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Mono-Blue Control
Joshua Schmidt
4/1/2005
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The format is new and undefined, yet soon the format will define itself. At the top of the game I expect to see Mono Blue Control. This is surely an anachronism of a circumstance; Mono Blue Control was the deck of the past. From the days of Urza block with Stroke of Genius, Morphling, Somnophore and many, many more classic cards this deck hasn't had the true power it needed to be rain like it once did.

There is no "best deck list" for this deck. It is a metagame deck, which is what makes it great. No pro, nor could I, write an article saying "this is the build to play." There is no perfect build. The deck is that of a great player. You can't just pick up a build and play it at a local tournament and expect to win. This deck brings out the player in you. You must test and re-test affirm your metagame and learn what wins.

If I were to give you a set list of cards to run in Mono Blue Control it would be simply 3 cards:
4 Mana Leak
4 Hinder
4 Vedalken Shackles

That is the only back bone of the deck there is. Players will argue over what to play next, but there truly is nothing set in stone. This isn't Tooth and Nail or Affinity where one card combination is supreme above the rest.

What are the possible card choices though? There are many for many different metagames. I plan to show you there is no deck list for this deck. I also want to show you, as the reader, the choices that you can make based on your beta game.

The Win Conditions

Thieving Magpie - The classic Ophidian creature, the card that has been inspiring blue control for years now. The fact is though he is lacking against certain decks. Mono Black Control, for instance, will wreck him. Their deck is made to kill creatures and when you have maybe four to, at most, eight creatures it is highly likely they will have a creature kill card for each one.

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Thieving Magpie also has tendency to not be that great versus White Weenie. They have fliers that get big via Bone Splitter, Glorious Anthem, a shocking Roar of the Kha, or even a Blinkmoth Nexus being pumped. However if you can take control of the game he can be great in the late game versus white weenie, the point where you have won. Against slow decks and decks such as Ponza though, Magpie is truly amazing. Versus decks like Tooth and Nail he draws you the counters to present a threat and keep their main threat, Kiki/Titan, off the table. Versus Ponza and RG LD you draw more land and more counter making any effect they wish to hamper you seemingly diminish.

Meloku the Clouded Mirror - This guy is amazing in almost any match-up. Usually when you drop him you have a near infinite supply of blockers and threats. He has a solid body that takes either several hits from red burn, via double shock or something of the nature, and he has evasion in the form of flying. Against decks like White Weenie he serves as a great threat, after you drop a Vedalken Shackles versus them and start controlling their attack phases you can drop Meloku and surely put them in their scoop phrase.

When you have control of their team and are slowly making an army of your own filled with flying critters they have nothing to do but watch you take control. Another great match-up for him is versus Ponza/RG LD.

Versus Tooth and Nail he does present a threat, but they typically will use O-Stone on him quickly. Versus Mono Black Control he suffers the same fate as Magpie, except late game he can leave behind a small force before dying, through bouncing lands.

Keiga, the Tide Star - One of the few cards I will be biased against, Keiga presents nothing but fat on the table. He is a 5/5 flyer that serves beats. I'd honestly rather play Mahamoti Djinn than Keiga. He doesn't affect board position all that much unless he dies, even then it is a minute change, and he costs six mana which is quite awhile to get to. It would plainly be better to drop Meloku and have mana open to make tokens.

Vedalken Shackles - A win condition that controls the board, which is what Mono Blue is about. This is the turn five play that White Weenie fears. You NEVER drop shackles unless you can activate it the same turn. RARELY could a situation EVER come up that you would do otherwise. It's a four of because it's good against everything except Beacon Green and Tooth and Nail. Versus Mono Black Control, White Weenie, Ponza, and a list of other decks it serves some beats. Versus White Weenie you start taking control of their team making them attack as you block and slowly their team regresses into nothingness. Versus Mono Black Control, if this card doesn't get Cranial Extracted, which is unlikely that Cranial Extraction would get through your countermagic, or if it doesn't get discarded through Distress or something of the sort and hits the table… it's safe to say you won. At very worst this card is Thirst for Knowledge fodder.

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Stalking Stones - This card is great for mainly two match-ups, the mirror and Tooth and Nail. In the mirror match who ever gets an active stone first and keeps it on the table usually wins. Some players don't like him because he is just a beefy 3/3 that sits on the ground, but he is a definite four of in your deck if you expect either of these two decks, which I'm sure you will be seeing, since they are two of the most popular and powerful decks.

Blinkmoth Nexus - Should I run this or not? The best thing about him is he can block fliers from White Weenie. If your metagame is SWARMED with White Weenie, it is understandable if you want to run him. Against other control decks and combo decks you simply can't afford to tap two lands to attack.

Bribery - Some builds have been known to run one to three Briberies main deck. This is understandable if you have a lot of MBC or Tooth and Nail in the metagame. However, Bribery is only good game one versus Tooth and Nail. I can't really tell you what to steal game one because it is a situation where it changes based on board position. Games two and three are where this starts to be bad, because they side out they useful targets for things like Rude Awakening and additional Sundering Titans. Versus White weenie and other such decks… it is really just too slow to be useful.

Card Draw

Thieving Magpie - Magpie makes another list for the simple fact he nets you card advantage. He doesn't really make it so you can afford to run less instant speed card draw, but he is card drawing none the less.

Thirst for Knowledge - This is the card draw in most players eyes. For 2U you get to dig three cards down and pitch either two land or just things you don't really care for. In the Tooth and Nail match-up you can pitch a Shackles, or if you run other artifacts you have those to pitch as well.

Inspiration - For 3U you net 2 cards, one card advantage opposed to Thirst's zero, but sometimes Thirst is up for the same amount as Inspiration. Inspiration is great after a Rewind, but so is any instant card draw. For some players it isn't worth the extra one colorless. Purely a judgment and personal preference goes based on this card. In all honesty most will choose Thirst for Knowledge over Inspiration.

Serum Visions - As a turn one play this card can be amazing. Giving you something to do on turn one and letting you set up your possible next two turns or getting useless junk out of the way it can be the key to setting up a great early game. That is about the only time this card is all that great. Being a sorcery it is great hampered for late game and usually gets pitched to Thirst for Knowledge.

Concentrate - Some players prefer this to Thieving Magpie due to the "instant gratification" of the cards being in your hand right away. In the long run Thieving Magpie can net you a lot more cards, but if you expect a lot of MBC it is easy to see why you would rather run this card.

Jushi Apprentice - Kai Budde introduced us to running him in the main deck opposed to Thieving Magpie. He comes down around the same time you would Magpie, but with a lot more counter back up. He doesn't serve beats however. He is more for a control dominated metagame.

The Bounce

Echoing Truth - Of the three bounce spells the first two are purely metagame calls. Echoing Truth is mainly for aggro fields and Beacon Green fields. Versus White Weenie more often than not you net two cards, either two Suntail Hawks or something along those lines. It also acts as a kill card almost. Raise the Alarm and Beacon of Creation equal no threat if you have an Echoing Truth in hand.

Boomerang - The control/combo bounce card. Versus Tooth and Nail if you're playing first and you bounce their turn one land and Condescend their Sakura Tribe Elder that they attempt to play in the following turn after you bounced their land then drop a Magpie you've won. Also for the mirror it can really help you swing things into your favor if you were not the first to activate your Stalking Stones, or if you swing and they block with theirs you can put damage on the stack then bounce yours back to your hand to put things in your favor.

AEther Spellbomb - Almost irrelevant as a bounce spell and only good in a heavy aggro field, but works great with Thirst for Knowledge, and if you face a none-aggro deck you can always sac it to draw a card.

The Counters

Rewind - Great against slower decks and it's always nice to have a hard counter. The best thing about Rewind is being able to counter more or play a card draw spell at the opponent's end of turn. Its 4cc however dampers its power versus decks like White Weenie where you need early game control, not mid-late, best for a heavy Tooth and Nail and control metagame.

Condescend - Now, of course you're running this card, but it is hard to get the numbers for it right. Three to four is the norm it seems. The card is great for early game with White Weenie or for mid game to late game versus other decks. It is essential countering those tapped out turn two Sylvan Scryings or tapped out Solemn Simulacrums, hell anything tapped out it is amazing for. Unlike Mana Leak though, it works late game as well.

Quash - If you expect zero White Weenie and zero other aggro decks I can see where this would make it into your main deck, otherwise Rewind is just better if you need that extra counter.

Annul - Some players are against this card with a passion, while others adore it. It is great versus everything expect really a heavy MBC field. Almost every deck has a target. Versus White Weenie you have Glorious Anthem, Bone Splitter, and Chrome Mox. With Tooth and Nail there's Solemn Simulacrum and Sensei's Diving Top, the card that in my opinion gives them the game over MUC, Oblivion Stone, a hard cast Darksteel Colossus, hard cast Sundering Titan, and a hard cast Platinum Angel. For the mirror you have Vedalken Shackles and Wayfaring Bauble. This card usually takes the Serum Visions slot.

Disrupting Shoal - Free counters are usually nice, but as we know… this is no Force of Will. The main part you can look at is seven mana for a Plow Under or for five mana put a Meloku into play and bounce the two Plow Under targets… one way seems better.

Miscellaneous Inclusions:

Time Stop - This card is great if you expect a lot of Tooth and Nail, otherwise don't consider it.

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Chrome Mox - Yes, quite the controversy over this card. If you saw the Paris Regionals you saw that Nassif ran this in his build. What? WHY?! Because his build had a lot of high casting cards like Time Stop. In order to keep up with the heavy tooth field he put this in here for speed. It is not something you would really ever want to consider. Control hates card disadvantage and that is what mox does. Also, it speeds the deck up early game, something the deck really doesn't need. It was just for Nassif's high curve, that's all.

Wayfaring Bauble - A great inclusion to the deck, many have given it the nod over Serum Visions for the pure speed it provides. Versus Tooth and Nail if they get a slow start you can get a turn three Magpie against them which can quite simply out draw them. Versus the mirror the player with the most lands usually wins, as goes control match-ups. Also, late game it is great to pitch to Thirst for Knowledge.

Oblivion Stone - Some players run this to fuel Thirst for Knowledge and provide a board clearer effect. But, personally I don't like it because if it's turn five or eight you should be in control or lost.

Sideboard Options:

Time Stop - If it's not in your main-deck randomly it deserves slots here. This and Boomerang are two of your possible ways to deal with Boseiju, Who Shelters All. Versus Tooth and Nail it counters the Tooth no matter what and removes it from the game.

Quash - For any deck that basically isn't White Weenie it shines. Quash Removes annoying Plow Unders, Tooth and Nails, Rude Awakenings, Thirst for Knowledge, etc.

Boseiju, Who Shelters All - In the mirror match if you can counter their threats and they can't do a thing about it you can win with a stones or one of your own threats, easily. Some players enjoy using this for a Wasteland effect against Tooth and Nail or other such decks, but it really isn't worth the loss of Islands and tempo.

Evacuation - Against White Weenie and other decks this buys time if they get an amazing hand against you. Also, it isn't too bad versus Beacon Green after they get a huge beacon. It can really swing things into your favor as long as they don't have an Eternal Witness on the board.

Spectral Shift - The sleeper board card that has recently been discovered by many players, it is an anti-board card board card. Turning Chokes and Boils around on their casters, making Genju's useless, or simply making an opposing Vedalken Shackles useless.

Jushi Apprentice - Some run him in the board for mirror and other control match-ups. He simply lets you get the same benefit as Magpie with out having to tap as many lands.

Temporal Adept - Against Tooth and Nail bouncing a land every turn can slow them down a lot. Though he will most likely get Duplicant'd or Oblivion Stone'd. Also tapping out on turn three or so isn't the best thing against Tooth and Nail unless you are following up a turn two Boomerang with a turn Temporal Adept; I don't see much use for the card.

Threads of Disloyalty - Against White Weenie and Slith Firewalker running another Shackles effect seems great doesn't it? In all truth this card is mainly only that efficient against Slith Firewalker. White Weenie isn't the kind of deck you want to tap three lands against for a one time effect. Shackles continues to control the game after the first creature, Threads just reads, "Kill target Suntail Hawk."

Bribery - Good against Mono Black Control or B/G Control, that's about it. Like I said games two and three it is horrible against Tooth and Nail.

Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch - Another card from Kai Budde, but this time for a little White Weenie and Slith Firewalker tech. It works for Slith the same as Threads does, but again it lacks against White Weenie. Most of their critters fly… thus negating the 0/3 wall. Also a critter with Bonesplitter or an Anthem in play will probably wreck this.

Match-Up Analysis:

Tooth and Nail - This is all about you denying them mana search spells game one until you can win via Stalking Stones or Thieving Magpie, Meloku never really stays on the table if she hits. Games two and three it is even more important to deny them mana searching for fear of Boseiju, Who Shelters All. If/When they go off they are no doubt going for Kiki/Titan which wrecks you badly. This is one of your worst match-ups if you aren't tuned to beat it.

Key cards to consider
Boomerang
Quash
Time Stop

White Weenie - This match circles around you countering their early threats and bouncing them until you hit Shackles. Their biggest threats are Bonesplitter, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Hokori, Dust Drinker. The problem for this match-up is their early army that sneaks through your early game countermagic.

Key cards to consider:
Vedalken Shackles
Echoing Truth
Evacuation

Ponza - The biggest threat they have to offer is an early Slith Firewalker and post game one Boil. You counter their LD they run out of steam but continue to hit you with Slith Firewalker, you counter Arc-Slogger then steal the Slith through a Shackles and that's game.

Key cards to consider:
Early Counters
Quash
Spectral Shift

Mono Blue Control - Stalking Stones. Stalking Stones. Stalking Stones. Whoever activates first is usually smiling as their opponent signs the result slip.

Key cards to consider:
Stalking Stones
Vedalken Shackles
Boomerang
Quash
Boseiju, Who Shelters All.

Mono Black Control - Game one is good for you and games two and three are better. Most of their creature kill is useless while you counter threats like Cranial Extraction and Persecute until you drop Shackles and steal their only threats.

Key cards to consider:
Vedalken Shackles
Quash

UG Control - Much like the mirror match except they don't have Stalking Stones, but they do have Eternal Witness, Plow Under, Troll Ascetic and Rude Awakening. Troll and Witness are your two biggest fears. If you can control them you got the game.

Key cards to consider:
Thieving Magpie
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Quash

Beacon Green - This match up is all based on your build. If you are built for it you will win. Otherwise it's a hard game but still winnable. They have a lot of threats, with Beacon of Creation, Eternal Witness, Rude Awakening, Troll Ascetic, Sword of Fire and Ice, and the list goes on. If you can control these you are set.

Key cards to consider:
Echoing Truth
Evacuation
Quash
Annul

This article should have given a basic principle to build your own version of Mono Blue Control. I hope I somewhat presented information you were previously unaware of or helped you with your build. Good luck.

- Schmitty



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