In the Old School 93/94 format there’s a card pool of 923 total cards not counting reprints. If you incorporate Fallen Empires into your format then you have a total of 1110 cards. This info was pulled from Wikipedia. So with up around a thousand cards, there are a ton that never see play. Some of these cards are bad. Some are better in other formats. And some aren’t that bad but they’re not quite strong enough to make it into a sleeve and into a deck. So in this post I’m going to look at a few blue cards that can be pretty good but don’t always see much play. Most people don’t play mono-blue but usually U/R or RUG so there’s typically limited space in decks for blue cards. Only the strongest make it in. If you don’t own any of the blue power, I suppose you might have some extra space for some of these lesser but still usable cards.
Backfire from Legends is the card that inspired me to make this post. My friend nick has an unpowered U/R burn deck with a few of these in it. I didn’t think much of it until he used it on my Juzam. It caused me to take the upkeep damage from my Juzam for a few turns without attacking. Nick has won a handful of games against me by using this card. Backfire can hold off the bigger creatures that Psionic Blast can’t get. It doesn’t work in every situation but it can buy you a few turns if you need it. If your opponent has more life than you, he or she can continue attacking and win though. It’s definitely situational, but Backfire has the potential to be great.
Giant Tortoise from Arabian Nights is essentially a 1/4 blocker. It’s cheap to cast and can block a good chunk of ground creatures. I imagine these guys could really shine against a white weenie before the Lions and Knights get get too crazy with the Crusades. Other than that, Tortoises can block Factories all day…but so can your Factories since they block as 3/3. Still, with a blocking power of 4, there’s a lot it can block.
Force Spike really shines early in the game when a big mana base hasn’t been built yet. All you need is just one mana to counter the infamous Land, Lotus, Juzam. A more common black opener is the Land, Ritual, Spector which is strong too. As long as you’ve got a single Island out, you can block those detrimental early plays. It can even be used later in the game when your opponent uses all their mana to cast a Serra or a Shivan or something. It’s also usable against Counterspells. Your opponent has two untapped Islands? Play your spells with confidence (as long as you have an extra Island leftover to Spike their Counterspell)! I’ve used this card quite a bit and it’s typically worked out pretty well. Not always, but often.
Between Counterspell, Force Spike, and then Flash Counter, and Remove Soul, you can pack your deck with countering abilities. They’re all cheap costing no more than 2 mana. Flash Counter can be very useful. It counters Lightning Bolt, Psionic Blast, Swords, Disenchant, Terror, Counterspell, and plenty more. Pretty much every deck out there has at least one of those cards running in it. Remove Soul can only counter creatures but creatures can be a pretty huge threat at times. Of all the countering spells available, I would go as far to say that Remove Soul is probably the least effective.
I figured I’d try these cards out together in a deck and see how they really work. In theory it can potentially counter everything thrown at you while you get out your creatures and swing.
I have all the cards I mentioned up top plus some blue staples: Psionic Blast, Flying Men, Serendib Efreet, and Unstable Mutation. Also two restricted cards: Braingeyser and Recall. One Serendib Djinn to come out and pummel towards the end while the opponent is open because everything he or she has tried to play has been countered.
So how well does it actually work? Not too well actually. I didn’t play it a ton but the games I did play I mostly lost. The Flash Counter and Remove Soul are very situational and I didn’t ever seem to have them in my hand when I needed them. The Counterspells worked great of course and the Force Spike did at times too. They both can counter anything so they were much more versatile. Backfire worked great at times but Psionic Blast was much more versatile on creature control. It would have been better to have four Psionic Blasts and one less Backfire or one less of the Tortoise, Flash Counter, or Remove Soul.
Overall, I believe that mono-blue doesn’t work incredibly well on its own but blue can be incredibly strong with another color particularly red or red and blue. For a while I messed around with a mono-blue aggro deck. The only control it had was Psionic Blast which I often used to hit the opponent. The deck didn’t work incredibly well but it was better than this counter deck. It still had a similar problem though: it was dependent on drawing specific cards at certain times in the game to win. When it happened, the deck was incredibly powerful and fast, but when it didn’t I was just sitting defenseless getting pummeled.
Even when decks don’t turn out to be good it’s always fun to theorize about card combinations and deck tech and then try it out. If it doesn’t work then now you can add that to your knowledge of understanding Magic theory. I’m not particularly skilled in that area as I never seriously played Magic until I got into Old School last spring. Since then I’ve learned a ton and a lot of it was from building and playing crappy decks.
So what else is going on? There’s a new Old School blog out there called The Enchanted Forest and the first couple of posts are about his mono-black deck. It’s pretty awesome that we are continually getting more Old School blogs popping up! Go over and check it out.
Also, I’ve been slacking big time over here on this blog. It’s been two weeks I think since the last post? However long it’s been, it’s been too long. I’ve got about four or five posts in the works and there’s a handful of potential events in the New England area over the next few months which I’ll be writing about. Also, I’m very open to guest posts so send me an email if you’re interested in writing something! You can contact me through the blog or just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.