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I'm a MTG noob, and currently I've only built single-color decks. However, I want to explore the art of building decks that use cards of multiple colors.

  1. What are the advantages of a multicolor deck? Why do people decide to build them? What goes into the process of deciding which colors and cards to combine? Do people decide to build a red-green deck and then find the best cards to use, or do they decide on the kind of cards they want and later figure that red-green would probably give the best results?

  2. Do multicolor decks usually have an equal amount of lands and spells of each color? Or can you have one primary color and one secondary color? Which is more efficient/better and why?

  3. How can I choose what spells of each color to add so I get color-screwed as little as possible? If all my creatures are of one color, and I don't get any land of that color, I'm in trouble. Likewise, if I have a lot of spells that require multiple mana of one color, they will be harder to cast in a multi-color deck than in a single color one.

  4. What cards become more/less valuable in a multicolor vs. single color deck? Obviously cards that can generate mana of different colors become more valuable and cards that require lots of mana of one color become less valuable for starters. How can I take maximum advantage of cards that are better in multicolor decks and avoid those that are weaker?

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4 Answers 4

(1) Each of the five Magic colours has its own strengths and weaknesses. (Historically, blue had fewer weaknesses and more strengths than any of the rest, which led to some wags dubbing Island "the most broken card in Magic", but things are much more balanced these days.) A mono-coloured deck is liable to be very good at doing one, narrow thing, but only at the exclusion of versatility. Quite often, mono decks roll over and die to "colour hoser" cards, or just simple strategies they can't deal with. If you're a red burn deck, you may simply not be able to deal with copious amounts of lifegain, and you have absolutely no way of dealing with any enchantment once it hits the table. Adding in another colour helps you shore up your weaknesses, at the expense of some of the single-minded purposefulness and drive.

(2) This completely depends on the objectives of your deck, but: a two-colour deck with a 50/50 split probably leaves you with an acceptable chance of drawing both the colours you need. A four colour deck with an even split of spells of all its colours sounds like an unholy mess of mana issues. In practice, a lot of multicolour decks are heavy green, due to green having far the best mana fixers.

(3) See above: I'd start with a heavy green deck with Birds of Paradise, Rampant Growths, cards like that that enable you to grab whatever other colours are needed by the cards that you draw. Failing that, you're going to have to get good at assembling complex mana bases with dual lands, fetch lands, colour-fixing artifacts and so forther.

(4) Dual lands are probably the holy grail of multicolour Magic: unfortunately the ones with the least significant drawbacks are often rare, and often quite expensive to obtain. (See also, the rare and very sought-after Birds of Paradise.) It's all about the manabases really and I wouldn't worry about anything else to start with. You're right though that cards with more than a couple of coloured mana in their casting costs are probably a pretty bad idea to coexist in a multicoloured deck, though I've seen some incredibly greedy pro decks enabled by the Lorwyn "Vivid" lands plus Reflecting Pools, so anything is possible in the right environment...

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1.

Generally, multicolour decks are built because there is some synergy between the strategies and strengths of the two colours which makes them stronger together than separately as mono-color decks. For example, red/green decks are popular because the removal of red helps the large efficient creatures of green hit the opponent. Blue/green decks use the mana acceleration of green to fuel the card advantage of blue. A white/red deck swarms the opponent with small creatures more reliably as white gains some removal and red gains some resilience. Blue/black is always popular for "control" decks, as black has the creature and card removal, and blue has the spell counters and card drawing.

It's a bit to broad a question to ask how to choose what colours to build a deck around. When building decks for a standard or limited tournament, it depends greatly on the current "metagame" — what decks are doing well in tournaments and how to counteract them or exploit them.

2.

See above. It really depends on the metagame. In general, a two-colour deck will have their colours fairly equally split. Sometimes a third colour will be splashed in. Some blocks even encouraged four or five colour decks, as they had powerful cards that kicked in when you had more mana available.

3.

Two-colour decks, even more than one-colour decks, rely on using mulligans wisely. Generally you will avoid using many cards that require two of the same colour mana. If you do, they will probably be the big "finishers" in your deck.

Many multi-colour or mana-fixing lands and spells are available in most environments. Really, building a competative two-colour deck is not an issue. Be careful not to overload too much on mana-fixing spells and artifacts. These cards help you get the mana you need, but they won't win the game by themselves.

4.

I think the answers to #1 apply here. You want to look for cards which enhance the strategies of each other, and not even concern yourself so much with colour until you build your mana base.

I think it's best to learn by taking apart and tinkering with other successful decks to see how they're made. A good resource for this is the Top Decks weekly column at Wizards.

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The other answers have explained pretty well what the advantages of a multicolor deck are, but I think I can add something on this point:

What goes into the process of deciding which colors and cards to combine? Do people decide to build a red-green deck and then find the best cards to use, or do they decide on the kind of cards they want and later figure that red-green would probably give the best results?

It depends on what level you play at. A beginner might very well decide to make a deck of a specific color combination, and then perhaps be guided toward a particular strategy by that choice of colors - for example, choosing to play red-green kind of pushes you toward playing a deck with strong creatures and burn spells, or blue-white would push you toward a control deck with counterspells, white removal, and a few flying creatures.

But at higher levels, people don't think that much about colors when building a deck, at least not right at the beginning - for one thing, even once you choose a color or colors, there are still many thousands of cards to pick from in those colors. Pro deck designers usually build around a specific card, or more often, a specific combination of two or three cards, which typically sets the color scheme for the deck. For example, the Exarch-Twin deck that's currently popular relies on Deceiver Exarch (blue) and Splinter Twin (red), which requires that the deck is going to be blue-red. Or Valakut decks need Primeval Titan, so they pretty much have to be green-red (unless you have access to Prismatic Omen, but that's a different story). The Tempered Steel deck from Scars of Mirrodin Block Constructed is an example of a deck whose color (white) was set by a single card - of course, that was only possible because the cards that Tempered Steel works well with happen to be colorless.

In some other cases (actually this is pretty common), you might start out with one or two cards and begin building a deck around those cards' color(s), but then you discover that the deck doesn't work very well without a certain kind of effect that you can only get in a different color. A good example of this is Pyromancer Ascension. You could, in principle, build a mono-red deck around that card, but in order to get the enchantment active, you typically need to find and cast two copies of two different cards - for example, two Lightning Bolts and two Shocks. That's not likely to happen before your opponent kills you, unless you have a way to filter through your deck looking for multiple copies of spells - and that's where blue spells like Preordain come in. This is why Ascension decks are blue-red, and in fact why a lot of different decks (like the Puresteel Paladin/equipment combo deck) like to add blue, even when you might not think it's necessary.

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+1, excellent current real-world examples of why some popular multicolour decks had to be the colours they are. It's sometimes quite hard to articulate exactly why some colour combinations don't work - R/G, U/W, and to an extent U/R are popular draft combinations, but there seems to be a general consensus that, for instance, B/W is generally pretty bad, and I think it would take me a while to put into words exactly why! –  thesunneversets Aug 31 '11 at 7:55
1  
Actually, I didn't even think about addressing draft decks! But I guess the idea is similar, in that whatever bombs or early removal spells you get generally set your colors. It's a good point to bring up about how certain color combinations work better than others. (Honestly, I don't think B/W is quite as bad as some people give it credit for, as long as you're paying attention to what kinds of cards actually go in your deck and not just picking whatever comes by in those colors.) –  David Z Aug 31 '11 at 8:34

First, I total agree with what everyone has said and also want to add a couple more things. Once you have decided on your 'main' cards (1,2 or 3) to build your deck around, have 2, 3 or 4 of those cards in your deck. The same thing goes with your supporting cards, I may not put 4 of the same support card because you want them to support in ANY situation.

Second, I don't think anyone said this, Yes, the first times you play ANY deck, not pre made, is a trial and error and you may end up starting over.

Lastly, in multicolour decks, I love artifacts.

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