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Budget Magic: Eight-Rare Mono-Blue $#%**&^$ (Dominaria United Standard)


Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! If you were playing Standard a few years ago, you'll probably remember the Mono-Blue Curious Obsession deck, which was super cheap and super powerful (to the point where it won a Pro Tour) but also one of the most annoying decks ever to exist since the gameplay was to stick an evasive one-drop, put a Curious Obsession on it to snowball card advantage, and then counter every relevant thing your opponent played for the rest of the game. Welp, it's back! Thanks to Combat Research, we've got a pseudo–Curious Obsession back in Standard along with plenty of cheap evasive creatures, counterspells, and ways to protect our threats, like Slip Out the Back, which means we can basically recreate the Mono-Blue Curious Obsession deck in Dominaria United Standard. While I'm not sure this is a good thing because I hated playing against the original build of the deck, it only needs eight rares to work and is shockingly competitive. As such, we're embracing the dark side this week and seeing if we keep our opponent from resolving any relevant spells as we beat them down with random card-drawing fliers. Is Mono-Blue $#%**&^$ the most annoying budget deck in #MTGDMU Standard? Is it the best? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Mono-Blue $#%**&^$

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The Deck

Mono-Blue $#%**&^$ is a mono-blue tempo deck. The goal is to stick an evasive threat or two, hopefully put a Combat Research on it to start drawing cards, protect our threats with counters and instants like Slip Out the Back and Shore Up, and hopefully beat our opponent down before they can do anything relevant. 

The Creatures

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We've got 13 total creatures in the deck, with a playset each of Delver of Secrets, Ledger Shredder, and Haughty Djinn along with one copy of Tolarian Terror, which is probably cuttable. As we talked about a moment ago, the main thing we're looking for in creatures is power and evasion. As a tempo deck, our gameplay is to use our spells to slow our opponent down and protect our threats for a few turns, which hopefully will be long enough for us to win the game. If the game goes on too long, then we're likely to run out of disruption and protection, and things will fall apart.

In the one-drop slot is Delver of Secrets, which we're pretty good at flipping into a 3/2 flier since we have 23 spells in our deck and because we can use Otherworldly Gaze to set up the top of our library. In the two-drop slot is Ledger Shredder, which likely needs no introduction since it has become a staple in multiple formats since its release in Streets of New Capenna. While the bird accountant is super powerful, allowing us to connive away extra lands to find our protection, counters, and threats, it does come with a downside: a playset costs almost $100 in paper, which means that even though our deck has just eight rares and zero mythics, it comes in at $130 in paper, slightly over our normal paper budget. Finally, we've got our big finisher in Haughty Djinn, which quickly grows into a 5+ power flier thanks to all of the cheap spells we have in our deck while also giving us a discount on our future spells. Later in the game, it's not uncommon for a Haughty Djinn to end up at 10 or more power, allowing us to kill our opponent in just a couple of attacks.

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Outside of our creatures, our next most important spell is our Curious Obsession, Combat Research. Ideally, we'll stick it on an evasive creature early in the game and start drawing an extra card each turn, which helps make sure we have enough counters and protection to keep our creatures alive as we snowball into the tempo win.

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As far as protecting our creatures, we have two plans: targeted protection and counterspells. For targeted protection, we have Slip Out the Back and Shore Up, which are very similar cards as one-mana instants that can save a creature from targeted removal, but each has a different upside. The upside of Slip Out the Back is that phasing out a creature is our strongest form of protection since it dodges sweepers as well as targeted removal. Plus, Slip Out the Back can target opposing creatures, which doesn't come up all that often, but every once in a while, we phase out a blocker so we can attack for lethal. On the other hand, Slip Out the Back does have a drawback. Let's say we cast it on an attacking creature to fizzle a removal spell. Since the creature phases out, it won't be able to deal damage that turn. This is where Shore Up shines—we get to keep our creature on the battlefield and protect it, which can help us force through damage, although, unlike Slip Out the Back, Shore Up can save a creature from a wrath or get a blocker out of the way.

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As for generic counterspells, we have three: Spell Pierce for noncreatures, Essence Scatter for creatures, and Make Disappear, which can hit anything, although it gets worse in the late game when our opponent can pay for it because we don't really have useless creatures to sacrifice for casualty. As you can see, our counters aren't likely to stop our opponent forever—eventually, they'll be able to pay for Spell Pierce and Make Disappear. But that doesn't really matter because we're not trying to stop our opponent forever—just for a few turns while we win by beating down with fliers. One quick note on Essence Scatter: you might be wondering why we are playing it over Essence Capture in a mono-blue deck, where costing double blue mana isn't really a drawback. The answer is that Essence Scatter works better with Haughty Djinn's cost reduction. If we play Haughty Djinn on Turn 4, we'll have one mana up that we can use to cast Essence Scatter, but we wouldn't be able to cast an Essence Capture, which I think is more valuable than getting a +1/+1 counter on a creature.

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Rounding out the deck are a few utility spells. Fading Hope is mostly to slow down our opponent by bouncing one of their creatures, but it can also protect one of our creatures in a pinch (although bouncing a creature that has Combat Research on it is painful, so it's not the best protection). Meanwhile, Consider and Otherworldly Gaze keep us churning through our deck to find action while filling our graveyard with spells for Haughty Djinn and Tolarian Terror. While Otherworldly Gaze looks bad since it technically puts us down a card, it's one of our best ways of flipping Delver of Secrets, which makes it worth it, especially in 2022 Magic, where having the right cards is usually more important than having the most cards.

The Sideboard

Honestly, the sideboard isn't all that meaningful. It's mostly a bunch of different ways to customize our removal and protection depending on the matchup. We can bring in Negate if we run into control, more Slip Out the Backs and Shore Ups if we're up against a deck with a ton of targeted removal, and Essence Scatter and Fading Hope against aggro. But in general, we don't sideboard a ton with the deck, and our plan mostly stays the same in games two and three.

Playing the Deck

There's one thing you need to keep in mind to play Mono-Blue $#%**&^$ successfully: protecting our creatures is of the utmost importance. We only have 13 creatures in the deck, which means it's not that uncommon to only have one or two threats. We're probably going to lose if we just run out our Delver of Secrets, Ledger Shredders, and Haughty Djinn into removal and they die. We're very likely to win if we can protect them. What this means in practice is that we often play our creatures off-curve so we can play a threat and also leave up a counter or Slip Out the Back–style card to protect it. Basically, you need to play Mono-Blue $#%**&^$ carefully and patiently. If you do, the deck can beat most of the top-tier decks in Dominaria United Standard with ease, but if you just run out threats willy-nilly without protection, you'll lose and lose a lot.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we cruised to a pretty easy 4-1 finish, beating a bunch of black-based decks and Humans. Our one loss came to Rakdos Midrange, but we had some poor running in that matchup, getting two zero-land openers and having to mulligan. While the amount of removal Rakdos Midrange has access to can be a problem, considering we played a bunch of other removal-heavy decks and crushed them, I think the loss was more of a result of variance than a bad matchup.

As far as updates to make to the budget version of the deck, the only card I really dislike in the list is Tolarian Terror, which doesn't feel impactful or evasive enough for our deck. Cutting it for another Slip Out the Back or Essence Scatter is probably ideal.

So, should you play Mono-Blue $#%**&^$ in Standard? I think the answer is yes. Assuming you're willing to go to the dark side and have your opponents revile you, the deck is super strong, not just for a budget deck but also just in general. It lines up really well against the top tier of the meta. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find something along the lines of Mono-Blue $#%**&^$ ending up as a top-tier deck in the format. If your goal is to rank up on Arena without spending many wildcards, this is the deck to play.

Ultra-Budget 

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Considering that the deck is already super cheap on Arena, our focus for the ultra-budget build is to drop the price in paper. This mostly means cutting Ledger Shredder, which is $95 of the deck's $130 price tag. I'm not sure exactly what to replace the two-drop with. It has to be a creature, or we'll be too light on threats. Something like Suspicious Stowaway or Spectral Adversary could work. While I think both are meaningfully worse than Ledger Shredder, they should be good enough to keep the deck competitive and drop the paper cost of the deck from $130 to something like $40.

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Finally, the non-budget build doesn't get many changes, just small tweaks to the mana and the sideboard. Mono-Blue $#%**&^$ just happens to be super cheap even in its optimal form!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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