Weird Flux, but okay

Weird Flux, but Okay

An Article on Custom Card Design and how abilities are put into new colors

Kevin Deninger

Good day fellow fans of Magic: the Gathering, I’d like to begin this article by discussing Flux.

What is Flux? What does it mean? What does it do? Why is it good for the game?

Flux just isn’t an old card from Weatherlight.


The definition of Flux is when an ability in the game, whether it’s a game mechanic or an ability ingrained within one color it’s moved into another color that this ability could fit into or is given to all colors or another color. The color pie of Magic: The Gathering is always evolving and in a constant state of change and flux. Keywords become more prominent in certain colors or abilities appear in colors they fit into now. The color pie can’t be set it in stone as is right now. Haste recently became a Secondary mechanic in Green, and Polymorph became primary in Red.
Flux is the conscious decision to move an ability into a new color. This article will highlight the recent mechanics which have appeared in new colors over the last several years.

Examples of Flux: Flux has happened throughout the history of the game, if you’ve been aware of it or not. Some older abilities that show Flux are ‘Ritual’ effects. Black was the first color to get a spell that created temporary mana. Now, we really only see this effect in Red. 

Sometimes Flux will put an ability into a new color, but it will be shared by both colors. Token creation is in both Green and White, and both are now able to make copies of  tokens.

Keywords can also Flux into new colors. Convoke was originally in Green and White, and then it got moved into all colors.

Exalted was another keyword mechanic to move into new colors. In M15 it appeared in Black, and then in Modern Horizons it showed up in Red.

Another example of a keyword moving into a new color is Bloodthirst. Bloodthirst originally started in Green and Red, but showed up in Black in a later set.

Flux has moved two more keywords into new colors. Proliferate is now in White. Even though Atraxa had Proliferate, it was never in mon-White.

Another recent keyword that moved into new colors is Overload, which was originally only in Red / Blue.

Soon after I finished this article, Populate showed up in Red in Commander 2019.

What the Flux!?

Now that you’ve seen some examples of what Flux is, we look at the question of why does Flux happen?
Flux happens when it’s determined by the design team that an ability or mechanic can fit another color just as well as its original color or colors. It may look weird for Overload to be in other colors than Red and Blue, but the ability of the cards still fit the colors of the card. The same can be said for giving +1/+1 counters. It can be done by all colors, in some way shape or form, and while Proliferate may look weird in White, it’s something White does and can do within the color pie. That is the purpose of flux. Flux broadens design space of the game as a whole. It creates an increase in the use of a mechanic for new cards, which is healthy for the overall good of the game. This means that there are other possible mechanics that can shift into new colors. For example, it could be possible for Populate to appear in Blue or even Red. Blue is well known for making copies of creatures, including your opponents’ creatures. Though, Red’s token copies tend to be temporary and get exiled at the end step. 

Fluxing from a Design standpoint.

When it comes to design, it may be fun to push and guess as to what abilities could move into a new color. But the main focus is to make sure that ability isn’t bending the color pie too much and can fit it’s new color or colors. You really have to know the mechanics and keywords and what each color does to do this well.

For example, it would be difficult to Flux either First strike or Double strike into a new color such as Blue or Green. These colors should never get First strike or Double strike on their own without other colors or an off color activation.

Some keyword mechanics may have a bit more room for Flux, the same goes for ability words. I think Battalion could possibly push into other colors, such as Green or Black. The only color that I wouldn’t see Battalion fitting into is Blue, since it isn’t an ‘aggro’ color or fits into Blue’s color pie philosophy. Populate could also easily appear in Blue. Blue has several cards that make token copies of creatures, and it seems to be a fitting bend.

Flux can be very useful to opening new windows in design and to new card concepts. However, it’s quite an advanced technique to apply within design. So, if you’re going to Flux, do so with caution. Design space is always tricky with effects and abilities, it’s good to have some existing mechanics that are versatile enough to move into new colors.

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