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How to Best Play the Five Colors in Magic: The Gathering (MTG)

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

What Are Magic's Five Colors?

As any Magic: The Gathering (abbreviated MTG) player knows, there are five colors (six if you count colorless) to utilize when building your deck. Each harbors its pros and cons and requires a separate type of land card (listed below) to fuel its powers.

With thousands of different entries in each color, every hue can adopt a multitude of strategies; however, each color does gravitate towards certain strategies. Today we'll review all the info you could need about each color to help you determine how to play their strengths and decide which best suits your build!

ColorLand Required

Red

Mountain

Green

Forest

Blue

Island

White

Plains

Black

Swamp

Colorless

Wastes

Utvara Hellkite

Utvara Hellkite

Red Decks

Strengths

  • High Creature Power
  • Direct Damage
  • Land Destruction

Weaknesses

  • Weaker Planeswalkers
  • Self-Mutilation
  • One-Time Effects

Red spells are the most offense-oriented of any color. When you want to damage your opponent or their creatures, cast something crimson and utilize lave, flame, stone, and lightning to obliterate your foes. Many red creatures have abilities that further enhance their rapid path of destruction; the haste trait lets them attack the turn they're cast, and trample allows them to deal damage to an opponent if their power exceeds a blocking monster's toughness.

With red, unpredictable, furious assaults corner opponents before they have time to react. Just be careful—as a tradeoff for such power, most red creatures have limited toughness and their effects are often only applied for a single turn. Still, the above Utvara Hellkite showcases a rare red ongoing ability that provides dragon tokens whenever a dragon you control attacks.

Omnath, Locus of Mana

Omnath, Locus of Mana

Green Decks

Strengths

  • Mana Ramp
  • Strong Creatures
  • Trample
  • +1/+1 Counters

Weaknesses

  • Weak Against Flying Enemies
  • Little Enchantment/Artifact Removal
  • Vulnerable to Mass-Monster Extermination

Spoiler alert: Green's my favorite color, and that bias shows.

Usually perceived as a peaceful color, may surprise new players with its monstrous titans. Green creatures often require more mana than other colors, but they have superior power and toughness. To offset the high costs, it also contains plenty of cards to collect and play lands faster.

Green's creatures are renowned for trample, letting them bulldoze through defenders, but often lack flying, making them vulnerable to aerial assaults (although some utilize the reach trait to block flyers). Emerald-hued beasts also make good use of +1/+1 counters, furthering boosting their army's power and toughness, and contain impressive creature types such as elves and hydras.

In short, green mages recognize the power of an expansive plant and beast database and strive to rapidly pulverize foes with high-cost, high-power spells. The above Omnath, Locus of Mana allows players to accumulate unspent mana to use on future turns.

Blue Decks

Strengths

  • Hand Advantage (Extra Draws)
  • Counters (Card Negation)
  • Return-to-Hand Effects
  • Great Planeswalkers

Weaknesses

  • Fewer Creatures
  • Expensive Spells
  • Weak Offense

Blue—the color of control. Summoning the powers of seas and sky, blue decks tend to shoot the long haul; they utilize countering to negate enemy spells and extra draws to expand their options. Blue possesses fewer monsters than other colors; however, many of its spells allow you to alter the allegiance of opponent's creatures, and it bypasses the annoying indestructible trait of creatures with its hand-returning removals. It also contains many valued instants and sorceries like Mana Drain.

If you plan to outwit your opponent in a game of siege and strategy, blue is the color for you. The above Jace, the Mind Sculptor showcases an excellent Planeswalker with a whopping four abilities who serves as a draw engine and monster removal.

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

White Decks

Strengths

  • Token Production/Swarming
  • Artifact-Equipment Combos
  • Life Regeneration
  • Enchantment Removals

Weaknesses

  • Slow Mana Production
  • Little Draw Power
  • Weaker Planeswalkers

White decks encompass many different tactics. Some focus on casting large amounts of weak creatures to defeat foes through sheer numbers, or buffing their armies with a plethora of equipment cards, specialized artifacts that attach to monsters. Other white decks take advantage of the several life-gaining options available to outlast opponents. Always be on the lookout for angels—powerful and costly creatures that compensate for their mana price with incredible defensive prowess.

If you want life gain or a deck that can do a little bit of everything, you can't go wrong with white, and it's a great secondary element for multi-colored builds. To demonstrate some of its strengths, the above Avacyn, Angel of Hope requires lots of mana, but offers flying, vigilance, and the indestructible trait to all your permanents!

Ob Nixilis Reignited

Ob Nixilis Reignited

Black

Strengths

  • Inexpensive Spells
  • Creature Destruction
  • Search Power (Adding a Specific Card to Hand)
  • Deathtouch Ability (Automatic Kill in Battle)
  • Forced Discards

Weaknesses

  • Card Tradeoffs
  • Little Enchantment/Artifact Removal
  • Low Creature Toughness

Black decks wield unholy powers to destroy enemies at any cost. These dark cards tend to have cheaper mana costs—for a price. Often, you'll find yourself spending your own life or sacrificing your creatures to fuel the despairing strength of the shadows.

Black also has many cards to weaken opposing creatures or force opponents to discard, and while their creatures veer towards the weak end, they often possess deathtouch, eliminating monsters of any toughness in a single blow. Creature archetypes include life-regaining vampires and price-demanding demons.

Tricky, risky, and deadly, black decks are always interesting to encounter. The above planeswalker, Ob Nixilis Reignited, perfectly shows how black fuels its power with sacrifices. Its +1 loyalty ability drains your life by one, but lets you draw a card, and subtracting three loyalty simply destroys a creature of your choice.

Emrakul, The Aeons Torn

Emrakul, The Aeons Torn

Colorless Decks

Strengths

  • Artifact Combos
  • Bypass Color-Protected Cards
  • Eldrazi Creatures
  • Synchronization With All Colors

Weaknesses

  • Few Creatures
  • Very Few Planeswalkers
  • Limited Support

Not a true "color", colorless cards can be paid for with any hue of mana, meaning they also make great secondary options for many decks. Most artifacts in the game are colorless, as are certain other spells, and many focus on artifact creature cards. Although most colorless spells accept mana of any color 99% to fuel their abilities, a few require the unique diamond-shaped mana symbol (◊) produced by the Wastes land type.

Many spells requiring ◊ mana belong to the Eldrazi family: a group of incredibly expensive and powerful behemoths whose massive strengths often land them on the ban list. Some Eldrazi requires Wastes, and some do not, but nearly all share the awesome ability "annihilator," which forces opponents to sacrifice permanents whenever your creature attacks.

Case in point: Emrakul, The Aeons Torn (one of the most expensive cards thanks to his fierce powers) arrives with annihilator 6, an extra turn for its controller, and a whopping 15/15 power and toughness.

How Many Colors Should My Magic Deck Be?

Hopefully you've learned a bit about the colors in Magic. Now it's time to assemble your cards into the ultimate deck! Remember that you can mix and match as many colors as you like to create your perfect, customized build, but the more shades you add, the greater your chances are of drawing the wrong land type, so think before you shop. I often find three colors to offer the perfect balance between versatility and reliability.

As we gamers eagerly await Magic: The Gathering's future booster sets, vote for your favorite color, and I'll see you at our next trading card review!

© 2016 Jeremy Gill

Comments

Rex H on November 13, 2019:

I just wanted to add 3 points. One: Blue cards often use extremely complex abilities that don’t really do much, besides make your opponents unable keep track of everything. They may overlook something, causing them to make a fatal mistake. Two: With black decks, death doesn’t mean “gone”. The creatures may return, regenerate, or stay in the graveyard and cause other creatures to gain power (like the ability “this creature gets +1 +1 for each creature in the graveyard). With black, you cards can be useful both dead and alive. Three: There are many overlapping cards of each color. If you have enough of these, you could make a white deck function like a black deck, or vise versa. Just saying.