If you’re just getting into Magic: the Gathering, one of the first things you should learn is the mana colors. For the most part, spells you cast are going to cost you mana, which comes in five different basic colors. Understanding the flavors and functions of these colors will make a huge difference in your deck-building ability.
That’s why we’ve created this guide exploring the MTG names for color combinations. We’ll also give you a brief overview of what you can expect gameplay-wise from each color combination so you can decide which ones you’re most interested in.
The Five Basic Colors
Before we get into color combos, we’ll start by looking at the individual colors themselves. In Magic: the Gathering, there are five basic colors: black, blue, green, red, and white.
Each one is represented by a different symbol. In the top right corner of each card, you’ll see a number of these symbols, which indicates how many of that color you must pay in order to put the card into play.
We’ll discuss each of the colors and their symbols in more detail below…
As the color of death and decay, it’s not particularly surprising that black is represented by a skull symbol. In terms of power, black is one of the stronger colors in the game.
As far as play style goes, black is essentially the color of making deals with the devil. It can do most of what other colors can do, but the drawback is that there’s usually some cost involved. Examples of common additional costs include things such as paying life points or being forced to sacrifice some of your creatures.
Most veteran players would agree that blue is the most powerful mana color in all of Magic: the Gathering. In terms of flavor, blue represents technology, logic, and mindpower. The symbol that represents blue mana is a water droplet.
When it comes to actual gameplay, blue tends to be extremely controlling. It’s packed to the gills with counterspells that allow you to stop someone from casting. It’s also well-known for having flying creatures.
You can probably guess what green symbolizes: nature and its capricious vibrancy. You’ll notice that there are a lot of forests, animals, and plants in the artwork on green cards. The symbol for green is a tree.
How does green tend to play? Green is usually creature-heavy, focusing on large monsters that do lots of damage. Green is also excellent for enchantment and artifact destruction. Predictably, green is one of the best colors at building up your mana pool, representing nature’s growth.
If you could sum up what red is in one word, it would be passion. Represented by a flame, red is damaging, confrontational, and fast-moving.
Red decks tend to have lots of aggressive creatures. It’s also a great color if you’re looking for something that can “burn” people or dish out damage quickly.
Unfortunately, white is one of the most lackluster colors in the game. It’s depicted on cards as a small, stylized sun. White is the color of life and purity.
In decks, white tends to be good at helping you regain life. It’s also controlling in that it has decent removal and board wipes. White also has its share of extremely powerful tribes, like angels, cats, and soldiers.
Two-Color Combinations (Guilds)
You get a whole different connotation when you combine two colors in a deck. There are ten two-color combinations in the game, which are also known as guilds.
We won’t dive too much into the lore behind the name. In a nutshell, the name comes from organizations located in Ravnica, one of the planes in the story.
Golgari is a combination of black and green. This brings together decay and growth, so the combination calls to mind things like mossy trees, green swamps, and mushrooms.
In actual gameplay, a Golgari deck will feature many mechanics that make it possible for you to reuse cards in your graveyard. Zombies, skeletons, horrors, elves, and gorgons are common tribes from this color duo.
Black and red come together to form Rakdos. This pairing equals death and fiery passion, so you can imagine what kind of gameplay it leads to.
Rakdos decks are generally fast-moving and quick to deal damage to other players. Sometimes, they even hurt their own controllers. Common creatures that come in these colors include demons, goblins, vampires, and dragons.
When you add blue and black together, you get Dimir. Dimir is one of the more powerful guilds in the game when it comes to playing competitively, as black and blue separately are already strong colors.
Dimir decks are controlling. They have all the destruction associated with black, and all the counterspelling associated with blue. Faeries, zombies, vampires, spirits, and shapeshifters are commonly found in this combination.
If you could briefly describe Izzet, the marriage of blue and red, it would be something like “the madness of genius.” This guild is all about crazy combinations and creatures that play off each other.
Izzet can be speedy like red or controlling like blue. Oftentimes, it is both. The most common Izzet-colored creatures include elementals, dragons, goblins, and faeries.
Looking for a deck that’s extremely controlling? Azorius, also known as blue and white, is a good combo for you, then.
When you run blue and white together, you get access to white’s powerful board wipes and blue’s overwhelming counterspells. Plus, blue is excellent at card draw – something that white could really use some improvement in.
Common Azorius creatures include cats, griffins, sphinxes, and spirits.
One of the most competitive color combinations in the game is easily Simic, or green and blue. Imagine if you had the mana-ramping ability of green and the counterspelling ability of blue. You can see why Simic is such a popular guild with Magic players.
The problem with Simic is that it can be a trickier guild to use effectively. For that reason, it may not be the most beginner-friendly of the guilds. Common Simic creatures include merfolk, basilisks, kraken, and other sea creatures.
Want to make an army of small creature tokens to flood your opponents with? Then what you’re looking for is Selesnya, which is green and white.
Selesnya has a lot of access to cards that remove artifacts and enchantments. It’s fairly straightforward to play, as these decks tend to focus on making tokens. Some of the most efficient creatures in the game come from this combo, including elves, saprolings, and cats.
Gruul can be boiled down to three words: smash, smash, and smash. In short, red and green come together to make a fast, strong deck. There’s also often a pervasive land theme in Gruul decks and cards, in which there are effects that care about lands.
Gruul is probably one of the easiest color combinations to use. Common Gruul creatures include hydras, elementals, and werewolves.
If you’re planning on making a competitive Commander deck, Boros probably isn’t your best bet. However, red and white still create an interesting color combination with quite a few options.
In gameplay, Boros tends to be very combat-focused. Like Gruul, this makes it a simple color scheme to work with. Some examples of Boros tribes are angels, soldiers, and knights.
Orzhov has a strangely poetic feel to it, since it combines colors that separately represent life and death: white and black. This color combination represents the corruption that you can find in seemingly innocuous places.
These decks often interact with players’ graveyards, possessing a strong ghost theme. It’s also life-based, with many cards that allow you to gain life. Orzhov creatures include things like vampires, spirits, and angels.
When you start making three-color decks, things get a little more complicated. It can be hard to figure out a proper ratio when it comes to your mana base.
However, using three colors gives you even more options than just using two. There are ten three-color groupings, which we’ll discuss more below.
If you’re building a Commander deck, Sultai is probably one of the strongest color combinations you can go with. This is because all the colors involved – black, green, and blue – are powerful by themselves.
In Sultai decks, graveyard interaction is particularly popular. But because all the best colors in the game are used here, a Sultai deck can do pretty much anything a good deck should be able to do. It has kill spells from black, ramp from green, and counterspells from blue.
Red, white, and blue, also commonly (and jokingly) referred to as USA, is called Jeskai. Jeskai is mostly focused on casting non-creature spells, despite the fact it uses red, which is a strong creature-oriented color. There’s a huge flying theme throughout this color combo.
It has powerful instants, sorceries, and enchantments. Because of a couple cards, Jeskai can also be used to generate tokens.
Temur, the combo formed by green, blue, and red, is a bit harder to describe. It’s kind of off the rails. But some common themes you’ll find here are hard-hitting creatures, speed, and weird combinations.
If you want, you can make a Temur deck focused on creatures. However, you can just as easily make a spellslinger deck if that’s more to your liking.
If you want to make a deck that’s defense-focused, Bant is one of your best bets. Individually, the colors have a lot of wall creatures, or creatures that can only block and have a high toughness.
Bant also has a lot of cards that bounce. In other words, you can use this color combination to pull cards temporarily back into your hand to protect them from board wipes. In general, this color combo is heavily focused on creatures and enchantments.
Blue, black, and red come together to form Grixis. This is an extremely damaging color with a lot of control coming from its blue and black. Its name comes from a plane that is filled with zombies, death, and pain, which kind of sums up the color combination.
Grixis decks are good for controlling the battlefield and for drawing cards. It’s a mean combination.
Jund also gets its name from a plane. It is comprised of red, green, and black. Dragons and goblins are major deck themes for Jund, so this is a great combination for you when you want to use heavy-hitting creatures.
Like Gruul, Jund is a very straightforward color to play. The strategy is usually to bash your opponents with creatures.
Naya is another plane. Only, in the lore, this one is filled with cats. Red, green, and white decks tend to care about large and aggressive creatures, such as dinosaurs, beasts, and wurms.
This is also a creature-heavy color combination. It’s good for dealing a lot of damage with quick and aggressive creatures.
Mardu, which brings together red, white, and black, is oftentimes a fast, aggressive color combination. It tends to have an abundance of quick creatures like vampires and goblins.
We would also call this one a beginner-friendly combination. Mardu decks tend to revolve around getting creatures out fast and swinging with them repeatedly.
If you use white, black, and green, you’re playing with Abzan. This color combination has a lot of graveyard interaction and +1/+1 counters, which add a small bonus to your creatures’ power and toughness.
Nowadays, you can also use Abzan to generate armies of tokens. In the end, though, it’s another creature-focused combination.
Artifacts are incredibly popular and powerful because there’s pretty much an artifact for every deck. If you love using this card type, you’ll love white, blue, and black – also known as Esper.
If it’s not focused on artifacts, Esper decks will tend towards the controlling side. It has the power of blue counterspells, the removal power of black kill spells, and the addition of white removal spells on top of that.
It’s difficult, but you can build a deck that uses four colors. Unlike two- and three-color combinations, four-color combinations don’t have official names.
However, there are a few common nicknames fans use to refer to these color combos. The names we’re using come from the Nephilim from the plane of Ravnica, and they are the most common names in use. Some players just refer to these decks by indicating the color that is not in use in the deck.
Black, red, green, and white make Dune-Brood. Generally, these decks are creature-focused. Keep in mind, though, that you’re using almost all the colors in the game, so a Dune-Brood deck can be virtually anything you want it to be.
Glint-Eye makes a very chaotic color combination. Since you’re mixing red and blue, this makes sense, given that those colors already make some interesting combos. A Glint-Eye deck is best for playing around with obscure combinations of cards.
As far as the Commander format goes, Witch-Maw is arguably the strongest four-color combination. One of the most feared Commanders in the game, Atraxa, is a Witch-Maw Commander. This color combination is extremely controlling and can easily stop games.
Group hug is a strategy in the game in which players play politics to prevent themselves from being targeted. Ink-Treader as a combination is great for playing politics, and its Commander, Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis, is excellent for this.
You can make pretty much anything out of a four-color deck, but Yore-Tiller is very commonly used for artifact-based decks. This is represented in its Commander, Breya, Etherium Shaper.
A five-color deck is pretty self-explanatory: it uses black, blue, green, red, and white. At this point in time, there is no official name for a five-color deck. Players simply call it that: a five-color deck.
As you can imagine, a five-color deck can be anything you want it to be. You’re using all the colors in the game, so options are limitless.
One common thread in five-color decks, though, is building a strong mana base. Without carefully constructing your mana base, the deck will not function at all. In the right hands and with the right construction, a five-color deck can be extremely powerful.
Color Combination Questions
What Magic colors go well together?
Choosing your colors is oftentimes the first step in building a deck. It’s a fair question to wonder which colors go best together in the Magic: the Gathering.
The thing is, the colors in Magic are flexible. Although there are some color combinations that are notorious for being powerful, any color combination can be strong when your deck is well-built. MTG is less about the specific colors you choose and more about your knowledge of cards and when to use them.
There’s a common observation in the Magic community that novice players will often buy a deck that won a tournament because they think it will always win. However, once they play it themselves, they find it loses because they don’t know how to use it properly.
In other words, your skill and knowledge as a player matter most. A deck is only as strong as your experience in MTG.
What is the strongest color in Magic?
It’s safe to say that, at this point in time, blue is debatably the strongest color in the game. This is subject to change with time, though.
These days, it’s undeniable that green is strong. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that players lamented the lack of strong cards in green. As new sets and cards continue to come out, the strength of colors can gradually shift.
Remember, the strength of any deck depends on you, the player. A color may have more strong cards right now, but that doesn’t mean they’re useful unless you know how to use them.
We hope this helped you learn more about the various color combinations in Magic: the Gathering. It can certainly be overwhelming at first, but give yourself time, and you’ll learn the ropes.
If you’d like more information on building a Commander deck, we’ve got a quick guide to the MTG Commander deck ratio. In the guide, we go over a brief anatomy of a Commander deck, so you have a general idea of how to build one.