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When I'm teaching Magic: The Gathering to a new player, one of the things I usually give them early on is a run down of each of the different colors and its pros and cons. I usually try to come up with 2 sentences and no more than 3 example cards to describe the color. Normally, I use descriptions that are something like this:

Red: Uses the power of fire to damage life totals, creatures, and destroy lands/artifacts. Has trouble dealing with enchantments, flying, and tricky spells. Examples: Shock, Shatter, Demolish.

Black: Uses the power of death and evil to profit from other misery with powerful removal, creatures, discard spells, and detrimental enchantments. Has trouble dealing with enchantments, vulnerable to removal, and has slightly weaker creatures. Examples: Doom Blade, Mind Rot, Sorin's Thirst

Blue: Uses the power of the mind to manipulate the field of battle by drawing cards, countering spells, messing with opponents' plans in general, and playing flying creatures. Has the weakest creatures in the game, even though it has many of the best flying creatures. Examples: Divination, Cancel, Darkslick Drake (or any other good flying creature)

Green: Uses the power of nature to grow and expand until its massive creatures are too much for opponents to handle. Good at dealing with artifacts/enchantments, and has strongest creatures in the game, but also has worst flying creatures and very little removal. Examples: Llanowar elves, Leatherback Baloth, naturalize

White: Uses the power of life and justice to play powerful creatures, life-gain spells, sweeper spells, small creatures, and good defenses. Second best in flying and creatures overall, but weak against ?????? Examples: ?????

While these are rough examples that could all use a bit of polishing, I definitely feel like my understanding and explanation of white looks the weakest. Currently, I look at white as the 'all-around color' with fewer strengths and weaknesses than the others, but I'm having trouble characterizing it in more specific ways.

How would you explain the pros and cons of the color white to newcomers to MTG? What example cards and general characteristics of white decks would you include? What might you add to my other explanations to make them more helpful and accurate, but still keep them clean and concise?

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6 Answers 6

You might not be aware but Wizards already has a page describing to a new player what the core concepts of each colour of magic are. Here's what they have to say, even more concisely than how you explain the colours:

White: The color of Justice

White spellcasters use superior tactics, efficient creatures, and the power of righteousness against their foes.

Blue: The color of Wisdom

Blue mages focus on using superior knowledge to gain control of a battle, and slowly gain the upper hand.

Black: The color of Ambition

Black sorcerers are willing to do whatever it takes to win a battle, even if it means sacrificing everything to do so.

Red: The color of Chaos

Red conjurers try to win as quickly and dramatically as possible, smashing and burning their way to a quick victory.

Green: The color of Nature

Green shamans win duels through the brute force of mother nature, summoning giant creatures to squash their enemies.

I think some of your explanations need a bit of work. For example, black isn't (always) explicitly evil, just selfish and ambitious; and red isn't just "the power of fire" (although the element of fire is associated with it) just like blue isn't "the power of water".

White: Uses the power justice to play efficient creatures and deal with combat threats. Best at manipulating enchantments, artifact equipment, and life gain, and second best in flying. Worst at direct damage: white relies on superior tactics in combat to deal the lethal blow. Examples: Elite Vanguard, Pacifism, Lifelink.

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I would not associated white directly with western concepts of 'justice.' White is definitely "law and order" but there a plenty of planes in the multiverse where the law and order it imposes would definitely be unjust or outright evil to us.

White's all time greatest strength is 'imprisonment' style creature removal. Super efficient spells that get rid of a creature for little mana but either give some benefit to the victim in exchange for the efficiency or are restricted in timing/aren't permanent.

White's overall focus is really still on small creatures coming together to form a more powerful army. Latest sets aside, I think Angels are a secondary theme to the idea of a united army being stronger than the individual little humans or knights or whatever.

White's greatest weakness mechanically is placing high value on lifegain, which is generally not a powerful mechanic, and a lack of ways to replenish your hand. Even Green has better options for picking up some more cards.

Uses a single minded devotion to Law and Order to deal with enemy trouble makers and unite small creatures together into armies that are greater than the sum of their parts. Has objectively the best removal spells in the game, but they come with a 'benefit' to the opponent or are not 'permanent.' White also includes the iconic Angels that are among the most recognized cards in magic and some of the most powerful creatures ever printed. Examples: Oblivion Ring, Honor of the Pure, Baneslayer Angel

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My gripe about your lifegain statement is this: you can just throw out the bad lifegain cards and play the rest of white, just like you can throw out the overcosted casual-play Dragons and play the rest of red. Then you're left with lifelink, which is actually superb as a creature ability. –  Alex P May 12 '12 at 0:34
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I take issue with your disassociation of Justice and White. Even Wizards' introductory “What Is Magic?” page says: “ White: The color of Justice White spellcasters use superior tactics, efficient creatures, and the power of righteousness against their foes.” In my mind, Justice is not associated with Good/Evil. An eye for an eye isn't a good concept, but it is a prototypical concept of justice, and totally in line with white magic mechanics. –  ghoppe May 12 '12 at 19:57

There's a lot of detail that can be gone into here, but I'm just going to focus on a couple of points:

First of all, I disagree that white "has good creatures". White, aside from a few powerful Angels at the top end, has good small creatures. You'll rarely find cost-effective white creatures in the middle or at the top end of the mana curve.

White's primary weakness from my point of view is that, while it may be a combat colour, its main strengths are defensive. White direct damage is practically nonexistent; its removal is strongly conditional on having been attacked first, or temporarily rather than permanently disables a threat. Lifegain is the key example, but in other ways too white is a very reactive rather than proactive colour. Red, black and green have different ways of dishing out pain to the opponent, but apart from its "weenie swarm" strategy, white, like blue, generally contains threats rather than presents them. Whether that is ultimately a strength or a weakness depends in the long run on your play style!

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What about Hero of Bladehold, Baneslayer Angel, and something like half of all the viable reanimator targets? –  Alex P May 12 '12 at 0:19
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@AlexP - I think Magic has become a vast and sprawling game where you'll be lucky to find any rule that doesn't have a counterexample. All colours tend to have highly playable creatures at all points on the mana curve during all eras of the game: otherwise the ones that didn't would almost certainly cease to be competitive! But you can safely say that, in general, white will have fewer options for Hero-of-Bladehold-sized creatures at around 4cc than green. Just because all 5 colours got good (e.g.) Titans out of fairness didn't mean there's nothing to choose between them. –  thesunneversets May 12 '12 at 8:07
    
Reanimator targets I think are special cases because once you get to 7 or 8 mana your cards are going to be at a fairly ridiculous power level whatever colour they're in. –  thesunneversets May 12 '12 at 8:08
    
Fewer than green, but does it compare poorly to red, blue, or black? –  Alex P May 12 '12 at 15:12
    
Beyond the bottom end of the curve (1 and 2 drops) I'd say definitely and observably yes. The classic "3/3 for 4" type creature is something you'll see much more often in every colour but white. –  thesunneversets May 12 '12 at 18:20

White: Has really good cheap creatures. Not necessarily big ones, but they often have useful abilities or come in numbers. A classic deck concept is "White weenie". White has the best unconditional sweepers and really strong spot removal, though the spot removal always has a drawback. White is the strongest defensive color with protection, damage prevention, life gain and spells that are only able affect creatures attacking them. (Card examples: Gather the Townsfolk, Mirran crusader, Wrath of God, Condemn, Honor of the Pure.)

If I were to add more it would be about good at handling (offense/defense) enchantments and possibly mention their top end bombs. Though I think it's of less importance.

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Let me try to complete your proposition without adding too many words:

White: Uses the power of life and justice to play powerful creatures, life-gain spells, sweeper spells, small creatures, and good defenses. Second best in flying and creatures overall, but weak against decks constructed specifically against white and some blue contrlling and countering decks; it also lacks direct damage options. Examples: Serra Angel, White Knight, Disenchant, Swords to Plowshares, Armageddon, Wrath of God, Righteousness, Circles of Protection.

Enjoy!

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Many of the card examples you cite are at best old-school, and some obsolete. Circles of Protection haven't seen print since Eighth Edition; and Swords to Plowshares, although recently reprinted in a Duel Deck, isn't Modern legal. I'd use cards a new player could relate to but highlight White's mechanics/strengths like Lifelink and Pacifism. –  ghoppe May 12 '12 at 19:52
    
You're right, apologies! These are the cards that represent white uniqueness TO ME, and I'm obviously and old school, obsolete player ;-) –  Yaztromo May 14 '12 at 19:39

White: Excels at creating hoards of small creatures to overwhelm the opponent. It is also the color able to most easily handle any permanent type. It's weaknesses come from the restrictions placed on it's removal. Every spell has a drawback, whether it be sorcery speed, temporary nature, or hitting your creatures as well as your opponents. Ex: Gather the Townsfolk, Day of Judgement, Oblivion Ring

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