What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

Posted in Making Magic on February 23, 2015

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 Temur Week! This is the fifth and final clan-themed week and we'll be talking all about the green-blue-red wedge. As I've done for the previous four clan theme weeks (Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai, and Mardu), I'm going to put the three relevant colors in a room, ask a few questions, and then get out of the way as they talk among themselves. My goal for this entire series is to give you a better sense of how the colors relate and understand the differences and similarities between them through interaction. If you're interested in the topic of color philosophy, please check out this page, which collects the many color pie articles (more than 20) I've written over the years.

Let's get started:

Hello, colors. We're going to start this interview like the four others. Going in the order you appear in Temur mana costs, please introduce yourself, then explain your end goal and the means you use to accomplish it.

I'm Green. I'm the center of the Temur clan. I seek acceptance and I do so through harmony.

I'm Blue. I seek perfection and do so through the acquisition of knowledge.

I'm Red. I seek freedom and attain it through action.

Let's begin by having each of you explain how you feel about the attribute that ties your clan together. How do each of you feel about savagery?

Before we jump into this topic, I'd like to take a second to talk about the word "savagery." The word, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "The quality of lacking the restraints normal to civilized human beings." An alternative definition is "The quality of lacking complex or advanced culture." In each case, it is defined by a lack of a more cultured response.

What are you doing?

If we're going to discuss a word and what it means to us, don't we have to first understand the context of the word, linguistically?

I think examining the meaning of the word "savagery" is about as far away from savagery as one can get. Being savage is about giving in to one's impulses and instincts, of doing what needs to be done in the heat of the moment in order to survive.

But the definition implies it's contextual.

Must you overanalyze everything? Is it against the rules to just explain how something makes you feel?

I believe that savagery can be just as mental as it is physical or emotional.

Really?

But that's why there are three of us—because we each approach the attribute differently.

To me, savagery is finding inner strength and drawing it out.

That is what mental fortitude is—just with your brain rather than your muscles.

So it's looking within.

Yes.

Good. You do have a tendency to want to look without.

Meaning?

Life provides you with all the answers, and all you need to find them is to look within. When I talk about harmony, what I mean is learning to stop struggling with the universe and start realizing that the things you need are already within you.

I fundamentally disagree with that. We are born blank slates with ultimate potential, but that potential comes from without. Anyone can become anything, but you need knowledge, experience, and the proper tools.

Are you saying savagery comes from without?

No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that savagery is about overriding normal psychological limits that most likely developed as a means of protection. That way, you can perform an action that is outside your norm.

So savagery is like breaking rules?

I guess you could interpret it that way.

Good. I can get behind breaking rules.

To me, savagery is about accepting your animal nature. Within each one of us, we have a connection to the web of life. That means we all have a feral side, and savagery is us tapping into that.

Replace animal nature with emotions and I'm down with that.

To me, savagery is digging deep to find the mental strength within yourself to accomplish the task at hand.

I see very little thinking in savagery. When I'm at my most savage, I'm the furthest from inside my head. Being savage is listening not to your head but to your whole body. It's giving in to the primal forces that connect us to the earth.

I have to agree with Green here. Savagery is listening to your id, to the most basic elements of your psyche. There's no thinking going on.

Savagery has no mental component for either of you because you both shun thinking.

What do you mean by that?

You both live by credos that reject the idea that rational thought is a positive force. That's why it's so hard to talk with the two of you, because you never bother thinking anything through.

I find it interesting that you equate us choosing not to do things your way as a sign of ignorance.

It's not ignorance, it's apathy. You two don't seem to care. There's a world of knowledge out there that can help you with whatever task you have at hand, but the two of you feel as if using the experience gained by others is somehow forbidden.

While you reject the mere thought that there exists something, outside of hard data, that can provide answers.

Data is objective.

Life isn't about objectivity.

Maybe not for you.

Does it ever bother you that you live in a cold world devoid of any feeling?

What do you want me to do? Act on every whim like you? Make shortsighted decisions that prioritize whatever thought is at the forefront of my brain?

Does it make you feel more superior to think of every act I make as an irrational one? The only difference between you and me is our motivation. I'm trying to stay true to who I am and to those who I care about. I try to stand for something and make my life have meaning. You seem more motivated by trying to never make a mistake. Well, I hope you're happy in your sterile, cold, little life, never knowing what it is to be close to another individual or feel true happiness—or any real emotion, for that matter.

I have feelings. I have emotions. I just choose to understand them for what they are and not let them run my life. We are blessed with intellect for a reason, because it allows us the ability to shape who we are and what we can become. When my life ends, I'm going to be the best that I can become, while you're going to be the same fool you've been your entire life.

That's because I'm happy with who I am. Did you ever stop to wonder why you try so hard to change? Because you don't like who you are right now.

Red hit upon the key difference between you and us. We're focused on looking within and recognizing who we are and what makes us special, rather than seeking external answers to explain how we can become something else.

Do you ever laugh? Do you ever cry?

Do you ever embrace the miracle of who you are? Are you capable of enjoying a sunset or relaxing to the sound of the rain?

Are you two content with never aiming to improve yourself? Of never trying to do better, to become better?

For someone who claims to value knowledge, you love jumping to conclusions. Red and I both strive to be better. We just don't do it your way.

Let's move on to the next topic. What mechanical elements do you three have for a strategy of savagery?

The three of us all have the capability of having bigger bodies, especially at common.

Green and I have trample. We also both have ability to pump our power and/or toughness. I have firebreathing. Green has the Rootwalla ability. Green and I both have spells that pump as well. Even Blue occasionally does +1/-1 boosting.

Using a similar theme of growth, Green and I both have access to card drawing. Green tends to focus its card drawing through creatures. Red and I both have access to looting, although mine is "draw then discard," while Red's is "discard then draw."

Green and I are both capable of damage. I do direct damage to creatures, players, and—indirectly—Planeswalkers. Green and I can both destroy artifacts and lands, while Green can also destroy enchantments and occasionally Planeswalkers. Blue doesn't destroy, but it can transform creatures, steal them, bounce them, and lock them down.

Green and I can use the advantage of surprise to ambush with flash. Red, and occasionally Green, has haste.

I also have a strong theme of variable power and toughness that grows over time. In addition, I'm able to distribute +1/+1 counters to make other things permanently grow.

Green and I also have access to mana. Green does it more permanently with land fetching and creatures that can activate to produce mana. I tend to have rituals or permanents that sacrifice themselves to produce mana temporarily.

Creature keyword-wise, we each have creature keywords that can help us in a fight. I have hexproof, so no one can interfere in my fights; Red has first strike and double strike, to dominate fights; Green has deathtouch, vigilance, and reach, to upgrade its fights.

We all have the means to be tough when called upon, to make sure that we're the ones who win the fight.

Blue, let's talk a bit about what it's like to work with your two enemies.

I live my life around a simple premise—every problem has a solution. They key is to spend the time and energy to figure out what that solution is. For example, let's say I have a problem with a neighbor. We have a disagreement. I will take the time to understand what my neighbor's issue is. Why is she upset? Were there actions that I took that led to her being upset? Are there steps I could take to rectify the situation so that she's no longer upset? During the same timeframe that I would be calculating my next move, Green would be starting a fight with her while Red would be burning down her house. That's my major problem.

Your problem is that we take action? That we actually do something about our problems?

No, my problem isn't that you take action. It's that you take action without thinking it through. You seek out the shortest path to every resolution.

Because the longest path is so much better?

Are you even aware of the chaos you create? Emotions are dangerous. Impulses are reckless. It's like you put out every fire by throwing the nearest liquid on it, even when that liquid is gasoline.

First off, I do not put out fires. Second, you act as if emotions aren't a core essence of who we are. They're not some faulty wiring. Your emotions are you. You live your life in self-denial, rejecting who you are.

We are more than just our base impulses. I reject emotion? You reject intellect. What makes us who we are is not what we feel but how we think. If we followed every impulse, we'd be no better than animals.

Hey! You should only hope that you live your life with half as much grace as any creature in nature. They don't live their lives in self-doubting angst. They embrace who they are and live it with every ounce of their being.

That's the difference between us and most animals. They don't have an intellect. They're not capable of higher thought. We shouldn't live like animals because we're better than them. We're capable of more. That's all I want. I just want people to live up to their potential.

You act as if intelligence is some marker of quality. So you're smarter. Someone else is faster. Someone else is stronger. Someone else is more compassionate. There are many different attributes to strive for. If you want that thing to be intelligence or knowledge or whatever high brain function you designate, great. Just stop judging everyone else by the same criteria. It's insulting and short-sighted.

I'm short-sighted? Red is the poster child for "Hit first, ask questions later."

You're the poster child for "Give me an hour and I'll get back to you."

There's nothing wrong with restraint.

Yes, there is. You act as if inaction has no consequences. While you take your time to think the problem through, others are making the choices for you.

And when you act without thinking, you're dictating an outcome that you can't control.

Control is overrated.

According to you!

You keep saying you want to perfect yourself, but I don't understand how you do that if you reject the very idea of looking inward.

I value knowledge about myself. Part of growing is understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. What I don't do, though, is assume that there are forces going on beyond my comprehension.

Well, I'm glad you understand everything so there are no "forces beyond your comprehension."

For a color who's supposedly all about knowledge, you have a lot of ignorance.

I'm outnumbered by two colors incapable of logical discussion. I'm not sure what, exactly, we're going to accomplish here.

Heaven forbid the color who craves information ever learn anything from us.

I thought the key to learning was to keep an open mind.

I'm done talking about this. Let's move on.

Red and Green, it's clear you two have issues with Blue. I'm curious to hear about what conflicts the two of you have.

The simple answer is to look at the conflict of other allies—White for me and Black for Red. The White-Black conflict is about the needs of the group versus the needs of the individual. Red and I are definitely on different sides of this debate. I'm less civilized than White, but I do believe in the importance of the community. Creatures have to understand their roles in the web of life and be careful not to stray from those roles. Red, on the other hand, is much more individual-focused. Red's entire philosophy comes out of each individual following its own passion so, by its nature, Red's philosophy leans more toward the needs of the individual.

Green has two sides, a destructive side and a peaceful side. I get the former. I understand the need to take action and cause destruction. The peaceful side, though, is further from how I function. It's not that I need to fight all the time, because I don't, but I can't handle the inaction. I have to be doing something.

Red's not the color to meditate or even sit still for any great length of time.

And Green is a little too worried about how everything interconnects.

Our time is about up. Why don't we end this interview like we've ended all the previous ones. Give me a short, pithy pitch on why people should play Temur. Go in your mana order again.

If you want to win, back the strongest fighter.

Believing you're capable of victory is the number-one quality needed to attain it.

The battle is won by the person who wants it more.

I'd like to thank the three colors for coming here today.


And that's the final wedge interview. I am very interested about what you thought of this series and whether or not you'd like to see more things like it (although not exactly the same) in the future. You can write to me through my email or any of my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Instagram).

Join us next week as we get the first glimpse of what changes Sarkhan has wrought as Dragons of Tarkir previews begin.

Until then, may you have strength on your side.

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