Finishing First

Posted in Making Magic on November 17, 2014

By Mark Rosewater

Working in R&D since '95, Mark became Magic head designer in '03. His hobbies: spending time with family, writing about Magic in all mediums, and creating short bios.

Welcome to Mardu Week! This week we'll be talking about the red-white-black wedge. For each wedge theme week, I've decided to take a look at how the three colors in that wedge get along. To do this, I put the three colors in a room, ask a few questions, and then let them talk it out. I've previously interviewed the colors of Abzan and Jeskai. If you want to read more about the color philosophies in general, you can go to my color pie page, where I discuss all things color philosophy at length.

My goal with the wedge series is to give you all a better sense of how the colors interact and feel about one another. If that's all understood, let's get started:

Hello, everyone. I've begun each of these interviews by having each color introduce itself. To follow tradition, we'll go in the order that the colors appear in the mana cost of a Mardu card.

I'm Red. I'm the center of the Mardu clan. I'm about achieving freedom through action.

I'm White. I'm about achieving peace through structure.

I'm Black. I'm about achieving power through opportunity. We're going have to repeat this every time we're interviewed?

Each time, I like to start by asking you all about the attribute of the wedge you are together in. How does each of you feel about speed?

Wait. Before we get started, I just want to say something. This is my third, and thankfully last, interview. I find the structure of these interviews—or better, the lack of structure—to be untenable. If you want me to participate, I demand that there's at least a little bit of order.

Do not give in to this. No negotiating with terrorists.

What? If anyone's a…no. Do not get sucked in. Stay on task. Stay on task. If you wish for me to participate, there have to be a few rules.

"There have to be a few rules." I got it. Things White refuses to stop saying.

Do you even understand the point of these interviews? Rosewater wants to demonstrate the dynamic between the three of us. If you set up rules, it undercuts the entire structure.

Plus I was promised no rules.

Why does Red get promised no rules and I don't get promised rules?

Did you ask? When Mark approached me, I said I would come on one condition: no rules. Perhaps you should have done the same.

Demand an interview have rules?

Yep.

An interview, by definition, has rules. Why would I have to ask for something that's already part of the inherent nature of the thing?

Since you now want to change things, it seemed you made a false assumption.

I'm not trying to change things. I'm trying to get Mr. Rosewater to live up to the unspoken promise made when I was invited to an interview.

I like how you refer to something "un-promised" as "unspoken."

The question was: How do each of you feel about the attribute of speed?

I like it. I'm a color of action so I like getting to the point as quick as possible. If I'm here to fight, let's fight.

Sometimes the best offense is hitting opponents before they're ready.

Gurmag Swiftwing | Art by Jeff Simpson

Some of the colors spend so much time thinking and plotting and planning. You know how you win a fight? By hitting your opponents enough times to knock them out before they can do the same.

One of the things I've always appreciated in Red is the "waste no time" attitude. There's a lot of power in being fast and brutal.

The key is to give up on thinking. Thinking just slows you down. Impulses are fast. Feel and move. Feel and move.

I do think speed can be used strategically. One of the best tricks is to figure out what your opponent would never expect and then do it. Hitting fast and hard out of the gate is one of those things.

Do you get the sense that somebody isn't participating?

Why, yes I do. Personally, I kind of enjoy it. White can be a little monotonous.

White, do you have any feelings about the attribute of speed?

Don't play White's game. If White doesn't want to talk, let White not talk. Red and I will talk. We get along great.

How about this? We can answer for White. That'll be fun. What do I, White, like about speed? I like lining up all my creatures in a line and then letting them out very orderly one at a time as quickly as I can. Human Warrior, Human Warrior, Human Berserker, Human Warrior.

I like proactively attacking things I've determined are evil, even though I advocate never striking first.

The best part is White literally has a mechanic called first strike. It's one of the things we like to bond over.

I, White, enjoy looking down my nose at any color that uses magic to kill other creatures. Well, you know, except myself.

So if I don't talk, you'll just use it as an opportunity to attack me?

I believe that's exactly what we're doing.

It is. Perhaps you noticed the mocking tone.

An army is a finely crafted tool. One of its many features is its speed. By being small and nimble, an army is capable of neutralizing forces before they become threats.

And attacking all-out is pretty fun.

One of the advantages of proper planning is that you can execute attack strategies fast, especially when you have an army made up of creatures you can summon quickly.

Mardu Hordechief | Art by Tortstein Nordstrand

How much planning does "Attack! Attack! Attack!" require?

I will not allow you two hooligans to misrepresent my beliefs, but that does not mean I have to interact with you.

Let's talk about what mechanical tools you three have for a strategy of speed.

All three of us have aggressive small creatures, with White and me having more than any other color.

Red and I have creature-kill to clear the path of our attacking creatures.

I can also neutralize creatures, but often by removing them from combat or preventing them from attacking or blocking.

Red and I can also do direct damage to a creature or opponent. Mine is usually done with a drain effect.

White and I have first strike.

And double strike.

White and I also have a lot of combat tricks; that is, instants we can play during combat.

White and I have small fliers. We also overlap on lifelink, but I'm not sure how speedy that is.

Basically, the three of us all have the option of an all-in, aggressive attack strategy.

So, White, let's talk about what it's like working with your two enemies.

Who do you want me to talk about first, Mr. Evil or Mr. Chaos?

Hold on. I love how you sell yourself as some kind of goody-two-shoes, yet you are constantly calling others by horrible names.

I thought you didn't believe in evil.

I don't. I do understand, though, what the concept means to you and others. You calling me evil is you calling me the worst name you can think of. It doesn't matter what I think of or believe. You are using harshly derogatory terms, as defined by yourself, when referring to me.

So?

You don't see that as being hypocritical? Don't you preach the belief that everyone has good within them? Isn't it your job to bring peace to the world? I keep hearing you talk about it, yet you don't seem to walk your walk or talk your talk.

How novel. The embodiment of evil telling me I'm not good enough.

I'm using your definitions, not mine.

Sometimes you have to be proactive to rid the world of evil.

Is that what you tell yourself? That calling me names and accusing me of things is you being proactive? You have such blinders on that you can't even begin to realize how much you don't see.

Illuminate me.

Mardu Charm | Art by Mathias Kollros

All right. Supposedly, it's your goal for everyone to live in peace. You preach forgiveness, compassion, taking the high road. Yet every time you deal with me, I get none of those. The way you act toward me seems very much like the thing you find fault for in others. You prejudge me and then never take the time to know me. You have to define me as some boogeyman to scare all your followers. If evil doesn't actually exist, if it's something you just made up because you needed to keep everyone in line, that means that all along you've been the bad one, not me.

I thought you didn't believe in good or bad.

I believe in hypocrisy.

You want to know what it's like dealing with Black? This. Black seems to rejoice in twisting words and perceptions.

Once again, I'm just using your definitions.

My world is defined by two things. A sense of morality and a sense of order. So having to work side-by-side with the embodiment of immorality and the embodiment of chaos is quite taxing.

Immorality? I'm not the color of immorality. I'm the color of amorality. Why? Because morality, and thus immorality, doesn't exist. I know it's comforting to you to believe in absolutes but that's just not how the world works.

And you know that how?

Unlike you, I don't keep my head in the sand. I don't believe in things that cannot be tangibly observed. I'll be honest. I'm pretty impressed with the concept of faith that you manage to sell so well. Believe in this thing that can't, by definition, be proven. Very clever. How can you ever be proven wrong when the cornerstone of your whole philosophy relies on people blindly believing?

I'm happy to be judged on my actions. Do I take advantage of others for my own gain? No. Do I lie and cheat and steal and basically do whatever I can for my own advancement? No. Do I kill others for nothing more than wanting what they have? No. What do I do? I look out for other people. I put the welfare of the group ahead of my own. I make sacrifices to help others.

So you're openly admitting that you're a fool?

It's better than being a psychotic sociopath.

You do understand the difference between us? You enable weakness. I enable strength. You assume that people are incapable of caring for themselves so you have to step in. I assume that people deserve the right to prove what they are capable of. In my world, people earn what they get. There are no free handouts.

In your world, the worst elements rise to the top. Power comes not from merit but from ruthlessness.

Ruthlessness? That's a topic for a different day. Red, you care to jump in?

I was just sitting here enjoying the show.

Where'd you get popcorn?

I'd rather not say.

I feel like I've been monopolizing all of White's time. Would you like a turn?

I would.

While you do that, I'm going to eat your popcorn.

I assumed you would. Hey, White. How you doing?

We've been doing quite well working together in Mardu. What if we just didn't fight?

But that's why we're here.

No, we were brought here to talk, not fight.

Talk, fight, tomato, tomahto. This is a chance to discuss our differences.

We could do it calmly. It doesn't have to be an argument. It could be a sharing of contrast between our views. It doesn't have to get all emotional.

Did you just say "It doesn't have to get all emotional?" To me? You don't want to fight and your argument consists of demeaning the thing I hold most dear?

I chose my words poorly. I just meant that we could not do the thing we always do.

The thing where I get all emotional?

I'm not anti-emotion. I'm not Blue. Emotions have a very important role in bonding individuals together. My issue is that emotions can lead to people doing and saying things they don't mean.

No, they do mean them. What emotions do is let people act in a way that they actually feel. That's my biggest problem with you and Blue. You're both so into suppression. What's so horrible about people saying what they think?

The problem is it causes conflict.

What's so wrong with conflict? You're the "army color." You fight all the time.

You don't build an army to fight. You build it so you won't have to fight.

Yeah, that's why you craft a weapon. So you can not use it.

Ghostfire Blade | Art by Cyril Van Der Haegen

Your problem is that you don't seem to understand the cost of conflict. You treat it like it's some form of entertainment.

And you treat it like it's the plague. Conflict is a normal part of the human condition. It's how people come to resolution.

But it doesn't have to be. People can work through their problems without having to fight. Instead of throwing punches, have you ever tried just sitting down and talking.

I don't solve every conflict with my fists. I get that's the stereotype you like to push to make me seem like a crazy color, but that's just one facet of who I am. Yes, if I have to fight I will, but that's not how I solve every problem. The big difference between when I sit down and talk and when you sit down and talk is that I say what's on my mind. I get to the point. If I have an issue with someone, I tell them and we work it through. I don't sit down and pretend like there isn't a problem and talk around the issue at hand like you.

You also don't always resolve the issue. In fact, you seem to escalate them far more often.

Is it better to just live in denial and let issues eat you up inside?

Every decision with you and Black is all about you. How will this affect you? What will you gain or what will you lose? You know what? Most of the time it isn't about you.

Again with the stereotypes. I get that Black's pretty selfish. No offense.

None taken. I am pretty selfish.

But I very much care about others. I'm the color of love, of passion, of loyalty. I do things for other people. All the time! What I don't do, though, is make decisions for the benefit of absolute strangers. Why am I supposed to suffer for people I don't even know?

Every law can't be made to maximize what's best for you.

How about we just make fewer laws then? You and your rules. We don't need so many rules.

You've already stated that you won't act in a way that looks out for people you don't know. You might not care about the impact you have on society, but that doesn't mean society doesn't care. If everyone just did what they wanted, it would be chaos.

Ah, chaos. Yes, another of your popular boogeymen. Oh no, you can't let "chaos" happen. That might mean you don't have absolute, complete control of everything. Heaven forbid things happen that you can't plan for in advance. Spontaneity must have its time and its place.

In my world, there are irritations. In your world, there are deaths.

I'm glad you see the taking away of liberties as "irritations."

People don't have the right to do whatever they want?

Such as tell others what they can and can't do?

Why did I come here today? I really knew better.

But you had to. It was planned. It was on a schedule. I mean, what else could you do?

I get it. You two don't care about society. You want to do what you want to do and you don't want someone reminding you that maybe what you're doing is hurting someone else.

Close enough.

Black and Red, we've talked at length about why each of you have a conflict with White, but I'm curious what conflicts there exists between the two of you?

Everyone, like White, wants to assume that because I pal around with Black that I'm just out for myself. I do have a hedonistic streak but I very much care for those I have an emotional connection with. I will put the welfare of a loved one ahead of my own, where I don't think Black is capable of that.

Red is a little reckless for my taste. I enjoy wanton destruction as much as the next color but Red too often makes poor long-term decisions. Red doesn't think about the consequences of its actions often enough for my liking.

Probably the biggest difference stems from the conflict between our other allies, Green for me and Blue for Black. Black believes, like Blue, that people have a lot of control over themselves and their lives. I agree with Green that life is a little more preset and that things are likely not as able to change as Black and Blue believe.

Ponyback Brigade | Art by Mark Zug

It looks like we're out of time. How about we end the way I've been doing for each of these interviews. Give me a final short pitch for why people should play Mardu. Go in the order of your introductions.

There is no good response to being hit before you expect it.

Have your threat ready before they have their answers.

Victory is about depriving your opponent of resources, of which time is an important one.

Thank you for all joining me today for another intriguing interview.

Hopefully, this interview was as insightful as the last two. As always, I would love to hear your feedback either through my email or any of my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram).

Join me next week when eight will be enough.

Until then, may you say what's on your mind.


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