Yesterday during the day I posted a list of Ravnica guilds in order of my likelihood to play them. For the uninitiated the guilds themselves simply represent the various two color combinations that are available in Magic the Gathering. So instead of saying you are playing Black and Green… a lot of players simply say that they are playing Golgari as a not as short as saying GB sort of shorthand. The truth is I think it goes deeper than that and is instead a sort of tribalism that allows players to indicate that they are in fact “in the know” and part of the community. Whatever the case… they exist and I have certain proclivities. Here is my ordered list of guilds in decreasing likelihood that I would play that color combination.
- Golgari – aka Green and Black
- Gruul – aka Green and Red
- Rakdos – aka Red and Black
- Orzhov – aka White and Black
- Selesnya – aka White and Green
- Boros – aka White and Red
- Simic – aka Blue and Green
- Dimir – aka Blue and Black
- Izzit – aka Blue and Red
- Azorius – aka Blue and White
Later that night Kodra chimed in with a comment that I expected him to make at some point.
Stop hating on blue
— Kodra (@kodra22) January 23, 2019
You notice that pretty much on my list every combination that includes the color blue is sorted to the very bottom as in general it is the color that I am least likely to play at any given time. Also note that pretty much any combination of Black and Green gets sorted pretty high given that those are my favorite colors to play. So why then do I hate one specific color of magic. The truth is I hate what it stands for… which is control magic. The challenge of the color pie is that in modern magic every color has specific themes that it excels at. Black for example plays with dead things, and also things that are just as likely to backfire and harm the player as the opponent. Green wants to go big and go fast and stomp stomp stomp stomp. Red wants to burn you… GIVE ME FUEL GIVE ME FIRE GIVE ME THAT WHICH I DESIRE! White does a bunch of things… but mostly small creatures with tricks, flyers and ways to prevent damage from being dealt. Blue on the other hand… while it also has a bunch of flyers… it excels at the magic of denial.
Now I will admit that pretty much every color has some form of denial built into it. Green is good at blowing up flyers and artifacts, Red can nuke stuff… black has a lot of straight up death to a creature cards, and white can throw creatures into time out exceptionally well. Blue however just has a lengthy library of ways to keep you from actually doing anything. If a control player is doing what they are intending to do… they effectively shut you down from being able to cast anything. This means that one player is having fun tormenting you… and the other player is frothing at the mouth and wanting to flip the damned table. Blue players tend to couch this commentary as that they like doing tricky things, but those tricks are played at the expense of someone else’s fun.
Don’t get me wrong I have played control before and fiddled around constantly with my “Mill” deck for years. For the uninitiated “Mill” is a deck style named after the card Millstone that forces the player to place the top two cards from their library into their graveyard. One of the alternate win conditions in Magic the Gathering is that when one player cannot draw a card they lose the game. So in Mill you are playing a constant stream of cards that force the player to discard over and over until they have nothing left. Right now there is a card called Persistent Petitioners that if you have 4 of them in play… can force the player to mill twelve cards at a time. Sure it is weird and entertaining the first time you encounter it… but if you keep encountering it the fun wears off for everyone but the person playing the deck. Ultimately the reason why I do not enjoy Blue… is because too often the fun of a control player comes at the expense of everyone else.
Of note this is also why I generally do not like broken combos like Krark-Clan Ironworks that if encountered you might as well just concede and move on with your life. There was an unlimited combo in Amonkhet that involved players creating a bajillion cat token creatures. The first time I encountered it… I let it play out just to see how nonsense it could get. Notice the opposing player has an army of token creatures… and is at 183 life to my 15. Once again this was entertaining the very first time I encountered it, but not at all from that point forward and if I even got the whiff on the wind of someone playing this combo… I could concede out and move on to the next match hoping for something more manageable. The players who love combos like this feel a sense of gratification for breaking the game… and everyone else just feels like the game is dumb for allowing something like that.
The times I am happiest playing Magic the Gathering is when you have some random back and forth interactions, the type that you see often among brand new players. I love two people sitting down with a bunch of random jank and hoping to succeed, and I guess that is why in general I prefer draft formats for the randomness. I’m working on a pauper singleton league at work as I have said before, in part because those constraints do a lot of things to stamp down power combos. If Arena had a format where they literally gave you a randomized deck that aligned to some basic color themes… that would probably be my favorite format ever. I think ultimately I am chasing the joy we felt first playing this game when we absolutely did not know any better and had six of us sitting around a table playing in a grand melee.