Back to Basics - The 10 Most Played Mono-Blue Cards in Commander

The featured image for the article on the top 10 most played mono-blue cards in commander depicts Intrude on the Mind by Magali Villeneuve from Murders at Karlov Manor
(Intrude on the Mind | Art by Magali Villeneuve)

The Body Grows Stronger Under Stress. The Mind Does Not.

In today's edition of the Back to Basics series, I'll discuss the top 10 most played mono-blue cards in Commander. Much like my last article on the most commonly played green cards, the color blue gives you a ton of redundancy when it comes to certain effects. You probably already know what I mean if you've played with or against blue decks. So, I'll do what I did last week and group together these commonly utilized categories of spells and write about them as a whole. That gives me more room to talk about blue's more unique and powerful effects that see a lot of play in the format, much to many players' chagrin in some cases. Let's dive in!

Honorable Mentions - New Hotness from Karlov Manor

In my article on the most played Commander cards fromKarlov Manor (MKM), I talked about how Forensic Gadgeteer was a sweet value card that could help some blue decks reach that critical mass of artifacts they need to go brrr. What I didn't mention was its combo potential combined with Basalt Monolith. Thanks to Commander Spellbook, we see how Gadgeteer's second ability generates infinite colorless mana with Monolith.

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We're also seeing several more mono-blue cards from MKM make a splash in the format. Case of the Ransacked Lab is both an enabler and a payoff for spells-matters decks. Having to cast four instants and/or sorceries to solve the case and unlock the card draw may seem steep. On the other hand, you get the cost reduction upfront and it combines well with other splashy enchantments like Thousand-Year Storm, Jace's Sanctum, and Fiery Inscription.

Finally, Proft's Eidetic Memory is one of my favorite cards from the set, so I'm happy to see it slot into a decent number of Commander decks. I love cards that go off the beaten path from what colors normally like to do. Having access to a blue card that threatens to grow creatures can give some decks a unique angle of attack without costing too much. According to EDHREC data, deckbuilders are combining Eidetic Memory with sweet synergy cards like Magus of the Wheel, Chasm Skulker, and Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse, among others.

10. Archmage Emeritus

This Strixhaven: School of Mages card being the most played mono-blue creature is a neat microcosm of how many blue-heavy decks play out. Blue boasts a very high density of spells-matter cards. It's reasonable that mono- or two-color blue decks may end up light on creatures. On the other hand, decks that are multicolor with blue in the mix do have access to a ton of powerful gold creatures that offer more synergy and inevitability than anything blue might offer, apart from Thassa's Oracle, which is a little lower than Emeritus on the most-played list.

It's a testament, then, to the card's sheer utility and synergy with the blue spell theme that this 2/2 sees this much play in Commander. While it does cost four mana, it's very likely to draw you a million cards just by letting you do your thing and playing a normal game of Magic with your deck. Archmage Emeritus isn't picky, meaning you can slot it into a combo-style deck or just play it early in the game before holding up counterspells and playing a more controlling game.

9. Propaganda

This enchantment is a pillar of controlling strategies in Commander. It slows down games, forces your opponents to make awkward choices, and gives you a lot of influence over the combat phase. Even in a format where decks tend to play a lot of mana sources, forcing opponents to pay two mana for each attacker will usually give you the time you need to assemble your game-winning combos or otherwise enact your gameplan. At its worst, it forces an opponent to use up a removal spell on it, which isn't a bad exchange in the early or mid-game.

It's also a staple in Enchantress-style decks, as evidenced by its consistent inclusion alongside cards like Sanctum Weaver, Eidolon of Blossoms, and Setessan Champion. You can also slot this into "prison"-style decks where it combines with Ghostly Prison, Sphere of Safety, and other enchantments to grind the game down to a halt. You can play decks that incorporate both of these aspects, or you can lean into more into one theme.

8. Pongify, Reality Shift, and Rapid Hybridization

It's safe to say that Commander as a format is about doing sweet and splashy things. While blue decks have a ton of ways to make this happen, it would be difficult to consistently win games without some kind of removal. Blue removal tends to come in the form of bounce spells, semi-permanent tapping effects, and the occasional "tuck" onto the top or bottom of the deck. These types of effects are pretty bad in Commander, so when a card like Pongify is printed, people will run it in their decks!

Like Beast Within in green, Pongify, Reality Shift, and Rapid Hybridization offer an uncommon and powerful effect in their color and come with a drawback that will only come back to bite you once in a while.

7. Frantic Search

This card is technically card disadvantage, because you spend a card to cast it and don't end up with more resources in your hand after you draw two and discard two. That doesn't stop it from being one of the most played cards in the format, because it's pretty unbeatable as an enabler for the various ways blue decks like to play. It's an instant, so it works well with spells-matter themes and lets you keep casting spells by untapping your lands.

Frantic Search puts cards in the graveyard, where they can be taken advantage of later in a variety of ways. It's also effective filtering, digging you towards high-impact cards. It adds to your storm count, and it can ramp you when combined with lands that produce more than one mana or cards that reduce the cost of your spells.

It also lets you cast a card like Vampiric Tutor and then use it to cast the spell you fetched on the same turn. It's so easy to find a way that Frantic Search could help smooth your draws or further your gameplan, so I'm not surprised that it sees a ton of Commander play.

6. Windfall

There are Magic cards that tell you explicitly what they do or that make it pretty clear how to build around them. In blue, I'm thinking of cards like Treasure Cruise, Etherium Sculptor, and Teferi's Ageless Insight. There are also cards that invite you to break them in a way that may not be completely obvious from reading the card. In his articles for the Magic website, Head Designer Mark Rosewater has called these cards lenticular, referring to how they change depending how you look at them. I think Windfall is the perfect example of this.

At first glance, the card may look powerful, because if you cast it when you're low on cards, you get a refill. Then, you may realize that your opponent gets to draw cards too, which may be bad for you if they had already dumped their cards. Eventually, more experience playing Magic would teach you that draw-sevens are among the most powerful effects in the game if you build your deck to take advantage of them.

The best thing about Windfall is that you can do this in many different ways that may or may not synergize with each other. First, dumping your hand into the graveyard can power up reanimation or spells-matter strategies. You can also make the card devastating to your opponent by pairing Windfall with Narset, Parter of Veils or Notion Thief. You can even play an aggressive or storm-based strategy where you dump your hand early on and get another full grip, even if your opponent gets a few new cards, too. However you end up using it, casting a Windfall rarely leads to an uneventful game, and that's a great place for a spell to be in the format.

5. One-mana Cantrips

Cantrips give deckbuilders a compelling reason to play blue, because cheap card selection in a singleton format is valuable in Commander and uncommon in other colors. For one mana and a card slot, you can dig towards your win condition, an answer, or another set-up spellwhatever you need at the time! They're also unobtrusive ways to trigger spells-matter cards, and they synergize especially well with several commanders, including Eruth, Tormented Prophet, Alandra, Sky Dreamer, and Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign.

4. Brainstorm

I wouldn't fault anyone for thinking that Brainstorm could be grouped with the other cantrips on this list, but I think a card as iconic and powerful as this should have its own place of honor. Plus, I think it functions differently enough that it really should get its own spot. What makes Brainstorm better than other cheap filter cards like Ponder and Preordain is its commonly utilized synergy with shuffle effects like fetch lands. After you draw three cards and put the worst two on top of your deck, a shuffle effect resets your draw and makes Brainstorm pretty similar to Ancestral Recall.

It's also a very difficult card to play optimally, as you might learn from the thousands upon thousands of words written about the card on online forums since the advent of the internet. Brainstorm is a card that's been woven into the fabric of Magic: the Gathering, and I think it's very cool that it's also found a home in Commander, where it can help you sculpt your hand with the best singletons for the job.

3. Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora

Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora are two cards that are also part of the rich tapestry of Magic, but in a different way. Even players who are less familiar with Commander will surely have heard or read the phrase "Do you pay the one?" at least once. This demonstrates how divisive these two cards can be, especially for multiplayer EDH enthusiasts. A reasonable criticism of this type of card is that it slows games down and forces players to devote a nonzero amount of mental energy to remembering all the triggers the card creates, when they could instead be enjoying the game.

This can be pretty frustrating, but there's no doubt that Rhystic Study and to a lesser extent Mystic Remora are important tools in the arsenal of control players who need longer games to enact their plans.

2. Cyclonic Rift

If blue as a color is so desperate for good removal that Pongify and friends see a lot of play, then you might assume the same thing is true for blue sweepers and the prevalence of Cyclonic Rift. While you wouldn't be too far off in that estimation, you only need to cast a huge Overload Rift, or fall victim to one, before you realize that this card is actually a complete beating and one of the most important spells in the format.

It's very difficult for this card to be bad at any point in the game. At its worst, you can spend two mana to temporarily remove the most threatening permanent from play. At best, you can reset the board for everyone but yourself. This flexibility lends itself to Rift's ubiquity in blue decks, with tutors also letting you cast it in more spots where it would be devastating for your opponents. Imagine casting this and playing more action after stopping a huge threat with a Mana Drain. Speaking of which....

1. Counterspells

I don't think it's a hot take to say that counterspells are the iconic effect in blue, especially now that the card advantage share of the color pie has largely been redistributed. Having access to counterspells is why blue tends to be awful at permanently dealing with resolved threats. It's also why blue tends to be one of the more-played colors in many older formats like Legacy and Vintage. Being able to simply say "no" to an opposing spell, especially one that might have cost more mana, is exceedingly powerful and valuable in a threat-heavy format like Commander.

What may be a hot take is that I think having counterspells as the most common blue effect in Commander helps keep the format fun and balanced. I believe that most decks should play a mix of threats and answers, because an interactive game of Magic is the most fun kind of game to me. I do think that all-in strategies contribute positively to format diversity, but they should also be more vulnerable to interaction as a trade-of for being able to win quickly.

Madness and Genius Are Separated Only by Degrees of Success

And that's the top 10 most played mono-blue cards in the books. With all the cantrips and counterspells available to deckbuilders, I'd love to hear how readers choose which to play. Which cards reward you for playing a particular version that may be worse than its peers at face value? Likewise, which mono-blue creatures do you like running even in your spell-based decks?

I'll be back next time for another mono-colored top 10 list. See you then!

Read more:

Back to Basics - The 10 Most Played Mono-Black Cards in Commander

Digital Deckbuilding - How To Find EDH Combos On EDHREC And Commander Spellbook

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