Thursday, September 5, 2019

Making Magic in the Arena - Mono-Blue Tempo

Once more, we return to the Arena with a new deck and new playstyle in tow. This time, we're rocking one of the best budget decks around: Mono-Blue Tempo.

Don't underestimate this deck. Despite the low price point, it's a machine that can really pack a punch in the hands of a skilled pilot.

The first thing you'll probably notice is that this deck has exactly one Rare card in the main deck, though it runs a playset of that card: Tempest Djinn. It's both a 3-drop, and the highest cost card in our deck, which gives you an indicator that the deck aims to be more aggressive than the usual deck you see on this channel.

Though while is a powerful way to wrap up the game, it is not the linchpin. That distinction belongs to Curious Obsession. To Magic players who aren't into Standard, this may come as a surprise because Aura spells are usually seen as bad cards. The reason for that it because if the creature it's attached to dies, then the Aura dies with it, making it a 2-for-1 trade in terms of card advantage.

Curious Obsession typically negates this otherwise obvious downside by drawing a card when the creature attached to it inflicts combat damage. If the pilot is playing correctly, they'll drawing at least 2 or 3 cards off of it before the creature is destroyed, meaning that they'll break even in the worst case and gain a net card advantage in a typical case. And for the strategy we're aiming for, a 1-mana card draw engine is a valuable tool.

Aside from these two cards, our deck can be broadly classified into two components: Creatures that can reliably ping the opponent, and disruption. Cards like Siren Stormtamer and Spectral Sailor are excellent Turn 1 plays, which make for powerful Turn 2 targets for Curious Obsession to quickly swing in and start drawing cards. In addition, they have powerful activated abilities that can be used to counter spells and draw cards respectively. Along with Pteramander, these cards are valuable because our aim to swing in quickly and often. Despite the card draw, we don't perform all that well if the game goes too long.

But more than swing, we also need to keep enough mana open to keep our disruption pieces online. Spell Pierce, along with many of the other counterspells in the deck, can be used to shut down powerful creatures and spells before that can wipe out our board and unduly strain our resources in hand. Spell Pierce in particular is deceptive strong because it forces the opponent to play off-curve. They can't play a 5-drop like Teferi on Turn 5 because then they won't be able to protect it.

Our other forms of Disruption include pieces like Dive Down and Merfolk Trickster. Both of these cards accomplish that, but in different ways. Dive Down's effect and instant speed give it several effective uses. The most common purpose is to give our creatures Hexproof in response to a removal spell being cast, protecting it reactively. However, it's other purpose is to fool opponents into making unfavorable blocks again some of our bigger creatures, making a once favorable trade a losing one. In the footage, there were a few times where I used Dive Down to save one of my creatures from otherwise lethal damage.

The Trickster is another extremely valuable card. It's a 2/2 for 2 mana that has Flash, which means even if our opponent doesn't do anything we want to counter, we can at least use our free mana to play a creature and gain an advantage. In addition, it taps down a creature and removes its text, which can turn a difficult to block or kill creature into an easy one to take care of in the right situation. Alternatively, we can use it to tap down a blocker our opponent controls so that we can freely swing in on the next turn... while still putting another body onto the table.

As you can see, the deck requires experience to pilot it, and I make a number of fatal mistakes in several matches, but it's also cheap to build and effective once the user masters it. It's a shame that it basically won't exist post-rotation, since almost every card the deck uses comes from either Dominaria or Ixalan.

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