Color Pie Friday: It’s Elementaly, My Dear Watson
Here on Color Pie Friday I talk about the five colors of Magic: The Gathering. The color pie breaks each color down into chunks with differing philosophies, mechanics, and flavors. I spent the first five weeks of this column looking at the philosophies of each color (White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green), so it’s time to start delving into other topics. Today I thought I’d get into the nitty-gritty of each color, “nitty-gritty” referring to the actual, physical manifestations of each color’s ideas. Philosophies talk about actions and motivations, but not everything in Magic is a sapient being looking for their place in the world. Today, then, I will be talking about the elemental facets of each color, the things in the world that each color uses to do its thing.
The Elements of White
A good place to start is by looking at a color’s basic land type, as where a color’s mage dwells reveals a lot about the kind of magic they wield. White uses the mana from Plains. Plains are flat, open, and far-reaching. They reflect White’s desire for peace, equality, and togetherness. Light is a powerful tool for White, and the Plains are filled with it. White’s rules also interact with the Plains through agriculture. Thus, farming and domesticated animals are part of White’s color pie. White is also the color of civilization, so buildings and tools all belong to it.
As the color that believes in absolute morals, White is the number one color of religion. Blessings, reverence of the divine, and godly retribution are powerful tools of White in battle. Such spirituality lets White sometimes work with the dead, either hearing their counsel or bringing them back to life. Working together is a cornerstone of White’s beliefs, so being able to manipulate a sense of companionship in others is part of White’s magic. Solidarity, friendship, and honor bind White together in a cohesive whole. It’s amusing that this is how this article starts, as White doesn’t rely a whole lot on typical “nature things” for its magic.
The Elements of Blue
Blue draws its mana from Islands, making it the color of water. All the phases of matter are at Blue’s disposal, so ice and vapor are also counted here. As the main color of flying, Blue has dominion over winds as well. The animals that live in the seas and skies also belong to Blue, which is why it has tiny Birds and mighty Krakens.
Blue is also interested in the underlying nature of things, so it’s good at tinkering with everything. It will tinker with man-made things like tools, or natural things like time. Understanding the underlying nature of magic itself is also a weapon in Blue’s arsenal, allowing it to wield æther directly. Control of æther allows Blue to polymorph one thing into another, undo the magic of others, and form complex illusions to confuse its foes.
The Elements of Black
The Swamp is where a Black mage draws her mana from. Swamps are dark, putrescent, and sickening. Black uses darkness to hide its own intentions or incite fear in its enemies. Disease, vermin, and death are some of the most common Black elements. Bugs, Rats, and other filthy creatures tend to be Black cards. These are tied in with pain and suffering, two things Black mages are very OK with. As a tool of both life and death, blood is common in Black magic.
Its understanding of death isn’t limited to killing, as Black will happily raise the dead to fight another day. Rotting the bodies of others and reusing the decaying tissues is part of Black’s willingness to use any resource to gain power. Pain isn’t limited to physical harm, however, and Black will frighten, torture, and rip apart the mental states of others. Black is always willing to give something up for power, so it’s the color of bargains, trades, and resource management. Money, as a tool for acquiring more goods, is one of Black’s most valuable resources.
The Elements of Red
Red mages dwell in the Mountains, thus Red is the color of the literal earth. Dirt, rocks, and magma are common tools for a Red mage. Heat itself mirrors Red’s passions, so fire and lightning are weapons in its arsenal. If something blows up, Red will love it. This gives Red a little power over artifacts and weapons, so long as they are bashed to bits in the end. Ultimately, Red has lots and lots of fiery things.
Nonphysical elements that Red taps into are all emotional. Red not only relies on its own emotions to make decisions, but has the power to stir up emotions in others. Inciting panic, fostering love, provoking anger, and instilling cowardice are all Red tactics. Overall, Red probably has the narrowest elemental repertoire. Most of it is on fire.
The Elements of Green
Most “nature things” belong to Green, who draws mana from Forests. As the color most associated with nature in its philosophy, Green has the most natural things. Plants and wild animals are cornerstones in Green’s magic. Green draws a lot of power from the land itself, but not in the same earthen way Red does; Green is more focused on there being land than using land. All these things relate to Green’s desire to grow.
Green, however, also seeks to destroy. Venomous beasts and poisonous plants are dangerous for Green’s enemies. As the color that hates flying mechanically, Green has some power over wind. This power is limited to using wind in destructive ways, however, as the general use of wind still belongs to Blue. Green also isn’t afraid to use dead things in its magic, as it recognizes that death is part of a natural cycle. Note that this is different from deliberately killing something for fun, which is more of a Black motivation.
While each color has actions that are motivated by certain philosophies, they also have divisions between the physical elements that make up their magic. These two qualities are interwoven, with the physical elements often acting as manifestations of their underlying philosophies. If you haven’t noticed already, there’s an awful lot to the color pie. And thus far we have only scratched the surface.
Until next time, planeswalkers, stay in touch with the world around you.