Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
“Can I get a Mind Flayer?”
“Never heard of it. How do you make one?”
“Put something delicious in a glass and have two people pass it to me.”
I don’t understand why people keep passing me Mind Flayers. At this point, I’m almost too afraid to write a column about it. It only boasts the single highest win rate of a card you can draw Turn 1 or later per 17Lands.com, so why on Earth would I be seeing them Pick 3?
We’ve all heard that blue is historically awful in this set. As such, it’s being severely underdrafted. Successful blue decks are so rare that it dawned on me you may not have seen one in the wild. We can’t be what we can’t see, so I want to take a moment to curate a quick zoo of blue. Since it’s me buying this zoo and not Matt Damon, I’m doing it on the cheap: no mythics (sorry, Iymrith, Desert Doom and Mordenkainen) so you get a feel for decks that are realistically available and not just spiking wins due to a bomb. All of these decks resulted in trophies, and not like the ones that the guy from Jimmy John’s put up on his wall.
Here, you have two different drafters seeing that blue is open late in Pack 1 and dipping their ladles in for a big helping of chowder. Instead of playing a grindy version of Dimir that wants to out-venture your opponents, you have a need for speed.
Your core creatures all give you a payoff for landing damage, preferably in the form of cards or Treasure. They’re fairly unimpressive on their own, but they come down early and demand an answer. They also serve as quasi-defensive speed, as your more aggressive opponents will sometimes be forced to hang back. Having their only blocker for a Soulknife Spy getting tapped down to a Charmed Sleep will quickly disabuse them of the idea they can attack profitably.
Of course, like a Midwesterner in a subway station, they need a little help getting to their intended destination at times. (Copy Editor’s Note: Chicago’s “L” cordially invites Denver’s RTD to get on its level.) Krydle of Baldur’s Gate has impressed me in particular as an engine that must be answered quickly. If I’m committed early to black but see one come my way in the middle of Pack 1, I’m happy to potentially pivot.
Biggest trap: setting your curve too high. This deck needs tools at its disposal early, not a Blue Dragon or Air-Cult Elemental to put the game away. A Shocking Grasp that keeps your early Spy alive is far more valuable than something you’ll be able to cast in four more turns.
I will be honest: this is my least favorite blue deck by far. I feel like the book on it is So… You’ve Drafted Volo, Guide to Monsters.
This deck will change greatly depending on which rare you’re building around. The first deck wants to maximize Grazilaxx, so it places a premium on cards like Scion of Stygia that can help creatures connect. The second deck, on the other hand, wants to survive until it can Volo and get some meaningful copies, playing a variety of Giants that will auto-duplicate.
Being able to survive early swings from Rakdos decks depends on your uncommons, as your two-drops are notoriously awful in this deck. If you fail to accrue a critical mass of the cards above, consider weaker plays like You Come to a River, which can combo nicely with Soulknife Spy if you need a card, Hill Giant Herdgorger if you need lethal, or a bounce if something is getting out of hand.
Biggest trap: ignoring the early-game. Make your opponent play you honestly early on and avoid doing too many things like Druid Class or Find the Path. This deck can’t ramp itself out of horrid starts, as removal is too strong to count on a Herdgorger to bail you out.
Izzet High Roller
Here’s a pair of impressive trophies with only three rares between them. Frankly, I think it’s generous to count Treasure Chest.
Where is my mind, you may be asking? Those are my current rankings for decks in which I have two or more Pixie Guides. What I’ve noticed repeatedly in these decks is how much Pixie Guide overperforms. Every roll becomes dangerous when you have a legitimate shot at hitting ten or higher. Power of Persuasion takes a huge leap forward, but buying it back with an Aberrant Mind Sorcerer can feel like a real Time Walk when you’re not dropping a card back on top of your own library.
Combining Pixies with Gravilaxx is obviously busted, but Dueling Rapier and Valor Singer can make it count for actual damage. The bottom line here is that any Izzet deck needs to skew very aggressive to have a shot.
Biggest trap: getting too into rolling. Brazen Dwarf doesn’t add up to the damage you’d need and Barbarian Class has woefully underperformed, much to my chagrin. Focus more on your curve than cute interactions and don’t skimp on your Guides.
Sure, I know on paper that these decks are venturing, but that’s pure upside. These decks are designed to buff cheap threats and then use Dungeons to answer whatever relevant questions come up as they beat down.
You’re rife with options you can actually cast on Turn 1. If your opponent struggles to interact early, this could mean anything from creating copies to +1/+1 counters to venturing, giving you a lot of flexibility in how you’d like to shape your game plan. It felt a little Slither Blade-ish to me in the beginning, but instead of depending on Cartouches to do the work for you, you’re playing relatively strong Equipment most of the time.
What I really love, though, is how venturing can enable off-color splashes like you see in the first deck. You’ll notice there isn’t a single Mountain in the deck because they can reliably count on generating a Treasure with Lost Mine of Phandelver. When you’re doing it really right, you’re casting them ahead of curve, adding insult to injury.
Overall, I think blue is massively underrated when you’re going against conventional wisdom and avoiding a controlling, venture-based game. The best cards in the color reward proactive, aggressive gameplans that disrupt what your opponent is doing. Go fast, go furious, and get yourself a trophy.
The Deck I Wish I Drafted
Ahh yes, this old gem.
I wasn’t even sure I was going to include one until something so truly monstrous came across my radar, I would be remiss to leave it out. Imagine living in a world where Turbo-Tarrasque Mill exists and you didn’t know about it. That’s the world you just left.
Not one, but two copies of Tasha’s Hideous Laughter? A card whose mere presence in your opening hand reduces your win percentage to 38.1%? Well, not if you double it. Heck, triple it with your Long Rest! Did it get there? You already know.