Getting Started in Magic:The Gathering - Part 3
by Evil Blue Mage
Welcome to what I
believe will be the third and final part of this series.
When I started this undertaking, I don't think I fully
realized just how much ground there is to cover when it
comes to writing what should be a fairly basic
introductory series! I've enjoyed what I written so far,
and I thank those of you who have taken the time to send
me an email or two… I hope my responses have been
helpful, or at least literate. First, I have some old
business to take care of.
In response to my
last column, a reader wrote me and mentioned that the
deck and card critique section might be "over the
heads" of my intended target audience: the raw
I would like to
apologize to anyone whom I might have lost, thought I
hope that if I did you would have written
me to ask
a question or two. It is truly a difficult thing for me
to try to put myself back into the shoes of one who is
completely new to the game. Watch as we step into a Time
Spiral and look back, back to when I was a raw
I remember reading
tournament reports and having to look up almost every
single card mentioned. I didn't understand why the
person who had written the report said, "I played
card X, and so therefore I just won". All I could
do was scream at my monitor "WHY! WHY DID YOU WIN!
I JUST DON'T GET IT!" Sadly, my monitor remained
silent, and I was forced to learn why the hard way,
usually by losing to that card. Slowly, painfully, I
I remember going
to my first tournament with my well-honed blue-black
deck. I'm fairly certain it was well honed, though I
can't remember exactly what it did, except lose. This
was when Tempest, Stronghold, and Exodus were Standard
legal, and the Mirage block had just rotated out. My
very first competitive game of Magic, ever, and I played
somebody running Hatred. I thought there could be
nothing worse than losing both games by turn 4. That's
it. 10 minutes of play (counting shuffling time) and I
was dead. "It doesn't get much worse than
this," I thought to myself. It turns out, I was
competitive match was against someone playing a Milling
deck, featuring Millstones and Grindstones. The only
thing worse than losing by turn four is to watch your
entire library disappear over a slightly longer period,
like so much sand slipping through your fingers. I
managed to actually pull one win out of that, but I did
lose the match.
I hope that none
of you ever have this experience, because it was nearly
enough to turn me off of the game completely. My first
opponent, the guy playing Hatred, was actually a nice
guy and picked through my deck and made some
suggestions. My second opponent seemed more irritated
that I was a new player than anything else. The
redeeming quality of the day was that someone gave me a
Wall of Tears to add to my deck. If you're reading this,
thanks man. It's because of you that I'm still playing.
I picked what remained of my fragile ego off the floor
and did not return to competitive Magic until the
Invasion Prerelease. Now, though, I have a bit more of
the perspective I need to play competitively.
THE STRENGTH OF
I would like to
speak at a bit more length about the various colors in
Magic and how they work together. For this talk, we're
going to need a visual aid. Pick up one of your Magic
cards and flip it over, so that you are looking at the
back of the card. For those of you without a card handy,
I have an illustration:
Aye, it is quite
hideous (unless you are colorblind, then it's not so
illustration, the thick green lines between the colored
circles indicate the harmonious flow of Mana. Colors are
most easily combined when aligned with their immediate
neighbors. The Horrible magenta-colored arrows indicate
disharmonious, opposing colors: in this case White is
opposed by both Black and Red. This layout is by design
and provides much of the basic strength of the game: no
one color can (theoretically) become dominant because
there are always 2 other colors with much Hate reserved
for that color. Hate in Magic has a specific meaning,
and is usually used to refer to a card that would be
horribly broken, except that it only applies to one
color. Perish (see my last article) is a perfect example
of Hate. It affects only Green creatures, leaving the
Black mage who casts it with their army intact, and for
the quite reasonable cost of just 3 mana. If you want to
experiment using color combinations, allied (harmonious)
combinations often produce the best results with the
least amount of work, especially if you are using cards
from the two latest expansions, Invasion and Planeshift.
On the other hand,
building a deck from opposing colors can also produce
powerful results. One of my personal favorite color
combinations is White and Black. Coincidentally (well,
not really), both colors ally well with Blue. Black has
many powerful effects that often require the sacrifice
of life points to use. White excels at gaining life. Put
them together, and you have the makings of brokenness.
Other popular opposing color combinations are Black and
Green (RecSur and Snuff'O'Derm) and Red and Blue (CounterPhoenix).
For more information on these deck types can be found at
Type 1 deck Primers. Go there and read.
Lastly, I want to
leave you with some advice on actually playing the game.
All of this has been said before, and will be said
again, but it is important for new players to hear these
things repeatedly. Consider these these haiku as sort of
Magic koans: ponder and it will become clear to you.
when to play that?
until you must
essence of lands:
many, just like too few
should have won that!"
to take damage
or don't block you must chose
does not count much
a nifty deck
combo of yours astounds
Take twenty, please.
with much Red?
shall not suffer an elf
buggers breed fast
with much Green?
fast creatures hurt greatly
them in the nutz
with much White?
one likes you, kill them all
with much Black?
totals don't mean diddly
stay above zero
with much Blue?
is your greatest friend
you can't do that"
sits a blue mage
untapped islands she has