get access to Fact or Fiction in the control matchup – but that is almost always in your favor anyway, and so it’s not worth it to lose game versus Aggro. Also Monoblue does not have any exciting instants to fetch out of the board the way Tog does.
Nevinyrral’s Disk versus Powder Keg versus Engineered Explosives:
From Michael Flores’ “Higher Ground“:
“When asked about the lack of Nevinyrral’s Disks in his 1996 US Nationals deck, eventual Champ Dennis Bentley said ‘If I draw ten more cards than my opponent and lose anyway, I don’t deserve to win.'”
To be honest this slot is backup; you often don’t need or want to build up a Powder Keg or Nevinyrral’s Disk. You could probably fill this slot with something like Wash Out or Echoing Truth and be fine in most cases.
Nevinyrral’s Disk loses right out thanks to its slowness. It doesn’t function until the turn after you untap, which means that you can’t drop it and clear the board of Morphed Angels, Decree of Justice tokens, and Moxen. Its main advantage is that it does clear the board, including pesky enchantments and other cards – but at the cost of your Ophidians and Back to Basics. The two matchups where it would help most both can answer the Disk before it untaps. ATS can just tutor up Uktabi Orangutan to deal with the Disk, and Landstill will be able to counter/disenchant it.
Engineered Explosives is actually pretty sweet card. You can drop it and blow it for zero or one automatically without needing another turn like Keg does – and if you’re running Mox Diamond, you can even blow it for two. The problem is that Powder Keg is expensive by comparison. You don’t want to have to pay an extra two to blow the Explosives; the extra mana cost will hurt you a lot. The inability to hit two for Fish or Survival of the Fittest (Rofellos, Wall of Roots) consistently hurts as well.
The moment you include the Scepter, you’re going to be drawn into Scepter/Chant, which rolls over completely to control. The problem with Isochron Scepter is that you don’t need it: it’s too slow for your hard aggro matchups, and if you do cast and make it stick versus control, you’d have won anyway. It’s not like you’re going to run out of countermagic, anyway. The ability to Stick a Counterspell may sound really good, but you don’t need it, and it’s just freeing up artifact hate that was previously dead in your opponent’s hand, especially Null Rod.
What Other Counterspells should we run?
The slot where I have three Misdirections is hotly debated. Lots of people have suggested everything from Rethink to Annul or even Force Spike/Daze. Force Spike/Daze would be a (cheap) free counter in the early game but it would be dead in the late game. The other options would be some sort of bounce, Annul (too situational, but helpful versus Landstill and ATS). The problem is the reason why you can get a far matchup game1 against Goblins and a winnable matchup against Pox is because this card is just that good against those decks. Misdirection also lets you win counterwars, and if you match your Misdirections against their Force of Will, that frees up your Force of Will to counter their important spells.
I’ve tuned to the deck to what I and a large contingent of people online think the metagame will look like. However, tuning to your individual metagame is always a good thing. Here are some choices:
- Propaganda: Probably slower than your other options, but something to consider if you expect heavy aggro.
- Energy Flux/Null Rod: Gives you extra game if Affinity is prevalent in your area, as well as helping out against combo (Null Rod).
- Wash Out: Good in the mirror match as well as against Survival of the Fittest and aggro (if you haven’t stabilized by turn 4).
- Chalice of the Void: Moving it main would help you pre-board against some difficult matchups at the risk of having to fire it blind, and having no Powder Keg.
- Third Morphling: If you expect to be facing a lot of aggro, you can run a third Morphling to let you play this creature as a quick and strong blocker, pushing you into the late game turns earlier.
Check out the bibliography at the end of the article. The true role of Legacy BBS is somewhere in between all these. The proper way to play the deck is to counter one-for-one (using Force as an “oh crap” button), refill with Fact or Fiction/Ophidian, and play Morphling only when you have complete (or near-complete) control of the board. You only need two Morphlings because once you need one, you’ll have one. Although he was talking about a different deck, Menendian is right:
“This is a permission deck in the truest sense of the word and does not attempt to win until it has total crushing control or is under a dire threat.”
Why play this deck?
First off, with eleven instant-draw spells (plus four Ophidian) and fifteen counterspells main, you’re set to be control in every matchup. It consistently performs well against most decks as well as crushing rogue decks. It has its best matchups in undeveloped metagames, and it is your best option to take into an unknown metagame.
However if you expect to play against ATS and Landstill every round, you may want to back off, since you have problems with these matchups (unless you seriously tech the deck out). However, even if you never plan on taking BBS to a tournament, not only is it a good idea to test against but it will improve your control game, and is the foundation for building blue-based control decks in Legacy.
Why Would I Play This Over:
Landstill is a very solid, adaptable control deck. The problem is that it’s very much a metagame deck. And without Vintage-style watershed tournaments (GenCon, Starcitygames.com Games Power Nine, Waterbury), the kind of tournaments that are metagame defining, adapting Landstill for your metagame is very difficult, and for an unknown metagame, it’s nigh-impossible. BBS is also much more forgiving and beats off aggro decks much easier.
U/W Control (or 3CC or 4CC):
Mono-blue beats the pants off other control decks. It’s much more consistent and powerful on the back of Ophidian and Back to Basics, both of which drop on turn 3 and win the game.
Most aggro decks have the ability to win very fast if they get the right set of conditions and aren’t disrupted. If you counter the Goblin Lackey and drop a Chill/Chalice the turn after, there isn’t a whole lot the aggro deck can do about it. Aggro decks in Legacy have little staying power compared to the control decks.
Combo has the ability to randomly win, but it rolls over to disruption. In developed metagames, there will be multiple control decks or aggro-control decks splashing Blue for a few counterspells. Playing combo is too much of a risk in Legacy, and I’d rather play a more solid, consistent deck.
Why Wouldn’t I Play This?
As I stated earlier, BBS loses when it gets far behind on the early turns. ATS does this handily with Survival on turn 2 (practically an immediate game loss), and ATS happens to be one of the top decks in the format. Other decks get a similar effect with a turn 1 Chalice of the Void.
There are some other decks that can actually beat you in the late game, like Tog and Landstill. Wherever Morphling is not the best creature, BBS is not the best deck. Unfortunately, Morphling can’t block Tog, but Landstill can.
Anusien on The Source, The Mana Drain
#1) You CAN Play Type 1 #11: Brainless Players Vs. Mono Blue, by Oscar Tan (2001-10-10)
#2) The Return Of Ophie, The One-Eyed, Card-Drawing Snake, by Steve Menendian (2004-08-23) And part 2, and part 3.
#3) A Vintage Tale: The Story of Ophie, the One-Eyed, Card-Drawing Snake, a primer on Mono Blue Permission, by Steven Menendian (2003-03-31)
#4) Higher Ground, by Mike Flores (2004-11-12)