The Colors Of Magic

Okay, now, go pick up a Magic card. I know you’ve got some lying around or, if you don’t, go slip one out of those black-backed sleeves. Did you do it? Good.

Now, look at the back of that card. Notice the colored orbs. Notice their placement. In clockwise order, from the top, they are white, blue, black, red, green. That’s what today’s article will be about.

There has been a lot of discussion of the storyline of Magic on Star City recently, but with the release of the Nemesis spoiler on MtGnews, I foresee people going back to strategy writing, especially about this expansion. Even I have plans (possibly) to write an article on Nemesis, but before I can completely switch my mode of thinking from storyline to gameplay, I need a bridge. Thus, today’s article.

So, let’s examine the back of our Magic card. The colors are placed very logically, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if I learned that Richard Garfield was doodling one day, and when he stumbled upon this arrangement, the idea for Magic popped into his mind. Each color has two colors opposite it and two colors adjacent to it. For instance, the white (actually, yellow, but we’ll call it white) orb has green and blue to its sides and black and red across from it. Translation: white’s "allies" are green and blue, whereas its enemies are red and black. But, if we look at green, we see that its "allies" are white and red (white’s enemy), and its enemies are black and blue (white’s partner). As you go around the circle, you notice that each "ally" of the color is "allied" with one of its "allies" "enemies," and is spiteful towards one of its "ally’s" "allies." Get it?

In simpler terms, we have a complex, masterfully intracate work. Looking at the colors in this "two friends – two enemies" outlook gives us a better understanding of the workings of Magic. For instance, most of us probably associate the following with Magic: white vs. black, red vs. blue, green kinda neutral. Or, you could think of it as ranging from most evil to least evil: black, red, blue, green, white. But, that’s a half-blind way to look at it.

Look at the green, for one example. Green is usually defined as the color of life and nature. Naturally, it wars with black, the color of death and decay, but what about blue? What does green have against blue? Well, blue is seen as the color of the arcane and the mystic; also, blue can be seen as orderly and arranged. Of all the colors, blue would be most closely associated with artifacts. You can think of blue as an almost "artificial" color, or, in better terms, a "color of prediction." Now, normally, you’d think that the predictable color would fight against the color of chaos, red, which it does. But, once again, why green? Most likely, because Nature doesn’t always go by the rules. It’s alive – and living things change, whereas blue tries to remain orderly and in control. Which is why, perhaps, green is "allied" with red; both are unpredictable. Often, red is associated with fire and green with plants, which would make them enemies, but when you think of what’s REALLY behind those colors: life and unpredictability, you realize that they have more in common than one might think.

Similar discussions could be had as to why black associates itself with blue or any of the other color schemes, but I won’t go into them.

Now that we know the "story" outlook behind the pentagram, let’s take a look at the "game" aspect of it.

What are some of the biggest blue-hosers? Boil, Parch, Scald, Sirocco (hey, I needed a 4th example!), River Boa, Tsunami, Choke, Scragnoth. What colors are these? Red and green, blue’s two enemies. What white spells deal with protection from color? Soltari Monk, Absolute Grace, Disciple of Grace, Voice of Grace, Soltari Priest, Absolute Law, Disciple of Law, Voice of Law. What colors do these cards go against? Red and black. Hibernation, Hydroblast, Perish, Yawgmoth’s Edict, Flashfires, Pyroblast, Compost, Bull Hippo, Conversion, and Light of Day are other cards that demonstrate this point.

Finally, how can this be used? Well, you can use this for the metagame, to an extent. If you know that green is going to be heavily played, but there’s a mix between Stampy, Green Control, and Rogue Green in your area, then you can take a good look at a blue or black or even a U/B deck to counter it. This information can also help newbies with sideboard construction. If you’re playing some sort of red deck, but you don’t know what to put in the sideboard because you don’t know what to be afraid of, you can (though it’s stretching it a little bit) pack mostly anti-white and blue spells with a few anti-green and black. It can’t hurt.

Well, there you have it. Never thought you could get that much information from a little picture did you?

Daniel Crane