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Magic: The Gathering Standard – The Curious Obsession with Mono-Blue Tempo

by Ron Duwell | March 9, 2019March 9, 2019 9:30 am EDT

Blue has forever been perceived as the Magic: The Gathering color associated with long, drawn out games and grinding an opponent’s will through card advantage and counter spells. Its dominance over other colors has long been fabled as the stuff of legends, so much so that Wizards of the Coast has been forced to dial it back ever since the game started reaching a wider audience.

And it’s also the color in control of the current standard rotation with a solid and relatively budgeted deck. However, long, drawn out games are not what this deck is looking to do. Mono-Blue Tempo is a deck that combines Blue’s traditional advantages of card draw and control with cheap, evasive creatures designed to put the game away in minutes.

Here we have the best of both worlds for what Blue does best, and the Magic community is still struggling to find answers for it.

It’s all thanks to an Aura spell that has definitely left its mark on the history of Magic: The Gathering

The Little Engine that Could

When it was first spoiled, Curious Obsession was a card that I knew had to be broken at some point. A single mana is an amazing price for getting +1/+1 stats and unconditional card draw once your creatures get in for damage. Curious Obsession does it all in an aggressive deck, pushing more damage through and ensuring that you have the ability to follow your attacks up with more ammunition in your hand.

Don’t worry about that last line of text either. In this deck, you’ll be attacking every turn, I guarantee it. You’ll rarely lose a Curious Obsession to inaction when the deck is working.

Evasive Creatures

And with that, we are looking for tiny creatures that can help get this card through to draw a ton of extra cards. Remember, we need to attack every turn to get an early card advantage, so we’re looking for something that comes down early, preferably on turn-1, and something that can attack without the fear of being blocked. Flyers are nice. or…

Simple, clean, efficient. Slap a Curious Obsession on one of these on turn-2, and you’ll be drawing an extra card every turn until you close out the game. Flyers can’t block it, reach creatures can’t block it, nothing can block it. The only way to truly deal with this card is direct damage or removal spells, making it weak against Red and Black decks.

The downside of Mist-Cloaked Herald is that this is a terrible card to top-deck if your engine stalls. Hopefully, you’ll have drawn enough cards off of Curious Obsession at that point to not have to worry about running out of steam.

Siren Stormtamer has been looking to break into Standard for a long time. It offers protection for your better creatures and those enchanted with Curious Obsession with its ability to counter anything, and it even has the ability to offset the dreaded Settle the Wreckage.

In Mono-Blue Tempo, it doubles as an evasive, early creature that will easily soar over most any creatures opponents will play in the first few turns. With a Curious Obsession attached it it, it will draw just as many cards as a Mist-Cloaked Herald can.

Of all of our targets, this is the one you want a Curious Obsession least on because you won’t want to sacrifice your precious Aura for a counterspell later in the game. However, don’t be afraid to enchant it if you have no other choice on turn-2.

Before Ravnica Allegiance came out, Mono-Blue Tempo was a fringe deck that garnered some praise because of its relatively high-win percentage for such a budgeted deck. After Ravnica Allegiance, the deck got a new one-drop flyer in Pteramander, and all of a sudden, the deck became legit.

Pteramander is great because of how it plays both early and later in the game. Early, it can come down on turn-1 and makes a great target for Curious Obsession. Jam in with your evasive 1/1 flyer and draw lots of cards, just like the deck wants.

Later, that 1/1 can easily become a 5/5 with the adapt ability. The same card that got your engine rolling is the very same card that can win you the game when it rolls in for 6 damage every turn. Pteramander also makes for a great top-deck later in the game since it can come down for a single mana and possibly become a 5/5 flyer for an extra three, four, five mana. Not awful.

If you live the dream, you can get a 5/5 flyer for two mana, and who would ever say “no” to that?

Pteramander is the real deal, and it’s a card that will easily outlive this Standard deck in eternal formats like Modern and Legacy.

The BEEF

Wimpy creatures that draw you cards are nice, but as with most Blue decks, you’re going to have to draw something that will win the game. It is in Dominaria’s triple color MMM Blue creature that we find an answer. For three Islands, you get a 3/4 flyer, which is decent in any Blue deck looking to rumble with any color that isn’t Green.

What’s special about this deck is that you’re only playing basic Islands in Mono-Blue Tempo. No dual lands, no fetches, nothing that could possibly prevent this from getting bigger and bigger each turn. With proper card draw, even filtering out your mana later in the game provides value since the Djinn will only become more powerful with each Island that hits the board.

Most likely, once this hits 6/4 or 7/4, you’ll win the game if your opponent can’t find an immediate answer.

Disruption

With our offensive strategy accounted for, let’s take a look at how this deck plays defense. As with most Blue decks, we’re looking to counter our opponent’s spells, making sure that anything they throw our way doesn’t even hit the battlefield. If that’s not the case, our Blue spells can at least ensure that they are held back long enough for our Tempest Djinns and Pteramanders to close the game out before threats come down.

Merfolk Trickster is another card that has long sought a home in Standard and finds a nice one here. Its double Blue casting cost is of no hindrance to us, and while it is a creature, it will most likely be used as a disruption spell 90 percent of the time.

This card can tap a creature before it attacks, which already provides a tempo boost that can put you ahead of a rival aggressive player. More importantly, this card can also be played after a creature attacks, meaning that the creature will lose flying, deathtouch, menace, or any ability that makes blocking an annoyance.

Ghitu Lavarunner is easily the best target as Merfolk Trickster flashes in, turns off its ability, reduces it into a 1/2, and survives combat against it. Infuriating for your opponents!

And, at the very least, it can flash in at the end of an opponent’s turn and be ready to attack with a Curious Obsession the next turn as a 3/3 creature. Any way you use this creature, it will be useful. Just be sure to use it when you want to throw an opponent off base.

And don’t ignore its creature type, either! Merfolk don’t mean much in this deck, but that Wizard text does because…

Between Merfolk Trickster and Siren Stormtamer, this deck has eight Wizards. You’re very likely to have one on the battlefield at all times, making this an easy two-mana unconditional counterspell. Since we only run Islands, that’s easy to cast and will easily devastate any opponent looking to disrupt your engine or cast a big creature.

This slams on an opponent’s breaks, and if you’re able to get two of these in your hand by turn-4, you’ll easily have enough momentum to close the game and ensure your opponent can do nothing about it.

From there, we must work to protect our creatures and take double care to ensure that Curious Obsession doesn’t leave the board. Spell Pierce is the cheapest way to counter removal spells early in the game since your opponent will likely not have enough mana to pay the additional cost.

Later in the game, this become a bit less useful since your opponent will likely be able to cover the cost. However, Spell Pierce doubles as a way to take care of bigger threats like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Vivien Reid.

Dive Down doesn’t handle those threats, but it does carry its weight in protecting our creatures and Curious Obsessions. If necessary, the +0/+3 is also no joke when it comes to allowing our wimpy creatures to survive a combat.

However, 9 out of 10 times, you’re casting this for hexproof, allowing your Curious Obsession to drag on for another day.

Since we’re playing Mono-Blue and only Islands, this recent addition from Ravnica Allegiance is strictly better than Essence Scatter. However, with so many decks not relying on creatures these days, we won’t play too many of them, and we’ll often sideboard it out.

Blink of an Eye is an easy tempo boost that removes both creatures and any pesky non-land permanents. Artifacts, enchantments, Planeswalkers, anything.

This removal could secure your victory by clearing the way for your big creatures to close the game, and it can also force an opponent to use up a turn when they cast their win condition all over again. Hopefully, you have a counterspell ready to deal with it then.

With the kicker ability, Blink of an Eye turns into both a tempo boost and card advantage, which makes a nice segway into…

Card Draw

Opt is cheap enough to include in the deck and help us find the cards we need. No question about it. Include this card. Your deck won’t work unless you find Curious Obsession early.

Another great spell if you’re looking for cards. Don’t fear the discard text. You’re attacking every turn, so you’ll often get those two cards at no extra price. If you’re forced to cast this on turn-2 to find Curious Obsession or a creature, it’s not a huge loss to you. Both ways work just fine.

And also remember, with all of these spells, you’re loading up your graveyard to make Pteramander that much cheaper to adapt. Use card draw liberally, toss an extra sorcery or instant if you have to, anything to get your 5/5 flyer.

Sideboard!

We have plenty of cards to choose from when looking to fill in our sideboard. All Blue, all the time!

A cheap flyer that will weaken rival opponent’s creatures. Great in mirror matches since its ability can offset any damage an opponent’s Curious Obsession creature will do, negating the card draw. Afterwards, a 2/3 flyer with its own Curious Obsession is a real treat.

For countering big stuff, likely creatures.

Against creature decks, this bounces something big and leaves a nice bit of 2/2 stats on the board. A solid tempo shift and leaves the threat open to counterspells when it’s cast the next turn.

Useful against aggressive Mono-Red and Mono-White creature decks since they will likely not make a dent against that 5-toughness stat. Later in the game, this attacks for big damage and provides good card advantage on its own.

Against creature decks, this opens up the road for two turns, likely winning the game if you have enough creatures on the battlefield.

Pirate Jace has a spot in the deck. He provides extra card draw through his +1 ability, provides free creatures with his -2 ability (although Curious Obsession can’t be used on them, and multiples means he’ll be able to do this multiple times a turn.

Not the best card for the deck, but since he costs only three mana, he’s worth testing out.

Did your opponent play something big? Well, go ahead a take it!

You just never know when you’ll need it. Too many non-creature threats in Standard these days. This shuts them all down unconditionally.

Cheap and fun Blue removal against creatures. Sure, they have an 0/4 blocker left behind, but it won’t be able to block anything you have except a Merfolk Trickster. Brilliant inclusion against creature heavy decks.

Not a bad idea against Control decks, especially if you anticipate the game going long. The format’s ultimate control card fits in nicely with this hyper aggressive deck.

Our sole artifact for the deck, this ruins aggressive Red decks. Its 3 toughness not only blocks almost anything they are running these days, it also gains life back since you’ll onlybe casting Blue spells throughout the game.

The Deck (most successful to date from SCG Dallas)

Creatures (19)

  • 3x Mist-Cloaked Herald
  • 4x Siren Stormtamer
  • 4x Pteramander
  • 4x Merfolk Trickster
  • 4x Tempest Djinn

Spells (18)

  • 2x Deep Dive
  • 4x Opt
  • 3x Spell Pierce
  • 1x Blink of an Eye
  • 3x Chart a Course
  • 1x Essence Scatter
  • 4x Wizard’s Retort

Enchantments (4)

  • 4x Curious Obsession

Lands (19)

  • 19x Island

If it’s not clear enough, the goal of this deck is simple.

  1. Play a cheap creature on turn-1
  2. Play Curious Obsession on turn-2, and leave mana open to protect it with a Spell Pierce or Deep Dive
  3. Draw a ton of cards off your creature
  4. Control the game with counterspells
  5. Close the game with a 7/4 Tempest Djinn or a 5/5 Pteramander

I’ve always loved aggressive decks that do more than just burn or attack. Mono-Green Steel Leaf Stompy was a ton of fun a few Magic cycles ago, but the problem I often found with it was all you’re doing is playing creatures and attacking. No fun gimmicks, no cool twists, no tricks up the sleeve. Just raw power. Fun but it becomes old after a while.

Likewise, Mono-Red is just a bunch of burn spells and cheap creatures that drain life quickly, and Mono-White doesn’t even bother with burn spells, just cheap creatures and Lords to pump them with. Mono-Black… well, there isn’t a good one at the moment, and it’s been a while since Mono-Black Zombies came around.

Mono-Blue Tempo has those little tricks and gimmicks that make it a fun, versatile deck while still falling into that category of fast,smash-mouth Magic that I love. And with a cheap price, no dual lands, and not a mythic card in sight, it’s one that should be easy to assemble and keep around for a while.



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