Greetings fellow multiplayer Magic enthusiasts! For those of you who don't know me my name is Prid3 and I'm a 15+ year Magic: The Gathering veteran. I've been playing and following the game at a competitive-level since the year 2000 and so I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've literally poured tens of thousands of hours into mastering this game. While some Mages love Legacy and others can't live without EDH for as long as I've slung spells I've been a multiplayer Magic fanatic. Be it Constructed, Cube or EDH I've played every major multiplayer format to the ground while approaching every aspect (from deck-building to strategy) from a competitive mindset. As you've undoubtedly surmised by now the purpose of this guide is to expedite your transition from Magic duels (i.e. 1v1 games) to the substantially different world of multiplayer. It's an unquestionably difficult passage for players of all skill-levels to make and I'm hoping that my expertise and guidance will ultimately arm you with the knowledge that you'll need in order to thrive. Moreover, I recognize that Magic isn't played in a vacuum and that real-world players have real-world budgets. Unlike similar guides I won't blindly assume that you'll be able to drop thousands of dollars on a casual hobby without batting an eye. That isn't to say that I'll compromise my competitive nature by pushing sub-optimal and/or weak cards upon you but rather that the focus of this guide will be on affordable (yet competitive) staples that will still allow you to prosper in any multiplayer sphere.
2. Strongest Creatures and Spells
Think of this section as your "cheat sheet" as it should more-or-less obsolete your need to scour across search engines for hours and/or prod random Internet strangers for card ideas. It exists solely to highlight and explain the most blatantly powerful creatures and spells that you should be looking to field whenever possible. If you ever find yourself stumped about what to play and/or how to flesh out your curves then this should give you a solid snapshot of your strongest options. By no means am I implying that these are your only possible choices as there's tens of thousands of unique Magic cards and many of them are quite formidable. These are merely the ones that I find myself fielding more often than not as they tend to over-perform even in situations where I have absolutely no clue what anyone else will be playing. Note that I use the term "strongest cards" loosely in that sense so please take it with a grain of salt. There are thousands of cards that can be contextually powerful but these are the ones that are heavy favorites to win games for you in general.
2 CMC Cyclonic Rift: Brutally overpowered form of instant-speed mass bounce. Mana Drain, Counterspell, Remand, Arcane Denial, Negate: Discount forms of permission that enable you to protect and/or disrupt oppressive cards, combos and strategies. Muddle the Mixture: Versatile form of permission and tutoring. Impulse: Middling cantrip that brings an enormous degree of consistency and card selection to your lists. Twincast: More players = more spells being cast on average = drastically increased probability of extracting immense value from these types of effects. Curse of the Swine: Marginal mid-to-lategame "mass" removal spell that pairs well with Blue's suite of mass bounce. Copy Artifact: Cloneing the best Artifact on the table for 2 mana is a complete steal.
3 CMC Rhystic Study: Horrendously overpowered draw engine. Trade Secrets: Nightmare scenario it's a draw 4 for 3 and best-case scenario it enables you to draw huge swaths of your deck (if-not the entire thing) while creating a "2-horse race." Cunning Wish: Oppressive tutor given that it literally nabs any instant from your entire collection. Card is utterly ridonkulous. Intuition: Cheap (mana wise, not $ wise) + flexible tutors have countless competitive applications. Windfall: Discount "Draw 7" for degenerate combo decks and/or game-ending synergycard. Forbid: Mid-priced permission that pairs absurdly well with Blue's suite of mass card draw. Capsize: Lategame mana sink that combos with things like Candelabra of Tawnos (infinite mana) and Nevinyrral's Disk (infinite board clears). Thirst for Knowledge: Formidable draw spell for Artifact-based shells. See also: Thoughtcast. Compulsive Research: Reasonable draw spell for any Blue deck.
Consult this thread for all your multicolored needs. It lists the most powerful gold cards that the various color combos have to offer.
3. Strengths and Weaknesses
Now that we've plowed through the most important information I'd like to take a bit of time to discuss some "fun to know" but not "need to know" information. I'll start by covering the primary strengths and weaknesses of the color in order to give you a better understanding of how it fits into the global multiplayer sphere as a whole. If you've read through the bulk of the guide up to this point and/or are already a veteran to the game then nothing that I'll cover in this section should come as a big surprise to you. While the magnitude of these strengths and weaknesses will fluctuate as new cards are printed (many of the latter may even be obsoleted over time) it should still provide you with a relatively accurate description of how the color fares in the global multiplayer environment.
Blue is one of the only colors with access to powerful cantrips and looters which it can employ to smooth its draws at every stage of the game. Not only do they improve the average quality of the cards in your hand but they also fuel Delve spells and mitigate the risk of succumbing to mana screw/flood. While Brainstorm is the card that everyone knows from competitive formats such as Legacy and Vintage it loses most of its luster in casual formats where tight budgets can restrict one's ability to pair it with fetchlands and/or other cheap shuffle effects. That being said Preordain requires no such support and even Ponder is serviceable in decks without them. Past that there's also slower, more powerful alternatives such as Impulse and/or raw card draw spells such as Accumulated Knowledge. With respect to looters Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is utterly ridiculous given his ability to double as a Snapcaster Mage when needed but the budget alternatives in Merfolk Looter and Thought Courier are still perfectly reasonable. Again, you're primarily looking for ways to increase consistency, smooth your draws, improve your average card quality and fuel your degenerate Delvespells which they still achieve well enough.
Oppressive Mass Card Draw
Blue's greatest strength as a color is undoubtedly its unparalleled access to degenerate card draw spells and engines. Staples such as Mystic Remora (read the Oracle text), Rhystic Study, Trade Secrets, Thirst for Knowledge, Fact or Fiction, Recurring Insight, Consecrated Sphinx, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time and Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur are completely absurd in multiplayer and ensure that you'll always have efficient ways to spend your mana. One of the absolute easiest ways to consistently win games of Magic is to utilize all of your mana on all of your turns which is precisely what mass card draw enables you to do. If you routinely find yourself playing Blue decks that aren't drawing dozens of extra cards every game then rest assured you that you're making a grave mistake. Please make a concerted effort to acquire and play these oppressive monstrosities as frequently as possible.
As if it isn't bad enough that Blue has the strongest suite cantrips and card draw but it also boasts an impressive array of versatile tutors. Mystical Tutor, Transmute Artifact, Merchant Scroll, Tinker, Intuition, Fabricate, Gifts Ungiven, Tezzeret the Seeker and more all bring an additional layer of consistency and power to an already oppressive color. From draw spells to combo kills you'll virtually always be able to find what you need when you need it which is one of the primary reasons why Blue is bar-none the strongest multiplayer color in the game.
Despite the fact that Counterspells lose most of their luster when multiple adversaries are involved (any 1-for-1 is marginal at best) they still serve a vital role in multiplayer. After all, they're one of the few forms of permission which can reliably deny/protect game winning combos/sequences which makes them crucial in high-powered metas swarming with degenerate threats. Cheap options such as Swan Song, Dispel, Spell Pierce, Counterspell and Negate are fantastic ways to protect/disrupt combos and/or win counter wars which makes them ideal options in general. Recursive and/or free permission such as Forbid, Foil and Misdirection are also incredibly relevant when you're fielding mass card draw spells/engines such as Rhystic Study and/or Recurring Insight. While it may seem odd to 2 or even 3-for-1 yourself to counter a single spell from a single opponent the reality is that when you have a card like Consecrated Sphinx or Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur in play then it doesn't matter in the slightest. After all, as long as you're able to protect it then you'll easily win the game regardless of the cost of doing so. Finally, important to stress that in multiplayer you cannot concern yourself with countering every relevant spell that gets played. It just isn't possible to play a "draw-go" deck that fields nothing but card draw, removal, permission and 1-2 finishers. Still, you can (and should) set aside some resources to deny those game-winning Exsanguinates and/or protect your own since that's where permission excels in the context of multiplayer.
Degenerate Extra Turn Spells Time Walks (any card that reads "take an extra turn after this one") are oppressive in multiplayer given the magnitude with which the effect scales as the number of players increases. In a duel you're already taking 50% of the turns so paying (significant amounts of) mana and a card to slightly increase that % (from 50% to 66%) for a single circuit is rarely worthwhile. After all, that's only a ~30% increase and it comes with a significant opportunity cost. That being said in a multiplayer you're only taking 1/N% of the turns where N is the number of the players. Using a 4 player game as an example taking an extra turn is the difference between taking 25% of the turns for that circuit and 40% of the turns for that circuit. That's a 60% increase, which is to say that its effectiveness has virtually doubled simply due to the increased quantity of players. Moreover, cards like Snapcaster Mage, Archaeomancer (+ Riptide Laboratory/Vedalken Mastermind/Crystal Shard) and Panoptic Mirror can be employed to ensure that you'll continue to take all future ones as well. While this isn't particularly fun or interactive for the other players it's freaking effective if you're merely trying to win games of Magic. It's also worth noting that mass card draw alone is typically good enough to ensure that you'll consistently draw into more Time Walks which is why you'll frequently see them played in decks that feature cards such as Trade Secrets, Recurring Insight, Narset, Enlightened Master, Arcanis the Omnipotent, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, etc. Archaeomancer combos aside it's just as easy to draw a ton of cards and perpetuate the chain that way.
Stellar Theft and Clone Effects
Additionally Blue has access to superb theft and variousclone effects which typically scale amazingly well in multiplayer spheres. Not only does "more players = higher probability that someone will have something powerful to steal/copy" but it's equally important to stress that multiplayer is a "go big or go home format" that isn't defined by cheap, aggressive threats. You can't Goblin Guide your way to victory when you're tasked to deal 120+ points of damage so players are more-or-less forced to build slower decks with more bombs if they want to succeed. As such cards such as Bribery tend to be ridiculous, Vedalken Shackles, Control Magic and Treachery will always have something cool to steal, Rite of Replication (and all Clone variants) will usually have something amazing to copy, etc. As long as at least one person (yourself included) is doing something powerful (which isn't asking for a lot) you can often ride their coattails to victory by using their powerful creatures backed up with your oppressive suite of permission and card draw to coast your way to victory.
Disruptive Mass Bounce
Despite the fact that Blue lacks traditional forms of removal it does have access to powerful mass bounce spells such as Cyclonic Rift, Whelming Wave, Devastation Tide, Evacuation, Scourge of Fleets and Kederekt Leviathan. Cyclonic Rift is the oppressive one that you should almost always be looking to play because it's relevant at every stage of the game and the "Plague Wind" mode is usually good enough to seal the game. A card like Capsize can be similarly unfair in lists that're capable of producing infinite mana (Power Artifact + Basalt Monolith, High Tide + Palinchron) but tends to be a bit too slow outside of them. Otherwise there's plenty of relevant 4-5 CMC options such as Whelming Wave and Evacuation which are significantly more powerful and versatile than they probably seem. They offer temporary reprieve from opposing threats, (sometimes) protect you own from opposing removal and even be used as value spells when paired with creatures who possess powerful "enters the battlefield" triggers. After all, looping Archaeomancers is a big game (that's basically an "infinite" combo) but even if you're simply double-dipping on your Sea Gate Oracles, Mulldrifters, Diluvian Primordials, etc. then that's perfectly fine too. Jumping back to the degenerate aspects of the color we also see cards like Sunder and Upheaval in its arsenal which are absolutely filthy to resolve if you can manage to break their parity. This is where Artifact-based acceleration shines since you can probably imagine what it's like to curve out with Mind Stones, Basalt Monoliths and Gilded Lotuss only to slam one of these in the mid-to-lategame. It's all over bu the crying from that point onward.
Blue doesn't have much in the way of cheap, meaty blockers that it can employ to effectively dissuade aggression in the early stages of the game. It's rarely-if-ever jamming something larger than 2/2 into play before turn 4 and even then you're only getting something sizable if you happen to have a Clone effect lying around. Barring that it's still nothing but ~2/2s straight up to 6 CMC at which point we finally start to see some meaty bodies (i.e. 5/5 or larger). While multiplayer isn't a format dominated by aggro (it's by far and away the weakest archetype) creature-based pressure is still a ubiquitous threat and it's extremely easy to get pressured out of the game if players make a concerted effort to take you out. While this typically isn't a concern for ultra-cutthroat players employing degenerate combos and other oppressive nonsense it's a legitimate concern to the overwhelming majority of casual players who emphasize fun, fair, budget-minded Magic. As silly as it sounds it's not uncommon for a deck full of Preordains, Counterspells, Rhystic Studys, Whelming Waves, and Mulldrifters to lose to a rag-tag ensemble of Grizzly Bears and Nessian Coursers that get run-out by the other players in the developing stages of the game. If they curve 1-2-3 and you miss your 4th land drop and/or don't have a mass bounce spell you can easily die on turn 4-5 despite having played objectively superior cards on every turn of the game.
Heinous Spot Removal
While it's undeniably back-breaking to Overload a Cyclonic Rift at EOT Blue is ill-equipped to deal with problematic permanents early on. While it can normally attempt to employ permission to prevent anything relevant from resolving in the first place that gameplan isn't feasible when multiple adversaries are involved. After all, there's simply too many players casting too many spells to fight them all on a card-for-card basis. On that note it's important to stress that most bounce spells are also laughably weak in the developing stages of the game since trading resources to temporarily stymie single threats from single adversaries is appalling. As if that wasn't bad enough the color is relegated to lackluster spot removal such as Pongify, Rapid Hybridization and Reality Shift which barely qualify as answers. They're obviously fantastic at nuking a Reanimated Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur on turn 2 but they're atrocious when you're playing a relatively "fair" game of Magic. By no means is Nessian Courser a multiplayer allstar or anything but at the same time a 3/3 isn't trivial. Don't get me wrong, if most players are fielding degenerate creature-based combo decks then Pongify effects are stellar but for the overwhelming majority of the casual playerbase who simply want to play "fun, fair Magic" then your options for spot removal are almost nonexistent. After all, if these are your solutions to generic threats then you're going to quickly find yourself on the back-foot.
Diminished Casual Utility
While cheap permission is powerful in cutthroat metas filled with degenerate synergies and oppressive combos it loses most of its luster in slow, fair, casual games. You'll always be able to trade your permission spells for cards at some point during your matches but from a mathematical perspective that's actually a losing line. After all, you're merely trading resources with a single adversary which passively benefits the other players at the table at no cost to themselves. That is, when you Counterspell a Taurean Mauler you're actually the second biggest loser of the exchange in the sense that multiple adversaries no longer have to worry about the threat nor your permission spell despite not having invested any resources themselves. This "free rider" problem is the primary reason why there's very little spot removal/discard/permission played in casual multiplayer Magic. Now, clearly this is a simplistic view of the problem since there are plenty of "unbeatable" cards in Magic and if you don't have an answer to them then all other worries fly out the window. After all, if you're drawing dead to an Exsanguinate or Tooth and Nail then such trivial anxieties become utterly irrelevant. It's now a simple matter of life and death and life wins out each and every time. Still, nothing will ever change the fact that Counterspelling a Polukranos, World Eater is a losing line in a multiplayer setting because you never want to find yourself trying to fight people on a card-for-card basis unless you're literally winning/losing games otherwise.
4. Sample Decklists
The purpose of this section will be to provide you with an idea of what completed multiplayer decklists could look like. They're all going to be built with a reasonable budgets in mind (no cards that cost more than $5.00 whenever possible) while generally adhering to the Legacy banned and restricted list. Don't expect me to go all-out on degenerate combos or extremely unfun mechanics either. I want to showcase reasonably interactive decks that play relatively fun, fair Magic. I'll do my best to highlight the most important interactions and synergies among the various cards which probably means that I won't spend too much time explaining why Rhystic Study is in the deck. They'll be good starting points for anyone looking to build similar lists by showcasing some of the most obvious card choices. Finally, please bear in mind that these deck lists will become somewhat outdated and sub-optimal over time. I'll make every effort to update them as frequently as needed but at the end of the day I'm only one man. They'll still be useful learning tools even if they're not always especially relevant.
The deck should mostly speak itself but there are some interactions worth highlighting. Lords such as Grand Architect are primarily there to support Master of Waves by ensuring that players can't simply remove him to deal with the tokens as well. Otherwise I'll highlight the fact that Vedalken Mastermind bouncing Master of Waves gets insanely out of hand insofar as you happen to have a lord in play. It can also bounce Mystic Remora to reset its Cumulative Upkeep and/or protect your creatures from removal. Since this deck's biggest weakness is removal it fields some cheap permission to thwart those Wrath of Gods and whatnot that would otherwise put a big hurt on you.
While this particular deck is still a bit rough around the edges it showcases the types of interactions that I'm looking to highlight. At its core it's a Proliferate deck that abuses the absurd power-level of engines such as Thrummingbird, Inexorable Tide and Contagion Engine to abuse various Lands, Creatures, Artifacts and Planeswalkers. I'd expect this exact build to be a bit too slow and durdly so I'd rather you consider the synergies and possibilities as opposed to going out and building it as is.
I'll be blunt; it's not possible to build Stax on a budget. Unfortunately I'm bound by the confines of the game and if there aren't budget-minded alternatives that can fulfill the needs and requirements of the archetype then my hands are tied. I still wanted to showcase what a Blue-based prison deck might look like and give you an idea of how to go about locking your adversaries out of the game.
Obviously you can jam things like Entomb, Mystical Tutor, Griselbrand, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, etc. in there to boost its speed and power-level but the idea here is that Reanimator is an infinitely flexible archetype and you can adjust its competitiveness to suit your budget and meta.
This is one of my all-time favorites archetypes given how unique that the deck plays out. It's always looking to curve three 1 drops on turns 1 and 2 into an Edric, Spymaster of Trest on turn 3 in order to immediately draw 3 cards. From there you'll want to jam Notorious Throng/Coastal Piracy/Bident of Thassa on turn 4 to double your power/card draw straight into a Time Warp on turn 5. From that point on you're drawing more than enough cards to hit a "Time Walk" every turn (read Notorious Throng's Prowl) in order to close the game out in short order.
The disruptive threats and free permission are there to hinder mass removal since you typically only need to buy a few turns before it becomes obsolete. By the time that people can afford to pay the extra 1 it's already too late.
The deck gets substantially weaker if you sub out Time Warp for Part the Waterveil and your meta fields a lot of mass removal. It's rather inconsequential otherwise.
Assuming that you're like me and don't own Force of Wills then Foil is a very powerful alternative. Neither Misdirection nor Commandeer protect you against sweepers (which are your primary concern) but if you're only worried about spot removal then they definitely get the job done as well. Free spells are key since your mana for the first 6 turns is already spoken for.
I've played the deck cutting Edric, Spymaster of Trest for Military Intelligence and it still works but you clearly lose a lot of power. The current variation "goes off" about 75% of the time (and the math supports those figures) and switching over to MI was a noticeable downgrade. That being said fielding MI reduces the cost of the deck by a substantial amount since you get to run 23x Island and 0x Edric.
A Midrange deck designed purely to abuse Prophet of Kruphix alongside bounce engines and various "enters the battlefield" triggers. As always Vedalken Mastermind pairs naturally with Mystic Remora given its innate ability to reset its Cumulative Upkeep and it's equally relevant to highlight the fact that Prophet of Kruphix trivializes such requirements. Remember that your blink/bounce effects are perfect for resetting Clones and re-triggering Mystic Snakes to ensure that you're always able to copy and/or counter the most relevant threats being cast.
For what it's worth I purposely omitted degenerate infinite combos since it's clearly trivially easy to pair DEN with a card like Palinchron in order to win the game on the spot. If you want to field "Peregrine Drakes" and mana sinks then by all means, jam away, I merely wanted to showcase something that played a more honest game of Magic.
The idea here is obviously curve your threats into cheap cantrips, permission and global burn in order to kill everyone off in an extremely short time-frame. The budget fetchlands are employed to support your cantrips and Delve spells but in an ideal world you'd obviously field the real ones. Otherwise the cheap/free permission is there to protect your creatures from removal but it can obviously be used to disrupt opposing gameplans when needed.
5. Functional Lists
Bluntly put it's far too impractical to have me discuss every possible playable in detail. At some point it all starts to read the same given that Magic is filled with redundant effects that accomplish the same goal. This section is more-or-less a raw information dump that will house (what I believe to be) the most important types of cards and the strongest options available to you within those groups. Now, be forewarned that it's not going to showcase "every possible playable" and/or "every possible type of card." I'm going to focus on the ones that will win you multiplayer games on a consistent basis since my end-goal here is to arm you with the tools that you'll need to compete. Anything too niche and/or too marginal isn't going to make the cut so don't be surprised when you see how bare some of the sections are. For what it's worth I find that these kinds of lists are invaluable for singleton formats such as Cube and EDH and highly recommend that you start your search here if you're looking for key role-players.
6. General Strategies
In this section I'll discuss broader subjects that aren't necessarily limited to specific colors. After all, my goal is ultimately to teach you the ins-and-outs of multiplayer deckbuilding from start to finish and that clearly entails a lot more than simply covering your relevant card choices. From deck composition to constructing a manabase to developing an overarching strategy there's countless variables for you to take into consideration and I'll make every effort to cover some of the more important subjects. While I clearly won't be able to hit on everything consider these to "must reads" if you're looking to take your game to the next level.
Early Game (Turns 1-3)
Blue's early game is clearly defined by its oppressive suite of cantrips, looters, degenerate cardadvantage engines and mass card draw. Moreover, the vast majority of its cheap, relevantblockers are also value-based in nature which just goes to show you how adept that the color is at securing early-game advantages. While it typically struggles to mount a significant early-game board presence this rarely-if-ever matters in the context of multiplayer formats. After all, aggro is the weakest archetype by many orders of magnitude and realistically shouldn't be played. This enables the color to focus on accruing value and smoothing its draws as opposed to mounting any sort of offense or defense during the onset of its games.
One important "key to success" that I want to stress is that unlike in a duel setting you shouldn't invest much time, energy and/or resources in countering early-game spells in a multiplayer setting. You'll obviously Swan Song that Waste Not or Counterspell that Defense of the Heart to prevent them from winning the game outright but with respect to generic creatures/removal spells/fair card draw/etc. you're basically forced to ignore them altogether. Rather, you should be focusing your efforts on building yourself up as opposed to hindering your adversaries on a 1-for-1 basis. You'll still want to deny those Animate Deaded Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augurs on turn 2 but otherwise don't put much stock in thwarting random threats and focus on jamming your own cantrips, looters, draw spells, etc. instead.
Mid Game (Turns 4-6)
While Blue decks tend to boast a formidable early and lategame where they typically struggle the most is during the midgame. After all, the color lacks hard removal to resolved permanents and since most of its threats are small and value-based in nature it's rarely capable of enacting a reasonable board presence early on. With that in mind there are numerous ways to tackle the midgame in order to set yourself up to succeed in the long run. First and foremost you can employ Artifact-based removal such as Nevinyrral's Disk to neutralize existing threats and potentially even dissuade future ones from being played as well. Moreover, massbounce can be cast to temporarily stifle creature-based aggression. While this clearly isn't a permanent solution to the problem it'll still buy you some time to dig for something more irreversable. Beyond that you can continue to generate value from your midrangethreats and draw spells which is especially relevant in metas lacking/devoid of aggressive strategies. Otherwise this is about the time when your Clone, Theft and Copy spells start to come online and a perfectly reasonable alternative involves riding the coat-tails of the players enacting more powerful sequences than yourself. Beyond that it's worth noting that while Blue's turns 4 and 5 can be rocky at times it possesses some of the most heinouslydegenerate 6 drops ever printed. In practice the color will only falter for a couple of turns before reasserting complete control over the game which means that it often makes sense to Time Warp though the midgame straight to lategame.
It's once again worth stressing the fact that you cannot tackle the midgame with the mindset of a Control Mage who wants to counter every meaningful spell that gets cast. Clearly you'll want to deny game-ending bombs but if your go-to plan involves passing the turn with Cryptic Command/Mystic Confluence mana up (possibly with a card like Fact or Fiction as a fallback plan) then rest assured that you're making a big mistake. That's a perfectly reasonable line to take in a duel setting but in a multiplayer match it's a recipe for disaster. Don't trick yourself into think that 2-for-1s and/or tempo matters (hint: they don't) when you can simply jam oppressive card draw spells/engines and support them with cheappermission instead. You don't need to extract any meaningful value from your permission/removal/interaction so go hog-wild fielding the cheapest options possible (mana wise) to ensure that you're able to deploy them as quickly and frequently as possible. This is essential for protecting your own game-ending threats in addition to denying opposing ones.
With respect to permission the same general rules still apply. It's impossible to counter everything (this is true even if you have Forbid + mass card draw) so don't even bother trying. Rather, you should be focusing your attention on entirely on spells that "matter" i.e. ones that figuratively win games of Magic. The reason why cheap permission reigns supreme in multiplayer is because most games eventually boil down to a small number of spells that matter vs a whole host that don't. Quantity of permission will trump quality of permission at this stage of the game each and every time. After all, it's vitally important that you're able to deploy as many permission spells as possible (frequently on a tight mana budget) because in addition to thwarting the advances of others you'll also want to be defending your own. Remember, insofar as you're able to loop Time Warps on a Panoptic Mirror (insert any win condition here) then you're guaranteed to win so absolutely nothing else matters by comparison. You could be down a hundred cards and 200 mana worth of tempo but it's irrelevant as long as you still go on to win the game. In that sense you don't need to worry about trying to 2-for-1 people with Cryptic Command or have Spelljack generate a large quantity of value and tempo. All of that nonsense is trivial. Rather, you need to focus your efforts on thwarting/defending game-endings bombs, combos, synergies, etc. with as many Swan Songs, Dispels, Negates, Counterspells, Foils, Misdirections, etc. that you can possibly muster. After all, even if you 10-for-1 yourself it's completely irrelevant as long as you win.
Between cantrips, mass card draw engines, oppressive finishers and degenerate Delve spells Blue decks are perfect content to play 20 turns of Magic if that's what the table desires. It's least likely color to succumb to mana screw/flood given its ability to constantly dig into new action and as such it's more than content to hunker down for the long-haul. It'll have efficient uses for its mana each and every turn which is a feat that few other colors can boast. Otherwise it's important to note that permission is an effective solution to every degenerate finisher imaginable which further cements Blue as the ultimate multiplayer color. From Waste Not to Armageddon to Sire of Insanity it can interact with just about everything making it the ideal color for thwarting lategame Battlecruisers. Otherwise permission is perfect for protecting your own degenerate sequences and this dual-nature is what makes it makes the most dangerous form of interaction in the game. Beyond that it can lean on any number of combos, synergies and/or reliable finishers to consistently closes games and so there's virtually no risk in having games drag out for too long.
Consult this thread if you want to learn the basics on how to build proper multiplayer manabases that will consistently be able to cast their spells.
While Blue lacks traditional forms of removal it's the only color with consistent access to cheap permission. It's undeniable that 1-for-1s lose most of their luster in multiplayer spheres (for hopefully obvious reasons) but the reality is that there's still merit to fielding cheap forms of interaction that will enable you to disrupt and/or protect powerful sequences and plays. This makes permission a "necessary" evil that you'll still find yourself playing despite the fact that you'll routinely be making terrible exchanges cards wise. After all, from a broad-strikes perspective Force of Willing a single spell in a 4 player FFA game is roughly equivalent to 6-for-1ing yourself (mathematically anyways). As heinous as that sounds we're usually happy enough to pay that cost and in this section I'll briefly explain why that is.
Given that multiplayer Blue decks are typically characterized by their oppressive drawengines spell velocity tends to carry more significance than any other variable. After all, concerns over "card advantage" and "card quality" are meaningless when you're drawing 4-5 cards per circuit. Clearly that will more than make up for your various inefficiencies elsewhere. Rather, you would do well to focus your efforts on deploying your resources as quickly as possible while still meaningfully interacting with your adversaries. This is where free/cheappermission shines given its ability to hinder your opposition at a bargain rate. Negateing their key spells and effects for low sums of mana is ideal when you're flush with other resources. That's frequently going to be your only bottle-neck once you reach the mid-to-late stages of the game and so you should actively pursue any method with which to increase the average number of spells that you cast. This, by the way, is why I discourage the use of "value" permission spells such as Cryptic Command and Mystic Confluence. 2-for-1s are inconsequential when you're already drawing dozens of extra cards each match and the last thing that you'll want to see are 4 CMC interaction spells clogging your 20 card hands. This is especially true knowing full well that you could be staring down countless 0-2 CMC alternatives that accomplish the same goal at a fraction of the mana.
Answers Everything Permission's all-encompassing nature makes it the most heavily sought-after form of interaction on the market. Homer Simpson once jokingly referred to alcohol as "the cause of and solution to all of life's problems." This, as it turns out, is an impressively accurate explanation of permission's role in Magic. Whereas you can't Doom Blade a Remand, Nature's Claim a Hermit Druid nor Wear // Tear a Tooth and Nail a card like Counterspell can interact with just about everything under the sun. This is especially relevant in the context of other Counterspells because there's very few ways to profitably engage them otherwise. That is, the best way to thwart someone trying to Swan Song, Mana Drain and/or Force of Will your game-ending bombs is to fire back with your own Dispels, Flusterstorms and Foils. From threats to removal to value engines to combo cards Now, clearly it's not a perfect solution given that you only have a small window of opportunity to interact with spells on the stack. Once they resolve it slams shut at which point there's no going back. That being said permission is still by far and away the most reliable and flexible form of interaction given that it's the only one that doesn't have immense targeting restrictions.
Indirectly Wins Games Permission's ability to protect oppressive threats/combos/synergies by denying opposing interaction is undeniably one of its most competitive advantages. It's extremely difficult to defeat multiple adversaries "the fair way" and you should take advantage of every opportunity to figuratively end games as a result. With that in mind permission is especially appealing in overpowered combo/synergy decks given its ability to thwart most opposing interaction. From Counterspells to Doom Blades your sequences will typically be vulnerable to some form of interaction and the only consistent way to protect them involves fielding the all-purpose answers. It's equally important to stress that in the context of combo decks concepts such as card advantage and tempo become meaningless. Imagine that you have a 20 card hand thanks to your Mystic Remoras, Rhystic Studys and Consecrated Sphinxes and that you're going for a Deceiver Exarch + Splinter Twin kill. Let's assume that you fire-off a slew of Swan Songs, Dispels, Counterspells and Foils protecting said combo and that ultimately you 15-for-1 yourself to force it through. Does that card disadvantage actually matter in the slightest? Nope, because you won! The goal of Magic is to win, not draw cards and/or accrue value. Even if that means 3-for-1ing yourself to cast Foil or 2-for-1ing yourself to jam Swan Song then so be it. Those numbers are irrelevant insofar as you're winning. Ignore the accounting and focus solely on the bottom line because results speak for themselves. Combo kills figuratively win multiplayer games of Magic and so anything that can support them are also going to secure victories.
Directly Prevents Losses
Permission can directly prevent losses by neutralizing opposing threats before they manifest as legitimate hazards. Multiplayer matches typically contain any number of degenerate Battlecruisers that figuratively and/or literally win games of Magic. You're not beating them should they happen to resolve. This is where permission reigns supreme givens it ability to disarm opposing bombs while doubling as efficient protection for your own. Clearly it's difficult to interact with game-enders on a card-for-basis when multiple adversaries are involved but given the alternative of "losing the game" your hands are somewhat tied on that front. It's not a perfect solution but it's still the best one that we've got. Believe me, I hate 1-for-1s more than most, but unless you want to lose to every Waste Not, Repercussion, Armageddon, etc. that you see the unfortunate reality is that you're basically forced to employ these "catch all" solutions to game-ending threats. They're not pretty but they get the job done well enough.
For the purposes of competitive deckbuilding Blue's primary cantrips are staples such as Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain and Impulse. They smooth your draws, decrease the risk of succumbing to mana screw and/or flood, dig for key combo pieces, help you look for permission/removal as required, bring consistency to your sequences, on and on and on. Virtually all of your Combo/Control decks should field them in some capacity and with that in mind I think that it's important to explain rules of thumb that you should apply when determining which ones to field and why. They're wildly different cards that should be employed for very different reasons and it's important to highlight their strengths, weaknesses and distinctions.
While Brainstorm is easily Blue's most powerful cantrip it's also the most misunderstood and misplayed card in the entire game (no hyperbole). Believe it or not it's actually heinously weak in the hands of newer and/or inexperienced players to the point where I routinely question whether or not I should even be promoting it. I want to start by stressing the fact that when you cast Brainstorm and re-draw your 2 "put backs" that you've effective cast: "U draw a card." That, my friends, is abhorrent. No, "fixing your draws" doesn't count as significant value in that scenario because it's such a small quantity of cards for such a short duration. Having slightly more options for 2 turns (or fewer if you happen to draw extra cards in the interim) is nearly worthless and this is especially true in slow, grindy formats such as multiplayer. The reason why Brainstorm is ubiquitously played in competitive decks is because of its degenerate synergy with cheap shuffleeffects. At some point during your games your hand will contain weak/worthless/trivial cards (superfluous removal, excess lands, irrelevant combo pieces, 6+ drops early-on, etc.) at which point you can employ Brainstorm + a shuffle effect to convert marginal draws into relevant ones. This ostensibly converts it into an Ancestral Recall which is obviously one of the most powerful cards in all of Magic. We call this a "Braincestral Recall" not because you've literally created a 3-for-1 but rather because the act of converting otherwise anemic draws into action has roughly the same effect. That being said this Braincestral Recall sequence is impossible to employ in decks without shuffle effects and this is where newer and/or inexperienced players go wrong. I routinely see Brainstorm played in decks without shuffle effects and for the life of me I don't understand why people are happy to jam "Whispers of the Muse without buyback" into their builds. The card is utter trash when unsupported and there's absolutely no compelling reason to field it. Moreover, the instant-speed nature of the card tricks people into casting it at end of turn (EOT) despite the fact that this is rarely the optimal play. If you don't understand why, ask yourself "what's the difference between an EOT Brainstorm and one cast on your following main phase?" The answer is "1 mana vs drawing 1 new card." In practice Brainstorm's mana cost is rarely significant given that it only costs a single U. As such ~90% of the time it's better to cast it on your first main phase (not at EOT) because the information gained from drawing an extra card will almost always outweigh its trivial mana cost. Drawing more cards = more information to base your decisions on = more informed decisions which is significantly more valuable than a trivial amount of mana. Clearly some exceptions apply and I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't ever cast an EOT Brainstorm but if that's your default mode then I can assure you that you're playing the card poorly. Turn 1 EOT Brainstorm is an objective mistake nearly 100% of the time since, again, if you're simply re-drawing your "put backs" then congratulations on your "Whispers of the Muse." In summary Brainstorm is a fantastic 4-of in every deck insofar as you have access to a critical mass of cheap shuffle effects to support it. When employed as a Braincestral Recall to convert marginal draws into relevant ones it's easily one of the most powerful cards in the game that's relevant for most archetypes and strategies. Unsupported it's as unplayable as Whispers of the Muse at which point you should either remove it or look to field alternatives.
Preordain Preordain is the strongest "casual" card because it doesn't ask anything of you deckbuilding wise. Just so we're clear, it's not "casual" in the sense that it's weak, it's "casual" in the sense that "you can't screw this card up." Unlike Brainstorm it doesn't require a critical mass of cheap shuffle effects because it inherently bestows you with full control over the cards that it sees. It doesn't matter if you like one, two or none of the cards that you see because you can keep or bottom them as you see fit. For this reason Preordain is legitimately powerful to cast on turn 1 whereas alternatives such as Brainstorm tend to be heinous. This makes it perfect for decks looking to jam powerful 2 drops on turn 2 and it also ensures that this card is still relevant on turn 8 when you don't have a shuffle effect lying around. To anyone who's wondering "if it's so powerful why don't players run it more often?" the answer is "the others are powerful when properly supported." If your deck has a whack of fetchlands and 1-2 CMC tutors then Brainstorm and Ponder have significantly more powerful average use-cases. After all, Brainstorm enables you to convert dead draws into live ones and Ponder sees as many as 4 cards whereas Preordain maxes out at 3. Both are significantly weaker when you don't have access to cheap shuffle effects to abuse them with but assuming that you do then Preordain is objectively the weakest of the lot. Still, in the context of casual multiplayer where good fetchlands and good tutors frequently have to be excluded for budgetary reasons then Preordain tends to reigns supreme. Before moving on, I want to quickly highlight the fact that Preordain plays very differently in decks with cheap shuffle effects such as fetchlands. You actually want to crack your fetches and/or fire off your tutors before casting Prerodain (whenever possible obviously) to ensure that "bad" cards that you Scry to the bottom stay there. After all, if you simply shuffle them back in at random then you've lost all of your Scry value. This is why you'll typically see Preordain, Impulse and Dig Through Time paired together in decks light on shuffle effects to ensure that you'll always extract maximum value from their ability to ship worthless nonsense to the bottom of your library.
Ponder Ponder is, in many ways, the middle-ground between Brainstorm and Preordain. Unlike Brainstorm it doesn't enable the Braincestral Recall sequence in which you convert anemic draws into live ones but whereas Preordain can only see a maximum of 3 new cards (Scry 2 to bottom, draw 1) Ponder can see as many as 4 (see 3, shuffle, draw 1). This is especially relevant for combo decks looking to pair A + B in order to win the game on the spot since that extra look is a significant advantage given its trivial opportunity cost. Otherwise it's a "middling" cantrip in the sense that unlike Brainstorm you can field it in a deck without any shuffle effects and still extract meaningful value from it but at the same time Preordain will have a stronger average use-case if you're not supporting it. What, then, is the downside? Ponder is a fantastic card when you like and/or hate all 3 cards that you see but every other permutation is problematic. What if you really like 1 of the cards but not the other 2? Or if you value 2 of them but the 3rd is worthless? Assuming that you have access to cheap shuffleeffects then you can simply keep some of the cards and shuffle the others away as desired. Otherwise you're stuck trying to weigh the pros and cons of keeping vs shuffling, often times with very little external information to work off of. Now, it's clearly always going to be a reasonable combo card given its ability to dig 4 cards deep for your essential components but unless you have access to cheap shuffle effects then this shouldn't be your go-to cantrip for fair value decks that're in the market for something to help smooth their draws. A general rule of thumb would be "Preordain is for fair decks, Ponder is for unfair decks" but obviously that rule doesn't apply when your deck is full of tutors and fetchlands. At that point you can feel free to run Brainstorm and Ponder regardless of what you're doing. As I previously stated Ponder is still a perfectly a reasonable card even if your deck has 0 shuffle effects (whereas Brainstorm isn't) but it's nothing overly special without them.
Next we have Impulse which is more powerful than Ponder/Preordain but significantly slower. It always gets to see 4 cards and it always gets to bin nonsense but it obviously costs 2 whereas the others only cost 1. I previously explained how you'll almost always want to cast Brainstorm as a pseudo-Sorcery on your mainphase since the 1 CMC cost is trivial but clearly the same cannot be said for Impulse. 2 is a lot more than 1 and it's difficult to effectively utilize your mana when you're blowing a significant % of it for no good reason. In that sense this is a card that you'll virtually always want to jam at EOT in order to dig for key combo components, degenerate card draw engines, powerful threats, etc. If you're wondering "why play a 2 CMC cantrip over the 1 CMC alternatives?" the answer is "it's powerful and budget-friendly." Not budget-friendly in the sense that Brainstorm is expensive, budget-friendly in the sense that Misty Rainforest is expensive. Much like PreordainImpulse doesn't require cheap shuffle effects since it inherently provides control over the cards that it sees. You get to pick one and ship the rest so you're never stuck drawing into random garbage that you know about. This is why you'll frequently see it paired with Preordain and Dig Through Time in decks lacking shuffle effects to ensure that by the time turn ~8 rolls around you'll have drawn all of your action and shipped all of your random garbage to the bottom of your library where it belongs. Otherwise I'll once again stress that (as with Preordain) when you do field this card in decks with fetchlands/tutors that you'll want to use them before casting your Impulses (whenever possible obviously). This will enable you to extract maximum value from its ability to ship nonsense away as opposed to shuffling it back in at random and possibly drawing into it in the near future.
Finally we have Thought Scour and Mental Note which are special cantrips that serve a very niche purpose. While they fail to provide you with any significant control over your draw steps they do supply you with a critical-mass of self-mill. This is relevant for graveyard-focused effects of all shapes and sizes and makes them deceptively powerful in practice. Unlike every other 1 CMC cantrip they can conceivably create actual card advantage by milling into cards and effects that generate value. Consider a scenario where you Mental Note into a Think Twice and Drownyard Temple. You've effectively Ancestral Recalled in the sense that you've traded 1 card and 1 mana for 3 cards worth of value. Clearly that's an above average use-case, I'm not here to make mountains out of moguls, but it clearly illustrates how these simple cantrips can generate meaningful value and/or card advantage for an incredibly low opportunity cost. If your deck doesn't care about its graveyard, that's fine, you can safely ignore them. Play Preordains and Impulses and be happy about it. That being said if your deck is filled with "graveyard matters" spells and effects then take a good hard look at Thought Scour and Mental Note because it's trivially easy for them to be accrue actual card advantage for a minor investment of mana and resources.
Fog Bank + Propaganda: Fog Bank is a reasonable blocker in extremely aggressive metas but loses its luster over time as your opponents flood the board with threats. After all, there's absolutely no risk incurred when attacking into one so insofar as you have 2 or more creatures with power you can mindlessly bash into a Fog Bank relatively unimpeded. This is where a card like Propaganda shines since paying 4 or more mana to attack someone is a significant cost. You generally can't afford to pay that and continue casting spells which frequently eliminates it as a reasonable line to take early on. The weakness of a card like Propaganda is that you can simply attack its owner with 1-2 large threats and continue playing Magic but that's clearly where Fog Bank excels. From a 1/1 Soul Warden to a 50/50 Lord of Extinction it can block anything and everything and live to tell the tale. Now, this isn't to say that I recommend starting all of your decks with Fog Banks and Propaganda. The cards are heinously weak against Control, Combo, Ramp, Stax and even Midrange since they're "Walls" and Walls don't win games of Magic (multiplayer or otherwise). You should only consider fielding them if your meta is (for whatever reason) plagued with aggro decks that force you to field marginal, defensive threats and answers.
Capsize + Nevinyrral's Disk: Blue decks typically lack hard removal for resolved permanents which is where a card like Nevinyrral's Disk shines. After all, it's a budget-friendly mass removal spell that takes care of every creature, enchantment and artifact on the battlefield. Moreover, since the activated ability doesn't force you to sacrifice the Disk (like Oblivion Stone does) you can activate it, maintain priority and bounce it back to your hand using cards like Repeal and Capsize. While any form of bounce is reasonable in this scenario Capsize can quickly become unreasonable if you can afford to buy it back. This ostensibly enables you to clear the board every (other) turn past a certain point which can be quite oppressive to play against. At 7-11 CMC (1 to activate Disk, 6 for Capsize + Buyback and/or 4 to re-cast Disk) this isn't an option early on but once you reach the later stages of the game it's certainly do-able. This is especially true for Big Mana decks that employ 12-Post or Tron to bolster their lategame mana production. That being said I will stress that Blue decks can simply field 4x Nevinyrral's Disk as a generic Wrath of God effect and that it will almost always be good. You're not required to "go infinite" or anything to extract meaningful value from your mass removal. Still, if you're already playing Repeal and/or Capsize to bounce your Mystic Remoras and/or to abuse your infinitemana then it's certainly relevant to note that those kinds of cards pair insanely well with Nevy's Disk.
Archaeomancer/Mnemonic Wall + Mass Bounce: Blue may not possess Wrath of Gods in the traditional sense but that doesn't mean that it can't obsolete creature-based strategies. Mass Bounce pseudo combos with recursive threats such as Archaeomancer and Mnemonic Wall to obsolete creature-based tactics. Clearly this synergy is slow, mana intensive and vulnerable to removal and so I won't pretend that it's some bullet-proof plan that can't possibly fail. Still, the idea here is that both cards are relatively powerful in their own right so you're not exactly reliant on having this "combo" come together and persist indefinitely. If it does, awesome, you'll probably win very easily. If not, hey, that's fine too. Mass bounce and versatile forms of recursion are almost always going to be relevant in multiplayer formats so regardless of what happens you'll still be able to extract meaningful value from your spells and effects. I merely want to highlight this specific interaction since it's relatively powerful and carries next-to-no opportunity costs. The cards are fantastic on their own and even the excessive mana requirements can be mitigated using 12-Post or Urza Tron mana engines.
Synopsis Mystic Remora is the most criminally underplayed Blue multiplayer card in the game. Period. Virtually all of your decks should strongly consider fielding 4 and the fact that I've virtually never seen a decklist outside of my own that includes them blows my mind. Before you ask, yes, it does effect each opponent. Read the Oracle text if you don't believe me. Insofar as your opponents play reasonable quantities of instants, sorceries, artifacts, enchantments and/or planeswalkers it's an oppressive card draw engine that will routinely bury your adversaries in raw card advantage. I legitimately don't care what you think because it's not "conditional," it's not "meta dependent," it's not "risky." If you truly believe that then the only possible explanation that I can conceive of is that you've simply never played with the thing. I truly don't believe that it's possible to dislike the card after giving it a fair shot so unless you're speaking from experience ignore your gut and actually test the damned card. Since it mostly speaks for itself I'll only touch on a few noteworthy interactions that you should be mindful of.
Fast Mana, Free Spells Mystic Remora is bonkers in decks with lots of fastmana, ramp and/or free/cheapinteraction. The concept of card advantage and/or disadvantage becomes completely inconsequential when you're reliably drawing 4+ cards per circuit and so anything that you do to deploy resources faster is strongly encouraged. Even if means routinely N-for-1ing yourself with cards like Chrome Mox and/or Misdirection it's trivial because you'll be pitching cards to hand size regardless. Rather than discarding 1-2 lands every end step why not jam a Mox Diamond into play instead? That's another mana to use on every subsequent turn for the rest of the game and you don't care about the 2-for-1 when you're literally drawing more spells than you can possibly cast. While I recognize that most fast mana and cheap/free interaction is expensive $ wise (Force of Will ain't free) it's still important to keep these synergies and interactions in mind. After all, even if you're simply acquiring budget-friendly spells such as Innocent Blood, Nature's Claim, Swan Song and Foil that's still perfectly acceptable as well. They're not all "free" but they're still bargain removal spells and realistically the only thing that matters is how quickly that you're able to deploy your resources.
Oppressive Bounce Synergy
Moreover, Mystic Remora is oppressive when paired with cheapbouncespells. Assuming that you have a Vedalken Mastermind in play you can bounce it on your Upkeep (with the Cumulative Upkeep (CU) trigger on the stack obviously) and re-cast it to avoid having the CU tick up to anything significant. This ostensibly freezes its Upkeep cost at UU which is quite reasonable all things being equal. After all, paying 2 mana a circuit to keep this monstrosity in play is a total steal since you would almost always pay UU to draw ~4 cards even if were over multiple turns. Otherwise it's perfectly acceptable to pair it with cards like Repeal and Capsize that double as cheap early-game interaction when needed. Again, the idea here is to bounce it on your Upkeep with the CU trigger on the stack to circumvent paying the cost as frequently as possible. You're clearly not required to support Mystic Remora with the full Capsize + Buyback (using it as a 3 CMC Boomerang is reasonable as well) but at the same time it's going to be a relevant sequence some % of the time so it's always important to keep those kinds of interactions in mind. I promise you that Remora "loops" are heinously degenerate to play against because you're typically swimming in cards by the time that people can profitably thwart them.
If I had to guess why people dismiss the card I'd wager that it's because people don't quite understand how to play it. They see a 1 CMC spell and assume "well this has to be played on turn 1" at which point it eats 100% of their mana for the rest of the game. You're doing it wrong people. If you're not someone who routinely faces down turn 1 Preordains and/or Sol Rings then don't cast it on turn 1! It's literally that simple. You know your meta better than anyone else so if people don't start playing Magic until turn 3 or 4 then just sandbag it until then. Wait until you have some lands, a Vedalken Mastermind and/or some ramp in play to ensure that it doesn't consume 100% of your mana each and every turn. I guarantee you that this is a card for everyone and with a bit of patience and practice you too will be able to reap the rewards that it sows. Yes, that sometimes necessitates a bit of patience and deckbuilding prowess but this is a card that's worth your while to build around and master.
Scale with # of Players
Given that Blue's the only color that has access to Time Walks it's important to understand what makes them so powerful in multiplayer spheres and how to go about supporting them. As I previously explained they scale amazing well in multiplayer given the magnitude with which the effect scales as the number of players increases. After all, in the context of a multiplayer setting you're only inherently taking 1/N% of the turns where N is the number of the players. Using a 4 player game as an example taking an extra turn is the difference between taking 25% (1/4) of the turns for that circuit and 40% (2/5) of the turns for that circuit which is an overall increase of 60%. Note that this ratio has a positive correlation with the number of players which means that the effect continues to scale as more and more players are introduced. For example, in a 10 player game you go from taking 10% (1/10) of the turns to over 18% (2/11) of the turns which is more than an 80% increase. Now, compare this to a duel format where you're only jumping from 50% (1/2) of the turns taken that circuit to 66% (2/3) which is only a 30% increase and we can see how suddenly the effect twice as powerful (or more!) at no additional cost. While this is only the tip of the iceberg it's still a compelling fact that should start to give you an idea of why these cards and effects are so absurdly powerful in the context of a multiplayer setting.
Formidable Synergy with Recursion
Time Walks have immense synergy with Twincasts, mass card draw and recursion all of which are fundamental to Blue's multiplayer strategy. After all, if you were tasked to list the spells and effects that you'd happily field in 100% of your decks you'd quickly see things like Mystic Remora, Twincast, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Snapcaster Mage, Rhystic Study, Archaeomancer, Consecrated Sphinx, etc. being proposed. The beauty of these mass card draw and recursion effects is that they basically ensure that you'll take all of the future turns as opposed to a finite % of them. This is where the "hard" math on Time Walks "fails" to some extent because taking 60%+ more turns for a single circuit tends to be a grossly under-representative figure. Clearly you can build for literal infinite combos (Soulfire Grand Master, Riptide Laboratory/Vedalken Mastermind/Crystal Shard on Archaeomancer, Panoptic Mirror, etc.) but pushing those kinds of combos aside from now a sequence doesn't need to be infinite to create a deterministic win. Insofar as you're always drawing into and/or recurring an existing Time Walk then it typically only takes 4-5 turns before you lock the game up. In that sense not only is the effect inherently powerful but it's also naturally abusable with the cards that you're already happily playing. It's not as though we're adding Time Walks to our deck to make Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or Rhystic Study worthwhile. No, we were going to play them regardless and if it just so happens that they boast immense synergy with some of our other spells and effects then that's pure gravy.
Enable One-Sided Wins
Time Walks are adept at supporting non-interactive wins. One of the keys to being successful in a multiplayer setting is learning how to mitigate the degree with which your adversaries are able to interact with you. Let's pretend that we're playing a deck that wins by gaining a bunch of life and then casting a Felidar Sovereign. Which tactic do you expect to be more successful, casting it and hoping to have it survive for an entire circuit or casting it with Time Warp backup when your opponents are tapped-out? While this is only a single and simplistic example it illustrates the oppressive nature of these spells and effects in degenerate combo/synergy archetypes. Whereas your opponents may otherwise have time to answer your threats and/or disrupt your combos/sequences Time Walks can be employed to deny them of that luxury. In that sense it's not as though you're required to field them in archetypes seeking to take many/most/all of the turns because there's still plenty of degenerate applications for the effect even if you're only taking a single one.
Break Value Engines
Time Walks have immense synergy with any number of powerfulvalueengines. Given Blue's natural proclivity to drawing large quantities of cards it's generally only constrained by other resources such as fixed land drop limits, limited access to mana, capped Planeswalker activations, etc. As such Time Walks can be employed to drastically increase your overall access to these types of "fixed" resources which figures to significantly improve your performance in the mid-to-late stages of most matches. Furthermore, it's important to stress that all of these advanatges build off of each other to create a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. Taking 2-3 turns in a row is powerful (but not game winning) and activating a Jace, Unraveler of Secrets is fun (but hardly powerful) and if you manage to combine the two you're now a card away from a full-blown Arcane Laboratory lockdown. This synergy is extremely evident with cards like Talrand, Summoner and Docent of Perfection who pair amazingly well with Time Walks in order to generate and attack with massive flying armies before anyone has an opportunity to react with mass removal. Ultimately it doesn't matter what value engine you decide to abuse because anything competitive will do just fin so rather than focus on these specific examples just bear in mind that decks full of Time Walks tend to benefit immensely from value engines that're constrained by resources beyond raw hand size.
Accelerate the Midgame
Time Walks are fantastic for leaping straight to the end-game. As silly as it sounds to promote an "Explore" of sorts it's still relevant to note that Time Warps enable you to skip past Blue's anemic 4-5 CMC midgame straight to its various 6 CMCbombs and beyond. Bluntly put it's not as though cards like Mulldrifter are going to consistently win games of multiplayer Magic so rather than jamming anemic 2/2 fliers and drawing some cards you can instead opt to leap straight to something that actually matters. If you happen to have some sort of value engine in play, even better, but it's certainly not required by any means. The goal is ultimately expedite the game to its natural conclusion because the sooner that you're able to start jamming your own Battlecruisers the better.
Since our time together is coming to a close I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on taking an active role in your extended Magic education. It's my hope that my guides have steered you in the right in the direction by clearly demonstrating to you what multiplayer decks should look like. From bright-eyed newcomers to grizzled veterans I'd like to think that there's something for everyone hidden within these walls of text and it's my hope that everyone who's taken the time to read this has emerged a stronger player as a result. If not, please feel free to let me know where I fell short as I'm always open to new ideas when it comes to the wide world of multiplayer Magic. Teaching is a give-and-take process and I'm largely reliant on the feedback of others to grow and evolve my methods. As much as I love to read cheerful emails from delighted students I also take any and all constructive criticism to heart. If you can dish it I can take it so please don't feel free to voice your discontent if you feel that I've lead you down or led you astray. Otherwise I'll thank you one last time for showing an active interest and involvement in improving as a player and it's my sincerest hope that you'll grow into a respectable Magician as a result. Finally, I'll stress that I'm always on the prowl in the multiplayer forums and I do my best to respond to every PM that gets sent my way. I'm not perfect but I make every effort to help those in need so feel free to contact me with any of your multiplayer concerns. From decklists to strategies to advice there's nothing that I can't help with and I encourage you to think of me as your ongoing mentor. Best of luck my friends!
Your writing is not unnecessarily flowery; everything that is said is said for a reason. However, I do feel as if roughly the same points could be made with half the words, leading to a higher retention overall. Either way, the guide comes across as a big wall of text.
I don't disagree that the guide isn't lengthy, I'm just having a hard time imagining doing it in half the number of words.
Most of the chapter introductions seem very generic, and appear to be copy/pasted across all your various color guides. This dramatically reduces their value in anything but the first guide I read, turning from informative general advice into low-value platitudes and truisms that I have to comb through in case they're not [I]completely[/I] copy/pasted.
This is intentional. Initially all of these sections were specialized, which mostly consisted of me comparing the color's relative strength to the others'. Still, I feel like it's easier for the reader if I just use a unified format so that you only ever need to read the fine details once. Beyond that you can skip straight to what you need.
Glancing over the guide as a whole, I have trouble predicting where I'll find a card such as Preordain listed. It's not persistent, destructive, scaling, defensive... but it [I]is[/I] very good, and I'd even go as far as to say that every blue deck should run it unless there are clear reasons not to.
I don't necessarily agree. Preordain is certainly a decent library manipulation spell, but it does little more than smooth your initial draws. While this helps in a duel setting when you're digging for that Mana Leak or combo piece, it's not something that I would play in "every Blue deck". I'd rather field something like Mystic Remora or Rhystic Study, or any number of slower spells which draw more cards. I view multiplayer games as marathons and not sprints, so it's often not worth assigning deck slots to these marginal cards. Your deck only gets to be 60 cards, and only 34 or so of them are going to be spells. I often have a hard time assigning 4 of those to marginal deck manipulation spells, since you're often playing other small-impact cards to begin with. At some point your deck is just too weak to compete, since your deck just plain has fewer relevant threats than other players do. If we're just talking about a generic Control deck or a creature-based deck, I'd rather play something with some actual power more often than not.
Still, if it would appear anywhere, it would show up in the "Additional Card Choices" section. As you pointed out, it doesn't exactly belong in the others.
What is the reason for this kind of structuring? I agree that any structure is better than no structure, but I don't see the value of dividing cards into, for instance, "repeatable" and "one-shot". That is not how I build decks. I'd rather see some sort of menu structure like "threats", "defense", "mana" and "value" where I could pick some things from each category and end up with an OK deck.
Because otherwise people would build duel decks. The problem that most people have when building multiplayer decks is that they simply can't wrap their heads around how vastly different it is from a regular duel. If I were to simply split the cards up into "normal" categories, people would probably build their decks like duel decks. The categories are there to introduce players to the kinds of cards that they should be playing. No, people aren't going to be looking for scaling effects to add to their decks, but that's exactly why I feel as though it's important to showcase them. I want people to think about deckbuilding and card selection differently, I don't want them to build what they "think" is right because it probably isn't.
I also wonder why the Synergies and Strategies section is down near the bottom. Feels like it belongs in the introduction; a quick run-down of what makes blue blue. It even opens with "Now that we've gone over the most prominent multiplayer card choices", which suggests that I have to read a 200-card list just to get ready for truisms like "blue draws cards!"
Mmm, not sure I agree with this one. Again, the goal of this guide is to get people to think differently, and I feel like that would be jumping the gun. I don't see why I would want to plug Rhystic Study 5 or so times before I explain to people why cards similar to it are so important and powerful. You don't have to have read all of the cards to understand what I'm saying, but at the same time its nuances are easier to appreciate if the reader knows the gist of things already.
I disagree with the severity of the premise in the second paragraph; while it is true that better decks have better chances, the difference is [I]extremely[/I] mitigated. This week's session I once again won a round with Pauper and lost the next with Power. It only takes a few experienced players to identify the long-term threats and get everyone to gang up on them.
Even if you say that, I bet it's not the people playing bad decks who win very often. You talk about experienced players. I bet they're playing fairly powerful decks themselves. Strong Magic players with strong fundamentals and deckbuilding knowledge will almost always do better than newer players who struggle to build solid decks. Sure, they take a game every now and then, but I don't think that you can sit there and tell me that everyone has an equal shot at taking home the gold. Well, you can, I just wouldn't believe you. Magic, as with most games, rewards the people who invest the time into improving their skills. There's still a fair amount of luck involved, I'm not denying that, but I don't believe for a second that you can make the argument "weak players who build weak decks and have weak cards tend to win just as much as players who build solid decks." Well, you could, I just don't believe it myself and would never give that out as advice. I just don't even see what your argument is. Should I tell players to build poor decks with 18 lands and 7 drops? It's ok because it's multiplayer? I just don't see why I wouldn't encourage people to learn to become strong deckbuilders. There's absolutely no downside in doing so.
The only way to win by force alone is to take on [I]all[/I] other players at once, like some sort of Archenemy without schemes. That's usually how the endgame plays out, but up until then it's rarely apparent who will get to be the archenemy.
Which is exactly how I like to build my decks. There's a reason why I hate spot removal and other things that will only protect me from a few threats.
The term "politics" is ambiguous. Does it refer to wheeling and dealing, underhandedness, secret pacts and explicit (if temporary) alliances? Or just common strategic sense where weaker players will gang up on a stronger one? My playgroup never makes deals, so we're a-political in that regard. However, we're good at threat assessment, so we just sort of naturally gang up on whoever is threatening to dominate.
It's supposed to be. Every time someone talks seriously about multiplayer it's to discuss some political aspect of it. That's not my intention at all. I simply want to help people build strong decks that are designed to survive and/or thrive against a field of stiff opposition. That way, no matter how "politically minded" you or your meta is, you can still rely on your deck if nothing else.
Not all multiplayer games are huge Chaos games. I rarely see a game with more than 4 players, and many metas have rules restricting who can attack who. Two-Headed Giant is technically also multiplayer, in addition to being a duel.
I used the word "big," not "huge," since I'm not expecting everyone to be facing off against a large number of opponents. Still, the goal of this guide isn't to help you figure out your 3 player FFA deck nor your 2HG deck. I realize that they are technically multiplayer formats, but they don't play out like other ones. So, no, this guide won't be relevant to everyone, but I'm fine with that.
With respect to spheres of influence, I've never seen that "hurt" any of the cards that I've been suggesting. Ok, so you can only target and attack people to your immediate left and/or right. Does that change how good Rhystic Study is or how devastating Upheveal can be? Does that make Capsize any worse of a spell? Is Deep-Sea Kraken not still a good win condition? These restrictions, in my mind, only help my cause. Not only are we playing with "broken" cards, but most people can't even interact with them. I'm 100% fine with that.
It is also important to note that, in a casual environment, most people will play the same deck regardless of the number of opponents. I've seen many 1-on-1 oriented decks in 5-player games, including Affinity, Goblins, Burn and Land Destruction. Decks that are set up entirely for the long game can get knocked out before they even get going. The one delivering the KO is generally the next to go, but that is sore comfort if you were the one that ate a Signal Pest wearing Cranial Plating just as you were about to start dropping haymakers. I value early defense highly.
I value it insofar as it's required. If your meta is riddled with Affinity, then sure, you'll want to field a whack of early defense. Still, defense will only ever take you so far. Whenever possible I feel as though players should be fielding powerful, game winning spells and effects. Ludevic's Test Subject can block a 2/2, but can still win you the game later on. If it's a viable defensive option, people should highly consider it. I really hate Walls and small creatures because they cannot and will not be relevant past the opening turns. Unless you absolutely need them, I don't see much of a reason to start your creature curve earlier than turn ~3 or so. Most 1 drops are just so incredibly lackluster, barring a select few, and the same can be said for 2 drops. Still, I did my best to highlight relevant early drops that you can consider using.
[B]2a. Persistent Cards[/B]
You list several cards as "resilient" that have an activated ability that costs mana. My experience is that such abilities "force" you to keep up mana night and day. People will bend over backwards to "get you" as soon as you drop your guard, just because they can, with little regard to how relevant the card even is.
Maybe in a 3 player game, but in a big Chaos game you kill what you're required to kill. You don't have the luxury of axeing anything else. If you do, you probably don't stand to live for very long.
For instance, I would not consider Arcanis the Omnipotent very resilient, despite his self-bounce ability. He's such a high-value target that you're forced to keep open 2UU at all times, and even then the whole table will be conspiring to force you to tap out, so you probably need 4UUUU for actual discouragement. Nobody I know is going to Doom Blade some other creature just because Arcanis' controller still has 2UU open. They'll just wait. This seriously detracts from Arcanis' value, since if he comes with four to eight self-inflicted Stone Rains, he's suddenly not all that great anymore.
You're not required to hold up mana to protect your creatures, it's simply an option that becomes available to you. The reason why I like playing with powerful cards is that it doesn't matter if you don't get maximum value out of them. That's never going to be your goal. The idea is that your deck has some degree of resilience and global power, and you can eventually leverage that advantage and convert it in to game wins. If I play Arcanis, hold up mana for one turn, and tap him to draw 3 cards, I don't care if he eats removal. I'll trade 3-for-1s all day every day. I realize that tempo loss is involved, but that's not a big concern for me usually. The point is that you don't have to hold up mana for the rest of the game for Arcanis to provide you with some payoff. In fact, as long as he survives long nough to activate his ability, it's pretty much impossible to not come ahead from any exchange.
I don't understand why Guile is in this list. Because he gets shuffled back in? I personally consider that as good as gone.
Most of the time, yes, you're absolutely right. Still, that's not always going to be the case. Some decks may want to tutor for it or otherwise maintain access to the card at all times. Maybe some sort of Commander deck, or even a Cube drat deck that's very small to begin with.
What follows is a huge list of "Constant and/or Repeatable Effects". This list contains some narrow cards (such as Attunement) that don't just go into every blue deck, and many weak cards (such as Scepter of Insight) that I would not advise anyone to run, ever, because there are better alternatives for comparable $$$ and mana.
Scepter is a fair call, but I'm not opposed to keeping Attunement on the list. It's an extremely powerful enabler in the right archetypes, and so I don't see a reason to exclude it. I mean, it's basically the best card in your deck if you're building around something like Replenish or Open the Vaults.
I think the biggest obstacles to practicality and education are: Too much text. Half the text is generic advice that isn't particular to this color. I suggest moving all the generic stuff to a separate, generic guide.
Can't say that I like the idea of having a guide on how to read my guides. it just seems impractical; I'm asking too much from someone at that point. I'd rather have a unified layout to save the reader time and energy. Read one guide and you've read them all, so you can easily skip to whatever is relevant for you.
Reversed order of sections. First there's long lists of stuff, only then is the color's identity discussed. The Conclusion should have been the Foreword.
The color identity is discussed after I explain what defines it as a multiplayer color. That seems fitting and logical to me. It's no different than the study of any science. Be it math, biology or physics, you always start by learning the theory and groundwork behind what you're studying before you get to its practical applications. Architects aren't shown completed houses only then to be told why they're built that way. You have to start from the beginning and expand your general knowledge pool before you can tackle the high-level, practical applications of the science.
To answer your likely follow up question, yes, I do.
Impractical categorization. I don't build decks thinking thoughts like "now all I need is some scaling cards and a trap or two!" Instead I look for cards to execute my game plan (beaters for a beatdown deck, millers for a mill deck, clones for a copycat deck) and cards to facilitate that plan (ramp, draw, defense/lifegain.)[/list]
The problem with that logic is that it assumes people know more than they do. I don't think your average player is a solid deck builder, nor do I think he knows what kinds of cards he should be fielding in a multiplayer setting. If I don't highlight the kinds of cards people should play, then I'm not actually accomplishing anything. I'm just spoon feeding people an answer without helping them understand it. People aren't actively looking for scaling cards, but the reality is that they should be. Every time you can shove one of these cards into your decks, it's probably extremely worthwhile to do so. As such, I want people to be aware of them, and that means taking the time to give them a nod.
It occurs to me that this being the Blue guide, something about the pros and cons of countermagic should be discussed in the Trap section. You have a few examples of countermagic listed under it, but nothing specific. I know that you cover this topic under 6.Supporting Strategies.Hindering Haymakers, but cross-referencing between the two paragraphs might be useful to readers.
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Still mulling over what Xyx said, but otherwise updated the guide to fix the errors that cme and krichaiushii pointed out. Also, had no idea that Gilded Drake was now a $23.00 card >.>. Maybe it always was, I dunno, haven't had to buy it in a looooooong time.
Gilded Drake is "tech" against Show and Tell and to a lesser extent Reanimator, and is good in Commander. All three of those have gained tremendous amounts of popularity over the past few years.
Oh believe me, I know exactly why it's expensive, I just didn't realize how much so lol. My friends and I have always gotten our hands on the "awesome" cards as soon as possible, so the rising price of older cards kind of escapes us.
Coiling Oracle is a nice gold card for Simic decks. The combination of either ramp or card advantage is exactly what UG stands for.
Not my favorite card. I don't think either "mode" of the card very strong, nor do I think that a 1/1 is going to relevant in most games. People will play it and like it, I don't doubt that for a second, but it's not a card that shines in a multiplayer setting. People already tend to be aware of these low-impact that provide moderate value, so I'm not too worried about listing them.
Next time I'll go over what appears to be the most important part of the primer; Synergies and Strategies.
Feel free to, just know that I won't read it. Every reply you make is done with an incredibly insulting tone and includes gross oversimplifications of what is said in the guide. I was taking your feedback seriously, but at this point I don't care what you have to say any more. M'kay?
Dismal Failure under the list of counterspells in the Trap Cards. While it's not the best example, I have a certain fondness for it. It's pretty good in Forced Fruition / Megrim decks (you know, even if they never work).
Gather Specimens in the list of Trap Cards. I've seen this one do some truly epic things before.
Null Brooch might be worth including in the defensive artifacts list, too - countering is a very blue thing to do.
Probably want to mention Phyrexian Metamorphsomewhere. Couldn't find him in my sweep (other than in the creature curves), and I've no idea where he properly fits, but bomb card is bomb card.
About the only pure blue deck I've ever run was Stasis. There are about a bazillion variants on it, but I think the important thing is to have 3-4 Stasis, 4 Capsize, a few Tradewind Riders for good measure, a Chronatog or two, and a whole buttload of Islands and counters.
Probably want to mention Phyrexian Metamorphsomewhere. Couldn't find him in my sweep (other than in the creature curves), and I've no idea where he properly fits, but bomb card is bomb card.
He comes up a few times but I'm hesitant to plug him too much. Rite of Replication is much cheaper ($ wise) and has much more lategame power. Now, it's obviously SIGNIFICANTLY worse, I wouldn't argue otherwise, but at the end of the day pricetag is a driving factor for me.
I´m going a bit rogue in this post, but to come back to the Blue guide, I´d like to know what the reasoning behind putting Meloku the Clouded Mirror in the guide is. I also believe the card is great but does it have any application in MP? I have it in one of my decks for bouncing Glimmerpost or getting Landfall on my Roil Elemental. Was it something else you were thinking of in particular? I mean, this is a very unique effect indeed and I am simply wondering if you had ever made an application of the Illusion tokens bearing in mind we´re talking mono-U here. (Please don't say Skullclamp, lol)
I don't have anything "specific" in mind, no. Still, the ability to pair him with equipment, Switcheroo, Skullclamp (HA! I said it!), landfall, or even just to make a "5/5 flier" at EOT can all be very cool. It's an "inspirational" card in the sense that it can fuel a lot of different strategies but is also just plain "fine" on his own. No, he's not as good as he once was, but he isn't terrible either.
A very nice job as always, especially given how miserable mono-blue multiplayer is to build
A few more cards that might merit inclusion: Kaho, Minamo Historian - granted, she would be way better if you could use her the turn she came down, but even so, she's basically an Isochron Scepter that tutors for its targets. Mind Over Matter - the core to too many good combo decks to ignore, even if it's not exactly budget (still, $6 doesn't exactly break the bank) - throw this in an Azami or Arcanis deck with a singleton Laboratory Maniac and you win if it resolves. Shapesharer - deceptively good, especially in a meta with a lot of Duplicant, Mirror Entity and the like.
Also, are you interested in deck suggestions, and if so, would you like them posted here or PM'd to you?
I've recently noticed that most of the 'free' blue cards in Urza's block are quite strong in MP formats. I mean, you get the obvious benefit of being able to play them for free if you want to, but you can also play the political game with them, and/or you can even bolster a teammate in an Emperor game with their effect.
Psychosis Crawler seems like a real good blue card. It and any draw spell are pretty powerful. I used to play a deck with High Tide, Blue Sun's Zenith, Psychosis Crawler, Lab Maniac. It won quite often.
Psychosis Crawler seems like a real good blue card. It and any draw spell are pretty powerful. I used to play a deck with High Tide, Blue Sun's Zenith, Psychosis Crawler, Lab Maniac. It won quite often.
Except it's not blue - it's an artifact. That's why it's in my Artifice Guide (complete with a decklist, that is, admittedly, very blue).
Nice! Stoked to see the final instalment of the MP colour guides. As usual, it's so comprehensive I can think of little to add. This is all that came to mind as I read through the guide...
RESILIENT rainbow efreet - it hasn't aged well, especially w/ the M10 changes to dmg, but it is still one of the hardest creatures to kill in magic. as long as you've UU, it's coming back. maybe OP equip can make this playable again. palinchron - also hasn't aged well, also annoyingly hard to kill
PERSISTENT // THEFT gilded drake - i'd note the gilded drake / waterfront bouncer combo (or any other bounce) is still incredibly annoying reuseable theft
DESTRUCTIVE volcanic eruption - go ahead look it up. bet no one else will see the blue earthquake coming either (provided there are mountains at your table...far from guaranteed)
- you mentioned willbender and these fall in the same category ovinize psionic blast - OK this spell isn't very good but it is quite the shock when the blue mage burns you out from nowhere sleep - this may be a sorcery but it is a classic trap card. one moment you're king of the table and the next moment you're scooping your cards up.
OTHER cunning wish - the way this is worded for casual is IMO ridiculous, for 2U you can have basically any instant in the game at your fingertips whenever you need it
U/R illuminate - it's not gold-bordered but there aren't many options in this rather sorry guild (in MP.) good if you have a lot of mana and looking for something to do with it.
2cc snapcaster mage - no doubt you are aware of this card, surprised not to see it here
4cc wonder - good rattlesnake that you want to die chameleon spirit - you mentioned elsewhere but this is prob one of the better 4cc options IMO argent sphinx - 4 flying power for 4 is already notable in any colour, a powerful metalcraft evasive ability makes this even better
5cc river kelpie - saw mentioned elsewhere, but the card drawing potential on this card is insane. someone wraths, draw 7. or better yet, play the wraths yourself. not to mention piggybacking off the graveyard abuser. the main danger here is decking yourself.