Smart Thinking

Posted in Making Magic on November 3, 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 Jeskai Week. This is the second of a series of five wedge theme weeks where we'll be looking at the five-color combinations which involve each color paired with its two enemies. The first wedge theme week was Abzan. If you enjoy me writing about the color pie, feel free to visit my color pie page for more than twenty articles all about the color pie.

Here's how the wedge week articles work. I gather together the three colors from the wedge in question and put them in a room together. I then ask a few questions and get out of the way as the colors answer the questions.

Let's get started:

Hello everyone. I like to always start by having each color introduce themselves. We're going to go in the order you all appear in the mana cost on Jeskai cards.

I'm Blue. I'm the center of the Jeskai wedge. I'm about achieving perfection through knowledge.

I'm Red. I'm about achieving freedom through action.

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

I like to start these discussions by talking about the aspect that the wedge portrays. In this case, that means cunning. Could each of you talk a little bit about what cunning means to you?

Sure. Cunning, to me, is tricking your opponent. It's figuring out what he or she thinks is going to happen and then making something different happen instead.

I like the sentiment that you are anticipating the actions of your opponent, but I think cunning is about knowing more than your opponent and using that knowledge for your benefit.

But cunning implies a sense of sneakiness.

How about we give everyone a turn to talk?

You can talk. Jump in. This is a free forum.

I just realized that in every wedge I'm in I have to deal with either you or black, which means it's never going to be orderly.

You act like that's a bad thing. This is a roundtable discussion. The whole point is for each of us to get up in each other's grill and get to the issues.

Or we could calmly discuss the issues brought here before us. I don't believe we need interact with each other's "grill."

Oh right, some entertainment might sneak into this process. Let's see if we can suck all the fun out of it.

How about we answer the question asked of us?

I did.

I meant White.

Thank you, Blue. I believe cunning has to do with plotting out the expected response of one's opponent and then taking steps to ensure that won't happen.

Yeah, tricking your opponent. That's what I said.

You are not listening to White's word choice. White advocates proactive measures. You, on the other hand, are about as reactive as they come.

Horde Ambusher | Art by Tyler Jacobson

I go with the flow, if that's what you're implying. I'm spontaneous. Cunning isn't always about planning. 

A lot of it is. How do you ensure that the opponent's plan doesn't work as intended? You have to be one step ahead.

I'm one step ahead, but it's a gut thing. I follow my impulses. I don't sit around and make charts.

It seems like we all agree that cunning involves acting in a means that cannot be properly anticipated by one's opponent. All of us have a component that does that. I like gathering knowledge of my opponent and his or her strategies. Red likes being tricky and making any intentions hard to gauge. White likes taking proactive measures to create answers to future threats. Each one of us has the means to be cunning.

Let's talk about that. What mechanical resources do you have to be cunning?

We do it a bit differently, but Blue and I both loot. White and I both have a lot of combat tricks.

All three of us tend to have a lot of interactive instants. I have card drawing, card filtering, counterspells.

What both Red and Blue said. I think we all have the ability to surprise the opponent. I have a lot of damage prevention, damage redirection, protection-granting, indestructible-granting.

I can grant hexproof. I can reduce the power of my opponent's creatures. I obviously have access to bouncing things.

Force Away | Art by Mark Winters

I can bounce my own things as well.

Right.

I have direct damage, much of which is at instant speed, and can mess up combat math.

All three of us have ways to sneak guys through. I can make my guys unblockable, White can sort of make its guys unblockable by using protection, and Red can make creatures unable to block.

Blue and I obviously have evasion with flying.

I have haste and Blue has flash, allowing us to surprise the opponent with an attacker he or she didn't account for on the previous turn. Also, Blue and I have both spell redirection and spell copying.

Most of what we've mentioned are noncreature spells, which obviously allow us to interact with prowess, the Jeskai mechanic.

Let's talk about what it's like for two of you to have to team up with your shared enemy?

It sucks.

He said "the two of you." He was talking to me and Blue.

I believe you were referred to as the "shared enemy."

No, no, no, no, no. When I was asked here, it was made very clear that there were going to be no rules. Questions would be asked and we'd be allowed to talk.

There are always rules.

No, there's not. I mean you live with rules 24/7, but that's you. You're obsessed with rules. Seriously, it's a borderline pathology. It's a little scary, actually.

So I should embrace anarchy like you?

You do love your labels. I'm an "anarchist." I'm "chaotic." I'm "unstable." All these words that describe me as something that's destructive. I'm also the color of passion, loyalty, empathy, tenderness, love. I'm the reason that people care about other people.

Charity, grace, mercy, sympathy, guilt—that's all me. You don't have some monopoly about caring about others. You're not even about community. You're about doing what you want, damn the consequences.

Sure, you care about the group, but you never care about an individual. If someone has to die to save 50 others, you don't blink an eye. It's all about the "greater good." But at what cost? Everybody needs someone to care about them more than 50 strangers.

End Hostilities | Art by Jason Rainville

And who exactly gets to be the one to choose who's more important than someone else?

We all do.

It's a slippery slope. It starts with you favoring one person and soon you start justifying why that person and you deserve things more than other people.

That's the problem with emotion. It's irrational. You make decisions in the heat of the moment and you find yourself doing things you shouldn't.

Fine, I make mistakes, but at least I get in there and do things. I take action. You live in a sterile world where you never get emotionally involved. Of course, you like White. Everything is tucked away in its tiny box and analyzed to death. Neither of you ever put yourself out there. White, you talk all about the importance of people, yet you never make individual connections. And Blue, you're so disconnected that you don't even understand the concerns of the people around you.

And how many people suffer in your wake? You're "do it now because it feels right" attitude leads to others suffering, but that's not something you ever dwell on because you're always onto the next thing. You don't stick around to see the consequences of your actions—consequences that often result in pain and suffering.

This seems like a good time to talk a bit about the end goals you each started with at the beginning.

I'm all about freedom. What that means…

Wait, wait, wait! Do you see the pattern here? We're asked a question and then you always jump in first and answer.

So?

Perhaps the right thing to do would be for us to take turns so that each of us has a chance to go first.

Why would I do that?

Exactly. Why would you do that? What's in it for you? Do the feelings of me or Blue mean anything?

Blue doesn't have feelings.

I have feelings. I just don't let them run my life.

Blinding Spray | Art by Wayne Reynolds

Suppressing every emotion you feel is a lot like not having them.

You're doing this again where the topic gets changed when you're uncomfortable talking about it. Can we please go back to your rudeness in not allowing anyone else the opportunity to speak first?

No, that's not how conversations work. You don't get to "go back." You want to talk about something, you have to redirect the conversation.

Then let's talk about how you're being rude right now.

I'm the one being rude?

Yes.

I'll second.

You two keep ganging up on me and I'm the rude one?

We're not ganging up on you. You are being rude and the two of us are properly identifying it.

This is what happens whenever you and Blue get together. You start making up rules about how people are supposed to function and surprise, surprise, everything I do is against the rules.

Because you never think about any one besides yourself.

Now you're confusing me with Black. I very much care about others. I just choose who those others are. As much as you like to keep up this illusion that everyone is the same, they're not. If I have a choice between helping a loved one or helping a stranger, I'm helping my loved one. Every time. Every stinking time!

And what happens when everyone acts that way? As soon as you start deciding that certain people are more important than others, that's how inequality gets created. You see, you only ever look at how your decisions affect the moment but each decision we make has long-term ramifications that affect society as a whole. For example, you want to talk, so you keep jumping in. Blue's more patient. So what has happened is you've monopolized the interview and Blue hasn't had the chance to say much of anything. And Blue's the center of this clan. So here's what we're going to do. The next interview question is directly for Blue.

All right. Blue, can you explain your goal and the means by which you achieve it?

I would love to. Thank you, White. I believe the following: Each person is born with unlimited potential. We each come into this world as a blank slate. The purpose of life is to figure out what it is you wish to become and then you work toward getting the things you need to fulfill that purpose. A key part of this is education. In order to do something well, you have to learn all the knowledge necessary. You also have to learn what tools are required of the job and acquire those. Finally, you have to build skills, which are gained through experience. Knowledge, tools, and experience will allow you to reach your potential.

Quiet Contemplation | Art by Magali Villeneuve

None of this explains why you're a cold fish.

Red!

Fine, fine. None of this explains why you refuse to embrace your emotions.

Emotions are a trap. In order to achieve one's potential, you have to make use of your intellect. Each individual has limited resources, so if he or she is to be successful, the individual has to prioritize what is important. Emotions lead to impulses, which are based on biological drives created long ago to make sure we could survive in the wilderness. The world has changed but our biological impulses have not caught up. They pull you away from your long-term goal for short-term pleasures. Giving into our emotions nets us short-term gains but at the cost of achieving long-term efforts. In any simple cost/benefit analysis, it's simply not worth it.

Cost/benefit analysis? Is that what happiness is? Sadness? Anger? Fear? You act as if our emotions are some caveman thing that we've outgrown. They are our bodies telling us what they need.

No, they are our bodies telling us what they want. It is not what we need. Do we need to punch the person making us angry? Do we need to run away from the thing that has potential for disappointment? Do we need to cry because we didn't get what we wanted? Emotions give us easy answers for complex problems. Punching someone doesn't resolve the underlying issue. Running away doesn't help us overcome obstacles. Crying doesn't get us to push through disappointment. Intellect allows us the ability to look past the short-term impulse to find the actual path to get the things we need.

So you suppress every feeling you have. Does that make them go away?

I never said emotions weren't a powerful force. That's why discipline is so important.

Exactly!

You're putting the cart before the horse. What's the point of getting everything you want? To be happy? Well guess what? Ignoring your happiness to achieve a laundry list of items you've decided you need isn't the best route to happiness! You're so focused on the future that you're not living in the present. You live in a world where tomorrow is always full of promise but today always sucks.

And you live in a world where you can only live moment to moment. The key to getting the things you need requires some sacrifice. It takes work, dedication, focus, and time. None of which are things you could ever have because they require you to give up something in the present to gain something in the future. That's antithetical to how you function.

Red, this seems like a good time for you to tells us about your goal and how you achieve it.

Everyone seems to want to paint me as the careless out-of-control color. I care, probably more than any other color. I believe the point of life is finding your passion and then living it, acting on it. Too many people live their lives just going through the motions and never connecting with what would make them feel alive. That's not living. I know that many people don't know how to do this and the answer is so simple. Deep inside, you know what you want. The trick is learning to listen and then following what your heart is telling you it wants.

You said before your ultimate goal was freedom.

I'm getting there. I'm sorry if my goal isn't as simple as yours. So, I want each person to find his or her passion. In order to do this, though, we have to have a society that allows people the ability to do that. When I say my ultimate goal is freedom, I mean that I want each person to have the freedom to take action to do what needs to be done to find his or her passion.

And what if that passion involves something that would harm other people?

Swift Kick | Art by Mathias Kollros

I'm not advocating senseless violence, but if someone is harming you or someone you care about, you should have the right to do what you need to do. Look, I don't go around picking fights all the time, but I also don't walk away when a fight occurs. You keep saying I ignore consequences. I understand that when I punch someone, that person might punch me back. That's a consequence. Sometimes, though, it's a consequence you have to accept.

You keep saying you're not reckless and then two seconds later you're advocating fighting.

I get that violence is part of life, and unlike you, I don't try to pretend like it doesn't have a role, but it's a tiny part of what I'm talking about. Most of the time, following your heart isn't about violence, but love. Everyone has the right to be happy. Everyone has the right to live to his or her full potential. That's all I'm asking for. I want people to be able to take action and I don't want society telling people what they can and cannot do.

Like crime?

Can you stop obsessing on this one little area? The vast majority of the time, people embracing their passions don't harm anybody.

How about themselves? You act as if impulses always guide you in the right direction. Impulses lead to people doing stupid things.

No, impulses lead to action. Impulses lead to people discovering who they are.

No, they don't. They lead to fulfilling biological drives. You get angry and your adrenaline spikes and all of a sudden you have increased energy. The anger is a byproduct of your body trying to protect you.

No, the anger and the adrenaline are your body helping you understand what you need to do. Unlike you, I don't ignore my impulses, so I've learned to understand what they are saying.

Let's turn to White. In the last interview, you explained your goal. Perhaps today you can explain it in context of the other colors.

Red keeps explaining how you have to look out for yourself. I believe we have a much higher calling than that. We have to look out for each other. If we all work together, there is no end to what we can accomplish. But in order to do this, we have to put aside our greed and our jealousy. There's no need to take as much as you can. Take as much as you need, and if everyone does this, there will be enough to go around. The reason there is suffering isn't because we don't have the resources to take care of everyone, but because too many individuals are selfish.

The idea that we're all supposed to treat each other the same flies in the face of human nature. I'm going to spend more resources and energy on those I care about. Suggesting otherwise seems foolish.

Bloodfire Mentor | Art by Chase Stone

But in the world I'm suggesting, you and your love ones don't suffer. Everybody's needs are met.

You act as if as long as we get enough food, we're good to go. People have needs other than their base physical ones. People need to have a sense of belonging. People need to have a sense of purpose. People have to have passion. Your neat little orderly world seems to gloss this over.

People have some freedom, just not unlimited freedom. The second that your freedom impedes on my freedom, you've gone too far. Laws exist because they protect people and define what is and is not acceptable.

I get that your laws always start out noble, but every time you create a new restriction, you are cutting off someone's ability to express themselves.

That's the cost of everyone being taken care of.

And I say that cost is too high. I get that having personal freedoms means that some might suffer, but many more suffer when those freedoms are taken away.

We've spent a bunch of time talking about each of your conflicts with Red. White and Blue, do you have any conflicts with one another?

White and I are on the same page when it comes to the need of order. I'm a little more internal and White's a little more societal, but we agree that there is no more dangerous element than chaos. I think the place we differ most is when it comes to examining the role we all have in our own fate. This conflict is best seen by looking at the conflict between our other allies, Black for me and Green for White. Black and I agree that one's fate is not predetermined, that free will exists, and that we have a hand in dictating our own future. White sides with Green in the belief that things have been established a certain way and that it is fruitless to fight with destiny.

To me, the biggest difference between Blue and me is that we want slightly different things. We both are seeking to create the perfect world, but for Blue that world is self-actualization, whereas for me it is about creating the perfect society. Blue's just a little bit more about the role of the individual than me. But that said, we work very well together and are able to craft rules and laws that are a thing of beauty.

That's all the time we have for today. I know we've focused a bit on the conflicts between you but I'd like to end on a more collaborative note. Could each of you in a single sentence explain why players should play your clan? Let's go in the same order we had you introduce yourselves.

The most dangerous weapon is the mind.

A confident enemy is a susceptible one.

Every plan has a counterplan.

Thank you all for coming to this interview. I think we all learned something.

As always I would love to hear any feedback on this interview/article through my email or any of my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram).

Join me next week when we go back and take another look at Unglued 2.

Until then, may you figure out your own goal and the means to accomplish it.


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