Magic The Gathering: Color Tropes

Each color of magic in Magic: The Gathering is associated with a whole philosophy about life, particular goals, and a particular set of magical strategies for winning the game. They're even informally talked about as though they were characters.

    open/close all folders 


White is the color of light, law, and holy magic. It specializes in various forms of healing and protection (such as gaining life, preventing damage, and boosting creatures' toughness scores), efficient small creatures that reinforce each other, and abilities that dictate the flow of combat. White is chivalrous: rather than kill directly, it prefers to disable non-combative foes with spells like Arrest and Oblivion Ring, but has no qualms about killing creatures during the combat phase, as seen in cards like Divine Verdict and Ballista Squad, or using occasional mass destruction to wipe the slate clean equally. Read more about white here and here.

Its philosophy can be summarised as "peace through structure".


Blue is the color of knowledge, illusion, and mental magic. Its specialties are countermagic, drawing cards, and delaying your opponent by forcing them to replay or redraw the same cards, or skipping phases or whole turns. Because of its careful, analytical approach, blue is often reactive, and rarely rushes directly into the fray. Accordingly, its creatures tend to sacrifice brute force in favor of abilities like flying that allow them to gain an advantage in other ways. Because blue has traditionally had many of the most powerful cards, it has gained an unfavorable reputation in some circles, as satirized by this set of comic strips. Read more about blue here and here.

Its philosophy can be summarised as "perfection through knowledge".

  • Fragile Speedster: Blue creatures, if they aren't a Squishy Wizard or Stone Wall, tend to have low toughness for their cost but have some sort of evasive advantage like flying or being straight-up unblockable.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: While zombies have traditionally been in Black's portion of the color pie, Innistrad introduced this kind of zombie for Blue, which fit because those zombies are created by Mad Scientists.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Blue is the color that interacts with artifacts the most.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Because many Blue creatures are aquatic, in the early days, many of them had the keyword islandhome, which meant they couldn't attack the defending player unless he or she controlled an island, and died if its controller didn't. It was very unpopular (to the point of even losing its status as a keyword), and development has since put more emphasis onto fun than logic.
  • Guile Hero: While the other colors focus on neutralizing threats, Blue has a number of ways to take them for itself.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: Blue gets some efficient creatures at the high end of the scale, but it isn't known for its mana acceleration, and leviathans in particular typically come with very inconvenient disadvantages.
  • Lack of Empathy: The darker side of blue can be sociopathic; while other colors can at least grasp sadism or extremist insanity, Blue at its worst just doesn't give a damn about anyone.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Blue's freezing is not always harmless; some cards like Frozen Solid can get the frozen creature killed if something hits them.
  • Mad Scientist: What happens when Blue goes off the rails.
  • Master of Illusion: Some illusion creatures are unusually powerful, but have drawbacks to represent their unreality, like returning themselves to your hand after each fight, or being sent to the graveyard if any spell or ability even targets one of them.
  • Mind Probe: One of Blue's specialties is looking at the opponent's hand (which is flavored as this).
  • Mind Rape: Blue's milling ability is often flavored as erasing memories. But, because it goes for the deck rather than the hand, it's more gentle than Black's Mind Rape.
  • No Sell: Counterspell and its legacy. When a player's spell is countered, throwing the card away is a common response.
  • Nurture Over Nature: As far as Blue is concerned, you can be anything you want.
  • The Mole: This combo.
  • Recurring Element: Blue's iconic creatures are Sphinxes, and its characteristic characters are Merfolk.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Blue is the only color that can consistently interact with spells on the stack. It's a bit jarring to many players, as most interactions happen with permanents already on the battlefield.
  • The Perfectionist
  • The Philosopher: Blue is constantly seeking new information and is willing to go great lengths to find the answer for any question.
  • Rosseau Was Right: Its philosophy is based on tabula rasa.
  • Science Hero: At its best, contrasting green's Nature Hero.
  • Sloth: In the sense of Lack of Empathy.
  • The Sociopath: At its worst.
  • The Spock
  • The Smart Guy
  • Smug Snake: Blue villains tend to hit this way harder than other colors, from Ambassador Laquatus to the Soratami to Zomaj Hauc...
  • The Unfettered: Actually more so than any other color; even Black tends to have empathy (even if twisted into sadism), while Blue is completely divorced from such "petty" emotions.


Black is the color of death, ambition, and ruthlessness. Its goal is power, no matter the cost — black will do anything to win, even if it means sacrificing its own creatures or Hit Points to power its spells. Black specializes in death and decay; its power over death makes it excellent at both killing creatures and raising them from the dead to fight again. It's also the best color at attacking the opponent's hand through Mind Rape-styled discard effects, and offers Faustian bargains of powerful creatures and effects that match or exceed other colors' specialties, if you don't mind paying for the difference with something other than mana. Learn more about black here and here.

Its philosophy can be summarised as "power through opportunity".

  • Above Good and Evil: Being black means abandoning morality in the pursuit of power. This leads to amorality and moral relativism, putting it into conflict with White's moral absolutism.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: In contrast to the other colors, Black doesn't concern itself with changing the world for the better, but rather it encourages people to make the best out of their lives in a world that can't be improved.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: A lot of black creature removal will destroy a creature, but only if it isn't black. Not that black actually cares about its own — it's just that black creatures are often impervious to the insanity, horror, and disease it uses to do its work.
    • Or, alternatively, the black mages who devise such spells take steps to ensure nobody will be able to use the spell against themselves.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Shares the insect creature type with Green. Black's bugs tend to become stronger as creatures die out, fitting with Black's domain of decay.
  • Body Horror: Anything with "Pay X life..." in it, anything Yawgmoth does, a lot of the black auras.
  • Byronic Hero: What black may be when it steps into the light.
  • Cast Calculus: Each color's role in the color pie can best be visualized by comparing it to cast dynamics of various sizes.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Every color gets some, but it's black's specialty.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture
  • Dark Is Not Evil: While Black has many villains in its name, and is inherently ruthless, it has also some positive traits and a few characters to embody them. The vampire Sorin Markov is the closest thing to a Big Good the multiverse currently has. He worked to stop a bunch of world-eating Eldritch Abominations, and set up a godlike White mana angel to protect the humans in Innistrad.
  • Deal with the Devil: Yawgmoth's Bargain, Necropotence, Greed, Contract From Below, and so on.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Usually under the creature type "Horror" and "Nightmare".
  • Elemental Powers
  • Equivalent Exchange: Shown on many cards, in particular those like Sign In Blood. Black as a whole tends to recycle resources, such as making zombies out of deceased creatures.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: An arguable example, but "personifying" Black in certain Wizards articles suggests that Black cannot honestly believe that anyone thinks differently than it does, defending its amorality with At Least I Admit It. White seems especially hypocritical to Black because Black is certain that nothing could really be that dedicated to altruism.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Black's habit of summoning big creatures with big drawbacks can cost inexperienced players a game.
  • Evil Twin: With White.
  • Face-Heel Turn: If a coalition of different-color characters is present.
  • Greed and Envy: Greed is in fact a card.
  • Hellfire: See Red's entry.
  • It's All About Me: Black at its purest focuses on self-empowerment at the expense of all else.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: While White and Green have the best creatures and Red and Blue have the best spells, Black is the most balanced color in both aspects, though this also has its price.
  • Mind Rape: Any "discard" card or "cap" effect. Flavored as being far harsher than Blue's Laser-Guided Amnesia because it goes for the hand rather than the library.
    • Lobotomy: Black's ability to look through a library and exile specific cards gets this flavor.
    • Brainwashed: Originally an artifact ability, Black gained the ability to control an opponent's entire turn.
  • Nominal Hero: Black may help you, if you make it worth its while.
  • No Sell: Black is the color of death, corruption, and fear, so its abilities usually fail against other black creatures who are already dead or corrupt, or artifact creatures who were never alive to begin with.
  • Polluted Wasteland: When Black gets land destruction, it's usually this.
  • Nurture Over Nature: Like Blue, Black believes in the tabula rasa, and that anyone can become anything they choose. At its noblest, it promotes the ideal of self-sufficiency, with power being a means towards that goal.
  • Power at a Price: Black's specialty, whether it be discarding cards, paying life, or sacrificing creatures.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Given that Black is always pragmatic, its heroic characters fall into this trope.
  • Recurring Element: Black's iconic creatures are Demons, and its characteristic creatures are Vampires.
  • Religion of Evil: Many black cards, while not always evil, certainly look the part.
  • The Sacred Darkness: While Black is often about corruption, it also represents death and decay, the end of the natural cycle responsible for getting rid of the old and making room for the new. This makes it necessary to make a natural plane stable (Alara could afford its absence in some shards due to the unique nature of the plane).
  • Swamps Are Evil: Black draws power from the festering decay of swampland. But again, see Dark Is Not Evil.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Once again, while not always "evil" as such, Black tends to have this kind of relationship with the other colors, particularly White.
  • The Unfettered: As part of the opposite of white, where white establishes concepts of "right" and "wrong", black rejects those notions in its quest for power.
  • Uriah Gambit: "Sacrifice a creature" effects, along with creatures with disabilities that hurt you.
  • What Is Evil?: Black is the color mostly inclined towards moral relativism.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Emphasized in the Theros block, with the followers and servants of the Black god, Erebos, making sure mortals meet their ultimate fate: death.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Black's standard creature tokens are 2/2 Zombies. While relatively small, Black has a number of ways to flood the board with large numbers of them.


Red is the color of chaos, passion, and emotion. It's aligned with the elements of fire, earth, and lightning, and it specializes in direct damage and the destruction of all things material. Red lives in the moment and rarely considers the future consequences of its actions; this theme is frequently shown through powerful but temporary advantages such as Threaten and Ball Lightning, with creatures that aren't always quite controllable once they hit the field, and with excessive bursts of mana or effects that destroy your lands in return for immediate power. Red is designed to play aggressively and win quickly, and is in danger of stalling out if it doesn't maintain the initiative. Red's reliance on spells that deal with fire and lightning have lead to the perception that red is not as diverse as the other colors, as satirized here. Learn more about red here and here.

Its philosophy can be summarised as "freedom through action".


Green is the color of life, nature, and tradition. Thanks to its mastery of life and growth, Green is the best color at creating swarms of token creatures, and its creatures tend to be bigger than those of other colors for the same cost, especially at the higher end of the scale. Green also has the ability to boost the size of its creatures, both temporarily and permanently, and is the best color at generating extra mana in the long term, often by playing additional lands. It has become the second-best color at card drawing, representing a growth of the mind to match the body. Green magic is rarely subtle and often relies on brute force — while it's perfectly willing to destroy the opponent's artifacts, enchantments, and lands, Green's preferred means of dealing with opposing creatures is to outmatch them in combat as nature intended. Learn more about green here and here.

Its philosophy can be summarised as "acceptance through growth".

  • Fragile Speedster: The classic "green weenie" deck involves getting as many creatures out on the field as possible as quickly as possible. It's important to win quickly, because if your opponent manages to stave off your Zerg Rush, you're in for a world of hurt.

Alternative Title(s):

Magic The Gathering Colors