Mono-Blue Tempo Deck Tech
I am not a spike.
Well, maybe a little bit. But that’s not why I’m playing this deck.
I have always been a fan of tempo decks like Eldritch Moon Spirits, and Mono-Blue Tempo has been my favourite Standard deck since October. That was way before it jumped in popularity at MagicFests, and way before it won a Mythic Championship.
This deck’s plan is fairly simple:
2. Counter your opponent’s creatures or chump them while killing your opponent.
Mist-Cloaked Herald is your number one Curious Obsession target because of it can't be blown out by flyers, however it doesn’t do much besides that. I play more of these than most people because I really don’t like getting blown out by Lyra Dawnbringer. They're also useful for chump blocking in order to buy you a few extra turns to win.
Pteramander is another one-drop with evasion that has the advantage of growing later in the game. However, I think it is a bit overrated in this deck and I could see why someone would play less than I have sleeved up. It is great in Drakes, but Drakes is playing almost twice as many Instants and Sorceries and plays them much differently than this deck. Most of our spells are counterspells or Dive Downs, and we tend to hold onto these until later, when our opponent does something worth interfering with.
On the other hand, Drakes plays mostly card draw and removal spells, with a few reactive spells. This means Drakes is playing most of its spells as soon as it has the mana, since most decks play lots of creatures. While Drakes can adapt their Salamander fairly quickly, this card spends a lot of time being a Pterrible 1/1 flyer in Mono-Blue.
This card looks very weak on paper compared to something like Warkite Marauder, but its “lose all abilities” effect is very important to have at instant speed. Like Warkite Marauder, some of the most annoying flyers can be easily disposed of with this card. “Sure, block my Djinn with your Drake. Merfolk Trickster, it loses all abilities. How do you like your 0/4?”
Rekindling Phoenix is one of this deck’s worst nightmares, since it can trade with Djinn then come back the next turn. Even if you put a Curious Obsession on the Djinn, the Phoenix just blocks forever. This problem is easily solved with a Merfolk Trickster played after blocks and before damage, preventing the Phoenix from creating a token when it dies. But where this card really shines compared to Warkite is against Wildgrowth Walker, which can be a headache since every time your Sultai opponent explores, they get rid of the effect of one of your attacks.
Merfolk Trickster doesn’t solve that problem, but it does give you time. Flashing a Trickster in to block is also the closest thing this deck gets to Cast Down for dealing with creatures that didn’t get countered, because without Djinn, this deck doesn’t race.
How often do you get to play a horse fish in your deck that isn’t from one of the Ravnica sets?
All joking aside, Surge Mare can be a solid blocker thanks to its pump ability, and it’s not terrible against control either if you’re willing to pump mana into it each turn. It also can’t be blocked by green creatures, which is surprisingly relevant against Sultai since it can punch them in the face for four damage.
Plain and simple, Tempest Djinn is the bomb of the deck. While the rest of the deck is focused on sneaking in one or two damage at a time, this card normally only needs to attack twice or thrice to end the game.
And now we come to the whole point of the deck. Without Curious Obsession, this deck wouldn’t exist. Your dream draw is playing a one-drop on turn one, sticking this on it turn two and protecting it with a Dive Down, then maybe adding another Curious Obsession on the following turn and letting it generate enough card advantage for you to counter or outrace anythinrelevant your opponent tries for the rest of the game.
Opt is just there to smooth out your draws and help you find your Curious Obsessions and lands. It also happens to fill your graveyard for Pteramander. In a deck with eight great cards and a bunch of Flying Men, finding those greats is essential.
Don’t underestimate this card. Dive Down is so much better at protecting your stuff than other options. Spell Pierce becomes irrelevant quickly while Siren Stormtamer can’t be used to protect your creature on turn two and has to become public information before you can protect your creature with it. The +0/+3 is also relevant between protecting your creatures from Deafening Clarion and suddenly killing Lyras with Djinn.
Spell Pierce would only be a two of if there weren’t so many stupid Planeswalkers and Enchantments running around the format. It also helps protect your creatures from spot removal and wraths, though it’s not as effective as Dive Down against spot removal.
Chart a Course can turn out some decent card advantage but there just isn’t space in the deck for another one, unless you think you can survive on only 19 lands.
Essence Scatter was already good in this deck and the extra damage Essence Capture gives you is very, very, VERY relevant in a deck where you're dealing two or three damage per turn. The only thing that prevents me from playing the second copy is that it's basically dead against control.
There is - or rather was - a reason WotC didn’t print Counterspell. It’s a stupidly efficient disruption spell. That's why if you can get one of your eight wizards on the board, Wizard’s Retort can be one of the best cards in the deck. Cancel isn’t actually the worst card out there, either.
Exclusion Mage normally just gets rid of a troublesome flyer for a turn. It can also make your opponent recast a creature while you trade your 2/2 to help keep you alive. If you have a counter, you can also use this to get rid of a creature for good by countering it when they recast it.
Disdainful Stroke is here just to get rid of bombs and sweepers.
Entrancing Melody is the sweetest when you use to take your opponent’s creature, that also happens to be a good fit in your deck and beat them over the head with it. It’s useful against Wildgrowth Walker to give yourself a blocker and MAKE THE LIFEGAIN STOP, but it’s sweeter to use against Hydroid Krasises (or whatever the plural of Krasis is), Niv-Mizzet, Paruns, Drakes, Pteramanders and, best of all, creatures with Curious Obsession on them. (insert evil laugh here)
If this ults, it’s game over for the control player. You play it, uptick it twice to filter away your extra lands, and ultimate it right away. Don't uptick it again just to keep it alive. Two Jaces are way better than no Jaces. Besides, once you have the copies you can suicide one to make tokens and uptick the other one to make even more Jace, Cunning Castaways.
If it weren't for this card, Niv-Mizzet, Parun would be the end of the world for us. Mono-Blue has absolutely no way to deal with it, except for good old Transmogrifying Wand. It also can get rid of other problem creatures and is way better than Deep Freeze. Deep Freeze dies to Mortify, and then our opponent just gets their creature back. And since you get priority first after this resolves you can use it to transform a creature before we get Bedeviled.
Last Thursday I went 4-0 with this list at Wizard’s Tower. Here's a quick summary of the night:
- Round one I played against Mardu Aggro round one and they got mana screwed first game, then flooded the second. I ran them over.
- Round two I played against a Gates deck with Sphinx of Foresight in it. I nearly lost my entire board and a Dive Down to a Gates Ablaze due to my inability to count to five.
- Round three I played against Sultai and we went to three games. The second game I got two Curious Obsessions on a one-drop with Dive Down back-up. My opponent cast Assassin’s Trophy and I Dive Downed in response, which they responded to with Cast Down. My opponent and I both thought it was basically over at this point. I managed to Entrance his Wildgrowth Walker to come to my side of the board, then adapted both of my Pteramanders for the win.
- Round four I played against Esper Control. My opponent won the die roll and spent about a minute repeatedly yelling, “I have a chance!” I won the first game, got crushed in the second by Isolate, then turned it around and won the third.
I also went 6-3 with a Mono-Blue list tweaked for best-of-one on Arena recently:
- Round one I won against Mono-White Lifegain after using Entrancing Melody to take their Ajani’s Pridemate.
- Round two my Aristocrats opponent got off to a slow start and I got two Obsessions. You can guess who won that game.
- Round three and four I won against Mono-Red despite it being a bad matchup and me playing loosely.
- Round five I lost to Lyra locking down my board so my opponent could go March of the Multitudes for five, followed by Song of Freyalise’s third ability.
- Round six I took my opponent’s Benalish Marshal and then Merfolk Trickstered their flying Skymarcher Aspirant and attacked for lethal.
- Round seven and eight were against Esper control. Round seven I lost to a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria emblem but won round eight when my opponent used Kaya, Orzhov Usurper’s +1 ability instead of her -1.
- Round nine I lost my only creature before I had my second turn to keep up Dive Down. I then looked at my two lands on the battlefield and my hand of two Obsessions and two Dive Downs while my Mono-Red opponent beat me over the face.
I’ve found that this deck has a decent matchup against most decks with the exception of Mono-Red, and Selesnya Tokens lists playing Tithe Taker. The one matchup I have less experience with, and as such can’t really talk about, is Nexus of Fate since they no longer exist on Arena best-of-one.
That’s everything for today. If you’re thinking about playing this deck and want some useful tips on how to play it, or are tired of getting beaten by it, make sure to read my Deck Guide that will be coming out soon.