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April 18, 2019

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Mono-Blue Matchup Guide

Hey, it’s the Mono-Blue guy again. I finally got around to writing one of the more important articles to read before playing a deck – a matchup/sideboard guide.

I’ve previously written a deck tech and a tips and tricks article for the deck. If you haven’t read them yet, I suggest you check them out since they’ll help this article make more sense. You can get the first one here and the second one here.

Mono-Blue Tempo

Creatures (20)
Pteramander
Siren Stormtamer
Mist-Cloaked Herald
Merfolk Trickster
Surge Mare
Tempest Djinn

Enchantments (4)
Curious Obsession

Instants and Sorceries (16)
Opt
Dive Down
Spell Pierce
Chart a Course
Essence Capture
Wizard’s Retort

Land (20)
20 Island

Sideboard (15)
Negate
Exclusion Mage
Disdainful Stroke
Entrancing Melody
Surge Mare
Faerie Duelist
Essence Capture
Jace, Cunning Castaway
Transmogrifying Wand
Sleep

You may notice I made one small change to the sideboard since my last article; I replaced a Surge Mare with a Faerie Duelist. I found that I don’t really need the third Surge Mare in any matchup, whereas the Faerie Duelist is great against Viashino Pyromancer and Mono-Blue decks.

The Mirror Match

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This matchup normally starts off as a “who can stick a Curious Obsession / Flying Men?” war. That changes abruptly the moment one player decides that they’re safe to play a Tempest Djinn, either because their opponent taps out or because they have counter backup. Entrancing Melody is really important here since it lets you control more Tempest Djinns than your opponent. It also gets rid of Obsessions while grabbing your opponent’s one-drop.

You do get to draw a single card but don’t get to keep the Obsession for more than one turn because, while the card draw ability belongs to the creature, the sacrifice ability belongs to the enchantment. It is on the creature you control, but it does not belong to you. Therefore, if your opponent doesn’t attack, Curious Obsession will trigger and get sacrificed. Merfolk Trickster is another really important card in this matchup, since it can either make Tempest Djinn lose its power or it can ambush a flying or unblockable creature, ideally with Curious Obsession on it.

Entrancing Melody might be great for stealing creatures, but Exclusion Mage is even better at stealing them back. You get a 2/2 for your troubles, and it even kills an Obsession. Your opponent may replay the creature, but the enchantment is gone forever.

Faerie Duelist is good at ambushing Flying Men while saving some damage. The 1/2 body also matches up really well against a lot of creatures. Sleep often lets you sneak in lots of damage while killing Obsessions.

Dive Down doesn’t protect you against very many things, but I don’t want to get rid of all of them since Merfolk Trickster and Entrancing Melody can still be a big problem.

Chart a Course is kind of slow, as is that fourth Opt. You don’t always have the time to cast them. Surge Mare doesn’t block anything and Pteramander is the juiciest Entrancing Melody target my opponent is ever going to get. Three mana for a 5/5? Don’t mind if I do.

Salty (Sultai) Midrange

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This matchup is basically a race you’re guaranteed to lose if you don’t keep a big creature on the board. Tempest Djinn or a creature with a Curious Obsession, for example. You’ll want to start pinging away with a one-drop or two while making sure your opponent doesn’t gain life with Wildgrowth Walker or get a board of creatures that is too out of control. Sleep really turns the game in your favour, while Entrancing Melody turns their scariest attacker into your blocker. Merfolk Trickster is a great creature for making Wildgrowth Walker lose its abilities on a problem turn, but it doesn’t do anything when attacking since the Sultai deck is so creature heavy.

The Sultai deck can do way more damage than Mono-Blue once it gets up and running, but it has to get up and running first. Mono-Blue is faster out of the gate and has more disruption. Unfortunately, sometimes the Sultai deck still gets up to speed. When it does, the easiest way to sneak the last damage in before you die is to tell your opponent’s creatures that it’s sleepy time. Again, Sleep is huge when it come to winning the race. Entrancing Melody also tilts the play in your favour, since it puts your opponent down a creature while putting you up one.

The best Melody targets in this matchup are Hydroid Krasis and Wildgrowth Walker. Krasis is a good attacker and is cheap to take considering the size that it will often be. Wildgrowth Walker is also often under-costed and a great blocker, but a lot of the time you’re stealing it less so you can have it and more so your opponent can’t gain life with it. Surge Mare is a great brick wall while also being hard to block because of the high concentration of green creatures in the Sultai deck. Essence Capture is far better than counterspells like Spell Pierce here since Sultai has so many creatures.

Merfolk Trickster is great at tapping down the Walker on problem turns. It’s also great at saving some damage by tapping down a creature when played before combat, but it doesn’t really ambush much and is a terrible attacker. Spell Pierce counters Vivien Reid, but not much else except for the very occasional removal spell. Chart a Course is kind of slow and Mist-Cloaked Herald isn’t really necessary since Sultai doesn’t have many creatures with flying.

Esper Control

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Like most matchups against Esper, ending up with a hand of dead or irrelevant cards and Esper getting either a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or a hand full of cards and a threat is a death sentence. If you can stick a threat (Djinn, Obsessioned creature, Jace) and prevent if from dying, you’re normally fine. Assuming you don’t get mana-flooded, that is.

Jace, Cunning Castaway is a great threat in this matchup. It lets you filter away your useless lands, then starts making copies of itself. Those copies proceed to start making creatures and in general spiral out of control. The Esper player almost always brings in creatures, so you have to think about that when sideboarding. Having no answer for Lyra Dawnbringer can prove a complete disaster. Tempest Djinn is really good at ending the game quickly before your opponent draws too many answers, but its three-mana is brutal when you’re trying to keep up as many counters as possible.

Negate is a strong counterspell against control for winning counter wars, countering Planeswalkers, countering boardsweeps, etc. Disdainful Stroke is another strong counter that doesn’t get many counterspells, but tends to get the problem spells: Teferi, everybody’s least favourite Lyra, and sweepers. Jace, Cunning Castaway is a powerhouse in this matchup if left undealt with. Transmogrifying Wand is a necessary evil to stay on top of Esper’s creatures.Keep in mind, these aren’t the kind of creatures that you can ignore (Lyra Dawnbringer).

Opt and Chart a Course aren’t threats and don’t protect them, so they come out in this matchup. Surge Mare is trash because while it does pack a punch, it also uses so much mana that you want to be keeping up.

Gruul Monsters

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This matchup consists mainly of not getting run over by massive, under-costed Grizzly Bears while also keeping your creatures long enough to kill your opponent with flyers. Counterspells help a lot, as do cards like Sleep, Entrancing Melody, Merfolk Trickster, and anything else that interacts with creatures.

Gruul Spellbreaker should be at the top of your list of priorities to remove because it prevents you from using Merfolk Trickster on your opponent’s turn or doing other useful things. It also has Trample which, unlike all the other creatures, makes chumping it kind of useless. Try to Entrancing Melody Growth-Chamber Guardian, Gruul Spellbreaker, or Rekindling Phoenix. NOT GOBLIN CHAINWHIRLER. Chainwhirler might be great when you’re blocking Dire Fleet Daredevils, Kraul Harpooners, and Zhur-Taa Goblins, but as soon as your opponent gets a 4/4, you’re going to regret your life decisions.

Rekindling Phoenix is basically indestructible once it enters the battlefield, so countering it is kind of important. Merfolk Trickster can get rid of it once it is on the battlefield, but it takes some work. The same goes for most of the big creatures in the Gruul deck. They also have way more removal than you might expect from this sort of deck, so don’t just tap out every second turn expecting to go unpunished.

Sleep is really good because it allows you to not get beaten in the face for a turn. Entrancing Melody is great when you can get a solid blocker with it (a 4/4). Surge Mare is a great blocker and basically prevents four damage every turn. As I said before, counterspells are really important in this matchup because their creatures are so big and scary (although they at least don’t have lifelink). Transmogrifying Wand does not come in because turning 4/4s into 2/4s is not worth the card and the mana. Exclusion Mage doesn’t come in because bouncing Chainwhirler and Harpooner sucks.

One-drops aren’t great in this matchup because they tend to get Chainwhirlered. Mist-Cloaked Herald is slightly better than Pteramander because even though 5/5s are great blockers, Pterry’s probably not going to adapt. It is more important to have your Curious Obsession not screwed over by Rekindling Phoenix or Skarrgan HellkiteSpell Pierce doesn’t counter nearly as much as I’d like it to, Tempest Djinn is a kind of expensive card to play to just get it brick-walled by a Phoenix, and Chart a Course is still too slow. Starting to see a pattern here?

GW Tokens

Scoop it up and accept defeat.

White Aggro

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This matchup is going to end badly for you most of the time.

Often, they’re just going to be faster than you and you’re going to get run over. When you do win, it’s going to be because you stalled out the board with a big creature and then beat them quickly. One of your advantages in this matchup is their lack of removal. Sleep is useful because it gives you a turn of them not attacking, which protects your life total and lets you get in with something like a Tempest Djinn that you may have been holding back to block with. Entrancing Melody on Venerated Loxodon is another way to get a solid blocker, although Loxodon has normally done a lot of its damage by the time it has entered the battlefield.

Merfolk Trickster is your best answer to Adanto Vanguard. One-drops don’t work as an answer since your opponent will almost always be willing to pay four life. After they attack, if you Merfolk Trickster the Vanguard and then block it, you kill it since they can’t give it indestructible. And if it had indestructible before, it loses it when Trickster’s ability resolves. If you Entrancing Melody Adanto, don’t pay the four life to give it indestructible, your life total is too valuable. The other good Entrancing Melody target is Benalish Marshal, because it pumps all your dorks now, and not theirs. However, it isn’t a great blocker.

Faerie Duelist is good at eating 1/1s and can block a 2/1 profitably when it enters the battlefield. Exclusion Mage is a great tempo play, especially against History of Benalia. You can bounce one knight then block the other one. Sleep is a great Time Warp effect in this matchup, given that most of what Mono-White wants to do is attack. Essence Capture is good at getting rid of annoying things such as Venerated Loxodon, Adanto Vanguard, Benalish Marshal, and Tithe Taker. Entrancing Melody is a great way to get a blocker while getting rid of a problem creature or attacker.

Opt and Chart a Course are too slow in this matchup. The same goes for Wizard’s Retort. Conclave Tribunal, Baffling End, and occasionally Deputy of Detention are their only removal, which makes Dive Down kind of bad. Spell Pierce, on the other hand, is great. It counters History of Benalia, which is a lot of damage once it hits the battlefield, as well as Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, Unbreakable Formation, all their removal, and either Heroic Reinforcements and Experimental Frenzy or Spell Pierce.

Temur Reclamation

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This matchup is all about finishing your opponent off before they draw Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Once that happens, the whole game’s over.

You can’t even Dive Down to protect your one-drops because Dive Down will trigger Niv and then they’ll ping your creature before Dive Down even resolves. Two other cards to worry about are Rekindling Phoenix and Murmuring Mystic. Other than that, Wilderness Reclamation is a good card to counter since it lets them draw cards on their turn and then disrupts you on yours. Spell Piercing Growth Spiral is also a good idea since Growth Spiral ramps them, which lets them have more mana for counterspells and get Niv down faster.

Negate counters all their removal as well as their card draw (most of which they sideboard out against you) and Wilderness Reclamation. Disdainful Stroke doesn’t get most of their removal but it does get Murmuring Mystic and Rekindling Phoenix. Transmogrifying Wand is your only answer to Mystic and Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Try your hardest not to get it countered. Jace, Cunning Castaway does not come in for this matchup because even though it might start taking over the game, you’re going to lose all your hard work the second they land a Niv.

Essence Capture is terrible. It counters three cards, maybe (Murmuring Mystic and Rekindling Phoenix). Surge Mare is kind of slow against this deck, but its high toughness can be useful against a deck that only has damage-based removal. Tempest Djinn doesn’t come out in this matchup even though, like against Esper, it is expensive when you’re trying to counter stuff. Unlike against Esper, it is way harder to kill since all their removal is damage based. Tempest Djinn is also a card that doesn’t get blocked off by Niv-Mizzet, Parun.

If you’re still here at this point, thanks for reading. I promise I’ll talk about a different deck next article, although I do not promise that it won’t also be a blue tempo deck. All I’ll say is that the only card it shares with the deck I talked about today is Island.