Magic Perspectives – Blue by Crispin Bateman

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Magic Perspectives – Dragon Boy by Crispin Bateman

It started early, not quite with the dawn but in that period of the metaphorical morning where your bare feet touch the grass and are made wet by the dew. By ‘early’ I mean that period of Magic that I love to keep talking about; the very old days, when cards came from a small selection of sets and the very thought that someone might be sitting at a computer reading an article about the game was so out there that the very subject would be a pub-type conversation all by itself (a pub-type conversation that no doubt led to the Dojo, Magic history lovers). I’m waffling – the point I’m trying to make is that Blue Players have been around since Magic was a thing.

I blame Ancestral Recall. Why not? It’s responsible for so much, why not this as well?

I think, in those early days of Magic, that most people had a go at a mono-coloured deck. It made sense, after all. Early trading for someone who has no idea what they are doing is made easier if they simply say “I’m going to collect all the red cards and play with those”, and maybe the drive to become mono-blue started for some as an accident, but you can bet that it didn’t remain a casual thought for long as they started to win, time and time again, while causing pure misery on the face of their friends.

Ancestral Recall and Counterspell, of course. Don’t forget the UU wonder.

It’s really Counterspell’s fault. Much as I’d like to pretend that the-best-card-in-Magic was in every collection and fuelled all early decks, the fact is that rares were rare and players managing to do the mono-blue thing in those early days are far more likely to have done it due to the ability to stop every single thing in the game at interrupt speed with a couple of untapped Islands than due to the card drawing power of a man with a headache outside some Aztec-style temples. Seriously, what is that art about? Don’t answer, I know really.

Ancestral Recall Banner

Blue players, therefore, have been around for over two decades, and they are very different from all the other mono-coloured types. Mono-green players hit people with creatures. Mono-red players might utilise a lot of burn, but let’s face it, they are happy to hit people with creatures too. Mono-black players will attack with creatures, and mono-white players have both soldiers and angels. Mono-blue players, however? Until Morphling, I’m pretty sure there weren’t any creatures printed in blue. Hmm, Serendib Efreet perhaps, but wasn’t he secretly green? Blue Players don’t win with creatures, they win with pain. Your pain.

Dictionary.com defines ‘torture’ as ‘extreme anguish of body or mind; agony’. Perfect. Yup, that’s what Blue Players are trying to achieve in their Magic games; an extreme anguish of mind. They are the torturers of the trading card game world, the cruel and sadistic masters of Friday night gaming. And they are proud of it.

A lot of people say that fun, especially when they are talking about games, should not be at the expense of other people but if that was the case, then Blue Players the world over would never have any fun, and let me tell you this – they do! Anyone who has played Magic for more than a month or two has had that first moment of coming across a Blue Player. If they are lucky, they get in a turn one play (and maybe not, because, you know, Force of Will), but then they are staring across at two untapped Islands and even if they are playing in a format where Counterspell can no longer reign (and who would want to do that regularly?) someone will find an alternative. Remand, anyone? Mana Leak? Even current Standard has Syncopate, Nullify, Negate, Essence Scatter, Annul, Swan Song… need I go on? From turn two on, facing off a Blue Player means fearing that the next spell isn’t going to get through, and neither is the one after that. I hope that one-drop meant business.

Playing Blue isn’t about fun for the opponent, it’s about denying them everything, and even though Wizards of the Coast have done their utmost over the last decade to water down what it is to be Blue to almost ‘fair’ levels, thankfully there are still things that slip through the net. After all, a couple of years ago we got this bad boy:

Snapcaster Mage

And don’t even think for a minute that he’s a creature; the fact that he trades for an opposing Dark Confidant at instant speed is merely icing on the top of a very spell-oriented cake.

Of course, Blue isn’t all about countering spells. Let’s go back to Ancestral Recall and realise that it defined Blue for the entire course of the game by saying ‘blue is the colour that draws cards’. It got nerfed a little when Ice Age came out and we got Brainstorm, but in all honestly, is that really that much of a nerfing, especially when it is used with a shuffle effect it is often superior to the original one-blue powerhouse? Honestly, Snapcaster Mage loves them both, and Ponder, Preordain, and all the other attempts to ‘fix’ it.

Blue Players know all this, of course, and listing the tools of their trade is hardly news to anyone. What about the mentality though, what is it which makes a Blue Player?

  • A sense of superiority. Let’s face it, this bit is totally true. There are people out there who play blue, and plenty of them, who don’t have that sense of superiority, but they’re not really Blue Players. No, to be a true Blue Player you simply have got to know that you are better, in almost every way, to your opponents (we like to call them ‘victims’). In fact, the only Magic player even close in skill to a Blue Player is another Blue Player, and to get a decent game in where it’s not just eleven layer deep counterspell stacks one of you has to be willing to mess about with another colour every now and then. Still, you’d do that for a true friend and fellow Blue Player, right?
  • Understanding that your victim’s pain is your joy. Not for the Blue Player any sense of empathy, no, a total crushing is fine – after all, they wanted to play with you, they should understand the situation. You are not there to provide their fun, and anyway, it is fun trying to fight through a wall of counterspells with Snapcaster Mage backup (especially if you can bounce him too…).
  • A general disdain of creature-based Magic. This is important; if you secretly harbour a perverse enjoyment when your 4/4 crashes head on into their 6/6 and it’s a Giant Growth which stops your beast going to the graveyard, then a Blue Player your are not. Creature-based Magic is for new players and should stay there. Finishing off with Aetherling though, that’s fine – it’s just an endgame tool.
  • A true love for the flashback mechanic. It’s spells twice.
  • And scry.

Over time the Blue Player has evolved. As the powers-that-be did their best to weaken the pool of cards available to the true Island aficionado, it was necessary to learn how to use the other cards in Blue’s arsenal. Learning how best to utilise bounce spells, and tempo cards like Griptide in limited has helped the blue player move into a new generation and fight on despite the growth in power on creatures. Other tools available since Alpha include Clone effects and stealing enchantments; if the opponent has access to something a little bit too good, take it from them and make it yours. Oh yes, the Blue Player has plenty up his sleeve. What was it that happened back in Worldwake? Wasn’t it this:

JacetheMindSculptor
Hear the Blue Player cackle. If a mistake is to be made by R&D, it will be made to help blue. Jace the Ridiculous is there to remind us all who is king of the colour pie and continuing that tradition of making things just a little bit silly and putting them in blue, the upcoming set has this:

CleverImpersonator

Oh, it might not break open formats at first, but there’s no denying the strength of this new card. Nice planeswalker you have there, don’t mind if I do…

Can it be fought? Is there a way to subdue the Blue Player or should you hang up your deck box now and retire? Oh, of course everything can be beaten and the Blue Player can get unlucky, but really it’s a difficult proposition. Then again, there are some pretty impressive creatures available in other colours now…

Crispin

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