Pauper Cube: Blue

Written by Ezra Sassaman on . Posted in Casual Magic, Cube

Pauper Cube: Blue

Ezra Sassaman

Ezra Sassaman has been playing Magic since he got a sweet Ravnica theme deck for his 12th birthday. Since then, he has been an avid follower of all aspects of the game. In his free time, he enjoys Cube-drafting with his friends in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Last week, I set the stage for my next few Pauper Cube articles. My general plan is to discuss each color’s role in the Cube in the traditional WUBRG order. After talking about the color white last week, we are ready to dive into blue!

What does blue want to do in Pauper Cube? Following the breakdown I explained for white last week, I will divide this question into four sections: The Aggressive Plan, The Defensive Plan, Repeatable Effects and Card Advantage, and Blue Color Pairs.

The Aggressive Plan

Blue is the one color that just isn’t very good at attacking the opponent’s life total. Unlike white, it doesn’t have the same supply of common one-drop and two-drop creatures that attack quickly. Instead of reaping the benefit of a high power-to-cost ratio, early blue creatures are often smaller and used for utility. However, this utility can sometimes translate into aggression, depending on which colors your blue creatures are sharing a deck with. Creatures like Pestermite and Man-O’-War, which often serve to protect your life total from opposing threats, can switch roles when played together with aggressive beaters like Carnophage and Gore-House Chainwalker. Sometimes, instead of tapping or bouncing your opponent’s attackers, you can use the versatile abilities of these blue three-drops to thwart your opponent’s blockers instead.

Ninja of the Deep Hours and Tandem Lookout do not represent a serious threat to your opponent’s life total, but they are threats that must be blocked. Threatening to draw more cards than your opponent is a quintessentially blue version of being “aggressive”.

The Defensive Plan

Defense is what blue does best. In the early game, you can use solid blockers like Omenspeaker and Sea Gate Oracle while simultaneously ensuring you draw just the right mixture of lands and spells. On defense, blue is most known for its counterspells to stop opposing threats as they are cast. Particularly frustrating cards to play against are the super-cheap Force Spike and Daze. Casting Daze doesn’t even require you to have any untapped mana. If your opponent thinks the coast is clear and taps out to cast a huge Rolling Thunder or Walker of the Grove, you can return one of your Islands to your hand and “get ‘em” with your sneaky instant! Because most counterspells cost at least two mana to cast, Force Spike can lead to a similarly unpleasant surprise for your opponent.

If opposing threats get through your counters, blue can answer them with bounce spells that return permanents to your opponent’s hand. While bounce only gives you a temporary reprieve from your opponent’s threats, you often get the added bonus of card draw and library manipulation. While a card like Repeal or Repulse can not stop a creature permanently, the time gained and the card drawn will hopefully put you ahead of your opponent. Just like the Whitemane Lion play mentioned last week, remember that blue bounce spells can be used just as well on your own creatures. This is especially good with creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects, like Mulldrifter and Eldrazi Skyspawner.

Repeatable Effects and Card Advantage

Blue is so good at repeatable effects and card advantage that it was tough to discuss the aggressive plan or the defensive plan without mentioning them! Cards like Merfolk Looter and Waterfront Bouncer allow you to do the same thing turn after turn. Waterfront Bouncer can be used to keep your opponent’s best creature off the board for the rest of the game and is a great answer to tokens, equipment, and auras. Don’t forget you can use the Bouncer to save your own creatures and even itself. Make sure to leave it untapped whenever possible– use it strategically on your own creatures when you don’t think it’s likely your opponent can foil your plans with a removal spell. Following are two situations where you have an active Waterfront Bouncer and a Mulldrifter in play:

Situation 1 (You are impatient): You try to return your own Mulldrifter with your Waterfront Bouncer immediately. Here, your opponent can respond with a Lightning Bolt and kill your Mulldrifter for good.

Situation 2 (You are patient): You leave Waterfront Bouncer untapped and play the rest of the game as usual. Now, if your opponent ever tries to kill your Mulldrifter with a removal spell, you can save it. If your opponent ever taps so much mana that they can’t cast removal spells anymore, then you can use the Bouncer. Being patient, especially as a blue player, pays off.

One of the easiest ways to gain card advantage is to use one card to draw two or more cards. Blue commons excel at accomplishing this task. In the early game, you have Think Twice and Compulsive Research. If the game goes long, you can take advantage of Deep Analysis drawing four entire cards over the course of two turns. If you stock up your graveyard with cheap instants and sorceries, Treasure Cruise is available to refill your hand for cheap in the late game.

Blue Color Pairs

Blue-Black

Blue-Black control is a powerful testament of how well these two colors complement each other. Removal spells like Doom Blade fill a hole in blue’s strategy and allow you to more effectively deal with creatures. Both blue and black creatures set your opponent back while improving your own board presence. Blue has creatures like Aether Adept and Aethersnipe; black has Chittering Rats and Skinthinner. Card advantage is the name of the game for this color combination. It can take the form of using only one of your cards to answer two opposing cards (Hymn to Tourach and Floodwaters). It can also take the form of multiple threats wrapped up in one card (Grixis Slavedriver and Stormbound Geist). Sometimes, you gain cards while simultaneously forcing your opponents to lose them (Soul Manipulation and Probe).

Blue-Red

During the “Aggressive Plan” section, I mentioned how blue isn’t really aggressive on its own but can support aggressive strategies well. Blue-Red aggro is a good example of this phenomenon. On its own, the color red has the benefit of being fast and dealing direct damage to the opponent. While this “all-in” strategy is often enough, one disadvantage is often an inability to compete in the late game. If your initial wave of cheap creatures and burn spells isn’t enough to kill your opponent, you run out of cards and your opponent can stop you. This is where the strength of the blue-red alliance comes in. Red plays spells in the early game and puts pressure on the opponent’s life total. In the late game, blue can return the favor, using bounce spells to deal with creatures that are too big to burn out and using card draw to make sure you do not run out of cards. Between bounce spells, counterspells, and burn spells, you can stop opposing threats of all sizes. If your opponent plays out small creatures, red spells like Flame Slash and Arc Lightning can be your trump cards. If your opponent instead plays huge threats, you can rely on Mana Leak and Snap, spending only a few mana to stop a much higher mana investment from your opponent. Cards like Wee Dragonauts and Nivix Cyclops exemplify this color combination’s affinity for instant and sorcery spells. Who needs that many creatures? Just throw these multi-color threats and Delver of Secrets into your deck and the rest of your cards can be instants, sorceries, and lands!

Blue-Green

Green traditionally wants to play mana-elves of the Llanowar and Fyndhorn variety, cast Rampant Growth and Cultivate, and use its mana advantage to cast huge spells. The problem with this strategy is follows: sometimes, you draw all mana and sometimes you draw all huge spells without the mana to cast it. This is where blue comes to save the day! You can blue’s ability to scry, draw cards, and manipulate your library to make sure you draw mana in the early game and draw green fatties turn after turn in the late game. Green’s pump spells combine well with blue’s flyers and blue’s bounce spells can clear the way for green’s huge creatures to stomp all over your opponent. Finally, card draw and mana ramp are a great match! While blue loves to draw cards, having a stacked hand is useless if you don’t have enough mana to cast all your spells. With the green-blue pair, you can have the best of both worlds, assembling tons on lands on the battlefield and tons of cards in your hand. Now that’s playing the game how it’s meant to be played!

Thanks for reading! See you next week when we delve into the color black.

Ezra Sassaman

As always, feel free to comment and check out my pauper cube list at
http://www.cubetutor.com/visualspoiler/77501

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