Superior Numbers - Cards Caring about Colors: Blue
Looking Forward to Happier Times on Blue Bayou
Welcome to Superior Numbers, where I try to do numerical analysis on cards and deckbuilding trends using a little bit of math.
Let's finish up the Sultai colors for this little series, shall we? Most of these are cards from Magic’s earliest days, when a card that either utterly destroys your opponent or is totally worthless depending on which deck they picked up was considered good design. Luckily we've learned (Companions) from those mistakes (free spells) and no longer see disruptive cards (Oko, Thief of Crowns) that prevent people from playing the game (Teferi, Time Raveler) show up in our sets.
EDH is a multiplayer format, though, and it’s way less likely that you’ll wind up with a dead card in hand just because your opponent isn't playing a certain deck. You generally have three or four of those opponents as well, which means that there’s a greater likelihood that one of them will be playing the color that interacts with what you have in hand. As a result of all of that, some of these older, forgotten cards that fixate on a particular color wind up putting in a decent amount of work in Commander, and I'd like to take a look at a few of them.
Oh, 'cause Blue Skies are Coming
Abjure is going to be one of the two cards here that more care about you playing blue as opposed to your opponent playing blue, but I want to talk about it because it's an absolute house in Talrand, Sky Summoner. There, it's basically a one-mana hard counter, and it's sometimes better than that, as you often swap a tapped Drake you attacked with for a newly-created untapped one that can block and may even proc a trigger from something like Kindred Discovery. Sure, it's dead if you don't have a blue permanent to sacrifice, but the reality is that if you don't have a Drake to spare you're probably in such a bad position that a counter isn't going to save you from whatever is being cast.
While Talrand is the only commander that makes a replacement permanent when you sacrifice one to Abjure, commanders like Alela, Artful Provocateur, Breya, Etherium Shaper, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, Meloku, the Clouded Mirror, Oona, Queen of the Fae, and The Locust God all provide disposable sacrifice fodder, in the form of tokens, from the command zone. Decks like Edric, Spymaster of Trest also have small, disposable bodies on board to spare, making it a really solid choice there, too.
It's currently in just 1,100 decks, and it really should be in more, especially the ones mentioned above.
Inundate is in 1,272 decks, which also isn't nearly enough. Yeah, it's six mana with trip blue pips, and yes, it's sorcery speed, but in a mono-blue deck it's a mass bounce spell that doesn't touch your stuff. The main downside is that, as we're about to see with the rest of the cards in this article, there're a whole lot of blue commanders out there showing up in EDH pods.
How I Got These Lonesome Johnny Blues
Lightning Dart and Parch are both spells you'd probably only consider in mono-red, and even then probably only in a fairly narrow meta. Still, I think they're both playable in the right situation, specifically as cheap, instant-speed ways to deal with problem commanders. Which commanders? Well, it just so happens that:
- 9 of top 20 most popular commanders in the last week are blue with 4 or less toughness
- 10 of the top 20 most popular commanders in the last month are blue with 4 or less toughness
- 6 of the top 20 most popular commanders in the last week are blue with 4 or less toughness
How many does Lightning Bolt hit as a comparison? Less than Lightning Dart or Parch:
- 6 of top 20 most popular commanders in the last week
- 7 of the top 20 most popular commanders in the last month
- 3 of the top 20 most popular commanders in the last 2 years
Again, I don't think you run it everywhere, but if you're in mono-red and you're seeing Kalamax, the Stormsire, Kess, Dissident Mage and Atraxa, Praetor's Voice in every pod, it's possibly worth a slot.
She's a Child of the Wild Blue Yonder
Green has what seems like infinite ways to blast through damage if an opponent has a dense board state, but things are a little harder when you're in red and want to go send in the troops. Heat Wave is an enchantment in red that lets you punch through combat damage against blue decks. How effective is it?
- 14 of top 20 commanders in the last week are blue and can't block creatures you control
- 14 of the top 20 commanders in the last month
- 12 of the top 20 commanders in the last year
Magistrate's Veto is even better, as it also makes your stuff unblockable by both white creatures and blue creatures, raising the stats to:
- 18 of the top 20 commanders in the last week are blue or white and can't block your creatures you control
- 18 of the top 20 commanders in the last week are blue or white
- 16 of the top 20 commanders in the last week are blue or white
There are fewer white and blue bodies on the creature list, with only 40% of the top 100 most frequently played creatures in the last two years being blue or white, but still, having 4 out of 10 blockers be unable to actually block is pretty effective.
Magnetic Mountain doesn't really help poke through damage, but it's an enchantment that can shut down blue creatures, and, in particular, a lot of the ones mentioned in the section on Abjure above. The stats from Heat Wave show what percentage of commanders get locked down and require an exorbitant four mana to untap. This is, again, probably a meta call, but, in a meta where it consistently works, it's an absolute nightmare to see hit the field.
She Wore Blue Velvet
Extra turns? In green? It's more likely than you think. Enter Seedtime, a card in a mere 458 decks, that lets you take an extra turn for two mana if an opponent casts a blue spell on your turn. How often can that happen? Are many instants blue? It turns out yes, many are.
- 3 of the 5 most popular all-time instant spells are blue
- 45 of the 100 most popular of all-time instant spells are blue
Counterspelling me? That's an extra turn. End of turn Brainstorm or Fact or Fiction? Extra turn. Flashing in a Notion Thief or Venser, Shaper Savant? Extra turn.
Snake Pit puts Snakes on the field so fast you'll think it's a twitter feed, and it's not just blue spells that do it; black ones proc the snek, too. It's in 330 decks, which isn't very many for a card that gets triggered by so many things.
- 17 of 20 top commanders in the last two years are blue or black
- 18 of 20 top planeswalkers
- 9 of 20 top enchantments
- 8 of 20 top sorceries
- 12 of 20 top instants
Basically, aside from artifacts, if someone plays a spell it has a better than 50% chance to make you a Snake, and that's an excellent rate for a Set It and Forget It enchantment. And if your opponent decides to not cast spells to avoid giving you the body? That's a win and worth the price of casting the card, too.
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
So, as of writing this article, Joey Schultz has successfully used one of these two cards to blow up a game-saving or game-ending counterspell three weeks in a row. He's right to be running them in red decks that lack blue, too. They have SOOOOO many targets. The same stats apply here as to Heat Wave and Magistrate's Veto:
- 14 of top 20 last week die to a single red mana from Red Elemental Blast/Pyroblast
- 14 of the top 20 last month
- 12 of the top 20 last year
There're plenty of other great ways to use both, obviously, but, for me personally, I'd pay one red mana for a modular spell whose modes were:
- Counter/destroy 2/3 of the most popular commanders in the last two years
- Counter 99% of counterspells
- Counter/destroy target Rhystic Study or Cyclonic Rift
And they both do so much more than that.
You're Sailing Out on a Blue, Blue Sea
I’d like to leave off with a decklist of mine actually running Abjure and that has ran Inundate in the past. How many of you out there are running any of these color-specific cards focused on blue or are interested giving them a look? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and as always, may your numbers be superior.
Talrand, Sky Summoner: Drakestorm
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