Design Class – Colorshifting Wall of Blossoms

I don’t know why I’m such a sucker for these cards: nice, simple, elegant design. Yes, I’m a Johnny/Spike and cards that let me do amazing, fun and wacky things are great. But my eye always comes back to these cards that are easy to grok.

I hate it when MaRo’s right (Note, clicking on that link takes you to his “Elegance” article and if you haven’t seen it before, well, have fun).

So, why am I getting all excited about a cantripping 0/4 wall?

I’m not the only one. When @Maro254 tweeted about a fan favorite wall being reprinted in White, there were two main guesses: Wall of Blossoms and Fog Bank. The smart money would be on Fog Bank since preventing combat damage is “more White” than drawing a card. But, he said popular (meaning fan favorite) and I don’t recall Fog Bank being a crowd pleaser. While Fog Bank may sometime be colorshifted to White some day (I believe it can) let’s focus on what people are screaming about on the message boards and twitter:

Should there be a White Wall of Blossoms? Why can’t it be Blue?

Let’s figure it out.

First, let me get this out of the way: no, this is not going to be some love fest about why Wall of Omens will be good in Standard and you certainly won’t see me write how this will see play in almost every format. You know this isn’t this type of blog (what, me give strategy?). So, if you were expecting some sort of sick awesome with this card, you’re obviously new here. Welcome, it’s always nice to have a new reader. Colorshifted is the term that was applied to cards in the set Planar Chaos; cards that are functional reprints (the same card/different name) but in a different color (and obviously the different name). That’s what we’re focusing on in this post.

Onward.

White has gotten it’s fare share of walls (for this argument, anything with defender is also a wall). Here’s the breakdown of the 132 printed before Rise of the Eldrazi (Number modified from the actual creatures with “defender”)

  • 33 White
  • 29 Blue
  • 13 Black
  • 18 Red
  • 17 Green
  • 7 Multi (U/G x2, U/B, U/W x3, W/B)
  • 15 Artifact

As you can see, White leads the pack. Because White is the protecting color, it should come to no one’s surprise that it’s set up this way. Walls protect you from being attacked, which is also a good military tactic (something that White is also good at doing). I bet some of you never thought of it that way; yes, having a way where creatures can’t swing at you is a military tactic; that explains why Red (ever so slightly) is ahead of the other three colors because of it’s combat minded mechanics (first/double strike, can’t block, firebreathing, etc).

Blue is second in the list, because normally, it was thought of that Blue would be the stalling color. They best way to do that would be to counter their spells and set up walls so that creatures can’t attack. Years ago, that was made much more possible, but as we’ve seen, that’s not really the case any more (isn’t it nice when we can tie things together?).

But, if we ignore what Wizards has done in the past because the game grows and changes, let’s take a look at the walls in current Standard.

Five are Mono-White, three are Mono-Blue, and two are White/Blue. Clearly, at the moment, there is a clear argument that Wall of Omens could be either color. Two of Blue’s walls bounce other creatures and two of White’s can gain you life. No where in those cards does it say about drawing cards (which is at the heart of this matter).

Now, Blue has had plenty of creatures that have the words “Draw a card” somewhere on the card (see the query here). Sure, some of them may be mechanics like cycling, but there are over 100 creatures in that group. White? 12. Clearly this heavily favors Blue and means that Wall of Omens was clearly printed in the wrong color. The data from these two groups show that this is clearly out of White’s league. And I’m sure you Blue mages don’t want me to say “Well, White needs it” like MaRo tweeted.

Let’s take a look at another set of numbers. Let’s see what happens if we filter out to only see Pre-ROE standard:

Blue 6

White 4

Three of Blue’s creatures have the “looter” ability (Tap: Draw, discard), another one has just a tap to draw and one more has an “enter the battlefield” ability, but makes you discard if you don’t kick it. White’s draw’s when you play an enchantment (as it should be), one cycles, and another draws if you have a Green permanent in play. There’s one card that’s shared on both lists:

Too bad he's not an Instant Messenger Falcon

Messenger Falcons.

“But Robby, why should we care about him? He was created in an all multi-color set, so whatever.” Notice the casting cost, what color do you have to play to cast him?

That’s right, White.

You can pay either Green or Blue, but you have to pay White. This maybe the future of drawing in White now that there’s several cards with the “enter the battlefield” cantrip line. Green and Blue have seen it in the past, which is why they were also featured on this card.

Blue is the master of drawing cards; it isn’t even close. For a color all about knowledge, drawing is one if not the best way to acquire what it’s seeking (save tutoring). But drawing is such a basic function of the game that all colors should have access to it and most of the time they do in terms of cantrips. Please remember that while not every card is tournament viable, the fact that shows up often enough means that it’s a part of the color.

I’ve always believed that colors should be able to draw you cards depending on their strength. Blue should be able to draw more than the other colors no matter what spell it plays (and it still does). Whether it’s countering a spell (Cryptic Command), bouncing a permanent (Into the Roil), or whatever, Blue still draws a good number of cards. Green should only be able to draw in relation to either creatures or lands (damage, enters the battlefield). Wall of Blossoms might have been reprinted (and almost was) and is one of the best ways Green can draw cards. Elvish Visionary has fit in that role nicely. Black should be able to draw cards at the cost of life (Sign in Blood) though tutoring is more to Black’s style. Red usually has the worst time drawing cards, but does so randomly (Burning Inquiry) or does so by damage (Needle Drop).

At the end of this, where does this leave White? Placing with Red on the bottom of the pile of drawing cards White doesn’t draw cards, so why should it get Wall of Blossoms?

Because of military tactics, which is what White is so good at.

White plays combat tricks with damage prevention and direction. It deals damage to attacking and/or blocking creatures. It’s main tribe is Soldiers; how can you get more combat oriented then that? Setting up a wall and waiting for people to come your way should be rewarded in White. It’s using it’s strength to draw cards. Same with Rhox Mediant (a fat butt), and with Messenger Falcons with flying, though admittedly, those are a little more abstract. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one day a card that said: “CARDNAME – WW, Instant, Deal 2 damage to target attacking or blocking creature. Draw a card.”

And it’s not like Blue isn’t getting shafted in the wall department; you’re getting a wall that will get back your counterspell or draw spell, and that’s knowledge based. If White got that instead, then clearly there’s something to scream about. All this comes down to flavor, which is the whole point anyhow.

Alright Blue mages, tell me why I’m wrong.

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7 thoughts on “Design Class – Colorshifting Wall of Blossoms”

  1. I love Blue, I really do. (Blue is the best, right?) Wall of Omens as a white wall, however, doesn’t upset me. While I can’t afford to have a playset of Jaces at the moment, I can’t possibly complain about something this minor when we got the Mind Sculptor, Calcite Snapper, Treasure Hunt AND Halimar Depths all in one set. Yes, Wall of Omens is clearly better BUT Blue mages also get Mnemonic Wall. (It was love at first sight for me, but I’m also an EDH player, so…) It’s probably a little worse than I think it is, but it’s probably better than most people think.

  2. This spell doesn’t bother me at all. But the fact that blue is missing it’s instant speed draws and Green is getting one is still a bit bothersome to me. All in all I like this card. Because if you’ve read Agents of Artifice you know Jace (the unofficial spokesman for blue) has the ability to tap into white mana. with Wall of Omen being 1W you can splash it into a blue deck no problem.

  3. As powerful as white is right now (most powerful color in standard) I would have rather seen this card stay green.

  4. Messenger Falcons are required white to cast because of the flying ability; the cantrip is an U/G hybrid ability. That’s why the casting cost is designed as such.

    1. Sorry for replying again; don’t get me wrong, I like Wall of Omens. It doesn’t bother me. Would have been too powerful in blue anyways. It’s just that your Messenger Falcons argument was a fallacy. But I do agree that all colors should have cantrips/card draw, with blue being the best at it.

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