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The Other Side of Blue

Counterspell.  Two little mana, three little words, one huge card.  Ever since the beginnings of Magic, people have had to face the fear of their opponent having two blue mana open.  Today is no different, except for everything being worse. 

With every set comes more Counterspell variants.  Some are good, some are playable, and some should have been another neat blue trick instead.  Speaking of neat tricks, this article is based on some of the things blue can do without the almighty Counterspell.  In my small amount of play-testing lately, I have been using several decks based at least in part in blue that do not run Counterspells.  While this baffles many a person, I do not feel that Counterspell is a must in every blue deck.  Blue has so very much more to offer.

The decks I am speaking of both use a fair amount of bounce, and Boomerang takes the spot as the characteristic double blue casting cost instant.  While neither of these decks are top notch, and they havenít received heavy testing or tweaking, I believe both of them could have a small impact on the type 2 scene.  A blue-green land denial deck is a weird thing to face, and most people donít know how to handle it.  The tempo gained by this deck is amazing and, if things are working properly, very difficult to recover from.

Before I go any further, let me supply you with a sample deck list.

U/G Land Bounce
By Andrew Chapman
3 Thought Devourer
4 Thieving Magpie
4 Aven Fogbringer
4 Birds of Paradise

4 Churning Eddy
4 Temporal Spring
4 Boomerang
3 Creeping Mold
3 Mana Breach
4 Deep Analysis

9 Forest
10 Island
4 Yavimaya Coast

As you see, this deck is based mostly on blue, though it does have almost an equal dependency on green.  There are no Counterspells of any form in sight.  You might be wondering why Deep Analysis is in a deck with no ways of discarding it or putting it the graveyard.  The fact is, after a Mana Breach is on the table, it is often hard to keep casting 4-cc spells.  Deep Analysisís flashback allows for a 2 mana spell to draw more cards.

This deck has proven to be very annoying to play against, and it has beaten several top notch decks.  The tempo advantage gained by this deck is rough to deal with, while this deck has the potential of dealing with almost anything.  Churning Eddy is a tide turner for this deck, as it can swing the tempo to your advantage when it previously wasnít.

In short, while this deck wonít win many tournaments, it just may win the one you play it in.  It does its thing to almost every deck.  Upheavals are hard to come by with all the land disruption, and Tog has problems when it canít keep Psychatog on the table.  Trenches has problems dominating without the abundance of land that it needs, and you can just forget about a Squirrel Nest giving you many problems.  Wurm tokens make great bounce targets, and few decks can deal with all the flying creatures this deck produces. 

Ok, on to the next deck.  Though it has been given some thought among more competitive players, Cephalid Constable still seems to be sitting in the background, waiting for somebody to pick it up and kill people with it.  Bounce is the Constableís middle name, and a deck built around it should be able to bounce things well.  Again, Boomerang shows itself as the two mana cure all for this deck, instead of the almighty Counterspell.

Reckless Constable
By Andrew Chapman
4 Cephalid Constable
4 Flametongue Kavu

11 Island
7 Mountain
4 Shivan Reef


4 Fire/Ice
4 Aether Burst
4 Boomerang
4 Reckless Charge
2 Upheaval
2 Wash Out
4 Repulse
2 Rushing River
4 Opt

Here we have another deck that doesnít rely on Counterspells to carry it through the game.  The whole deck is geared at keeping the path clear for the Constable.  Once the Constable starts doing damage, the game is well in hand.  A Reckless Charge can quickly change the game in your favor, and Upheaval-Constable means game-over against almost every deck.  For defense, bouncing the Constable can help you save it for further use, and bouncing FTKs can really damper any of the creatures your opponent has in your way.   

Again, major deck types have some issues with this deckís tempo advantage.  Getting all the way to turn 4 and having almost (if not all) of your permanents played thus far to your hand is devastating.  Opt and Ice help ensure you can get this happening as quickly as possible.  Two Upheavals serve as the late game win, when recovery is impossible through other methods.  Only decks with a one mana burn spell (some R/G variants) and Control Black with Innocent Blood can deal with a Constable after an Upheaval.  Notice that Tog, Quiet Speculation, and others are not on this list. 

This deck has more potential, I believe, than the Land Bounce deck above, but both are hefty contenders for a Top 8 finish.  I encourage all of you to try these things out and see for yourself what the power of bounce can do.  As with any of my decks and ideas, if you have comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact me. 

The next deck was sent in to me by a reader after my last article.  Though there are some Counterspell variants in the deck, the deck is based upon a different aspect of blue: cheap, efficient flyers.  The following deck list is intended for use with the future Extended environment, understanding that Onslaught may change things around some.  If the creator of this deck submits any changes to me, I will try to include them in my next article.  Anyway, here it is:  

Keeping The Rites
by Chris Hoffman

16 Islands
4 Shivan Reef

4 Brainstorm
3 Thwart
3 Foil
4 Keep Watch
4 Rites of Initiation

2 Reef Shaman
4 Cloud of Fairies
4 Cloud Sprite
4 Metathran Soldier
4 Cloudskate
4 Dream Thrush

This deck is fairly simple in design, but also narrow for handling a variety of threats.  It is supposed to win before these threats manifest however.  Typical play has you having 4 flyers by turn 4, attacking, casting Keep Watch, and then casting Rites of Initiation for the win.  Going against my theme for the day, this deck does provide itself with a small amount of counter backup.  The counters are not the main focus of blueís contribution to this deck, though.  This deck concentrates on the flux of small, flying creatures that blue is able to provide.

I have a few rants to go through before I close out for this time.  The Wishes are grossly misplayed in type 2.  Cunning Wish isnít nearly as good as most would like it to be, as tempo advantage is something blue doesnít like to lose.  Burning Wish may see some play, once people realize that some of the best board clearing spells available are Sorceries (Upheaval, Wrath of God, Obliterate).  The real sleeper of all these, though, is Golden Wish.  Sideboards have typically been full of cards to hose other decks, and nothing hoses people like good enchantments.  Compost, Aegis of Honor, the COPs, Chill, Light of Day, Back to Basics, etc. are all enchantments.  Enlightened Tutor has been taken care of in many formats because of how powerful it is.  Golden Wish is just as powerful, and much less appreciated than its Tutor brethren. 

Brainburst keeps getting more and more funny to me.  First they cry poverty and start charging people to utilize the worthwhile parts of their site.  Now they are advertising for more premium writers, of which they will pay.  They canít be doing that poorly if they can afford to hire more writers for their site.  To all of you who actually PAY to read their garbage, youíre being duped, big time.  The Pojo seems to make it by just fine, and they have been going for longer than Brainburst has.  Other sites donít have any complaints about monetary problems, and give away cash weekly to their guest writers.  Some sites are self run, and experience no problems.  How is that Brainburst is the ONLY site that requires you to pay to see their stuff?  There seems to be some problems here.

I have been watching the 8th edition votes go by, and I honestly donít care what makes it or not.  The way I figure it is this.  Normally, I wouldnít get the opportunity to select, so why should I concern myself with it now?  Here is a problem I see, though.  WotC not only has the audacity to split up Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves for 8th edition, they find it better to make the Magic community vote upon it.  Birds are the only card of the four that REALLY matters, yet they give it up to a bunch of clowns to make a mistake out of it.  It is really stupid to split the tandem of Birds and Elves up, but to slap us all in the face with it by making us choose is the stupidest thing since, well, Magic Online.

The vote between Rewind and Dismiss was an interesting one, but somehow Rewind won.  Iím not sure why, as Rewindís special effect will simply be a random ability now, not like the tandem of spells with the similar ability back in Urza Block, not to mention the lands that could be abused by them.  Dismiss packs an ability that is always useful, Draw a Card.  Oh well, leave another one up to common stupidity.

Nekrataal winning was so expected that it was ridiculous.  The problem I had with was that there were actually people who DIDNíT vote for it.  On one side was a clearly playable card that had been used before in numerous decks.  On the other side was a card that most people couldnít even tell you what it did, IF they even knew it existed.  You tell me why Nekrataal didnít receive all the votes.

Of all the funny things about the voting for 8th edition, it was the vote on the art for Thorn Elemental.  Both versions were done by the same person, and were very close to the same picture, save for the different poses the Elemental was in.  Basically, you werenít voting on an art, you were all voting on the pose you wanted to see olí Thorny in.  Good grief.

Thatís all for now folks.  If you have any comments or suggestions, you know how to reach me (in case you donít, the info is below).

Until Counterspell ĖVs- Boomerang is voted on for 8th editionÖ

Andrew Chapman


AIM: wchrisrock





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