How Are Red, Black, and Green Counterspells Color Pie Breaks?

General forum

Posted on June 9, 2024, 6 p.m. by DemonDragonJ

In this post, Mark Rosewater states that red, black, and green counterspells break the color pie, but I fail to see how that is the case, since those counterspells are so narrow and conditional that they are useful only in very niche circumstances.

What does everyone else say about this? Why are red, black, and green counterspells color pie breaks?

RiotRunner789 says... #2

No, as long as they stay within certain boundaries. Green has a good history of countering activated abilities.

Dash Hopes is a bit out there, but the life loss is on theme.

All the red counter spells are all anti-blue or pure chaos.

I enjoy a nonue counterspell that are narrow in scope and fit their color. Other colors should have more ability to affect spells on the stack rather than everything else.

June 9, 2024 6:51 p.m.

legendofa says... #3

Because, at least in Mark Rosewater 's view (and he really is the one in charge of this stuff), black, red, and green shouldn't get counterspells at all, at any level of niche-ness or utility. The linked post specifically covers black counterspells, but the same reasoning applies.

Just as colors have a handful of things they excel at, they should have a handful of things they can't do. There's some discussion on the boundary between "should only be able to do very inefficiently and only on rare occasions" and "shouldn't be able to do at all," and I admit to coming down on both sides on a case-by-case basis. But the intent is to keep the colors distinct and balanced at some level, so that no single color can do everything.

June 9, 2024 6:54 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #4

legendofa, I certainly understand that, but how should red and green, the enemy colors of blue, be able to deal with counterspells, in that case?

Also, I very much believe that both Worldfire and Bearer of the Heavens are color pie breaks (I shall forgive Obliterate and Decree of Annihilation due to their ages), so I definitely can see your perspective, on this matter.

June 9, 2024 8:43 p.m.

legendofa says... #5

Red and green deal with counterspells by outpacing them. Red in particular tends to use high speed and redundancy to its advantage. If one spell gets countered, two others that do the same thing are right behind them. Green can recycle spells and has a good selection of "can't be countered" spells. Most counterspells are 1-for-1 removal, and simply casting more spells than the blue player can counter is a valid way to get around them.

As a more advanced version of this, bluffing, counter baiting, and sequencing can help key spells avoid being countered. These are difficult skills to master, but important in high-end competition.

June 9, 2024 9:01 p.m.

wallisface says... #6

In addition to the excellent points legendofa already made, anti-countermagic cards exist like Veil of Summer, Carnage Tyrant, Cavern of Souls etc.

Of course playing smartly/strategically, as already mentioned above, gives countermagic a rough time - but failing that there are these cards available for a blunter-approach.

June 9, 2024 11:32 p.m.

plakjekaas says... #7

White is an enchantment color, so by your reasoning, red and black, white's enemies, should be able to deal with enchantments? Yet I've seen you ask in a similar topic how Chaos Warp is a color pie break and why are people ok with that, specifically because it deals with enchantments.

If every color would be able to deal with every problem every other color can pose, there would be no need for a color pie. So anything a spell does that its colors aren't supposed to do, MaRo will call a color pie break.

June 10, 2024 6:43 a.m.

wallisface says... #8

It’s also worth noting that White isn’t allowed counterspells either. The most it can do is slow a spell down (and even this is rare), not counter it entirely.

June 10, 2024 2:57 p.m.

My understanding of magic began with concepts like “if you want big creatures, grab some green. If you want some direct damage, grab some red. If you want some protection and life, grab white.” And then everyone ended up with a color or two in their 60 card deck, each with a generalized idea of what they were going to try to do. As time went on, though, two things happened: the meta settled into some super basic ruts, and people became more and more attached to their mono-color identities. A green player got pretty tired of repeated stymieing to counterspell and boomerang. Blue got tired of trying to rely on winning with a turn 22 leviathan. Similarly, in World of Warcraft, I think mages complained enough about not being able to tank anything, and warriors complained enough about not having any range, that everyone got buffed up and expanded to cover all the bases. At its core, in my opinion, the MtG question becomes “should you be required to play some blue for counter magic?” (with the HILARIOUS immediate follow up question of “what exactly do you mean when you say countermagic?”). Heroic Intervention isn’t a Counterspell, but it’s definitely countermagic. If we’re going to have flourishing monochromatic decks used in tournament play, we’ll need those color pie bends/breaks.

June 12, 2024 10:49 a.m.

Tsukimi says... #10

Imo, if every color had access to counterspells, the game would stall more frequently and be a more boring/less active game. Mark Rosewater talks a lot about why they utilize the color pie, and aside from themes and mechanics one of the driving ideas is to keep the game fun and engaging. If every color did everything, the game itself would be less fun and engaging, and I'd argue deckbuilding would be the same. I also really liked what FormOverFunction said - not every color may have word for word counterspells but each color has its own access to counterplay, removal, etc.

June 12, 2024 12:56 p.m.

To be clear: I’m more inclined to stick rigidly to the color pie... even though (maybe because?) that puts monochrome decks at a disadvantage. With the land base being INSANELY diverse now, compared to The Old Days(tm), there’s very little reason to make a lot of black counterspells, red lifegain, and blue trample auras. I hate to always drag conversations back to the hokey rpg-stuff that rattles around in my head, but a mono-blue wizard shouldn’t be able to actually KILL a zombie... maybe confuse it some by teleporting it off to the side or throwing his/her pet owl at it... but they’re in a lot of trouble until they learn to cast lightning bolt.

June 12, 2024 1:27 p.m.

Coward_Token says... #12

I kinda want red to get a couple of more Overmaster-type cards

June 14, 2024 1:06 a.m.

Coward_Token says... #13

Guttural Response would be cool if it said "Target spell can't be countered."

June 14, 2024 1:08 a.m.

wallisface says... #14

Coward_Token Guttural Response effectively already says “target spell can’t be countered” by itself countering a counterspell. The current wording of the spell is stronger than your suggested rewording

June 14, 2024 9:26 a.m.

Coward_Token says... #15

wallisface: Yeah but as you know, it's a break. I was suggesting a fix, although in hindsight it's just Vexing Shusher with the legs sawed off.

June 14, 2024 11:02 a.m.

Coward_Token says... #16

Also I'm surprised mono-red has no permanents with "spells you control can't be countered.", e.g. Destiny Spinner. Would make sense for instants & sorceries.

June 14, 2024 11:17 a.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #17

wallisface, are you saying that blue is the only color that is supposed to be able to counter spells?

June 14, 2024 11:09 p.m.

wallisface says... #18

DemonDragonJ correct

June 14, 2024 11:54 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #19

wallisface, did Mark Rosewater himself say that?

June 15, 2024 12:12 a.m.

legendofa says... #20

White's counterspells are taxing effects, requiring an additional mana payment, and delaying effects, returning spells to the controller's hand or library. The most recent example of this, and the only new one within the last ten years, is Mage's Attendant, and that creates a blue token (but doesn't need blue mana). The other Modern-legal options are Frontline Medic, Lapse of Certainty, and Time Spiral block's Mana Tithe, Rebuff the Wicked, and Dawn Charm. Generally, Time Spiral block shouldn't be considered as a precedent for anything, so that leaves three mono-white counterspells printed since the Modern era. This includes supplemental sets, Commander sets, and other specialty sets.

In my opinion, white counterspells should fall in the "very rare and inefficient" category, and other non-blue colors shouldn't get any counterspells. White is the only non-blue color with any Modern counterspells, with the Time Spiral-block exception of Dash Hopes, and is second behind blue in eternal formats. I think it's worth noting that green takes second place, behind blue, in countering triggered or activated abilities.

June 15, 2024 12:14 a.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #21

legendofa, I agree with most of what you said, but how does green countering activated or triggered abilities make any sense; should that not be a white ability?

June 15, 2024 12:20 a.m.

legendofa says... #22

DemonDragonJ My guess is that it's explained as enforced simplicity. Stop the trickery and indirect abilities, and force creatures and planeswalkers to rely on their native and inherent skills, turning the in-story fighting into the straight slugfest that green aims for. It also has a touch of anti-magic for artifacts and enchantments. Basically, if it's more exotic than deathtouch or trample, green's going to try to take it away.

June 15, 2024 2:12 a.m.

wallisface says... #23

June 15, 2024 2:27 a.m.

Coward_Token says... #24

Green getting Stifle-type effects is actually a pet peeve of mine. It's too subtle and I feel it doesn't really fill a necessary role in the color's strength the same way Fog effects do. Really should go to white as a secondary ability, the non-lethal flavor is fitting and its similar to the color's existing mechanical ability of tapping things down

June 15, 2024 5:24 a.m.

Coward_Token says... #25

And yes, I know it's hardly ever printed anyway; it's these cards + Repudiate.

June 15, 2024 5:29 a.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #26

Coward_Token, I feel that Holy Day makes more sense than does Fog, so I am rather displeased that WotC has not reprinted that card nearly as often as they have reprinted Fog; is not white supposed to be the best color at healing and protection?

June 15, 2024 8:05 a.m.

Coward_Token says... #27

DemonDragonJ: What I implied was that Maro has said that (traditional) mono-green need Fog effects to survive while it ramps up so that it eventually can cast something big, while white doesn't really need them

June 15, 2024 10:15 a.m.

Coward_Token says... #29

Anyway, slightly more on topic: Maro has already said 'no', but I think it would be cool if white got Delay. Maybe for ?

Also, a chunk of white's old counterspells could just be reworked with defensive abilities; Vigilant Martyr, Dawn Charm, and Rebuff the Wicked could just give hexproof, while Equinox could give indestructible to all your lands.

June 16, 2024 9:24 a.m.

Coward_Token says... #30

Ashiok's Erasure & Spell Queller have sadly also been rejected as mono-white effects by Mr Rosewater ;_;

June 16, 2024 5:07 p.m.

Please login to comment