Combatting the Blues: Dealing with Blue Threats in PDH
Over the past few weeks, we have taken strides towards solidifying our format. We have opened very real discussion about our banned list, and have built something that will stand as our foundation. We may make step backwards from time to time, but we have finished with more steps ahead. We are in a good place, and we will continue to grow.
With that said, the conversation continues as to what else should be on the list. Among many conversations, it is very rare that the color blue isn’t the prime target of focus. There are many times when individuals are quite whimsical about such talks, but many people do seem to have a valid point. Blue has powerful cards, blue has Drake combo, and blue has Disciple of Deceit.
Here is the issue. This is a new format (not necessarily new, but it’s only now that we are beginning to create a strong and vocal collective around the community). The main issue is, we have limited data. We can’t comfortably decide what is or isn’t worth a ban. With that said, we hear you, as we see these issues in our own games.
If there is one thing we can all hope, it’s that we can go on without needing to ban anything. However, it does mean we need to talk more about blue, and some cards in question. What cards do we need to consider, and how do we prepare for them?
You must be thinking, “If I need to build my decks around these exact threats, should they not be considered over powered cards?” Well, here is my proposition. By preparing for these cards, you are also preparing yourself for other threats that exist in the format. Preparing against these threats are not warping your builds, but actually helping you play as a more defensive player overall.
This is a thick topic, so I had to consult with the experts on the PDH Home Base team. Thankfully, we have the best, so collecting this information was a breeze. We have a great team, and I am looking forward to presenting this information, and help you improve your game against blue.
The Inevitable Consequences
First of all, there are things that we must accept. There are things that cannot be avoided, and there are elements of blue that we must simply understand to be leading traits of blue. Thankfully, I can save some time, and refer you to Taylor’s guide to counterspells. That’s just a part of playing against blue. If you see two open lands, you’re taking a chance.
The second trait is strong card draw. This isn’t a surprise, nor is this unique to PDH. This is the case for every single format. However, despite this lack of surprise, why does it seem to be such a large issue for PDH?
One thing that needs to be understood, is that there is an overall power level shift downward from EDH to PDH. This downward shift is not proportional, and the realm of blue card draw seems to be affected the least. The problem lies here. Blue will always dominate card draw. Let us observe a number of pieces below, and develop a proper mindset.
Here is just a small sample. Rhystic Study will be the largest issue. White and green decks have a lot at their disposal for enchantment removal. Red and black decks, on the other hand, have almost nothing. Similar to EDH, PDH also has its weaknesses in the realm of Red. Deep Analysis may be able to be used twice, but graveyard hate is something we can do.
The Threats We Can Combat
A large portion of this article will be talking about why you should include at least one of these three cards. I have discussed graveyard hate before, but this is with a new angle of observation. We are talking about blue. This will come in handy against some very special commanders (which I will point out later), but we need to talk about the most important thing first.
The first thing I want to say, is that infinite mana is not a win condition. That needs to be remembered. Here is a combo that can lead to a win, but these three cards alone do not win a game. Something else is needed. That could be flickering a Mulldrifter to draw your library (just one example), or flickering a Sunscorched Desert to deal infinite damage. You can also substitute a Mnemonic Wall for Archaeomancer. With that said, that’s a 4 card combo, minimum.
Normally, when this combo begins, it tends to be the final turn of a game, but that doesn’t mean it’s unbeatable. First, acknowledge that if someone wishes to use this combo in one single turn, it requires at least 7 open mana to do so. Spreading this combo over two turns certainly opens up a lot of risk. So, now we need to ask two questions.
1) Can this combo be stopped?
2) Do you need to build your deck to stop this particular combo?
First of all, we absolutely can shut this combo down. This combo interacts with the graveyard, and we have two artifacts that can take priority to remove parts from the graveyard. Also, we need to observe the volatility of both creatures involved in this combo. First, neither are bolt proof (red can answer this). As far as the other three colors, let’s take a look at several cards that can shut this combo down.
Here is the next question, do these cards only serve the purpose of shutting down this combo? Absolutely not. In fact, all decks should run removal. Although useful, is there any way of discouraging the combo in the first place? Also, with this option, is it worth running at all?
This card lines up with this theme of double edged blades that I am trying to press. Blue is weak to damage, and will be discouraged from starting the combo. This card also shuts down several token decks, such as Sigil Captain, Juniper Order Ranger, tribal goblins, and it would hinder my beloved tribal elves.
With that covered, let’s discuss graveyard hate cards. It is necessary to run graveyard hate, other than for this combo? Let us take a look at some commanders.
Here are two commanders that are incredibly powerful, but also incredibly vulnerable. I have talked about Psychatog before, and I have identified the largest weakness being graveyard hate. What else can be shut down by these cards? A few weeks ago, I discussed how to play tribal zombies in PDH, and highlighted the graveyard utility, as well as handpicking the creatures you desire. Red and blue strategies both tend to flashback non-permanent spells, and delve spells exist in the format as well. Graveyard hate is very useful.
Dealing with the Disciple
Let’s talk about this commander. The culprit for pulling out the drake combo the fastest, having the rare PDH ability of tutoring. For the sake of this talk, let us assume that this commander will become untapped at least once per turn. There are a few things that must be understood. First, the player cannot simply tutor for any card. It must be of the same CMC. The deck will be designed with this in mind, but it means that in the process of tutoring for the combo, or the responses, the player will rarely be able to do both.
We must also remember that Disciple is not bolt proof. Also, Disciple must become tapped. There are many things that must be done in order to make the engine start running. Does this commander require attention immediately? Yes. However, If you are aware that Disciple is planning to tutor for the drake combo, you may also prepare to shut down that combo.
This was an important piece for me to write, as this format is very much a passion. I always wish to encourage players from other formats to try, and to see the brewing appeal, in all colors. Breaking down the stigma that Blue dominates is crucial, so that we maintain a world of healthy.
Does this mean that we will never conclude that a ban should? Not necessarily. However, it is important that we all view the problem from the proper lens, and a common. We don't grow if we are scattered on our views, but we can grow from our different experiences, and contributions of knowledge. Blue isn't so scary, so don't be scared to brew with any colors you please!