Magic: The Gathering is an expensive hobby. Within the card game genre, it requires the most investment among its peers, even on the digital level. Most of the decks rely on multi-colored mana base (the resource system in the game), and that doesn’t come cheap.
And then, after you have the mana base ready, you have to think about your creatures and game-winning spells, most of which are rares too, or even mythics.
Yet there’s a new metagame wave, that’s sweeping MTG now. It’s a blue wave (as real waves tend to be). But it’s none of the usual blue gimmick that everybody hates, the “I counter everything and win the game with a 2/2 token on turn 30”. No. This deck actually kills you, and fast.
The rise of Mono Blue Tempo
Mono Blue Tempo is a deck whose strategy is deceptively simple: play a couple of threats and use an arsenal of counter magic to protect them as they chip away at the opponent’s life. There is nothing “fancy” to it — no plainswalkers, no absurd power cards, no non-basic lands.
Because of its unique place in the meta, making it very strong against any and all control and midrange decks, Mono Blue Tempo is winning more and more tournaments. There were three such decks in the top 8 of Mythic Championship Cleveland and the deck even won the entire event. Two more Mono Blue Tempo decks were present in the top 8 of GP Memphis.
Blue deck wins: A guide to Mono Blue Tempo
At this point, you are asking “what’s the list and how do I play it so that I can get Mythic”.
The answer to the second is “it’s not easy and it takes practice”. Mono Blue is a deck that’s very cost efficient and versatile but can flop if you make even the tiniest mistake — from which counter-spell to use to when and what threat you should play.
Mono Blue Tempo deck list
This was the mainboard list used by Autumn Burchett to win Mythic Championship Cleveland. Below, we’ll break down what each card does and how you should use it.
Mono Blue relies on fliers and unblockable creatures to chip down its opponent. It always wants to stitch one or more Curious Obsessions on them for the +1/+1 buff and the card draw, which always keeps the hand full of answers.
In the early game, Mono U will want to get a Pteramander, Siren Stormtamer or Mist-Cloaked Herald with a Curious Obesssion. This will kickstart the dreadful 2-for-you-card-for-me one-two punch and put a clock on the enemy.
Curious Obsession is particularly key to Mono Blue Tempo. The deck needs its answers and threats at the right times and, unlike other blue decks, doesn’t run much card draw. Curious Obsession is both a creature buff and a persistent card draw engine and you’ll always want a keep a hand with it and a 1-drop.
It’s important to note that Pteramander also comes with a powerful Adapt ability which turns its from an innocent 1/1 flier to a serious late-game 5/5 threat. With how much counter-magic you will cast, you can easily adapt it by Turn 5.
The true finisher of the deck, however, is Tempest Djinn. This 0/4 flier gets a +1 attack for each basic Island (which is every land in the deck), and delivers powerful punches. At 4 toughness, it’s resistant to Lightning Strikes and Wizard’s Lightnings and the best way to kill it 1-for-1 is to catch it without a Dive Down and then Lava Coil it.
Mono Blue runs a lot of counter-magic (because of course it does) to keep its few threats alive. As it runs very few lands, it opts for conditional but cheaper counter-spells, one which it can play on-curve together with its threats.
The main counterspells that will irritate the heck out of your opponents are Spell Pierce and Wizard’s Retort. Spell Pierce curves well at 1-mana and is efficient counter tool against Mono Red’s burn and Controls’ own counter magic. Spell Pierce can also stop early-game power plays from Controls such as Search of Azcanta and even mess with on-curve plainswalkers such as T5 Teferi or Vivien Reid.
Wizard’s Retort is the closest you get to the good old 2-mana counterspell, provided you have a Wizard in play. In this deck, that’s either Siren Stormtamer or Merfolk Trickster.
You get two more counters in the deck: Essence Capture, which is an anti-creature answer, and Negate for when the opponent can pay your Spell Pierce tax.
And while these are all and good, one card almost trumps them all. Dive Down, a simple 1-mana instant, will be your most used counter-magic tool.
Dive Down comes with a +0/+3 buff to a creature and gives it hexproof. The second effect will keep it safe against targeted removal (burn, bounce, Slay, etc.) and will force a second burn on the stack to penetrate it. For creatures like Tempest Djinn, however, this is a guaranteed second life. The Djinn is already hard to kill and with the threat of Dive Down it becomes near impossible unless there’s a Kaya’s Wrath or Cleansing Nova coming.
The +0/+3 buff shouldn’t be disregarded either, however. You can use it to:
- Set-up beneficial combat trades, keeping your creature alive
- Survive low-damage AoE’s (Deafening Clarion, Fiery Cannonade, Cry of the Carnarium)
If you don’t have Dive Down, you can also use Siren Stormtamer’s ability to protect your threats. Here, it’s key to remember that Stormtamer also blocks spells and abilities targeting you. This way, you can block pesky removals such as Settle the Wreckage or discard mechanics like Duress and Thought Erasure.
The strength of Mono Blue Tempo is that unlike other aggressive decks (like Mono Red), it can do a lot of different things. Blue is the color of utility, after all.
Merfolk Trickster is the quintessential utility creature. A 2/2 on instant speed that taps and disables creature abilities can be used in a variety of situations, including:
- Block and kill an attacking creature
- Create a Wizard for your Wizard’s Retort
- Create an extra creature at the end of your opponent’s turn
- Disable key creature abilities like Wildgrowth Walker, Benalish Marshal or Crackling Drake
- Tap an enemy creature before combat, slowing down the race
- Tap an enemy blocker and end of turn to clear the way for more damage
There are a few other utility tech cards you’ll find useful. Opt is always welcome in blue decks, as it will help you filter the deck and draw the threat/answer/land you need. Entrancing Melody is great against aggro decks and especially token decks (tokens cost 0 mana) as its the only tool to answer creatures in-play; and Chart a Course is a great card draw for when Curious Obsession is nowhere to be found.
Tips, troubles, and final thoughts
- Play around your counter-magic. You don’t have that many threats to afford to waste them. Playing Tempest Djinn a turn later so you can Dive Down it is million times better than playing it on curve on T3 and see it Mortified.
- You are NOT an aggro deck. You are a TEMPO deck. You want to PLAY threats and ANSWER threats at the same time. Refer to the previous point, always.
- You are great against control decks. Keep a mental check for what you should play against and keep the appropriate answer.
- Unfortunately, you kind of suck against Mono Red in best-of-1’s. Mono Red will always have more threats than you’ll have answers. Fanatical Firebrand is a pesky little bugger that kills everything you have for free (or force you to burn a Dive Down) and unless you counter Runaway Steam-Kin (meaning you HAVE to go first at start of the game) you’ll often be dead. Your hope it to sneak in a Tempest Djinn and win the race, while countering their strongest burn.