The game of Magic: The Gathering is centered around five colors. The law and order of white, the genius and improvement of blue, the ambition and ruthlessness of black, the aggression and passion of red, and the natural wisdom of green. In the game, this means that there are certain things cards of each of these colors should and shouldn’t do. Many players with a favorite color often ask why their white cards aren’t meant to draw a lot, or why their red cards shouldn’t destroy a pesky enchantment. However, the strengths and weaknesses of each color are carefully chosen to ensure the game is balanced. This guide will help you succeed with white color cards.
White by far is the color with the most answers. “Answer” is a term for cards that prevent an enemy card from being able to defeat you. They are usually cards that destroy, exile, or otherwise render a card useless, dubbed “removal.” White is the king of removal. It can destroy or exile creatures, artifacts, enchantments, Planeswalkers, and lands, and can even sometimes counter spells. It is the only color in the game to have the ability to answer anything. Due to this, white has several weaknesses to keep it from becoming overpowered.
First, because white is the best at removal, it has to be the worst at drawing. Most removal is 1 for 1, meaning you use up a card to get rid of an enemy card. As each player draws one card per turn, if an enemy keeps playing threat after threat and you use card after to card to deal with each one, eventually a player will run out of gas by not drawing the cards they need and a player will pull ahead. If the same color that is answering everything the enemy plays is also drawing extra cards, they will overwhelm the enemy by drawing into more answers, until their opponent is fighting back with nothing.
This play pattern is a key reason why the dreaded mono-blue “Draw-Go” decks of old were weakened by wizards, and why Baral, Chief of Compliance was banned in the Brawl format. These decks would counter every enemy spell they could while drawing many cards, grinding out an inescapable advantage. If white were allowed a card like Divination, a mono-white deck could easily chain together powerful removal such as Conclave Tribunal and Baffling End and overwhelm the opponent.
Some rare exceptions to white’s limit on drawing cards are effects like those on Sram, Senor Edificer and Puresteel Paladin. These cards require you to build your deck around a theme in order to draw the most with them. If your deck is filled with Equipment or Vehicles to enable the draw effects, it will have fewer removal cards, thus avoiding the snowballing advantage problem outlined above.
The second key weakness of white is that its removal comes at a cost. White is the jack of all trades and master of none. While it’s the only color that can deal with any threat, each other color can do it better.
White can remove creatures, but it is meant to do so less effectively than black. This tends to mean its creature removal is conditional, only hitting tapped, attacking, or blocking creatures. It also means its removal can be undone. A common effect is an enchantment that either enchants or exiles an enemy creature until the enchantment is removed, an answer that itself has an answer.
White can also remove all creatures on the battlefield, the trade-off being that yours will be removed at all. White can also seldom remove an enemy creature with no condition, but only if it pays the enemy back and/or if the card is costed high enough that it doesn’t usurp black’s role as the best creature-removing color. While these downsides are meaningful, they can be easily built around or made irrelevant, which means white is often a top creature removal color in the game. At times, design mistakes have led white removal cards to be better than even blacks.
White’s removal of artifacts and enchantments follows a similar bend. At one time white was primary in removing these types of cards, meaning it got them the most. Years ago Wizards felt that effect made more sense to be mainly green, so while now white can also do this, it does so less than green. And while white will see these “Naturalize” effects at three or mana with an upside, white hasn’t been able to get a card as efficient as the original disenchant in over a decade.
Red, black, and green cards can all remove lands, but white’s land removal is only done seldom; even then it’s getting rid of all lands on the field. This effect is so backbreaking because it brings the game to a halt and because this is one of the least used types of effect in all of Magic.
White’s strong removal is also balanced by its relatively smaller creatures. Creatures are the most common threats found in Magic. The opposite of an answer, a “threat” is a card that must be dealt with unless an opponent uses it to win the game. A common example is a flying creature you can’t block. If it were to stay on the battlefield, it would attack you until you lost. Green and white are the colors in Magic that are most similar, to the point where Wizards has to split hairs in many places just to keep them separate. For example, while green can have creatures that gain life, it can’t have creatures with lifelink as that blurs it too close to white.
White and green are both the colors with the most creatures and cards that support creatures, but their strategy with them tends to be different. While green gets the largest creatures with the most powerful stats, white gets the smallest and cheapest creatures. Although this enables white to rush enemies down with a swarm of small creatures, this means white tends to lack massive threats such as Nullhide Ferox or Steel Leaf Champion. White’s answers are so potent that if it were to have efficient and powerful threats like green, the color itself would lack balance.
Without any of these several drawbacks to the color white, the combination of its power to eliminate anything would break down the balance of the game.
Stay tuned for more Magic: The Gathering guides at Daily Esports!
Jim Harbor is a writer of articles, plays, comics, songs and animation.