Pattern Recognition #130 - Black Filling

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


7 November 2019


Hello everyone! Welcome back to Pattern Recognition! This is's longest running article series. In it, I aim to bring to you each week a new article about some piece of Magic, be it a card, a mechanic, a deck, or something more fundamental or abstract. I am something of an Old Fogey and part-time Smart Ass, so I sometimes talk out my ass. Feel free to dissent or just plain old correct me! I also have a Patreon if you feel like helping out.

So... . Welcome back to the back half of my quick and dirty summary of this colour and how it works and doesn't work in the game. Today, I will look at how it interacts with its enemy colours and artifacts, then move on to my summary of . But, on with the show!

Of all the colour combinations, I think that provides the best combination with . This, the colour of the Orzhov Guild, brings together the two colours that have had the most history of opposition in the game, and makes them work together as a powerhouse. That, and my personal biases are showing. Because it's not.

You see, when I talked about when I started this, I pointed out that of all the colour pairings, and had the most cards that countered each other, and as such while they seem like a poor match, this long-standing effort to exploit each other's weaknesses has left them with the same tools required to cover them when they work together.

For you see, this combination is the colour of ordered decay. If you're confused about how that's supposed to work, let me introduce you to the Aristocrats Deck Archetype. In this deck, named in part for Teysa, Orzhov Scion, is a deck that utilizes the fact that these two colours gain benefits from creatures both entering the battlefield as per and from leaving as per . You don't actually attack your opponents so much as you whittle them down little by little through card interactions on your side of the board. Gain life? Use Cliffhaven Vampire or Defiant Bloodlord to punish them for your gain!

Acutally. No. Wait. That's Vampires. The actual Aristocrats deck focuses on self-sacrifice for more benefit. Even I played with Hidden Stockpile for a while on Arena when that was in Standard. The idea is that you can sacrifice to gain, and do so better than can do by itself.

On the flip side of this, is the other enemy colour, and when I said that symbol: was the best, it was because I hadn't gotten to the Golgari yet. It is my opinion that across all formats, this is perhaps the single most reliable and effective colour pairing in the history of Magic. It still doesn't dethrone from being the most effective single colour in the game, but as a pairing, it is ridiculously hard to beat this.

You see, the reason for this is the graveyard. Both and see the graveyard as a resource, and how they approach it differs individually. tends to view the graveyard as simply an extension of the cycle of cards they have going on. Cards from deck into hand onto the battlefield, into the graveyard then back into the hand where they can go back into the graveyard. Green, on the other hand, seems to me to be more interested in in sending things right back into the fray on the battlefield and not going through the hand.

It's the cycle of Life / Death. sees death as something that can be reversed or overcome, while accepts it and plans for it as part of existence. This is where they come into conflict, and much like , it is also the source of their greatest mutual strength.

The Graveyard. When you combine these two colours, everything becomes a resource for exploitation. Nothing is safely hidden from them, save perhaps a card in exile - unless they put it there. This combination is the best when it comes to accumulating resources and then exploiting them to their fullest. The Dredge mechanic was one of the most exploitive, setting up multiple bans across multiple formats, but that's just one example. Deathrite Shaman, another banned card in Modern and Legacy.

That reminds me, I need to keep track of Pioneer bans now. Oh well.

With these two colours working in conjunction, nothing is ever truely lost to them. It can be lost to those who oppose them, as they possess a lot of tools to make sure that the enemy really does lose out.

Curiously, this colour combination has a fairly unique creature ability tied to them. The only other evergreen one I can think of that's truly dual coloured is 's Double Strike, but and will cheerfully throw Deathtouch onto a creature. Pitiless Gorgon and Status / Statue both show this in Hybrid mana to help drive the point home.

They want a creature dead, it's dead.

Moving on to artifacts, let me be quick and concise with how treats .

It doesn't care.

does not care about artifacts, save for sacrifice engines. Nothing for or against, just another tool to use when convenient.

Moving on!

is the colour of sacrifice. What are you willing to give up in the pursuit of power? Your allies? Your strength? Your life? All that matters is that you win, right? Well, that's also its weakness as more than any other.

Suicide Black. Necropotence. Phyrexian Negator. Juzam Djinn. Add in Dark Ritual to give you the mana you needed, and then all you needed was Hatred to end the battle. Everything you did was aimed at the enemy and this deck moved fast.

You see, is surprisingly fast on the table. It's a colour that can act and react with its allies, hold back and wait things out like its enemies and can choose the time and place. And when it chooses to act, the ability to have alternate costs or additional costs means that they spend less mana resources on getting where they want.

It's why I maintain that should be the only one to exist, something that Wizards seems to agree with thanks to K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth. I mean yeah, it's an exception and not the rule, but Phyrexia should always be .

The Vorthos of is an additional issue. From their colour symbol, which I have used extensively throughout this pair of articles, chose back when Alpha was in development, has been given a bad rap at all levels.

On the surface, is the colour of Death, of Decay. Of a Descent into Madness. Of being EVIL with a capital everything. You consort with a Lord of the Pit, summon up a Sengir Vampire, make use of a Foul Imp, or just force something to Rise from the Grave in your service.

was designed to be the Bad Guy of Magic, where was the good guy, and this has tainted the colour all but irreversibly. I say that because we get cards and creatures like Toshiro Umezawa, and Yahenni, Undying Partisan, both of whom perform heroic deeds while staying true to the real core value of .

is all about me. It's all about doing what is best for yourself and turning everyone and everything else in for Damnation. It's not about playing nice with anyone else, or finding common ground - though that can be done too.

is the colour that takes and takes and leaves nothing behind but things of lesser value, like Fear and despair. It is the colour that attacks not only the body of the player on the battlefield, but the mind as well, going for their hand and even their deck on rare occasion.

is Relentless, as one it starts, it has to keep going. It can't stop because to stop and to take measure of your situation means you're not gaining any more power.

isn't evil. It's not stupid. It's amoral. It just doesn't care. If being 'evil' means advancing, then let it be 'evil'. If being 'good' does the same, then be 'good'. But don't let yourself be defined by the others around you, not your enemies or your allies, because in the end, the only thing that matters is you.

Sorry for being on the short end this week. I'm strapped for time, and once I realized that Black and Artifacts don't really interact much, that cut a huge chunk of planned space out. Oh well, they can't all be winners in terms of length.

So, please join me next week when I talk about a subject of some stripe or another. But it's also Christmas time, and I work retail, so I'm not sure how much time or energy I'll have over the next few weeks.

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #129 - Black Crust The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #131 - Let it Snow!

loricatuslupus says... #1

May not be lengthy but as ever, this has girth! Sorry. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about the way artifacts are starting to incorporate coloured mana more in their casting cost. Do you think this helps define them or put the colours "stamp" on the way they act?

November 11, 2019 4:46 p.m.

berryjon says... #2

Artifacts with colour are too new, Esper excepted, for me to make any sort of commitment about them yet. I want a bit more under the belt of the game before I go into it, but for now my response is "Good".

November 11, 2019 8:14 p.m.

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