Seedborn Musings – Chromatic Dragon Scales

Although Planar Chaos is famous for it, color bleed and the shifting of abilities has been part of the game from its inception.  Perhaps from liking to be sneaky, one of my favorite deckbuilding techniques is to include abilities that, while nominally on-color, aren’t what you expect in that color.  Why?  Besides being fun, I believe that players have difficulty adjusting to it, particularly in multiplayer.  At first glance, players will see Islands and assume instant-speed tricks.  It’s hard-wired in some ways.  So you can trick by having no tricks, and in that sense you’re throwing the opponent off.

I like playing red/green control decks for the same reason.  Sure, you can achieve some of the same things in other colors, but they’re expected.  We’re taught that white is either weenie or control; that blue is Merfolk or counterspells; that black will destroy things or Dark Ritual into a single nasty thing; that red will burn until the dragons appear; and that Green will swarm or ramp into fatties.  If these make the diatonic scale of Magic, then there’s plenty of chromatic room in there to throw your opponent off guard.  To that end, here are three of my favorite colorshifted decks.


4 Wall of Frost
4 Merfolk Wayfinder
4 Tidewalker
4 Shoreline Ranger
4 Harbor Serpent
3 Stormtide Leviathan
2 Riptide Mangler
1 Inkwell Leviathan
2 Quest for Ula’s Temple
4 Inundate
4 Flow of Ideas

24 Islands

If there are any Magic Online players reading this, or even prospective ones, note that you can build this for about 2 dollars/tickets.  Not everything is this cheap, of course, but you can have a good time on there with very little investment. 

The support cards clearly are blue, but the premise is mostly green: play slow, give no reason for someone to attack you, hit all your land drops, and start chaining fatties and evasive damage

Although you occasionally get the nut draws with Quest for Ula’s Temple chaining into multiple sea creatures (don’t forget that you can bring one in each end step once it’s active, not just on your own end step), most of what you’re doing is playing lands every turn – islandcycle or wayfind as soon as possible – putting down Wall of Frost or the severely underrated Tidewalker (one of my favorite blue creatures period), resetting with Inundate, and then beating down with Harbor Serpent and Stormtide LeviathanFlow of Ideas runs absurdly well with the Quest but mostly just gives you the winning cards once you’ve posted a few threats/Inundates.  You’ll only need to cast one, but it’s glorious when it happens.

The deck has a ton of spells at 6 mana; as such, it’s quite slow and not recommended if you have an aggro playgroup.  But if yours is the type where a rattlesnake or two is good enough, then you should be fine, and playing a blue fatties deck is too wonderful to pass up.

On a side note, this deck uses a lot of cards that have a hard time finding a home.  Flow of Ideas usually is too expensive for any blue deck to work with it, but it works perfectly here.  Similarly, it probably was about 7 years since I had last used Shoreline Ranger, which not coincidentally came out 7 years before I made the deck.  But the islandcycling is vital to keeping this deck supplied with fresh water, while the flying lets it attack after a Stormtide Leviathan drops.

It’s a Timmy/Vorthos dream, using sea creatures to islandwalky (Jabberwocky?  Or the adjectival form Jabberwocky-y?) face-bashing.  If you have these creatures lying around, why not give something like this a go?  It’s fun to play blue that has very little of its tricksy-nasty reputation (okay, a good chunk of my group now hates Inundate, but still…)

So we’ve seen a blue deck that plays like green.  What about a green deck that plays like blue?


4 Clone Shell
4 Copperhoof Vorrac
4 Sunblast Angel
3 Joraga Treespeaker
3 Nullstone Gargoyle
3 Kalonian Behemoth
2 Aven Mindcensor
2 Wall of Omens
2 Phytohydra
2 Leonin Arbiter
4 Vernal Equinox
1 True Conviction
2 Scout’s Warning

24 Forests and Plains

This deck was hatched from an order in October that had both Vernal Equinox – junk rares with power potential are great, especially when they’re the one decent Rebecca Guay artwork – and Copperhoof Vorrac, a junk rare I had wanted for some time.  The deck’s not remarkably powerful without the Equinox – the Scout’s Warnings for backup should tell you how much you need flash here – but it’s miserably controlling with flash.

The random pieces in this deck can be just about anything, but my early game is Treespeakers (acceleration is handy backup) and Walls into the Equinox.  The Mindcensors and Arbiters are early defense that allow me one of my favorite irritants, the forbidding of library search.

The rest of the deck basically is stuff that shouldn’t ever have flash.  While it may seem symmetrical to give flash, I’ve almost always had flash work entirely in my favor.  Since it’s irrelevant to most people’s decks, they don’t do much with it.  Besides, attacking with Copperhoof Vorrac encourages people to tap their mana on my turn (and opponents not involved in combat will tap mana anyway just to get back at me, which works into my plan).  Kalonian Behemoth and Phytohydra are the type of creatures nobody attacks into, so they do their best work at instant speed.  Of course, True Conviction is hilarious in the middle of combat.  Those are combats you win.

But the most feared thing here is the interaction among Vernal Equinox, Sunblast Angel, and Clone Shell.  A flashed Sunblast Angel is game over for several decks, and the threat keeps people off attacking me even as I’ve made myself the target.  If I have five mana open, I’m still threatening the Angel because I’m threatening a Clone Shell that flashes in to block, reveals an Angel, and effectuates the same thing.  8 Plague Winds masquerading as Routs (or Aven Fateshapers, I guess – Aven Plaguerouters?) is an unwelcome proposition for anybody wanting to win with creatures, but with Forests and Plains and things with the sun in their names, it doesn’t look nearly as cruel as it is.

The Angel, Shell, Equinox, and arguably the Vorrac are the only core pieces here.  I included the rest because they were sitting unused in my collection; you could include anything that works and give a different feel to the deck.  Regardless, green-white, a decidedly unflashy combination, can be hot when you give it flash.

Now there might be times when you just want to go all-out aggressive.  Why not go to the famed colors for aggro – black-green?


4 Llanowar Elves
4 Uktabi Drake
4 Groundbreaker
4 Mournwhelk
4 Gleancrawler
3 Briarhorn
2 Walker of the Grove
2 Cairn Wanderer
4 Voyager Staff
4 Nature’s Spiral
2 Vigor Mortis
1 Footsteps of the Goryo

22 Forests and Swamps

This is my go-to deck when people ask for a quick game.  That’s because it does starts like this one from earlier this week:

T1 Forest, Llanowar Elves

T2 Forest, Groundbreaker, swing for 6 (14)

T3 Swamp, Uktabi Drake, Footsteps of the Goryo on Groundbreaker, swing for 8 (6)

T4 (Echo unpaid) Swamp, Cairn Wanderer with flying/trample/haste, swing for 4 (2)

T5 Swing for 4 again (X)

Plan A is recurring Groundbreakers incessantly.  If that doesn’t show up, you can evoke and reanimate to get double effects, or use Voyager Staff with the evoke trigger on the stack to blink the creature and get it back permanently, again with double effect.  Gleancrawler ties it all together, allowing you to swing with a Groundbreaker every turn (just stack the triggers to where you sacrifice it first), or evoke Walker of the Grove every turn for a slow-build army.  I’m not much of a red mage, but building black-green to feel like red is right up my street.  It’s a straightforward deck to explain, but it gets there with an unorthodox set of cards, which makes it far more fun.

Feel free to post your favorite colorshifted cards or decks.  If you’d like me to give me a set of colors, a strategy not associated with those colors, and have me build a deck around that, post your parameters and I’ll write about what I come up with in a near-future article.


In Daryl’s last article, he discussed making a list of the best early plays (by which he meant creatures) in each color.  Massive Gatherer searches afoot?  Count me in!  Here’s my list, very much flavored by my play style and less by what’s objectively the best.  It’s more fun to discuss opinions anyway.  Keeping in mind that this is a budget-friendly article (we’re not past the watershed) and that I’m only naming cards I have used…


1 (118 options) – It’s hard to choose for offense, defense, or utility.  I’ll take defense and say Kami of False Hope.  That guy can annoy.

2 (217) – The rookie, Squadron Hawk.  White weenie likes a guaranteed stream of creatures, and the Hawk’s gathering of its friends ensures that you don’t have to worry about their dead draws in the late game.

3 (232) – Aven Mindcensor, with Aven Riftwatcher a close second.  As games drag on and tutors are gold, Mindcensor lets you play the game your way.  The flash, the flying, the virtual counterspell – it’s stellar even in a deck that doesn’t have an on-theme use for it.


1 (57)Enclave Cryptologist, and it’s not even close.  This slot used to be Sage of Epityr’s.

2 (187) – Riptide Mangler for being a quasi-Clone for something in the red zone.  Underrated: Minamo Scrollkeeper.

3 (237) – Grand Architect is my favorite by far, but the winner is Drift of Phantasms.  Casting on turn 3 is good; transmuting on turn 3 is good.  You can’t miss.


1 (72) – The often-banned Disciple of the Vault.  Apologies to the unplayed-by-me Carnophage and Mortician Beetle.  Personal apologies to Death’s Shadow.  No apologies to Acolyte of Xathrid.

2 (178) – Nezumi Graverobber, hasn’t done as much for me as he’s done for Daryl, so I’ll go with Withered WretchGatekeeper of Malakir is really a 3-drop, else I would have picked it.

3 (262) – Vampire Nighthawk wins in the abstract/large multiplayer.  In smaller games I prefer Hypnotic Specter, and in Zombie decks I of course prefer Lord of the Undead.


1 (104) – I’ve played none of the best ones here, so I’ll put Spikeshot Elder.  This tells you how little I play red.

2 (151) – There are classics here, but for my style it’s Wall of Razors.

3 (245) – Taurean Mauler is crazy good.  And he’s a Coward Deserter Survivor!


1 (123) – Come on.  It’s Llanowar Elves.

2 (181) – Also come on.  It’s Sakura-Tribe Elder.  Elf tribal decks have plenty of options, but the Snake enables just about anything.  A darkhorse mention to Dryad Sophisticate.

3 (240) – Leatherback Baloth here, just for being so stinkin’ large.


1 (16) – I don’t have Figure of Destiny and I’m frightened by Wild Cantor’s artwork (seriously), so I’ll go with Slippery Bogle.

2 (100) – Azorius Guildmage, Coiling Oracle, Putrid Leech, and Tidehollow Sculler are great in their color combinations.

3 (150) – Wall of Denial, Rhox War Monk, Sedraxis Specter, Woolly Thoctar are all fine.  Also, I must give some love to Gelectrode, as just about every blue-red deck on the planet has a use for it.


0 (7) – Ornithopter.  I had a friend with an Ornithopter/ninjutsu deck so that, every time he swung with it, he’d say “but it wasn’t really!!” and bring in a Throat Slitter or Okiba-Gang Shinobi.  My group feared Ornithopters for years as a result.

1 (20) – Steel WallSignal Pest has a real shot of overtaking the Wall, though.

2 (54) – Steel Overseer.  The thing’s insane.

3 (82) – Surprisingly slim pickings here…Palladium Myr?


About Brandon Isleib

Author of Playing for a Winner: How Baseball Teams' Success Raises Players' Reputations; sometimes-writer at GatheringMagic and Muse Vessel; card name/flavor text team for Magic 2015; Wizards of the Coast's first Digital Event Coordinator; directly responsible for the verb "create" on Magic cards; legislation editor for Seattle; voracious music consumer; Christian.
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2 Responses to Seedborn Musings – Chromatic Dragon Scales

  1. Andy says:

    Great article, VERY cool decks. I’m thinking of building your Groundbreaker-centric deck with a bit of my own twist… something involving Death’s Shadow, I have to make that card work! I’ve also never see Goryo’s Essence before. That’s a pretty rad card.

  2. Vrag says:

    I have a UG “direct damage” deck. It’s got Psionic Blast, Wanderlust, Psychic Venom, Storm Seeker, Unyaro Bee Sting, Aeoliphile, etc. It never does very well, but it makes me laugh.

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