Choosing Your Colour
When looking at the colours, you can separate each colour into two categories, the theme, and the technical play style. Each of these categories holds a different weight of importance for each player. Some players play a colour because of what it represents in the game, and what it means to them. Other players may play a colour because it does a job that the other colours cannot do. Neither way is wrong, magic, and deck building, is all about the personal choices we make, and what we want to get out of our decks, and from the game.
If you favour theme, that doesn’t mean you can’t also appreciate and take advantage of the technical side. Just as if you want the technical side of a colours, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy and appreciate the flavour and feel that colour can bring. You may have a colour you play more often that you have grown fond of, or perhaps there is a play style that suits you and that you like to stick with. Whatever you play, and whatever you choose to play, as you progress through magic you will begin to love all the colours, the stories they bring, and the choices they bring to the battlefield.
This is a small guide to get you going, and to introduce you to the colours. Over time the colours will be explored in greater detail in their own articles, but this is enough to give you a good sense of what they are. To start with, we will have a look at the themes of the colours.
Here is a picture of the colour wheel. The wheel shows you the main examples of what that colour represents. It shows you what it can be, but not what it has to be. White is moral, it has order, peace, laws, and is uncreative. The sound of that might not appeal to you, so you can pick out the parts of it that you like and build a deck from there. Perhaps you would like to focus on the law and order feel of white, have a deck filled with judges and officers, halt your opponents and make them conform to your laws. Maybe you prefer the idea of a deck around peace, where your deck stops its foes non-violently and focuses more on life.
Deciding what you want your colours theme is going to be gets even more interesting when you combine multiple colours together. When you combine white and blue, you could focus on a deck of order and logic, a deck of learning and control. Alternatively the focus could be on morality and technology, where you look to do the right thing and use technology to help you accomplish your goals. Here are a few examples of the themes of the colours.
Red and Green, the impressive Gruul Ragebeast. The Ragebeast fights another creature as soon as he enters, and his presence alone encourages others to fight. He is powerful, wild, and aggressive. He encompasses what it can mean to be Green and Red; instinct, impulse, freedom, growth, nature, and survival.
The Aberrant Researcher, pure blue in all forms. The Researcher puts the top card of your library into your graveyard, he is searching for an instant or sorcery, this is blues experimentation, the intellectua theory and curiosity of blue. When he finds what he is looking for, he transforms. He turns the theory into application, and transforms from a Human Insect, into an Insect Horror.
Kambal, Consul of Allocation, manipulates the law to punish your opponents and to reward you. He restricts your opponents, he drains their life while boosting your own. Kambal mat be a lot more unassuming than that of the Ragebeast, but he shows what you can accomplish when combining White and Black, law with amorality, order with parasitism.
Enjoy the Colours
The colours are there to have fun with, so enjoy them. Choose what appeals to you, look for colour and theme combinations that sound fun and interesting to play. Play around with mixing different colours together and seeing what themes you can come up with. When it comes to putting colours together, there are no wrong answers, it all comes down to personal preference and the type of deck you are looking for. Enjoy what they have to offer, and use them to help you find the right deck for you.
The Technical Side to Colours
Here we will have a quick look at what each colour can do, and what it specialises in.
Protection - White is extremely good at protecting itself, from playing a wall that is hard to get past, making a creature indestructible, or preventing damage being dealt, one of whites main strengths is on keeping you and your creatures alive.
Life Gain - White has life gain running throughout it. Many cards gain you life in addition to other effects, allowing you to fight while keeping your life total high.
Artifact and Enchantment Removal - White has cheaper and more versatile removal for artifacts and enchantments than that of the other colours. Although it is very rare for a deck to run these removal spells in the main deck (not including commander decks), they make for excellent sideboard cards.
Small Creatures - Whites creature speciality is its low mana creatures. Although they may look less impressive than the speed of red or might of green, low mana white creatures have the ability to take over a battlefield. They are often extremely good value for mana, and can punch well above their weight.
Wraths - White is the main colour of wrath spells, that is, a spell that removes all creatures from the battlefield. There is little in the game that has such an immediate effect as a wrath. Most wraths destroy all creatures, but other similar effects can instead destroy all non-land permanents, or even destroy all lands.
Removal - White has a unique array of removal spells open to it. The cheapest and most common are enchantments, enchantments that are put on your opponents creatures that stop them from being able to attack, block, or activate abilities. Another form of removal common to white is exiling creatures, that is, to remove a creature from the game entirely. The other common form of removal for white is retribution removal, removal spells that have prerequisites which often require an opponents creature to attack, or to have dealt damage.
Card Draw - A staple of blue is its ability to draw cards. Blue has the greatest versatility in available draw cards, along with the most powerful draw cards in the game.
Counter Spells - Being able to prevent your opponent casting a spell can be extremely powerful. Counter spells are almost exclusively in blue.
Bounce Spells - A ‘bounce’ spell is a spell that returns a target to its owners hand. Although bouncing a creature back to its owners hand is not as powerful as destroying it, bounce spells are lower mana, and therefore allow blue to survive against even the fastest decks from the very first turn. Bounce spells also have variants that allow you to bounce any permanent your opponent has on the field. Bounce can also be used on your own creatures to protect them before something bad happens to them.
Milling - ’Milling’ is putting cards from a library directly into their owners graveyard. Green is the best colour for milling your own library, but blue is the strongest at milling your opponents. As the game is lost when an opponent goes to draw but has no cards in the library, a blue deck can defeat its opponent without ever having played a creature or dealt any damage.
Clones and Theft - Blue has the ability to steal permanents from your opponents, and even has abilities that allow you to cast cards from your opponents library, hand, and from exile. It also has the ability to create copies of creatures on the battlefield. Maybe you have a powerful creature on the field and you want another, or perhaps your opponent has a powerful creature and you decide you want one of your own.
Removal - Blacks speciality is in its removal spells. Black has a hugely versatile range of ways to destroy your opponents creatures. They have spells that destroy creatures outright, ways to make your opponents sacrifice their own creatures, as well as ways to weaken and kill your opponents creatures with –1/-1 counters, or by giving them -X/-X until the end of the turn. However you choose to do it, black will have what you need to kill whatever creatures your opponents decide to play.
Self Sacrifice - Black loves removal so much that it can gain great benefits from you sacrificing your own creatures. Cards that make you sacrifice your own creatures can come with a whole range of rewards, from life gain, to card draw, to destroying your opponents creatures.
Hand Destruction - Black has the ability to remove cards from your opponents hands, and to force your opponents to discard cards from their hand. This allows black to deal with cards they may not otherwise be able to, to slow decks down, or to pick out your opponents win conditions and put them in the graveyard before your opponent has a chance to use them.
Life Loss - Many black cards cause a player to lose life. This may be a cost you have to pay in order to get a cards reward, or it may be a cost your opponent will have to pay. Some cards that cause your opponents to lose life also gain you life at the same time, this is known as ‘draining life’ from your opponent, as they get weaker you become stronger.
Reanimation - A speciality of black is the reanimation of creatures, that is, returning a creature from a graveyard to the battlefield. This ability can be incredibly powerful, and can make your opponents fight your creatures over and over again.
Aggressive Creatures and Spells - Red have the most aggressive creatures in the game. These most commonly come in the form of incredibly fast small creatures that run in as fast as they can to defeat your opponent before they have a chance to react. Red also has myriad ways to boost the power of your creatures, this allows your creatures to push past opponent creatures way bigger than themselves, or to simply hit the opponent harder.
Short Term Gain - Continuing with its aggressive style of play, red has many short term gain cards. These are cards that benefit you, but only for a turn or two, and have no real impact later in the game. These cards may boost your creatures, give you mana, or tidy up your hand, but they are risky cards to use as they rely on a quick win. These are commonly used in very fast aggro decks, but can also be used in tempo style decks as well, as they know they can regain the card advantage that they lose from playing short term gain cards.
Burn - ’Burn’ spells are spells that can deal direct damage to your opponent. Burn spells are difficult to stop and can win you a game even after your creatures have been destroyed. Most burn spells can also be used to deal damage to creatures, allowing you to kill creatures or damage your opponent, whatever you need most at the time.
Artifact and Land Destruction - Much like white, red is incredibly efficient at destroying artifacts, but it is also very good at destroying lands. Land destruction isn’t very common, and often has a high mana cost, but it can be ruthlessly efficient when playing against decks that rely heavily on their land (such as a deck that uses its lands to win, or plays three or more colours).
Big Creatures - Green has the biggest creatures in all of magic. The natural power and toughness of green creatures can be incredible value for mana, and can be used to overwhelm an opponent. Green can bring power and force to the battlefield from turn one.
Mana Ramp and Fixing - Green has the ability to create ways of making mana, and getting land on the field faster than any other colour. This allows green to play bigger creatures and spells a lot earlier than their opponents. Their ability to get mana also allows them to ‘mana fix’, that is, the ability to get the colour mana that they need. This can be from searching your library for the land you need, or from giving your lands and creatures the ability to generate different colours of mana.
Pump - Much like red, green also has the ability to give their creatures huge bonuses to their strength and toughness. This allows green players to play big creatures faster than their opponents, and then have the ability to make them even more powerful when they need to. This can make green creatures very tough to deal with.
Removal - Green has a very unique way of destroying your opponents creatures using the ‘fight’ mechanic. Green makes your creatures ‘fight’ your opponents (they deal damage to each other equal to their power). This means to use your removal spells you must have a creature on the battlefield, and it takes advantage of the fact that your creatures will often be bigger than your opponents. Another very common removal card in green is anti-flyers, green has many ways to kill flying creatures efficiently. This is too specific to run in a main deck, but can make ruthlessly efficient removal cards for the sideboard.
Self Mill - Green is very adept at putting cards from its own library into its graveyard. This is useful when you have a deck that can take advantage of its own graveyard.
Artifact and Enchantment Removal - Much like white, green is very good at destroying artifacts and enchantments. A green decks sideboard can be incredibly versatile with using only a few cards.
Enjoy What the Colours Have to Offer
Once again, enjoy the colours and what they have to offer. Look at what you can create when putting different colours together. What colours compliment each others weaknesses, what colours work alongside your theme and play style, and what colours just sound like they do the sorts of things you want to do! Give all the colours a go, they might surprise you. Play around with colour combinations, and don't be afraid to try something you have never played before. There are no wrong decisions, and there are so many awesome decks out there just waiting to be played.
Separate articles will look more in-depth at each colour, the themes, the mechanics, and the strengths and weaknesses of the colours and colour combinations. For starting up though, don't worry too much about the gritty details of them, just follow your instincts, and go with what sounds fun and right for you.