We’re big fans of card games, with decades of Magic: The Gathering between us, so when Lorcana was announced, we were excited to give it a shot and write about it to help share what we’ve learned.
Lorcana colours are known as inks, and there are six types of them. Lorcana decks are interesting in that they can only ever have two colours of ink, and the different inks all have their own distinct identities that fans of Magic will immediately recognise, but what they actually do doesn’t map as clearly to each ink as you’d expect. Emerald is not Magic’s Green mana. So let’s take a look at what the different inks actually do to help you decide what inks you want to include in your deck. We’re going to use occasional Magic references as a lot of people are familiar with that, but don’t worry, Lorcana isn’t Magic, so we’re going to lay it all out.
Amber glimmers are purposeful. Patient and dedicated, they’re able to pursue causes and ambitions with single-minded persistence. They often work within communities, either from above as a leader or from within as a healer, bodyguard, or just a loyal follower.
Amber does two main things well – healing characters, and singing. Singing is a way of playing song cards without paying their ink costs, so in Magic terms, it makes them good at cheating the cost of sorceries.
There are very few ways to remove characters from the board in Lorcana that don’t rely on damage, and unlike Magic, damage is persistent on characters between turns. So don’t sleep on just how powerful healing can be. It’s possible to set up a board where you’re questing for a ton of lore every turn, and your opponent is unable to stop you because their characters can’t remove yours. Even if they can get them out of play, there are a number of Amber cards that can return cards to your hand from your discard, forcing them to deal with you all over again.
In Magic terms, Amber is closest to the protective elements of White, with some of Blue’s affinity for casting instants and sorceries reflecting in the Song-focused side of the ink.
Amethyst glimmers are wondrous, for this is the otherworldly ink of sorcerers, sages, animated objects, and other glimmers who use their special powers to achieve their aims. They are incredibly powerful when they have access to their amazing abilities but may land in trouble if they’re stripped of those or tap into power they can’t control.
Amethyst is one of the most powerful ink colours in Lorcana for one reason – it’s the ink with the best card draw. Anyone who’s played a card game knows just how important card draw is, and in Lorcana your cards double up as resources, so your card draw not only ensures you have cards to play, it ensures you have the resources to play those cards.
Besides draw, Amethyst is also great at controlling the board, allowing you to return your characters when challenged, and to exert (tap down) your opponents’ characters. In Magic terms, Amethyst is closest by far to blue, with some elements of black.
In all honesty, I’m having trouble imagining a competitive metagame where the best decks don’t have Amethyst as one of their ink colours. But I’m still relatively new to the game (we all are), so new strategies may appear later, particularly as more cards get printed and other colours gain other sources of card advantage.
Emerald glimmers are flexible. Gifted with the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, they are never caught off guard. Quick-thinking but not necessarily book-smart, they navigate their environment—whether physical or social, natural or artificial—with ease.
Emerald is not Magic’s Green, and I want to make that very clear right at the start, as it’s a mistake I made when picking up my Emerald and Ruby starter deck.
Emerald is a disruptive, controlling ink, providing ways to discard your opponent’s cards, avoid their challenges to quest unopposed, and punish your opponent for challenging your non-evasive creatures.
If I had to pin it down to a Magic colour, I’d actually relate it more closely to Black or White’s use of fliers and disruption. Perhaps Emerald is actually Orzhov.
Ruby glimmers are daring. They use their speed and bravery to defy the odds. They are often warriors, explorers, and daredevils.
Ruby is probably a strong contender for my favourite ink colour so far, and that’s not just because I’m a filthy red player in MTG.
Ruby is actually another control-oriented colour, using evasive characters to rapidly quest while disrupting the opponent’s board through high-power challenges and some of the few outright removal cards available in Lorcana. It’s the ink of a midrange or tempo strategy – get lore quickly while controlling your opponent’s board so that they can’t win you in the race to 20 lore.
In Magic terms, while Ruby does have some of the aggressive nature of Red along with creature control, I’d actually say it’s closer to Rakdos in playstyle – Red and Black combined. The simple “Red deck wins” strategy of playing a small hoard of cheap creatures/characters who turn sideways for lore is actually best done by Amethyst and Amber. Ruby leans into the control angle, and uses its characters for control as much as it does questing.
Sapphire glimmers are intellectual. Intelligent and creative, they excel at strategy, invention, and the arts. They can almost always know something, plan something, or invent something that will win the day.
This is another one that’s likely to trip up Magic players – Sapphire is not blue.
Sapphire is great at getting a ton of ink into play to get your biggest characters on the board as fast as possible, with a side of healing to keep them in play. If this is familiar to you from Magic, you’re probably a Green player, as that’s exactly what Sapphire maps most closely to, perhaps more than any other colour.
Steel glimmers are strong. Large and imposing, armored, or just plain powerful, Steel glimmers can apply huge amounts of brute force to get the job done.
Steel is another character-focused colour with an emphasis on the Challenger and Bodyguard keywords. Steel characters are great at going toe-to-toe with your opponents’ characters and coming out on top, which contrasts with Ruby as a lot of the time Ruby’s creatures will be banished trading upwards in ink cost. Instead, Steel controls the board through simply having the biggest baddest characters in play. Steel doesn’t really do a whole lot alone, it’s bad at questing, but when it’s combined with a quest-heavy ink, it really makes it hard to interact with your deck.
In Magic terms, Steel is another ink that takes some elements of Green with a side of Black’s control.
Which Inks Should I Pick?
Your ink choices are entirely up to you. I don’t think there are any inks that do not inherently play well together at this stage of the game, where the cards are mostly extremely simple and linear. That being said, you might want to try some of these guidelines:
- If you enjoy controlling your opponent’s board and removing your opponent’s characters from play, the favourite cards are likely to be found in Ruby or Steel
- If you enjoy getting a lot of ink and resources, your best bet is Amethyst or Sapphire
- If you hate losing your characters or want to build your game plan around keeping specific characters in play, Amber or Sapphire will help you to do that.
- If you just want to belt out all your favourite Disney songs while you play (it’s a large part of the game, honest), just play Amber and whatever ink has the most hits.
- If you want to feel unstoppable, the evasion of Ruby and Emerald makes it extremely difficult to deal with your lore ticking ever upwards
For my Magic players out there:
- If you enjoy White, chances are you may like Amber or Sapphire the most
- If you’re a terrible person and love Blue, check out Amethyst. You may not get counterspells in Lorcana, but you can draw all the cards.
- Black mages have a wealth of choice, but your best bet may actually be Ruby and Emerald for the controlling aspects of the ink pairing.
- Fellow Red players will need to decide which bit of the colour they like best. Ruby is aggressive and controlling, feeling a little bit like Big Red, whereas Amethyst and Amber do a better job of character-based aggression.
- Lastly, Green players will feel right at home in Sapphire and Steel, the colours that’ll let you get the biggest characters into play the fastest.
Whatever you choose, I honestly recommend just building with your favourite Disney characters unless you’re planning on attending a high-stakes tournament. Lorcana is first and foremost a casual game where even their organised play format doesn’t necessarily reward winning above all else. So have some fun with it!