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Some Azure Analysis

Over the time I've played magic, my tastes in decks have altered drastically. This is true of every single one of us, of course; we start off loving the Craw Wurm, and the Sengir Vampire (two cards in my very first starter deck), and we begin to play Magic learning that might is right. That, when x/y = power and toughness of creature, if x > 3, then the beats are plentiful, and hi-ho along our merry way! Smashing good, Holmes! And along the beginnings of this adventure, more often than not you will not have blue cards, whether it's because you don't have any of the better cards, or just because, "You hate blue."

If you become more competitive, though, you'll find yourself a bit more enamoured with the power of counterspells, of control-oriented cards. If you are a bit of a megalomaniac, it'll come more naturally to you (as it certainly did for me), but in many cases, it'll certainly come. The whole color, what it can do, gives you the ability to outplay an opponent, rather than overpower them. When you win with a blue deck, it can come in such a dominating fashion that you don't want *not* to play a deck like it in the future.

With this in mind, I'd like to look at what are probably my two favorite decks from U.S. Nationals. Admittedly, I am a bit biased towards one of them, since it was developed by friends, but it is still a definite blast to play. And why all the preamble? These are two primarily blue decks, one of them being a more traditional style of blue, while the other is a lock-down deck, with some interesting methods of victory.

First, I will present to you the newest version of Chevy Blue, as played by Adrian Sullivan and Bob Maher. This is a deck that has evolved over time, originally containing Air Elemental as the primary kill card. Seventh edition did a fantastic job of making this deck more powerful, providing the incredibly powerful Mahamoti Djinn and Thieving Magpie, and almost transforming the deck. Here is the version of the deck played at Nationals:

Xerox Control, "Turbo Chevy"

18 Island
4 Thieving Magpie
2 Glacial Wall
2 Temporal Adept
2 Mahamoti Djinn
4 Opt
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Accumulated Knowledge
2 Thwart
3 Foil
1 Misdirection
4 Counterspell
4 Memory Lapse
4 Repulse
1 Tsabo's Web
1 Wash Out

1 Predator, Flagship
4 Rootwater Thief
2 Glacial Wall
2 Temporal Adept
1 Alexi, Zephyr Mage
1 Mana Maze
1 Misdirection
1 Teferi's Response
2 Wash out

There are several features of this deck that immediately jump out at you. Eighteen land is the first one, and in a mono-blue concept, initially looks terrible. However, the theory of cantrip vs. land comes into play here, and I can assure you that you can get by with that smaller amount of land. If you count, there are twenty-one cards in the deck that allow you to draw an additional card, as well as a fair number of "free," counterspells with which to defend yourself. Sleight of Hand is an absolutely amazing card, giving you a powerful early or late-game ability to sift through your deck. Accumulated Knowledge is the budget card-drawer, netting you fantastic card advantage over time. With these cheap methods of moving through your deck, you will dredge up enough land that eventually, you can sift it away.

The concept here is to time-advantage your opponent to death. Here is where the next stranger card jumps out at you: Memory Lapse. Combined with the Magpies, this card is simply fabulous. "I can't deal with you now....but give me a turn, I'll find something!" The Repulses act in a similar fashion, just putting things off long enough that you can stabilize. Temporal Adept can also do just that, locking up the game against other control decks, shutting off their land, or stunting the creature development of aggressive decks. The one-of's in the deck provide you with answers to other problems, but not in such quantities that they stunt the true purpose of the deck. If you like casting spells ALL THE TIME, then this deck is very much the one for you, as you are almost always doing something, whether it's during your turn or your opponents'.

The other deck I'm speaking of is a product of Austin, TX. Developed by Adrian Sayers and a host of other players, it proved itself quite able at Nationals, pushing Sayers to a 5-1 record, and providing several other players with very positive records. Dan Clegg piloted a very similar version of this deck to a 3-3 record in the second day, having picked it up the night before. It's name? Saproling Burt.

Saproling Burt

15 Island
7 Forest
4 Opposition
3 Static Orb
4 Spontaneous Generation
3 Saproling Cluster
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Counterspell
3 Thwart
3 Foil
3 Gush
3 Fact or Fiction
4 Accumulated Knowledge

4 Prodigal Sorcerer
2 Stinging Barrier
1 Rushing River
2 Teferi's Response
2 Temporal Adept
2 Gainsay
2 Coat of Arms

While looking similar to Sullivan's deck, there are choices here that make the differences more significant. First, Fact or Fiction and Gush provide you with a wealth of additional cards, very important when you are dealing with the kill mechanism of this deck. While Opt has been left out of the mix, Sleight of Hand is still here, the sorcery limitations not being too extreme. Since this is a two-color deck, more land is necessary, but with the amount of card-drawing, it is not too extreme.

The most notable cards you will see are the Saproling Clusters and the Spontaneous Generations. These provide fantastic synergy with the Oppositions, and can be excellent stall tactics when necessary. At other times, you can aggressively cast the Generation, and attempt to bludgeon your opponent into submission. This works especially well against a control strategy, where you can counter their key cards while your little green men slime the opponent (these are fungal creatures, after all). The lock mechanism is one that we are all very familiar with already, but the explosive nature of this deck makes it all more dangerous. A worst case scenario for a control player is, "Cast Spontaneous Generation. Counter? I'll Thwart, returning Islands to my hand." With eight to ten Saprolings coming into play at that point, it's an EXTREMELY difficult situation to get out of, nigh on impossible if an Opposition is in play. The sideboard Coat of Arms make for interesting reactions after board, when you can attack your opponent for an obscene amount of damage (the highest recorded amount from Nationals was 121 damage in a single turn, as recorded by Jonathan Job). Actually in there for defensive purposes initially, they serve as an additional kill mechanism as well.

Well, that's all for now. I'm sorry about being so infrequent lately, but I'm adjusting things around here to try to make life a little easier. I'm hoping to write more often in the near future, with some additional analysis of the post-Apoc archetypes. Personally, as I've said before, I do not believe that Apoc will have that significant an impact on constructed play until Masques-block has dropped off the face of the planet. But, we shall see, in the meantime, later, folks.

-Jonathan Pechon