Last updated on April 26, 2023
Ancestral Recall (Ultra Rare Cards) | Illustration by Raoul Vitale
Blue has long been hailed as the strongest color in Magic, and for good reason. The color of control, blue offers some of the best instants and sorceries that the game has to offer alongside the best permission and card draw.
When a good blue player sits down at the table, they’ve got the game in the palm of their hand and everything that happens does so because they allow it. With these cards, you can become the master of your tables.
Let’s take a look!
What Are Blue Cards in MTG?
Mana Drain | Illustration by Raymond Swanland
Blue cards are cards that have blue in their mana cost. These cards are ones that trigger abilities and effects that care about blue spells, like Sapphire Medallion.
This list doesn’t include any multicolored cards and so only has cards with a mono-blue color identity, so any of the cards on this list can be included in any EDH deck with blue in the color identity.
#35. Delver of Secrets
Kicking us off is an iconic blue creature. Delver of Secrets defined its Standard format, was a major force in Pauper for years, and is still at the forefront of one of Legacy’s top decks.
This is one of the few efficient and powerful creatures blue gets, though it’s significantly weaker in formats without access to excellent top deck manipulation like Ponder and Brainstorm.
#34. Mystical Dispute
Mystical Dispute is very much a sideboard card, but it’s one of the best blue has to offer in any format where the color is a major force to contend with. This was great in Standard and still sees play in Pioneer and Modern, making it a worthy entry and useful if your meta is dominated by other blue decks.
Overburden is a great card to play if you don’t want to have any friends once the game is over. This enchantment is excellent creature hate that puts your opponents on a slippery slope. Play creatures and lose tempo or just don’t play the game?
Blue doesn’t rely on creatures the same way other colors do, so this card can do a lot of work with a bit of careful deckbuilding.
While Overburden wants to the game to slow down, Standstill brings it to a full stop. Playing one of these early gives you a huge advantage over your opponents because they can’t play spells without giving you a massive advantage.
This does have the weakness of being weaker later in the game when they might have a developed board and don’t need to cast spells.
#31. Time Warp
Taking extra turns is good, and Time Warp is the quintessential extra turns spell. This is especially powerful when paired with planeswalkers or colors that build out a powerful board presence to get an extra combat to finish an opponent.
You really can’t go wrong with taking extra turns.
#30. High Tide
Extra turns are good, but extra mana is better. High Tide needs to be built around a little bit, but it’s an obscenely powerful card. Doubling the mana produced by your Islands enables some incredible turns, especially with effects like Turnabout and Time Spiral.
Playing this card often results in a kill the same turn.
#29. Time Spiral
Time Spiral is very powerful, if a bit expensive. There are cheaper wheel effects, but this one is “free” since it lets you untap your lands.
That said, getting to six mana in the first place makes this a little harder to pull off. It’s not as easy to defend it with countermagic, but a fresh hand and six mana is still really good.
#28. Cyclonic Rift
This is much more of a Commander card, but Cyclonic Rift demonstrates just how good it can be. This is as close as blue gets to Plague Wind, completely resetting your opponent’s boards while leaving yours untouched.
This is a devastating card that makes a great blue finisher.
#27. Mind’s Desire
Speaking of finishers, let’s look at a storm card. Mind's Desire is a great way for a storm deck to get the final push of cards it needs to close out the game. The main thing that holds it back from being higher on the list is that it doesn’t necessarily end the game itself.
Oftentimes it’s finding the Tendrils of Agony or similar effect that actually wins. But getting a bundle of free cards makes it worth including.
Intuition is a powerful tutor ability that doesn’t really have a downside. Sure, you only get one of the three cards into your hand, but the others going into your graveyard is easily exploitable.
In 60-card formats you can just grab three of the same haymaker if you want, and in Singleton you can sculpt your deck around Intuition piles designed to give your opponents no good choices.
#25. Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Jace is one of the most iconic characters in Magic lore, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor is one of his most iconic and powerful cards. The repeated Brainstorm on its 0 ability lets you sculpt your hand until you’re ready to use the +2 to ensure your opponents never see another good card.
This is the epitome of a card that wins the game before your opponent knows they’ve lost.
#24. Urza, Lord High Artificer
Speaking of iconic characters in the lore, Urza, Lord High Artificer was the first card to depict the ancient well-known planeswalker in years. It’s also incredibly powerful. Turning all your artifacts into Mox Sapphire and coming into play with a massive artifact creature is great, but its activated ability gives you an outlet for all that surplus mana.
It also makes a terrifying lock piece with cards like Winter Orb and Static Orb.
#23. Swan Song
Swan Song is a powerful counterspell that takes care of most threats your opponents play for a single mana. It doesn’t hit creatures but stops combos and opposing countermagic cold for next to nothing.
The 2/2 Bird won’t often matter, especially in EDH.
This is a powerful permission spell that’s hard to play around. Flusterstorm generally lets you win any counterspell fight you get into by getting multiple copies on the stack.
If enough spells have been cast it’s basically a 1-mana Counterspell. Only hitting instants and sorceries is a little restrictive, but this is still one of the best counterspells in the game.
#21. Mental Misstep
Mental Misstep is a card that shows off how broken of a mechanic Phyrexian mana is. Countering an opponent’s spell for something as trivial as two life is incredibly busted.
It’s much more powerful in older formats that focus on efficient spells, but it’s banned or restricted in all those formats because it’s just that good. You don’t even need to be running blue to play this.
Countering your opponent’s spells is good, but denying them the mana to play those spells is so much better. Opposition is a card that you might want to pair with another color that produces tokens for its full value, but this is just broken.
Using your creatures to tap your opponents’ lands lets you shut them down unless they’re running a critical mass of instants. You can also use it offensively to tap all their creatures on their end step, then untap and kill them on your turn.
#19. Rhystic Study
This is really another Commander callout, but Rhystic Study is strong enough to terrorize tables. It’s a powerful stax piece that forces your opponents to pay more mana or drown in card advantage as you draw more and more spells.
It’s a unique ability that leaves your opponents with no good options.
#18. Force of Negation
Part of the Force cycle from Modern Horizons, Force of Negation is a decently powerful free spell. The greatest weakness of the card comes from the sheer card disadvantage you get. You’re always two-for-oneing yourself and this card is pretty restrictive, only hitting noncreature spells on your opponent’s turn for free.
This is more easily cast than its contemporary Force of Will, however.
It might look like this is pretty far down the list for part of the Power 9, but there are some significant drawbacks to Timetwister. Unlike Time Spiral it doesn’t recoup its mana cost. You’ll usually be down mana after casting this card before shipping the turn to your opponent, who gets all their mana and a fresh hand, plus another card drawn for turn.
This is an incredibly powerful effect, made better since Timetwister doesn’t exile itself. It takes some work to get the most out of this card, which keeps it fairly far down the list.
#16. Force of Will
Force of Will is a much stronger catch-all card than Force of Negation. It just doesn’t have any of the restrictions. You can use it on your turn to protect your combo or hit an opponent’s creature to keep them off the board.
This is still card disadvantage and is only worth playing when the power level of other decks in the format is insanely high. This is powerful, but you need to either be able to ignore the card disadvantage or play against decks whose power level necessitates this effect.
Free spells are good, and Gush is a powerful draw spell. Returning two Islands to your hand is a bit of a steep cost, but the card draw and free spell are fantastic. Even though this is an instant, it’s best played during your main phase so you can tap both of the Islands to float two mana and immediately replay one.
Putting Daze above Force of Will may be contentious, but Daze generally has fewer downsides. Yes, bouncing a land is a tempo swing, but so is stopping your opponents from casting a spell.
This is insanely powerful in tempo decks like Legacy Delver and is far more castable than either of the other free counterspells we’ve looked at.
Symmetrical effects have never been fair in the history of Magic. The idea is generally that it can’t be broken if both players do it, but Upheaval’s banning in most formats disagrees. It’s easy to use a bunch of mana rocks to stack this card to your advantage. It offers a clean reset of the board, and you’ll probably win if you’re the one expecting it.
#12. Treasure Cruise
Mana reduction isn’t quite as good as free spells, but it’s close.
Treasure Cruise is basically free once you get its cost down to a single blue. It’s an insane three-for-one that calls back to one of the most iconic blue spells ever printed. It’s fantastic in any format with fetch lands or just cheap, efficient spells to churn through your deck and fill up your graveyard.
Brainstorm is one of the best cantrips ever printed and there’s a reason it’s a Legacy staple and restricted in Vintage. You’re basically cheating when you can cast Brainstorm with a shuffle effect like a fetch land: you draw three cards and get rid of the worst two forever. It’s as close to casting Ancestral Recall as you can get without, well, playing Recall.
The big thing holding Brainstorm out of the top 10 is that it needs those shuffle effects to be this powerful. If you just Brainstorm without a shuffle, you’re not getting nearly as much value because you’re locked into playing those three cards.
Kicking off the top 10 is Preordain. On the front side this card is weaker than Brainstorm but has greater utility. It doesn’t need to have shuffling effects to fix the top of your library and can let you see as many cards as Brainstorm.
This is a more compact cantrip that lets you sculpt the top of your deck without needing additional effects.
Like Brainstorm, Ponder lets you see three cards. It doesn’t give you the same hand sculpting power as Brainstorm, but it’s generally a stronger effect because it comes with the shuffle.
Ponder gives you far greater control over the top of your deck than Brainstorm in one package and sees more cards than Preordain for an incredibly powerful cantrip.
#8. Dig Through Time
Dig Through Time is one of the best card selection spells ever printed. Delve is a fantastically strong mechanic in any format with cheap spells and fetch lands, and getting the best two out of seven cards with no drawback makes this a powerful draw spell.
Being instant speed also makes it incredibly flexible, allowing you to hold countermagic or draw this.
#7. Mystical Tutor
Sculpting the top of your deck is good and all, but Mystical Tutor just lets you get what you need. Only getting instants and sorceries isn’t that much of a downside in the color of instants and sorceries.
Putting it on top also doesn’t matter if you cast this before your draw step or play any of the million blue cards that says “draw a card.”
Counterspell is one of the few Magic cards I’d consider a perfect design. It’s everything blue wants to do; it’s controlling at instant speed, and it demonstrates what it means to be a blue mage. It’s cheap but not overpowered since it does nothing if the threat is already on the board and is never better than an even one-for-one trade.
This is an exceedingly simple yet elegant design.
Free spells are good, but cheating things into play is even better.
Tinker does so without really costing you anything. Sacrificing an artifact doesn’t mean too much, especially since you usually use that artifact to cast the spell.
In the formats Tinker is legal it’s easy to play it on turn 1 and offers incredible explosive potential.
#4. Show and Tell
This is another fantastic card to cheat in your spells. Show and Tell has found plenty of friends in Legacy like Omniscience and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and is just generally strong.
It has a larger downside than Tinker, but it also has wider playability. Frankly, these two cards are roughly equivalent.
#3. Time Walk
Taking extra turns is fantastic, but five mana is a lot. Thankfully Time Walk lets you do it for a mere two mana
This has much more versatility than more expensive extra turn spells like Time Warp. It’s easier to combo with this one and easier to protect it with countermagic, and it lets you go do all the good things that comes with extra turns, even if that just makes it a colorshifted Explore.
#2. Mana Drain
What if the elegance of Counterspell were compounded by making it hopelessly stronger? You get the efficient power and control of Counterspell alongside a huge burst of mana with Mana Drain
You can use this and cast a spell during your next turn with enough extra mana to hold up more countermagic. This is just incredibly powerful and pushed beyond belief.
#1. Ancestral Recall
It’s likely no surprise that Ancestral Recall comes out on top here. Drawing cards is one of the best things you can do in Magic, and there isn’t a more flexible draw spell. Treasure Cruise is just a pale imitation of the real thing.
You can use this at any time for a single mana and draw a massive number of cards. It’s the most efficient three-for-one ever printed, the best card draw spell ever printed, and just the best blue spell in Magic.
Best Blue Card Payoffs and Synergies
The payoff you get from going mono-blue is getting to play the best permissive and card draw spells in the game. You simply have the ability to say no to whatever your opponent tries to do while burying them beneath a slew of card advantage. It’s hard for your opponents to keep up if they can’t resolve spells and, you’ve got plenty of cantrips like Ponder and Preordain to make sure you’ve always got the appropriate answer.
You’ve also got a lot of evasive creatures to win with. Blue doesn’t go big, but it gets slippery options like Delver of Secrets and Brazen Borrower to move around the opponent’s defenders, paired with protective spells like Dive Down and Slip Out the Back to negate your opponents’ removal.
There are also great colors to pair blue with. For controlling strategies, white and black tend to be good colors to pair with it. Blue’s greatest weakness is an inability to deal with resolved threats. Once a creature or planeswalker is in play it gets far harder for blue to deal with it, which is where the value of cards like Path to Exile and Vraska's Contempt comes from.
Why Is Blue So Good in MTG?
Blue is often referred to as the strongest color in Magic for many of the reasons listed above. Drawing cards is probably the strongest thing you can do in Magic next to making land drops, and you’ll find that you reliably win more games if you can reliably see more cards than your opponents It’s easier to win when you see five more cards than the opponent.
The permission from countermagic is another huge factor. It doesn’t matter how strong your opponents’ haymakers are if they never resolve. You can stop them from playing threats, stop them from defending themselves, and stop them from interacting with your creatures. Just saying “no” is another of the strongest effects in the game.
The card filtering and selection is another big factor to making blue powerful. Raw card advantage through drawing numerous cards is good, but getting the card you need is often better. Getting the best card of out three is generally better than a random two cards, and blue gives you plenty of options to do both.
What Do Blue Decks Do in Magic?
Blue decks generally want to be a little more controlling than some of their contemporaries and look to play a longer game that maximizes the value of their card advantage and selection. You can definitely make more aggressive blue decks.
More aggressive blue decks are more interested in playing a tempo-based strategy that looks to create a temporary advantage so they can rush down their opponents while disrupting them with efficient countermagic. A premier example of this would is the Pauper faeries deck that focuses less on controlling the game and more on disrupting the opponent while beating down with small fliers.
Counterspell | Illustration by Zack Stella
Blue has long been hailed as the strongest color in Magic thanks to its ability to command every aspect of the game, from what your opponents resolve to the cards in your hand and on top of the library. Its color identity is synonymous with drawing cards, which is one of the strongest game actions you can take.
It’s also incredibly versatile, capable of going for a long game as a control deck are closing things quickly with aggressive tempo strategies. What do you think are the best blue cards printed? Let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
Thanks for reading and stay safe!
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