Random Beatings
"What Color Are You"
Valentine's Day Edition
by Spike

Before we begin, there is something I would like to point out. You will note that the title of the column you are currently reading is "Random Beatings."

[Pause to allow those who accidentally came to the wrong page to hit their Back button.]

At any rate, this title should clue you in to the fact that the babbling you'll read in this space every week will be mainly devoted to the following two concepts:

1.      Beatings.

2.      Randomness.

The concept of "randomness" is probably an easy one to understand, as most of the word's dictionary definition carries over well into the context of Magic. The idea of beatings, however, often seems a bit harder to describe to someone who hasn't truly experienced them. Simply put, in the way that will probably cause the least confusion, a beating is something which is so incredibly cool that most other adjectives fail to adequately communicate its coolness. A beating can be a card, it can be a play, it can be a deck. Outside of Magic, a beating can be a restaurant, a car, a book-- heck, a beating can be anything. The concept of beatings transcends human perceptions of space and time. Beatings are truly universal.

The opposite of a beating is an anti-beating, a concept more often expressed by using the phrase "not a beating." When it's 11:45 PM, and you're running low on caffeine, and you randomly side in Carpet of Flowers against Trinity Green because you can't be bothered to pay attention to what you're doing*-- that's "not a beating." Beatings and anti-beatings often tend to come in pairs.

Some more examples of beatings and their corresponding anti-beatings:  


Blastoderm: Beating.

Hill Giant: Not a beating.


Morphling: Beating.

Morphling + Troublesome Spirit combo: Not a beating.


Casting Overrun and then attacking with an army of Saprolings for "a lot": Beating.

Being the guy on the other side of the table: Not a beating.


If you're new and don't know half (or any) of the cards I just referred to, never fear. If you stay in this game for any reasonable length of time, you will become familiar with all of them and will no doubt encounter each of them in play at least once.

Was there a point I was trying to make when I first started on this long, rambling discourse about the nature of beatings?

Probably not.

At any rate, as the title suggests, you'll generally be subjected each week to whatever randomness happens to be percolating through my mind at the exact moment I sit down to write my article. I hope you'll find it entertaining. But for the first few weeks, and perhaps intermittently as time goes on, I'm going to have a more focused goal in mind. Namely, helping out that portion of my audience who are struggling to make the transition from Pokemon to Magic. My thoughts will still be significantly random-- I couldn't avoid that if I tried-- but hopefully there will be a method to the randomness.

Kindly do us both a favor before you start reading this, and make sure that you understand the basic principles of Magic. By which I mean, you should have some awareness of the various types of cards, you should understand what goes on during a typical turn and during combat, and other such basic stuff. There are jillions of tutorials scattered far and wide across the Internet to deal with this, and if I stop to cover it, I accomplish nothing except boring myself and half my audience to tears. I refuse to do that.


Why is color so important?

For some people, identifying themselves with a certain color or colors helps to increase the illusion that they are part of a magical war between the elements. That is, after all, what it seems Magic should be about-- fantasy and legend made real, or at least as real as they can be when expressed in the form of a stack of cardboard rectangles. If you want a game of pure strategy and mental challenge, where the pieces mean nothing beyond their abilities, go play chess. Why do you think the cards have artwork and flavor text, anyway?

On a more utilitarian level, it seems to be an accepted fact that many, if not most, players have one or more colors that they are "best" at. Something in the mechanics, cards, or general strengths of these color(s) seems to mesh with their playing style, with the result that the player seems to enjoy above-normal success when playing the colors in question (and, conversely, may do poorly if they attempt to play a color with which they are not proficient.) Sometimes the question of which color is "best" seem to be determined through a natural tendency or affinity; other times a person's best color is decided by playing one color or one for such a long period of time that their playing style adapts to it.

For me, personally, there has been little doubt as to what my best color is. It can only be red. The story of how I became attached to this particular color is a fairly typical one: I was attracted to one card in particular (in this case, Jackal Pup) and built a deck to house it. Since then, my successful real-life decks have almost always included red in some way, shape or form. The only time I have played seriously without using red was in the summer and early fall of 2000, when I played Blue. At the time, the Urza Block was still part of Standard, and it seemed to me that I lacked the resources to make a viable red deck, so I opted to play blue instead. Most of my resources up until that point had been devoted to assembling decks for casual play, so when it became apparent that my initial experiments with Rebels were not paying off, I needed to fill the gap with something relatively cheap and easy to assemble. I ended up with a sort of Blue Skies variant that was decent enough for my purposes and, with the addition of a sideboard filled with more hate than a Middle East peace conference, accomplished my intended goal of pounding Replenish into the ground. Since the glorious event that was the arrival of Invasion, every deck I have played with has had a significant red component.

Again, just as I have one color that I identify with more strongly and feel more comfortable with than any other, there is also one color in particular that I have learned to avoid at all costs. This color, as it turns out, is white. White is more than just a little unfriendly to me. White hates my guts, to put it bluntly. There are very rare occasions under which I can play white and not screw up-- playing a netdeck, for example, or splashing white into a predominantly non-white deck for some utility or removal spell-- but such efforts are typically not worth the strain they put on my play. Like my affinity for red, my aversion to white was discovered through experience. When I first ventured into the world of Type 2 play and was at a loss for an easy-to-assemble deck, Rebels seemed like a natural choice. I had been buying significant amounts of Mercadian Masques, more than any other set, and had quite a few of the common Rebels in supply. Silly me, of course, had forgotten that Spike and religious fanatics do NOT mix-- not even when said religious fanatics are two-dimensional images on the front of gaming cards. After getting drubbed a few times, it dawned on me that I wasn't playing the deck very well, that I couldn't play the deck very well. I put the plains away. Now and then I try to make a deck with some white component, but these experiments invariably remind me that I am a creature of chaos and should not look to the color of law, order, and smug self-righteousness for my strength.

Please note-- I have not absolutely said that I cannot play any color except red, or any deck without a strong red component, and be successful. I have simply said that my performance when doing so tends to be suboptimal. Playing red would probably make me feel more comfortable, improve my play, and help me have more fun to boot. In light of these facts, my playing a deck without red seems downright silly unless there is some special circumstance to be dealt with.

It's not just me, either. In the time I have spent attending tournaments in one particular location, I have noticed the exact same trend among the regulars there. People may shift between aggressive and control styles, they may add or drop other colors, but they always seem to stay with one particular color or style that forms a common thread through most of the decks they are successful with. They may occasionally branch out, but these experiments are rarely successful. The exceptions to the rule seem to be one or two players who have no one color allegiance, but just play whatever decks they think are supposed to be the best for the format in question. They often do well, but they never quite seem to win, and I've noticed that they never seem to be having any fun. One wonders at their motivation in continuing to play. It's beyond me, so I'll leave it and go on to the real question.

It's that point in the article where I have to prove that the last three pages of rambling have actually had some substance and haven't just been a colossal waste of your time. What does all this mean to you?

Well, as a beginner in the game, it means that you should obviously try to find "your" color at some point. It doesn't have to be right away-- you can switch colors at any point during your Magic "career", and no one will run up and slap you with a frozen fish-- but if there's a color or colors that you feel drawn to in particular, you might as well start trying to play them as much as possible. On a practical level, focusing your efforts on one or two colors will maximize your efforts and increase the speed with which you can assemble a solid deck. When you open a pack, you'll already know which color you are looking for, and if you've done your homework, you'll also probably know which cards in that color are worth giving a second glance. The rest of the cards in the pack become either trade fodder or collection material, depending on how good they are. In the beginning, I recommend only throwing away the completely useless cards (and only if you're certain you can tell the completely useless cards) since it is almost never to your detriment to have a collection of good cards of every color. I will probably never play a Stompy variant in any format, and as previously mentioned, I avoid playing white, but if I needed four Giant Growths or four Disenchants, I could find them with a few minutes' search through my boxes. It is never a disadvantage to have good staple cards, no matter what the color, so always hang on to your cards.

As you begin to grow more experienced in the world of Magic, having your own color will take on different aspects. When you are looking for something to play, you will probably have a good idea of what to start out with, which will lead to that much less time being wasted in experimenting with decks from every color of the rainbow. When a new format is coming up and you need inspiration, you will already have eliminated as much as four-fifths of the potential card pool with which to start brainstorming-- again, leading to much less hassle and confusion. Your decks will not always be mono-color (and, in the current Type 2, they probably shouldn't be) but having a familiar place to start working will always be to your advantage. And that, boys and girls, is what having "your" color is really all about.

Final Notes

Expect to see a fair amount of decklists from me. I love to just look through my boxes of cards, or open Apprentice's deck editor, and just throw something together. Once I've thrown said thing together, I often can't resist the impulse to share it with others, and this column gives me one more medium in which to do so. Always take my creations with a grain of salt-- they're not likely to be very well tuned, unless I indicate otherwise-- but I hope you'll find them to be something more than just a waste of space.

This week's deck first came about when I realized that this column would be published on February 14th, Valentine's Day. I got the idea to make up some sort of a theme deck for the occasion. Maybe red and white for the colors, including whatever love-related cards I could come up with.

Then I got to thinking.

What is Valentine's Day as we know it really about? Is it truly about the ideals of love and affection?

Not really.

What Valentine's Day is about is the twisted, commercialized, stereotyped version of love that our society feeds us at every possible turn. It's a crass ritual that seemingly revolves around the expenditure of large amounts of money and the exchange of physical goods.

If you truly love someone, do you really express it on only one day of the year? Do you really need an entire day officially devoted to love so you can let your SO know how much you care about them? As far as I can tell, you shouldn't-- unless you're worried that they'll have forgotten about it because you treat them like crap the other 364 days of the year.

And if, God forbid, you don't HAVE anyone to share this "special" day with-- or if the person you'd spend it with is far away and you haven't any way of getting in touch with them-- then you can just forget it. The rest of the world is too busy spending large amounts of money on each other. They don't need you.



3x Reckless Spite
4x Vendetta
4x Exclude
4x Repulse
4x Coercion
4x Warped Devotion
4x Lobotomy
3x Dominate
4x Recoil

4x Plague Spitter

8x Swamp
6x Island
4x Underground River
4x Salt Marsh


I would have put Treachery in, and maybe a couple of other cards as well, but I wanted to keep it T2 legal.

  Anyway, that's all for this week. Oh, and don't worry about me. I'm really a very happy person. ;)



* Not that I would know from personal experience, of course.