How is Red Elemental Blast a Color Pie Break?

General forum

Posted on Aug. 9, 2020, 8:35 p.m. by DemonDragonJ

Mark Rosewater has said that Red Elemental Blast is a color pie break, but I fail to see how that is the case, since it can counter only blue spells. Given how narrow it is, I feel that it is perfectly acceptable.

What does everyone else say about this? How is Red Elemental Blast a color pie break?

LordBlackblade says... #2

It's literally a counterspell outside of blue. Regardless of the restriction, that's a serious break from established norms.

August 9, 2020 8:45 p.m.

SynergyBuild says... #3

So is Veil of Summer a color break? While it often acts as much as if not more as a counterspell than Red Elemental Blast (not a removal spell ever), so would that effect, while not stating counter, still be a color break?

August 9, 2020 8:48 p.m.

LordBlackblade says... #4

SynergyBuild: I get where you're coming from, but I don't think Veil of Summer would be considered a break in rules; however, it may be a break in spirit (if that makes sense). Hexproof and card draw are established parts of green's color pie at this point, but like you said it is usually a functional counterspell.

August 9, 2020 8:50 p.m.

SynergyBuild says... #5

Oh, no, color pie never really seemed to be about the rules, it's not against the rules to break the color pie, just a part of design philosophy!

August 9, 2020 9:24 p.m.

LordBlackblade says... #6

You’re totally right, I misspoke! I guess I meant rules of design aka design philosophy! I should’ve refined that statement a little more!

August 9, 2020 9:28 p.m.

SynergyBuild says... #7

Oops, no biggie, got concerned for a bit I misread, apparently I was just misinterpreting, still sorry about it all. Also, are color breaks a bad thing?

August 9, 2020 9:32 p.m.

Gidgetimer says... #8

I have used REB as removal plenty of times in UR Painter. Granted, I use it as a counterspell much more often. When all permanents are blue, it is great removal though.

August 9, 2020 9:58 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #9

LordBlackblade, there have been white counterspells, on occasion, so are they also color pie breaks?

August 9, 2020 10:42 p.m.

jethstriker says... #10

Be reminded that REB came from a time when color pie are not fully established yet. If I remember correctly, color pie is the contribution of MaRo to Mtg design. Therefore, most cards prior to him being a designer (around before '95-'97) can be considered a break by today's standard.

However, one may consider these kind of cards to be color bleed (a term I believe came also from MaRo). Color bleed are mechanics that they occasionally allow to happen in certain colors if there is as strong sense of flavor or block mechanic necessity. In REB's case, we may consider this as flavor reason, due to red being the sworn enemy of blue and vice versa, it makes sense that red can have mechanic / weapon specifically targeted to blue.

Another example are the color shifted cards in the Time Spiral block. Most of those cards can be considered a color break, however, due to the mechanic of the block, they allowed that to happen.

August 10, 2020 12:58 a.m.

Woiteck says... #11

In my opinion, REB, and for the same reason Pyroblast, breaks the colour pie not because of its first ability, but because of its second one. Red generally deals damage and only directly destroys artifacts and lands. These cards give red the ability to destroy anything, limited only by the target being at least partially blue. Most notably, it allows red to deal with enchantments, which it isn’t supposed to. Btw, dealing with enchantments is exactly the reason why I play both REB and Pyroblast in non-green non-white decks. It simply is too good.

August 10, 2020 4:41 a.m.

plakjekaas says... #12

There's also Lapse of Certainty, Illumination, Rebuff the Wicked and Dawn Charm who didn't have the mana type switch to hide behind '^^

August 10, 2020 8:55 a.m.

I thought it matched the pie perfectly, but mostly because the pie was all about “who has hate cards for who?” back then...

That and who were your partners in the 5-pointed-Star games (which were amazing, by the way).

Red and blue were the most traditional “wizard wearing a pointy hat, running through a dungeon, pointing at things and zapping them” colors, so they were the perfect match for “point and zap” spells like this. It’s all flavor.

August 10, 2020 9:55 a.m.

To better (and more succinctly) explain my prior post: Deathgrip makes 100% sense to me, fits the theme perfectly.

So; whatever your immediate gut reaction was to that statement above should probably be how you handle any of my further comments on this site. Either total revulsion and pity, or a resounding cheer. No middle ground.


August 10, 2020 10:16 a.m.

sergiodelrio says... #15

@DemonDragonJ white is secondary in counterspells (is allowed 'taxing' counterspells ala Mana Tithe) therefore it's not a problem. I believe REB is problematic due to the 'destroy' part, not the counter part, which would only be a bend imho (compare Guttural Response for reference).

August 10, 2020 10:33 a.m.

Daveslab2022 says... #16

Like others have said- it’s a literal counter spell in red, without any flavor or lore reasoning other than “red hates blue” and “blue hates red” for Blue Elemental Blast - which isn’t even true.

To say that Veil of Summer is technically a counter spell is absolutely wrong. There are a million cards in green that give hexproof- which is what this does but only against specific colors.

The drawing a card for no discernible “green” reason may be considered a bend, but certainly not a break.

Hope I contributed to the discussion- I really only read the first few responses lol.


Gitaxian Probe in a golgari deck does not make it a golgari spell- that’s an absurd notion. It’s a spell that costs 2 life and is still blue.
Putting Git Probe in a golgari deck does NOT change the color identity of the Probe.

August 10, 2020 noon Edited.

Thiccboi5 says... #17

just getting back into magic, so I don't know exactly what color pie breaks are significant. also would they usually be banned?

August 10, 2020 12:02 p.m.

Daveslab2022 says... #18

Thiccboi5 color pie breaks essentially means creating a card for a color, that has the abilities typically found in another color.

An example would be, well Red Elemental Blast.

A simpler example would be if they printed a spell that cost , printed it at sorcery speed and it just said “draw two cards”

Red can’t draw cards without some sort of other effect like Browbeat where opponents can take damage instead, Outpost Siege where it’s exiled and you only get to play an extra card for 1 turn, or by lacing the draw with discards a la Insolent Neonate or Battlefield Scavenger.

August 10, 2020 12:07 p.m.

Thiccboi5 says... #19

Daveslab2022 ok, that makes a lot more sense. I got that feeling from some of the comments and read a little more. I remember when gitaxian probe was an annoying card to play against in modern lol

August 10, 2020 12:11 p.m.

Daveslab2022 says... #20


Phyrexian mana spells aren’t banned because any deck can play them....

The problem with them wasn’t that any deck could play them, that was actually the point of them, to be splashable without altering your mana base.

The problem was that they were free spells. Being able to see your opponents hand for 2 life is an insane ability.

This is also why most Phyrexian mana spells aren’t banned- only a select few.

August 10, 2020 12:13 p.m.

sergiodelrio says... #21

August 10, 2020 2:44 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #22

sergiodelrio, thank you for doing that, but I still cannot understand how such a narrow effect is a break. Blue is one of red's enemies, so that spell makes sense, to me.

August 10, 2020 5:02 p.m.

sergiodelrio says... #23

Bottom line WotC R&D reasoning here:

1) Not all colors have access to any effect, even if flavor matches. This is a hard rule.

2) In the current color wheel effect distribution, only blue has 'primary' access to counters (primary means it's the strongest in the effect) and white is secondary, or even tertiary, I don't remember. That's it. They made the conscious decision to reduce access to counter effects, as it is widely viewed unfun (MaRo quote)

3) Therefore, any other color getting a counter effect is a break. By above definition.

Not making any of that up btw. If you wanna look into it more, MaRo has answered similar questions regarding counterspells and blue's monopoly on his blogatog. You'll get lots of google results if you search accordingly

August 10, 2020 5:19 p.m.

DemonDragonJ: To respond to your question, I would tend to say yes.

As others have argued, counterspells may be (I emphasize may be) tertiary in white. I personally don't feel there are enough counterspells in white to justify that (I counted only a handful in all of Magic's history).

The last white counterspell that wasn't a reprint (near as I can tell) was Lapse of Certainty from 2009. I would call it a hard bend at the least.

August 10, 2020 5:51 p.m.

Daveslab2022 says... #25

Oh man Lapse of Certainty is an interesting magic card. It doesn’t do something white typically does, but it feels incredibly white.

However, considering blue is considered “mind magic” I would definitely consider it a break.

August 10, 2020 5:54 p.m.

dingusdingo says... #26

Mark Rosewater joined Magic in 1996, from Alliances forward. This means that there are a lot of counter spells in non-blue colors that predate him joining.


Artifact Blast


Red Elemental Blast


Avoid Fate




Nether Void

Stromgald Cabal

Thrull Wizard



Order of the Sacred Torch

There are also a handful of countering abilities in non-blue from pre-Rosewater sets


Brown Ouphe

Richard Garfield had intended colors besides blue to have access to counter spells. Garfield also built the game to have a greater focus on interactions between colors, with hosers such as Tsunami and Acid Rain being another example, or the frequent Protection from X Color cards that are rampant in the early sets. Maro has moved away from viewing the colors as interactions and relationships between colors and towards trying to define the colors in relation to themselves (a la color pie). Whether or not you agree with Garfield's vision for the game or Rosewater's, we can't ignore that Red Elemental Blast predates Rosewater even working for Wizards. Red Elemental Blast also predates Maro's theory of the color pie, which must be applied retroactively to REB.

We also have numerous examples of non-blue counter spells in sets even after Maro started designing cards or even becoming a lead set designer. I think that while counter spells and interacting with spells/abilities on the stack is primarily a blue ability, other colors need to have access to this powerful and necessary tool. While I agree that blue should be the market share, we need closer to 85-90% of counter spells printed as blue, instead of the current ~98%

August 10, 2020 9:21 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #27

dingusdingo, yes, I agree with that; Rosewater has been a great designer for the game, but he is by no means the supreme authority on it, and I feel that colors other than blue should be allowed to have counterspells under certain conditions.

However, since non-blue counterspells are currently a rarity, how else does red oppose blue?

August 11, 2020 10:16 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #28

What about Blue Elemental Blast? Is that card also a color pie break by today's standards?

August 28, 2020 11:08 p.m.

Daveslab2022 says... #29

I say yes because of

“destroy target red permanent”

That’s not a blue thing.

August 28, 2020 11:29 p.m.

Flooremoji says... #30

Yes. Blue should not be able to destroy permenants by todays standards.

August 28, 2020 11:30 p.m.

SynergyBuild says... #31

Flooremoji, well, without giving back a permanent, like with Pongify (just reprinted, showing that the game still believes this to be a valid part of the color pie somewhat), Rapid Hybridization, and arguably Oko, Thief of Crowns, which resembled both, as well as Beast Within.

August 28, 2020 11:35 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #32

Daveslab2022, Flooremoji, even if it is as narrow as a permanent of a single color?

SynergyBuild, I personally feel that Pongify and Rapid Hybridization as are much color pie breaks as is Beast Within, because blue is not supposed to be able to destroy creatures, even if it give the player a new creature.

August 28, 2020 11:45 p.m.

Daveslab2022 says... #33

Even though it is as narrow as a single color, the effect is not a blue effect. If they had reinforced “red hates blue” more, then sure. But they haven’t really.

August 28, 2020 11:48 p.m. Edited.

SynergyBuild says... #34

DemonDragonJ Yeah, but the color pie changes. If more cards show the effects that Pongify, Ovinomancer, Rapid Hybridization, and Polymorph have, the color pie allows it.

Personally, I do understand these 4 effects aren't common, like in white or black, but for literally destroying creatures, if that's all you want, as long as a severe drawback is given, generally in the form of a creature being given back, blue can do it, if only occasionally.

If they printed more, it would be fine, right? Because it would show a precedent. If that's how it works, luckily there is precedent in the color already.

August 29, 2020 12:03 a.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #35

What is the general opinion that this forum has of Guttural Response? Do you feel that that is a color pie break, as well?

August 29, 2020 8:46 a.m.

dingusdingo says... #36


I don't think Guttural Response is a color pie break. It is the exact kind of limited counter that red and green need, and much healthier for the game than a card like Veil of Summer.

August 30, 2020 10:01 a.m.

SynergyBuild says... #37

DemonDragonJ Not really, that falls in line with Pyroblast, Red Elemental Blast, Autumn's Veil, and Veil of Summer. It fits with the color pie.

August 30, 2020 12:36 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #38

dingusdingo, DeinoStinkus, SynergyBuild, I am very glad to hear you say that, but I am very sad that Mark Rosewater believes that it is a break.

August 30, 2020 1:10 p.m.

Skagra42 says... #39

Red doesn't get either of its effects. It can't get an effect that just counters a spell or an effect that can destroy target enchantment.

October 15, 2021 3:46 p.m.

Gidgetimer says... #40

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October 15, 2021 6:46 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #41

Skagra42, I disagree with that, as I believe that both effects are so narrow that they should be considered severe bends, not breaks.

If REB is a break, how were cards such as Chaos Warp oor Tibalt's Trickery printed in recent years, as they are essentially better versions of REB's modes?

October 15, 2021 11:51 p.m.

DemonDragonJ it's not about power... the color wheel deals with what a card is doing, not how "good" it is.

October 16, 2021 12:14 a.m.

RyuSama420 says... #43

DemonDragonJ: it's also quite the stretch to say that Chaos Warp or Tibalt's Trickery are "better" than Red Elemental Blast. almost every current legacy deck capable of producing red mana is using Red Elemental Blast and/or Pyroblast in the sideboard. the other 2 see no legacy play at all.

October 16, 2021 2:11 a.m.

RyuSama420 while legacy is certainly a high powered format, Tibalt's Trickery is thus far banned in both Historic AND Pioneer--and Chaos Warp is seen in almost thrice the amount of EDH decks than REB per EDHREC's stats. I would say that context matters here

October 16, 2021 3:05 a.m.

RyuSama420 says... #45

Omniscience_is_life: red elemental blast is not legal in historic or pioneer, so thats a bad comparison. theres also the fact that Tibalt's Trickery was never used in the same manner as Red Elemental Blast, where it was used against an opponent's spell. the trickery player would counter their own spell to cheat in something bigger, and REB can't be used like that, thus its no longer comparable to "one of REB's modes". as for Chaos Warp, commander isn't a competitive format anyway, and so the number of decks its in has no correlation to how good it is. if your play group is blue heavy, you should be using REB. and aren't people always going on about how Cyclonic Rift is a must have for any deck with blue? and don't most decks have blue? i'll take the card that can counter it over the one that can't.

October 16, 2021 5:12 a.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #46

Omniscience_is_life, RyuSama420, I actually dislike Chaos Warp and think that it should never have been printed, or at least it should not be allowed to target enchantments, because red is not supposed to be able to directly deal with enchantments.

Also, as long as we are discussing this subject, how do you feel about Blue Elemental Blast and Guttural Response? Do you feel that those are color pie breaks, as well? To answer my own question, I feel that they are so narrow that they are acceptable, but I am not certain who may agree with me about that.

October 16, 2021 9:11 a.m.

RyuSama420 how it is a bad comparison, when referring to power level, to say that a card has been banned in two formats?

Also, to say that not only can Trickery counter opponents spells but also do some busted shit with your own just proves how much better it is. Trickery is just a far more open-ended version of REB's first mode.

I don't think I agree about "the number of decks its in has no correlation to how good it is"--in commander, answering any threat in a traditionally narrow-at-removal color is far more important that having a Cyc Rift silver bullet (on that note: I haven't heard a peep about Cyc Rift in ages!).

October 16, 2021 12:23 p.m.

RyuSama420 says... #48

Omniscience_is_life: it's irrelevant because the cards are not legal in the same format. i said that already. also, using the card differently makes it "different", not "better". if trickery is used on an opponents spell, they get a free one. REB doesn't give the opponent a free spell.

October 17, 2021 12:17 a.m.

RyuSama420 that first point is fair, but I don't agree with your second. The modality of Trickery is what makes is good, and even hitting an opponent's spell is likely to be fine since their deck won't be built around hitting an Ugin etc. And Trickery can hit ANY spell--REB is much more narrow, meaning in specific scenarios like a blue-heavy meta it's good, but it can fall short outside.

October 17, 2021 2:07 a.m.

RyuSama420 says... #50

Omniscience_is_life: any spell if countering, yes. elemental blast can hit resolved spells though. trickery just seems like one of the worst options outside of mono red, at which point i'd have to ask myself why i'd play mono red.

October 17, 2021 2:21 a.m.

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