Mono Blue Tempo has been putting up results since rotation. It’s shown up in every release of 5-0 decks, it’s popped up in big tournament top 8s, it has won its share of PPTQs, and Gabriel Nassif took it to the top 2 of a GP. Despite that, the tone of people posting about success with the deck has been almost apologetic. It’s almost like the deck doesn’t cost enough for people to take it seriously.
I’ve seen some good individual matchup analyses and high-level overviews of this deck, but I haven’t seen that anybody has written up a comprehensive guide. I figured I’d throw my hat into the ring.
Who am I?
Just a guy. Been playing mtg off and on since Revised. I have a long standing fondness for low to the ground mono-colored decks. My modo fortunes tend to ebb and flow with their quality. I have had a share of the competitive trophy league off and on for these last few weeks, largely on the back of mono blue tempo. Previously I’ve never even really been on the first page of the trophy results.
At the very least, I’m confident that I’ve put enough reps in with this deck that I have a decent idea of what I’m talking about.
Why play this deck?
Three main reasons: (1) the nut draw is really good; (2) you can steal more wins than you think; and (3) the deck rewards good play and harshly punishes bad play.
The nut draw of one drop into Curious Obsession into counter everything relevant beats a lot of opposing hands. I’m not saying that you should play the deck just to mise people out when you spike the nuts, but whether you’re playing a long tournament or grinding online it’s nice to get free wins every now and then.
Even if you don’t get Curious Obsession going, it’s quite possible to win games. The combination of Tempest Djinn and Merfolk Trickster can outrace more creatures on the other side of the board than you would expect. Especially when backed by a bit of counter magic.
The harsh punishment of bad play isn’t necessarily a feature, but it’s a result of the fact that you have a lot of choices with this deck. For good or ill, after most games you will feel like the outcome was a result of your decisions.
The one thing you don’t have is a reset button. This does mean that when things go horribly wrong you can reach a no-outs situation a little quicker than some other decks. As a result there is a lot of pressure on you to stop things from going horribly wrong in the first place, but you do have a decent suite of tools available to do just that. Sometimes it doesn’t work out–it’s a competitive game, after all–but the deck doesn’t get totally steamrolled all that often if you’re on form.
What is the deck?
The various versions of the Mono Blue Tempo deck have coalesced into a core of 48 cards:
4 Mist-Cloaked Herald
4 Siren Stormtamer
4 Merfolk Trickster
4 Tempest Djinn
4 Curious Obsession
4 Wizard’s Retort
4 Dive Down
The remaining twelve cards and sideboard are where you can personalize the list to your tastes. The core is strong enough to win with just about any cheap blue cards, but there are some patterns in how the successful lists usually fill out the deck.
2-4 two drop fliers: 0-4 Nightveil Sprite and 0-4 Warkite Marauder
2-6 card draw effects: 0-2 Chart a Course and 0-4 Opt
2-4 additional counters: 0-2 Essence Scatter and 0-4 Spell Pierce
0-3 tempo plays: 0-1 Sleep and 0-2 Exclusion Mage
0-1 island (usually the extra island comes along with Sleep and Exclusion Mage as they bump up the curve)
The sideboards typically have some anti-aggro cards, some counterspells, some racing tech, and a little spice. Note that the counterspells are more for tuning than for wholesale inclusion. You usually don’t go up past 10 total counters after sideboarding.
I prefer a list that is on the more tempo-ish end of the overall spectrum: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1448999#paper
4 Mist-Cloaked Herald
4 Siren Stormtamer
4 Warkite Marauder
4 Merfolk Trickster
4 Tempest Djinn
4 Curious Obsession
4 Wizard’s Retort
4 Spell Pierce
4 Dive Down
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Essence Scatter
2 Exclusion Mage
3 Surge Mare
2 Deep Freeze
1 Selective Snare
Why four Warkite Marauder? I like having twenty creatures. It helps a ton against flying blockers, and a lot of the meta features flying blockers at the moment. With Chainwhirlers at a low ebb the one toughness doesn’t matter that often.
Why four Spell Pierce? It maximizes the chance of a nut draw. It’s also a monstrous tempo swing when it’s good. While there are matches where it’s mediocre, it’s never straight up dead the way Essence Scatter can be. I understand if you don’t want to go all in on the Spell Pierce, but I’ve hit enough planeswalkers with them that I’m reluctant to trim on them.
Opt over Chart a Course? Opt is better when we are digging for what we need early. It has the same chance of finding a good card in the top two, it has half the mana cost, and it can be cast using “leftover” mana on the opponent’s end step. Chart a Course is better for refueling later in the game. I put a higher priority on the early game with this deck, so I like Opt. Reasonable people can disagree.
Why not have Essence Scatter, Sleep, or Exclusion Mage in the main deck? I like consistency for game one. I’d rather consistently have access to Spell Pierce when I need it than occasionally have the Essence Scatter or Sleep. In my experience the anti-creature suite is usually a nice to have rather than a need to have (and we do already have Retort, Trickster, and Marauder for board management), while when you need Spell Pierce you really need Spell Pierce. Your mileage certainly may vary.
Surge Mare? Every mono-blue sideboard seems to have a few pet cards in it. Surge Mare is mine. I originally added them for the red matchup after Diamond Mare let me down a few times. It’s okay there as an 0/5 wall that makes them spend some burn to get their Steamkin and Chainwhirlers through to your face. Where it has really surprised me is in the Golgari and Jeskai matchups. Against Golgari it can block their biggest explore team member indefinitely and threatens to greenwalk in for four at the end of a race. Against Jeskai you can play it on turn two and be confident you’ll get to untap with it, as it shrugs off Justice Strike, Lava Coil, and Deafening Clarion. When it has a clear run it makes a wonderful Obsession carrier.
Deep Freeze is so you have an out against Niv-Mizzet. Selective Snare is tentative tech for the 18-land white blitz deck that just popped up. Everything else is fairly straightforward.
How do you play the deck?
Generally speaking, your game plan has three stages:
(1) Apply pressure with cheap early creatures.
(2) Disrupt the opponent’s plan with countermagic and Merfolk Trickster.
(3) Play Tempest Djinn with protection available to close it out.
If you have a Curious Obsession going, you can often skip step three. If you don’t get a Curious Obsession, the smooth transition into Djinn beatdown is key. If you don’t have an Obsession or a Djinn then you need your hand to line up perfectly with the opponent’s, or for the opponent to have a bad hand.
The big skill tests involved in playing the deck are: (1) when to play Curious Obsession; (2) when to play Tempest Djinn; (3) when to tap out; (4) when to use counterspells; (5) which counterspell to use; and (6) how to use Merfolk Trickster.
When do you play Curious Obsession?
Rule of thumb: when you are confident you can get two hits out of it. In general it’s more important to get it in play safely than it is to get it down quickly.
It’s often a good idea to wait until your opponent is tapped out before running the Obsession out there if the opponent runs instant speed removal. Otherwise you risk getting dragged into a big fight during your turn that leaves the door open for the opponent to resolve a bomb on their turn.
Consider the situation where you have four islands in play after making your land drop for the turn. You have a Mist-Cloaked Herald and Warkite Marauder in play, and Curious Obsession, Dive Down, and Wizard’s Retort in hand. It’s tempting to slam the Obsession, but if the opponent responds with a kill spell you will be forced into using your Dive Down. You’ll get to draw a card, but your opponent will get to land their Cleansing Nova or Doom Whisperer or Teferi or Ral or what have you. It’s even worse if you get maneuvered into tapping out so the opponent knows the coast is clear.
When do you play Tempest Djinn?
Rule of thumb: when you can protect it. Necessary protection can range from a single untapped island and a Stormtamer or Dive Down to enough mana and countermagic to keep Teferi off the board.
You really don’t want to cast a Tempest Djinn only to see it die right away. You really really don’t want the opponent to kill your djinn and get a planeswalker in play while you stare at your Wizard’s Retort in hand that you can’t cast.
The easiest way to lose a winnable game is to get your Tempest Djinn killed when you didn’t have to. Obviously there are situations where you don’t have a choice and you just run it out there and hope it sticks, but if you have the chance to set up some protection for it you probably should.
When do you tap out?
But if I tap out this turn I’ll be way ahead and as long as my opponent doesn’t do anything too bad I’ll be winning on board and I’ll never tap out again.
Your opponent put cards into their deck because they were good. Your opponent kept this hand because it had potential. In all likelihood, your opponent is holding strong cards that have not been cast because your opponent didn’t have enough mana and/or was respecting the power of your untapped islands. When you tap out, it gives your opponent the green light to do horrible, horrible things to the board state. Don’t turn into one of those people who whines about how the opponent “always has it” after you punt away a winnable game.
So I should never ever tap out?
Well, ok, that’s not quite right. Sometimes you do have to take some chances in order to advance the board state. Of course for the first couple turns you need to get your guys on the board to start the beats. After that, the most obvious situation where it’s ok to tap out is if you are losing badly on the board. If it’s clear that you will lose if you let things continue as they are, go ahead and slam your best cards. Tap out for Tempest Djinn in order to stabilize the board. Tap out for a Curious Obsession or two in order to try and draw out of your situation.
Just be aware that once you enter YOLO mode the most likely outcome is that you will lose. You are gambling on the opponent’s hand being worse than it looks. Sometimes it works out and you steal the win. Usually the opponent has some removal and you lose. You want to take your best shot to win in an unfavorable situation, but it often won’t work out.
The more murky situation is when things are neutral but you feel the game slipping away. Whenever you play an aggressive deck you should have that clock going in the back of your head. If you’re reaching the point in the game where you will be in trouble if the board isn’t tilted your way then you can start taking some chances in order to push things in your favor. But, honestly, you should feel bad about tapping out and you should be looking for reasons not to do it. Most of the people that I see piloting this deck against streamers that I follow are way too eager to tap out.
In general, the better your hand, the more reluctant you should be to tap out.
What spells do I counter?
Rule of thumb: If you’re winning, counter opposing spells that make it so you are losing. If you are losing, counter anything that makes it worse. If you’re winning and they cast a spell that will level things out (in other words, a sweeper), evaluate the context: if you have multiple counters, go ahead and counter it. If you only have one… how many cards are you drawing next turn? How quickly can you close the game out if you counter? Can you rebuild quickly if you let it go? If the game is going to last for a while, you may want to let the sweeper through so that you have a counter available for the next bomb.
Be very careful of picking counter battles during your turn, doubly so against Jeskai control. It’s usually not worth stopping their removal if it means letting them resolve Teferi. Now, if you can do it with one mana open and snipe Teferi with a Spell Pierce on the next turn, then by all means go for it.
Which counter magic do I use?
This comes up when the opponent uses targeted removal. You will often have a choice between some combination of cashing in a Stormtamer, using Dive Down, or casting Spell Pierce. This can be a tougher decision than you might think. The obvious point is that using the Stormtamer will cost you points of damage while preserving the mystery of what’s in your hand. The more subtle point to consider is what is coming next.
Spell Pierce, in the early to mid game, can counter sweepers and keep planeswalkers off the battlefield. It can’t do anything to a Ravenous Chupacabra and it quickly loses its ability to stop cheap removal spells. Dive Down can stop any targeted removal and save a selected creature from a Deafening Clarion, but it can’t do anything about Cleansing Nova or Settle the Wreckage. Siren Stormtamer can stop targeted removal and even provides unconditional protection against effects that target you (most notably Settle the Wreckage) but itself is a 1 toughness creature that can die more easily than you’d like.
If the opponent is only on sorcery speed removal (often the case for Izzet Phoenix against a Djinn) and you are tapping out, then the Dive Down will protect your creature for the whole turn while the other two only protect it from the current threat.
Basically, you need to think about how you intend to navigate the game and what you will need protection against in the future before you decide which resource you want to expend in the moment.
How do I use Merfolk Trickster?
As an ambush creature, the Trickster can eat any 1/1 or 1/2 attacker. Most notably this includes Adanto Vanguard, Mist-Cloaked Herald, Ghitu Lavarunner, and small flyers.
As a combat trick, the Trickster can zero out the power of Tempest Djinn, Enigma Drake, and Crackling Drake. If you have one Trickster on the board and another one flashed in fresh, the two of them can take out an attacking djinn/drake and survive the experience.
As a tempo play, the Trickster can save you a lot of life for one turn by tapping down one attacker and chump blocking another. You usually want to deploy this particular trick as late as possible unless the Trickster can trade with an attacker (e.g. a big Branchwalker).
In a pinch, the Trickster can shut off a Wildgrowth Walker in response to an explore creature being cast.
If you don’t have any other bodies available, the Trickster does a reasonable job of beating down for its casting cost, although you’ll need to have a ton of permission on hand if you want to keep the board clear and actually suit it up with a Curious Obsession.
How about the specific matchups?
Mono Blue Tempo is a deck that really benefits from its pilot understanding the matchup it’s in. If you approach each game with an idea of how it’s going to go and a plan for victory you’ll do better than if you just try to cast your best card every turn. Below I’ll walk through the most common matchups that I’ve run into and give my thoughts. The sideboarding suggestions are relative to my preferred list. Most mono blue sideboards have cards aimed at similar things (tuning counterspells, anti-aggro tech, race-winning tech). If your deck differs from mine in the particulars then just treat the suggestions as pointing towards which area of your sideboard you should at least consider in each matchup.
I find this matchup to be pretty good for us. It gets better the more expensive the spells are in their deck and hand. When they go low to the ground with the Wildgrowth Walker and explore creature beatdown things can get scary. When they try to win by resolving 4-5-6 mana bombs we’re usually ok.
Be very aware of the need to protect your key creatures. They will always have something in hand that can kill your obsessed guy or your djinn. Always. The good news is that they tend to tap out in order to forward their own game plan, so you can usually suit up your guy with obsession for a free hit and not need to worry about countermagic until you pass the turn.
Don’t get pulled into a grind fest. You want this to be a race. Even if you’re losing it in the initial stages, the Djinn and/or Trickster can catch you up in a hurry. Be aware of your djinn math. A turn four djinn hits for 5-6-7, ideally, so if your early creatures can chip in for 2-5 points of damage they have done their jobs and can go to chump block mode. You also need to get out on the front foot so you can race Carnage Tyrant if it shows up.
It’s possible to get bombed out of the game if you run out of countermagic before they die. In general, though, an opponent who plays one big spell a turn and can’t interact on the stack is our favorite kind of opponent.
Sideboard: -2 opt, -2 spell pierce, -2 trickster; +2 essence scatter, +2 disdainful stroke, +2 surge mare
Tune the counter suite and use surge mare to manage the race. Bounce tech is not good here. You can run sleep if you want, although it’s basically just a fog.
Patience. Patience. Patience.
The main thing is not to let them resolve the spells that tilt the game in their favor. On the draw against a glacial fortress I’ll often keep spell pierce up for Search for Azcanta or Azor’s Gateway if I have it. You want to keep them under steady pressure and counter their bombs. If they have a hot hand they can power through and beat us, but usually I think we have a solid chance.
The way you lose this matchup is by tapping out to overextend into a wrath. Don’t do that. The spells they want to cast are Deafening Clarion on three, Crackling Drake on four, and Teferi or Cleansing Nova on five. Plan accordingly.
The other way you lose is by casting Curious Obsession into open mana, getting drawn into a fight over it and winning the fight only to see the opponent untap and blow you out. Don’t do that, either. Ideally, you want to cast Curious Obsession before the opponent has removal up or after the opponent tapped out in an attempt to cast a bomb that you countered.
You do want to keep them under enough pressure that they can’t just casually find and cast a Niv-Mizzet, especially post board. Finding the right balance can be tricky, but that’s part of the fun, right?
Sideboard: -2 spell pierce, -2 opt, -2 marauder, +2 surge mare, +2 disdainful stroke, +2 negate
Again, tune the counters. Surge Mare is sneaky good here. It’s almost guaranteed to survive until you untap, it’s great value with Obsession, and in a stagnant game swinging for two a turn with a loot is pretty solid.
The marauders are better against Lyra while tricksters are better against Legion Warboss. It’s a matter of which one you think is more likely. Personally I’m a little more scared of Warbosses coming down while I’m not ready to counter them.
The matchup gets tougher post board. Jeskai has access to all kinds of crazy stuff depending on how they want to approach things (Warboss, History of Benalia, Rekindling Phoenix, Lyra, and Niv-Mizzet are all possibilities). Fortunately, sideboard cards alone aren’t enough to switch them completely into a beatdown deck. They still want to control the board. Stick to the basic plan of early pressure + counterspells and you should be all right.
This one is rough. They play cheap removal and lots of flyers and don’t even need to resolve their spells to win. They also have multiple Niv-Mizzets lurking in the sideboard. Gross.
The playset of Warkite Marauders has brought my personal record in this matchup from roughly 0% win rate to a smidge below 50%. It’s just impossible to keep all of their flyers off the board. You need the Marauder in order to make clean attacks.
If you’re going to win this one, what you need to do is to race their phoenixes with your team while using your counterspells to keep drakes off the battlefield. Spend your spell pierces freely on their cantrips. You need to throw a monkey wrench in the machine and keep them from reaching critical mass.
In all honesty, if they play a turn two Electromancer–especially in game one, and especially especially off an island and a dual land–well, don’t concede early, but go ahead and mentally prepare yourself for the experience of a loss.
I always feel like I got away with something after I take a match from the phoenix deck. Objectively speaking, I think the deal is that their best hands will just beat us but in a battle of mediocre hands we have a slight edge.
Sideboard: -4 spell pierce, -2 opt; +2 essence scatter, +2 Deep Freeze, +1 sleep, +1 exclusion mage
Again, you are looking to keep drakes away and race the phoenix squad. In a pinch you can refrigerate the phoenix, but you really want to save Deep Freeze for Niv Mizzet. In a way, our deck’s extreme vulnerability to Mizzy P can work in our favor. The Izzet deck will keep bad hands that have Niv Mizzet and will play out the game with the thought that casting Niv Mizzet guarantees victory. That means that any time we can put him on ice we should have a fighting chance to win.
If they untap with Niv Mizzet we do in fact lose, though.
Bomb after bomb after bomb.
They have more bombs than we have ways to counter them. They also have largely moved Deafening Clarion into the sideboard. You want to keep the pedal to the metal and close the game out ASAP. We actually do a good job racing their cheap dudes. The danger is that the angel squad will take over.
Marauder helps a lot here. It’s hard to keep all the angels off the field. Being able to attack through one of them can decide the game.
The trickster also shines in this matchup. Whether its eating Adanto Vanguards, turning off angelic abilities, or clearing the way for the fatal attack, you should be able to get some good value out of it. The Tocatli Honor Guard does shut off the trickster, so be aware of that. The Marauder does work just fine in the face of the Honor Guard, of course.
If they go on the little dudes + Ajani plan it can be correct to ignore Ajani and go at their face as long as you can win the race. The enemy gate is down.
Sideboard: -4 spell pierce, -2 opt; +2 essence scatter, +2 disdainful stroke, +1 selective snare, +1 sleep
The sideboard plan is geared to fend off their bombs. Selective Snare and Sleep can buy us that crucial turn that lets us close out the game. It’s also possible some number of Exclusion Mages should be in there, depending on your read of what they’re doing with their Honor Guards.
Mono red aggro
The good news is that you aren’t going to see this matchup a lot. The bad news is that you aren’t going to win this matchup much, either.
Magical Christmasland plan: use Trickster to eat one early attacker and trade with another, then play and protect a Tempest Djinn to stonewall their assault and turn the corner.
Actual outcome: all of your guys die to a flurry of burn while you take damage from a mob of cheap creatures, then the burn gets pointed at your face and you lose.
If you draw a lot of Djinns and they flood out then it’s possible to steal game one, but it’s rough.
Sideboard: -3 Spell Pierce, -2 Opt, -2 Mist-Cloaked Herald; +2 essence scatter, +3 surge mare, +2 exclusion mage
You are looking to hold the ground until your Tempest Djinn can take over. I find Surge Mare does a better job of preserving my life total in this matchup than the Diamond Mare. You also need to be conscious of either not overextending into a Chainwhirler or keeping a counter ready for the Chainwhirler. As an added bonus, you also have to make sure they don’t resolve an Experimental Frenzy and that you can beat a Rekindling Phoenix. Good times.
What if I don’t draw a Tempest Djinn? Good question. In that situation you should smile and accept the result with dignity. Remember, it’s just a game. Losing builds character.
We have a much better shot in this matchup than we do against mono red. Their relative dearth of removal and reach make a huge difference.
The basic strategy is to trade creatures aggressively except for your one evasive Obsessioned attacker (if you have one). Try to keep their big three drops off the table. Getting to spell pierce a History of Benalia will help your win percentage. So will eating an Adanto Vanguard with the trickster. Remember when the race is in its final stages that you can trickster the Benalish Marshal to turn off the pump. Tempest Djinn is huge here as a blocker and then as a closer.
If you ever get to pass the turn with countermagic up and a neutral board state after turn four or so then you should win.
The eighteen land white weenie deck presents a more extreme version of the basic problem. They also present the annoyance of flying chump blockers to disrupt our racing math. The good news is that their deck is fairly prone to lose to itself by way of mana screw/flood. The bad news is that their nut draw is pretty unbeatable for us. So it goes.
Sideboard: -4 Spell Pierce, -2 Opt, -1/2 Dive Down; +2 essence scatter, +2 exclusion mage, +2 surge mare, +1 sleep, +0/1 selective snare
Put on your racing shoes. Against the 18 land version you pull a second dive down to make room for the snare. You want to bounce their +1/+1 counter carriers as much as you can.
Be aware that the bigger white(-ish) weenie decks will be wanting to get to Heroic Reinforcements and/or Experimental Frenzy on four. You can’t always do anything about it, but if you can protect yourself from those bombs by waiting a turn or so to start trying to get damage in then you should probably do so.
This matchup is where we get to be the fun police. Anybody trying to cast Zacama, Omniscience, or Lich’s Mastery is obviously trying to relocate too much fun over to their side of the table. We can’t allow that. Hang onto your share of the fun by countering their wraths while keeping a counter back for their payoffs. Also make sure to develop the board enough to race Carnage Tyrant, and you’ll be fine. Go down opts and possibly spell pierce in exchange for your favorite counters. If you’re up against a list that skimps on targeted removal you can also trim dive down. This is the rare situation where 12 counters can be the right configuration post sideboard.
In the mirror you have a 50/50 chance of a really interesting match with lots of tactical decisions and a 50/50 chance of a stupid runaway.
In general the early game is all about Curious Obsession and the mid-late game is about Tempest Djinn. The side that’s attacking is usually the side that’s favored.
Merfolk Trickster is a powerful card throughout the game. It can eat an attacking one drop or zero out a Djinn’s power. If the opponent has one creature and puts obsession on it, Trickster can try and tap it to make the Obsession fall off.
Warkite Marauder is a beast in the mirror as well. It makes blocking a nightmare. You can get some counter-blowouts out of countering the trigger with Dive Down.
Stormtamer Siren can counter Trickster triggers, Marauder triggers, and Sleep.
The mirror is the one time you are happy to jam Tempest Djinn on turn three. You should be far more worried about the Djinn being countered than the Djinn being removed. Any time the opponent is tapped down go ahead and slam the Djinn. Note that post board you do want to be aware of bounce effects and random tech (Entrancing Melody has blown me out on occasion). I think it’s usually more correct to play around countermagic than the other stuff, but if it’s possible to play around both then you should.
It’s more possible than you might think to win despite a Curious Obsession disadvantage. I have won a game where my opponent had two heralds wearing an Obsession each and I had no Obsessions of my own… because I had two Djinns and a Marauder beating down. Keep an eye out for that transition from when card advantage matters to when life totals matter. Sometimes you want to sell out to stop the Obsession value train and sometimes you want to just ignore it and try to kill them.
Sideboard: -2 spell pierce, -2 opt, -2 dive down; +2 exclusion mage, +2 essence scatter, +1 sleep, +1 selective snare
Spell Pierce is weird in the mirror. Early on it can be your only defense against an obsession. Later it’s at best a Dispel. I think you want to keep some around, but I’m not sure that it’s right.
Dive Down can be pretty handy. Since blue removal is so weak I think it’s fine to trim some but I like to keep a couple copies in. One thing you want to watch out for in the mirror is that blue has some weird tech that can be thrown at your creatures (Selective Snare, Deep Freeze, Entrancing Melody). There’s also the bread and butter Trickster/Marauder/Exclusion Mage triggers you may want to stop. Worst come to worst it’s a decent combat trick.
Mono blue tempo is a good deck. Not good for the price. Not good for a mono colored deck. It’s just good.
It’s also fun to play. You have a lot of choices, starting early in the game. You get a lot of chances to make mistakes, but also a lot of chances to make good decisions. Once you’ve played it a few times and start to get a feel for the deck I think you’ll enjoy playing it.
I hope this guide was useful. The length got away from me a bit, and I’m sure I got some things wrong. Please share your observations from playing with the deck so people don’t get sucked into following my bad advice.