By Lennie Brookes (AKA Qwerty)
What Does Blue Splash To In Legacy? Basics of Blue in Legacy Part II
In my article about The Basics of Blue in Legacy I discussed its core concepts like denial and draw. I analyzed a lot of its core cards. While this can be good enough to win games and drive your mate Bob the Builder round the bend, this is not enough to win games on a regular basis.
Blue's main weakness is its inability to deal with artfacts, creatures and enchantments. Other than counterspelling the said card type, blue has very few ways of dealing with the said card types in a permanent manner. To do this efficiently and cost effectively in Legacy, blue splashes to many different colours.
Even More Denial
While blue's denial is undoubtedly the best denial available in Magic: The Gathering, it has one major weakness. It is reactive, meaning you cannot take any offensive action with blue's denial spells. This also means that you play the waiting game a lot more than what other colours do. Black's denial, for instance, is generally proactive meaning you cast black’s denial before your opponent gets chance to cast her spells.
Chalice Of The Void
Why is it played?: Blue has traditionally had a hard time coping with low mana curved decks. Often a blue player could find himself overwhelmed by early threats. Chalice Of The Void stops early threats period. I would go so far as to say that Chalice Of The Void allows blue to easily win games that it shouldn't be able to win.
What stops it being played in every deck? It screws just as many blue decks as it screws others. It is very dependant on the build of your deck. If you have a lot of low casting cost cards, the Chalice Of The Void will often hinder you more than it helps. Moreover, a lot of decks have balanced mana curves and the Chalice Of The Void has little to no effect on them.
Why is it played? Blue has to react to spells, meaning that forcing blue's own threats onto the table can be hard and mana intensive. Duress costs one black mana. This means you can easily remove spells that would be a threat to cards you are casting. Duress can also remove threats that the opposing player is hiding in hopes of getting past your counter wall.
What stops it being played in every deck? It's black. Outside of HulkSmash and Burning Tog very few Blue decks actually play any black mana sources.
Why is it played? In Legacy a lot of decks pack a large amount of creature removal. Genesis lets you counteract the creature control by constantly recurring said killed creatures.
What stops it being played in every deck? For Genesis to be truly effective you need to have a high creature content and variety. This means that only decks like UG Madness, ATS, and RGSA can use Genesis effectively.
Even More Draw
Blue also without question has the best draw cards in the Legacy format, so you ask, why do I write this section? Simple. Why not make it even stronger by adding the other draw cards that are just as good in this format?
Why is it played? It's cheap, splashable, and gets you two cards for one for little life loss. Compared to Accumulated Knowledge, the Whisper's impact on the game happens a lot faster.
What stops it being played in every deck? Just like Duress, Nights Whisper is black and black is not played to the same degree as other colours. Add to this that Nights Whisper is a sorcery and so it becomes slightly less as splashable as Skeletal Scrying.
Why is it played? One black and X, draw X cards; all of blues X draw spells are either sorcery speed or cost too much mana. Skeletal Scrying is quick and efficient and the cards netted by it often easily compensate for the life loss.
What stops it being played in every deck?. Many decks cannot cope with the life loss due to receiving early beats from creatures. This means it is usually played in creature control heavy decks like 4cc.
Now we come to the real reason for blue to use another colour in Legacy. By and large, blue's biggest weakness is creatures. You could say artifacts or enchantments are, but you would be wrong. They are played less and blue's denial can stop three to six cards in a deck (Artifacts/Enchantments). What blue's denial cannot stop is creature cast after creature. Even coupled with draw, blue can not hope to stop every creature that hits the table with denial alone; hence the splash of other colours
Swords to Plowshares
Why is it played? Swords To Plowshares is THE most played creature control card in Legacy. In a former article I touched on Swords To Plowshares not fitting the colour wheel. In fact, you could say it shatters the colour wheel. The two main colours for creature control are supposed to be black and red but neither colour has a card as good as Swords To Plowshares. It is cheap, fast, and most of all efficient. Its downfall is also negligible. After all, what’s giving life to your opponent in exchange for not losing the game?
What stops it being played in every deck? Swords To Plowshares is one of the very few cards that people actually go out of there way to fit in their decks. The question should actually be: Why is your deck not running it?
Why is it played? Diabolic Edict is a good card but often viewed by those newer to the game as a bad card. "But they get to choose the creature!" is the most common response I receive from newer players. What they don’t realize is that Diabolic Edict has multiple uses. The first and the most important in my humble view is its ability to kill that single big creature that a lot of the other cards cannot hope to do without a fair amount of time or multiple castings of the card. The second is that it is non-targeting kill, meaning you can catch annoying creatures like Troll Ascetic and Morphling which would normally be immune to low mana casting cost creature control.
What stops it being played in every deck? Apart from the problem that it is a black card, Diabolic Edict suffers from one major weakness. Against creature heavy decks it gets only the most substandard creature on the board.
Why is it played? It's global, meaning that it can in theory hit every artifact, creature and enchantment in play. It is cheap and can be used early in the game to stop the blue player from being overwhelmed by creatures. It also doubles up as artifact and enchantment control.
What stops it being played in every deck? This card will be mildly tricky to explain. In standard it has not shined the same way that its sister cards Nevinyrral's Disk and Powder Keg did. Many don't think to play it in the place of its sisters. One problem with this card is that to actually gain a larger benefit from Engineered Explosives you have to be playing at least two colours. This means decks like BBS will not be able to get a lot of impact out of the card. Lastly, a simple Stifle can stop it after it is in play.
Fire // Ice
Why is it played? Fire // Ice provides effective creature control, while at the same time giving versatility. It can be used to gain card advantage by killing two small creatures or tapping a larger creature while you assert control over the game. Its main strength comes from the former. The Legacy metagame is rife with decks that contain a mass of creatures that have one toughness. Killing two creatures brings slow down as well as card advantage. Not to mention, of course, that it pitches to Force of Will
What stops it being played in every deck? Just like Swords To Plowshares is almost always played when white is splashed, Fire // Ice is almost always played when red is splashed. Like Swords To Plowshares the only thing that stops it from being played is the card's color not being played.
Why is it played? Old Larry's Disk does one thing that none of the other cards here do. It completely clears the board. And unlike the other activated board clear in Legacy, it is semi-immune to Stifle. If this card gets Stifled, you can use it the following turn unlike Powder Keg. It also has small tricks with cards like Chain of Vapor. You can activate the Nevinyrral's Disk and then return it to your hand via the Chain, thus gaining another use of the mass removal effect at a later time..
What stops it being played in every deck? Its casting cost of four mana is the main impediment; in the old pre-September bannings you could use Mana Drain to help power it out and have mana for counter support at the same time. Now that Mana Drain is on the banned list, getting the Nevinyrral's Disk faster than turn four is harder and casting it without repercussions is a lot harder than it used to be.
Why is it played? It has a low mana cost and a zero mana activation. Blue can easily cast Powder Keg and keep mana open for counter protection, or cast it on turn two and kill an onslaught of small creatures, helping blue gain control and card advantage in the early game. Add to this that Powder Keg can get Artifacts in addition to creatures and you have an ideally costed card with a good dual abilty.
What stops it being played in every deck? Some decks just can not cope with it themselves. Otherwise Powder Keg is one of the default artifacts in Legacy when blue is looking for mass removal.
Why is it played? In Legacy there is roughly three types of decks: aggro, aggro control and control. Smother destroys a large chunk of them, from Mishra's Factory to Psychatog.
What stops it being played in every deck? Like some of the previously mentioned cards, the major thing that stops Smother from being played is the fact that it is black. Other than that, the card is ideal for the Legacy metagame. Few creatures are played that it can not kill, and even some of them are weak to it for a short time (Exalted Angel).
Why is it played? Well to start, it’s a blue card, just wearing a different coat. No other colour can play Vedalken Shackles. It gives a constant source of creature control and in he hands of a canny player will cause people to scream in agony when they declare a combat phase. It controls creatures in two main ways. The first is to simple: steal your opponent's creatures and beat them up with the stolen creature. The second is slightly more complex. Vedalken Shackles can activate before attackers are declared meaning a blue player can systematically kill an attacking creature base in a matter of turns by using the opposing player's creatures to block and kill (or block and die).
What stops it being played in every deck? It is a permanent. This means that blue has to use spells to protect it because it can not protect itself. It is also dependent on a high blue content making it only truly viable for heavy Island or blue dual containing decks.
Wrath of God
Why is it played? Very few creatures can survive a Wrath of God if it resolves. The creatures on the table are usually reduced to zero. In Legacy this can be even more important, since creatures like Troll Ascetic are popular and getting rid of cards like this is hard at best.
What stops it being played in every deck? Blue mostly has a hard time acquiring the needed in Wrath of God's casting cost. Add to this its total casting cost of four and you get a hard to cast spell that you will often need to tap out to cast. As discussed already, this is something blue does not like to do.
Artifact and Enchantment Control
Blue's next biggest problem, Artifacts and Enchantments are just like creatures. When they hit the table a lot of the time all blue can do is sit there and twiddle its thumbs. It can bounce them, but they can still be recast. Blue can even steal them with cards like Steal Artifact but is there a point in casting Steal Artifact on a Winter Orb? This is where the other colours come into play. They have access to the needed resources to help counteract another of blue's weaknesses.
Why is it played? Disenchant can hit almost every artifact and enchantment played in Legacy. More importantly, it hits Survival Of The Fittest, the key card to what is considered the best deck in Legacy; ATS. Add to this that it’s an easily splashable card because Swords to Plowshares is so commonly used and you get a decent choice for main deck artifact and enchantment hate
What stops it being played in every deck? The lack of artifact and enchantments. In a lot of metagames the first few rounds of a tournament will be taken up by what I call a scrub match. By this I mean the people that play random unorganized decks. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean rogue decks. I just mean bad decks. They often contain just three to four card types: instants, sorceries, creatures, and land. It's safe to say that Disenchant doesn’t do anything other than become a dead card in hand against a scrub deck in a scrub match.
Pretty much the same as Disenchant, but easier for decks like ATS and Madness to use.
Why is it played? It single handedly shuts downs decks that rely on the fast mana in the Legacy format. Not only that, but a lot of the fast mana available from artifacts in Legacy requires some type of card loss. This means that blue is getting even more card advantage than just stopping cards from being used. It also shuts down artifacts like Powder Keg and Isochron Scepter.
What stops it being played in every deck? It's completely unbiased. It shuts blues artifacts down as well and blue can often tap into the artifact pool extensively and gain a large benefit. Running Null Rod can be very counter productive to running cards like Isochron Scepter
Blue does have a few good cards to win a game with, but they are few and far between. The only card that instantly comes to mind is Morphling and sometimes the casting cost of that is too much, or it does not hit the board fast enough. Thus blue turns to other colours for faster threats and more efficient threats.
Decree of Justice
Why is it played? It is almost the same as a white Fireball but it allows you to effectively cast it in their end step (Ok, cycle, but how many times have you seen it cast properly?). The only spell that sees regular play that can stop this is Stifle. In addition to its use as a kill switch, it can be used as a panic button to create chump blockers while blue stabilizes.
What stops it being played in every deck? When blue splashes to other colours it cannot afford to devote too many slots to non-draw and
non-counter cards. So when Decree of Justice is played in a deck, you will almost always see Swords to plowshares and maybe even Exalted Angel as well. Both can take up precious slots that Decree of Justice would normally take.
Why is it played? Simple: it’s a flying 4/5 beatstick that gains you life. Add to this that an Exalted Angel on the board will often swing games. In damage races they effectively need eight damage a turn to keep up on terms of damage dealt.
What stops it being played in every deck? While splashing for Swords to Plowshares is quite easy, it’s a lot harder splashing for Exalted Angel. Both its full casting cost and its morph cost have double white. This makes it harder to get a fast Angel on the table or even to cast it at all.
Why is it played? Psychatog is one of those creatures that can serve a multitude of different uses. The first and most common use is the bang effect. You clear the board somehow and then cast a Psychatog and smash face the following turn for a fast win. The second is its use as a defensive blocker. A Psychatog on blue's playing field can often slow an attacking creature force enough that the blue player is given the time needed to assert control over the game. The third use is to use the Psychatog as an aggressive creature before you can big win, doing this often causes people to block meaning that for the cost of a few cards in your graveyard, Psychatog can eat a lot of creatures. Only decks like Burning Tog are aggressive enough to pull this off effectively though. The fourth and final use is remove instants and sorceries in your graveyard from the game so you can re-fetch them with cards like Cunning Wish and Burning Wish.
What stops it being played in every deck? Psychatog suffers the same fate as other black cards: its black. Just splashing for Psychatog on its own is not worth the effort or the risk. And while it's one of the few black cards that is not out shined by better quality cards of the same type in other colours, it just lacks the support of other black cards to go with it. This means you have to build a deck around the Psychatog.
Why is it played? It’s a land and a threat in one. One of the biggest mistakes when building a deck is the lack of mana sources a blue player puts in his deck in favour of other cards. Mishras Factory is a land, damage dealer and a defensive card in one. The first two functions are simple and don’t need me to explain them but the third needs a little depth added. Mishras Factory when blocking is effectively a 3/3 (more if more Factories are in play). How, you ask?, well after turning the Factory into a creature, as long as it doesn’t have summoning sickness you can tap it before damage goes on the stack (or after it goes on the stack but it only deals 2 damage) targeting itself for a +1/+1 pump.
What stops it being played in every deck? decks that would like to play Mishra's Factory often are forced not to play it because they already have a lot of colourless mana sources and it would interfere with the mana base too much. Other times, using Mishra's Factory with cards like Back To Basics is simply just counter productive.
Ok, I couldn’t fit these cards into the above sections. Most come in a class of their own, but if I had to label these cards I would label them as utility. What utility cards tend to do for blue is prolong the game, giving blue the time needed and sometimes the "oomph" needed to win.
Crucible of worlds
Why is it played? In Legacy, non-basic lands see a high amount of play and because of this Wasteland sees a lot of play. Apart from the obvious combo of Wasteland and Crucible of Worlds, Crucible of Worlds counteracts this combo. For a lot of blue decks in Legacy, Crucible of Worlds is the only card that can get around the combo. In addition, it is good for bringing manlands like Mishras Factory back from the dead and using sac lands multiple times.
What stops it being played in every deck? Crucible of Worlds can be a waste of space. Some blue decks just can not spare the room for it (ScepterC). Add to this that if you're not playing against Wasteland or playing with it, Crucible of Worlds is just ineffective.
Why is it played? Simply, it costs one white mana and fetches any type of card depending on the deck you're playing. The only type of card that it can not fetch is denial and it can feasibly do that with cards like Null Brooch
What stops it being played in every deck? You have to be playing either a key card that the Enlightend Tutor can fetch or a small tool box of cards the Enlightend Tutor can fetch.
Why is it played? It lets you re use some of your powerful spells each turn. The range of spells that can be used is massive and some can be found here . Using some of these cards you can gain a stranglehold on a game early on.
What stops it being played in every deck? To take advantage to the Isochron Scepter you have to have instants with a mana cost of 2 or less, and lots of them to boot. It is a permanent that you have to protect meaning the traditional "do stuff at the end of their turn" is harder because people will try to kill the Scepter at the end of your turn. The last reason and most important is that most mass removal that is played by blue can catch the Isochron Scepter
Why is it played? Orims Chant Is usually used in conjunction with cards like Isocron Scepter to create a combo lock and prevent your oppent from taking a proper turn again. It's also used in some blue combo decks to prevent people from reacting to your combo
What stops it being played in every deck? Other than the above uses, the card does very little. Rven if it's used in the early game the opponent can still lay land and it does little to slow down an opposing army that Swords To Plowshares could not do.
Why is it played? Graveyard abuse has always been high in the eternal formats and the new Legacy is no different. Tormod's Crypt helps to shut down decks like ATS, old style blue green Madness and even the ported 7/10 split decks I've been playing against recently.
What stops it being played in every deck? Against some decks when a card is in the graveyard it's there to stay: Angel Stompy, Goblin Sliegh, ScepterC, BBS. When they cast their cards they rarely leave the graveyard.
Why is it played? Almost every deck in Legacy plays dual lands. That is reason enough for playing Wasteland. What this means is that Wasteland almost becomes "Tap: target player skips his next turn" when played in the first few turns. Also, manlands like Mishra's Factory see common play and Wasteland is one of the best ways of dealing with such threats.
What stops it being played in every deck? It's curse: a lot of decks that wish they could play Wasteland simply cannot afford to lose the coloured mana slots that Wasteland takes up.
Although blue as a colour is exceptionally strong on its own, it gains strengths from the other colours. White gives it cheap removal for most card types barring land, Black gives discard and more draw, Red gives burn and a few utility spells, Green gives creatures, utility and some artifact/enchantment control and the colourless cards give all of the above in lesser and greater forms. The one thing Blue will almost always be in Legacy is one of the top dogs, especially when all of the other colours support it so well.
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