The Top 25 Blue Cards Of All-Time: #20-16

The march through the Top 25 blue cards of all-time continues! Today features a novelty: creatures! Broken, broken creatures…

Today is a special day in counting down the Top 25 blue cards of all-time…

Today, we might even see a creature or two!

#20: Preordain

It’s amazing what a difference a little change in order can make.

Serum Visions is definitely a strong card, but getting access to your card selection immediately instead of waiting a turn makes things flow much more smoothly. Additionally, having improved selection on your next turn means you actually have two turns of being ahead, comparatively.

Of course, it’s also very telling just how much difference scry 1 versus scry 2 can make when the card has such a low opportunity cost.

Opt is Standard-playable, while Preordain is a Vintage staple, banned in Modern. Why such a disparity? Preordain has basically double the effect! Sure, it’s a sorcery rather than an instant, but it’s basically twice the mana efficiency of Opt.

In Standard, Preordain played a crucial role in one of the most dominant decks of all-time.

Preordain was an excellent follow-up to a Jace zero ability, giving you a fresh top of the deck. When Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor were banned, some speculated that Preordain should have gotten the axe as well.

Like the San Antonio Spurs, blue cantrips always seem to find a way to win, no matter who they might lose to bannings, injuries, age, or uncles.

Even without Stoneforge and Jace, Caw-Blade was still a force to be reckoned with, and a meaningful portion of the power came under the radar from Preordain’s efficient draw smoothing. A little percentage here, a little percentage there…it all adds up.

In Modern, Preordain was primarily used to fuel combo decks for the brief window where it was legal.

In Legacy, Preordain has mostly been overshadowed by Ponder and Brainstorm, but in Vintage, where those two are restricted, Preordain is king.

Not every Vintage deck is always in the market for so many one-cost cantrips, but those that are, generally want Preordain. In a format with such powerful cards, having access to the right card at the right time is especially important.

#19: Counterspell

Sometimes I dream of the day Counterspell is finally reprinted, changing the landscape of Modern forever. That day may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow; but someday, that day will come.

For how absurd Counterspell is, it’s pretty wild to consider just how many times the card was reprinted. It was literally legal in Standard from the format’s inception in 1995 all the way up to 2001.

Sometimes, it played a starring role in control decks, like Olle Rade’s Counterhammer deck from PT Dallas 1996:

Honorable mention to Control Magic.

For how awesome this card was back in the day while still being better than Wizards of the Coast would actually do today, it makes me a little sad that it doesn’t sniff the Top 25.

Of course, Control Magic wasn’t the best Control Magic of all-time.

Treachery is such a stupid card. It was stupid good when it was released, and that was despite being in the same set as Yawgmoth’s Bargain. Let’s just say that wasn’t the best time for big creatures. Still, Treachery was just too good not to play.

Zvi’s Accelerated Blue deck combines the undercosted efficiency of Counterspell and the over-the-top power level of Treachery, with a healthy splash of Morphling, the one-time best creature in Magic, for good measure.

Morphling was warping, no question, but creatures have gotten a lot better over the years…

Especially in pretend sets that never had to pass for Standard-legal.

#18: True-Name Nemesis

Close your eyes a moment and picture a Standard format where True-Name Nemesis is legal.

Not a pretty sight.

It avoids so much interaction and totally punishes anyone foolish enough to play a “fair” strategy.

In Legacy, True-Name Nemesis frequently works alongside Stoneforge Mystic, an ideal bearer of Equipment, given just how hard it is to kill.

Against fair opponents, it’s a one-card plan, either tying up the ground or putting them on a nearly unstoppable clock. Against unfair opponents…

Well, against unfair opponents, it’s a blue card.

What about Modern?

True-Name Nemesis would be a really warping influence. For instance, consider the following Legacy deck that really would not need to do much to transition to Modern:

Daze deserves an honorable mention as well, only narrowly missing the Top 25 list.

Daze is also pretty high on the list of cards I’d like to see reprinted in a Modern-legal set. I think it would likely do good work for suppressing incentives to play fast combo while giving extra value to “fair” decks that aren’t nearly as hurt by it.

They just do not make color-hosers like they used to…

#17: Snapcaster Mage

That’s right, not one, but two blue creatures, today!

Of course, Snapcaster Mage isn’t exactly the most creature-y creature to ever creature a creature.

You might be wondering, how in the world did they take one of the most powerful green cards of all-time, move it to blue, and somehow knock a mana off while also giving it flash?

Snapcaster Mage was tested nearly exclusively at sorcery-slow speed. There was a little bit of a communication breakdown and a good chunk of the design team missed that Snapcaster Mage was intended to have flash until near the end of testing. Combine this with the pressure to make Invitational cards good, along with a back and forth trying to redesign Tiago’s original concept, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.

Tiago’s card was quite a bit better than Traumatic Visions, if I may be so bold. It was a colorless land with “Channel 2UU: Counter target spell.” This made it a mostly uncounterable four-cost Counterspell that could also be played as an untapped land at very little opportunity cost. Not only hideously busted, but also horrible incentives.

While Snapcaster Mage is bizarrely overpowered, it has had the effect of getting creatures into more decks than would otherwise be willing to play them.

It would be very easy for Modern control decks to be creatureless, but Snapcaster Mage provides a big incentive to dip your toe in. Once you’ve got any creatures at all, adding a few more isn’t as big a cost as it otherwise would be. After all, the opponent’s creature-kill isn’t completely dead anymore anyway. For instance, consider Owen Turtenwald’s take on Grixis Control from last year:

Of course, Snapcaster Mage has also been known to contribute to some amusing beats, particularly when it can wield Equipment capable of turning it into a serious threat.

Good man Christian Calcano snagged a GP win with this Snapcaster Mage beatdown deck:

Vapor Snag deserves a nod, though it’s not cracking the Top 50 list of blue cards. Consecrated Sphinx, Phantasmal Image, and Invisible Stalker…all very potent cards, but blue sets a high bar.

Gitaxian Probe even let Snapcaster Mage be a Turn 2 play while still getting value out of the trigger!

Isn’t Phyrexian mana fun?!

#16: Mental Misstep

When Mental Misstep was first printed, there were some players that claimed the card was broken, the most broken counterspell since Force of Will. Not surprisingly, many folks wrote this off as hyperbole.

Well, they were right.

When Mental Misstep was legal in Legacy, it had many jobs, not the least of which was countering Lightning Bolts and Swords to Plowshares.

Few decks appreciated this protective ability as much as Merfolk, where every turn with every “lord” matters so, so much.

Hat tip to Stifle, by the way. A very powerful version of a very uncommon effect.

As for Mental Misstep’s effect on the format, it contributed to a warping where players would try to avoid playing any one-cost cards in their deck at all so as to blank the card. In many ways, it was a similar experience to what we sometimes see with Chalice of the Void (on one) decks seeking to punish Brainstorm decks.

Like all those decks, however, that also means not playing Brainstorm ourselves.

Why would we do that to ourselves?

Mental Misstep wasn’t nearly as powerful in Standard on account of just how much smaller a percentage of the good cards cost one compared to more powerful formats. Still, the card was a Tier 1 staple, even frequently appearing in nonblue decks.

Phyrexian Mana was not a good look.

While I’d be interested to see Daze join the ranks of Modern and I can imagine a world where Counterspell makes sense, I do not think Mental Misstep would be healthy.

Nowadays, Mental Misstep is safely relegated to Vintage, where its dominance is suppressed only by its inconsistency against Mishra’s Workshop decks.

Yeah, that’s a lot of broken blue card draw spells that went on to get restricted, but there are always more. Broken blue card draw spells come and go, but it’s not every day a counterspell gets printed that is legit better than actual Counterspell.

Of course, that’s not the top of the counterspell list, either…