Eight Trials: Color Pie in the Courtroom, Part 1

Posted in Latest Developments on May 2, 2008

By Devin Low

Brass Herald: Order in the court! All rise. This court is now in session, honorable Stern Judge presiding.

Stern Judge: This court is called to order. Before this courtroom today stand eight defendants. Each stands accused of the capital crime of "Breaking the Color Pie." This is an extremely serious charge. This court will get to the bottom of this matter. The accused cards will be judged by a court of their peers, and I will issue the final rulings. Cards found guilty of breaking the color pie without valid reason will be removed from their sets and never printed again. Saprazzan Bailiff, you may call the first case.

Case #34077001: Color Pie vs. Zombify


Saprazzan Bailiff: Who accuses Zombify of Breaking the Color Pie?

River Boa: I do, sssir.

Saprazzan Bailiff: Who stands to defend Zombify from this charge?

Devin Low: I do.

Stern Judge: Zombify, do you understand the charges brought against you?

Zombify: BRAINS!

Stern Judge: Ahem. River Boa, you may present your case.

River_BoaRiver Boa: Sssso I know the color pie through and through. Just look at me. I'm a classic green creature, with two thoroughly green abilities. First the classic green regeneration, plus a second green ability: islandwalk. Landwalk is more clossssely tied to green than any other color, and the blue-hating islandwalk is one of the most green landwalk abilities there is, appearing on tons of green creatures.

Stern Judge: Get to the point, River Boa.

River Boa: Right. So I'm attacking a blue-black mage for 2 a turn, as usual, with a couple of my Call of the Herd friends helping out. The blue-black mage is just tapping a bunch of Merfolk Looters or whatever. Then all of a sudden he plays this card "Zombify," somehow pops out Razia, Boros Archangel, smashes in with flying, haste, and vigilance for 6 damage, then starts redirecting damage all over the place. It was totally ridiculous. We got completely crushed.

Stern Judge: State your accusations. Be very specific.

River Boa: So all of a sudden a blue-black mage with nothing but islands and ssssswamps had a 6/3 legendary red-white angel. With flying, haste, vigilance, and a serious damage redirection ability? Yeah right. Sure, blue and black get flying. And occasionally black can manage some haste. But since when is a blue-black deck allowed to have a vigilance haste flyer with built-in damage redirection? It's an outrageoussss breaking of the color pie. I mean Razia, Boros Archangel costs all of . Isn't that cost supposed to mean something? It means only decks with lots of red mana and lots of white mana are supposed to be able to play her. And I didn't even mention the crime of getting an eight-mana creature into play on turn four. This case isssss open and shut. The prosecution rests.

Razia, Boros ArchangelStern Judge: Defense counselor, you have the floor.

Devin Low: Your honor, red-white decks with enough mana can put Razia, Boros Archangel to work with one step: Just play the card. By comparison, Zombify had to jump through an awful lot of hoops to accomplish the same thing. It's a three-card combo. First, the blue-black mage had to draw Razia, Boros Archangel (card #1). Then he had to find a way to discard it, in this case Merfolk Looter (card #2). Then he had to draw Zombify (card #3) to put Razia, Boros Archangel into play.

There are several times along the way that the combo could have fallen apart. What if the blue-black mage didn't find one of his three combo pieces? What if the green deck had used the Aura Lure to kill the Merfolk Looter the turn after it came into play, before Razia, Boros Archangel had ever been discarded? What if the green deck had played Pithing Needle naming Merfolk Looter? No combo, no Razia, Boros Archangel.

When a deck jumps through enough hoops, it's allowed to "Break the Color Pie" this way. We would never make a straight-up Naturalize in blue or black that an Island-Swamp deck could just use at will. But as long as it jumps through enough hoops to do it, Blue-Black can use Merfolk Looter to discard an Indrik Stomphowler, then use Zombify to put the Indrik Stomphowler into play and Naturalize something. Putting multi-card combos together that break the rules of the game in some way is a lot of what Magic is all about and a lot of the fun.

In summary: "A deck can break the color pie if it jumps through enough hoops."

River Boa: But green would never do sssssuch a thing!

Devin Low: That's not what Elvish Piper said when I saw her bringing Visara the Dreadful into play in a mono-green deck.

Visara the Dreadful

River Boa: Sssstop it.... Thisss argument is preposteroussss... I regenerate!

Stern Judge: I'm sorry, River Boa, but my rulings show this very clearly: You can't regenerate from Visara the Dreadful. Case dismissed.

Case #34077002: Color Pie vs. Form of the Dragon

Form of the Dragon

Saprazzan Bailiff: Who accuses Form of the Dragon of Breaking the Color Pie?

Masako the Humorless: I do. And I know the color pie. I'm a white creature that flashes out, changes the rules of the game, and coordinates with allied creatures to mount a surprise defense. You don't get much whiter than that.

Stern Judge: Present your case.

Masako_the_HumorlessMasako the Humorless: So I'm leading a classic battle of white creatures versus red burn spells. I have the advantage, and I'm pressing the attack. Despite various Shocks and Incinerates to my companions, my allies and I keep getting through for damage. Late in the game, we have the red mage down to 2 life, with five white creatures left alive, no red creatures, and not a Pyroclasm in sight.

Devin Low: Five creatures?! So you totally won, right?

Masako the Humorless: Actually, no we didn't.

Devin Low: No, right, I know. I was just kidding.

Masako the Humorless: What?

Devin Low: Kidding. I was kidding.

Masako the Humorless: I don't get it.

Devin Low: Oh, right. I guess you wouldn't.

Masako the Humorless: So then the red mage plays this ridiculous red enchanment for : "Form of the Dragon." It does three things: First, it deals 5 damage per turn, which is perfectly red. Second, "Creatures without flying can't attack you," in a clear color pie violation, and a color pie theft of my fellow white card Magus of the Moat. And third, "At the end of each turn, your life total becomes 5," in another blatant color pie violation and color pie theft from the life gain of white, green, and black. "Red cards don't gain life" is about as clear and straightforward as the color pie possibly gets. The prosecution rests.

Stern Judge: Counselor for the defense, you may begin.

Devin Low: Instants and sorceries of the court. All those red mana symbols mean the card is supposed to do something awfully red.

Masako the Humorless: I agree.

Devin Low: Could it be something as deeply red as... turning the caster into a huge flying red 5/5 dragon? When you're a dragon you can't be touched by non-flying creatures, you clear all damage from your 5 "toughness" every turn, and you can breathe fire on creatures or hit players every turn for 5 damage, like a big Crimson Hellkite. Sure, Moat and life gain aren't themselves red, but when you take the card altogether, it totally makes sense. The most red thing in Magic: The Gathering is a giant red dragon, and Form of the Dragon is the epitome of a giant red dragon card. It's the true "form" of the "dragon," if you will. Magic is a fantasy game at its roots, and its fantasy flavor is incredibly important. If the color pie rules meant that we couldn't allow a red dragon summoner to use magic to turn himself into a giant dragon, than there would be something seriously wrong with those color pie rules.

In summary: "A card can break the color pie when it has truly outstanding, compelling flavor."

Stern Judge: Jury of Form of the Dragon's peers, how do you find this claim?

Fathom_SeerThalakos Seer: Yeah, I see what he means. The whole top-down card fits together so well that I buy it as a red card in spite of the life gain.

Crystal Seer: Yeah, I see it too.

Fathom Seer: I see the connection.

Merfolk Seer: Yup, I see it.

Soratami Seer: I see it.

Ivy Seer: I see it.

Nightshade Seer: I see it.

Blind Seer: I don't see it.

Stern Judge: The defense holds. Next case.

Case #34077003: Color Pie vs. Rebuff the Wicked

Rebuff the Wicked

Saprazzan Bailiff: Who accuses Rebuff the Wicked of Breaking the Color Pie?

Dehydration: I do. I'm a spell that's true blue, through and through. If you doubt my pedigree, just look it up: I get tweaked and repeated in every single block. So I'm not just an expert on the blue color pie—I'm also a member. And if there's one thing, more than any other, that is always always blue, it's countering spells.

Stern Judge: Present your case.

DehydrationDehydration: Now, I almost never get to land on Serra Angel because of her constant vigilance, so when my friend Twitch tapped her, it was finally my chance to shine. I announced my intention to enchant her, confident it was going to work, and the mono-white player taps a single Plains, says "Counter target spell that targets a permanent I control," and plays Rebuff the Wicked. I mean, come on! I know that Planar Chaos was about stretching the color pie, but mono-white spells countering spells is straight up ridiculous. That's blue's job.

Devin Low: Dehydration, are you saying that you've never been countered by a white spell before?

Dehydration: Yes, exactly. That never ever happens.

Devin Low: Never?

Dehydration: Never ever.

Devin Low: Dehydration, would you please read to the court from these transcripts of Magic Online Game #7848974 and Game #6229391, which I enter into the court record as Exhibits A and B?

Dehydration: Sure.

Game #7848974
Grimlok plays Dehydration, targeting Soltari Priest.
CoalitionVic plays Shelter, targeting Soltari Priest.
CoalitionVic chooses blue.
Dehydration is countered because it has no legal targets.

Game #6229391
Barnstormr plays Dehydration, targeting Dawn Elemental.
HullBreachz plays Otherworldly Journey, targeting Dawn Elemental.
Dehydration is countered because it has no legal targets.

Otherworldly Journey

Devin Low: Would you say Shelter and Otherworldly Journey are white spells?

Dehydration: (Groans) Yes.

Devin Low: And what is the last line of each of those transcripts, that occurs after a white spell is played in response to you, Dehydration?

Dehydration: Sigh. "Dehydration is countered because it has no legal targets."

Devin Low: Court reporter, please read back the statements by Dehydration in today's court record to which I'm pointing.

Brass Secretary: "Mono-white spells countering spells is straight-up ridiculous ... That never ever happens. Never ever."

Devin Low: Thank you. When a color has long history of performing a certain category of effect, such as white using spells like Shelter, Razor Barrier, Liberate, or Otherworldly Journey to "fizzle" spells that target its permanents, we sometimes stretch the color pie to use a slightly different mechanical tool to accomplish the color's normal philosophical goals. At its heart, the color pie is both a network of mechanics and also a network of color philosophies. White's philosophy includes heavy doses of protective magic and "Don't mess with my guys." Rebuff the Wicked simply uses a slightly different mechanical tool to accomplish those same philosophical goals. In a way, Rebuff the Wicked is just another wording for Razor Barrier, with in many scenarios an almost identical mechanical effect.

In summary: "A card can stretch the color pie in the mechanical tools it uses, if it stays within the colors' philosophies."

Stern Judge: The defense holds. Case dismissed.

Dehydration: Can I get a glass of water?

Case #34077004: Color Pie vs. Jugan, the Rising Star

Jugan, the Rising Star

Saprazzan Bailiff: Who accuses Jugan, the Rising Star of breaking the color pie?

Cloud Djinn: I do. I can't take this anymore. One of the most often-repeated lines in the color pie is "Mono-green creatures don't fly." That's why green gets so many spiders and archers with reach. That's why green gets Wing Snare. It all made sense. Then along comes Jugan, the Rising Star, with the same flying as I have for the same converted mana cost, plus extra toughness, no drawback, and a beneficial ability to boot. Sure, Jugan, the Rising Star has the drawback of being "legendary," but legendary status is often used to make a creature even more powerful. Somebody lock this guy up.

Devin Low: Cloud Djinn, shouldn't you be happy that Jugan, the Rising Star has flying?

Cloud_DjinnCloud Djinn: Um no, I'm obviously not happy about it at all. I'm bringing him up on charges.

Devin Low: But Jugan, the Rising Star's flying plays right into your cloudy hands. Cloud Djinn, could you please read to the court your own text box?

Cloud Djinn: Sure. I have it memorized. "Flying. Cloud Djinn can block only creatures with flying."

Devin Low: Aha! You can't block creatures unless they fly. If Jugan, the Rising Star were a groundpounder, you couldn't block him at all and he would smash right past you. But luckily for you, since Jugan, the Rising Star does fly, you can actually block and trade with him. Is it possible that Jugan, the Rising Star's flying might not even be beneficial for him?

Stern Judge: Hold it right there. Counselor, that is cheap shot based on a random corner case, and you know it. It is obvious to everyone in this court room that it is good to fly.

Sprite Noble: I agree.

Devin Low: Your honor, I retract the line of questioning. I'll go down another path. In the Japanese mythology that inspired Champions of Kamigawa, Dragon Spirits are wise, ancient, flying spirit creatures that are incredibly powerful. The Champions designers decided to feature a cycle of five rare dragons across the colors, just like Mirage and Invasion had done in the past. This cycle would eventually produce Kokusho, the Evening Star, Yosei, the Morning Star, and Keiga, the Tide Star, and Magic R&D could already tell that players would love the cycle.

The problem was that the five creatures in the cycle were all flying 5/5 Dragon Spirit legends, one in each color, and yet green isn't supposed to have any flying creatures in the color pie, especially giant ones. I can remember having a big meeting, almost 5 years ago and with about fifteen R&D members, focused entirely on resolving "the green dragon question." We faced three options, which I will introduce to the court record as Exhibits C, D, and E.

Exhibit C) The green dragon doesn't fly. This flies in the face of both dragons in Japanese mythology and the identity of Magic's dragons, all of which are supposed to fly. Even worse, it would hurt the continuity of the cycle. They would no longer be five 5/5 fliers.

Exhbit D) The green dragon "jumps." This was the compromise met by Canopy Dragon in the cycle of five monocolored dragons in Mirage. Canopy Dragon faced the exact same conundrum. Canopy Dragon doesn't have the flying ability, but he has an activated ability that gives him flying temporarily. Again, this hurts the continuity of the cycle.

Exhibit E) The green dragon flies. We could make a twice-every-ten-years exception for the green Dragon in Champions of Kamigawa and the green Bounteous Kirin in Saviors of Kamigawa.

Mons Johnson proposed an interesting compromise. The dragon in Japanese mythology is an icon of wisdom that is closest to the blue color pie in Magic. Magic dragons are generally red. So blue and red were the best flavor fits. Green was the worst flavor fit. The group wanted to preserve that the dragons all be 5/5 fliers, but give a nod to blue and red by giving them the sleekest dragons and green the least sleek.

Mons proposed making the blue and red dragons cost and with just a single colored mana. The black and white dragons would cost and with two colored mana. The green dragon would be the hardest to cast, at with three colored mana. The group liked Mons's proposal, implemented it, and let Jugan, the Rising Star's heart (and body) fly free.

Bringer of the White Dawn
I hereby enter Exhibit F into the court's record: As another example of bending the color pie to maintain a cycle, trample is not in white's part of the color pie, but since the Bringer cycle in Fifth Dawn are all 5/5 creatures with trample, a monowhite deck can play Bringer of the White Dawn and cast a 5/5 trampler.

And I hereby enter Exhibit G into the court's record: As another example, creatures come back from the dead in varying levels in black, white, and green. And almost never in red or blue. But Shadowmoor has a loose rare cycle of creatures with persist, including Furystoke Giant and River Kelpie. We might not have made those two cards if they didn't have a cycle providing them with some context. But we did have a cycle. And so Furystoke Giant and River Kelpie gleefully come back from the dead with persist, even though no other mono-red or mono-blue cards in the set have persist.

In summary: "A card can break the color pie to maintain the integrity of a key rare cycle."

Stern Judge: I hereby sentence Jugan, the Rising Star to retroactive probation, for flying in the face of the color pie. Jugan, the Rising Star is retroactively approved for print, but let there be no more than two giant mono-green flying creatures every ten years, and let these not form a legal precedent for future cases.

Devin Low: Your Honor, I request a courtroom recess of one week before the final four Breaking the Color Pie trials.

Mark RosewaterMark Rosewater: Your honor, I would like to address the court.

Stern Judge: Allowed. Please speak.

Mark Rosewater: Am I correct in assuming that the joint Augury Adept / Giant Solifuge case will be held after the recess?

Devin Low: Yes, it will.

Mark Rosewater: Then with this court's blessing, I formally apply to be the prosecutor of record for that case.

Stern Judge: Does the defense have any problem with this request.

Devin Low: No problem. You better bring your best briefcase.

Stern Judge: The court grants a one week recess. I expect to see you all here seven days hence.

Last Week's Poll

What's your favorite hybrid combination in Shadowmoor?

Each combination has a sizeable number of vocal supporters, with each one getting at least 14% support. It's always good to see that each pair has cards that make it appealing, and that different color pairs appeal to different audiences. I suspect that black-red's number one spot has something substantial to do with Demigod of Revenge. As the "week zero preview," the black-red Demigod got a lot of attention in the early previews, it's incredibly powerful, and it was also the Prerelease card, meaning a lot of people have at least one foil Demigod in their possession, just waiting to be wreak its revenge on hapless opponents. But remember, all the white-blue players need is to have Godhead of Awe in play to reduce the Demigod of Revenge to a measly 1/1!

This Week's Poll

What would you have done with Jugan, the Rising Star? Only have four dragons in the cycle—no green oneGive him trample and not flying—the other four dragons flyGive him mana-activated flying insteadPrint him as isPrint him at Do something else

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