A Magictation by Mikeal Basile
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
Here is my list of thirteen tricky blue spells to outwit your enemies (I mean, friends) in Commander. Blue can be summed up with one word–Counterspell. Blue is the color known for having the best selection of deceptive spells. It is the color most likely to deny another deck its game plan. This list highlights blue spells that were lurking among my drawers of commons and uncommons. Blue has access to so many powerful effects, and this list highlights cards Commander players need to incorporate into their blue decks to bamboozle the opposition, feeble-minded or not.
If you cannot afford The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, then Pendrell Mists is the next best thing. Taxing other player’s resources is something blue has been doing since Alpha introduced Power Leak. Forcing your opponents to spend mana keeping their creatures alive keeps them from developing an army too quickly. Slowing people down helps you make it to your end-game strategy. Pendrell Mists cripples the go-wide strategies that can often cause fits for blue decks. Fade Away is similar, but is usually too little, too late. Mana Chains, another mana taxing card, is a great way to slowly destroy a difficult threat, but it only deals with one creature, and that creature will most certainly be gunning for you. Meanwhile, Pendrell Mists affects every creature and does not overly tax anyone. You should not become an immediate target, but those that lean on mana dorks (Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves) will certainly be unhappy about this. Pendrell Mists allows you to slow the game enough for you to draw into the right answers at the most bewildering times.
Flash of Insight
Flash of Insight can help you find the answer you need to most any problem. This card digs down quite a bit for a single card, and then is able to be flashed back for only two mana. In the late-game, this can easily dig even deeper than something like Dig Through Time. It is not better than Dig, but it can get you two cards by casting it and then flashing it back. Flash of Insight provides excellent card selection, and gets you to that last combo piece even faster. Flash of Insight enables you to select the card you need to completely bamboozle your opponents.
Hinder is a befuddling counterspell that is not played nearly enough. Hinder gives you the ability to toss the countered spell on top of your thwarted opponent’s library. This helps when you do not want them drawing any new answers. More importantly, you can put that countered spell on the bottom of their library. The amount of recursion in Commander is no joke. Commander Decks recur creatures, instants, artifacts, enchantments, and everything else too. Being able to put the countered spell on the bottom of an opponent’s library is often better than depositing it in their graveyard. Tutor effects are far less frequent than recursion tactics. Hinder is a calculated way to swindle your friends out of utilizing their recursive spells.
Flood is both beguiling and effective even without the help of silly combo pieces like Mystic Decree or Gravity Sphere. If you are playing green, try combining Stormfront and Flood to tap every foolish creature on the board. Being able to tap down any non-flying creature for only two blue is a great deal. This enchantment comes down for only one mana, and then stays around to cheat your opponents out of attacking and blocking. Blue usually has plenty of fliers, so blocking fliers is not usually an issue. Flood will keep leery opponents skipping combat steps to avoid being tapped down. Flood keeps all those ground pounders duped into skipping their attack phases.
Ensnare is exactly the type of thing you want to be doing when playing blue. Returning two islands to your hand to tap all creatures is a great deal. Outwitting people is what blue mages live for, and Ensnare allows you to do so when your shields are down. This can easily set up an alpha strike when cast prior to your turn. It can also be insurance against someone cracking back after you have dealt some heavy damage on your previous turn. Blue wants to make people think and rethink their plans. Ensnare catches people off guard when they think your only response might be a sneaky Force of Will or other zero mana counterspell. Tap down everyone’s creatures making other people into tantalizing targets with Ensnare.
Commander is full of degenerate lands, and Spreading Seas keeps them in check. Next time an opponent casts Crop Rotation and drops in Hall of Heliod’s Generosity, Volrath’s Stronghold, or Gaea’s Cradle, you need to spread the love. Send Spreading Seas to clean up that mess and the cantrip will ensure you have more gas to keep circumventing your opponent’s plans. While I love Spreading Seas, you should also seriously consider playing Aquitect’s Will. Will does not work as well in non-merfolk strategies, but if your playgroup is overrun with silly non-basics, then Aquitec’s Will is worth it, as it cannot be disenchanted like Spreading Seas. Spreading Seas is still better (in non-merfolk decks), because it will always replace itself, and that means you are merely drawing closer to the spells that will surely outsmart your opponents.
Wipe Away is a powerful bounce spell that cannot be stopped. Wipe Away is great for interrupting combos, effectively countering auras, and removing targets for instant spells. Wipe Away has split second, and that can be difficult to understand for people that were not playing when interrupts existed. Interrupts used to be faster than instants, and so they interrupted play. Split second basically does that. Nothing else happens until Wipe Away resolves. Unlike Capsize with buyback, Wipe Away says no one can announce new abilities or spells until Wipe Away resolves. Wipe Away discombobulates careful combos even when they have counterspell backup. Wipe Away is a very versatile bounce spell that deserves to see more play than it currently does.
Anti-Magic Aura is so much more than a partial shroud giver. It makes the enchanted creature unable to be targeted by instant spells, sorcery spells, and other enchantments. It can still be hit with abilities from permanents, so it is not shroud. If you looked at this card and were confused, then you know it is a perfect inclusion for a blue deck. If you thought, why not just use Lightning Greaves, Robe of Mirrors, or even Diplomatic Immunity? Then you are thinking too narrowly, my friend. You say, “Wait, it doesn’t even give it real shroud,” which is right, but still not thinking broadly enough. Anti-Magic Aura is flexible. It makes all previously attached auras fall off the creature. Anti-Magic Aura allows you to make your Commander harder to hit with removal, or it helps your creature shrug off enchantment removal (Pacifism or Faith’s Fetters), or it nullifies opposing problematic Commanders (Bruna, Light of Alabaster or Zur the Enchanter). For three mana you are able to use this spell any number of ways, and that is the sign of a powerful Magic card. Anti-Magic Aura is the kind of spell that will surely bewilder your friends.
Coastal Piracy, recently reprinted in Jumpstart, is a very efficient draw engine. This enchantment only costs four mana, and lets you draw a card every time your creatures deal combat damage to an opponent. Yes, every single time. Coastal Piracy allows aggressive decks to keep their hands full of cards. Each time your evasive creatures deal damage, you draw cards. Coastal Piracy is an excellent draw effect for aggressive decks like ninjas or blue white fliers. While swinging in for card advantage, be sure to read Coastal Piracy’s flavor text while you defraud your friends into thinking this card is not a huge threat.
Bond of Insight
Bond of Insight lets you reuse multiple cards from your graveyard. It mills four cards first, helping to beef up your selection. It is exiled after casting, much the same as Pull from the Deep, but unlike Pull allows you to pick two of the same type of card (instant or sorcery). Another interesting concept to note is that this does not target the cards being recurred. An opponent will not be able to remove the cards you intend to return in response to your “targeting” them. This level of recursion can set up some pretty amazing turns. You can chain together extra turns, bring back direct damage, grab your Ensnare again, or even return a Flash of Insight if you are not ready to flash it back just yet. Bond of Insight will allow you to finagle extra value out of your beguiling spells.
Submerge is amazing when you can cast it for free. When you cast it for five mana, it is barely acceptable. Submerge puts an opponent’s creature on top of their library, and that is a solid effect. Plenty of shenanigans happen to cards on the tops of people’s libraries. Submerge is a strong inclusion, because it is easy to meet the conditions for casting this spell for free. If one of your opponent’s controls a forest and you control an island, then you can play Submerge for free. How many games have you played where none of your opponents has a forest in play? Exactly! I cannot seem to remember a game where at least one of my three opponents did not control a forest card (it does not have to be a basic forest). Similar to Ensnare, Submerge surprises opponents and is especially brutal in response to a fetchland activation (shuffle that threat away). Submerge enables blue mages to influence the gamestate while being tapped out, and that is the type of deception we live for!
Exclude has been a favorite counterspell of mine since it was first printed twenty years ago. Counterspells are good, but exchanging spells one for one can lead to issues later on, especially in a Commander game. Exclude limits you to countering only creatures. Being able to draw a card while countering that creature makes the mana cost and the limitation non issues. Exclude and Repulse were long staples in any blue deck I built for nearly fifteen years. I love the interaction of bouncing a problematic creature, countering it the next turn, and not having any fewer cards in hand afterwards. With so many blanketed bounce effects, Exclude easily becomes the clutch blue creature removal spell we need when combined with mass bounce effects (Evacuation and Wash Out).
Siren’s Call has plenty of rules text for those who love to smugly read cards to their opponents. Siren’s Call forces your opponent to attack with their creatures this turn. They must attack with any creature that did not come into play under their control this turn (creatures with haste actually do not have to attack if they came into play this turn). If any of those creatures do not attack this turn, they are destroyed at the end of turn. It does not matter if they could not attack because of your War Tax or Ensnare. If a non-wall creature does not attack, even if it has defender, it is destroyed. An odd case is that changelings count as walls and will not die (kudos to anyone who dodges this with Shields of Velis Vel). Siren’s Call is blue creature removal. I know that Pongify, Rapid Hybridization, and Reality Shift exist, but they are not nearly as exciting as Siren’s Call. First printed in Alpha, Siren’s Call is an original card from 1993. It was last reprinted in Fourth Edition. This is a classic that has been forgotten. With proper planning you can use Siren’s Call to destroy a player’s entire army. Your opponents will surely curse your manipulations as their armies are destroyed by your ingenious inclusion of Siren’s Call.
Aura Graft is a situational card, but it does have some flexibility. It allows you to steal another aura away from someone and give it to your permanent. Aura Graft can also be used to move your own aura from one target to another. Theft is a blue thing, and is very sneaky when placed on an instant (Dominate). Aura Graft is best in a deck that runs its own auras, so you can defensively shift the aura in response to removal.
I spent several days going through uncommon and common blue cards in my collection. I initially pulled a stack of 115 cards when I started to pare this list down. So many cards wanted to be in my top thirteen. I found that blue loves to bounce cards, tax its opponents’ resources, counter spells of all kinds at all casting costs, steal things, and find odd ways to remove creatures permanently.
I am not sure if blue is my favorite color, as I enjoy all the colors, but magictating on blue allows me to really see the trajectory of Magic’s history and evolution. I am looking forward to seeing what Wizards will do with blue in the future. Blue offers so many unique effects and choices, from rares to mythics (Ertai’s Meddling) and commons to uncommons (Counterspell). A blue card does not need to be expensive in order to be tricky, deceptive, and powerful. Blue seems to almost bend the rules of the game, allowing for deceptive tricks and incredibly powerful synergies. Utilize some of these odd-ball blue cards to create interesting board states and manipulate your friends.