Strategic Planning - Mono Blue Aggro

(Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive | Art by Randy Vargas)

Blocking is for Chumps

Hello, and welcome back to another installment of Strategic Planning, a column where we goldfish a commander's EDHREC Average Decklist to get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t before brewing them ourselves.

The commander we’ll be building around today is Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive, a mono-blue legend from Dominaria, and the 23rd most popular mono-blue commander, with 165 decks at the time of this writing. Let’s take a look at what we’re working with.

Two mana is easily manageable, even in a color as starved for efficient ramp as mono-blue. We can reasonably count on having our commander available early and often, making a focused build that abuses Tetsuko’s ability much less risky.

She has a powerful build-around unblockability, her 1/3 stats allow it to affect her herself as well. The fact that Tetsuko’s ability affects power or toughness allows us much more versatility. We can emphasize creatures with 1 power and useful on-hit effects, like Cephallid Constable, and we can also use creatures with 1 toughness and higher power, like Ovalchase Dragster, to push more damage through.

The Average List:

The EDHREC average list for Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive is as follows:

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Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

This list has an average CMC of 2.69 and a retail price of $150.17 through TCGplayer. Let's take it for a spin!

Tests Results and Fine Tuning:

1. Getting the engine running

Tetsuko’s cheap cost and the density of cheap creatures with powerful on-hit triggers in the average list meant that many opening hands allowed us to start drawing cards from creatures like Neurok Commando or Scroll Thief early in the game. Opening hands with an on-hit damage effect (and enough lands to cast it) were by far the most reliable, and the snowballing effect of our extra draws often drew us even more on-combat effects. In other words, we could simultaneously develop an impressive board state while maintaining a full hand of cards throughout the early game. Given how powerful this was in testing, and to maximize the power of our card draw creatures, we’ll make sure to include an even higher density of them in our final build, with some new additions like Deepfathom Skulker, Coastal Piracy, and Tandem Lookout, making sure we draw fistfuls of cards every time we turn our creatures sideways.

Another powerful effect that was often able to generate value in the first few turns came in the form of our 1-power or 1-toughness creatures with on-hit disruption effects. Creatures like Riptide Pilferer and Mistblade Shinobi can help to ensure none of our opponents get too explosive a start, and creature theft on combat damage like Thalakos Deceiver or Riptide Entrancer can help us defend ourselves from counterattack by stealing beefy creatures, or sabotage our opponents strategies by stealing a commander. Enchantments that add this disruption are helpful too, such as Sigil of Sleep, so they'll definitely make the final build.

2. Keeping the engine running

Though the average list was reliably able to construct a card advantage engine from its opening hand, simulated board wipes and to a lesser extent targeted removal hit us hard and were sometimes difficult to recover from. To ensure the creatures we stick on the field will generate as much value as possible while they’re out, we’ll be including a suite of Equipment that can turn even a single unblockable weenie into a must-answer threat.

Some of the strongest performers from our Equipment suite are Fireshrieker, which allows us to double up on any of our combat damage triggers, Quietus Spike, which allows any of our weenies to do a Virtus the Veiled impression, and the self-copying Bloodforged Battle-Axe, which we can use to buff the power of our 1-toughness creatures without them losing unblockability. We’ll also include Whispersilk Cloak to provide protection for key creatures, and to ensure we can still attack with at least one unblockable creature if our commander is offline. To ensure we have access to these Equipment, we’ll also include Trinket Mage, Trophy Mage, and Deadeye Quartermaster in our final brew. Trinket Mage also comes with the added utility of being able to fetch Meekstone, an effect that misses nearly every creature we’re running while causing serious problems for our opponents.

Given our commander, one of the most versatile and flavorful Equipment we could run is Umezawa’s Jitte. It can stockpile charge counters to buff our equipped creature, snipe down our opponents' utility creatures, or in a pinch, bolster our own life totals.

Another effect made much more powerful by Tetsuko’s unblockability is Cipher. Stolen Identity allows us to either copy our own creatures for even more damage triggers or fashion ourselves a copy of the biggest threat on the board. Hidden Strings can tap down our opponents' problematic permanents or provide pseudo ramp in blue by untapping our own lands or mana rocks.

3. Closing out the game

While the two or three combat damage dealt to our opponents every turn does start to add up faster than you’d expect, in a four player format where victory via combat requires us to do 120 points of damage across the table, combat damage isn’t a particularly viable win condition unless we’re able to prey on opponents who’ve already taken large chunks of damage from other sources. Since we can’t count on that, we’re going to steer into the infamous Infect mechanic to finish our opponents off before they have time to stop us. Since our commander turns every Infect creature with 1 power or toughness into a Blighted Agent, we have a good number of options, and we’ll be running most of them in our final brew.

These creatures have the added bonus of being excellent candidates for our Equipment suite; an Infect creature with double strike from Fireshrieker or a power boost from Bloodforged Battleaxe or Umezawa’s Jitte puts our opponents on a very short clock.

Our final results:

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Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

At an average CMC of 2.66 and a TCGPlayer retail price of $138.48, we’ve cut down a bit on our mana cost and how much money we’ll have to spend to achieve our dream of losing all our friends with mono-blue Infect aggro.

While goldfishing our revised brew I was pleased with the added consistency our Equipment tutors added to our threat production. Also of note, our higher density of Infect creatures increased our chances of being able to suit one up and swing in with it before our opponents realized how much trouble they’re in. Don’t expect to swing in for five unblockable Infect damage by turn 6 without cementing yourself as the archenemy of the table for the rest of the game - that's inadvisable unless you think you can finish the other three players in short order - but with careful planning and threat assessment, we can find our opponents in a moment of weakness and use Tetsuko to sneak ourselves to victory.

That’s it for this week! Please let me know in the comments if you think there’s anything I missed or if there’s a particular commander you’d like to see on a future installment of Strategic Planning!

Caleb lives in Florida and shares a small apartment with three people, two dogs, six lizards, and three snakes. After finishing a degree in psychology and computer science he now works as a musician and spends his free time reading nonfiction and doing volunteer work