Eight Trials: Color Pie in the Courtroom, Part 2

Posted in NEWS on May 9, 2008

By Devin Low

Brass Herald: Order! Let this court be reconvened!

Stern Judge: This courtroom has carried four contentious trials so far, with four cards—Zombify, Form of the Dragon, Rebuff the Wicked, and Jugan, the Rising Star—put on trial for the serious crime of "Breaking the Color Pie." While the testimony was sometimes surprising, and even shocking, this court prevailed in justice. Court reporter, have you filed the minutes of last week's trials?

Brass Secretary: Yes, your honor. Last week's color pie trials are filed here.

Stern Judge: Then this court will now judge the ensuing trials, and find whether or not our defendants shall be found guilty of "Breaking the Color Pie" without due reason.

Case #34077005: Color Pie vs. Wild Ricochet

Wild Ricochet

Saprazzan Bailiff: Who accuses Wild Ricochet of breaking the color pie?

Twincast: I do.

Deflection: And actually I do too.

Twincast: I double the accusation. And we should know better than anyone that Wild Ricochet breaks the color pie. Because... I have a secret to reveal to the court today.

Drowner of Secrets: Don't tell them!

Szadek, Lord of Secrets: No, it's okay. Go ahead.

Twincast Twincast: We've kept our secret too long. We have to come clean. Deflection and I have had an on-again off-again relationship in blue over the years... until one passionate night... Well, we starting out just changing targets... then one thing became a copy of another... until... well... Wild Ricochet is our secret love child.

Shocker: Gasp!

Horror of Horrors: Oh my God!

Twincast: And that's why it copies my pain to say this, but I gave up Wild Ricochet instead of raising it for my own, because... Wild Ricochet has been breaking the color pie since the day it was born.

Ray of Revelation: What??

Murmuring Bosk: Murmur, murmur, murmur...

Stern Judge: Order! Order in this court! It is highly unusual to have duplicate prosecutors for one case, but for this... unusual circumstance… I will allow it.

Twincast: I've been the official standard bearer for blue being the color of copying spells for years now. I emerged in Saviors of Kamigawa in 2005. And I really cemented my position as the canonical color of copying spells when I was honored by an appearance in 2007's Tenth Edition. Sure, Fork was red a million years ago in Revised Edition in 1994. But Wild Ricochet was born in Lorwyn in 2007, years after I announced that forking spells is now blue. That is ridiculous, and a clear break of the color pie. For emphasis, let me copy that: A clear break of the color pie.

Deflection: Let's change the subject. I'm the iconic Deflection card, one of the hottest cards in Ice Age on the set's release, and I've spawned a long line of blue children like Spelljack, Commandeer, and Guile. Look at the twist Wild Ricochet puts on Twincast. In addition to forking the spell, Wild Ricochet also lets you deflect it. Isn't that just adding another blue effect onto a blue effect? Does blue plus blue equal red now? That's not what I learned in grade school finger painting. The prosecution rests.

Devin Low: It is my duty and my privilege to serve as defense counselor for Wild Ricochet. Your honor, if I may?

Stern Judge: Proceed, counselor.

Devin Low: Court reporter, can you read back the section of Twincast's testimony that I'm pointing to now?

Brass Secretary: "[Twincast: ] I announced that forking spells is now blue."

Devin Low: Interesting. Twincast, what word did you use to describe the copying of an instant or sorcery?

Twincast: Well, "forking," but that's just what people call it.

Devin Low: So they don't call it Twincasting?

Twincast: In my opinion they should, but they don't.

Devin Low: And why don't they?

Twincast: Well, Fork was the iconic spell copying effect, a famous valuable card, and the first card with this effect ever done, and the name just stuck.

Devin Low: How interesting. Now I have some questions for Deflection. Deflection, why do you consider yourself the defining Deflection effect?

Deflection Deflection: Well, just like Fork, I've been around since the beginning, and everyone calls the category of cards that change spells targets "deflecting." I'm iconic.

Devin Low: Are you aware that in the same way Twincast moved Fork into blue, Shunt moved Deflection effects into red in Darksteel, then cemented that shift with Shunt appearing again in Tenth Edition?

Deflection: Of course I am. But even though Shunt is making a career for itself as a red card, there's still a part of Deflection effects that will always trace its roots back to me, and have that nostalgia and history in blue. Of course to justify their place as blue cards, more recent blue deflection effects have usually had one foot in a very clearly blue part of the color pie even as they have had one foot in the ostensibly-red deflection effects.

Devin Low: Please continue.

Deflection: Spelljack and Guile both combine countering spells with deflection, combining something very clearly blue (countering spells) with something that has "officially" moved away from blue (Deflections). Commandeer, Spelljack, and Guile combine taking control of opposing spells (very blue) with deflection effects (officially "not blue" these days).

Devin Low: And that's exactly my case for Wild Ricochet.

Twincast: Talk about a deflection. What?

Devin Low: Miss Demeanor, you are an expert on card elegance and proper etiquette. Would you say that Wild Ricochet is an elegant design?

Miss DemeanorMiss Demeanor: Yes, Forks and Deflections are flipsides of each other, and combining them without additional bells and whistles makes Wild Ricochet hang together as a single, coherent design. Plus, the look on somebody's face when you Wild Ricochet his Ancestral Vision or her Primal Command, forking and deflecting it all at once, is totally amazing and fun. A nice elegant design.

Devin Low: Thank you Miss Demeanor. And may I add that your game play has been excellent today.

Wild Ricochet clearly combines two effects: Fork and Deflection. Tenth Edition defines Deflection as a red effect with Shunt, so that's clearly no problem. And Fork has such a long history as the iconic red "Fork" effect, making its way into our very language as the continuing name for "Fork" effects to this day, that there is a part of Forking effects that will always be linked to red.

Commandeer, Spelljack, and Guile all contain an element of the once-blue, now-red Deflection, but they combine it with a clearly blue element, such as countering spells or taking permanent control of opponents' cards, that makes the whole package emerge as a blue card. Likewise, Wild Ricochet takes the once-red now-blue element of Fork, and combines with the once-blue now-red effect of Deflection to create a single elegant card, that is indeed at home in red. Because the color pie journeys of Fork and Deflection crossing over from red to blue or from blue to red are so symmetrical, Wild Ricochet would also fit the color pie as a mono-blue card, or a blue-red hybrid card, or a blue-red gold card.

Fate Transfer

As Deflection and Shunt show, or Fate Transfer fitting in blue or black shows, there's not always exactly one right answer. Shadowmoor is packed with dozens and dozens of hybrid cards that show that either of two colors can produce a single card design. When it comes to the color pie, there is often more than one right answer.

In summary: "A card can reach into the color pie of the past, especially if it combines it with an aspect of the modern color pie."

Stern Judge: After due consideration of the two sides' arguments, the court holds Wild Ricochet Not Guilty. Next case.

Case #34077006: Color Pie vs. Magma Jet

Saprazzan Bailiff: Who accuses Magma Jet of breaking the color pie?

Telling Time: I do. I rearrange cards on the top and bottom of libraries. It's what I do. And that's a very blue thing to do. Blue is the king of library manipulation and deck filtering. It makes sense with blue's philosophy of the careful crafting of intricate plans, the desire for optimizing knowledge, and making short term commitments for longterm reward. I'm such a good fit for blue values and blue tools that I even got promoted into Tenth Edition, the most modern color pie showcase there is.

Stern Judge: State your accusations, Telling Time.

Magma Jet

Telling Time: So if everything I do is so deeply blue, what's the deal with Fifth Dawn's Magma Jet? Magma Jet costs two mana just like I do. In addition to dealing 2 damage like a proper red spell, Magma Jet goes around filtering the top cards of the library to the bottom or top of the deck, just like I do. Red is supposed to be about immediate gratification, passionate urges, and throwing longterm planning to the Volcanic Wind. So how can red possibly be allowed to build an extremely blue Telling Time effect into its burn spells? Total breach of the color pie.

Stern Judge: Your turn, defense counselor.

Devin Low: Telling Time, my first question is this: Are there any other scry cards in Fifth Dawn?

Telling Time: What do I look like, a Qumulox? How would I know all the cards in Fifth Dawn? I'm from Ravnica.

Devin Low: If the following Fifth Dawn spells with the scry keyword are in the courtroom today, would they please rise? Stand Firm, Condescend, Eyes of the Watcher, Serum Visions, Fill with Fright, Lose Hope, Magma Jet, Ferocious Charge, and Tel-Jilad Justice. Please tell the courtroom, Telling Time, which colors of cards in Fifth Dawn have the scry keyword?

Telling_Time Telling Time: Well, white, blue, black, red, and green.

Devin Low: Who has the most and least?

Telling Time: Blue has the most, with three. Red and white each have just one, but the white Stand Firm is common, while the red Magma Jet is uncommon.

Devin Low: So you are saying that every color has scry in the set, with blue having the most frequently appearing scry cards, and Red having the least frequently appearing scry cards?

Telling Time: I can count, okay? Yeah, your numbers are right.

Devin Low: Commons and uncommons of the court, Magma Jet can filter the top cards of the deck, it's true. But only because Magma Jet happens to have the scry keyword, a significant theme of Fifth Dawn and a keyword that goes across all the colors in the set. When a set's keyword across all colors lets players perform a particular game action, like scry, it's okay that the colors stretch the color pie to perform that game action.

Since Lorwyn has clash cards in all colors, it's also permissible that cards like Lash Out can use clash to filter your deck a bit. Lash Out is still a very red card doing very red things.

Sets with the cycling mechanic let players discard cards from their hands to draw new ones. Normally that effect is part of blue's color pie, from Merfolk Looter to Careful Study to Compulsion. But that doesn't mean that Clear is breaking the color pie by having a "blue" mechanic. Clear is just a white card that has cycling 2. There are some times when R&D puts keywords in just one or two colors in a set, but often we let all the colors join in, each in their own way.

In summary: "It's okay for a keyword to appear in all colors, even when it best matches the color pie of a single color."

Case #34077007: Color Pie vs. Zombie Cutthroat

Zombie Cutthroat

Saprazzan Bailiff: Who accuses Zombie Cutthroat of breaking the color pie?

Phyrexian Scuta: I do.

Stern Judge: Proceed, Scuta.

phyrexian_scuta Phyrexian Scuta: I gave up a lot to get where I am today. For starters, I gave up 3 life to be this big. But it's not just anybody that can pay life to get bigger. I paid solid black mana for that privilege. And it's not just me. Souldrinker, Raving Oni-Slave, Takenuma Bleeder, Minion of the Wastes. They're all black creatures who pay life to get extra size. You don't see white, blue, red, or green creatures paying life to get bigger. Only black creatures.

And that's why it really scuttles my Scuta that decks of all Plains or all Forests can play a Zombie Cutthroat and turn it face up, paying 5 life to get a three-mana 3/4, with an additional morph surprise factor built in. It's a blatant ignorance of the well-established color pie, and I'm not going to stand for it.

Stern Judge: These are serious accusations. How does the defendant plead?

Face-Down Morph: Mmmph! Mrrmrmph!

Stern Judge: I can't quite hear you when you're face down like that. What is your plea?

Face-Down Morph: Mmmmmrgh!

Devin Low: Your honor, please allow me to speak on my client's behalf. The morph mechanic is a keyword that goes across all colors like scry. But it's also much more than that. Let's examine what the morph reminder text says. Silent Specter, from where you sit, face-up in the audience, can you please read your reminder text to the court?

Silent Specter:

Devin Low: I didn't catch that.

Silent Specter:

Stern Judge: You may speak, Specter.

Silent Specter:

Devin Low: All right, then perhaps the defendant, face-down Zombie Cutthroat, can read the court the morph reminder text?

Face-Down Morph: Mrgh.

Devin Low: Hmm. Anyone?

Titanic Bulvox: I got this one. Morph reminder text: "(You may play this face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)"

Devin Low: Titanic Bulvox, what is the cost to play a morph creature face down?

Titanic Bulvox: 3.

Devin Low: And what is the cost to turn a face-down morph creature face up?

Titanic Bulvox: Well for me, it's 4GGG. But it depends on the creature.

Devin Low: I see. It depends on the creature. Then I'll ask Raven Guild Initiate. Raven Guild Initiate, I see you're a member of the 2U 1/4 Horned Turtle family—a classic set of stats for several blue, white, and green creatures. Tell me, can black or red get 2C 1/4s?

Raven Guild InitiateRaven Guild Initiate: No they can't. In all of Magic's history there has never been a 2B 1/4 or a 2R 1/4, except for Wall of Bone and Wall of Dust, who can't even attack.

Devin Low: So if your numbers are part of blue, white, and green's section of the color pie, should the court assume that you cost something like 1U to morph from face down to face up?

Raven Guild Initiate: No. Actually my morph cost is "Return a Bird you control to its owner's hand."

Devin Low: With no colored mana at all?

Raven Guild Initiate: No colored mana at all.

Devin Low: But doesn't Onslaught block contain several black or red birds?

Raven Guild Initiate: Why yes.

Devin Low: So you're saying you could block, put combat damage on the stack, then return a red Onslaught bird like an Airdrop Condor or a black Onslaught bird like a Screeching Buzzard to your hand, and suddenly morph face up into a 1/4? In a black-red deck?

Raven Guild Initiate: Sure. I was doing that right before I came into today's courtroom.

aven_brigadier Aven Brigadier: WHAT!

Stern Judge: Order! Order in the court!

Devin Low: So you are saying that the morph keyword allows you to fight as a three-mana 1/4 blue body in a deck with no lands but swamps and mountains?

Raven Guild Initiate: Yes.

Raven Guild Master: I'm so embarrassed!

Devin Low: Whip-Spine Drake. You cost 3UU to play, appearing to require two Islands to get you flying over for 3. But what is your cost to morph face-up?

Whip-Spine Drake: 2W.

Devin Low: So how easy is it for a white-red deck to flip you up into a common 3/3 blue flier?

Whip-Spine Drake: Pretty damn easy.

Devin Low: Do you consider an inappropriate cheating of your costs?

Whip-Spine Drake: No, I wouldn't call that inappropriate. In fact, well, that's pretty much the whole point of me.

Devin Low: Gathan Raiders, you have the hellbent mechanic. In what colors does that mechanic appear?

Gathan Raiders Gathan Raiders: BLACK. AND. RED.

Devin Low: Okay, and what is your cost to morph from face-down to face-up?

Gathan Raiders: DISCARD. A. CARD.

Devin Low: And how often does someone flip you face up and take advantage of your Hellbent mechanic in a deck with only Plains and Islands?

Gathan Raiders: ALL. THE. TIME.

Devin Low: The answer is right there in the morph reminder text: "(You may play this face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)" The morph mechanic tells you that you can get the creature fighting for you without ever paying its printed mana cost. And that's not some awful oversight. It's a significant, intentional part of the design of the mechanic that helps give the mechanic texture, depth, and some awesome surprise moments in the middle of combat.

When Zombie Cutthroat comes out of nowhere in the blue-green deck, it's a great example of those surprise moments, and one that Onslaught block Limited players often said they enjoyed. There are only a handful of morph cards with noncolored or off-colored morph costs, but they provide an important outer limit to the morph mechanic that makes the whole mechanic play better. You have to be careful of face-down morphs even when your opponents are totally tapped out, because it always might be Zombie Cutthroat, Raven Guild Initiate, or Gathan Raiders.

In summary: "Some mechanics correctly allow you to play some cards of a color without having lands that produce that color of mana."

Stern Judge: The defense holds. Zombie Cutthroat, you may step down.

Face-Down Morph: But I'm not Zombie Cutthroat at all. I'm Whetwheel!


Exiled Doomsayer: Damn, morph. You crazy.

Stern Judge: So this is the moment we've all been waiting for. The trial of Augury Adept, and her co-defendant Giant Solifuge, for the crime of Breaking the Color Pie. Special prosecutor for this trial, have you prepared your case?

Mark Rosewater: Your honor, I have.

Stern Judge: And counselor for the defense, have you prepared your remarks?

Devin Low: Your honor, I have.

Stern Judge: And do you both understand that this may be the most important, controversial color pie trial to date?

Mark Rosewater: Yes, your honor.

Devin Low: Indeed, I do.

Stern Judge: Then it is only appropriate that I inform you that this courtroom needs to be expanded to hear out this eighth and final trial.

Devin Low: What?

Mark Rosewater: Wait, what?

Stern Judge: You see, the question of which hybrid cards will be judged to have unfairly broken the color pie affects more than just the cards shuffled in this room. It affects all of Shadowmoor. And as a result, well, all of Shadowmoor has requested to attend this trial. Seeing as next week is a theme week that by law shall not be denied, it is hereby decided that the Breaking the Color Pie trial of Augury Adept and Giant Solifuge shall be held in the Ancient Amphitheater courtroom exactly two weeks from today.

Augury Adept
Giant Solifuge

Mark Rosewater: Will I ever see a way to rein in the hybrid monster I've created?

Devin Low: Will Mark ever see the truth?

Augury Adept: Will I ever see justice?

Blind Seer: Will I ever see anything?

Last Week's Poll

What would you have done with Jugan, the Rising Star?
Print him as is 6271 66.2%
Print him at 5g 1108 11.7%
Do something else 850 9.0%
Give him trample and not flying—the other four dragons fly 653 6.9%
Give him mana-activated flying instead 441 4.7%
Only have four dragons in the cycle—no green one 148 1.6%
Total 9471 100.0%

I was glad to see that most people agreed that the printed Jugan is a pretty good solution to the Dragon dilemma. The next most popular response was 5G Jugan, which I think would also be reasonable. Whenever I don't have a "Do something else" option, I've learned that I get a lot of email saying "I wanted to vote 'Do something else'!", so I've been trying to include a "Do something else" option pretty regularly. This time, "Do something else" was fairly popular, which could mean some awesome options that we didn't think about, or could mean some options that we talked about and dismissed. The remaining options—trample, mana-activated flying, and having only four Dragons—would all have made me pretty unhappy if we had gone in those directions. Dragons are awesome, cycles should come in fives, Magic's dragons should fly, and I don't like setting green behind the other colors.