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BMoor's Magic The Gathering Deck Garage
Cryptic Visions
April 21, 2010

Today's deck fix deals with an Extended-legal monoblue permission deck. I'd like to admit, as a bit of a disclaimer, that my areas of Magical expertise are neither the Extended format nor monoblue permission. Why then, am I being so presumptuous as to offer advice on something I likely am not qualified for?

Because today's client, Old North State, has a fluency of writing and a narrative voice that rival that of Mark Twain or Tennessee Williams, and I simply could not deprive my audience of the chance to read it. Producing good articles about Magic, after all, is only 50% Magic knowhow, the other 50% is good writing.


Salutations, Mr. Moor.

Whenever able, I do try to peruse your deck fixes. I find that often times I discover a combo, new and unusual, or some fragment of sagacious advice which I may integrate into my own designs. On this occasion, however, I seek some more direct aid. Allow me a preamble to explain that I began playing at about the age of 12. My interest was aroused when I spied a box of Magic: The Gathering cards on the counter of a small toy store in South Carolina. Although I had heard tell of the game, I was essentially unaware of what the activity comprised. So, my brother and I, curious, each purchased one box and one booster; 4th edition and Ice Age, respectively, if I do properly recall. Anxiously we studied the rule book, for back then there was a printed manual; thus we taught ourselves to play. We became immediately enamored with the concept and subsequently continued to play casually with (frankly) quite terrible decks. Yet during high school, I am chagrined to tell, I sold my entire collection for cigarettes and gas money. Alas, such are the blunders of youth. By and by I moved away up to the mountains of Appalachia and was presently surprised to learn that Magic was very popular in the area. I got back into the game with fervor. This was right about when Time Spiral block was coming out; a rather fortuitous happenstance as I see it, as I was drawn swiftly back into acquaintance with all the fine mechanics and thematics which I recollected, (except for banding). This renewed ardor and appreciation for the game quickly bore me to a more involved level of play. I began entering constructed tournaments, making friends and associations with fellow collectors. Nonetheless I presently find myself beholden to those constraints which likely lay hold of many a gamer: those of work and kin, and children, other obligations which necessarily take precedence, irrespective of the desultory pangs of yearning for an abandoned hobby.

Therefore I arrive, no matter how circuitously, at my intended point, which is; I rarely play Magic anymore, perhaps once or twice every six months. I have saved up a little extra money, worked a little more over-time, and now the moment has arrived to construct a deck and unleash its devastating potential, in a genial sort of way, on all my friends. I have always favored Blue, especially mono-blue permission. However I understand that my vestigial play-group now abide by the Extended format, with which I am abysmally unconversant.

I don't know if "unconversant" is really a word, but it means what I want to say. That I am not familiar with the format as much as I'd like to be, and I am determined to play mono-blue in a pass-go style. That is the one condition on which I am insistent. So, without rambling further, my list is as follows:


20 x Island
4 x Gargoyle Castle


1 x Venser, Shaper Savant
2 x Guile


3 x Vedalken Shackles


4 x Rune Snag
4 x Remand
3 x Spell Snare
3 x Pact of Negation
2 x Cryptic Command
4 x Into the Roil
3 x Psionic Blast
3 x Careful Consideration
4 x Ancestral Vision

3 x Threads of Disloyalty

As you can rightly ascertain my main problem is with the sideboard. What do I sideboard when I play so rarely that I can't reckon on what I may be up against? Please help me by filling in those 12 empty places. As for the mainboard, although I have yet to play-test it, the one thing I do like most is Remand in conjunction with Guile. It is the combo the deck is built around. Aside from that I think my primary contentions are two-fold. Firstly, there seems to be a potential conflict between Ancestral Vision and holding off for Spell Snare. This is probably minor; something that I can figure out simply through experience, but if you have suggestions please voice them. Secondly, I don't especially like either Psionic Blast or Careful Consideration. Mayhap there are other cards which suit their purpose better, of which I am not aware. I have included Psionic Blast because it appears to fill a certain gap in the tempo, whilest bridging a divide between preventative measures and more pro-active elements. Plus it is a back up for damage to the head. I am still most unsatisfied with this one card slot. Careful Consideration fulfills its intended purpose just fine, but at four mana it disrupts what benefits in tempo I enjoy from Psi Blast. Nevertheless I feel the cycling aspect is essential, as I shall surely amass an agglomeration of land in excessive clots and mid-game Ancestral Visions ought be pitched. It just hurts my curve too much. I would run Thirst for Knowledge and Seat of Synod, but that I cannot find any Seat of Synod, and I am wary that they may create a new discordance with the Shackles. Is there some other way to achieve this effect? some alternative? I am totally perplexed.

Thank you for your time and courtesy,
~Old North State


Well, let's get right down to business, shall we? The issue with Thirst for Knowledge is the one I want to attack first. My first impulse is to recommend Compulsive Research instead, since it basically does the same thing without the dependence on artifacts. However, Compulsive Research is a sorcery, which is a problem for a permission deck. Decks of those nature want to do everything either in response to their opponents' spells, or at their opponents' end steps. What to run instead?

Further sifting through the sands of the Magic databases reveals two forgotten gems from Kamigawa block: Sift Through Sands and Peer Through Depths. One is a simple "draw two and discard" affair, and the other lets you cherry pick an instant or sorcery out of your top five cards. I personally would lean heavily towards Peer Through Depths. After all is said and done, both cards give you the same net amount of cards, but Peer Through Depths lets you peer deeper into your deck to get the card you want, and for less mana. The only real downside is that you have to show it to all players, eliminating much of the surprise factor if you choose a counterspell. It also can't draw you a land or one of your three creatures, and will in fact shunt them to the bottom of the deck if revealed. But your deck has such a high density of instants and sorceries that it shouldn't matter much. Go ahead and replace Careful Consideration with Peer Through Depths.

Next to replace is Psionic Blast. And if it's tempo you're after, my solution is deceptively simple: Signets. Ravnica Signets. Or Mind Stone, or Everflowing Chalice, or what else have you. Simic Signet is my personal favorite, but really any of the blue Signets are just as good-- I just like the artwork of the Simic soap.

If the power and genius of the Signet isn't immediately clear, imagine the following scenario.

Turn One: Island. Maybe suspending an Ancestral Visions, but it's not necessary.

Turn Two: Island, pass turn. That's right, not playing the Signet yet.

(During their Turn Two, you counter a spell.)

Turn Three: Island, Simic Signet. If you had played the Signet last turn, you wouldn't have been able to tap it for mana because your lands were tapped out. But now, you have two tapped lands, one untapped land, and a Signet. Next turn you'll make a land drop and have five mana up on turn four, and at no point in this scenario (past turn one) did you ever not have mana up for a Remand if necessary.

Mind Stone works just as well. The main advantage of the Signets is blue mana, while Mind Stone can be "cashed in" later for an extra card once its extra mana becomes superfluous... or at least less important than getting a card to spend it on. Many a Mind Stone has been cracked in response to a potentially game winning spell, in a vain hope to draw into a counterspell when one wasn't handy.

Speaking of relying on the providence of topdecks in order to counter spells, I would be remiss not to mention one of the top spell-countering combos in Extended: Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance. Here's how it works. Counterbalance triggers whenever your opponent casts a spell, reveals the top card of your library, and counters the spell if the card you revealed had the same converted mana cost. In response to this ability, you can pay (1) and use the Divining Top to rearrange the top three cards of your library, to put a card of appropriate CMC on top. This basically allows you a good chance to counter just about any spell your opponent plays, without spending a card in hand, for one mana. Not only is this incredibly cheap, it's almost impossible to combat because even if your opponent has counterspells, the revealing of the top card with Counterbalance and the rearrangement with Divining Top are both abilities, not spells, and can not be countered by anything that counters spells. The best part is that the two combo pieces are an artifact and an enchantment, and most players don't maindeck Naturalize-type cards. Further icing on the cake is that they're both uncommon cards.

Now to fill your sideboard. This is the part I usually skip, since a sideboard is your opportunity to adapt your strategy to that of your opponent, and I can't build you a goo done if I don't know what kinds of decks your opponents will throw at you. But there are a few simple things you can do. Flashfreeze is a good color hoser and a strong counterspell when it finds a good target. Annul is about as useful to a blue mage as Naturalize is to a green one, which is to say, very. And if you find yourself needing more win conditions, then Memnarch is worth a shot, as is Oona, Queen of the Fae.

Good luck!




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Magic the Gathering Deck Fixes