Justify My Love – Or At Least My Color: Rearranging The Pie So That White Can Act Like Soldiers

White doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Here’s this group of people (and currently birds), right? Knights, paladins, monks, clerics, and soldiers – all of these pretty much military positions – but none of them make any attempt to plan ahead or foil the opposition. It has no proactive cards; all it can do is react. Is that right?

This article will not have a decklist, nor any strategy – at least not intentionally. It should, however, make people think, or so I hope: Because I’d like to rearrange the color pie, moving around a few abilities which seem like they belong elsewhere.

Want an example? Look at Confound, which just left Standard. I’ve never understood why Blue got a load of cards which countered spells that target creatures. In all of Blue’s history, there have been what…Four creatures worth saving? Morphling, Mahamoti Djinn, Lord of Atlantis, and Cognivore? And one of those doesn’t even need the bloody saving – it can save itself upon demand, and at a cheaper cost than it would take to cast a spell.

As such, I’ve naturally wondered why this ability has not belonged to Green. Why, precisely, is most every counter-magic restricted to Blue? It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I can see that Blue and only Blue ought to have access to straight, universal countering , and should probably have unique access to spells which counter any spell unless an amount of mana is paid.

I would think that other colors would have special-interest counters, though. White’s sort of got a slice of the pie – it "counters" attacking creatures with things like Vengeful Dreams – but White has always been big on enchantments, and it might do well in the future to have a card which counters spells that target enchantments. Red would probably want spells that force their spells through. Molten Influence was a good start – but doesn’t Gainsay seem sort of Red to you? (Most Vintage players can be seen nodding in the background at this point. Hi, Oscar!)

Black is a little more difficult to hash out: See, Black does a lot and is very versatile, it has a whole plethora of abilities available to it for the right price, and it’s hard to decide what they really love enough to want to protect above all else. The first thing that comes to mind is Black wanting to counter abilities, particularly those which gain life or prevent damage… And that might well be fine and dandy, but it doesn’t "feel" black to me. Obviously, Black would like to counter artifacts or enchantments – but we’re not stupid enough to leave Black with fewer weaknesses than it already has. Black likes to remove resources from people, both creatures on the board and cards in hand, it likes to steal life from opponents, and it likes to strike a lots of pacts that seem oddly in its favor with demonic beings. Pretty stupid demons, I guess. Must be why evil loses a whole lot.

So the problem we come to with Black is that it likes doing too much to really narrow down what it would most like to protect. Perhaps the answer is more along the lines of giving Black fragmented counters (like Envelop, that only target one spell type) or counters with drawbacks (Soul Pact, 1BB, Instant – Pay 3 life; counter target spell. Take One for Me, 2B, Instant – Sacrifice a creature; counter target spell.) Or perhaps in extreme cases, both.

Or, hell, leave Black out of the fun – discarding is pretty close to countering as is. Maybe things in my head play out differently than they do in reality (that would be a surprise, wouldn’t it?) but I don’t see letting other colors have limited counters, many of which Blue has and rarely if ever uses, as being something that would threaten the balance of the game. I can’t see Black and Blue as being the only colors that would see the wisdom of denying the opponent their planned courses of action. Plotwise, it’s something that happens all the time – but in the game, it’s not represented at all.

Stop and consider that for a moment: Gamewise, Red, Green, and White absolutely never, ever consider trying to stop an opponent’s plan, which is not already clearly in motion.

(Um, Red burns the hell out of things and kills lands – isn’t that stopping a plan enough? – but continue… – The Ferrett)

This is actually sort of logical for Green, who wants to sit back and contemplate the best course of action for dealing with a threat and whether or not it threatens the interests of nature. But White – who wants to continually stomp out evil – and Red – for whom thinking is something done long after action has taken place – just doesn’t mesh with this. Black is continually trying to invade the minds of its opposition and mess with their heads, Blue is busy spending its time trying to prevent, reset, and otherwise hinder any form of progress – and yet these three just sit around, scratching their heads until they see something to shoot at.

Red is actually ahead of the others here, Skullscorch seems like a very Red way to nip things in the bud – in fact, punisher cards in general seem like a very Red way to go about most anything, accomplishing what you want through a show of force. Even Threaten falls into this tactical grouping as something that reflects Red’s attitude. I think Red has had a lack of decent land destruction cards, however, which also seem like a good way to go about preventing your opponent’s best plans from coming to fruition.

But white? White’s still lacking here – and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Here’s this group of people (and currently birds), right? Knights, paladins, monks, clerics, and soldiers – all of these pretty much military positions – but none of them make any attempt to plan ahead or foil the opposition.

Now, I’m not in the army or anything… But last I heard, a lot of military types did clever things like cut off enemy supply lines, burn or ransack food stores, capture prisoners of war (although they’d be well-treated while they were in White’s hands) and otherwise affect the resources of the opposition.

Yes, White has "God" in their pocket – but see, "God" hates his followers, too. He blasts them out of existence just as quickly as everyone else. I mean, when do you even see Wrath of God in primarily White decks? Usually it’s there for Blue’s amusement. It’s not really an answer from a plot perspective – "Random Nameless God" shows up and blows away the party. Great! All my men are dead, all your men are dead, and the conflict just slowed down a whole lot. Now let’s go recruit more men and get right back to what we were doing. If I’m lucky, my men will be bigger and/or more numerous.

And there used to be this card, Armageddon – which was admittedly out of flavor for White, but it did something that White should be doing. It said "Look, my manpower situation is much greater than yours – my troops have complete advantage out there in the field, and I’m going to cut off all supply lines. I’ve got enough and you don’t. I can live with the sacrifice." What White needs is a more in flavor version of that. Land destruction is just not White’s thing. "Taxation" effects seem like something that could use more looking in to – effects which state that whenever an opponent has more of resource X than White does, White gets to bring themselves up to par, or close to it.

Now, nothing in Magic really comes close to accurately resembling food short of creatures sacrificing themselves to other creatures, but prisoners of war seem very viable. Something along the lines of variants of Arrest, such as Capture, 1WW, Enchant Creature – Gain control of enchanted creature. Enchanted creature may not attack, block, or use activated abilities. (The rationale being that getting a prisoner to use activated abilities would probably require torture.) Any static abilities of the creature would still function, as I would assume that those abilities happen just because the creature is the creature; i.e. Aven Brigadier is just so great that he inspires all birds and soldiers to greater levels of competence. Seeing as how there are usually ways to get prisoners of war released, variations on this ability might include the creature’s owner giving up some resource (land, life, a creature of equal or greater power) in order to destroy the enchantment in question. I think that adds a lot in flavor to White while adding a playable card mechanic.

But then I get bothered by a lot of story-related things; the old creatures lords being type "Lord," for example, to presumably prevent themselves from gaining their own +1/+1 bonus. The thing is that none of these lords necessarily have one toughness, and could have been made as <creature type> Lords at -1/-1, gotten their own bonus, and seemed a lot more logical. I mean… Elvish Champion reaches Whippoorwill-like levels of headache inducement; it’s clearly an Elven being, it gives a bonus to elves, but it’s not actually an elf. Huh? The professor from Logical Thinking 101’s calling to tell me I flunked? Why?

Green, as stated before, might not necessarily buy in to stopping things before they develop. However, cards like Biorhythm, that punish other colors for thumbing their nose at their primal roots seem very doable. Perhaps something along the lines of "Nature’s Fury, 2GGG, Sorcery – Each player sacrifices land down to the number of creatures they control" would be well in flavor for Green – who while not it hasn’t been noted for mass land destruction, is noted for a love of creatures. Another potential effect is drawing or discarding cards until each player has cards in hand equal to the number of creatures they control. Lastly, Green seems to have been ignored for a potential advantage it could potentially have – lands are the source of mana, and Green is the root of nature. As such, all colors rely on nature for mana, so why doesn’t Green have any ways of messing with opponent’s mana supplies? Phantasmal Terrain-like effects (particularly creature-based ones like Graceful Antelope) seem like something Green should have access to.

In short, I think a lot can be added to the game by considering both the story aspects and the rules mechanic aspects of the game and putting into motion a spreading of abilities that seem like they ought to be a basic strategy for everyone, especially whenever it can be done without blurring the lines of color distinctions. Another thing that adding more resource denial across the board does is increase player interaction as Spy vs. Spy type action occurs, with each player simultaneously trying to further their goals while hindering the opposition’s – instead of the tendency that some colors have of just mindlessly plodding along their own agendas in a very solitaire-like fashion.

*coughs* Green combo *coughs*

Rivien Swanson

TheRogue occasionally seen on EFNet

As ever, [email protected] for questions, comments, death threats, pizza, or bothering maniacal hermits.