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You CAN Play Type I #11: Brainless Players Vs. Mono Blue

Blinded by individual power cards, too many players end up forgetting the basics… Even Zvi. Well, sorta.

It’s about time to get to Odyssey, but I figured I’d finish up a topic I’ve been putting off for too long: MONO BLUE.


When even my fellow Star City writers (hello, Israel!) start writing that mono blue is the most powerful deck in Type I right now, I know it’s not just the clueless kids on other Type I forums who got caught up in the hype.


Some time ago, I wrote about a deck that was nothing but counters, Morphling, Powder Keg, and Fact or Fiction.


A Type I deck so boring, even the control players loathed it.


BRITNEY SPEARS’ BOOBS, OSCAR TAN, OCTOBER 2001

Counters (14)

4 Mana Drain

4 Mana Leak

4 Force of Will

2 Misdirection


Card Drawing/Manipulation (9)

1 Ancestral Recall

4 Impulse

4 Fact or Fiction


Others (10)

1 Time Walk

3 Powder Keg

4 Morphling

2 Back to Basics


Mana (27)

1 Black Lotus

5 Moxen

1 Sol Ring

1 Library of Alexandria

1 Strip Mine

2 Wasteland

16 Island


(The deck is labeled B.S.B. because the more popular nickname – Blue Bull Sh*t – is less pleasant to use in public. Besides, B.S.B. better reflects this pile’s lower IQ level.)


Honestly, though, I really think it’s a solid deck, but as hyped as Alex Shvartsman inter-continental card trading skills (okay, maybe not, but the blue deck really is hype). Like I said in that last article, all it does is counter-and it can’t even counter everything.


Maybe you didn’t believe me the first time, so maybe you’ll believe the guy who unveiled the monoblue deck at the last Invitational.


(I really put this off because I had this conversation AUGUST, but oh, well…)


Zvi Mowshowitz on th mono blue deck (on #mtgwacky)


<Rakso> Mind if I ask you about Acc Blue in Type I?

<Zvi> just flood it in here

<Rakso> Can kill Keeper with Back to Basics but it’s inflexible as hell

<Rakso> Really overrated, though

<Rakso> Imagine how kids look at it

<Rakso> So you’re not impressed?

|<Zvi> well…

<Zvi> I’m not saying I’m not impressed

<Zvi> just that it only does what it does

<Zvi> one thing I found was that trying to play a deck based around turbo-Morphling is quite risky when people maindeck 4 diabolic edicts 😉

<Rakso> Who do that? 🙂

<Zvi> Darwin Kastle… 🙂

<Rakso> Oh…

<Zvi> beat him but I got damn lucky 🙂

<Zvi> other thing is this build has some gaping weaknesses

<Rakso> What kind of weaknesses?

<Zvi> stuff like…

<Zvi> game 1 turn 1 Oath is basically game 🙂

<Rakso> That’s been the foil of choice on my website.

<Rakso> Took guys a while

<Rakso> But their control decks just stuffed Oath, Blessings and a Spike

<Rakso> Morphling with 20 +1/+1 counters

<Zvi> same principle at work here

<Zvi> you’re basing the entire deck on Morphling

<Zvi> and the creature is far from immune to attack 🙂

<Rakso> You think you could’ve nailed the Keeper decks at the Invitational?

<Zvi> oh sure, np 🙂

<Zvi> but as a Keeper player aware of the issue

<Zvi> you would want to deal with the threats

<Rakso> They weren’t boarded for you, right?

<Zvi> not really, no

<Zvi> except for the Edicts

<Rakso> 🙂

<Zvi> which are a bitch 🙂

<Zvi> your problems are BtB and Morphling basically

<Rakso> And everything but Keg is a must-counter

<Zvi> and the threat of FoF into card advantage

<Zvi> red blasts deal with all 3

<Rakso> Fof radically transforms the T1 match

<Rakso> Forces you to counter in your turn

<Rakso> I noticed that Keeper vs mono blue turns into a slugging match

<Rakso> You deplete both sides of counters and threats

<Zvi> I would prefer to maximize the REB/Pyro count

<Zvi> your plan is simple, keep the game winners off the table while setting up Yawgmoth’s Will

<Rakso> Yeah…

<Rakso> Then the mono blue player, playing 3 more Morphlings, topdecks one while you have nothing

<Zvi> Play a few Edicts to deal with that problem 🙂

<Rakso> But that isn’t all that simple to execute? 🙂

<Zvi> didn’t say it was

<Zvi> that’s the PLAN


Why Bad Players Are Scared Of B.S.B.

What is this blue deck’s claim to fame? If it cheats and pre-sideboards four Back to Basics, it hoses practically every control deck in Type I. (Of course, if the lazy blue player scouts wrong, he gets creamed by beatdown decks.)


Here’s the last control deck I played online. It’s pre-Odyssey and is a tad untuned, but it’s a good enough example:


KEEPER, OSCAR TAN, OCTOBER 2001

Blue (19)

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

4 Force of Will

4 Mana Drain

1 Mystical Tutor

3 Impulse

4 Fact or Fiction

1 Morphling


Black (6)

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Mind Twist

1 The Abyss

1 Diabolic Edict

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Vampiric Tutor


White (3)

1 Balance

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Dismantling Blow


Red (1)

1 Gorilla Shaman


Green (1)

1 Regrowth


Others (2)

1 Masticore (stuck in for a Moat, explaining the Tundra)

1 Zuran Orb


Mana (28)

1 Black Lotus

5 Moxen

1 Sol Ring

1 Library of Alexandria

1 Strip Mine

3 Wasteland

1 Tolarian Academy

4 City of Brass

1 Undiscovered Paradise

4 Underground Sea

3 Tundra

3 Volcanic Island


Sideboard (15)

4 Red Elemental Blast

4 Rootwater Thief

1 Circle of Protection: Red

1 Compost

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Aura Fracture

1 Masticore

1 Pernicious Deed

1 Misdirection


Obviously, if Back to Basics hits the table (and if the other guy has four), this deck is dead.


A less experienced player would think that Keeper is at a disadvantage because it only has eight counters – B.S.B. usually has at least fourteen, and has those nasty Back to Basics.


Let me tell you a story first.


Last week, a guy who called himself”Random-Miser” began posting a so-called”Invincible Counter Troll” deck on my website, challenging all comers to Apprentice. That was his theory, too, since he had twelve counters in the main deck and six more in the side.


It was getting a bit annoying, so I used the rough deck above and beat him soundly, despite my eight counters to his twelve.


I boarded in just three Red Elemental Blasts to go up to eleven counters. He boarded in three Red Elemental Blasts and three Pyroblasts to go up to eighteen counters, and had boarded in a total of fifteen cards against me.


He still lost and was completely out-countered in almost every turn.


What gives?


(Well, obviously, he never used the word”invincible” again, and toned down the spam.)


Back to Magic for Beginners 101: Card advantage

Too many beginners think they’ve made it when they can say”card advantage” like a new MBA who looked up”corporate restructuring” and”strategic downsizing” in some textbook.


Yes, card advantage. If I play a card and draw two cards, that’s card advantage. Drawing more than you lose. Simple. Stuff my deck with everything that says”draw!” Bring Zvi on!


Wait a minute… Not quite. Everyone knows that you also get card advantage from making your opponent lose cards, too. Cast one Hymn to Tourach, other guy discards two cards. Card advantage!


Some of the most powerful card advantage cards in Type I follow this second description, and they’re so powerful they can shut down entire strategies on their own. Such as:


Burn? Cast Demonic Tutor and fetch… Circle of Protection: Red! (Pay one mana and you prevent all damage from one red source!)


Discard? Cast Demonic Tutor and fetch… Compost! (Every time a black card enters the other guy’s graveyard, draw a card!)


Counters? Cast Demonic Tutor and fetch… Disrupting Scepter! (Pay three mana a turn to make target opponent choose and discard a card.)


Creatures? Cast Demonic Tutor and fetch… The Abyss! (Each player sacrifices a target non-artifact creature during his upkeep!)


Some other random thing? Cast Demonic Tutor and fetch… Morphling! (Your favorite untargettable creature that wins the game by itself!)


This is all very nice, but what does this have to do with B.S.B.?


Well, too many inexperienced Type I players get fixated on these individual cards. It gets worse if the other guys in their local store play simpler decks that get shut down after a tutor for (insert”silver bullet” game breaker here) resolves.


What happens when they face off against B.S.B.?”Mana Leak your Disrupting Scepter!””Your Abyss doesn’t hurt me!””Misdirect your Ancestral Recall!””Mana Drain your Morphling!””Play my own Morphling… You lose!”


In short, no matter how much card advantage a card gives, it does squat if it gets countered. And when Mr. Power Cards can’t win with just one gamebreaker, he gets scared and forgets how to play Magic. Even Disrupting Scepter doesn’t really help him anymore, because Fact or Fiction just draws cards too quickly.


Worse, Mr. Power Cards stops and tries to think. He tries to hang on to his Morphling and wait until he has seven counters in hand before making his next move… Of course, this plays right into B.S.B.’s hands, since it has twice the counters and twice the Morphlings, and he’s sure to lose without knowing why.


His conclusion: Damn, B.S.B. is the best deck in Type I!


This is the common reaction of more casual Type I players who just haven’t played a guy with a deck full of counters since Tempest Block (counters began to suck with the Urza Block). B.S.B. isn’t unbeatable; it’s just that Mr. Power Cards doesn’t know what he’s doing.


In my story above, how did I possibly win when I had less counters than that other guy I mentioned? I had less counters, but more broken cards. Back to B.S.B. It may have four Mana Leaks over Keeper, but Keeper has a Yawgmoth’s Will, a Mind Twist, a Balance and a bunch of other things to make up. He only has fourteen to sixteen counters; the moment he can’t counter a spell, something very broken gets played.


Again: Fourteen to sixteen counters. In a sixty-card deck, this just means he draws about two in the opening hand, and about one counter every four turns. Count how many broken and/or restricted cards Keeper is packing.


The correct approach is to use something I like to call”volume.” In a control vs. control game, it doesn’t matter who has the more powerful cards; it matters who has more of them. Every card counts, and the first guy to miss a beat loses by just a one card difference. If I have broken three cards and you have only two counters, you’re in trouble. If you don’t counter the first or second, I gain some kind of advantage. If you do, the third kills you.


Simple: More cards in hand = you win. It’s just the basic card advantage everyone keeps forgetting when they play against blue. Incidentally, this is what I meant in the above conversation when I talked about”slugging matches.” This is what Zvi meant when he said to set up Yawgmoth’s Will. This is what Brian Weissman meant when he kept telling me to just force a Mind Twist in control vs. control.


It’s not as hard as it sounds after you get over your beginner’s fear of counters. A full hand is always better than a counter!


Sometimes, it’s just not obvious. Vampiric Tutor, for example, can be the worst card you can play in Keeper vs B.S.B. It fetches any card in the game, but remember, unless it’s Library of Alexandria, that card is going to get countered anyway. Unlike Demonic Tutor, Vampiric puts it on top of your library so you lose your next draw, so when the card is countered, you lose two cards to one of the opponent’s counters.


Volume, remember? The first guy to lose one card loses the game?


(If you’re not so familiar with Type I, just think about how bad you feel when you tap out to play a creature in IBC, and it gets Excluded… It’s the same thing.)


Get the picture now?


Once that one extra card tips the scales against B.S.B. – usually Yawgmoth’s Will, Mind Twist or a card drawer – it’s reduced to topdecking, and since it draws almost nothing but more mana or more counters, it’s usually in trouble the moment it begins topdecking. It wants to FoF like crazy, not topdeck.


Playing another control deck properly, this is what should happen so long as Back to Basics is kept off the table. Even when B.S.B. sideboards up to four Back to Basics, the other guy sideboards his choice of hate, especially Red Elemental Blasts that kill anything B.S.B. can throw for just one mana.


Like Zvi said (and as long as the other guy isn’t cheating with four maindecked Back to Basics), it’s not so simple to do, but it’s one very solid plan.


If B.S.B. has a problem, it’s that it has only one plan, while its opponents can do a lot of funny things.


How to build B.S.B.

There’s a mini-primer to building this deck in the”Revised Draw-Go Primer” of Beyond Dominia’s Type I Mill, but I’ve never been satisfied with all the vague points in there. But let me try to run you through the deck myself (I assume, though, that you know all about playing with counters and are familiar with that Draw-Go Primer).


If you’ve played a mono-blue Draw-Go deck, you won’t find B.S.B. very different. It’s just more difficult to categorize because it’s far, far more aggressive. In the early game, it plays like Draw-Go. It counters threats it can’t deal with, or early creatures it has to slow down such as first and second-turn Jackal Pups. It Powder Kegs whatever it has to early.


If B.S.B. has a stable life total and hand size by midgame-and usually, this is as soon as B.S.B. hits four mana – then it’s in a good position. Early on, it trades counters one-for-one with the opponent’s cards, but edges ahead once the drawing power of Fact or Fiction enters the game.


What makes B.S.B. different from more conventional control strategies such as Keeper and the ancient Draw-Go decks of Tempest Block and before then is that it doesn’t aim to take complete control. The game sped up a lot since 1997, and it just can’t do this. Instead, it just drops Morphling, and lets Morphling clean up by itself.


When Morphling (or Masticore) drops, the game completely changes, and this is what more traditional players have to understand. From a control deck, it becomes an aggro-control deck. The B.S.B. player has to counter for only four or five more turns, and then he wins.


In practical terms, don’t be afraid to drop Morphling at the first opportunity. Even if you have just one counter left but can guess that the opponent is out of counters, go for it. Even if the opponent manages to Tutor up a Diabolic Edict or play three Bolts when you only have two blue mana, he will use up too many cards just killing the first Morphling, allowing you to win with the next one. Be aggressive, and don’t bother to wait for a full hand of counters.


The strategy is as simple as it sounds, but there are a lot of nuances to building the deck itself. To help demonstrate, I’ve taken my build of the deck, plus the test builds of two veteran Beyond Dominia control players (Darren diBattista, a.k.a. Azhrei, and Matt D’Avanzo) and the regular decks of two B.S.B. aficionados (Acolytec and Deranged Parrot).


(You’ll notice that the decks are very close to each other. Another thing annoying about B.S.B. is that it’s almost impossible to personalize, unlike Keeper. In my last article, I tried just that, using more solid Counterspells and additions such as Grim Monolith. I had to remove all of these experiments, eventually, because they just don’t work.)













































































































































































































































































































































 


Rakso


Azhrei


Matt


Acolytec


Parrot


TOTAL


60


60


60


60


60


Counters


14


12


14


17


17


Force of Will


4


4


4


4


4


Misdirection


2


2


3


3


3


Mana Drain


4


4


4


4


4


Mana Leak


4


0


3


4


4


Counterspell


0


2


0


2


2


Draw/Manipulation


9


7


9


5


7


Ancestral Recall


1


1


1


1


1


Fact or Fiction


4


4


4


4


4


Impulse


4


0


4


0


2


Merchant Scroll


0


2


0


0


0


Stroke of Genius


0


1


0


0


0


Others


6


8


6


6


5


Time Walk


1


1


1


1


1


Powder Keg


3


3


3


3


2


Back to Basics


2


2


2


2


2


Capsize


0


1


0


0


0


Creatures


4


6


3


6


4


Morphling


4


4


3


4


4


Masticore


0


2


0


2


0


Mana Base


27


27


28


26


27


Lotus/Sol Ring/Moxen


7


7


7


7


7


Library of Alexandria


1


1


1


1


1


Strip Mine


1


1


1


1


1


Wasteland


2


3


4


1


3


Tolarian Academy


1


1


1


0


0


Island


15


14


14


16


15


Sideboard


15


15



15


15


Back to Basics


2


2



2


2


Powder Keg


1


0



0


0


Misdirection


2


0



0


0


Flash Counter


2


0



0


0


Gainsay


0


2



0


0


Counterspell


0


0



1


0


Hydroblast


0


0



2


0


Mana Short


0


2



0


0


Rootwater Thief


4


0



0


4


Black Vise


0


0



1


0


Control Magic


2


3



4


0


Psionic Blast


0


0



0


4


Capsize


2


0



0


0


Nevinyrral’s Disk


0


3



0


0


Grindstone


0


0



3


3


Masticore


0


2



2


2


Timetwister


0


1



0


0

 


Card by card: Counters

Force of Will – Self-explanatory. An emergency counter, wins early counter wars, and can be hard cast later on.


Misdirection – Serve as additional Force of Wills to push Morphlings past opponents’ counters, if necessary. Also play an important role against Ancestral Recall and Mind Twist, and against black decks’ Hymn to Tourachs and Sinkholes. A Misdirected early Ancestral Recall or Hymn to Tourach is very hard to recover from. Whenever applicable, incidentally, pitch Force of Will to Misdirection instead to save one life.


Mana Drain – Also self-explanatory, but it needs to be well-timed in this deck. The ideal scenario is to Drain an opponent’s three-mana play – something like Hypnotic Specter or Phyrexian Negator – then drop a third Island on your own third turn and play Fact or Fiction or Morphling. A common mistake is for an opponent to play an expensive spell when he already has two creatures attacking, and Mana Drain turns the game around here.


Mana Leak – This is the counter that deserves more explanation. Strangely, this deck tries to stay away from UU mana costs, even though it’s a mono blue deck. This is because it has to use a lot of colorless mana sources, especially the Moxen. UU is usually not a problem… But UUUU to counter twice often is. Mana Leak is meant to be used to disrupt an opponent early – and gives the bonus of first-turn counter ability with a Mox – or at the tail end of a counter war, but it hurts if topdecked with a depleted hand late in the game.


Counterspell – The traditional counter is actually used as extra Mana Leaks in this specific deck.

Card by card: Draw and manipulation

Ancestral Recall – The second most broken card drawer in the game (after Necropotence) is blue.


Fact or Fiction – This powerful, new unrestricted card drawer is the only thing that makes this deck type possible. It adds power and consistency, but costs four mana, which is why the deck runs a lot of mana and fast mana. In addition, it is cast at the end of an opponent’s turn, forcing him to counter and possibly leave himself vulnerable to a Morphling in your turn. If an opponent might counter an FoF, try to save it until it can be used to draw fire from Morphling this way.


Impulse – This is the controversial card, and only Matt D’Avanzo and myself (along with Zvi) would use four. Matt put it nicely:”If Fact or Fiction is Necropotence, then Impulse is Demonic Consultation, and what Necrodecks don’t run Demonic Consultation?” Basically, it’s instant-speed manipulation that replaces itself with the best of the next four cards (and maintains”volume”). It makes the deck more consistent by picking up Powder Kegs and Fact or Fictions earlier, or controlling land draws when needed. It doesn’t matter if good cards are moved to the bottom of the library because of the redundancy of the deck (but be careful about moving all four Morphlings to the bottom!).


Again, this deck is weakest when topdecking, and Impulse helps avoid that.


Merchant ScrollImpulse is controversial because some players feel it just dilutes the deck.”Why pay two mana when I can just add more counters?” is the usual objection. Merchant Scroll is the other tutor that does not lose”volume,” and fetches Ancestral Recall early. After Ancestral, it fetches Fact or Fiction or any counter. Drawback: It’s a less flexible sorcery.


Mystical Tutor – Does the same thing as Merchant Scroll, but loses”volume.” Useless in this deck.


Stroke of Genius – Very powerful card drawer, but useful only late in the game or with amazing Mana Drains. Hardly used because it’s considered overkill and too slow.

Card by card: Others

Time Walk – This deck needs to get to four mana as quickly as possible, and a one-turn mana boost from an early Time Walk is more powerful than it looks. Later on, Time Walk allows a player to tap out, cast spells, then untap without fear. At worst, it replaces itself, and is rarely countered by an opponent.


Powder Keg – Both the strongest and weakest point of this deck. Keg allows this deck to kill weenie swarms to stabilize the life total until Morphling can drop and start blocking. However, if Keg can be dealt with, then Morphling may not come in before you are overrun. This isn’t uncommon: Null Rod (which also shuts down Masticore and artifact mana), Meddling Mage, normal artifact destruction, or simply creatures with unequal casting costs such as Sarcomancy tokens and Carnophage.


It takes knowledge of the opponent’s deck to set correctly. For Zoo, Sligh, Stompy and White Weenie, you set it at one counter (to deal with Jackal Pups, Goblin Cadets, Savannah Lions, Wild Dogs, etc., and easily move up to two for the other creatures). For black creature decks it gets trickier because the best number might be zero (Sarcomancy tokens, move up to one for Carnophage), two (pump knights and Flesh Reaver, move up to three for Phyrexian Negator and Hypnotic Specter), or three (Negator and Specter, move up to four for Juzam Djinn and Phyrexian Scuta).


Against creatureless decks, it is less useful and destroys early Moxen or, at worst, is set at five to kill Morphlings that get through. After sideboarding, though, it might be kept in case of opposing creatures.


Back to Basics – Played up by Acolytec and Deranged Parrot in the earliest Beyond Dominia builds, Acolytec joked that this actually reads,”Target 5-color deck loses game.” Use it as bait to draw counters away from Morphling, or just play it exactly as you would Morphling. (Beware Aura Fracture and Seal of Cleansing, though.) Against mono color decks, this is Force of Will fodder and is boarded out.


Capsize – Enchantments are the death knell of this deck, most notably Oath of Druids (which comes with a Morphling that beats other Morphlings with Spike Feeder counters) which is a cheap enchantment that is an automatic loss for this deck. Blue has only three ways (Capsize, Wash Out, Nevinyrral’s Disk) of dealing with enchantments. None of them are particularly good, but Capsize is the most flexible.


Others – You usually see a lot of randomness in initial builds of this deck. Usually, it doesn’t work. In fact, no pre-Odyssey card not listed here has been proven to work in this very rigid deck, and no Odyssey card is likely to make it, except possibly Divert. (Standstill is better in aggro with cheap threats.)


 

Card by card: Creatures

Morphling – Untargetable, flies over chump blockers and Moat, does insane combat tricks, and deals five a turn. The only common threats to Morphling are Diabolic Edict and Balance. There is an entire section in the Draw-Go Primer on the use of Morphling, and only one more thing needs to be said: Don’t be afraid to pitch the Morphling in your opening hand if necessary. Early on, you’d rather lose a Morphling that may not be played immediately than a counter or Fact or Fiction, even an Impulse or Merchant Scroll.


Masticore – Dies to Swords to Plowshares, but is otherwise as difficult to kill. Masticore provides an alternative to Powder Keg against weenies, and still provides a viable kill against creatureless decks. The upkeep can be bearable because it can kill a control deck quickly; just learn to let it go when needed. Fact or Fiction helps fuel the upkeep (you can pick the bigger over the better pile), but be wary of Duress, Hymn and Mind Twist.


OphidianOphidian is the pre-Fact or Fiction mainstay, but Fact or Fiction is just faster. Bringing Ophidian back in creates a different deck because, although it replaces itself and is a strong card advantage engine, it also creates the problem of playing a three-mana spell on your turn and defending it. This forces a different game and is not the explosive, aggressive game B.S.B. forces.


 

Card by card: Mana

Black Lotus, Moxen, Sol Ring – These make Type I Accelerated Blue accelerate; without them, the four Morphling and four Fact or Fiction strategy is not viable. Fact or Fiction, for example, is considered too slow in Extended because there are no Moxen. (Check: http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/expandnews.php?Article=1946) The addition of colorless mana, however, gives the deck it’s unique mana issues that lead to the use of Mana Leak, and make topdecks weaker and make manipulation cards more important.


Library of Alexandria – Despite this deck’s hunger for blue mana, Library of Alexandria is indispensable because it wins against any control deck if left on the table, and Fact or Fiction helps it activate. It is dead under Back to Basics, but it makes sure B2B gets played when it counts.


Strip Mine – Another land that is never dead, this helps remove opposing Libraries, disrupt the opponent’s mana to create an opening, and hits basic land unaffected by B2B. Under B2B, it still trades for the land of your choice.


Wasteland – The second controversy in this deck after Impulse. Wasteland is very good in a deck that needs 26-28 mana, but it is a luxury that is difficult to work in, given the deck’s hunger for blue mana. Against other control decks, the additional pinpoint disruption and Library kill is invaluable, but both Wasteland and Wasteland targets are dead under B2B. The difficulty comes against decks that run only half nonbasic lands, since this is where you want Wasteland but not Back to Basics. Two is the usual compromise, and Wasteland is sometimes sided out against mono color opponents.


Tolarian Academy – The third controversy. This card is powerful. With two Moxen out early, this fuels FoF and Morphling and provides enough mana to overpower an opponent’s counter wall much earlier than usual. The main complaint is that it can be erratic. Lesser complaints: It is another Wasteland target in a deck that should not have them, is dead under B2B, and has less broken cards to fuel in this deck unlike Keeper.


Grim Monolith, Mana Vault, Mana Crypt – Useless in this deck, because they are good sometimes and dead draws in others. Mana Crypt can be suicidal, and Mana Vault forces a player to tap out during his upkeep. Grim Monolith is the most stable, and is still not as good as a plain Island.


Island – This deck needs 26-28 mana including the Moxen to be viable, but some players make the mistake of including too little actual blue mana. The minimum is fourteen Islands plus Mox Sapphire and Black Lotus, but sixteen Islands or more is ideal.


 

Card by card: Sideboard cards

Flash Counter/Gainsay – Flexible counter against other control decks with the advantage of the 1U mana cost. Flash Counter can deal with Red Elemental Blast and is more flexible, while Gainsay can counter opposing Morphlings and sideboarded Rootwater Thieves directly, which is useful if both sides are topdecking.


Counterspell – Solid additional counter whose only drawback is its mana cost.


Hydroblast – Slightly better than Blue Elemental Blast because it can be discarded to avoid Black Vise, this can kill red weenies faster than Powder Keg and double as an anti-Keeper card, against sideboarded Red Elemental Blasts.


Mana Short – A traditional anti-control card that forces decks to tap out at the end of their turns, leaving them open and unable to counter.


Rootwater Thief – The latest anti-control sideboard that is this deck’s equivalent of the place of the venerable Dwarven Miner. Zvi’s criticism is that you have to tap a good part of early mana to fuel this, and if the opponent already has his Morphling or key threat in hand, he will draw enough counters to force it through while you’re busy removing cards that the other guy hasn’t drawn yet. Initial playtesting, however, has shown that this can be forced first turn with a Mox, and is easily activated with a Sol Ring or two Moxen and still leave mana to counter. Against some threat-light control decks, Mike Long is like cheating, and this card is a fitting tribute to such a noteworthy Type I deckbuilder.


Black Vise – An ancient anti-control card, take care that some decks have an easier time squirming out of it nowadays.


Control Magic/Psionic Blast – These are key anti-creature cards against decks with larger creatures, usually black creature decks. Control Magic is used over Treachery, because the one-mana difference is crucial. Psionic Blast is an instant and is more flexible, and it can cripple a black deck that plays a Phyrexian Negator with only three land in play. However, Blast does not kill Juzam and Scuta, and cannot kill Negator later in the game.


Wash Out/Nevinyrral’s Disk – These are the deck’s only other means of dealing with enchantments, and the mass kill is usually brought in against the Parfait and Enchantress decks that play out cheap noncreature threats such as Land Tax, Scroll Rack, and Argothian Enchantress. Note that Nevinyrral’s Disk comes into play tapped and cannot defeat a Seal of Cleansing already on the board. Wash Out can be played after a Morphling, but does not take Argothian Enchantress with the key white permanents of Parfait decks.


Grindstone – An experimental alternative against Parfait-type decks to avoid having to deal with so many enchantments, and takes advantage of the opponent’s deck thinning with Land Tax. Using this means having to counter Seal of Cleansing and Soldevi Digger, though.


Timetwister – The original anti-discard sideboard that also adds emergency recursion.


 

Matchups: Control

Parfait/Enchantress – As implied by the above sideboard cards, this is the nightmare matchup of a deck that cannot deal with enchantments, and cannot counter the many cheap noncreature threats. Its best bet is to selectively counter. Let Land Tax, Sterling Grove, and Zuran Orb go through, and let the Parfait player Tax. Do not, under any circumstances, let Scroll Rack, Argothian Enchantress, Story Circle (unless playing Masticore), and Sacred Mesa (which hoses Morphling) go through, because only Capsize can deal with them. Even if you counter these, beware of the instant Argivian Finds. As a general rule, set Powder Keg to two.


Keeper – This matchup depends on the decks – and, more importantly, the sideboards. Depending on the number of dead cards (Disenchant and creaturekill cards) the Keeper deck has, Game 1 can be favorable or about even. Again, be wary of all sorts of tricks from Sylvan Library to Mind Twist and Yawgmoth’s Will. After game 1, Keeper can bring in anything from Rootwater Thief to Diabolic Edict to Obliterate (which is not really good against you), but always expect sideboarded Red Elemental Blasts which counter anything in your deck for one mana. Quite a lot depends on the players’ skill, but because Keeper is the more flexible deck, the opponent has more leeway to outplay you or shoot himself in the foot by not knowing how to play against counters.


A good player with a good sideboard may even have the advantage despite Back to Basics (and can force Aura Fracture to neutralize these). Again, pay close attention to everything Zvi said.


Black creature decks – A lot depend on the speed of the black deck and the opening hands. (Specifically, a lot comes down to whether the black deck draws a Duress and whether the blue deck draws a Misdirection.) If the black deck gets a Hymn to Tourach or Sinkhole through second turn, B.S.B. can have trouble, but if it gets Misdirection, it builds a strong lead.


Faster versions can use Sarcomancy, Carnophage and Flesh Reaver, which cannot be killed by a single Powder Keg, while a Phyrexian Negator is almost impossible to deal with after a barrage of discard. If the initial disruption is dealt with (or Misdirected), Fact or Fiction is a strong recovery, and Morphling deals with every non-shadow creature as long as counters can be held against Diabolic Edict.


Straight creature decks backed by Edicts are the most difficult to deal with, and unbeatable if they open with a perfect hand of Duress, then Hymn, then Negator. Nether Void decks are easier if the initial land destruction is dealt with, but B.S.B. has almost no answer to four Rishadan Ports except to draw more land. Pox decks are slowest, and Mana Drain with Fact or Fiction allows for sudden recoveries. Note that Pox decks’ Racks and Cursed Scrolls can both be Kegged away to slow them down greatly.


The consolation is that straight black decks do not really sideboard anything significant against blue.


Teletubbies – This is more favorable to you than black decks, but this sort of aggro-control strategy is difficult to deal with because Kegs are ineffective. Blue versions have counters of their own that can, if used properly, force their 4/4 monstrosities into play when they have more mana in the early game. Red Stacker versions will have Goblin Welders that have to be Forced or Kegged early, because they turn every artifact into a potential uncounterable 4/4. The red versions will also bring in Red Blasts after boarding, but play aggro-control far better than Sligh.


The key to winning is that you can play Draw-Go better, and will win the longer the game drags on. Counter the early fat (or better yet, Mana Drain into Fact or Fiction or even Morphling) and reduce him to topdecking.


Sligh and Stompy – This is a very favorable matchup because these decks are forced to rely almost exclusively on one-mana creatures that are easily Kegged away, and the rest of either deck cannot deal with the Morphling that follows. Sligh will mainly sideboard in Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast, but these will be to try to buy time for the creatures since it cannot win in a counter game, lacking card drawing. Stompy brings in Rushwood Legates that are 2/1 creatures that can be played for free if you have an Island, and these may overrun you if he gets a good draw, so do not be afraid to use even Force of Will if you know Keg will never catch up. They will have a hard time even after sideboarding, but stay alert and watch for other tricks like Null Rod and Winter Orb.


White Weenie – This is another favorable matchup. Straight white weenie creatures are slower because only Savannah Lions is a threatening one-drop. Because they cost two mana, though, they take longer to Keg, and can play Seal of Cleansing or Disenchant to counter Keg, so be careful about letting weenies slip past. Usually, though, Morphling will enter play before your life total is critical, and you Keg any shadow creatures that Morphling cannot handle. Land Tax/Scroll Rack versions are even easier to deal with because they are slower. Sideboarding may bring in Abeyance and Orim’s Chant for an aggro-control twist, or disruption such as Winter Orb or Null Rod, and these may cause problems. Watch for a blue splash, because a Meddling Mage that slips past and names Powder Keg is difficult to recover from.


Zoo/Power Sligh – This is even more favorable than the mono color matchup because these are vulnerable to Back to Basics. Game 1 should be easy because you have the same Keg advantage against normal Sligh unless they are also using two-mana creatures (Blurred Mongoose!), and their lower amount of burn is not a threat. Be sure to counter Keeper-like brokenness, right down to Yawgmoth’s Will, however. Post-sideboarding is more difficult, because these decks can bring in any of the sideboard tricks discussed for the above decks. You win if Keg and Back to Basics kill them, but may have trouble against decks with basic land and disruption. Remember that the sideboard cards of these decks against Keeper usually work against you, too.


Combo decks – These are far more favorable matchups than Parfait and Enchantress decks because, unlike these two types, you can counter key components only. Depending on how much cheap disruption they have, especially Duress and maindecked Red Elemental Blasts, and defense, the game should be favorable to incredibly easy. The easiest strategy is usually to let all their fast mana go through and let them stall once you counter card drawing engines. After sideboarding, just watch out for sudden transformations, such as the appearance of Phyrexian Negators from out of nowhere.


Random hate – A few Beyond Dominia players hated mono blue decks SO much that they indulged in a spree of hate deck making. Most notable was Nargot, with his FUB (F*ck U Blue) deck that maindecked Choke and other unpleasant things. Some of these are effective (especially if they use Oath of Druids), while others just don’t understand how blue works. Remember”volume.” Hate is NOT the way to handle blue from a control perspective, because even City of Solitude can be countered, and Scragnoth is too slow to race Morphling. You can actually have fun surprising less clever”hate” players.


 

A Brief History Of B.S.B.

When Urza’s Saga rotated in, blue players suddenly realized that the best counterspells left in the pool were Counterspell and Miscalculation. This was partly why Zvi Mowshowitz felt Replenish could not be defeated by a counterspell strategy (as discussed in the first section of the Draw-Go Primer). Draw-Go adapted by becoming more aggressive, and sought to play its greatest weapon, Morphling, much earlier than it ever had. Grim Monoliths made a curious appearance in the era’s Draw-Go equivalents, leading to the curious evolution known as Accelerated Blue or PatrickJ (after Patrick Johnson, one of the players who made the deck type popular).


PatJ.tech, Patrick Johnson, FIRST ROUGH Deck from Dojo article

Counters (11)

4 Counterspell

3 Miscalculation

2 Power Sink

2 Rewind


Creatures (6)

4 Morphling

2 Masticore


Removal (8)

4 Treachery

4 Powder Keg


Card drawing (5)

3 Inspiration

2 Opportunity


Mana (30)

17 Island

4 Faerie Conclave

3 Dust Bowl

2 Blasted Landscape

4 Grim Monolith


ACCELERATED BLUE, Zvi Mowshowitz, Sample deck from Mindripper article

Counters (9)

4 Counterspell

4 Miscalculation

1 Rewind


Creatures (8)

3 Morphling

3 Masticore

2 Palinchron


Removal (8)

4 Treachery

4 Powder Keg


Card drawing (3)

3 Stroke of Genius


Mana (32)

15 Island

4 Faerie Conclave

4 Rishadan Port

4 Dust Bowl

1 Blasted Landscape

4 Grim Monolith



Sideboard:

2 Arcane Laboratory

3 Unsummon

1 Submerge

1 Temporal Adept

3 Scrying Glass

4 Annul

1 Masticore


According to Patrick:”Since the earliest days of Magic, deckbuilders have realized the power of accelerating your mana. The rules state that you can only play one land per turn, but players have long used artifacts or other spells to increase the amount of mana available to them in the early game. Obviously, the increased supply of mana gives the accelerated player more powerful options and can often allow them to present an overwhelming threat before the opponent can react.


“In 1995-96, Brian Weissman and Chip Hogan were Mana Draining spells and using the colorless mana boost to accelerate out Jayemdae Tome + Disrupting Scepter or Icy Manipulator + Winter Orb. The concept of blue acceleration is therefore not totally new. However, the printing of an ultra-efficient control creature (who also happens to be a four turn clock) in Saga, new artifact mana in Legacy, and superb board control spells in Destiny breathed new life into this archetype.”


Zvi’s version differed, mainly because it used Stroke of Genius to flexibly draw just one or two cards or more than four later on or with Grim Monolith – an issue that was debated at the time. It also showed how the high mana count was crucial to the deck, and how the deck compensated by trying to make the lands as flexible as possible. Dust Bowl used surplus land to attack the opponent’s mana, and Rishadan Port was used as early as the second turn (instead of holding open mana for countering) to slow the opponent.


Acc Blue thus played very differently compared to earlier Type II Draw-Go decks. It had very few counters, and used these only to slow the opponent enough for a Morphling to enter play and clean up. Its best defense was its own offense.


Despite the restriction of Grim Monolith in Type I (and note that Mana Vault works differently since it can only be untapped during upkeep, which either leaves the Acc Blue player vulnerable for 1 turn or with several points of damage), Moxen allowed the idea to be viable, especially considering that Type I Acc Blue was no longer limited to the weak counters of its Type II ancestor.


Zvi played a deck with four Ophidians and three Morphlings in the previous Invitational. The following year, Fact or Fiction gave the Type I version a consistency the original Accelerated Blue decks never had. As Beyond Dominia regular Matt D’Avanzo commented to the author in private e-mail,”Morphling made this deck style possible and Fact or Fiction turned it into a tier 1 deck…”


Original Type I Accelerated Blue, Zvi Mowshowitz, 2000 Magic Invitational

Counters (14)

4 Mana Drain

1 Counterspell

3 Mana Leak

4 Force of Will

2 Misdirection


Utility (14)

4 Brainstorm

4 Impulse

4 Fact or Fiction

1 Time Walk

1 Ancestral Recall


Creatures (3)

3 Morphling


Removal (2)

2 Powder Keg


Mana (27)

14 Island

4 Wasteland

1 Strip Mine

1 Library of Alexandria

1 Black Lotus

1 Sol Ring

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Pearl

1 Grim Monolith


Sideboard:

2 Scrying Glass

2 Masticore

2 Powder Keg

2 Hydroblast

2 Annul

2 Back to Basics

3 Treachery


After the Invitational, in Beyond Dominia’s second Type I Tournament of Champions (Elrond’s Revenge), some regulars developed and refined the deck semi-independently after seeing how powerful and more consistent mono blue got after Fact or Fiction (it could more reliably fetch its Powder Kegs, for example).


Type I Accelerated Blue, Acolytec, Beyond Dominia Type I Tournament of Champions II

Counters (18)

4 Mana Drain

4 Counterspell

4 Force of Will

3 Misdirection

3 Mana Leak


Utility (8)

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

4 Fact or Fiction

2 Back to Basics


Creatures (4)

4 Morphling


Removal (4)

4 Powder Keg


Mana (26)

19 Island

1 Black Lotus

1 Sol Ring

5 Moxen



Sideboard:

3 Masticore

2 Back to Basics

3 Control Magic

3 Blue Elemental Blast

2 Flash Counter

2 Gainsay


Type I Accelerated Blue, refined by Deranged Parrot during the tournament

Counters (19)

4 Mana Drain

4 Mana Leak

3 Counterspell

4 Force of Will

4 Misdirection


Utility (8)

4 Fact or Fiction

2 Back to Basics

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk


Creatures (4)


4 Morphling


Removal (4)

4 Powder Keg


Mana (25)

1 Black Lotus

5 Moxen

1 Sol Ring

18 Island



Sideboard:

4 Flash Counter

4 Control Magic

4 Masticore

2 Back to Basics

1 Counterspell


The Keeper (5-color control) players were a target of the Accelerated Blue decks, which had twice as many counters and could easily force a quick Morphling or Back to Basics against them. Strategies specifically against Accelerated Blue were floated by Keeper players. JP”Polluted” Meyer, for example, proposed focusing one’s counters on forcing his sideboarded Jester’s Cap through and removing three Morphlings, then waiting to use Obliterate once the last Morphling was played. Accelerated Blue would then run out of cards earlier due to its own Fact or Fictions. Others stuck to the more conventional anti-blue strategy (advocated by many players, even including”The Deck” creator Brian Weissman) of starting a counter war in the Acc Blue player’s turn and following up with a Mind Twist.


As was discussed, a lot of funky ideas based on individual cards were tried, until people remembered basic card advantage and”volume.”


Rakso

[email protected]

rakso on #BDChat on Newnet

Manila, Philippines

Type I, Extended and Casual Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (http://www.bdominia.com/discus/messages/9/9.shtml)

Featured writer, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/archive.php?Article=Oscar Tan)

Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance (http://www.casualplayers.org)