The fifth and final color that we have left to review is none other than the bane of WotC R&D: Blue! Over the Premodern years (1995-2003), Blue brought us some of the most busted cards of all time.
Blue has long been known for its drawing and tutoring capabilities, for example Brainstorm, Frantic Search, Windfall, and Mystical Tutor. It’s also been known for it’s combo enablers like Flash, Time Spiral, Show and Tell, and Mind’s Desire. Perhaps most of all, Blue is known for its ability to tap out, but still have an answer for you: Force of Will. Thankfully, none of these cards are legal in Premodern. Also be aware that the only Urza’s Saga legendary land to be banned in Premodern is the Blue one: the famed Tolarian Academy. None of these should be a surprise, as most are or were Banned and/or Restricted in other formats.
THE CARD POOL
Blue has typically been the color that struggles to destroy or exile a pesky permanent, especially enchantments. However, it excels at “bouncing” permanents back to their owner’s hand or top of their library. Unsummon is of course the simplest and cheapest, but there are several slightly more expensive options that can change the tempo of the game: Submerge, Capsize, and Hibernation. Of course, there’s also the reset button: Upheavel, which is also a combo enabler as discussed later.
Who needs to destroy a permanent when you can render most permanents useless by keeping them tapped? Opposition and Mind Over Matter both feature the martyr Urza and both help you keep an opponent locked down by Stasis. Turnabout, while not an enchantment, is good, too.
Blue is perhaps best known for its almost exclusive access to countermagic. There are some rare exceptions, but countermagic found in other colors is specifically targeted at certain types of permanents or colors. No other color has access to the true, raw, unadultered power to Counterspell without any limitations.
Daze and Misdirection were both printed during the Mercadian Masques block, which released several cards that paid homage to a similar cycle in Alliances. Perhaps equally terrifying to getting a burn spell redirected at you or one of your creatures is whatever is going on in Misdirection’s art. Is that Psycho Mantis swapping a Rishadan’s head with a Saprazzan’s head? Better switch your controller to the Player Two port…
Anyways, next up we have Circular Logic which sees play in Madness and Complicate which sees play in Astral Slide, which I vaguely touched on in our article on White. Miscalculation never had an opportunity to play alongside Astral Slide, but it can in Premodern!
Counterspells that trade less-restrictive mana costs for situational effects are Mana Leak, Memory Lapse, Disrupt, and Meddle. Every single one of these was reprinted at one point or another, so you have your option of several different sets and art!
Finally, counterspells that are best left in the sideboard are Hydroblast, Blue Elemental Blast (“BEB”), and Gainsay. An honorary mention goes to Extract, which isn’t a counterspell, but serves the same purpose of proactively stopping your opponent from resolving a impactful spell.
DRAW SPELLS AND TUTORS
With Brainstorm, Frantic Search, Windfall, and Mystical Tutor being banned, options for draw spells and tutors become more limited, but also more innovative.
The cantrips should be no surprise: Sleight of Hand, Peek, and Portent all see Eternal play. Whispers of the Muse was a great card during the Tempest block because it fuels your graveyard, gives you something to do early game, and is never a dead draw late game. Impulse is slightly more expensive, but digs deeper.
Similarly, Fact or Fiction is a game in and of itself. You dig five cards and then watch your opponent squirm as they decide how to delicately fill your hand with counterspells and more draw spells without giving you Threshold or Flashback. Poor Masticore. Compulsion is also a Madness, Threshold, and Flashback enabler.
Blue’s access to “tutors” is quite limited, but still better than most other colors. Merchant Scroll and Tinker are both solid choices. The same goes for Cunning Wish. Long-Term Plans? Ehh, probably not.
Morphling was always one of my favorite win conditions in a Blue-based Control deck, but it takes a hit to its usefulness in Premodern, because Premodern uses contemporary rules.
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A couple cost-efficient Blue creatures make it into the Aluren deck, which I vaguely referred to in our Green article. Those creatures include Man-o’-War and Cloud of Faeries, which are both combo enablers, and Raven Familiar, which is a draw spell “on-a-stick” (a creature).
There are too many tribes to list, so I am going to touch on some of the major ones.
The first of two Blue creature types that got some serious love during the Onslaught block were the Birds. Here are the Birds from that block, but be aware that there were many, many others printed over the years. Keeper of the Nine Gales is arguably a better Tradewind Rider.
The other creature type was Wizards. Wizards were a pretty big deal during the Onslaught block. Ixidor, Reality Sculptor could be the centerpiece to some sort of unMorphing toolbox deck that plays creatures from all five colors and uses Ixidor to unMorph them. Voidmage Prodigy bears the resemblance of seven-time Pro Tour Champion Kai Budde. Prior to that, Rayne, Academy Chancellor could put in some serious work with or without supporting enchantments. More recently, although unrelated to Premodern, the Dominaria expansion set gave Wizards some additional lovin’.
The Vedalken are pretty unassuming, but they are a playable race in Dungeons & Dragons now!
Here is Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor and here are all fifteen Cephalid from the Odyssey block. Please. God. No.
I also had no idea that Thalakos are now their own creature type. Here’s all whopping seven of them from the Tempest block.
Here’s a decklist for ya. I had very casual Type 1.5 Merfolk deck that used the usual Lord of Atlantis, but with Sunken City, Essence Flare, Unstable Mutation, and Cunning to make some seriously big Merfolk.
It used a supporting case of some oddities like Reef Shaman to turn lands into Islands, Arctic Merfolk to bounce a Merfolk before it died to Unstable Mutation/Essence Flare, and some amount of Seasinger. Note that, after a Reef Shaman-turned land returns to its normal land type, Seasinger retains control of the opponent’s creature. The creature’s controller only needs an Island at the time she targets it, not throughout your control.
It wasn’t very good but it was a ton of fun. I can’t remember what else was in there other than Manta Riders. Maybe there was a Coat of Arms, some draw spells, and/or some countermagic in there or something. I don’t know.
Anyways, a card that I didn’t have in that deck, because I had intentionally made it as more of a budget deck, was Rootwater Thief. That art is dope. The Mercadian Masques block gave Premodern some very good Merfolk. Unbeknownst to me until writing this article was that several Spellshapers, such as Overtaker and Waterfront Bouncer, were errata’d to Merfolk! Some other Merfolk to consider are River Merfolk, Rootwater Hunter, Rootwater Shaman, Sandbar Merfolk, Saprazzan Heir, and Vodalian Mage.
Joel Larrson’s article on Premodern also contains a decklist and description of this archtype. Again, I won’t waste too much time on it because it’s been discussed elsewhere in more detail than I ever could, but it uses Prosperity to draw a lot of cards, then you discard all of the cards to Cadaverous Bloom, and then you use all of that black mana on a huge Drain Life. And yes, you have to use the Mirage art of Drain Life to be extra period-correct. This deck was much worse when the six cards that you gave your opponent could contain a Force of Will, but you don’t have to worry about anything like that here except for Misdirection or Daze.
This deck also makes great use of the draw spell Meditate, which normally has a drawback, unless of course you can kill your opponent before your next turn.
Joel also discusses Trix. Trix is a combo deck that revolves around Donateing an Illusions of Grandeur to your opponent and then watching them struuggle to pay the cumulative upkeep cost until they eventually lose twenty life in one fell blow. It’s disruptable, but it’s also cheeky and fun. It’s one of the great, fair combos that has existed for as long as I can remember. Consequently, it’s one of the many reasons to play this format in the first place.
Battle of Wits
Shout out to our folllower and good friend Mike a/k/a Alcorak, who perfected the Unnatural Selection/Spirit Mirror combo back in the day. Kill any creature you want for (1) and then beat your opponent to death with their own Reflection!
Dream Halls, Energy Field, and Second Chance, ave all been known as either the centerpiece or an enabler to some wonky combos. Is Mana Severance the card that I need to make an Erratic Explosion deck?
The giant Volrath on Intruder Alarm reminds me of Jor El from Man of Steel.
Remember earlier when I said that Blue struggles to destroy enchantments? Aura Flux is the exception to the rule.
Before we wrap up, let’s look at some weird cards:
Say Amugaba ten times fast.
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