When I first looked over this decklist once the full list was spoiled, I was struck by two questions. First, why is this called “Peer Through Time”? And, second, what does this deck DO? I mean, there was a vague yet obvious sense of “ramp in to giant sea monsters” present, but other than that, it seemed like a big pile of generic “Good Stuff”, except that other than a select few cards (Stroke, Cyclonic Rift), the “stuff” was more mediocre than good. The first question was not answered in the slightest by actually playing the deck a few times. As for the second question, testing out the deck sort of confirmed my initial estimation, while at the same time proving it to be somewhat more cohesive than I expected.
So what, exactly, does this deck do? It seems to have a bit of a thing for both giant sea creatures, and sphinxes, and mana rocks. Teferi himself is basically there to abuse the heck out of his -1 ability. As I said above, ramp into huge things is definitely our Plan A here. Another recurring theme in the deck is bouncing things back to hand. While this is fairly typical of Blue decks, the bounce spells here serve a dual purpose that is actually quite critical – they can either protect Teferi from attackers while you build up to something big, or they can clear the way for you to win with whatever big things you built up to.
Using Teferi, with this deck, you can either go proactive or reactive, depending on your draws and the board state. If the coast seems clear to just ramp out that Sphinx or Kraken, go for it, then use your bounce spells to protect you and Teferi from the inevitable backlash. However, if the board is already advanced enough that adding one big threat is only going to draw more hate than you can handle, then just untap and pass with a full grip and lots of mana. Opponents will assume you have tricks up your sleeve, and with this deck, you probably aren’t bluffing!
Teferi’s +1 is far less exciting, and you’ll generally just want to be untapping things most of the time, but it can help you in a pinch. If you run out of gas, or if you just have enough defense that you want to try for the ultimate, go ahead and +1, of course, but I almost never use the +1 unless I’m desperately digging for something relevant to cast. In fact, I’ve found that even when Teferi is down to his last loyalty counter, that I’d almost always rather just get that one last untap out of him and just recast him to recharge him, rather than tick him up slowly turn after turn.
That all probably depends highly on the deck. If you were going with an extremely controlling build, using the +1 to both keep cards flowing, while building up to that Ultimate, is possibly the route you’d want to go, but I haven’t gone down that road with my build, so I’m just theorizing here. But, for my part, I’m much more interested in focusing on the ability to untap 4 permanents. This ability is pretty bonkers how good it is, and it’s probably fairly easy to go infinite if you aren’t careful. Well, to be fair, maybe that’s precisely what you want to do. I’m afraid I will not likely be of much use there, as I play in one of those no-combo-zone groups (which is fine by me).
So I don’t want to go the infinite combo route, or the uber-heavy control route, but I do want to maximize the value of the -1 ability by untapping lots of things each turn, so where does that leave us? Well, frankly there’s lots of options, really. We just have to dig a bit to see what’s there. Look at the existing cards in the deck, and just think about what random cards come to mind that you’d like to add.
Here’s an example: I look at Well of Ideas and Intellectual Offering and I think “what purpose do these serve here?”, well they draw cards, but being poltical cards, they also draw one or more of my opponents some number of cards as well. In other words, they’re symmetrical card drawing effects. But I’m generally not that political of a player, and I don’t like just giving my opponents cards outright. I mean, I’ll play things like Temple Bell, Wheel of Fortune or Time Spiral, but those all have some upside for me, or in the case of Wheel of Fortune, I’m usually just running it in colors that are desperate for card draw. So, I can either cut these cards and replace them with non-symmetrical effects or I can think of a way to exploit or break the symmetry. The three most obvious things that jump out are Mind’s Eye, Psychic Possession and, obviously, Consecrated Sphinx. Mind’s Eye is fine, but a bit too expensive, in my opinion. Psychic Possession is a bit of a nonbo with Well of Ideas since it screws you out of the two extra cards you would draw on your own turn, so that’s out. Plus, both cards have the disadvantage of being pretty underwhelming on their own. Meanwhile, the Sphinx is clearly good enough by himself, and is something we want to be playing anyway.
This gets me to looking at the rest of the card-drawing spells in the deck and thinking about how we could improve them. One of the first things that comes to mind is Flow of Ideas. In a deck with this many Islands you should pretty much always be drawing 5 cards at minimum, but that could easily be 10 or so at times. That definitely seems like a thing we might want to be doing. Stroke of Genius is a great card, and we may well want to supplement it with Blue Sun’s Zenith, or we might just swap them out one for one. Depends on the final list – if you have a lot of stuff like Snapcaster Mage, Archaeomancer, etc., then you’ll probably want the Stroke, but if you have little or no recursion then the built-in reusability of the Zenith is probably more compelling.
Next, let’s talk about Azure Mage. Azure Mage is… fine, I guess. I mean, she has some obvious synergy with Teferi – you can tap 4 lands to draw a card, then untap those lands and do it again. That’s neat, but I have a better idea: Jushi Apprentice. Functionally he will play almost exactly the same as Azure Mage most of the time. His ability only costs three, which in a vacuum isn’t much different, since he taps as well. So you tap three lands and him, draw, untap those three lands and the Apprentice, and do it again. What’s the difference? Well, costing only three to activate means if you want to actually CAST something after drawing your first card, you probably have one more mana available to do so than you would with the Mage. But more importantly, Azure Mage can’t flip into Tomoya the Revealer. Tomoya’s draw ability is basically just the nuts, and you can easily flip the apprentice with Teferi allowing for two activations per turn.
And Tomya is targeted, so you can just target yourself to double your current hand size, or if you have Consecrated Sphinx out, you can target an opponent with a full grip, and whatever they’re drawing, you are going to draw twice as much! Watch out for instant-speed removal, though, or you’ll have just given someone a bunch of free cards for nothing!
At this point, we want to stop and look at what we have so far. A bunch of crazy card drawing, some of it targetable? Teferi, and a slew of mana rocks? Tomoya the Revealer? This is starting to look a lot like one of those decks that wants to win by “killing” you with a huge Stroke of Genius. Add in Lab Maniac as an another win-con, and you suddenly have a deck strategy! This deck will basically make you and/or your opponents draw tons of cards, and then seek to win by either decking opponents, or decking yourself and winning via Lab Maniac. The Stroke plan is probably good enough for 1v1 but it’d be hard to make the deck resilient and consistent enough to beat multiple opponents (reliably, at least), so in a multiplayer game, you’d probably be on the Lab Maniac plan, unless you can maneuver the game such that it comes down to you and one last opponent…
If we go down this route, we’re going to want to look at cards like Jace’s Archivist, and all the other Windfall variants, Dreamborn Muse and other mill options, and probably Twincast so you can lethally Stroke out two people at once. Recurring Insight is one of those cards I feel is generally just underplayed in the format, but it seems particularly on point here. There are a lot of issues to address with a build like this, though. You need to be able to defend yourself, probably a LOT, once people know what the deck is actually trying to do, and you also need to be able to protect key targets like Consecrated Sphinx and Tomoya. You should build the deck so that you can win without those key pieces, but it would be much harder. Basically, the deck would be: mana rocks, things that draw a billion cards, and copious amounts of bounce and countermagic.
From a deck-building perspective, this sounds very exciting to me, but from a gameplay perspective, this sounds kind of grindy and unfun, and probably would lead to lots of really long games. Exciting, and interesting, because I feel like this deck would be very challenging to get the formula just right – too much draw power and not enough defense, and you’ll just fold to concentrated hate from the table, and you also have to consider questions like what to do if someone resolves a Time Spiral or Elixer of Immortality, or discards an Eldrazi. Too much defensive power, and no one will be able to kill you, but you’ll have a hard time amassing enough draw to deck anyone. There are few things more frustrating than dragging a game out so that it goes on and on, without actually being able to mount any kind of offense or win-con yourself. I like decks where making tiny, incremental adjustments to fine-tune the deck makes a real difference; such decks reward skill and dedication both in building and playing the deck. But even without going infinite it still feels pretty much like a combo deck.
So that’s definitely one direction we could go, but I don’t feel like it’s the best fit for my group… but there are other options. If one this is clear from the outset, it’s that we want a fair amount of mana rocks for Teferi to untap. Untapping four Islands is great, don’t get me wrong, but adding a Sol Ring or a Thran Dynamo to the mix makes it even better, plus they actually help you cast Teferi sooner, too. Of course having a bunch of mana rocks leads me to think of things like Voltaic Key and Tezzeret the Seeker. Of course, those in turn lead me down the path of the artifact-centric blue deck. There are of course lots of artifacts that benefit from being untapped by Teferi, Tezzeret or the Key, not just mana rocks. With two planeswalkers already in the mix, and thinking about artifacts, The Chain Veil is among the first things to come to mind.
I’m a bit leery of the Chain Veil. It reeks of potential combo shenanigans, so I’d be a bit afraid that I might accidentally assemble some Goldbergian combo in a game and have to sheepishly explain that, no, I had no idea that could happen, please don’t hate me, etc… but I really don’t know what all it would take to break the Chain Veil in such a fashion, so I’d be comfortable assuming I won’t be able to combo out with it unless I’m actually trying to do so. The Chain Veil does push us more towards Planeswalkers than artifacts, of course, but there aren’t really that many mono-blue walkers, so if we want to just add in Tamiyo and a couple of Jaces, I’m sure that’d be fine, and still leave us plenty of room for artifacts.
What other artifacts tap to do things? In particular, we want things that cost three or less mana to activate, for Teferi purposes. Things like… Mimic Vat, Proteus Staff, Trading Post? Yeah! Stuff like that. Also, non-artifact but artifact-related stuff like Muzzio, Visionary Architect and Grand Architect are appropriate. Getting double duty out of Muzzio in particular sounds quite lovely. Sprinkle in utility robots like Solemn Simulacrum, Spine of Ish Sah, Kuldotha Forgemaster, etc. Then season liberally with whatever other artifacts you enjoy – you can go the evil route with Disk+Forge, Lattice+March and Mindslaver+Ruins, or you can be nicer and just go for random goodies like Darksteel Colossus, Wurmcoil Engine and Myr Battlesphere.
My only issue with this style of deck is, both the White and Red C14 decks are pretty artifact-centric. Sure, there wouldn’t be a lot of overlap with the White one, but it’d be very similar to the Red deck, I think, so it just feels redundant to go this route. We can still borrow ideas from this approach, though, without going full-blown Artifact-focused. Mimic Vat and Proteus Staff in particular are generally just really good cards, so we’d consider those for other builds.
We could always build along tribal lines – the deck has a fair number of Sphinxes, and we’re likely to be keeping some of them around, as well as adding at least one certain (broken) sphinx… but the majority of you, I’m sure, would rather go for the seafood platter. Including any of the creature types mentioned on Whelming Wave or Quest for Ula’s Temple gives us an excuse to run both of those awesome cards. I am very saddened, though, that neither of those mentions “whale” as a creature type. I’d love me some Colossal Whale action… in fact I might want to run that one regardless. So basically, we have the sea-monster tribal option. Sure, from a flavor/theme perspective a commander like Tromokratis would make more sense, but Teferi is probably better strategically as he helps us ramp into bigger monsters faster, and in a pinch can draw us more monsters. This is not a new deck idea, and I’m sure you can find lots of EDH lists out there on the web this style of deck… but I’ll just go ahead and suggest a few of the things I’d personally consider to be essential.
First and foremost (and aside from the aforementioned Whelming Wave and Quest), I’d consider Stormtide Leviathan and Scourge of Fleets to be the two most egregious omissions from the precon list, even if we aren’t going full bore on the Ula’s Temple plan. Scourge of Fleets can be a total blowout in the late game, and provides some pretty exceptional defense in the early/mid game. There are very few mono-blue builds in which I wouldn’t run this thing! Beyond those, the “sea monster” well is pretty deep, but quality is more of an issue. Inkwell Leviathan is pretty darn good (and overlaps with the artifact theme), but I feel like we’d still be forced to run some mediocre choices like Shipbreaker Kraken and Kraken of the Straits just to make the theme count. Most of the other playable options are already included, actually. Any deck where I’m even looking at Godhunter Octopus as a possible option is not something I find compelling, but I find the concept of a sea monster deck to be rather exciting and amusing, so I’m not going to knock it if you want to give it a try!
Random Aside: Casting Scourge of Fleets, and then passing the turn with three mana up and Cackling Counterpart in your hand is just sublime. (In case you don’t see it, Cackling Counterpart is an Instant! Do it at the end of their turn, likely after they just got done recasting all the stuff you just bounced, and you untap with two 5/5’s against an empty board).
Again, this is not the road I want to go down, but keeping some of the big monsters is essential – after all, we need something to do with all that mana Teferi’s going to give us. Most of the ones they included are fine. I poo-pooed Breaching Leviathan in my set review, and I still have issues with it, but having played it a few times, and played against it, it’s actually a lot better than I thought – sure it’s a nonbo with Quest for Ula’s Temple, but it turns out hard casting 9-mana things is much easier than I thought, with this deck.
Mana-doublers like Caged Sun and Extraplanar Lens seem to fit the deck well. They can be stand-ins for Teferi if you are somehow unable to keep him alive long enough to do anything, but also work in conjuction with him to really super-charge that -1 ability. Doubling Cube seems like it could really do some work here. To make things like Caged Sun work, you need lots of basics in play, so some good old-fashioned land ramp is desirable, but sadly Blue is lacking in that department. Of course there are always Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart, both of which I’d play in virtually any build of this deck regardless of direction or theme, but let’s not forget Planar Chaos oddity Dreamscape Artist! In my experience you will tend to draw lots of extra lands, so this guy ramps you, interacts favorably with Teferi, and eventually thins out the lands so that you start to draw more live cards later on.
At one point I even considered Walking Atlas as a way to get more land drops and make use of all those lands I drew. If you really want to push this hard as a mono-blue Ramp deck, that might actually be warranted. Throw in Terrain Generator, and (I can’t believe I’m about to say this…) Patron of the Moon, to really barf those lands out. Crucible of Worlds + Myriad Landscape is slow and expensive, but effective if you can keep your opponents off your back long enough to get that engine going.
Another card to consider in this build is Trade Routes. Basically giving all your lands Cycling 1 is pretty sweet, and there’s probably some variation on the deck that makes the ability to bounce your own lands relevant as well. Maybe with Land Equilibrium? I don’t know, that’s probably unlikely to work, and probably highly annoying if it does work. Anyway, Trade Routes is cool, so I’d consider it here.
Hmm, let's see... what else is Blue good at doing? Stealing things, and copying things; that's two. Both stealing and copying, as major themes, have been done, of course. Neither of these "themes" is deep enough or interesting enough to focus an entire deck around, in my opinion. Nonetheless they are among Blue's strengths, and both give us access, via other players' cards, to abilities and effects we might not otherwise have access to. For example, cloning another player's Acidic Slime to kill an enchantment, or "borrowing" an opposing Serra Ascendant for some lifegain. Point being, Blue is the best color for using your enemies' own cards against them. Not tapping into some of that power just wouldn't make sense.
There are a ton of options in both categories, so it's pretty much up to personal taste and/or card availability. But my recommendations tend towards the proven, time-tested methods. Obviously with as many various mana rocks and other artifacts in the deck, Phyrexian Metamorph is one of the best out there. Similarly, the new Clever Impersonator is quite versatile. One thing Blue can't do, typically, is "reanimation", but again, Planar Chaos's "what-if" color pie comes to the rescue, with Body Double, a brilliant little card. Cloning things from the graveyard is Blue's version of a Zombify, which is pretty clever. Vesuvan Shapeshifter is a fine pick if you want keep some of the Morph stuff intact, or if you just want to complete the "pickles lock" with the Brine Elemental already included.
On the stealing side of things, Bribery and Treachery are the most generic and obvious options, but folks, they are ubiquitous for a reason - they're GOOD! Like, really, really good. But if you want to avoid the cliche choices, maybe there are other options. Helm of Possession is pretty good, but I'd only really recommend this one if you have a lot of expendable utility dorks to sac. Another potentially techy pick is Chamber of Manipulation. You should easily be drawing enough cards to discard to it, but the real problem is figuring out how to use the stolen creatures, since you only get them until EOT, but they don't get haste! One possible option is to use Proteus Staff on the borrowed creature - it'll go back to the bottom of it's owner's library, but YOU still get to dig for a creature to put into play! Otherwise, Greaves and Boots can just enable haste to allow you to attack.
One of the best options, though, is Vedalken Shackles. That card is one of the most compelling reasons for me to broaden my horizons into mono-colored territories - because I've had a couple of copies sitting around for years, but never really got to use them because, well, they're pretty crap in most multicolor decks.
One of my favorite new cards in this deck is Domineering Will, which I'd definitely keep around. Blatant Thievery is kind of like a permanent version of Domineering Will, but it can steal ANYTHING! Planeswalkers, Enchantments, Lands... pretty much anything not tied down with Hexproof or Shroud is up for grabs. Reins of Power is well-known and loved by many in the format, and last year's C13 had the fantastic Illusionist's Gambit, which is a card that, every time I cast it in a game, causes me to think " holy crap, is this card actually real?!"
While Illusionist's Gambit doesn't actually say "gain control" or anything similar to that, I still put it in this section because what the card basically does is to "steal" someone else's combat phase! True, you don't get to pick the opponent to be the recipient of the misdirected attack, but basically, the card feels like it started out as a card someone designed as a joke - "gain control of target attack phase". Like, maybe it was an unused design for the third Un-set, and R&D just decided, for shits and giggles, to see if they could make a card that was functionally the same, but would actually work in real Magic, and thus Illusionist's Gambit was born.
Anyway, on the ever-shortening list of things Blue CAN'T steal, we can scratch off "combat phase".
One more thing Blue mages tend to love is their Trinket Mage packages. I threw him in mainly just to find my Sol Ring or Tormod's Crypt more consistently (Crypt has been surprisingly relevant and useful - I'd love to cut it, but it keeps proving valuable). But almost any of the variations on this deck we've discussed has a very high potential to burn through it's library and fill up the graveyard at an alarming rate. So, I'd suggest Elixir of Immortality as one option. Yes, it's mostly one of those noob cards - it doesn't actually DO anything, it gains life... but a bit of lifegain is actually kinda nice to have in a pinch, especially when it's just a bonus tacked on to another effect we already want.
Not a Trinket Mage target, but I'd also suggest Time Spiral for basically any version of this build except the version that wants to deck everyone.
There are tons of trinkets for the mage to fetch, but I generally just like to have a few that I'm really likely to want, and not a bunch of highly circumstantial effects that just clutter up my decklist. And I've already mentioned Voltaic Key previously, but here again it seems well worth mentioning. There will almost always be valid targets for the Key to untap.
And, I think, the last thing I want to talk about is defense. We've already talked about bounce spells, but Blue's other signature defensive move is to "freeze" things, I.E. tapping things down and keeping them tapped for a turn. See Frost Titan and Breaching Leviathan for examples. Other things that do this include: Tamiyo the Moon Sage, Sleep, Frost Breath, Icy Blast, and Sudden Storm. I like Tamiyo in general because she's just really good on her own, but she's also pretty good with these other effects. Using her -2 after resolving a Sleep or Breaching Leviathan, for instance, can be quite the coup.
I don't really like the "tap two guys" options much, unless I'm playing 1v1 pretty exclusively. In a multiplayer setting it'll be often that there are more than two significant threats at one time, and something like Frost Breath won't quite get there. Icy Blast and Sleep both seem like great options, though. I especially like Sleep since it's a 4-mana spell making it a great follow-up play to casting Teferi for the first time. However it, too, targets a specific opponent, so sometimes it won't be able to handle all possible threats. With all the big sea monsters and sphinxes, Icy Blast seems like it'd almost always be Ferocious.
Well, I've just about exhausted my well of ideas for this deck, but it continues to impress and inspire me the more I play it. I really didn't think the initial list was all that interesting or exciting, but I've really come around to see that there is clearly a lot of potential for the deck, and for Teferi himself.
In the end, I actually couldn't choose one direction to go in, so I just borrowed some of the ideas from all the variations I discussed above. That makes the list look a little more generic and good-stuff-ish than I'd have liked, but the deck actually plays very cohesively and has lots of little interactions and synergies that justify most of the more staple-ish inclusions. There are, as always, a handful of cards I'd love to include but couldn't find room for, or didn't have copies of available for use. But for now, here's the list I've been rocking, and it's been a blast to play.
Teferi, Temporal Archmage
Thassa, God of the Sea
Sphinx of Uthun
Scourge of Fleets
Lorthos, the Tidemaker
Call to Mind
Rite of Replication
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Rush of Knowledge
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Flow of Ideas
Well of Ideas
Stroke of Genius
Elixer of Immortality
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
So, that's the list. I'd obviously recommend going the Snow-basic route if you have them, if you want to use the Extraplanar Lens with minimal risk, but I didn't happen to have enough on hand to do that. I'm also considering cutting Tec Edge and Halimar Depths and going back to basic Islands because I want to make sure my Vedalken Shakles, Flow of Ideas and Scourge of Fleets are as consistent as possible.
Two cards I mentioned and really wanted to add, but couldn't find any unused copies are Time Spiral and Mimic Vat. I really think those two are more or less essential here, but I'll have to pull one of each from existing decks, so figuring out which decks can live withou them is a chore I just haven't found time for yet.
I also really want Body Double in here, but haven't figured out what to cut. Geralf or Reef Worm actually feel like they're slightly underachieving in this build, so those could go, but I like using new cards, and don't have other homes waiting on them just yet, so I'm hesitant to cut them.
Chasm Skulker is one I think I forgot to mention earlier, but with the absurd number of cards this deck draws most of the time, it seemed like a natural fit. I also forgot to mention Dungeon Geists in the tap-things-down section, but it's new enough to probably have occurred to most of you anyway.
Lorthos has yet to do anything impressive for me, but I'm continuing to hold out hope that he'll prove useful at somepoint. If not, he'll be on the chopping block the minute WotC prints a new, playable Leviathan or Kraken.
Diluvian Primordial was another "good stuff" card, but I can't help but like the Primordials, and this one is another way to use opponents' spent utility spells to deal with things Blue can't normally deal with.
And I did break my group's "no countermagic" truce for a Cryptic Command, but we've pretty much all fudged this rule once or twice, when it makes sense, and here it's not always going to be a counterspell. I think it's almost as likely to be "tap your guys, draw" as it is to be "counter that, draw", and even the bounce mode isn't irrelevant here.
I did spend some time looking at Inundate, a near-forgotten gem from Eventide. Well, I don't know if "gem" is the right word, but if it's going to be played, a monoblue deck seems like the only logical place for it. Yet, somehow I can't seem to fit it in, and I'm not super convinced I need to.
And, finally, I don't like running Pongify without it's functional twin Rapid Hybridization, but so far I haven't found room for that either. In fact, I've come close to cutting Pongify, because of the few times I'd had it in hand, but the 3/3 token it leaves behind actually posed a threat to Teferi so I couldn't use it! But at the same time, having a cheap, instant-speed answer to hasty threats like Akroma, or game-breaking bombs like Consecrated Sphinx (in the hands of the enemy, at least), seems very necessary, so again I kind of want both!
Okay, now I really have run out of ideas to throw at you, so I'm done. I hope this gives you some fodder for your own renovations and redesigns. As alwasy, I appreciate feedback, so let me know what hidden gems I've overlooked, or even if I missed something that should have been pretty obvious!