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 beginner.


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 beginner… whoa…


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 learned.

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 wrong.

My second-ever 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.


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 bad).

In my 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 Beyond Dominia's 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.

Magic has phases

Wondering when to play that?

Wait until you must


The essence of lands:

Too many, just like too few

"I should have won that!"


When to take damage

Block or don't block you must chose

Life does not count much


What a nifty deck

That combo of yours astounds

Serve. Take twenty, please.


Playing with much Red?

Thou shall not suffer an elf

Those buggers breed fast


Playing with much Green?

Big fast creatures hurt greatly

Kick them in the nutz


Playing with much White?

No one likes you, kill them all

You can recover


Playing with much Black?

Life totals don't mean diddly

Just stay above zero


Playing with much Blue?

Patience is your greatest friend

"No, you can't do that"


There sits a blue mage

Two untapped islands she has

You are paralyzed

Thanks for reading.