Mind Bend – Mono-Blue Creatures

(Merfolk Looter | Art by Austin Hsu)

You’re Not Imagining Things

“Ask a merfolk even a simple question and the answer is a journey beyond the known.”

Sage of the Falls flavor text

Creatures. What came into your mind when you read that? Since you’re on a website dedicated to Magic: the Gathering, I’d imagine you thought about the card type. But what kind of creature did you see? Was it big, menacing, and muscular? Perhaps it was a mighty Dragon, or a plethora of Squirrel tokens.

How many of you thought about a blue creature? I know I wouldn’t. For this Mind Bend, the article series that breaks down the conventional notions of the color pie to forge new ground outside the confines of the already established, I’m featuring a pet deck of mine: a mono-blue deck entirely made of creatures.

We assign card types to colors almost as shorthand, because they fit better or are more synergistic to the color’s strategy. Look at the top 100 cards over the last two years on EDHREC by each of the colors, and you’ll find that green, the go-to for everything that breathes and hits people, contains 43% creatures. Black, red, and white all sit around a respectable 35 to 40% of creatures in their top 100. Blue, however, is just above a quarter at 26%. Because, how the heck would a deck containing only blue creatures even win? Most people might be able to suss out an all creature mono-green or Animar, Soul of Elements list.

Big trampling Dinosaurs or Elementals putting footprints all over your opponents’ faces is instantly understandable for even the newest of player. But aren’t blue creatures mostly stuffy nerd wizards who’d keel over from a stiff breeze? Yes, but perhaps we can lean into that stereotype and make our bespectacled bookworms into a table-ending threat.

Keen-eyed readers might recall that I first wrote about this deck briefly way back in the year known as 2017, for my previous article series Pure//Simple. But I never really went too far in-depth on the concept, and it has changed a whole lot since, so now is the perfect opportunity to showcase one of the decks that inspired this current article series.


Big Bad Blue

Let’s ask the mighty oracle known as EDHREC to help us sort out what blue does best. Going back to those Top 100 cards of the last two years for blue, what we find there are two specific things that blue does way more than anything else. Get ready for a “big surprise”, and when I say surprise, I mean that you will in no way be surprised to find out the following:

  • Over 30% of the top 100 cards for mono-blue either draw cards or care about drawing cards.
  • Nearly a quarter of mono-blue cards counter a spell in some way, shape, or form.

Yes, blue is very good at countering spells, and drawing cards… probably to counter more spells. Who knew? But are there creatures that can do the same? Of course there are, but packing a deck full of creatures that also counter spells just feels like Talrand, Sky Summoner with extra steps. That’s not to say that a counter package won’t be necessary; it will, it’s just that the focus should be placed elsewhere. That means that drawing cards will be the core theme for this mono-blue creatures deck, and we’ll use looters, aptly named after the original Merfolk Looter.


Swiftfoot Loots

Looters are a class of creatures that tap to draw a card, then discard a card. Keep in mind that this isn’t card advantage, as the net number of cards you’ve drawn; it’s more card selection. And, as we’ll see later, the deck is tailored to make the most of all parts of the ability.

For those that don’t know the long linage of looters, it started with Sindbad way back in Arabian Nights. This was the first two-mana creature to tap and draw a card, though the ability only allowed you to get lands and was eventually moved to green with Fa’adiyah Seer. Ice Age brought Krovikan Sorcerer that “rummaged” a la Rummaging Goblin, where you needed to have a card in hand to discard first to activate the ability. This ability has since moved to red, as evidenced by the Goblin mentioned above.

It wasn’t until Exodus in 1998 that true looting would debut in the game with the titular Merfolk Looter, and the name has stuck ever since. I’m certain that there are players that may have never tapped a Merfolk Looter that have referred to drawing and discarding “looting”. Faithless Looting, powerful enough to be banned in Modern, probably helped that term propagate these past few years.

Drawing Class

This deck is full of looters, including some that you might not be aware of. Although most will tap to loot on their own, Looter il-Kor requires the combat step. Luckily, having Shadow means that we’re usually in the clear to hit whichever player we so choose.

Bonded Fetch is a strange card from a strange set – Future Sight. To this day, it’s still the only mono-blue creature in Magic history to naturally have haste, which makes the extra one mana compared to Merfolk Looter worth it since you get the draw right away.

However, my favorite (pseudo-)looter in the deck has to be Wharf Infiltrator. Much like Looter il-Kor, Infiltrator is a two-mana creature with a great evasion ability, so it can usually guarantee hitting an opponent and getting to loot. It’s is last ability, however, that puts it over the top. Since the deck will only contain creatures and lands, anytime we loot away a creature, we can get a respectable 3/2 token for two mana. This card plus another looter means that we can put six power on the board per turn with ease.

This is the kind of interaction I live for in Commander. These seemingly odd puzzle pieces finding the right fit in a very specific deck to become an all-star. But we’re not done. Let’s talk about the commander for this mono-blue card-draw-focused all-creature deck.


Imagine No More

That’s right, Toothy, Imaginary Friend is headed out to have adventures on their own without Pir, Imaginative Rascal. It’s the perfect fit: Toothy doesn’t care if cards are discarded, as long as you drew them first. This means that any looter in the deck gives us card selection on activation, then nets us cards once Toothy leaves the battlefield.

It’s not just Toothy, Imaginary Friend that can get in on the draw and discard fun. Chasm Skulker likewise doesn’t care where the cards go once their drawn, they just want you to draw them, so you can cash in for any army of Squids later.

2020 hasn’t been great for the world, but it has been for this deck. Nadir Kraken from Theros Beyond Death acts as a second Skulker, giving us 1/1s for one mana whenever we loot. Core Set 2021 brought with it Tolarian Kraken, which means that we can keep untapping our looters and generating more draw triggers. Also, the Kraken is hilarious with Arcanis the Omnipotent. You can draw six for one mana, nine for two, and so on. Not to mention that the Kraken triggers thrice each time you tap Arcanis.

The Upside of the Downside

Much like we have creatures that feed off of drawing cards, there are a few that enjoy the back end of looting, just like Wharf Infiltrator. Curator of Mysteries lets us scry after every loot, meaning that the selection for the next loot gets better. It, itself, also has cycling, meaning that we can produce a draw and discard trigger for one blue mana.

Body Double, an already excellent card, gets insane here. Since the deck is entirely creatures, we can loot away a higher-CMC card early, like Agent of Treachery, then “reanimate” that creature with Body Double. Kederekt Leviathan, the card I discussed in that 2017 article, still has a home here, since pitching it to Unearth it later is always fantastic.


Send in the Clones

Body Double hinted at another of blue creature’s strengths – clones. If you can’t beat their threat, you can sure match it. We even get ways to copy non-creature permanents with clone exemplars Phyrexian Metamorph and Clever Impersonator. Clones provide us with ways to double up our effects with ease, meaning that we can make more looters or payoffs, whatever is needed at the time.

But the best part of clones are their interaction with our commander. Let’s say we cast Phantasmal Image with a four-counter Toothy, Imaginary Friend on the board. The legend rule says that we have to sacrifice one of our now two Toothys. So we pitch our commander, which means its leaves-the-battlefield trigger happens, and we draw four cards. Hey, look, there’s another Toothy in play (the Image from earlier), so that Toothy gets four counters for the cards that we just drew.

In essence, anytime we clone Toothy, we draw cards equal to its counters and get those counters back on the new clone. This turns any clone into a hyper-powered draw spell. Take that, Divination! Even better is that we can then recast Toothy from the command zone, draw more cards, and be ready to swing with our commander later. Clones are the peanut butter to Toothy’s chocolate.

One last super fun Toothy, Imaginary Friend interaction: Whirlpool Drake. This Drake nets us a draw trigger for each card in our hand when it comes into play and when it ultimately dies. Five cards in hand? Toothy might end up with ten counters before long, without ever needing a looter. What a beast.


Taking the On-Ramp

Now, you might be wondering how the heck we’re going to ramp in an all-creature mono-blue deck. Did you know that, although green might be known for its mana dorks like Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise, there are just enough in blue to do the job?

First, we have a trio of two-mana mana dorks. Deranged Assistant mills us a card that can be Body Doubled later. Sea Scryer somehow has existed since Mirage, and is a wizard, too (more on that later). Silver Myr is the only colorless creature in the deck, but its color identity is still blue. Yes, I went as far as to only include blue color identity cards; sorry Palladium Myr.

The next card is on the same level as Wharf Infiltrator for exact fit into this specific deck, and I love it. Mistform Warchief doesn’t tap for mana, but it does tap to reduce the cost on creature spells of the type of your choice. That means that you can end up saving two or three mana per turn, depending on the creatures in your hand. Also, Mistform Warchief starts out as an Illusion, and you know what other creature is an Illusion in this deck? Toothy.

More unconventional ramp abounds here. Vizier of Tumbling Sands, Fatestitcher, and Tidewater Minion can all untap your lands, netting you mana. If that land was Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, then it’s netting you a whole lot of mana. Beyond that, though, they can act as a second looter by untapping the first, and can give Toothy pseudo-vigilance. These are the five tool players of the deck.


Wizkids

It wouldn’t be a mono-blue all-creature deck without some Wizard tribal, right? Many of the cards that I’ve mentioned already are, somehow, Wizards. Thanks, Wizards! Let’s look at more of these role-players.

Since we love drawing cards, of course Azami, Lady of Scrolls has a home here. To that end, Sage of Fables pumps our Wizards, but it also has super synergy with Toothy where we can pay two to draw a card and Toothy nets no counters lost.

On the Counterspell front, Patron Wizard and Voidmage Prodigy give us room to have more counterspells than we would normally without taking up much space in the deck. Glen Elendra Archmage helps stop incoming board wipes and is ridiculous with Sage of Fables.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir is our Vedalken Orrery with tremendous upside, making it hard for our opponents to interact. With enough Wizards on the board, Galecaster Colossus can sure feel like Cyclonic Rift. Profaner of the Dead is an underrated wipe for any deck looking to sacrifice creatures, which is great because we may want to pop Toothy for the draw, and taking out our opponents board at the same time is beautiful.


The Wild Blue Yonder

While I can’t go into every little interaction that this deck has, this has been a work in progress for a few years now, and will still probably be one for then few years as well. Tweaking all the variables until they are just right is a good portion of the fun of building decks with extreme restrictions. Here’s the most recent build.

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Big Blue World

Can you believe that this is the 20th Mind Bend? I’ve been writing this article series for almost two years. Since I’ve shared a personal brew, and to celebrate the upcoming anniversary, I’m putting a request out there for all those builders who have used one of the lists I’ve talked about before or have a brew of their own that might bend some minds.

If you or someone you know has taken a deck outside the notions of the color pie and wants the world to know about it, please comment below or let me know on Twitter! It might be featured in an upcoming article!

Join me next month for another mind-bending brew!

Jeremy is a data analyst in his hometown of Chicago. He is the commissioner of a Commander league at a local LGS, Near Mint Games. He is also a board member for AnimeChicago, an non-profit anime club for adults, and an avid craft beer fan.