This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Up! Your! Deck!

378127_10150441621792624_1477312954_n“Maybe I should make Polukranos? He’s new and shiny,” Bruce muttered as he scrolled down the list of mono-green legends on Gatherer.

“What are you doing, Banner?” Thor asked him, pulling up a chair and looking over his shoulder at the computer screen.

“Trying to pick a new general to build. But I don’t know, there’s so many options. I could do Thrun, the Last Troll, or Omnath, locus of Mana, or maybe green Kamahl…” Banner trailed off as he continued to stare at the screen.

“Well, what sort of criteria does your general have to meet?” Thor inquired.

“Just two things,” Bruce said as he settled on a picture of Silvos, Rogue Elemental. “It has to be big, and it has to be green.”

The ability to smash is not a prerequisite. But it would be viewed as a positive.

The ability to smash is not a prerequisite. But it would be viewed as a positive.

In case you didn’t get it from the conversation between the two beefiest Avengers up there, today we’re going to be talking about picking generals. This is probably the most important decision to be made when designing an EDH deck. This choice will decide what one creature (and attached ability) you will always have access to, what colours and cards you can play, and how other players are going to base their first impressions of you at the table. Since the choice is so huge, we’re going to divide it into two separate articles. Today we will be looking at choosing the colours of your general, and next time (or maybe the time after that if we are interrupted by a theme week – foreshadowing, ho!) we will be talking about the strategies to consider when choosing a general.

So today, we’re going to be talking about what colours (specifically combinations of colours) are going to be right for you. Was that racist? That sounded a little bit racist.

Great, now I won't be able to say anything about black cards. Smooth, Eric.

Great, now I won’t be able to say anything about black cards. Smooth, Eric.

Why Are There So Many Songs About Rainbows?

I am not going to go into details of the colour pie to discuss each colour’s weaknesses and strengths. There are already a thousand articles floating around in cyberspace covering that. And since I know you have the internet if you’re reading this, feel free to check out some of those.

I am also not going into each individual colour combination, because I have a life and don’t feel like being stapled to this computer for a month writing one article. What I am going to talk about is the Fantastic Four of EDH colour combinations: mono-coloured, bi-coloured, tri-coloured and the absurd penta-coloured.

Mono-Coloured

The mono-coloured (or mono-colored for you American readers) EDH deck has a lot going for and against it. They tend to get a bad rap because you will be vulnerable in all the places that your patron colour has weaknesses. This means that your deck could have difficulty getting card advantage, removing certain permanents (or many permanents at once), or could just fold over to the right kind of protection.

On the upside, never having to colour fix means your deck has the ability to be faster and more consistent than any other at the table, creating a reliably fun game experience. And though you miss out on powerful multicolour cards, you get access to some very strong cards with prohibitively colour-intensive mana costs.

Like this bad, black beastie- OH, CRAP I KNEW IT WOULD HAPPEN!

Like this bad black beastie – OH CRAP, I KNEW IT WOULD HAPPEN!

Bi-Coloured

Bi-coloured decks are ones that are a combination of two colours, and this is what I recommend most players try to build. You are able to play with your favourite colour, and then use another colour to shore up its weaknesses or enable it even more. You also get access to a myriad of powerful multicolour cards in addition to two sections of the colour pie. Bi-coloured decks can sometimes get colour screwed but they are usually very reliable with minimal fixing, allowing you to play a few cards with extreme colour costs (I wouldn’t go more than three mana symbols of a single colour though). The minimal fixing required also means that a dual colour deck can be as fast as a mono-coloured one. Truthfully, it’s hard to find too many bad things to say about bi-coloured decks, except that certain colour combinations will still have some big blind spots.

Tri-Coloured

This is where you start to get a little bit greedy.

Did someone say greedy?

Did someone say greedy?

Three colour decks are very powerful and have access to some great cards, but there will be games where you are colour screwed (especially if green isn’t one of the three colours). In order to avoid this, you are probably going to spend the first few turns of most of your games ramping and fixing, making fast aggro strategies more difficult. Your mana base will also be very vulnerable to your opponent’s disruption, so beware of strip mines! But this is the price you have to pay to get access to some of Magic’s most overpowered cards and strategies.

Three coloured decks can be some of the mightiest, and certainly have some of the scariest generals. But they are slower and more fragile than the previous two types, and there is a lot more of a balancing act involved in both playing and building them (being spoiled for choices can make trying to cut cards totally overwhelming). Because of this I recommend tri-colour to players who are already experienced in EDH, who want a more challenging deck that will give them the widest variety of options.

Penta-Coloured

Oh, come on! This is ridiculous! If you make a five colour deck, you will have to spend most of your game fixing and ramping, and you will almost certainly have to invest in an expensive mana base. You will absolutely curl over to Blood Moon, you will never be able to cast a mono-colour card with more than two mana symbols, and the constant uphill battle for fixing will mean that you are almost non-existent in the early game.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that you get access to every card. All of them, that have ever been printed. Ever. That’s twenty years and dozens of sets worth of options. Tempting, right?

You can have the entire pie. The whole thing. Delicious.

You can have the entire colour pie. The whole thing. Delicious.

If you decide to build five colour, be prepared to make some seriously painful cuts. You will never be able to fit everything you want into a hundred cards. However, this vicious editing means that five colour decks often end up with some of the tightest, finest tuned lists out there.

Also be aware that if you sit down at a table with a penta-coloured deck you will be painting a bullseye on your forehead. Most people know that you will have access to all the best of everything in Magic, and will respond appropriately. And in this case, the appropriate response is to stomp your molars down your esophagus.

Decisions, Decisions….

If you care about my advice (and you’re reading my articles, so you probably do), I recommend a bi-colour deck. They are a good balance of reliability and power, and they have some truly fantastic generals. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to write about the next most essential factor for your deck: making it general-dependent or general-independent. Come back next week (or the week after, if a little something intervenes) to check it out!

Post your comments below or talk to Eric directly at EricBonvie@gmail.com or @ThatBonvieGuy on twitter. Unless you just want to tell him that he forgot no-coloured decks, in which case keep it to yourself. I’m not making another section just to write about Karn, goddamn it!

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