Magic: Remastered is at it’s heart about capturing the purest essence of Magic. There are many different parts of Magic to capture- for example, my article series on planeswalkers covers some of the most complex cards in Magic, responsible for representing legendary characters, world building, and thematic build-arounds for decks all at the same time. This article series will instead analyze the other end of the spectrum- the literal essence of Magic, the recurring mechanical concepts that represent the core of the Magic color pie.In order to find which mechanics represent current Magic color pie philosophy, I dug through all four “blocks” of cards in Standard. Any mechanic that shows up in all four blocks (Kaladesh/Aether Revolt, Amonkhet/Hour of Devastation, Ixalan/Rivals of Ixalan, and Dominaria) will be added to Magic: Remastered. To determine what card to add, I will be looking across all of Magic (not just Standard) to prioritize simplicity, power level, and flavor/world-building, in roughly that order.
Basically, my goal is to determine what the fundamental mechanics of each color are, and make sure that each of those mechanics has an exemplar card that represents the purest execution of that mechanic in a compelling way. It’s important that the cards in Magic: Remastered are clean and resonant, but none of that matters if the cards never make it into anyone’s deck. Because I’m aiming for a wide range of power levels (as I think that makes a more interesting draft experience) I’m fine if a card is a late pick or a sideboard-only card, as long as it’s something that a drafter will at least consider taking and playing under a realistic scenario.
Note that this analysis purposely looks at cards across all rarities. I’ve attempted to find the lowest rarity cards when showing examples, because rarity is relevant for how prevalent the mechanic is for draft and sealed, and therefore how “core” the mechanic is for that color’s experience across all of Magic. However, Magic: Remastered is a boxed “cube draft” experience, and does not directly care about rarity. Therefore, a mechanic that only appears at rare but still appears in every set, still philosophically belongs in Magic: Remastered on at least one card.
Note: In this article, phrases such as “every block” are meant to refer to just the blocks in Standard at the time of this writing (May 2018), as a representative sample of Magic. I am not concerned about whether a mechanic actually shows up in literally every block across all of Magic’s history. Magic and the color pie have evolved significantly over time, and I’m generally only interested in capturing modern design philosophy in Magic: Remastered. Any deviation from that will be intentional and with a specific goal in mind.
Every block has a white card that generates tokens. Specifically and somewhat to my surprise, each block has a white card that generates two tokens. Generally, these tokens interact with the block theme in some way. One of white’s iconic play styles is to “go wide”, using lots of small creatures and pump effects to swarm the opponent before they can stabilize. Sometimes green or red also have this play style, although theoretically green is about a smaller number of larger creatures and theoretically red is more pyrrhic and reckless with its swarm of creatures.
Aside: Historically, white and green have overlapped in mechanics far too much. Although Magic has made some progress in extricating these two sections of the color pie, I personally feel there is more progress to be made. I will be watching for areas that I can help better distinguish green from white in Magic: Remastered.
For Magic: Remastered, I want a token generation card that is as clean as possible, with no extraneous keywords or other baggage. Ideally, the card will make two or maybe three 1/1s. Raise the Alarm is nearly perfect, with reasonable flavor, power level, and clean mechanics. The only real strike against it is the instant speed. Instead, I’m going to go with Servo Exhibition for now. The name/flavor is exceedingly bland, but it’s the only two mana sorcery in white that just makes two tokens. Having the tokens be artifacts is a bit odd, but doesn’t really impact the simplicity in a vacuum. Initially, I wanted to go with Captain’s Call, but I couldn’t justify a card that generated three tokens when the core mechanic being demonstrated here is clearly the generation of two tokens.
Aside: White’s color pie has moved away from flash as a core mechanic; if you look at the cards in Standard, there are no mono-white creatures using flash merely as a “surprise creature” mechanic. Vizier of Deferment needs flash for it’s mechanic to work; Aven Mindcensor is a reprint; Raff Capashen is also a blue card. I plan to support this directly by avoiding white flash creatures in Magic: Remastered. Green (and blue) get flash for “surprise creatures”, and this will help separate green and white a bit more.
Every set has some form of white flier, and somewhere in the block you’ll find the most basic version- not necessarily absent other rules text, but virtual vanilla flier in the worst case. (A “virtual” vanilla is a card with no abilities that affect how the card works while it’s on the battlefield.) This is an area where white and blue overlap, often leading the two to combine into a “skies” or “tempo” play style, attacking the opponent in the air while defending on the ground with creatures and cheap/temporary removal.
In order to support these play styles, my instinct is to go with a cheaper white flier for this slot. My first choice is Stormfront Pegasus, a 2/1 flier for 1W. This card meets all my criteria- it’s a vanilla flier, it’s costed aggressively enough to see play, and it’s a resonant fantasy creature that makes sense as a simple flier. If the needs for this slot change, some runner-up options include Concordia Pegasus (1/3 for 1W) and Suntail Hawk (1/1 for W), although the Hawk is not as exciting from a flavor standpoint.
Every block has some version of the “basic vigilance creature”. This one isn’t as vanilla as the fliers- vigilance will be represented in a simple way, but it is more likely to be combined with other mechanical needs. Here, we see three of the four cards combined with something else relevant to the block. Bastion Mastodon is not technically a white card, but in a set about artifacts, it fulfills a “white slot” in the design skeleton and hence counts for this analysis. Vigilance contributes to another of white’s classic play styles, where you lock up the game with various permanents (creatures, prison cards, Circles of Protection, etc.) and slowly win by attacking your opponent without letting your guard down.
Aside: Although green has access to vigilance (because white and green didn’t overlap enough in the color pie </sarcasm>) in general it’s a white ability. For comparison, there are approximately 39 white instances of vigilance in standard, but only 9 green instances, none of which appear in Ixalan block. (numbers are rough because of multicolor cards)
Sun Sentinel represents the purest form of this trope as a vigilant 2/2 for 1W, but those stats do not excite me. My ideal card would be a fairly large vanilla vigilance creature at an appealing cost. This card would support my desired play style, allowing you to attack with a reasonable clock while continuing to hold the ground. Noble Templar and Razor Golem both play in this space, but have abilities I don’t want in my cube. Dawnstrike Paladin is at least within the realm of possibility, although missing a critical third point of power.
For now, I’m going to go with Serra Angel as it best meets my criteria. It’s a major power upgrade over the ground options, but well within both the boundaries of the play style and my cube’s power level. It’s also quite iconic. I’m expecting this to change, as I’d generally prefer to spend my angel slots on more directly resonant mechanics. My hope for this slot is that a future set has a three or four mana “vanilla vigilance” white creature with at least 7 points of power and toughness. Bonus if Wizards finds a clean resonant trope to attach it to.
Every block has a “basic lifelink creature”. Generally speaking, we’re looking at a lifelink creature that’s either French Vanilla or has one of the block keywords or mechanics. I’m stretching the intent a little bit with Aerial Responder as that’s clearly meant to be more of a “power uncommon” than something that directly supports block themes, but it does meet the literal definition of French Vanilla.
Access to lifelink overlaps with black. Both colors have a common subtheme of caring about life and life gain effects. This theme generally presents itself in white as caring about the actual act of gaining life or having a higher life total. White also uses life gain as a way to protect oneself or race the opponent. In this way, it serves a similar purpose as vigilance. While black also sometimes cares about the actual act of gaining life, black is more often seen spending life as a resource, which creates a much different play style.
For this category, my choice is a no-brainer. Not only is Mesa Unicorn the cleanest possible representation of lifelink, but it’s arguably the most “cube-worthy” unicorn in Magic and will serve as a fine exemplar for that creature type in Magic: Remastered. All decks that actively want life gain will want access to more robust creatures than this 2/2. That said, I like how Mesa Unicorn is universally useful while still being middle-of-the-pack in power level. It’s a cheaper creature that still goes in decks that want life gain, while also serving well in normal aggressive decks or as a speed bump in control decks.
Each block has a thematic creature that has double strike. This may appear as part of a cycle or otherwise combined with a block mechanic or theme. This category is very loose and contains a fairly high level of complexity within its cards. Although this category is not specifically about cards that grant double strike, it’s noteworthy that two of these four double strikers also grant double strike to other creatures.
Double strike appears in both red and white, as a fairly aggressive mechanic that combines well with power boosts. (another mechanic that appears in both colors) In red, double strike is almost entirely about aggression; for white, it can also support a defensive play style, or a “skies/tempo” game plan when it appears on fliers.
I definitely want at least one double strike card in Magic: Remastered, but I’m not sure if I’m going to want to combine it other mechanics or just let it stand on its own. (or both!) As far as a card that is specifically about double strike, there are really only two good options in my mind: Fencing Ace and Kwende. For now, I will be adding Fencing Ace. It’s obviously much simpler, and is a perfectly serviceable cube card. I may take it out later as I suspect I want no more than two or maybe three double strike cards total. This will likely hinge on what representation of Knights I put into Magic: Remastered, as the most obvious place for double strike flavorfully.
Each block has at least one “anthem” effect (e.g. Glorious Anthem) that pumps all of your creatures +1/+1. I’m allowing a minor divergence for Ixalan block- it’s anthem only affects creatures of a certain type, as the block was a tribal block. For purposes of this discussion, I’ll be considering all anthem-style effects even though sometimes they may only affect a subset of your creatures. Although this ability occasionally appears in other colors, it is firmly a white ability and directly supports white’s “go wide” play style. Other colors tend only to get anthem effects for specific creature types or with other restrictions.
For Magic: Remastered, I’m torn between Benalish Marshal and Glorious Anthem for this slot. Either one would be a perfect exemplar for this mechanic. It’s possible that the ideal version of my cube has both a creature-based and an enchantment-based anthem, but this will be problematic as the two obvious choices overlap so much in cost and rules text. I might also consider Honor of the Pure, but I don’t like the monowhite restriction as it goes against current color pie philosophy and would read oddly next to Benalish Marshal. (and there’s no reason to include Honor of the Pure unless I’m already including Benalish Marshal)
For now, I’m going with Benalish Marshal. I think it has mildly more resonant flavor. I’m hoping to try and include a cycle of cards that cost MMM (three colored mana) to exemplify a core play style of each color, and Benalish Marshal is ideal for that goal as well.
Similar to anthem effects and supporting the same aggressive play styles, each block also has at least one instant spell that pumps all of your creatures. As a one-shot effect rather than a permanent effect, this card tends to be more aggressively costed. Historically, these can appear as sorceries, but they are generally instants for additional value as a combat surprise. This specific effect is a white specialty, but other colors get variants- green can pump its entire team temporarily but only at sorcery speed, or occasionally put counters on its team at instant speed; red can pump the team at instant speed, but only increase power.
Until Dominaria, this would’ve been an interesting choice. Charge is a perfect exemplar card, with literally the cleanest cost and text possible for this effect. I haven’t played with it enough to be sure, but I suspect at one mana the power level is also ideal- great if you’re in the aggressive deck, but easy to get late in the draft because it doesn’t go well in any other decks. Finally, the name is perfect.
Aside: Although Magic’s early history is filled with counter-examples, Wizards now carefully doles out names containing only a single English word to spells that “deserve” them. The more simple/resonant the name, the more reserved Wizards is about using it. Generally, this means a spell that is both resonant and eligible for regular reprinting. It may also indicate a spell that Wizards expects to see a decent amount of play. Anytime I see a new spell with a one-word name (that isn’t a made up word), I take note of it. I’ll probably do an article series looking at all the spells meeting this criteria, if only because it may help me find some perfect Magic: Remastered cards I may otherwise overlook.
Every block has at least one white combat trick- something that makes a single creature bigger and grants some incidental or conditional bonus as well. These cards don’t actually have to be played during combat- they can be used to protect creatures from removal spells as well. They are playable in more defensive decks as a way to protect a key creature keeping the game locked down, but they shine best in aggressive decks, allowing you to get extra damage while simultaneously protecting an attacker. Like mass pump, there is some overlap with other colors- green gets these effects (often with larger size boosts) and red/black can as well. (usually only increasing power, or in red’s case, only working on attackers.)
The canonical version of this effect in white is +2/+2 and a bonus. Of the options, either Moment of Triumph or Moment of Heroism would be great additions to Magic: Remastered. I would lean towards Moment of Triumph. When in doubt, I will generally start with the lower mana cost, as it’s more likely to get cast and have an impact on game play. This is both more fun, and leads to more data on whether the card is a worthwhile inclusion.
My initial searches told me that these cards were the best I could do as far as simplicity. I thought that “up to +2/+2 and a bonus” was all that existed for white combat tricks. And indeed, there are no monowhite instants that grant a power boost greater than +2 that can be used on attackers. There is, however, a single monowhite instant that pumps without any additional bonus or mechanics. Although it costs two mana and is definitely a lower power level than Moment of Triumph, I will be including Show of Valor in Magic: Remastered. I’m open to an upgrade if no one ends up playing this card, but for now I’m going to stick to my philosophy. After all, what good is a set of guiding principles if you don’t religiously obey them even when it might lead to worse outcomes?
Each block has at least one card that grants indestructible to something else. This was an unexpected pattern for me, in terms of consistency- these cards are sometimes, but not always instant-speed tricks; when they are found on a creature, they only affect *other* creatures. Sometimes, a white creature can make itself indestructible, but generally speaking it’s one or the other. It’s very rare that a creature can make both itself and other creatures indestructible. Granting indestructible is primarily white, but can occasionally be found in black or green, as this is one way that Magic does “regeneration”-style effects nowadays. As seems to be a common theme for white mechanics, indestructible plays well both offensively and defensively, either to keep your attackers alive as they storm your opponent or keep your critical creatures alive as they lock up the game for you.
Dauntless Bodyguard is pretty close to the ideal representation of this concept. The flavor and power level are spot on. It could be simpler without choosing the “target” in advance, but those words contribute significantly towards a less chessy game experience. Given that this represents the direction Magic as a whole has gone, it’s appropriate for Magic: Remastered to also accept the cost of those words. As such, Dauntless Bodyguard is my pick for this slot today.
Aside: Choosing what to protect ahead of time has a lot of hidden benefits for making the game more fun overall. For one, it prevents the opponent from feeling trapped, unable to kill any creatures at all without the Bodyguard protecting them. It also minimizes the “gotcha” moments, where an opponent tries to kill something and loses to an on-board trap. Missing a play that’s open information is an awful feeling. It’s easy to think that adding this restriction “dumbs the game down” by removing decision points, but I would argue that Dauntless Bodyguard is actually a much more skill-testing card than the version that can target anything. Choosing when to play Bodyguard, which other creatures to sequence first, whether to play Bodyguard on an empty board or on turn one, and choosing which creature to protect are all nuanced decisions that require planning your strategy out for multiple turns in advance. In this sense, I feel that having to choose ahead of time for Bodyguard actually makes the game more skill-testing.
Alternate and reasonable options for this slot include Adamant Will or a “protection-themed” angel such as Aegis Angel or Avacyn, Angel of Hope. I won’t be going with Adamant Will as it overlaps too much with Show of Valor from the last section. There’s a good chance I will audible to one of the angels when I review all of my choices for angels, as I expect to want three or four angels with a variety of clean abilities, and either of these would serve well.
Did you know that Standard has white spells that deal 2, 3, 4, and 5 damage to an attacker or blocker? Did you know that each block in Standard contributes a different card to that sequence? Well, if you were as obsessive about researching the color pie as I am, you’d have known that already! This is something firmly in white’s color pie, as other colors have removal that is either much more direct (red/black) or much less so. (blue/green) These cards are much better at supporting a defensive strategy, as using your mana for removal after your blocker has already been blocked is generally not good for an aggressive deck’s game plan, and aggressive decks generally want to prioritize their mana for threats rather than killing their opponent’s attackers.
So for this slot, all of the options have equal simplicity. The choice comes down to power level and flavor, and oddly the choice is quite difficult. Slash of Talons is probably the most powerful due to it’s cost, but I’d actually rather have a more expensive card so that aggressive decks pass it to the more defensive white decks. Impeccable Timing is strictly worse than Gideon’s Reproach and the flavor is cheesy. Gideon’s Reproach is in the sweet spot for power level, but I don’t like such a basic effect being named after a planeswalker. Sandblast is pretty weak in comparison to the other three.
For now, I’m going to be putting Gideon’s Reproach into Magic: Remastered. The name is not a deal breaker, and I like where it sits on the power/cost curve. I’m hoping that it gets reprinted into a future set with a more generic name- if I’m lucky, it will become the golden standard for white removal in draft and get a super evocative one-word name.
Every block gets an “Oblivion Ring” (named after the first card that pioneered this effect) which is an enchantment that exiles a nonland permanent until the enchantment leaves play. Sometimes there are additional riders, and sometimes only a subset of permanent types can be exiled, although for this exercise I’m only counting cards that can at least exile creatures. This effect is a white specialty, and represents the most common way that white deals with problematic permanents that aren’t attacking or blocking. Although this form of removal is geared towards more controlling decks, an aggressive deck is usually happy to run a small number of these as well. Unlike the previous category, these cards can usually get blockers out of the way, and they also let aggressive decks deal with cards that shut them down outside of combat.
The choice for this category is a no-brainer. Banishing Light is clean (targeting any nonland with no additional riders) and at an appropriate power level. The flavor is great, arguably better than the original Oblivion Ring. I don’t have to have that debate, though, as Oblivion Ring has more words to accomplish the same effect and is needlessly more complex due to edge cases involving stack tricks.
Reanimate Small Stuff
This category surprised me, as I didn’t expect to find an example in every Standard block. Each block has at least one example of a white card that brings cheap creatures back from the graveyard to the battlefield. Renegade Rallier may be multicolored, but the text could reasonably exist on a monowhite card if it said “creature” instead of “permanent”.
White has always been secondary (to black) in its ability to return creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield. This ability can play multiple roles depending on the form it takes. At first glance, it asks to be played in an aggressive deck- those decks will have a higher density of cheap targets, and this gives them a way to push through and get some card advantage after some early one-for-one trades. This effect can also be used in a control deck, but leads to a deck that focuses on using cheap creatures to trade early, rather than spells. Using this ability with cards like Wall of Omens bridges the gap between more standard playstyles and the white/blue “blink” decks that want to reuse “enters the battlefield” effects.
Aside: It appears that R&D has embraced this part of white’s color pie, distinguishing it from black with restrictions limiting the creatures’ size. The earliest example of this I can find is Proclamation of Rebirth in Dissension, becoming a more-or-less-regular concept with Tethmos High Priest in Theros. These effects are all based on converted mana cost with the exception of Reveillark, a design by yours truly that terrorized many formats and created many more opportunities for abuse by keying off of the creatures’ power instead. It’s unclear whether white still has the ability to get any creature back from the dead, with no examples of this ability in Standard since Eldritch Moon.
This category is the one that most loudly screams for me to start tracking a list of “simple Magic cards that don’t exist”. There is no clean execution of this ability, on a spell or creature. Every single instance has additional text, most of them with a block mechanic that makes it inappropriate for Magic: Remastered. Bishop of Rebirth is the cleanest execution, but I wish it were not repeatable, and I wish it were on a cheaper creature that aggressive decks would want. At five mana, I fear it will only be played in control decks. The only other option I can even consider mechanically is Timely Hordemate, which sits in an even more awkward space as a card that is difficult to trigger in a control deck and still just a bit too expensive to make aggressive decks happy.
Aside: The philosophy of Magic: Remastered demands that every keyword, ability word, and/or action word justify its inclusion. It would not make sense, in an alternate universe where only one box set of Magic existed, to have vocabulary words that only appear on one or two cards each. However, I allow myself to bend those rules by simply pretending that individual instances of vocabulary were “written out in plain English” if possible. This means that a single card with an ability word like Raid can simply be treated as if the ability word didn’t exist. Having three or four cards with Raid, however, might be a bit weird.
For now, I’ll be putting Bishop of Rebirth in Magic: Remastered, but I eagerly await a replacement from a future set.
Every block has a white card that eliminates a large number of creatures at once, nicknamed “wraths” after the original Wrath of God in Alpha. Not all wraths destroy, not all wraths hit every creature, and some wraths hit noncreatures as well. The defining trait of a wrath is that it is “equitable”, hitting both players in the same way.
These effects are usually aimed at traditional control decks, pushing players away from cheap creatures unless they provide significant value as part of entering or leaving the battlefield. As such, white wrath effects usually get paired with another color that has better early-game (noncreature) spells. Black also occasionally gets mass removal effects, but either tied to toughness (-X/-X) or one-sided like Tetzimoc. Red also gets mass removal effects, based around doing damage to all creatures.
For Magic: Remastered, this slot will likely forever be occupied by Day of Judgment. With only three words of rules text, no card can hope to beat it on elegance. The power level is high, but fair, and the concept is good enough that I don’t expect to ever see a functional reprint, as much as I’d like to see this card have a one-word name. 🙂
In each block, you’ll find a white creature that lets you tap down your opponent’s creatures repeatedly. Historically, these have been activated abilities that you can use on either offense (to get blockers out of the way) or defense. (to stop attackers) More recent cards have skewed towards triggered abilities that generally only work on offense. This generally allows the cards to be more aggressively costed and allows the ability itself to cost no mana to use so that additional threats can be deployed. White also gets one-shot spells that tap creatures, but those don’t necessarily appear every block. Blue overlaps somewhat with white on tap abilities, getting “twiddle” effects that allow you to tap or untap things. These tend to go in a completely different sort of deck, slowing the opponent down before enabling a degenerate combo.
I think there’s two directions I can go with- if I want a truly aggressive effect, it should be an attack trigger, which leaves me with Territorial Hammerskull or Niblis of the Urn. If I’m willing to break trend and stick with an activated tapper, I would want one of the more aggressively costed ones to hit the right power level. Blinding Mage has the best flavor, but may be too weak for the average aggressive deck. As such, I’d prefer one of the one mana tappers. Goldmeadow Harrier doesn’t make much sense unless I have a more thorough contingent of halflings in my cube. Gideon’s Lawkeeper has the same naming issues as Gideon’s Reproach, but I’m starting to think I can leverage that. Gideon is the one planeswalker that actually gets directly involved in combat. It’s arguably reasonable for his signature cards to be simpler effects related to combat. I’ll stick Gideon’s Lawkeeper into Magic: Remastered for now, and reevaluate how I feel about these cards when I review monocolored planeswalkers.
Every block has at least one white aura that increases power and toughness. There’s usually multiple- I’ve included the common options here. Often these occur as part of a cycle (Cartouche) or otherwise support the mechanics of the block. (Conviction) All colors have access to auras that make creatures larger and grant color-appropriate abilities; in white, these auras are particularly interesting because white often has a subtheme of getting extra value out of auras, equipment, and/or enchantments in general.
For Magic: Remastered, I want to have at least one simple and powerful aura in each color- ideally, done in a way that creates a cycle. I also expect to have at least some nod towards auras- or enchantments-matter subthemes, so white is the one color I’m certain will end up with multiple auras. As such, while I’d like to try and find an obvious way to cycle out simple auras now, it’s not a requirement yet.
My first instinct for a cycle is auras that grant a decent boost and a single keyword, starting with Madcap Skills and One With the Wind. This cycle would be aggressively costed- ideally, a two-mana cycle- to offset the inherent drawbacks of auras and allow drafters to opt into a higher risk/higher reward option.
In addition to Dub, I think there’s four viable options. None are perfect. Nimbus Wings would work in a vacuum but will obviously not work if I plan to include One With the Wind. Divine Favor would be reasonable if I stretched the cycle a little. Marked by Honor would be perfect if it didn’t cost a billion mana. Serra’s Embrace is the right power level, but still expensive. And finally, Dub has the random “becomes a Knight” trinket text that will probably have zero relevance in Magic: Remastered.
For now, I’m going with Nimbus Wings. It’s one of the only options that meets my exacting standards for simplicity; when I cycle this out, I can use Tricks of the Trade for blue. I’m hoping to get a better option in the future- ideally an aggressively-costed white aura that pumps power and grants either vigilance, lifelink, or first strike with no other riders.
Every block has a white card that prevents damage in some way. This is one of the loosest mechanics I found- all four of these cards work in fairly different ways, preventing different amounts to different types of targets under different conditions. White is the only color that gets damage prevention in the modern color pie. (other than weird uses of damage prevention as part of a more holistic effect) Damage prevention most often manifests as another way white can control the game and set up defenses, although sometimes it appears on cheap instants as another style of combat trick that allows aggressive decks to keep pushing threats through blockers and removal.
As there are lots of ways to do combat tricks and save creatures, my focus is going to be making sure there’s at least one damage prevention card in Magic: Remastered that supports a defensive “prison” strategy.
I found a few defensible choices. I have a soft spot for Story Circle, but won’t include it as I think it’s frustrating to play against. Orim has a similar problem, and I don’t think a Legend is appropriate for a slot representing the “simplest execution of a mechanic”. Knight-Captain of Eos is my backup card for this slot, but for now I’ll be putting Guardian Seraph in Magic: Remastered. Damage prevention is perfect flavor for an angel. Putting it on a creature ensures that red and black decks can answer it, and the effect still allows for the opposing deck to try and race, just at a reduced capacity.
Simple Life Gain
Each block has a life gain “spell”- a spell that does very little other than gain life. Three of these four examples also draw a card, whereas Healing Grace is best used to save a creature, so it’s clear that Wizards has realized that life gain spells need to be attached to another effect that is worth a card. These cards are also clearly much better in a slower deck that needs a bit of a boost to get to the late game, or perhaps a bit of extra life as a sideboard card against a burn deck. In a recurring theme that surprises no one who studies the Magic color pie, green is the other color that also gets life gain, usually attached as a secondary effect to other cards.
For this slot, I want to pick a card that is a nonrecurring source of life that goes well into a slower deck. In addition to Healing Grace and Ritual of Rejuvenation, I would also consider these other three cards. Ritual is out due to extremely low power level, and I’m not looking for a combat trick here, so Healing Grace is out.
Normally, I’d be looking for the simplest possible card here, but I’ve already concluded that the card needs to do more than simply say “gain some life”. At that point, Timely Reinforcements isn’t actually that much more complicated than the rest, and it’s perfect from both a flavor and archetype perspective. For my first pass, however, I’m going to stick to my idealism and go with Arashin Cleric, as it’s clearly a simpler card than Timely Reinforcements. The Cleric will serve perfectly fine as a nice little speed bump for control decks, and unlike Lone Missionary, won’t be snatched up by aggressive decks looking for any two-power two-mana card.
I was a little surprised to find this pattern, but it’s clear as day once you see the cards- every block has a card that acts as a recurring source of flying for a(nother) creature. This is an area of the color pie shared with blue- both colors regularly get effects that give creatures flying, as one-shot effects, auras, or in this case, recurring boosts. These cards support the skies/tempo archetype that often overlaps between white and blue, while creating cards that also go well with green’s large creatures and red’s aggressive cards. In contrast, black occasionally gets creatures that can give themselves flying, but not other creatures.
For this slot, there isn’t really a decision- Pegasus Courser will go into Magic: Remastered as the simplest version of this effect, with solid flavor and reasonable power level.
Almost always Naturalize… but not quite.
Every block in Standard has a white card that can destroy an enchantment. I triple-checked, but Ixalan block does not have a “disenchant” effect. In fact, there isn’t a single mono-white card in Ixalan block that interacts with artifacts specifically- Ixalan’s Binding is the closest you’ll find. White is the original color that destroyed both artifacts and enchantments, thanks to Disenchant in Alpha; modern color pie, however, decided that white and green needed more overlap, granting this effect to green as well with Naturalize and similar cards. Both colors can also get cards that focus specifically on one or the other. White’s version of this effect is usually found on cards that “disenchant” with a small bonus and green is much more likely to get this effect stapled onto a creature, but neither of these are hard distinctions.
For Magic: Remastered, I was initially a bit torn here- there is a solid argument that the ideal card to represent this effect is Disenchant. Then, when I do green’s color pie, I will include Naturalize. And then, I have to figure out how to reconcile those two cards, because there’s no universe where I allow both Disenchant and Naturalize in my cube.
After some thought, I realized that this was a perfect chance for me to start distinguishing between white and green, to try and give their color pies a bit more separation. Presenting my vision for what ideal Magic would look like is, after all, the whole point of Magic: Remastered. Therefore, until I’m given a really good reason otherwise, I will be giving all the cards that can destroy both artifacts and enchantments to green, and all the cards that only destroy only enchantments to white. That’s right- if monowhite wants to deal with an artifact in Magic: Remastered, you’ll need to find an Oblivion Ring effect or similarly “imperfect” answer. Sticking with “simplest execution possible”, white is going to get Demystify for now. I will consider upgrading this to an effect with a secondary benefit such as Cursebreak or War Priest of Thune in the future if no one is willing to even sideboard Demystify.
Some things that didn’t make this list, because they only occurred in three blocks of Standard rather than four:
- Gaining indestructible for oneself. (e.g. Adanto Vanguard)
- Returning cards from graveyard to hand.
- Getting larger over time via +1/+1 counters- This one is a little unfair as Amonkhet block used -1/-1 counters; conversely, several colors used -1/-1 counters and then removed them to grow and white did not, so I’m still counting it.
- Pacifism- This one was perhaps my biggest surprise, but Dominaria did not have a white aura that prevents a creature from attacking, instead giving that effect to blue with Deep Freeze.
- Oblivion Ring, but as a creature. (e.g. Fairgrounds Warden)
Only appearing in two blocks, but worth mentioning:
- “Blink” effects. (exile a creature and return it to play)
- Untapping creatures.
- Creatures that pump other attacking creatures.
All of these effects are still notable enough that many will eventually find representation in Magic: Remastered. I’m simply prioritizing the most “core essence” of each color for a first pass, and will likely do a pass on other things such as resonant creature types long before I come back and do a second pass on color pie philosophy.
Thanks for sticking with me for this ridiculously long color pie analysis! I hope to do the same for the other four colors, although this article took two weeks to research and write, so it may take some time before I get around to visiting all five colors.