Blue is one of the best control colors in Commander. If you’re looking for some tips on what blue cards will enhance your Commander collection, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our 20 essential blue cards — cards that will be great in any number of blue decks.
Blue, more than any color, has an abundance of control and combo pieces. This makes picking out essential cards for your collection easier in some ways, as so many of the strong blue cards are deck specific. Whether it’s Thassa’s Oracle, Retreat to Coralhelm or Intruder Alarm, they’re all powerful, synergistic blue cards, but not as playable outside of specific decks.
Our list aims instead to provide you with the pieces, the “shell” of what you might want when playing blue, leaving the rest up to you and your win conditions.
Similarly, this list doesn’t contain lands or artifacts that don’t have a blue color identity, because otherwise it would be twice as long. Mystic Sanctuary, Glasspool Mimic, Minamo, Thought Vessel, Vedalken Shackles; all great blue staples, but not technically “blue”.
If you want a great example of some stellar blue cards used in a specific strategy, check out my Cosima mono-blue Landfall. Retraced Image is literally blue ramp in mono-blue, but less relevant otherwise, as you won’t always have another Island to put into play. It’s definitively a mono-blue card… unless you’re doing weird stuff with Spy Kit.
I see you.
The first card on our list is a counterspell that softens the blow. Everyone groans when they play against a good control deck, and for newer players in more relaxed pods, counterspells can feel rough.
Arcane Denial is easy to cast, replaces itself and gives the opponent a consolation prize. It’s amazing how this one card can be a tool to get people used to hard counters, and because it’s such a great social tool in lower power pods, it deserves a spot on this list.
Sometimes all you need to survive a turn is a good fog. Blue holds up mana anyway, so holding up four for Aetherize isn’t much of a tribulation.
But Aetherize doesn’t just fog — it also bounces everything that attacked, making it a big tempo play. You can do some truly devious things with it, too. Don’t miss that you can let one player kill an opponent and then cast this before moving to Second Main Phase to bounce their attackers.
Submerge came close for this spot, as it’s often a free spell. It can only deal with one attacker, though; not an army. New kid on the block Filter Out might well deserve a spot in the Top 20, but we’ll have to see how it plays out.
CURSE OF THE SWINE
Blue isn’t very good at removing creatures permanently, and as such, it doesn’t really have any wraths. It has Ixidron and The Phasing of Zhalfir, but otherwise sits firmly in place in the Color pie as being the color least good at dealing with things for good.
That’s why Curse of the Swine remains the most played blue “wrath.” You can get rid of as many problems as you have mana, and 2/2 tokens are much easier to deal with after.
Blue has countless ways to bounce permanents and creatures, but the King of the Hill is Cyclonic Rift. It solves all the problems at instant speed. It can be used both offensively and defensively (though a defensive Rift with no follow-up remains a bugbear for players everywhere). There’s also the single target Rift, a mode used not often enough, in my opinion.
Don’t forget Rift’s mana value is two. This means certain counterspells or effects will stop it (think Sanctum Prelate on 2). It also means it can be tutored with a card you’ll meet later on this list.
As for other variants, please stop playing Devastation Tide, or worse — looping it. You don’t need to. Wash Out should see more play, as it’s often a River’s Rebuke for four mana. Engulf the Shore is also great in mono-blue decks, and don’t sleep on some of the creature-based ones like Scourge of Fleets.
Any number of combo cards could have been on this list: Thoracle, Labman, Peregrine Drake, Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, to name a few. The reason they got beaten by a kitten is because this feline menace can do a lot of heavy lifting even when you’re not comboing off.
Sure, it can also combo, but getting to abuse it in a Blink deck is a lot of fun. Everyone likes kittens.
Speaking of Blink, Ghostly Flicker remains the most powerful of the Blink spell suite. Sure, Ephemerate is aggressively costed, but it can’t untap your lands, untap your mana rocks or perma-steal creatures you’ve temporarily gained control of.
Ghostly Flicker does all of those things and more, and it’s easy to see why that would lend it to being a combo enabler, too. At the floor, it also saves your stuff from removal. A+ card. S-tier, even.
Ghostly Pilferer is not part of a cycle with Ghostly Flicker, but if it were, the cycle might be “blue cards that are well-suited to overperform in Commander.”
While everyone is gushing over Faerie Mastermind’s ability to cosplay Rhystic Study, Ghostly Pilferer has been here the whole time. The card roughly reads as “whenever a player casts their Commander, draw a card,” and it’s a whole lot cheaper to buy.
It can also get in unblockable to trigger combat damage triggers and can even draw you cards with its untap trigger. That’s a lot of value for two mana, especially on a creature with two majorly popular creature types. And if someone is playing Prosper or Muldrotha? Well, you’re in value town.
Blue has some majorly powerful enchantments. You don’t need Omniscience or Shark Typhoon in every deck.
Blue has some majorly powerful card draw enablers, too. But not every deck wants Bident of Thassa, or Archmage Emeritus.
If you want a blue enchantment that’ll be reusable forever, then Kindred Discovery takes the trophy. The fact you get to draw on EtB and on attack (without doing damage!) makes this an auto-include for any deck in blue that has a creature theme.
Choosing one game ending haymaker for blue wasn’t as easy as you’d think. Consecrated Sphinx has long held that position, but I think these days it has slipped out of favor unless you’re trying to draw your library.
Players, on average, draw so many more cards in a game that if it goes long enough, you might just deck yourself. Removal has also gotten better, and Sphinx rarely stays around.
While Nezahal is a personal favorite of mine, it’s not quite as resilient and game-ending as Hullbreaker Horror, which takes Tidespout Tyrant and turns it up to eleven. Instant speed, uncounterable and equipped with self-protection? What a card.
Counterspells are dime-a-dozen in blue, so while they are in many ways replacement level, there are some that stand above the rest and make it into this list. Mana Drain is one of them, and it’s because of where we are with the format.
Explosive turns and mana generation are an integral part of breaking parity, and Mana Drain allows you to create a huge tempo swing. Countering a five or six mana Commander with this feels criminal, and if you can follow it up by dumping your hand into play, well… you’re in great shape.
Fierce Guardianship is another all-timer, but it’s a free spell, and free spells start to turn your deck into a high-power entity that wants to win at all costs. Not everyone wants to play at those tables, so Fierce Guardianship isn’t quite “essential”. It’s still very good, though.
MARCH OF SWIRLING MIST
I originally considered Propaganda for this slot on the list. It slows down creature onslaughts and buys you time to set up. In theory. In practice, players see it as a reason to go open-season on you out of fear of what you might do later.
Instead, I went for March of Swirling Mist, because while it reads as a card that protects your creatures, it’s also a fog effect. That is huge.
If you do care more about creatures attacking you, you could also consider Illusionist’s Gambit. If protecting your own is more your bag, then Slip Out the Back and Dive Down work well alongside Mist.
While blue can struggle to deal with opposing armies, it can do an arguably too good a job at removing single creatures. Between Rapid Hybridization, Pongify, Ravenform, Resculpt and Reality Shift, you have a removal suite that even red and black would be jealous of.
Reality Shift is the one I think is most essential of the lot; it’s a two mana exile and often strands a land or noncreature spell in play, unable to be cast. Really, you should be playing at least Reality Shift, Rapid Hybridization and Pongify in any mono blue deck.
RHYSTIC STUDY / MYSTIC REMORA
You knew both of these cards would be on this list. You might not have predicted they would take the same slot.
While they’re both approaching auto-include level, I didn’t want to allow both to be auto-includes on this list. Your deck can function without one or both, and some decks prefer not to run them for various reasons.
Rhystic Study eats a lot of removal and can be a tempo loss if your playgroup is prepared for it. Mystic Remora can sometimes draw next to no cards in more casual, creature-heavy metas — especially when there’s time in the game for people to slow roll their mana rocks and make you invest your early mana in keeping the fish around.
That said, they are phenomenally powerful and are still essential cards for any blue mage’s spellbook.
Like counterspells, blue has an affinity for clones. It has dozens of them, and they’re all suited to different strategies.
If you want to copy your Commander, either of the Sakashima cards or Spark Double are great. If you’re in a deck that plays at instant speed, then you might want Stunt Double or Sakashima’s Protege; Body Double if you mill opponents and Vizier of Many Faces if you mill yourself.
If you’re in artifacts, you’re playing Imposter Mech, but probably taking Phyrexian Metamorph before it. Metamorph takes this slot as the most flexible clone even outside artifact decks, because it can come down for three mana and two life, copy both yours or opponent’s creatures and can also copy artifacts.
Spellseeker finds Cyclonic Rift. It also finds plenty of draw, removal, counterspells and combo pieces. It finds Prologue to Phyresis, if that’s how you want to win these days. The fact it scales with the power level of your intended deck means it’s a highly useful tool, and one you’re always happy to see.
Blue has a bunch of utility creatures, but Spellskite is one of the better ones for protecting your investments. It asks that you pay just two life (if you don’t have blue available), and it eats whatever gets pointed at your guy.
Most of the time it won’t live to tell the tale, but it does shut off certain cards like Pyroblast. Spellskite also gets bonus points in today’s meta, where combat tricks have started to creep into play more often. Redirecting one of those, or even threatening to, can shut a player off of killing you.
Siren Stormtamer is another great utility creature, while Etherium Sculptor goes in any artifacts deck. If you can be trusted with Archaeomancer, it’s a classic for a reason, but one I’ve stopped running in order to remove myself from the temptation to soft lock the table.
SWAN SONG / AN OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE
Swan Song is a one mana counterspell, and that’s enough to propel it to one of the most played cards in the format. It answers engines and combo pieces if they’re enchantments, it counters Theros Gods and it counters anything from a board wipe, to a draw spell to a game-winning X-spell.
An Offer You Can’t Refuse arrived recently, exchanging the ability to counter enchantment creatures for hitting artifacts and planeswalkers instead. It might seem like an upgrade, but giving the opponent two treasures can sometimes be way worse for you than giving them a 2/2 flier.
It’s deck dependent, but taking one of these is a good bet.
Blue is pretty good at stealing stuff. It’s also pretty good at Blink. No matter which side of that coin your deck falls on (and let’s be honest, it’s often both) you’re going to want a little help from Thassa, Deep-Dwelling.
She’s a Conjurer’s Closet for four mana, and if you flicker something that isn’t yours, you get to keep it. The ability to tap another creature is basically flavor text, but it can come up from time to time.
Let me get one thing out of the way: Gilded Drake is not essential. It might be a cEDH staple, but any playgroup worth their salt will let you proxy it anyway. So, other than Gilded Drake, what’s the hottest way to steal stuff in blue?
Well, my favorite little pal, Thieving Skydiver. I’ve played games with this where I’ve had control of three Sol Rings (one day I’ll get all four)! It can take cheap equipment like Sword of the Animist and fly in to get combat damage/attack triggers with them.
It can take a vehicle and crew it. It can steal a combo piece. It’s all around a sweet little card, and one I always play in blue.
Schema Thief is a similar, newer option; even if it swings in and copies just a mana rock every turn, you’re still getting permanent mana advantage until the token is removed. Both are great tempo cards.
This list couldn’t be complete without blue’s premier three-mana wheel, Windfall. It can go higher than seven if you play it right, and at three mana, that’s plenty of mana leftover to enact your wild plans. Burst draw at cheap investment remains one of the better sources of draw, and something most decks need a few versions of to go alongside more piecemeal draw effects.
Windfall isn’t just a wheel, though; it can be a tool in group-hug style decks to hasten the mill clock, especially in combination with a Psychic Corrosion. Yes, Jason, I really enjoyed your Council of Four deck last time we played (EDITOR’S NOTE: Muahahaha!).
And there it is: our 20 Essential Blue Commander Cards. Did we cover the hits you expected? Are you bummed out we never mentioned Reins of Power? Is anyone else apart from you playing it? Let me know on Twitter which blue cards you don’t leave home without.
What’s next? Check out the other entries in the series while I work on collating nineteen cards that barely come close to The Great Henge.
Kristen is Card Kingdom’s Head Writer, and member of the Commander Advisory Group. Formerly a competitive Pokémon TCG grinder, she has been playing Magic since Shadows Over Innistrad, which in her opinion, was a great set to start with. When she’s not taking names with Equipment and Aggro strategies in Commander, she loves to play any form of Limited.