fbpx

Planar Chaos: Breaking the Color Pie with Color-Shifted Creatures

As a Magic community, we’ve arrived on a weird and broken plane (and no, it’s not Kaladesh!). Much of the multiverse is losing its mind over the decision to not ban Oko in Standard in the past, present, or near-future. Others have abandoned Standard altogether to Pioneer,a frontier without boundaries or a well-reasoned banned list.

I believe Pioneer will be a wonderful format and a big success. It’s hard to argue against, considering players have been begging for it to exist for years.

In the interim, as this is a new format, we’ll be watching it closely at its inception and banning cards on off-cycle dates. We’ll be using Magic Online for data gathering and will be willing to ban cards if they are problematic early on.” Blake Rasmussen, “Announcing the Pioneer Format.”

To be fair, I’m not sure letting players test the format isn’t a better way to go about setting the groundwork for a new Constructed format. I also appreciate the fact that they are willing to ban cards if they are problematic early on.

Oko, Thief of Crowns

I’ll leave it to the reader to define what “willing to ban cards if they are problematic early on” means, as I can’t remember a more problematic, early-on, card than Oko in Standard. I’m choosing to wait until I have a clear and reasonable picture about what the format is about before I invest in decks. I’d advise others to consider the possibility of bans before investing in cards as well. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from being told I had at least a month to play Jeskai Snow in Pauper only to have it banned weeks later, but I should have known better than to eat the dirty snow!

Even the sagest Wizard to ever walk the planes has voiced concern about the direction of dominating planeswalker cards:

If only there were some format where planeswalkers are not legal and Astrolabe is recently banned… What a Magical Kingdom that would be!

“Mickey takes the crown and becomes the Monarch. It’s usurped seconds later by an EOT Spellstutter Sprite…”

Broken this. Broken that. A big fat cat. If the inescapable narrative of the week is to complain about broken, I’m going to take the subject, spin it around on its head and view it through WUBRG colored-glasses. Last week I had an interesting conversation on Twitter with friends and readers where I posed the following thought exercise:

It was a popular discussion question. It received over 100 suggestions, and today I’m going to share some of the highlights and what I find most interesting about each.

While I can’t help but observe the irony of letting my Twitter followers playtest my article for me, I’ll at least try to repay them in kind for their good ideas and hard work by suggesting all of these individuals are creative, imaginative, and have great enthusiasm for the game and are thus worth a follow.

Re-Imagining Game-Defining Staples

Rather than be rigidly specific with my questions, I like to ones where there is wiggle room to game the question by providing an answer the defies expectations, as often the in-between space provides the most interesting and compelling answers.

The most common and popular responses were to take one of the best creatures of all time and shift it into a different color with reimagined flavor. These are the most direct way of answering the question. Take something that was already amazing and repackage it in a different color context.

Snapcaster Mage

Great name, and even greater flavor text!

Snapcaster Mage

I knew going in that Snapcaster would be a popular card to color shift and I would have been shocked if it wasn’t suggested. The most interesting question posed by Snapblaster Mage: “Is this card better as a red card than a blue card?” In a Mono-Red deck, for sure! Some cards would be off the charts no matter the color and the Snapcaster template is a great example of this.

Here’s one that I think clearly, clearly, clearly improves by shifting into another color:

Monastery Mentor

 

Monastery Mentor

Much of Mentor’s existence has been on the splash in blue-based eternal decks–you cast it, cast cantrips and win. We can evoke the decades-old adage: It pitches to Force of Will! Blue Mentor also shakes off the constraint of needing to splash white. Danny didn’t name his creation, so I took a shot at it: Lamasery Lecturer. I hope he approves!

I love Anna Jane’s flavor text suggestion. Great meta meaning here!

Tarmogoyf

 

Tarmogoyf

Another one of the most iconic and powerful cheap threats of all time was a popular suggestion:

When you think about it… It does seem more like a black card than a green one! A big part of what predicates Tarmogoyf’s flavor is historical context and typing as a Lhurgoyf (a type of monster that as far as I can tell was invented by MTG):

Lhurgoyf

It’s a little strange when you think about it! Let’s put on our WUBRG goggles:

Mortivore

Ahh, much better!

I’ll end the staple section with my own submission:

Vendilion Clique

Vendilion Clique

When I really stop to think about it, why is this even a blue creature? Blue just gets the best toys, doesn’t it? The most significant and defining characteristic of Clique is the instant-speed hand disruption on a creature.

Faeries were also thematically blue and black during this particular block. It’s not strange to me that because the card is over-the-top great it simply ended up in blue, but it would have been sweet for black to get a neat creature like this. It almost seems like 1UB might have been a reasonable cost for the card since it pulls together blue and black flavor so well.

I really like some of these designs, and since Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique are both cards I’ve enjoyed in my Battle Box over the years, I’m considering mocking them up, having an artist do an alter, and adding them to my Danger Room in the future!

Looking Outside the Box for Added Power

One of the interesting answers I got came from Pro Tour Champion Andrew Elenbogen:

Changing the colored mana symbols to make a three-color cards into a mono-colored one makes it MUCH better.

Mantis Rider

Andrew’s Wave rider could really bring the beats in a Mono-Blue Tempo deck!

Spirit Guides

Elvish Spirit GuideSimian Spirit Guide

A blue Spirit Guide was also an extremely popular answer. A lot of readers were interested in free blue mana, but they didn’t read the question carefully enough! All text remains that same, so while it would cost 2U to cast, the text would remain unchanged and provide either red or green mana! At least it can be pitched to Force now.

The submission that impressed me the most in terms of changing the mana cost to improving the power of the card:

Wild Nacatl

Wild Nacatl

The thread eventually settled on the name “Riled Nacatl.” Simply eliminating the green mana from the equation makes would make Riled Nacatl a one-mana 3/3 when cast off a Sacred Foundry or Plateau! It could also be a white card and be functionally similar and immune to Hydroblast, which I imagine would see an uptick in play if such a card were to suddenly exist!

Feel like stringing some cantrips together?

Runaway Steam-Kin

Runaway Steam-Kin

Controlled Steam-Kin? More like Out of Control Steam-Kin! Extremely busted.

Or, just use an outside-the-box way of thinking about mana symbols to turn your favorite card into a Vintage powerhouse:

Rich was the only one to think about using colorless mana to template a preexisting card for a deck that doesn’t produce colored mana. Somebody has Workshops on their mind…

I have to give the people credit because they came up with a ton of cool answers and great flavor. I also enjoyed the wordplay of: Boneforge Mystic, Bubble Hierarch, and Primordial Obliterator.

Some of these last few cards kind of break it. Others actually seem kind of sweet to me by lending an iconic design into a color where it has different and interesting applications: Fenndillion Clique, Snapblaster Mage, and Entropytog.

Better Creatures, Worse Planeswalkers, Please!

Creatures have always been the heart and soul of Magic and I love re-imagining some of the most interesting designs in different colors and the decks that could be made. The possibilities are endless!

I’m going to return to Finkel’s quote about how planeswalkers making Magic a worse game. I’m not sure that is categorically true, but I certainly think trying to push them has created some problems for tournament play in the here and now.

There was certainly an era in Magic’s history where creatures were considered bad because they didn’t do enough for what they cost relative to the cost of answering them via removal and sweepers. It took time to strike the right balance between playing creatures for fun and profit and printing balanced answers. We eventually got to a point where doing either, or even both, was viable.

Perhaps the next step in Magic’s development as a game is now that we’ve seen what truly pushed planeswalkers look and play like, figuring out how to bring everything back into balance so that all are equally viable. Maybe it’s time to look to the past for inspiration for the types of powerful cards people have traditionally enjoyed replaying year after year. After all, a new take on an old design would certainly create tangible changes in the present!

I’m not saying that Magic needs any of these color-shifted creatures in particular, but I do believe games built around playing creatures tend to have more back-and-forth than games dominated by planeswalkers. Make creatures better, make ‘walkers worse, make answers to ‘walkers better… It doesn’t matter, but a little bit more balance would certainly go a long way in a format like Standard. I’d rather win with, or lose to, a busted Boneforge Mystic or Snapblaster Mage than an Oko, but then again that just feels more like the kind of Magic I’ve enjoyed most over the years.

I’d love to hear your ideas for creatures that would be sweet to see color shifted at some point in the future (or even just as a proxy in a Battle Box or Cube). I think there’s potentially a lot of value to creating sweet cards such as these and including them in a non-sanctioned house format. If some strike my fancy, I’ll add them to the list of potential ones to mock up for my stack. Most broken, most flavorful, most fun, find a way to game the question–if you think it’s interesting, so with a bunch of other people. Just be sure to include a name for your design (and flavor text for good measure).

Discussion

Scroll to Top