Friday, April 7, 2017

Tea and Mana, A Magic The Gathering Tea Fusion, Part One

This is part one of a little series I am doing, combining two of my loves: tea and Magic The Gathering. I mean it makes sense, I drink tea while I am gaming, so why not pair tea with the various Mana colors? In this first part, I am going to pair the basic lands to tea, later parts will focus on the Guilds, the Clans (Wedges), and the Shards, but first I need to look at where it all begins. I have a few rules: no blends, flavored teas, or herbal teas, only pure teas. Also teas 'color' will not necessarily match the Mana color, that just makes it too easy!

White Mana- Represented by sprawling plains and symbolized by a sunburst, white is the color of order, structure, morality, law, and the community. White is full of angels and cats, knights and spirits, you play White if you want lifegain and flying, they are great for those kinds of decks. White is all about community, putting the concerns of the group before the individuality, they want peace and unity above all else. This sounds all well and good, but sadly there is a dark side to all light, and in its extremes, it can be xenophobic and rigid. It is tragic that I am starting with the color that I understand the least, but that is the way the color pie is setup, so that is the order I am going it. What is the tea that represents order and morality...Tie Guan Yin Oolong. It has a double reason here, first off the name, which is the easy part. Named after the Goddess of Mercy herself, Guan Yin, what a perfect fit for the color of peace through structure. Going based on taste this tea (I am specifically calling to mind the green version of this Oolong) evokes relaxation, peace, and calm. It is a tea I find myself wanting on chaotic days where I really just want a calm storm in a port, and I think that evokes White perfectly. Of course a good runner up is a very hay note heavy Silver Needle since it calls to mind the epic plains from which this Mana is drawn from.

Blue Mana- The land used to cast Blue is an island, the symbol is a water droplet...yes, this is the water themed color. Even though this is the color of fishes and Merfolk, there is so much more to this color than water. To sum it up 'Blue seeks perfection through knowledge' this is the color of invention, a near maniacal obsession with learning, blue wants to control and change the universe by using the knowledge it much as it is water themed, going with the flow is not something blue really does. This philosophy is reflected in play, a blue deck is heavy with counter-spells, control, and illusions, you are lucky when playing against a blue deck if you can actually get your spells to cast and not just flounder your resources. Like all things, there is a negative, blue can tend to see emotions as dangerous and will become cold, giving into logic over all else. Picking a tea for Blue meant I needed something that requires both a lot of focus and precision for a spectacular result, so bring in the Dancong Oolongs. I am cheating a bit by using all of them, but since they are the masters of illusion and mimicry I think it fits, plus if you get lost in thought while brewing a Dancong rather than paying attention to it you end up with a truly foul cup of tea. Dancongs are so finicky, each one seems to demand its own subtle differences, no plug and go like a lot of other Oolongs, and let me tell you...if you are playing against a blue deck and you are not paying will get destroyed. A good runner up is Tai Ping Hou Kui, a tea that requires an enormous amount of detail and artistry to create.

Black Mana- Swamps! Skulls! Necromancy! Yeah, this is my color of choice, the one I know the most about lore and gameplaywise,  so I will try to be brief. The defining characteristics of black is ambition and self-interest, they always look out for number one rather than the community. They are not idealists, they see the bad in the world and instead of trying to change its focus on survival and rising to the top. They are amoral, if someone close to them needs saving it is not done 'because it is right' but because the person is important to them, Black is also pretty rampantly hedonistic, which fits nicely in their theme of self-interest. Black frequently gets a reputation of villainy and true, these characteristics can be used for evil, but can't everything when it is in its extreme? Gameplay, Black brings the zombie hoards and makes fell bargains with demons, with traits like lifelink (for the nonplayers, this means damage dealt gives you the same amount of life, I adore lifelink) sacrifice, and creature destruction, Black decks will happily destroy their life total and creatures if it means they will win in the end. Long ago I once called a wet stored 90s era Sheng Puerh as the ultimate necromancer tea since it tastes and smells like a fetid swamp...and I stick by that. No tea in my experience has ever matched swamp as thoroughly as old Sheng, plus in the Puerh world age and rarity is power, you can drink that last cake of some ancient rare tea and know with a certain glee that you deprived someone of the pleasure...or you can use it as a bargaining chip to get tea that actually tastes good. As a runner up (because I want a Black Mana tea I will actually drink) Laoshan Black, because it tastes like a decadent brownie and I am a hedonist.

Red Mana- Represented by Mountains and a fireball, this is the color of fiery passion! Probably the most on the nose of color representation out of the lot. Red desires freedom, lives by emotional extremes (and just extremes in general), and constantly craves new experiences! They are chaotic, living in the moment and not really thinking ahead, this is probably their greatest strength and weakness, you know, like lighting your house on fire to keep warm, great at the time...bad in the long run. Red brings Goblins and Dragons to the table, with effects like haste and first-strike, they want to attack first and attack hard. Where Blue controls the game, Red just pummels you with Lightning Bolts and Stone Rain, leaving you with no resources and an overwhelming desire to throttle your opponent. I tease, but Red is fun, I respect their blind passion and extremes. The tea I am picking for them is completely obvious, Lapsang Souchong, the fire roasted kind. It is not just because this color is obsessed with fire that I picked this (though it does help) but also this is an extreme tea, brisk and smoky with a potent caffeine punch. Many game nights have been kept going longer with extreme endings with the help of Lapsang Souchong. The runner up for this color is young Sheng Puerh, because that tea even at its most delicate (think Yiwu) is extreme.

Green Mana-With deep forests and the symbol of the tree, this is the color of nature and growth. Ben once made the argument that Green Mana is the most Taoist of the colors, since it really enjoys going with the flow, letting nature take its course, and I think he has a really good point. Green relies on instinct, it does not wish to impose its thoughts and beliefs on others, it just wants to go wander in the forest and enjoy the birds. Unless threatened, then Green will dump a pile of angry bears on you, then promptly going to back wandering. Since it is a product of nature, it is not a fan of machines and artifice, and is also acutely aware of the harshness of nature...survival of the fittest and the cycle of predation. Sadly their hatred of the artificial can cause nasty discrimination and narrowing of options. They are not flaky tree-huggers, but rational elves and giant spiders, with a large helping of snakes and saprolings. In play, Green likes growth, big stompy monsters, venom, and creature tokens, it is not at all uncommon when playing against Green to just be overwhelmed by a giant pack of wolves or bears. I thought for Green you are going to want a tea that is super minimally processed, especially with their dislike of technology, so I picked Bai Mu Dan. The wild looking fluffy leaves taste great when steeped grandpa style, something I could imagine a Llanowar Elf doing while looking disdainfully at a gaiwan as being too artificial. As an alternative there is Matcha, true there is more processing and tools involved, but you are consuming the entire plant, and that is as close to tea as you can get!

For anyone curious, I align as a pretty even split between Black and Blue, with a tiny bit of Red, primarily I play Mono Black with dabbling in Black Green and prefer to build not entirely functional Vorthos decks (though my Zombie Tribal deck is pretty deadly most the time!)


  1. I wouldn't do a black/blue discard deck tea pairing... unless it is for a tea I hate. In my case, darjeeling.

  2. I love this idea! My MTG playing days long preceded by love for tea but this would have been a super cool way to combine them :)