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Empress' Servant - Bradley Crouch (9/26/2008)

Blue.

If you shivered, you're probably not a control player.

Blue, the classic color of the card-hoarding, evasion-loving, permission-wielding crowd, the color of logic and reason...

The color of not goblins!

To the players of the wily greenskins, the control player represents the greatest obstacle between our decks and a life total of zero on their side of the table. Goblins have been around for awhile, of course, and they've found ways around this whole issue of control. Whether it be protection from blue on our Piledrivers to massive numbers to overwhelm Story Circle
Story Circle
Story CircleSet: Mercadian Masques
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Number:
51
Artist:
Bradley Williams
Text:
As Story Circle comes into play, choose a color.W: The next time a source of your choice of the chosen color would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage.
or perhaps simply throwing a Vex
Vex
VexSet: Darksteel
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
36
Artist:
Brian Snoddy
Text:
Counter target spell. That spell's controller may draw a card.
aW5nIFNodXNoZXI= down and watch the Remand
Remand
RemandSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
63
Artist:
Mark A. Nelson
Text:
Counter target spell. If that spell is countered this way, put it into its owner’s hand instead of into that player's graveyard. Draw a card.
s mean nothing, the goblins have found a way. But Mr. Blue, that card drawing machine, sits there on the other side of the table, seven or more cards in hand at all times. His is a war of attrition, and if he plays a card to remove each card his opponent has in play, he will win by sheer weight of numbers.

Sheer weight of numbers? Hmm, perhaps blue isn't so different, after all!

Well, then, how similar is blue control to its antithesis, good ol' aggro?

The mono-blue control decks with which I am familiar seem to be built in a tripartate fashion. That is, blue likes decks designed to have the following three pieces in it:

Win Condition (Guile
Guile
GuileSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elemental Incarnation
Rarity:
R
Number:
69
Artist:
Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
Power:
6
Toughness:
6
Text:
Guile can't be blocked except by three or more creatures. If a spell or ability you control would counter a spell, instead remove that spell from the game and you may play that card without paying its mana cost. When Guile is put into a graveyard from anywhere, shuffle it into its owner's library.
, Urza's Factory
Urza's Factory
Urza's FactorySet: Time Spiral
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Sub Type:
Urza's
Rarity:
U
Number:
280
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
T: Add 1 to your mana pool. 7, T: Put a 2/2 Assembly-Worker artifact creature token into play.
)
Stuff to Get Win Condition (Card Draw, Tutoring)
Removal and Tempo Control (Counterspell
Counterspell
CounterspellSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
Counters target spell as it is being cast.
s, Propaganda
Propaganda
PropagandaSet: Tempest
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Jeff Miracola
Text:
Each turn, each creature cannot attack you unless its controller pays an additional 2 for that creature.
, Bounce, etc.)

By contrast, aggro decks are usually built in a tripartate fashion:

Creatures (Win Condition)
Acceleration (Stuff to Ramp to Win Condition)
Burn (Removal/More Win Condition)

So, with the exception of burn, which, in addition to removing creatures, can handily remove players, the deck building format of the control player is eerily similar.

It is useful to note here that the philosophy for building a deck is always the same. ´´Keep or maintain control of the board long enough to kill the other guy with the win condition whose challenges to meet, whether it be time, mana, cards, or some other aspect, are met by some portion of my deck.´´ Yes, it's definitely not the goblin definition, but blue is being included today and blue must be made comfortable in the presence of greenies.

As they always say, keep your friends close, but keep your enemies even closer.


All decks start with an idea. All good decks, on the other hand, start with a fun idea. If one would ask an aggro player how to beat his deck, the response would be something along the lines of, ´´Kill my creatures.´´ Sadly, killing is one of those things blue doesn't do too well.

Feel free to groan now.

But one thing blue does very well is bounce, the soft removal. I've played enough blue players to know a thing or two about bounce against aggro. Unless it is a truly key card that gets bounced, all that is being bought is time at the expense of a card. There is nothing final about it and 1:1 removal isn't quite achieved. Simply put, this won't work.

If this bounce were made permanent, however, it'd be just as good as hard removal. This would probably require a combo of some sort, and, given that this is a blue deck, the combo must directly feed into a win condition thanks to the card slot use of the huge support package blue drags along like a hiker's backpack.

The following card immediately caught my eye: Llawan, Cephalid Empress
Llawan, Cephalid Empress
Llawan, Cephalid EmpressSet: Torment
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cephalid Legend
Rarity:
R
Number:
42
Artist:
Mark Zug
Text:
When Llawan, Cephalid Empress comes into play, return all blue creatures your opponents control to their owners' hands. Your opponents can't play blue creature spells.
. She's only 3U for a 2/3 with two of the greatest lines I've ever seen on a blue card.

´´When Llawan, Cephalid Empress
Llawan, Cephalid Empress
Llawan, Cephalid EmpressSet: Torment
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cephalid Legend
Rarity:
R
Number:
42
Artist:
Mark Zug
Text:
When Llawan, Cephalid Empress comes into play, return all blue creatures your opponents control to their owners' hands. Your opponents can't play blue creature spells.
comes into play, return all blue creatures your opponents control to their owner's hands.´´

´´Your opponents can't play blue creature spells.´´

A blue creature that hates blue creatures? I think we have an honorary goblin!

So, it's an evacuate effect that's permanent so long as she remains in play. This is perfect, except for the fact that it only hits one color. No matter! Using our rather new friend from Shadowmoor, Painter's Servant
Painter's Servant
Painter's ServantSet: Shadowmoor
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact Creature
Sub Type:
Scarecrow
Rarity:
R
Number:
257
Artist:
Mike Dringenberg
Power:
1
Toughness:
3
Text:
As Painter's Servant comes into play, choose a color. All cards that aren't in play, spells, and permanents are the chosen color in addition to their other colors.
, everything is blue, even the lands. As this combo affects everything on the board, a deck built around it would be much more useful in multiplayer, where decks are usually slower and area effects are prized above all others.

So let's get this train wreck a rollin'!


Empress' Servant

Land
16x Island
Island
IslandSet: Oversize Cards
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Tony Roberts
Text:
T: Add U to your mana pool.

2x Dreadship Reef
Dreadship Reef
Dreadship ReefSet: Time Spiral
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
U
Number:
271
Artist:
Lars Grant-West
Text:
T: Add 1 to your mana pool. 1, T: Put a storage counter on Dreadship Reef. 1, Remove X storage counters from Dreadship Reef: Add X mana in any combination of U and/or B to your mana pool.

4x Swamp
Swamp
SwampSet: Oversize Cards
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Tony Roberts
Text:
T: Add B to your mana pool.


Win Condition
4x Painter's Servant
Painter's Servant
Painter's ServantSet: Shadowmoor
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact Creature
Sub Type:
Scarecrow
Rarity:
R
Number:
257
Artist:
Mike Dringenberg
Power:
1
Toughness:
3
Text:
As Painter's Servant comes into play, choose a color. All cards that aren't in play, spells, and permanents are the chosen color in addition to their other colors.

4x Llawan, Cephalid Empress
Llawan, Cephalid Empress
Llawan, Cephalid EmpressSet: Torment
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Cephalid Legend
Rarity:
R
Number:
42
Artist:
Mark Zug
Text:
When Llawan, Cephalid Empress comes into play, return all blue creatures your opponents control to their owners' hands. Your opponents can't play blue creature spells.

4x Faerie Swarm
Faerie Swarm
Faerie SwarmSet: Shadowmoor
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Faerie
Rarity:
U
Number:
37
Artist:
Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
Power:
*
Toughness:
*
Text:
Flying Faerie Swarm's power and toughness are each equal to the number of blue permanents you control.


Stuff to Get Win Condition
4x Pulse of the Grid
Pulse of the Grid
Pulse of the GridSet: Darksteel
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
29
Artist:
Wayne England
Text:
Draw two cards then discard a card from your hand. Then if an opponent has more cards in hand than you return Pulse of the Grid to owner's hand. Before lessons and laboratories there was intuition.

4x Mystical Teachings
Mystical Teachings
Mystical TeachingsSet: Time Spiral
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
69
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Search your library for an instant card or a card with flash, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library. Flashback 5B (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)

4x Prismatic Lens
Prismatic Lens
Prismatic LensSet: Time Spiral
Cost:
2
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact
Rarity:
C
Number:
262
Artist:
Alan Pollack
Text:
T: Add 1 to your mana pool. 1, T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

2x Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Teferi, Mage of ZhalfirSet: Time Spiral
Cost:
5
Color:
Blue
Type:
Legendary Creature
Sub Type:
Human Wizard
Rarity:
R
Number:
83
Artist:
D. Alexander Gregory & Jeremy Jarvis
Power:
3
Toughness:
4
Text:
Flash (You may play this spell any time you could play an instant.) Creature cards you own that aren't in play have flash. Each opponent can play spells only any time he or she could play a sorcery.


Removal and Tempo Control
3x Shriekmaw
Shriekmaw
ShriekmawSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elemental
Rarity:
U
Number:
139
Artist:
Steve Prescott
Power:
3
Toughness:
2
Text:
Fear When Shriekmaw comes into play, destroy target nonartifact, nonblack creature. Evoke 1B (You may play this spell for its evoke cost. If you do, it's sacrificed when it comes into play.)

4x Counterspell
Counterspell
CounterspellSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Mark Poole
Text:
Counters target spell as it is being cast.

4x Remand
Remand
RemandSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
63
Artist:
Mark A. Nelson
Text:
Counter target spell. If that spell is countered this way, put it into its owner’s hand instead of into that player's graveyard. Draw a card.

1x Mnemonic Nexus
Mnemonic Nexus
Mnemonic NexusSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
59
Artist:
Stephen Tappin
Text:
Each player shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library.


This control combo, housed snugly in a jury-rigged Mystical Teachings
Mystical Teachings
Mystical TeachingsSet: Time Spiral
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
69
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Search your library for an instant card or a card with flash, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library. Flashback 5B (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
framework, allows the blue player to take advantage of those aspects of the fact that there are many players.

Faerie Swarm
Faerie Swarm
Faerie SwarmSet: Shadowmoor
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Faerie
Rarity:
U
Number:
37
Artist:
Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
Power:
*
Toughness:
*
Text:
Flying Faerie Swarm's power and toughness are each equal to the number of blue permanents you control.
: Once the Servant is in play, the Swarm counts every permanent you have, even lands, as blue. A late game 12/12 or larger flyer is rather common. And you can have four!

Pulse of the Grid
Pulse of the Grid
Pulse of the GridSet: Darksteel
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
29
Artist:
Wayne England
Text:
Draw two cards then discard a card from your hand. Then if an opponent has more cards in hand than you return Pulse of the Grid to owner's hand. Before lessons and laboratories there was intuition.
: This handy card, a reasonably priced instant, though devoid of any card ´´advantage´´ unless an opponent has more cards than you, becomes a powerhouse in a multiplayer game as it becomes recurring instant speed card filtering that finds combo pieces very quickly while remaining in your hand.

Mystical Teachings
Mystical Teachings
Mystical TeachingsSet: Time Spiral
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
69
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Search your library for an instant card or a card with flash, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library. Flashback 5B (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
/ Teferi: It found Pickles. It'll find this combo.

Shriekmaw
Shriekmaw
ShriekmawSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elemental
Rarity:
U
Number:
139
Artist:
Steve Prescott
Power:
3
Toughness:
2
Text:
Fear When Shriekmaw comes into play, destroy target nonartifact, nonblack creature. Evoke 1B (You may play this spell for its evoke cost. If you do, it's sacrificed when it comes into play.)
: Once it became clear that direct fetching would be useful for this deck and that Mystical Teachings
Mystical Teachings
Mystical TeachingsSet: Time Spiral
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
69
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Search your library for an instant card or a card with flash, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library. Flashback 5B (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
combined with one of the best multiplayer cards ever was a great candidate, black had to be splashed and a bit of hard removal for those annoying early beats became a natural addition.

Remand
Remand
RemandSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
63
Artist:
Mark A. Nelson
Text:
Counter target spell. If that spell is countered this way, put it into its owner’s hand instead of into that player's graveyard. Draw a card.
: Annoy a player, then draw a card. It's a great politics card when combined with...

Mnemonic Nexus
Mnemonic Nexus
Mnemonic NexusSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
59
Artist:
Stephen Tappin
Text:
Each player shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library.
: Yes, I know. It's Mnemonic Nexus
Mnemonic Nexus
Mnemonic NexusSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
59
Artist:
Stephen Tappin
Text:
Each player shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library.
, the card that helps everyone who isn't playing reanimator, dredge, or some other necrophiliac's delight. Well, everything this deck needs to win needs to be on the table to work and those things that this deck uses to stay alive tend to be one shot only. Running a single Mnemonic Nexus
Mnemonic Nexus
Mnemonic NexusSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
59
Artist:
Stephen Tappin
Text:
Each player shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library.
allows this deck to reset, bringing the threat of used counterspells and other control elements back into the fray. The one thing a goblin hates most is recurring removal. Knowing this, let's use it now that it's our turn!

And so our honorary goblin and her pigment-seeking servant, with the help of a veritable cloud of the fae and a wizard who looks oddly like Samuel L. Jackson, begin to wreak havoc upon the multiplayer board, much to the consternation of creatures.

It's not goblins, but it'll do.


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