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April 4, 2019

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Mono-Blue Tempo Tips and Tricks

Hi, it’s me, the Mono-Blue guy again. Today I’m going to be talking about useful tips and tricks when playing Mono-Blue Tempo. I wrote a deck tech for it last week which you can get here. I also recorded a video of me playing it which you can get 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
Essence Capture
Jace, Cunning Castaway
Transmogrifying Wand
Sleep

Disclaimer: These tips are meant as rules of thumb and there will be times when you should ignore these. They are meant as suggestions, not the official laws of playing Mono-Blue Tempo.

Tips for playing the deck

  • Merfolk Trickster doesn’t just tap a creature, it makes it lose its abilities as well. I’ve seen way too many people play this before combat, which does help prevent damage by tapping one creature and blocking another, but if you play it before combat, they won’t necessarily attack anything into it because you’ve shown it to them. Therefore, most of the time it is better to wait until after they’ve attacked and then play it making their creature lose first strike or flying or some other useful ability and ambush it.
  • You don’t need to use all the card advantage off of Curious Obsession. In fact, when you get mana screwed against control the correct play is often to hold up 1-2 protection spells every turn, and if this leaves you needing to discard to hand size, so be it.
  • If you can keep up a counterspell or Dive Down and doing so won’t leave you too far behind, do it.
  • When you see Opt while scrying from another Opt, take it. This will dig you one card deeper and fill your graveyard for Pteramander.
  • Dive Down pumps toughness which can help against Deafening Clarion and occasionally Gates Ablaze.
  • You can use Dive Down to pump Djinn’s toughness so it survives combat while killing the creature blocking it. (Lyra, Krasis, etc.)
  • You will have extra 1-drops late game. Chumping with these to give you extra time to kill your opponent is perfectly fine.
  • You can use Dive Down to more or less chump by butt-pumping your creature to make survive and live to chump another day.
  • It may very, very, VERY occasionally be correct to Dive Down a creature end of turn for no reason other than to allow you to adapt Pteramander next turn.
  • Wildgrowth Walker is a headache. Once they get it down it is basically impossible to remove using the cards in your maindeck short of flashing in Merfolk Trickster to block and kill it. However, Wildgrowth Walker isn’t a problem every turn, just the turns they play something that explores, so if you counter the creature that explores or make the Walker lose all abilities that turn, they won’t gain life. (I find that the best solution to my opponent having both Path of Discovery and Wildgrowth Walker is whipping my deck across the room and going to cry in the corner.)
  • Siren Stormtamer can counter Settle the Wreckage, Risk Factor and other burn spells.
  • Be careful blocking Goblin Chainwhirler with Tempest Djinn, since Chainwhirler has first strike, they can Bolt the Djinn and then go to damage and you’ll lose your Djinn and their Chainwhirler will stay around.
  • You actually have to pump Surge Mare to loot, since doing 0 damage doesn’t count as dealing damage.

Choosing the right 1-drop on turn one

  • Mist-Cloaked Herald is the best Curious Obsession target in the deck since it doesn’t get blown out by janky flyers.
  • Siren Stormtamer is great because it makes Wizard’s Retort cost less and is basically Dive Down. If you think your opponent is going to kill your first 1-drop you probably don’t want to lead on Siren Stormtamer.
  • Pteramander is better late game while the other ones are better early game, so it is better to not play it if you have another 1-drop.

Tips for playing against the deck

  • Even if Drakes, Gates, and Nexus decks sideboard in counters, they will very rarely win a counter against Mono-Blue.
  • If your Mono-Blue opponent goes shields down, kill their Tempest Djinn or Curious Obsessioned 1-drop. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t efficient use of your mana.
  • The mono-blue player will sometimes hold up Dive Down against removal and then Opt end of turn if their opponent doesn’t make them use their Dive Down rather than wasting their mana. This is your opportunity to kill their creature.
  • Curious Obsession pumps toughness as well. Don’t be that guy who Lava Coils a Tempest Djinn with Obsession on it and expects to kill it.

Cards to Put in Your Sideboard to Beat Mono-Blue

This is the most efficient way to deal with everything in Mono-Blue except for Tempest Djinn. All the other removal spells either cost way more or don’t get rid of Curious Obsessions or adapted Pteramanders.

Deep Freeze or Transmogrifying Wand, Entrancing Melody and Merfolk Trickster are the only ways Mono-Blue has to deal with Lyra. That may seem like a lot, but two of those are sideboard, not always played, and when they are, only as 1-ofs or 2-ofs. Merfolk Trickster is only temporary and Entrancing Melody costs SEVEN mana. Mono-Blue doesn’t normally care that it can’t get rid of creatures well because normally they don’t affect Mono-Blue too much. Most flyers you can swarm past by playing even more flyers. Lifelink though, is a problem, and because of first strike you can’t even trade Tempest Djinn for it.

A lot of Esper Control decks have started playing this card mainboard because of the number of aggro decks playing 1-drops in the format. It also works as a win condition that isn’t constantly tucking Teferi, Hero of Dominaria forever. The +1 on Kaya is very occasionally correct to use but most of the time it’s better to -1 to get rid of their Curious Obsession and then make them attack Kaya to prevent her from killing more stuff.

I hate Tithe Taker with all my heart. Oh, and don’t even get me started on when they have it multiples. There’s something less attractive about Merfolk Trickster costing 3 or 4 mana against fast decks. Oh, and Dive Down costing 3 mana is a reasonable, right? This card completely and totally screws over so many things that the Mono-Blue deck is trying to do.

Niv is brutal to play against. You want to Dive Down your creature to protect it? OK, I’ll just draw a card to replace the removal spell you fizzled and then ping your creature to kill it anyway. There was no need to play Transmogrifying Wand or Deep Freeze until Niv became popular and started wrecking Mono-Blue players.

The “can’t be countered” phrase on Niv is so brutal because there are three ways Mono-Blue deals with problem creatures: Outracing them, making them lose all abilities on problem turns, or countering them. Niv-Mizzet, Paurn literally can’t be countered, so that leaves outracing and getting rid of it on problem turns. With Niv-Mizzet, every turn is a problem turn since your deck, and any deck playing Niv, is going to be stacked with instants and sorceries. You can’t really outrace it either since it tends to kill most of your 1-drops and then sit there as a 5/5 flyer.

Against most decks, Chainwhirler is a 3/3 first strike with a little bit of upside. Against Mono-Blue it’s a boardsweep with a body attached. The creature is easyish to block using Tempest Djinn, although the Mono-Blue player still has to be careful to not get blown-out by a burn spell after blocks. However, most of Tempo’s 1-drops get wrecked by Chainwhirler’s enter the battlefield effect making it one of the number one counter targets.

Flyers

Twelve of the twenty creatures in Mono-Blue have flying. These creatures are as good as unblockable in some matchups so the Mono-Blue player will often stick Curious Obsession on them. If those creatures then get blocked off by a flyer, stuff goes south really fast. Hydroid Krasis is a very good card in general and it can be a beating against Mono-Blue if comes out early. If it comes out late it’s often just to slow. Thief of Sanity is normally an anti-control card, but a 2/2 flyer can be good enough against Mono-Blue. You don’t put Thief in your sideboard to beat Mono-Blue, but once it’s in there, you may as well bring it in.

Kraul Harpooner and Atzocan Archer are very similar, they have reach and they fight something when they enter the battlefield. Kraul Harpooner is considerably better against Mono-Blue and the only reason I would play Atzocan Archer is so I can bring it in against Mono-Red. Faerie Duelist is a decent tempo play that Mono-Blue can bring in for the mirror to flash in and surprise block a 1/1 flyer and then make the creature with Obsession on it have 0 power to prevent them from drawing a card. Murmuring Mystic can be pretty stupid at pumping out flyers in a drake deck or any other deck with heavy card draw. Rekindling Phoenix is a really easy way to brick wall the entire Mono-Blue deck since even if you manage to trade a Tempest Djinn with it, the Phoenix just comes back the next turn.

Life Gain

One way Mono-Blue deals with stuff it doesn’t counter is by outracing it. When the stuff it didn’t counter gains life, racing becomes a huge problem. Knight of Autumn gaining 4 life or destroying a Curious Obsession can be a big deal. If Archway Angel resolves the game is basically over for Mono-Blue. The other two make creatures with lifelink that attack a bunch and make racing really hard.

Efficient Removal

Mono-Blue relies on Tempest Djinning or Curious Obsessioning at some point in the game. Killing the Djinn or Obsession really helps shut down their game plan. Cast Down and Baffling End kill everything in the Tempo deck and force the Tempo player to have a Dive Down or Spell Pierce. Assassin’s Trophy does ramp the Mono-Blue player, however, it also gets rid of Obsession directly, which is way harder to protect. Fungal Infection it the only good one mana way black has to get rid of a 1-drop. Unfortunately, it only gets rid of it while it’s still 1-toughness.

Moment of Craving gets rid of stuff while gaining you life, though the two mana is a big draw back. Shock and Shivan Fire both kill 1-drops for one mana. Lava Coil gets rid of anything except for a Curious Djinn, but it is two mana rather than one. Collision // Colossus gets rid of everything except Merfolk Trickster and Mist-Cloaked Herald while also being able to pump your creature for a ton. It also gets around the Curious Obsession on Tempest Djinn to give it 5 toughness play.

In general, red has the best removal against Mono-Blue.

Cheap Boardsweeps

What’s better than removing one creature? Getting rid of all of them. These boardsweeps get rid of multiple pesky 1-drops rather than just the one with Obsession on it. They also can’t protect Obsession with Siren Stormtamer, although they can protect it from these boardsweeps with Dive Down. Fiery Cannonade being instant speed makes it slightly better than the other two even if it doesn’t get rid of Siren Stormtamer.

I’ll soon have an article on sideboarding with this deck. If you have any other useful tips, or think one of mine is completely dumb, please tell me in the comments below.