Casual play decklist (post-Urza block)
Buyback package (9)
4 Sapphire Medallion
2 Whispers of the Muse
4 Tradewind Rider
4 Force of Will
4 Counterspell / Mana Drain
4 Powder Keg
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Sol Ring
4 Thawing Glaciers
4 Mishra's Factory
1 Strip Mine
(1 Maze of Ith)
The ancestor of bounce is the Time Elemental from Legends, and two of them could create a lock by bouncing two lands each turn, causing an opponent to eventually have no land in play. It also made the first Stasis decks possible, using nontapping creatures such as Serra Angel, Yotian Soldier and Zephyr Falcon while bouncing the Stasis back to the owner's hand before his untap phase.
The modern bounce decks have their roots in the Tempest block, however, and were made possible by Capsize and Tradewind Rider. These decks can return permanents to an opponent's hand at a frantic pace and have amazing flexibility. Tradewind Rider was even splashed into 5-color weenie decks for its flexibility and made possible the Tradewind-Stasis and Tradewind-Armageddon combos.
One of my more memorable games with a previous incarnation of this deck was against a Mesacraft deck. I would simply disrupt his combo by returning the land with Wild Growth or Earthcraft to his hand in response to his casting Sacred Mesa!
When the Medallions were first printed, they caused a huge stir, especially among wide-eyed children who saw them as super-powered Moxen. However, this soon shifted to the "sleeper" cards such as Tradewind Rider and Cursed Scroll. Were the Medallions overrated?
To answer the question, one has to compare a Medallion to, say, a Diamond. Both artifacts cost 2 mana, but the Diamond produces one colored mana. The Medallion, on the other hand, effectively produces 1 colorless mana as long as you have enough mana to pay for the rest of the spell (meaning it is useless after Armageddon, unlike the Diamond).
So is the Medallion inferior to the Diamond? Based on the preceding paragraph, the answer has to be yes. However, the difference is observed when one casts more than one spell. If one casts two spells, the Medallion effectively produces two mana. If one casts three, then it produces three. And so on.
Thus, the Medallions are effective in decks that: 1) have spells of mainly one color with a colorless component; 2) regularly play more than one spell a turn; and/or 3) make use of the Tempest buyback mechanic (as the Medallions reduce not the casting cost, but the cost to play a spell, which includes buyback costs). With potent Tempest cards such as Whispers of the Muse, Capsize and Tradewind Rider, and with a knack for drawing a lot of cards, it was not long before Sapphire Medallion turned out to be the winning jewel of the set.
(Note: Since not everyone will be using buyback in Type I, Memory Crystal is a reasonable alternative, especially if you increase the number of buyback spells.)
If you've played a blue or blue/white deck before, the Bounce deck will feel right at home in your control. It is difficult to spell out a strategy for the deck because it is very reactive, and you have to adapt to the opponent. In general, however, one need not be afraid to tap out early to play Powder Kegs and Medallions. Later on, you will be bouncing what the opponent plays, anyway.
Powder Keg is the early defense of this deck (it was Wall of Air before the Urza Block came along). Keep it at the ideal number of counters minus one (you can add a counter the following turn) for maximum flexibility; and ideal depends on the opposition. Keeping it at zero against a weenie deck, for example, allows you to kill opposing man-lands and Moxes with the option to go up to one counter to kill common weenies.
Mishra's Factory is a good first-turn play as this gives you a 2/2 creature with no summoning sickness by the second turn. Remember that the Factory cannot tap to use its own pump ability when it has summoning sickness, and the Factory is an excellent second-turn blocker. Tapped blockers now deal damage, so the Factory is effectively a 3/3 when blocking; just beware of red decks that will Bolt it in response and stunt your mana production. Together, these two cards (and Maze of Ith) give you some room to play with your more expensive cards.
Eventually, your card-drawing and flexibility will come into play. A protected Ophidian can easily swing the momentum to you, and do not be afraid to burn a Whisper's of the Muse without buyback when struggling for control (there are only two each of the buyback spells used, but Recall and Mystical Tutor make up for this somewhat if they are lost).
At this point, you will be making the most use of your counter base. Just remember that you are not playing Draw-Go, and simply counter what you cannot handle with bounce (or bounce what you have to counter). Forbid is there to take advantage of the Ophidian and grows more powerful after the early game.
You win when you get a protected Morphling into play, cast Sunder with an active Tradewind Rider out (you bounce any land he plays) or actually get Tradewinds and Capsize with buyback going and bounce all his permanents back to his hand. Even a Capsize with 12 mana (or equivalent Medallions) allows you to bounce two of your opponent's lands each turn.
The land mix
The lands are pretty much straightforward. Mishra's Factory, aside from being an excellent early blocker, it serves as an additional creature for the Tradewinds. The Strip Mine and Wasteland are familiar, only two were used because the bounce can make up for the rest. Thawing Glaciers is an incredible card advantage engine, and 4 is a must for any mono-blue deck, especially with the prevalence of Wasteland. Not only does it net you a free land every other turn, it thins your library as well, improving future draws.
An important question about the Thaws is when to play them. Against some decks, they are easily played first-turn. Against faster decks, however, it is probably advisable to drop two lands first. When going second, it is advisable not to drop Thaws first-turn as they return to your hand when used and cause you to discard a card if you have not played anything yet.
Finally, the Maze of Ith is a fun card I have enjoyed slipping into this deck. It is a powerful card similar in use to Icy Manipulator, and both are not in general use because they are not permanent solutions. This drawback is fine for this deck, however, because you can bounce the creatures later and use Maze early to blunt the initial onslaught. It also sets up a weenie swarm for a Powder Keg (Disk or Wrath in other decks). Just do not be tempted to drop it on your first turn; drop it when you need it or when you have no other land to play. (Besides… Maze of Ith and Mishra's Factories once saved me against a kid who maindecked Scragnoth!)
The finer points of bounce
You have powerful options with bounce. For example:
However, bounce has to be timed intelligently, much like everything else in blue. The first rule of thumb is to always bounce at the last possible moment. For example, if a creature has the ability to pump, wait for your opponent to waste mana before you bounce. In general, wait until the end of your opponent's turn and play your fast effects "free" as you will soon untap (beware of tapping out in these instances, however, allowing your opponent to respond).
Another corollary of the rule is to wait until a creature attacks, especially when you suspect Rancor or Empyreal Armor. In these and other cases, feel free to bounce in response to something when it is effective.
A second rule of thumb is to bounce only when it is "safe", and you will usually use Tradewind before Capsize as the latter is countered if its target disappears and it does not return to your hand. Destroying one's own permanent (bolting your own creature or using Zuran Orb on your own land) is a small sacrifice when one sees a Capsize. When one sees a Zuran Orb and wants to begin Capsizing land, for example, use the Tradewind on Capsize first.
A third decision is to consider when exactly to bounce an attacking creature. It is logical to bounce it right before damage dealing in combat, but you can actually consider bouncing it during the end phase so that it cannot be recast in the same turn.
Finally, there are times when you have to bounce a lot of permanents all at once. For example, I used to play with Suq'Ata Firewalker in this deck, and sometimes drew him with three opposing pingers on the table. No problem. Remember that you can bounce during your end phase and then during your main phase, effectively using two turns' worth of bounce all at once.
The finer points of Tradewind Rider
The use of Tradewind Rider requires more decisions than are obvious (aside from the time I drew 4 Tradewinds Riders in an all-creature Type II), especially now that tapped blockers deal damage.
It is important to note that Tradewind has a high toughness and doubles as an excellent wall, unlike Time Elemental and Temporal Adept. Thus, it is actually good to use it as a blocker. If, for example, you have three creatures and an opponent is attacking with four, you can easily block the first three and bounce the fourth, and the remaining attackers still take damage. One can also bounce one's own creature after damage dealing (say, a Mishra's Factory blocking another 3/3) to kill a creature or chump block without losing a creature.
Of course, beware of actually assigning damage to Tradewind Rider. An intelligent red player will wait after combat and bounce the Tradewind (or a green player can cast Hurricane). If he makes the mistake of casting the burn spell before damage dealing, however, remember that you can always bounce your own Tradewind. This is easily done when facing Giant Growth, or pumpable creatures such as Phyrexian Ghoul and Necratog; bounce the creature after it has pumped.
The finer points of Morphling
Morphling is included in the deck not because it can untap to fuel more than one Tradewind, but because it can win games single-handedly with all the mana from Thawing Glaciers. For beginners, though, the Morphling rules are described in this Primer as well.
First, never play Morphling unless you have at least six mana (the sixth is to activate the "cannot be the target of…" ability to protect the Morphling). Always use this ability in response to spells and effects, and you waste their resources. Once you can protect Morphling, play it immediately and win in five turns.
Second, remember that if you want to fly past blockers, you have to give Morphling flying before blockers are declared.
Third, remember that Morphling untaps, so attack with it and untap it when you need a blocker.
Fourth, turn Morphling into a 5/1 for a faster kill or to kill a larger creature. The latter is done by using the reverse ability and pumping the Morphling's toughness after damage is assigned. The Morphling will deal damage based on its original power, but damage will be applied to its new toughness. Thus, to kill a Juzam Djinn, one only has to spend two mana to turn the Morphling into a 5/1, assign damage, then spend five mana to turn it into a 0/6.
Finally, against "power" Type I decks, remember that Morphling gets past both Moat and The Abyss, but dies to Balance and Diabolic Edict as these are sacrifices and are not targeted.
The finer points of Ophidian
The Snake can win you the game with all those free cards, so remember this when thinking about attacking with it to get it through. The main "fine point," of course, is to simply remember to deal damage and kill the opponent once your hand is already bloated (unless you are trying to cycle your hand into a specific spell).
Other fun cards you can use
In my original deck (before the Urza Block), because I had Wall of Air instead of Powder Keg, I could afford to keep the two slots now occupied by Morphling open for "random fun" slots. Of course, Ancestral Recall is a no-brainer, but here were some of the other surprise cards you can stuck in to abuse with the Medallions:
Time Warp / Time Walk The one-turn difference can mean bouncing a few more permanents free, crippling the opponent much faster (If you have two Tradewinds and are bouncing land, you get to bounce four land and he can only replay one on his next turn).
Desertion / Quash /Deflection / Misdirection Surprise nasty counters.
Amnesia Goes very well with Bounce as you can bounce during his end phase, then during your main phase and permanently remove a lot of his permanents.
One can also increase the number of creatures for Tradewind Rider, and there are many choices available. Man O'War fits right into the theme if playing in a creature-heavy casual environment, and so does Suq'Ata Firewalker (which is also another victory option that destroys Sligh). Hammerhead Shark is a fun blocker. And so on.
Some players even used Winding Canyons in some blue decks to play their creatures at the end of the opponents' turns, which works well with Man O'War.
Splashing other colors
The versatility of bounce meshes well with several other colors. Take following:
For green, you can splash Awakening to triple your mana and your Tradewind capacity (you get an extra bounce salvo right before Awakening kicks in during your opponent's upkeep and right before it kicks in during yours). You also get to add Regrowth, Gaea's Blessing and Wall of Blossoms. Sylvan Library will also work well with the Thaws
For white, you can use Limited Resources as a milder Sunder, or replace the buyback components with Armageddon components. White allows access to Swords to Plowshares, Disenchant, Balance and creatures that are great in certain environments such as Wall of Glare.
Black with bounce is downright nasty, of course, and Lobotomy happens to be a blue/black card. For maximum effect, one can replace the counterspells, buyback and card drawing with discard backed by Bottomless Pit, turning your Tradewind into a "destroy target permanent" card. Just don't get your Tradewind bounced in response to your declaration of the Pit. Card advantage in this deck will come from a source such as Cursed Scroll, and black gives you access to tutors and the black removal spells.