Many mono-blue commanders have . . . reputations. Reputations of unfairness. Reputations of being annoying. Reputations of deserving first death. There are many cool things I wanted to do in blue, but I couldn’t do them if I picked a commander that sent me home early.
Enter Soramaro, First to Dream. Soramaro is a flyer, is reasonably capable of killing via commander damage, and draws cards. Flying, commander damage, and card-draw are all valuable in Commander (in fact, I’ve heard a rumor that commander damage is straight-up useless outside the format). It seemed prudent to put them together.
What's that blue thing doing here? It’s owning the face, like so:
So, what’s going on under the hood? Plenty. And it starts with . . .
The ramp’s not pushed hard here. The most important ramp isn’t listed with the mana, but with the Wizards; Apprentice Wizard is among the best early plays, as it gives you the chance at a fourth-turn Soramaro. Pristine Talisman’s life-gain tends to be useful, while Chronatog Totem in theory could be useful as a creature. I acquired Iceberg just this week, so I don’t know how it is. It can jump you 3 mana on turn five, so there’s upside. But even if it’s mediocre, it’s a magical iceberg. Blah blah Elves blah blah Goblins . . . I have an iceberg. Deal with it.
The relevant part of the mana base is the abundance of Islands. Several cards key off Islands: Tidewalker, Floodgate, Vedalken Shackles, and Strata Scythe. Quicksilver Fountain and Back to Basics fight expensive decks’ mana bases while leaving yours alone. Since Islands made with Quicksilver Fountain stay Islands if the Fountain leaves the battlefield, it has to be removed early or else it will take over opposing mana bases. Floodgate is annoying from a different perspective: blue board wipe. Mono-blue probably shouldn’t have a one-sided, damage-based sweeper, but it does. Plus, Floodgate’s worded to allow several tricks, all of which are fun for me at least. The biggest one is . . .
Bounce and Its Combos
Mass bounce is trickier to use than mass removal because there are fewer cards to work with. Apart from Cyclonic Rift, which needs to make the deck one of these days, I’ve included the available goodies. Evacuation is cheap, Kederekt Leviathan is reusable, Inundate is one-sided, and Sunken Hope combos with several things, most notably Floodgate and Phyrexian Ingester. This deck had its germ in a Venser, Shaper Savant deck; he would fit here as well.
But bounce is only stalling unless you leverage it. Iron Maiden and Viseling punish players for an excessively large hand. If I happen to have given those players such hands through bounce (or occasionally Blue Sun's Zenith), so much the better. Noetic Scales is a form of bounce that has no intention of hitting my commander (since it will never be larger than the cards in my hand absent help); although it can burn me if my opponents return good enters-the-battlefield creatures, the Scales generally keep hands large. Since I control Noetic Scales and Iron Maiden/Viseling triggers, I get to choose their order, which is obviously optimal.
But it’s Temporal Cascade that’s the biggest surprise here. It’s easy to read its two halves and see it as an expensive Time Reversal. Its primary use in this deck, however, is only the first half for its combo with Noetic Scales. The first time I had Noetic Scales in the deck, I put it out in a five-player game with Ghave, Guru of Spores as the primary public enemy. I followed up Noetic Scales with shuffling everybody’s hand and graveyard into their libraries . . . and then everybody’s creatures above 0 power were going back to the hand. Sure, Mayael the Anima kept playing Sun Titan, but I had just eliminated graveyards. Ghave had to bounce its copious supply of tokens and start over. As a blue deck—I think I had Thought Reflection as well—I could form a hand faster than the rest of the table while giving opponents tough decisions on what cards they could skip playing to keep a threat on the board. Normally, the Soramaro deck is the only one equipped to handle Noetic Scales. If you don’t empty everyone’s hand, you’ll be keeping a lot of cards in hand, thereby killing the table.
While I’m punishing everyone for their hands, I might as well be . . .
In mono-blue, it’s just a question of which draw spells to play. Ponder’s in here mainly because I have a textless one, but it’s fine regardless. This is the only Commander deck in which I like running Howling Mine, as I can turn opponents’ cards into damage. Sphinx of Uthuun is always solid, and Foresee, Jace's Ingenuity, Blue Sun's Zenith, and Thought Reflection are normal blue inclusions. I’ve been baffled for years as to why Fathom Trawl isn’t a normal blue inclusion. The most annoying thing about card-draw is seeing lands when you don’t need them; Fathom Trawl ensures you see spells. It’s still at junk rare price; I highly recommend it. I mean, something’s gotta fuel Soramaro and his stepbrother Sturmgeist.
Jace, Memory Adept gives me the mill option in a long game and the threat of dealing lethal damage with Jace’s ultimate (I haven’t pulled this off, but it seems amazing—everybody draws twenty cards, after which I play Iron Maiden and Viseling).
There’s also Azami, Lady of Scrolls as part of my . . .
Wizards of a Coast
I’d like to increase this theme some, but it’s been okay as-is. Most of my Wizards are functional early drops that add value with Sunken Hope. Sea Gate Oracle makes the opening hand more bearable. Willbender’s always worth playing, and as I don’t like having only one morph creature in a deck, fellow Wizard Raven Guild Master and non-Wizard Chromeshell Crab join the face-down fun. Serendib Sorcerer gives blue a way to address some tough creatures. Vedalken Aethermage’s tutor ability usually finds Azami, but after a board wipe, I’d consider fetching Raven Guild Master.
There will be those wonderful times, however, when it’s right to find Beguiler of Wills. For a blue deck, I’m running a fair number of creatures, so the Beguiler sometimes takes over a game. It’s complemented by all my ways of . . .
Vedalken Shackles’s Island commitment gives it less Commander play than its power level; here, it does great work. Chromeshell Crab was in the Commander preconstructed decks for good reason: Surprise steal is always worth its card slot. Control Magic, Mind Control, Confiscate, Volition Reins, Steal Artifact, and the underrated Dominate make the board my menu. Chancellor of the Spires, Spelljack, and in a different way, Draining Whelk, Clone, and Shape Stealer let me gain value out of opponents’ efforts. Fool's Demise sometimes protects my creatures and sometimes steals other creatures; the choice is nice.
It’s not as though you didn’t know stealing in Commander is a good idea. I just happen to have a lot of it. It’s all part of a blue deck’s . . .
There are a couple other creatures to round things out. Ludevic's Test Subject gives blue a huge beater that can be played early. Air Servant is a different type of mana sink, allowing Soramaro to punch through or stopping attacks that otherwise are problematic. Repeatable tapping isn’t an effect most Commander players are ready for. Patron of the Moon has no Moonfolk for an offering, but it’s a mini-combo with Soramaro to draw cards without losing mana. Harbor Serpent has some synergy with Quicksilver Fountain, but it doesn’t require it; somebody usually has an Island to take advantage of. Mnemonic Wall and Frost Titan do what they say on the tin. Drift of Phantasms normally transmutes for Back to Basics, but fetching Strata Scythe, Dominate, Vedalken Shackles, Iron Maiden, or Blue Sun's Zenith works, too.
In the noncreature utility category, Druidic Satchel gives three potential outcomes, all of them useful. Sleep allows everyone to swing at the toughest opponent; it’s deadly if the table is so minded. Gigadrowse offers a similar surprise: It looks underpowered for Commander, but it’s saved my bacon several times while offering the same surprise vulnerability as Sleep. Mnemonic Nexus backs up Temporal Cascade as a graveyard hoser and Mnemonic Wall as an alphabet soup. Negate, Cancel, and Mindbreak Trap are straightforward, as is Draining Whelk. If opponents are going to fear open blue mana, you need to flash counterspells just enough for them to respect the possibility; four counterspells should do that.
With several paths to victory—big creatures, stolen creatures, Iron Maiden plus bounce—Soramaro’s one of my more competitive decks. There’s enough card-draw to keep pace with anyone while punishing whoever else is drawing cards. The core principles make the deck cheap to build as well; take out Vedalken Shackles, and you’re looking at around sixty dollars, primarily because the land base has a reason to be all Islands. In general, basic-lands-matter themes in Commander save you money and open up several cards that normally don’t matter, and this deck takes full advantage of them. To the extent that I have a griefer streak, this is where most of it comes out in Commander. I have loads of fun playing this deck. You might, too.