Thursday, February 14, 2013

Marvelous Modern – Getting into it – Blue Staples: Part 1

By: Dale Pon

So now you’re really excited about Modern and have invested or traded for the lands of your favourite colours… That’s great but you actually need creatures and spells to win. 

In the following articles I will be talking about the staples of Modern.  So, “what are staples?” you might ask; well simply put staples are the cards that are most frequently played and are regarded as the best and most efficient at what they do (examples include Lightning Bolt, Mana Leak, Path to Exile) and contrary to what one might expect not all staples are ridiculously expensive.

In today’s article I will talk a little about Modern Blue staples, what makes them “staples” and provide a list of some of them.

Blue has always been the colour associated with control and knowledge, thus it is only fitting that the basis of Blue staples are counterspells, stalling spells and card-drawing spells.  Unfortunately, in Modern we don’t have the ‘free’ counters in the form of Force of Will and Daze, and thus all counters in Modern require untapped blue mana.  The most important and prevalent blue counterspells range from 1 to 4 mana in cost. 

Important blue counterspells costing 1 blue mana are:

Spell Pierce

As you can see, they each have rather restrictive conditions, and Dispel is used in the Sideboard vs Combo, while Spell Pierce and Spell Snare are both used Mainboard.  Spell Pierce has the ability to stop an early Liliana of the Veil or even just counter another counter; while Spell Snare stops numerous valuable creatures such as Snapcaster Mage, Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant.

Coming in at a converted mana cost (CMC) of 2 are:

There are several less popular counterspells with a CMC of 2, such as Delay, Rune Snag, Deprive, Unified Will, Muddle the Mixture and the current Standard familiars Negate and Essence Scatter.

Mana Leak is the classic counterspell from Standard not so long ago, and in the early game it’s as good as a Counterspell, while later on it forces your opponent to always leave 3 extra mana open.  However late-game it’s pretty terrible, merely adding a premium to your opponent’s spell cost.  Remand is my personal favourite and for newer Modern players it may come as a surprise, since it counters the opponent’s spell, but then it returns the spell to their hand instead of going to the graveyard.  That’s right, your opponent gets to cast that same spell again the following turn if they so wish, and all you get in return is a single card.  So why is it so good?  The reason is that when you “Remand” your opponent’s spell, a fair amount of the time they’re tapped out and have to pass the turn, while you get to draw an additional turn; in a way you have “Time Walk”ed them, and in the your turn following the Remand you can generally cast a spell or creature without fear of disruption.  Since Remand doesn’t actually stop the spell overall, it just slows the opponent down and is regarded as a strong Tempo-play (tempo is basically the rate at which you are playing your threats, in a way it’s your momentum; you want to have a tempo advantage since it essentially means your opponent is on the back foot).

Counters with CMC 3 aren’t very popular in Modern, since the difference between a cost of 2 and 3 mana is huge is Modern; counters like Dissipate see fringe play due to the exile clause, while Cancel is horrifically bad (even in Standard) and you never want to be running any number of them in your 75.

If the difference between a CMC of 2 and 3 is so huge, one can only imagine the jump to a CMC of 4.  However in Modern there is one counterspell with a CMC of 4 that sees regular play, and that is Cryptic Command.  The reason for this is its amazing versatility; it firstly counters (its main use), it can replace itself, it can tap out your opponent’s creatures to prepare an alpha strike or it can bounce that troublesome permanent.  It is used predominantly in Scapeshift (to protect the combo), as well as in control decks.

In my next article I will continue with Blue staples, more specifically with card-drawing staples as well as stalling spells (such as bounce and tap effects).

Until next time!

Thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment