TTRPG

Mechanical Color Pie 2021 | MAGIC: THE GATHERING


Animating artifacts (Target/all non-creature artifact(s) you control becomes an artifact creature.)

Primary: Blue
Secondary: Green

Blue is the color most likely to turn a non-creature artifact into an artifact creature. Green is second most likely to do it.


Animating Enchantments (Target/all non-aura enchantment(s) you control becomes an enchantment creature.)

Primary: White
Secondary: Blue

White is the color that animates other enchantments. Blue has enchantments that under certain conditions can become animated.


Animating lands (Target land becomes an N/N creature until end of turn.)

Primary: Green
Secondary: Red
Tertiary: White, blue, and black

Green, as the color connected most closely to lands and creatures, is the color most likely to turn lands into creatures—usually still keeping them lands. When we do this, we often grant the land haste to avoid having to worry if it was the one you played this turn (which would have summoning sickness). Red uses this ability a little playing into its one-shot damage cards that come through attacking. All the colors have dipped their toe into this area, but it’s infrequent and usually only involves animating their own basic land type and is most often done in cycles.


Artifact destruction

Primary: Red and green
Secondary: White

Red and green usually have one artifact destruction card in common, although green’s is usually also a spell that destroy both artifacts and enchantments. (See enchantment destruction.) White is starting to get more artifact destruction at common and is usually also able to destroy enchantments.


Banisher Priest–like effect (When this card enters the battlefield, exile target creature/permanent until this card leaves play.)

Primary: White

This is one of white’s most efficient answers, especially in Limited. It is usually used on creatures but sometimes hits other permanents. The effect is always on a permanent, usually a creature or enchantment.


Basic land counting (Doing an effect equal to the number of basic lands of a certain type you control.)

Primary: Red
Secondary: Black and green
Tertiary: White and blue

All colors have access to this, but red does it most, followed by black and green.


“Bite” (Target creature deals damage to equal to its power to another target creature.)

Primary: Green
Secondary: Red

This used to just be a red ability, but we realized that green needed it more, as green’s creature removal has to be tied to creatures and red had plenty of other direct-damage spells. So red now does this less often.


Return to library (Put a creature/permanent on top of its owner’s library or some number of cards down.)

Primary: Blue

Blue does this as an upgraded version of returning to hand. Blue will sometimes put the card a few cards down into the library and sometimes shuffles it into a small pile on top. White used to also do this, but it has been removed from white.


Bring back creatures/permanents that went to the graveyard this turn

Primary: White

White, the color of mercy, is the color that saves things the turn they are destroyed.


Can’t be attacked (Creatures can’t attack you.)

Primary: White

We don’t do this often, but this effect keeps you from either being attacked for a turn or as long as a specific permanent is on the battlefield.


Can’t be blocked

Primary: Blue

We tried to keyword this ability only to discover that there are so many variations on it that we couldn’t. Instead, we changed from “unblockable” to “can’t be blocked” to avoid players thinking it was a keyword. (It matters occasionally.) Blue has creatures with this ability and grants it through spells and Auras.


Can’t be countered

Primary: Red and green
Secondary: Blue

Red tends to have spells that can’t be countered while green tends to have creatures that can’t be countered. When blue does “can’t be countered,” which is less often, it’s usually a more control-oriented card.


Can’t block

Primary: Black and red

For a long time we separated black from red by making black have the “can’t block” drawback on its creatures and red have the “must attack” drawback on its creatures. Time has shown that the “can’t block” drawback leads to better gameplay, so we’ve started using it on red as much as black.


Can’t lose the game and opponent can’t win

Primary: White

This is a defensive ability, and thus shows up in white.


Can’t win the game and opponent can’t lose

Primary: Black

This ability is used as a drawback in black.


Card draw

Primary: Blue
Secondary: Black and green
Tertiary: White and red

Blue is best at card drawing. It has the most of it and no restrictions. Black’s card drawing must involve paying some other cost, most often life but sometimes sacrificing permanents. Green’s card draw is tied to creatures. In the past, we’ve also connected it to land, but that ended up making green card draw a little too much like blue, so we’ve pulled back from that. All colors get cantrips (spells that draw you a single card). Blue gets the best cantrip spells, white gets the best cantrip small creatures, and green gets the best cantrip large creatures. While white is still tertiary at card drawing, we have added some new abilities for white to draw cards. The big limitation is that white tends to draw over time rather than all at once, so it has a once-per-turn limit on card drawing (multiplayer does allow white on occasion to draw multiple cards tied to how many opponents a player has). Other than cantrips, red only draws cards with three exceptions: impulsive draw, “punisher” effects, and wheeling. (See impulsive draw, “punisher” effects, and wheeling.)


Card filtering (Look at the top N cards of your library and put N in your hand and put the rest on the bottom of the library in any order.)

Primary: Blue and green

Blue is the color of information, so it loves having the ability to choose what exactly it gets to draw. Sometimes card filtering looks similar to looting, where you draw some number of cards and then discard a close number. When green does this, it can usually only get a subset of permanents (usually creatures and/or lands) into its hand.


Cast spells from opponent’s graveyard/exile.

Primary: Blue and black

The two sneakiest colors are the ones most likely to use the opponent’s own resources against them. Sometimes blue and black will make the player discard/mill the cards into exile where they can later cast them.


Cast spells from your graveyard.

Primary: Black
Secondary: Blue and red
Tertiary: White and green

Black is the color most likely to cast cards from the graveyard, but it’s something blue and red also do on occasion, especially instants and sorceries. I’ve listed white and green as tertiary because we do flashback with regularity.


Cast spells out of graveyard.

Primary: Black
Secondary: Blue and red

Black is the color most focused on the graveyard. Blue occasionally can cast instants and sorceries out of the graveyard. We’ve also let red play a little in this area, especially in sets where it can grant flashback to instants and sorceries in the graveyard.


Changing lands (Target land becomes the basic land of your choice.)

Primary: Blue

We don’t do a lot of land changing these days, but the ability is still in blue in environments where we might need it. It allows blue a way to get access to other colors in multicolor environments.


Color changing (Target/this creature becomes the color(s) of your choice until end of turn.)

Primary: Blue
Secondary: Green
Tertiary: White and black

Blue can change any creature’s color, including its own. Green has this ability on creatures that can change themselves, usually flavored as a chameleon-like effect. White and black have had the ability on rare occasion to make things their own color. As we’ve lessened the number of effects that care about color, this ability isn’t used much these days.


Copying permanents, permanently

Primary: Blue

Blue has permanents that will choose a target and then remain that target for the rest of the game (or until the permanent chooses to copy a new target).


Copying permanents, temporarily

Primary: Red
Secondary: Blue

Red has permanents (or spells that create this effect) that can temporarily become another creature, usually until end of turn. Blue’s cards in this category are cards that change but don’t let the controller explicitly choose what they become. (For instance, one might copy the last creature played.)


+1/+1 counter (creation and caring)

Primary: White and green
Secondary: Black
Tertiary: Blue and red

Any color can put +1/+1 counters on themselves, but white and green are best overall at doing it, including putting them on other creatures.


Counterspell

Primary: Blue
Tertiary: White

Counterspelling is one of the few abilities that’s almost universally used in a single color. White dips its toe into the ability with taxing and delay-style counterspells.


Counter target activated/triggered ability

Primary: Blue
Tertiary: Green

For a while this was a green effect, but we’ve moved it to be more in blue. Green does it on rare occasions, usually to counter artifact activations these days.


Creature destruction, single creature

Primary: Black
Secondary: White

Black is king of creature destruction and is the one color that can kill regardless of circumstance. White can kill a single creature, but usually at a higher cost. Sometimes in both white and black this spell exiles the creature instead of destroying it.

  • Destroy target creature. Its controller gets compensation.

Primary: White

This ability used to be in white and blue (flavored as transformation in blue), but it’s now just a white ability.

  • Destroy target attacking or blocking creature.

Primary: White

White tends to do its creature destruction in one of four ways: white can kill during combat, it sometimes will just hit attackers or just hit blockers, or white will often exile creatures instead of destroying then.

  • Destroy target creature that damaged you or a creature you control this turn.

Primary: White

White is also willing to destroy something after it has hurt white in some way.

  • Destroy target tapped creature.

Primary: White
Secondary: Black

White can also destroyed tapped creatures using a similar flavor to destroying creatures that have harmed it.

  • Destroy target creature with power 3 or greater.

Primary: White

As champion of the little guy, white will also destroy large creatures. We’ve moved the floor of the ability from power 4 to power 3.

  • Destroy target creature with flying.

Primary: Green

Green is allowed to kill only two types of creatures—flying creatures (as it is the anti-flying color) and artifact creatures (see artifact destruction).


Creature destruction, mass creature

Primary: White
Secondary: Black

White is the color that most often does mass creature kill, with it showing up on a rare or mythic rare in almost every set. Black mass-creature kill is not quite as frequent. Red has a similar effect where it does large amount of damage to all creatures (see direct damage).

  • Destroy all creatures controlled by one player.

Primary: Black

White believes in balance and parity, so only black will kill just one player’s creatures.

  • Destroy all creatures with power 3 or greater.

Primary: White

Killing big creatures is a white thing, so it can be combined with mass creature kill. The number is most often 3 power, but occasionally can be tweaked up. White will occasionally also do mass destruction based on other criteria, but it tends to destroy all creatures of that quality.


Creature pumping

Primary: Black
Secondary: Green

For black this is mostly seen on Shades and usually requires black mana. Green gets unlimited pumping activations but usually only when the activation cost is high enough that multiple activations don’t happen until the late game.

  • +N/+N (on creatures, single use)

Primary: Green

This is what we refer to as the Rootwalla ability. It’s trying to simulate a built-in Giant Growth. It’s almost always exclusive to green.

Primary: White and green
Secondary: Black and red

The most common use of this is on Giant Growth–like effects in green, usually +3/+3 but it can vary a little. White’s pumping is usually +2/+2 or smaller, but it most often will grant an ability as well. The three exception for white is that it can get larger pumps if counting the number of creatures you have, the number of plains you have, or is restricted to blockers. Black will occasionally get smaller buffs, usually with an ability added. Red gets buffs but usually the power is higher than the toughness. All four colors default in this ability to being on instants as it’s a combat trick.

Primary: White and green
Secondary: Blue, black, and red

All colors have access to Auras that grant +N/+N. White, blue, black, and red tend to top out at +2/+2. Green is the one color that regularly grants +3/+3 and above on Auras

Primary: Red
Secondary: White and green

This ability, as a repeatable activation, is what we refer to as “firebreathing.” It’s most often seen on red creatures. White tends to get one-time upgrades of usually +1/+0. Green gets +N/+0 when it’s not intended for it to survive the fight.

Primary: Black and red
Secondary: White

Black and red are the two colors that tend to pump power as a spell without also pumping toughness. White does it occasionally as a combat trick but usually never more than +1/+0.

Primary: Red
Secondary: White and black
Tertiary: Blue and green

Red is the color most often to have just power-pumping Auras (including “firebreathing” Auras). White and black do it occasionally with white tending to go no higher than +2/+0. Blue and green do it on rare occasion with blue, like white, sticking at +2/+0 or lower.

Primary: Blue
Secondary: Black and red

Blue tends to use this mostly on Elementals and Shapeshifters, flavored as shape-changing. Black and red use this on occasion to play up their reckless side.

Primary: Black

As this is mostly used as a kill spell, the ability resides mostly in black.

Primary: Black
Secondary: Red

These tend to be flavored as “push your luck” cards that can double as creature kill. Black will go up to -3 on the toughness, whereas red tends to stop at -2.

Primary: Blue
Tertiary white

This is also used in blue on Elementals and Shapeshifters, often on the same cards with the +N/-N. White, on rare occasion, will have an activation that uses this defensively.

Primary: Black

On creatures, this effect is used almost exclusively by creatures on other creatures, and almost exclusively in black.

Primary: Black
Tertiary: White, blue, red, and green

Black is the only color to do -N/-N abilities on spells. Other colors do put -1/-1 counters on creatures, usually in place of spots where they would do damage in sets with -1/-1 counters.

Primary: Black

This is an area only black tends to go, used almost exclusively on the opponent’s creatures. This ability will occasionally be paired with a positive ability, making it a card you might play on your own creature.

Primary: Blue
Secondary: Black

In blue, this is shrinking its target. In black it’s usually some form of torture.

Primary: Blue
Secondary: Black

We tend to treat the Auras similarly to how we treat the spells.

Primary: White
Secondary: Green

White used to do this quite a bit, but we’ve backed off because it tends to just clog up the board. Green also uses this on occasion.

Primary: White
Secondary: Green

Once again, white (and to an even lesser extent green) used to do this more often, but these days we’ll boost power some if we’re going to boost toughness.

Primary: White
Secondary: Blue and green

This is also isn’t done often, but when it is used, it’s used on white, blue, and green.


Creature pumping, your team, one-shot

Primary: White
Secondary: Green

White is the color most likely to pump its team, most often with +1/+1, but it will occasionally go up to +2/+2. Green’s team pump starts at +3/+3 and often also adds trample.

Primary: Red
Secondary: White

Team pump that only pumps power is most often done in red, usually affecting attacking creatures. White will sometimes pump its team’s power without pumping toughness (although it more often pumps both).


Creature pumping, their team, one-shot

Primary: Black

This is a common way for black to kill creatures. Sometimes this effect will affect all creatures and not just your opponents.

Primary: Blue

Just as blue can “shrink” a single creature, so too can it “shrink” an entire team.


Creature pumping, your team, ongoing

Primary: White
Secondary: Green
Tertiary: Blue, black, and red

This category appears mostly on permanents, most often creatures or enchantments, and it grants a stat boost to your team. This ability is most often seen in white with just a +1/+1 boost. Green boosts are often a bit bigger. All the colors have access to this ability when making tribal lords (creatures that grant a certain creature type or types a +1/+1 bonus). This stat bonus often comes with the granting of another ability.

Primary: Red
Tertiary: Black

When red does permanent pumps, it is usually just pumping the power. Often it pumps your creatures just on attack.


Creature pumping, their team, ongoing

Primary: Black

Black occasionally lowers the opponent’s creatures’ power and toughness, usually by just -1/-1.


Creature sacrifice, forced, repeatable (All players/opponents must sacrifice a creature each turn.)

Primary: Black

Sometimes black likes killing things slowly.


“Curiosity” (Whenever this creature deals combat damage to an opponent, draw a card.)

Primary: Blue
Secondary: Green

This ability started as a blue-only ability, but we added it in green because it works with green’s creature-tied card drawing.


Damage prevention (Prevent the next N damage that would be dealt to target creature/player.)

Primary: White

We don’t do a lot of this effect any more, but when we do it’s almost always in white.


Damage redirection (Prevent the next N damage that would be dealt to target creature/player this turn. If damage is prevented in this way, this card deals that much damage to target creature/player.)

Primary: White

This is another effect we’ve cut significantly back on that is also squarely in white.


“Daunt” (This creature can’t be blocked by creatures with power 2 or less.)

Primary: Green

This is an ability we’ve been trying out in small doses in green. I don’t know if it will ever make it to evergreen status, but it’s a possibility.


Deal damage when blocked

Primary: Red
Secondary: Black
Tertiary: Blue

This is an effect that goes on creatures. It is done primarily in red. When black does it, it is usually loss of life. I list blue because the afflict mechanic (from Hour of Devastation) that does this is also in blue (as Bolas’s Eternal Zombie army was in Bolas’s colors: blue, black, and red).


Deathtouch

Primary: Black
Secondary: Green

This ability was primary in both black and green for a while, but we found that black both had more need for it and had more flavorful ways to express it creatively.


Defender

Primary: White and blue
Secondary: Black, red, and green

Basically everyone can have defender, but it leans toward white and blue philosophically as those are the most defensive colors.


“Devil’s Deal” permanents (Cards that grant you power but at a cost)

Primary: Black

Black is the color of “power at any cost,” so it gets permanents (usually) that start helping you but have the potential to hurt you in the end. These are most often creatures or enchantments, but occasionally show up in other forms.


Direct damage, single target

  • Deal N damage to creature, planeswalker, and/or player.

Primary: Red
Secondary: White and black

Red is king of direct damage and has it in many forms, including the most straightforward versions. White can do damage where N is the number of creatures you control. Black will do direct damage to creatures, planeswalkers, or players and then gain life. (See drain life.) Black will sometimes deal damage to players as a punishment.

  • Deal N damage to a creature that’s been damaged this turn.

Primary: Red
Secondary: Black

Black and red are the colors that prey on the weak.

  • Sacrifice a creature and deal damage to creature/planeswalker/player equal to the sacrificed creature’s power/toughness.

Primary: Red
Secondary: Black

In red, this is flavored as throwing the creatures. In black, it’s more treated as a sacrifice for a ritual.

  • Deal N damage to a creature/planeswalker/player where N is the number of cards in your hand/your opponent’s hand.

Primary: Red

We tend to do this in sets when red has a more spell-based theme.

  • Deal N damage to target attacking or blocking creature.

Primary: White

Other than basing damage on number of creatures, white’s direct damage only shows up in combat.

  • Deal N damage to a creature with flying.

Primary: Green
Tertiary: Red

As the two anti-flying colors, red and green will deal damage to fliers. Green does it significantly more than red, as any of red’s direct damage to creatures can hit fliers.


Direct damage, multiple targets

Primary: Red
Secondary: White

Red will deal damage to all or a subset of creatures, sometimes dealing a small amount (1 or 2 damage, killing small creatures), sometimes doing larger amounts that kill most creatures. Red’s damage in this area most often hits all creatures, including its own. White will occasionally deal damage to multiple creature if they all are attackers and/or blockers.


Discard as a cost

Primary: Black
Secondary: Red
Tertiary: White, blue, and green

While all colors have access to discarding cards as a cost, black does it most and red does it second most.


Discard as effect

Primary: Black

This is one of only a handful of major abilities to be contained to just one color. The closest a second color comes is blue, which occasionally gets targeted card filtering that can be used on the opponent.


Double strike

Primary: White and red

White and red are also the primary colors for first strike. Black, which is tertiary in first strike, does not get double strike.


“Drain life” (Deal damage to a creature/player and gain life equal to that damage.)

Primary: Black
Tertiary: White

Other colors will deal damage or gain life, but black is the color that does both at the same time. (Okay, technically, red and white together can do this too.) Black also will do triggered or activated effects that repeatedly drain the player, usually for 1. White has dipped its toe into this area in Orzhov sets (aka Ravnica sets).


Enchantment destruction

Primary: White and green
Secondary: Black

White and green usually have one enchantment destruction card in common; green’s usually also destroys artifacts, and sometimes white does as well. (See artifact destruction.) We’ve also started to let black have enchantment removal. It’s clearly at a power level lower than white or green and often forces the opponent to sacrifice the enchantment or makes you pay an extra cost.


“Enchantress” ability (Whenever you play an enchantment, draw a card.)

Primary: White and green

This ability started in Limited Edition (Alpha) on Verduran Enchantress, a green card. It has bounced back and forth between green and white, and now can be done by either. In white, it has the limitation of only drawing one card per turn as that’s a new rule for white card drawing. The best ones are probably going to appear in white and green.


Exiling cards from graveyard

Primary: Black
Secondary: White and green

This effect is used to get rid of cards in a graveyard that might have an effect/usable activation cost. Black does it most often, but white and green occasionally do it in sets that need it.


Extra attack (Untap all creatures that attacked this turn. After this main phase, there is an additional combat phase followed by an additional main phase.)

Primary: Red
Tertiary: White

Attacking twice has always been red’s domain. Thematically, it makes sense that white might occasionally do this.

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