Hi everyone, welcome back to the series on building a multiplayer cube. Today we’ll be taking a journey through the blue section of my own cube as an example. You can catch up on the white section here. Okay, let’s go!
The Blue Section
Firstly, here’s what my blue section currently looks like:
Blue has a few different archetypes going on in here. Along with classical blue control, there are two different archetypes it likes to run in combination with red – artifact themes, and Spells Matter.
Spells Matter rewards you for playing instants and sorceries, and it does so using cards like As Foretold, Flux Channeler, Thing in the Ice and Talrand, Sky Summoner. Slip Through Space and Mystical Tutor are instants that have been specifically placed in the blue section to work with this archetype as well.
Pure control is harder in multiplayer (as you’re trying to hold multiple players in check at the same time), but flexibility is also good here. This is why the selection of countermagic and removal gives you a few more choices, and includes things like Mystic Confluence and Disallow. Obviously, there are further cards in the blue section that work to aid control strategies, but these are all pretty much staples – so we can’t claim them as only being in here because they’re attached to an archetype.
Okay, that’s 15 of the 45 cards in blue. Let’s look at the remaining 30 in detail, as they’re all in here on their own merit. Here’s why you’d want to consider each of these in the blue section of your own multiplayer cube.
Baral, Chief of Compliance has gained popularity initially through Commander, and then by being the most broken thing in Brawl when it was first announced. And it’s pretty good here, too. There is enough countermagic to trigger the looting ability a couple of times per game, and the fact that he’s reducing costs for the Spells Matter archetype is just a bonus.
Gilded Drake is an expensive old card that I am fortunate to have a copy of. On the face, it is swapping a 3/3 flier for the nastiest creature on the table. But start combining it with cards that can return it to your hand, and it becomes truly abusive.
Snapcaster Mage is Snapcaster Mage. It remains ridiculously good, even here (it’s especially good at flashing back Rite of Replication or Blatant Thievery in the late game for laughs). If you have one, play it.
Barrin, Master Wizard is an old card that gets slept on. Cards that can produce masses of repeatable bounce effects are often more powerful than they look, and Barrin certainly fits that mold. Put him next to tokens, treasure, anything… he’ll start cleaning the field for you.
Ertai, Wizard Adept is an old counterspell on legs. He’s a dangerous-enough control piece on its own, but start coupling it with untap effects like Prophet of Kruphix, Seedborn Muse or Paradox Engine, and he starts locking the board down completely.
Jace’s Archivist is a card that looks pretty average… until you remember everyone is running 40-card decks here, and they are therefore much easier to mill out. Can you keep this around for five activations in a control shell? You’ve probably killed everyone (perhaps even yourself)! Coupled with a few cards hanging around in Dimir colors that are interested in mill, this can win a game (I’m looking at you, Consuming Aberration), and I’ve seen games where this gets everyone at the table down to a critical handful of cards in their libraries all at the same time for thrilling finishes.
Clever Impersonator is the clone effect of choice here. You could also run Phyrexian Metamorph or Stunt Double here quite happily, but the Impersonator is the only one of these three that can copy planeswalkers (and my playgroup selfishly enjoys the added fun of being able to do so)!
Tradewind Rider has for a long time been one of the premier repeatable bounce cards. It gets better next to token strategies, and begins to control the board horribly next to mass untap effects in the same way Ertai does.
Deepglow Skate is a one-shot counter-doubler. This is about as safe a counter-doubling effect as I can stick in this cube without putting Doubling Season in and inadvertently making Dub Season Superfriends an accidental archetype. The Skate is still perfectly capable of making this happen if you work at it – repeatable bounce or blink will produce any number of shenanigans. For a powerful effect, it’s also stapled to a pretty decent 3/3 body at this casting cost.
Djinn of Wishes is one of those cards that I simply can’t drop no matter how hard I try. It’s been in the cube almost since its inception, and WotC have been very good at printing interesting blue five-drops in the last couple of years, but nothing can quite unseat it. It remains a sneakily good offensive creature as a 4/4 flier for five mana. It interacts with proliferation and things that work with counters. And that ability often gets slept on until its first activation (and then people start freaking out and trying to kill it). Mesmerizing Benthid, Omnispell Adept and a few other cards have tried to take this slot and failed. Try this out before you discount it!
Mulldrifter is the Mulldrifter you know and love, and it remains good in this environment because of its flexibility. The combination of card draw, flying blocker and blink/bounce target is simply too useful in this color.
Consecrated Sphinx remains one of the single most broken blue cards if you can keep it on the table. Given people are running 40-card decks, I have actually seen this left alive to see if its controller is silly enough to go close to decking out with it (and it happens, believe me). In reality, it is probably blue’s biggest removal magnet, but the card advantage it generates is unparalleled.
Deadeye Navigator is the absolute headliner of the blue section. If you haven’t got one, get it and throw it in here – Captain Deadeye will not disappoint you. Think of the nastiest blink target you can – Reclamation Sage? Mulldrifter? Snapcaster Mage? Now imagine blinking that multiple times in a turn. Or in other people’s turns. Or in response to attempts at removal. And imagine being able to swap blink targets if you draw into a better one. Deadeye is the reason Sylvan Primordial was banned from this cube, and he will break lesser cards for you in a similar fashion in this format.
Keiga, the Tide Star is partially here because red rocks a Dragon Tribal archetype… but it’s an exceptional rattlesnake card. People do not want to attack into Keiga, for fear of you snatching the worst creature on the board. It starts getting even nastier with some of black’s repeatable reanimation effects.
Rapid Hybridization is a one-drop that turns the worst thing on the table into a Frog Lizard. Don’t overlook it (especially for the fun factor of frogging your opponent’s match-winning behemoth).
Arcane Denial is a counterspell that has seen a lot of pixels spilt. You can argue about the card advantage it hands your opponent, but it remains a splashable unconditional counterspell for just two mana.
Counterspell is Counterspell. Run it. It just feels right having people leave two islands untapped.
Cyclonic Rift has become an EDH staple for a very good reason. Its flexibility is key here – in the early game it can slow people down, but in the late game it turns into a match-winning one-sided reset. If you can get one, run it.
Capsize has struck fear into the hearts of people facing down control decks at kitchen tables for two decades now. It’s still just as good, and just as likely to lock the game down once you hit six mana.
Jace Beleren was the original blue planeswalker in this cube, and remains (mostly because I haven’t been able to splash out for Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Tamiyo, the Moon Sage yet). But he remains good – his card advantage remains excellent and underrated.
Rhystic Study has now approached meme level in terms of the tax it imposes upon people. In reality, your playgroup is much more likely to pay the one mana than hand you the card, so in that respect Study plays much more like a tax card than one that hands you a constant flow of card advantage. But, that said, it remains ridiculously good.
Bident of Thassa is here because we were initially running Coastal Piracy for card advantage. It remains a good effect to have in the cube, but the Bident remains a better card given it can force an opponent’s little guys to attack, and given that it counts as an artifact for the artifact archetype above (so you can swap it for Wurmcoil Engine with Master Transmuter, for example).
Fact or Fiction remains one of the best pieces of card draw you can toss in here.
And so is Gifts Ungiven. I have seen some pretty horrible four-card piles from Gifts in this cube.
Rite of Replication is a wonderful, wonderful card that you should have in your list. You will often have the time and space to reach nine mana, and this is often pretty deadly if you can kick it. I’ve seen it pointed at Guttersnipe, followed by Slip Through Space for the win. I’ve also seen it pointed at Snapcaster Mage in a particularly wild effort.
Tezzeret’s Gambit is a splashable piece of card draw that will also join in the proliferation shenanigans. Proliferation is often underrated in this format, and Gambit likely is too. Draft it for your Boros deck and don’t look back!
Force of Will you know and love (or hate). It’s obviously an expensive card, and I’m lucky to have one. If you have one, run it.
Flood of Tears is brand new, and is here as a mass bounce spell where we haven’t had one before (apart from waiting to overload Cyclonic Rift, anyway). We’ll see what one-sided nastiness it can produce!
Blatant Thievery wins games, hands down. I have seen this steal Kokusho, the Evening Star and a Sorin, Lord of Innistrad that was about to ultimate… I’ll let you figure out what happened next (HINT: It was naaaasty)!
Curse of the Swine is an extremely underrated piece of removal in a color not known for it. It scales to take out multiple threats and makes sure they’re not coming back. The fact you get to hand out the adorable Boar token that goes with this card is just the icing on the cake.
Starting with a Budget
Okay, so you don’t have Snapcaster Mage or Force of Will. Or some of the other cards that are over $10 a copy. What can we run in their place if we’re just starting up, or trying to keep things cheap and inexpensive? Here’s the cards in my blue section that are currently over $10 a copy as of the time of writing, and what you could consider instead.
Gilded Drake is on the reserved list, and won’t be coming back down from its current heights. If I had to pick another creature at a similar casting cost that falls under budget, I’d probably pick one of Callous Oppressor, Overtaker, Riptide Entrancer or Tolarian Entrancer (depending on the rest of your cube’s bent towards tribal, morph, reanimation etc.).
Snapcaster Mage really has no comparison (which probably has something to do with its price tag). If you want something that allows you to reuse your spells, you’re either investing in Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or returning it to your hand only with Archaeomancer. If you simply want something instead that plays nicely with instants and sorceries, Curious Homunculus is a lot of fun.
Thing in the Ice has juuuust breached the $10 mark as I type. There’s certainly nothing else with a low casting cost that just bounces everything, so you’d probably want to pick something that bounces repeatedly here. Temporal Adept, Time Elemental and Waterfront Bouncer are all decent enough to at least be considered as budget replacements.
Master Transmuter will do things to artifacts that nothing else can, so we probably just want something that plays nicely with them at the same casting cost to replace it. Padeem, Consul of Innovation is a perfectly good choice for that.
Deepglow Skate is another card that’s over the $10 mark and has a totally unique effect. There are plenty of other blue five-drops that are very close to breaking into my cube, so I would just replace with one of those. Aside from those mentioned in the discussion above, Body Double was the last card we dropped from this section. It’s definitely budget and combos off with Reveillark if you’re running it.
Consecrated Sphinx is well over the budget, but there are plenty of other high-casting-cost blue things that do a good job of drawing you lots of cards. Chief among the budget options are Arcanis the Omnipotent and Nezahal, Primal Tide.
Copy Artifact is only in our list because it fits an archetype, so you don’t necessarily have to replace like-for-like. If you do want to, you can go the broken option with Tinker (which is one of only three cards banned out of this cube), or you can go the safer option and run Fabricate.
As Foretold is another card that has just crept over the $10 mark, and once again we have nothing like it available. It’s also only here as part of an archetype, so feel free to replace with whatever you like, but if you want something similar, the only things that even come close are Planeswalker’s Mischief and Jace, Architect of Thought.
Tezzeret the Seeker is again only here as part of an archetype. If you really want something similar, Tezzeret, Artifice Master is currently under the budget. If you just want another five-drop planeswalker, consider Jace, Memory Adept (who will mill people out in record time when playing with 40-card decks).
Wrapping Things Up
I hope that helps you in your own quest to set up a crazy multiplayer-capable cube like this one! Blue can be one of those colors where the very best cards are overly expensive, but it’s still perfectly possible to round this section out on a budget. I’ll catch you again next month when we look at black!
Martin first caught the Magic: the Gathering bug at university in Australia in 1995, just as Fourth Edition was released (naturally just missing the era of opening dual lands in booster packs). One degree, career, marriage and two kids later, he is still slinging cards across a kitchen table with friends and is spreading the infection to the next generation via cube, EDH and multiplayer formats.