Blue Moon is a broad term for Blue/Red based control decks that take advantage of Blood Moon’s tendency to severely disrupt Modern mana bases, alongside traditional control elements such as removal, counterspells, and sources of card advantage. Kill conditions in Blue Moon decks vary from midrange creatures & planeswalkers to 2-card combo finishes, but despite these differences these decks usually share the same core cards and general game plan.
While Blood Moon technically effects both players, Blue Moon decks plan to set up scenarios where its effect is asymmetrical by generally playing only 2 colors and playing lots of basic Islands. The ideal effect Blood Moon has on a game for the Blue Moon player is that they are still able to cast all of their spells without any trouble while their opponent is not able to cast enough spells rapidly enough to overwhelm the control elements of the Blue Moon deck. Lightning Bolt, Mana Leak, Spell Snare, and Remand serve as early interaction to ensure you don’t die before deploying Blood Moon or another threat, and are still relevant in the late-game. Serum Visions or Opt allow you to smooth your draws out over the course of a game so you more often draw cards that are relevant for the situation. Spreading Seas is often included as additional disruption, and can cut opponents off of colored mana from their basic lands when a Blood Moon is in play. Snapcaster Mage lets you recast your good spells and is often a path to victory in itself. Cryptic Command is a mid-to-late game swiss army knife that can help you catch up when behind or solidify an advantage when ahead. Jace, the Mind Sculptor helps you dig further into your deck for answers or win conditions, and if protected can be a win condition on his own.
As mentioned above, there are different versions of Blue Moon that win in different ways. There are decks that apart from Blood Moon play a fair game, planning to win with planeswalkers like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and creatures like Pia & Kiran Nalaar, Keranos, or Vendilion Clique. There are also combo versions of Blue Moon; they play Madcap Experiment+Platinum Emperion, or Deceiver Exarch+Kiki-Jiki, or Through the Breach+Emrakul as their primary paths to victory. The combo builds have the advantage of being able to “win out of nowhere”, which sometimes steals games that wouldn’t be winnable without a combo. It also allows the deck to be proactive in matchups where interaction does not line up well.The disadvantage however is that they have to play cards that are weaker than average when a combo is not being assembled with them, and specific interaction (creature removal vs. Kiki-Jiki or Platinum Emperion for example) is stronger against combo builds of Blue Moon than it is against non-combo builds, which are generally OK with trading cards 1-for-1, even if they are win conditions.
In short, Blue Moon is good when Blood Moon is good. Decks with greedy mana bases without many basic lands are generally going to be good matchups. Decks that rely on some land-centered synergies that are turned off by Blood Moon, like Scapeshift or Tron, are generally good matchups. But, if you don’t have Blood Moon or another form of land disruption, some of these matchups are very hard to win. When Blood Moon is not a factor, decks mostly composed of creatures that die to burn spells such as Humans, Infect, Elves, or Affinity are usually good matchups. Other control decks that don’t put much pressure on you to make a move early will usually be favorable matchups, as you can pick a fight over a Blood Moon later in the game and have it still be effective at hampering their game plan. So, if you have an inclination towards blue control and the metagame you expect is weak to Blood Moon, that is when it might be right to sleeve this deck up.
Remember that this deck’s main strength is also its biggest weakness. The fact that Blue Moon is built to function with Blood Moon in play means it is probably going to be weaker than decks that aren’t built with Blood Moon in mind when there is NOT a Blood Moon in play. When you don’t have Blood Moon or when Blood Moon is not doing anything to weaken your opponent, Blue Moon is basically a weaker, less flexible version of Grixis or Jeskai Control, both of which comfortably play a 3rd color and make effective use of nonbasic lands in long games. The tradeoff is that Blood Moon is a free win machine against much of the format, so keep this in mind when deciding whether to play Blue Moon or a different Snapcaster Mage+Jace, the Mind Sculptor dec
Usually the easiest board-outs are Mana Leak or Remand, especially against aggressive decks with lots of one-mana spells. Trimming on Cryptic Command or Jace, the Mind Sculptor against faster decks can also make sense. There are some matchups where Blood Moon is not good enough, and so trimming on them or taking all of them out can make sense occasionally. Taking out Lightning Bolt and other burn spells against decks that aren’t trying to kill you with creatures or against decks with creatures that are too big to die to them is also advisable. Sideboarding with combo versions of Blue Moon is a little trickier, as there will be times when it’s right to trim on combo pieces for more interaction or alternate win conditions. This is usually best when your opponent will have more disruption after sideboarding for your combo.
Because Blue Moon generally plays a reactive style, what you commit sideboard slots to is going to be largely based on metagame predictions as well as personal preference. Possible options to consider are discussed below:
Dispel - Good against other control decks, certain combo decks (Ad Nauseum, Goryo’s Vengeance), and certain aggro decks (Burn, Infect).
Negate - Efficient catch-all
Roast / Harvest Pyre - Specifically for Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, but also for matchups where a critical mass of removal is important, like Humans or Elves.
Entrancing Melody - Good against midrange decks with efficient creatures that are worth stealing, like Tarmogoyf.
Pyroclasm / Kozilek’s Return / Anger of the Gods - Efficient ways to catch-up against creature swarm strategies.
Izzet Staticaster - Repeatable removal for decks with lots of 1-toughness creatures.
Relic of Progenitus - Good against graveyard decks like Dredge or Hollow One, and good for managing graveyards against decks with Snapcaster Mage, Search for Azcanta, Tarmogoyf, Traverse the Ulvenwald etc.
Disdainful Stroke - Mostly included for ramp decks like Tron or Scapeshift, as stopping their big plays is usually life or death.
Vandalblast / Shatterstorm - For artifact-heavy strategies like Lantern or Affinity
Abrade - Decently flexible card that would come in against something like Lantern, but also something like Elves. Covers a decent amount of ground although it’s not excellent at any one thing.
Dragon’s Claw / Sun Droplet - Specifically for Burn, which is a hard matchup without Platinum Emperion in your deck.
Platinum Emperion/Madcap Experiment - Out of all the combos these decks can play, this one is the easiest to make into a transformational sideboard plan because it takes up the least slots (4-6). Some decks are cold to this combo, and the package is very strong in general when an opponent isn’t expecting you to sideboard into it.
The hardest decisions with Blue Moon are usually on turns where you have to decide between tapping out for a Jace or Blood Moon, or holding up mana for a counterspell. There isn’t a hard and fast rule for which is right, but if Blood Moon looks like it’s going to stop your opponent from using their mana effectively on their following turn, it’s probably good to deploy it. When you play Blood Moon and your opponent passes back to you without casting anything, the game is probably over.
Casting Spreading Seas can be tricky with this deck, because if you have a Blood Moon in your hand, you want to go after basic lands, but if you don’t, you have to decide between targeting your opponent’s most useful land, or their basic lands if they have any, in case you end up drawing a Blood Moon later.
Fetching can be tricky with Blue Moon, especially if you are playing Kiki-Jiki. You want to have lots of Islands in play in preparation for Blood Moon, but you also want to be able to cast all of your red spells, so whether you fetch Steam Vents or basic Island with your early game fetch lands is a very real consideration that will vary from game to game.
Mulligans with Blue Moon are relatively straightfoward, as most hands that have some mix of interaction and lands are acceptable. Hands with no interaction or hands with too few lands (think one land without a Serum Visions or Opt, for example) are usually mulligans except for in narrow, matchup-specific corner cases. You are playing for longer games, so making your early land drops and stopping your opponent from killing you are generally the most important elements of an opening hand with Blue Moon. In post-board games, if you know your opponent’s deck can’t beat Blood Moon or some other piece of hate, it may make sense to mulligan aggressively.
The Future of Blue Moon
Blue-Red Control has been a staple in Modern since the beginning; Splinter Twin won the first Modern Pro Tour. Decks like this will exist in the format for a long time. The deck occasionally gets new printings in cards like Abrade, but having an archetype changing card be printed seems unlikely. Wizards doesn't print cads better than Cryptic Command and Snapcaster Mage very often. The biggest place for the deck to gain is getting access to a more consistent two card combo to win with, whether through the unbanning of Splinter Twin or a new printing. Upping the power level of the deck in that sense is the biggest place for gains.
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