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In Defense of Blue
By Nick DiPasquale
The funniest rumor I've ever heard in the game of Magic was the rumor that they were going to ban Islands.

I've noticed there's a lot of blue-hate in magic, especially in casual circles of this game. I can understand that a little bit, as most people don't find playing a well tuned countermagic deck very fun at all. Also, with so many different counterspells in the game, itís relatively easy to build a deck that's almost totally composed of them, something anyone can do and be really annoying with. I see this hate all the time, since I am at heart, and always have been a blue player. I find it more than a little overblown to say the least, as I can't even play an Island without hearing a comment or two, and as soon as I tap two blue and play the dreaded Counterspell, I get the "ooo you're playing a counterspell deck, you're evil," speech. I try to tell them that I only have five in the deck(four basic Counterspells and 1 Desertion) but it doesn't really help. Blue really isn't that dangerous. Yes, it can be with any moron able to build the 25+ counterspell deck, but is a well tuned tournament blue deck really any more dangerous than any other tournament deck to a casual player? If you know how blue works, it really isn't any more dangerous than anything else to play. Certain decks can handle the 25+ counterspell annoy-fast deck just fine(though others get annoyingly buried), other tournament level decks have to be able to handle blue, and your generic blue deck with a few counterspells really shouldn't be a problem with a little education and experience. The problem I see is that thanks to decks like these, blue gets a reputation it doesn't deserve. With some common courtesy to not build decks that are completely annoying to play against or your tourney monster decks for that matter, along with some idea how to play with or against a blue deck, blue should be able to be a part of the casual environment.

The biggest problem with blue is experience. I find most people don't know how to play with or against a blue deck. In most casual circles, blue doesn't really get played, and without playing or seeing blue decks, you really don't learn how to deal with them. I'm new to the scene I'm in right now, and before I got there, some of these guys have never really seen a blue deck outside of being traumatized by a blue power-deck a couple of times. Some people might view this as a good thing, having an unwritten rule that people don't play blue, but I think it takes away from the game. All you really need is a little experience on how games with blue work.

First off, I've met too many people who don't know how to play blue. As a blue player, I almost want to strangle someone when they counter something dumb like 2/2 bears early in the game, especially when they waste one of only 4-6 in the deck on that. Unless you're playing a deck with piles and piles of counterspells(and not making yourself popular with it) playing blue takes strategy. Decisions must be made: Do I need to counter this, or can I handle it? Do I tap out to play this creature/spell? How many counterspells do I put in this deck? I could write and write about this, but itís better to learn through actually playing. The key is that countermagic is first and foremost to disrupt your opponent at the worst time. Saving it for when it really counts. Letting your opponent play spells that don't really scare you, then countering the bomb. Saving your mana unless you either really need something on the board or have something that can turn the game. Some people may abandon this sort of deck when they build it and it doesn't seem to work, or at least, it doesn't seem to work as well as the counterspell decks they've been beaten over the head with. A deck with 5-12 counterspells plays as well as you play it. My advice is to build a deck with 12-15 counterspells, and practice. Learn how to play and how not to play the deck. See what works, and what doesn't, and how to not run out of them before you really need them. One of the things you gain from learning how to play blue, is how to play against it. Once you know how the deck works, you also learn how to screw the deck over.

Second, playing against blue takes some strategy as well. First off, if you're playing a casual combo-type deck, you might want to pass on games against blue. Unless your deck is really tight, or ready for countermagic, blue is the arch-enemy of combos. A good blue deck/player will just sit there and let you do everything until the final piece of the combo, which gets countered. If your deck relies on the combo, you can rely on the fact that the blue deck will never let you see it. Creature decks should be able to handle blue a lot better, and most casual decks tend to be creature based. There are a few keys to beating blue, some of which take place before you even draw your cards. First of all, blue has piles of spells to destroy your spells as they're being cast, while next to none to deal with a permanent on the table. Playing against blue, dead cards in your deck hurt you twice as bad. Having a spell in your deck that doesn't really accomplish anything hurts twice as bad since it is something your blue opponent does not have to counter, and you'll need to waste their counters. A second thing to consider when playing against blue is mana. You can only play 1 land a turn, and this hurts blue more than it hurts your creature deck. Countermagic costs mana, and in the beginning of the game this is in short supply. Therefore, this early part of the game is where you want to hurt them. One way to do this is to put a number of low casting cost hitters in your deck. Bears(for those of you unfamiliar with the term, I've always believed that bears are defined as a creature with a power of 2 that costs 2 mana. I've heard others) are the way to go. If you can go first, you can drop a 2 power creature before they get two mana needed to use all but a few counterspells. This creature, unless they do something other than countermagic, is enough to kill them in 10 turns by itself. Never underestimate that. Having dangerous creatures out early is always a good thing, against any deck, so piling a few 2 casting cost 2 power creatures never hurts, and can only help. It also helps to speed your deck up in general, pruning spells with a high casting cost in favor of cheaper alternatives, and lowering the overall casting cost of your deck. Again, this helps in almost all situations, but is doubly effective against blue. Playing your deck, you have to really pay attention to these early turns, and try to put as many threats on the table before the blue deck gets all its mana out. The last key to playing a blue deck is timing. First thing, you have to consider that they have counterspells, so instead of playing your good cards first like you usually do, it tends to be smart to play your crap first, and see if you can get them to waste counters on it. Itís a win-win situation, you either get to actually play a spell to help yourself, or you get them to waste a counterspell on the weakest cards in your hand. This works as long as you keep your deck free of dead cards. If you are playing a casual blue deck(5-12 counterspells, not tournament tuned) they are going to have to play spells, and to do this, they're going to need to use mana. Keep your power cards in your hand, and when they tap out, and use up all their mana, thatís when you play your good stuff. Another timing trick against blue is to save up and play multiple things at once. Those 2 casting cost bears come in handy yet again. Drop a cheap spell and see if you can draw out the counter, then play the bigger more dangerous creature. If its past the early game, and nobody has anything out, it can be a good idea against blue to just pass without doing anything, tempting the blue player to play something, or piling up your land so you can flood them with more spells than they can counter. Knowing these three basic tactics will let you play much tougher against a blue deck.

As an example, this is a deck I keep around to beat on people with. I don't usually play this deck much, itís a little too nasty for general casual play in my opinion. It does however rip blue decks apart, so I'll include it here:

The "Fires"less deck

Creatures (27)
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Kird Ape
3 Mogg Flunkies
3 Elvish Warrior
1 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
3 Thornscape Battlemage
2 Thunderscape Battlemage
3 Flametongue Kavu
4 Blastoderm

Spells (13)
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Incinerate
3 Hurricane
3 Kaervek's Torch
Mana (20)
4 Land Grant
4 Taiga
1 Savannah
1 Bayou
2 City of Brass
2 Gaea's Cradle
4 Forest
2 Mountain

I happen to have a soft spot for dual lands, so they're in this deck. This deck packs 40 cards which attack my opponents life total. Its also quite fast. 40 cards that are either creatures or burn spells are more than any countermagic deck should be able to handle. This deck has some expensive($ wise) mana producers here that it doesn't exactly require, but most of it is made out of commons and uncommons that aren't terribly hard to find and is a decent example of a deck built to massacre blue. It has 12 creatures in it that can be dropped on the first two turns and hurt by themselves(excluding the flunkies), and doesn't have a dead card in it. The cheap spells it packs also work well stacking together to draw out the counters, so bombs like Kaervek's Torch(which also hoses countermagic a bit) and the Blastoderm can hit and wreck people. A fast aggressive deck like this is one of the best things to throw against blue.

There are more advanced strategies and issues to this. Free countermagic like Force of Will, Daze and Thwart complicate things. There are also spells that can't be countered, like Kavu Chameleon, Urza's Rage, or Gaea's Herald which either can't be countered, or make things unable to be countered, but those are deeper topics for another day. Blue shouldn't be so feared it gets chased out of the casual environment. As long as people politely keep their decks casual, blue can only add to the spirit of the game. At the very least, having to play against blue will teach you to be a better player and build better decks, since blue is strong against bad decks and bad play. Also, learning blue teaches you to be a better player, since blue decks tend to play as well as you play them.

Give blue a chance!

Read More Articles by Nick DiPasquale!

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