The Largest Set of EDH Staples
When I started writing this series to help define format staples for EDH I didn't honestly intend on using allied color pairs things just sort of turned out that way. Luckily for me, blue has a non-conventional color to join forces with, brown! Historically speaking, blue and artifacts have gone hand in hand and there's no reason for it to be any different in EDH. The bad thing is that both "colors" are heavily played and thus lend a great number of staples for the format.
Rather than my typical banter or cheeky anecdote I think it's best to just dive right in to the heart of the matter, starting with the blue staples. First and foremost let's deal with the reason that people play blue, counterspells. No one really likes having their things countered, but I think we can all agree that a little bit of control every now and then is necessary. Counterspell itself is of course the gold standard, though there are a few other great choices. Force of Will and Pact of Negation have fantastic surprise factor and can really save the table from a big headache. The same can be said for Commandeer, with a little extra benefit thrown in. Similar fantastic benefits can be had from Desertion, Spelljack, and of course Draining Whelk (though to a lesser extent). Rounding out our list of effective counters I have Cryptic Command, the Swiss army knife itself, and Hinder. Hinder seems like an odd choice considering the raw power of the other card on this list, but remember, Hinder can put generals on the bottom of the library!
Moving from the darker corner of blue, let's look at a key reason for a blue splash, card drawing effects. Aeon Chronicler is a solid variable card drawing effect that functions in a fairly similar manner to Phyrexian Arena while still giving a good late game threat. Brainstorm has been a key component to card drawing engines for years, especially when paired with another stalwart Fact or Fiction. Compulsive Research and Thirst for Knowledge both let us dig three cards deep, with Compulsive even letting us target someone else if need be. Foresee and Mulldrifter both give us two extra cards with a nice added bonus attached in both situations. Finally, Opportunity is one of the more powerful card drawing spells you'll come across, and happens to work pretty well with our theme.
Blue is also very good at giving itself time, and manipulating chances. To that extent we have several extra turn effects that are very common in blue decks. Time Stretch typically marks the end of the game for many decks, with Time Warp helping to get us to that point. When I think of manipulating chances I think of Mystical Tutor helping to pin everything we're working toward together. The last two manipulation cards are good at both stalling your opponent, with Spin into Myth (general to the bottom!), and stopping that spell that just needs to be countered, Time Stop. Notice that Time Stop also exiles things, a great way to clear the stack.
Another fun aspect of blue that I've professed a fondness for in the past is bouncing/copying/controlling permanents. Layer 1/layer 2 is one of my favorite EDH decks and a good number of cards make this list. As far as stealing permanents we have Confiscate, Take Possession, and Treachery, each adding their own subtle layer of charm. If we're inclined to take cards at a discount then we can move on to heavy hitters like Bribery, Acquire, and the much more random and fun Telemin Performance. If anything proves too troublesome then there's always the greatest Boomerang ever printed, Capsize. If you can't eliminate a creature completely then why not play with one of your own? Clone, Vesuvan Shapeshifter, and my favorite Sakashima, the Imposter, all let you copy things, even better, you're usually getting a nice steep discount!
With that we come to the last aspect of blue, planeswalkers. Blue has the advantage of having all of its planeswalkers be playable. Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Jace Beleren, and maybe best of all Tezzeret the Seeker are all fantastic card advantage machines. One thing I've learned from Progenitus, each of those cards will make you and your planeswalkers a swift target, so make sure to use them wisely!
Blue's partner in crime is of course artifact. Sorry to both white and black, but artifacts and blue have really had a special relationship since Urza's block and blue never looked back. Artifacts love to help blue accelerate into card drawing and big splashy mana effects. Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, and Mana Vault all offer zero or one drop acceleration, some of the least fair in the game in fact. Fortunately there are also two drop accelerants in the form of Coldsteel Heart, Grim Monolith, Mind Stone, and Fellwar Stone. Dual colored decks would also do well to explore the Ravnica signet series and even the Mirrodin cycle of Talismans. Last but not least we have the three and higher drops. Everflowing Chalice is precisely as good as we want it to be with Darksteel Ingot and Coalition Relic shoring up the three drops. Curving out on the higher end we have the five drop Gilded Lotus and the six drop card drawing machine Dreamstone Hedron.
Artifacts also offer some non conventional acceleration/smoothing. Solemn Simulacrum is a virtual Sakura-Tribe Elder and it's easy to hit your land drops when running Journeyer's Kite. Wayfarer's Bauble also lets us accel regardless of our colors, helping smooth out mana screw and pump out larger threats a little sooner. If you're like me and you really want to hit your land drops, but in a non-basic sort of way then Expedition Map is the way to go. Next to Crop Rotation it might be the most effective way to find any non-basic at any time. Finally, we have a super acceleration technique or two in the form of Extraplanar Lens and the slower but less risky Gauntlet of Power. Both allow for a colorless Mana Flare, an effect that has historically proven to be very popular.
Artifacts are a little less efficient at card drawing, but there are still a few options out there. Mind's Eye is a great addition to a multiplayer deck letting someone pay one to draw whenever they please. This guarantees that for a small mana investment a player can draw as many cards as they please at the discount of having to cast zero cards to do so. Next up we have Tower of Fortunes. The tower allows a strong number of cards to be drawn at a relatively reasonable price. Late game the tower creates a simply overwhelming amount of card advantage. Last but not least we have a card that gives the ability to draw seven cards at least temporarily, Memory Jar.
Everyone needs removal and fortunately artifact removal can belong to everyone! There are a few great ways to clear the board such as Oblivion Stone and Nevinyrral's Disk. There are also a few solid pieces of spot removal. Duplicant is an exile spell with that also manages to make glorious battle at your enemies. Brittle Effigy is a relatively recent addition that sneaks under counter magic and also happens to exile troublesome creatures. Umezawa's Jitte is more of a Swiss army knife than anything else, but it's not uncommon to see it being used as a removal tool in creature battles. Last but not least, a quick way to avoid removal while giving your general some much needed haste, Lightning Greaves. Das boots are a fun addition to any deck that wants to turn their general sideways without waiting.
The next group of cards are those that provide card quality advantage. Sensei's Divining Top is fantastic for smoothing one land draws as well as maximizing fetch lands and other shuffle effects. The ability to ponder every turn is just as strong as it seems. Crystal Ball and Scroll Rack also supply a similar card quality effect, though both have strengths and weaknesses of course. Don't let the price tag on the Scroll Rack fool you, it is worth the investment! Speaking of card quality, how much is it worth for you to be able to Demonic Tutor every turn? Six mana seems like a fair price, especially at instant speed and that's just what Planar Portal is offering. Diabolic Tutor costs four mana and the typical mana addition to up something to instant speed is two mana, making the portal right on target. Every single EDH deck I have built includes the next two cards, Mindslaver and Helm of Obedience. I have won so many games off the back of someone "helping" me with either their creatures or their resources that I've honestly lost count. If you've never attempted either I highly recommend it!
Well, that's it for this week. Join me next week when we start up with a new deck, one I've been brewing for a while at Trick's suggestion. I look forward to sharing it with you then! Thanks for reading and I hope this series has been as informative for you as it's been fun for me to write it!