#418 Designing Rares
This is another in my series on designing different rarities. In this podcast, I talk about designing rares and mythic rares.
Posted in Making Magic on March 20, 2017
Two summers ago, I wrote five articles where I revisited the color pie philosophies of white, blue, black, red, and green. The color pie is crucial to Magic because it's the backbone for both the mechanics and flavor.
Then, last November, I wrote an article where I talked about the five enemy color pairings. Each color has two enemies and two allies, and in the article I explained why each color has issues with its two enemies and how those conflicts interconnect. Today, I'm going to look at the other five color pairings: the ally color pairings. I'm going to explain why each pair of allies gets along so well while also covering what they don't agree on.
Before I do that though, let me quickly recap the philosophies of each color (taken from the articles I link to above):
White wants peace.
White looks around and sees a world of suffering. There are so many individuals that struggle day to day, but the world has the resources to address this suffering. There is enough for everyone to have what they need (as opposed to what they want). Suffering is a by-product of individuals not prioritizing the good of the group.
White wants to create a world where there is no unnecessary suffering, a world where life is as good as it can be for each individual. The key to making this happen is teaching individuals the importance of taking actions that benefit the group as a whole, even if those actions might not benefit them personally.
The problem with this plan is it can only succeed if everyone is working toward the same unified goal. As soon as some individuals prioritize other things, like say their own desires, the plan falls apart. This means that white has to work extra hard to get the group to understand the power it holds and to keep the focus on the bigger picture.
White does want as many as possible to understand its motives and share them. But white realizes that to accomplish its larger goal, some individuals will have to be lead down the path rather than venture there of their own accord.
Blue wants perfection.
Blue believes that each and every one of us is born a blank slate with the potential to become anything. The entire point of life is figuring out what you could achieve with the right education, experience, and tools. Note that this is not a task with an end goal, but one that continues throughout your life. There will always be things you can do to improve, change, or adapt. The journey of life is one of constant discovery as you keep seeking to better yourself.
For individuals to do this, there has to be a society that accepts and encourages this behavior. Opportunities for education are vital. Places to experience things through trial and error are mandatory. Access to the top-of-the-line tools needs to be a right of every citizen.
In addition, this way of living requires the right attitude. You have to be open to possibilities, but also not too hasty in action. Blue recognizes that there are many forces, even some that come from within, that lead an individual astray. Time is a valuable resource because only with time can one get the things they need to improve. This means that individuals need to be careful and deliberate in all their decision making. It is better to think one's options out carefully and select correctly than to rush to a decision.
Blue is methodical and exact. Because when one sets out to become the best individual they can be, one doesn't have the luxury of making mistakes. Well, not unless they occur within a controlled environment.
As much as blue wishes to perfect itself, it also wants to perfect the world it lives in. Part of this is to ensure that blue has access to the resources it needs, but part of it is the belief that an element of reaching one's potential is living within a world that has reached its own potential. As such, blue is the color most interested in technology and wants the latest and greatest version of whatever it is using.
Black wants power.
Black looks at all the other colors and feels that each of them sees the world as they wish it to be. Black is the only realist, the only color to look and see the world as it is. An individual is free to have whatever they want, provided they have the power to obtain and keep it. This makes power the most important resource because it's the one thing that can guarantee your ability to control your life and thus your happiness.
It's important for everyone to understand that black didn't make the world greedy. The world was already greedy; black has just learned how to thrive within it. Black has two big things on its side. One, it understands and accepts the system better than anyone else. And two, black doesn't place any restrictions on itself that make its success more difficult.
Black's philosophy is very simple: There's no one better suited to look after your own interests than you. Therefore, if everyone looks out after their own interests, you've created a system where everyone has someone looking out for them. In addition, black's system allows everyone the opportunity to succeed. Will everyone succeed? Of course not—but once again, that's not black's doing. That's just how the world works.
The weak will fail. That's what makes them the weak. Doing anything to help them is both prolonging the inevitable and risking failing alongside them. It's not personal to black. Black does what it needs to do to succeed. If others can't do the same, well, then they deserve their fate. Others see this as black being heartless, but black realizes it's just being pragmatic.
There will always be those who suffer. Once again, this isn't black's doing. It's an inevitability of life. Black's just the one color that owns up to the truth and acts accordingly.
Red wants freedom.
Everyone seems preoccupied with the meaning of life. Red's not because red already knows the answer. You see, your heart tells you what it needs to be fulfilled. All you have to do is listen to it and act accordingly. It's not a mystery. You are literally bombarded with constant feelings that guide you down the correct path. The problem is all the other colors ignore the message.
Life's an adventure, and it's up to each individual to experience it. The key is to embrace your emotions and let them guide you. If you're happy, laugh. If you're sad, cry. If you're angry, hit something. If you're scared, run away. Listen to your inner voice and you will have the opportunity to experience all that life has to offer.
Too many individuals live their life questioning choices they've made. Not red. Red lives in the moment; red is spontaneous; red embraces every adventure put before it. Red knows that on its deathbed, it will look back on a fulfilled life with no regrets. That's all red wants—the ability to live life doing what it needs to.
This doesn't mean red is alone. Quite the opposite, actually. Part of living life is embracing relationships. Red knows passion and loyalty and camaraderie and lust. When red bonds with another, it bonds strongly and fiercely. Whether a lover or a friend, red is someone who will always be there when you need them. Well, unless, life has taken them somewhere else for some length of time—but then when they get back, they're definitely going to be there for you.
To outsiders, red might seem a bit chaotic, but that's only because others can't see what's in red's heart. They cannot feel red's emotions guiding them. Living life to its fullest takes a lot of dedication and perseverance, but red is always up to the task.
Green wants acceptance.
The other colors are all focused on how they'd change the world to make it better. Green is the one color that doesn't want to change the world because green is convinced that the world already got everything right. The natural order is a thing of beauty and has all the answers to life's problems. The key is learning to sit back and recognize what is right in front of you.
Each individual is born with all the potential they need. The secret to a happy life is to recognize the role you were born into and then embrace it. Do what you were destined to do. The world is this elaborate system, and each one of us gets to play a part. And it's not something we have to guess about. It's imprinted on us; it's in our genes. Just look within.
In addition, you have to learn how you fit into the larger picture. Nature has a beautiful structure. Part of life is recognizing what role you play and how that role interconnects with the web of life. You're not alone. You're part of a complex system full of interdependencies.
The problem is there's so much going on that it's easy to lose track of what's already there. Too many individuals get so caught up in the details of their lives that they don't bother to sit back and understand the bigger picture. Green truly believes that the rest of the colors simply aren't taking the time to appreciate what is already there.
On the back of every Magic card (okay, almost every Magic card—I'm looking at you, double-face cards) is a circle of the five colors known as the color wheel.
Colors are allied with the two colors next to them and enemies with the two colors across from them. "Pie Fights" talked about the five conflicts, so today we're talking about the five alliances.
The Importance of Restraint (White and Blue)
To understand any two colors' alliance, we always start by looking at their shared enemy. For white and blue, that would be red. Red is about impulse, about following your gut, listening to your heart. Red is unpredictable and spontaneous. Red focuses on the short term, opting to worry about the long term when it becomes the short term sometime in the future.
As far as white and blue are concerned, this is dangerous. For white, which is focused on the welfare of society as a whole, this type of behavior leads to selfish acts that undermine the social contract encouraging people to act in the best interest of society. For blue, which is focused on becoming the best it can be, this type of behavior leads to making foolish choices that undermine one's ability to maximize their potential.
White and blue's alliance is therefore about restraint. It's about taking the time to carefully think things through. For white, this focuses on things like planning, organization, and strategy. To do what's best for society, you have to think several steps ahead to make sure that you're using your tools of order efficiently. For blue, this focuses on things like studying, evaluation, and prediction. To find the best path for optimization, you need to be slow and methodical, making sure that you are properly analyzing each element before making a decision.
When white and blue get together, they focus on building the plan with the greatest long-term chance of success. They figure out where they want to end up and then plan backwards from each step that must be taken to accomplish their chosen task. This makes white and blue slow, reactive, and very focused on details, but almost unstoppable if their plans are left unchecked.
To understand what white and blue disagree on, you need to look at their other allies. White's other ally is green, while blue's other ally is black. This means that the conflict they differ on is free will versus destiny. Blue believes that people have agency and the ability to control what they do. White believes that there is a role that people must play to ensure a better society. Blue believes that an individual's decisions should maximize their own potential, while white believes they should maximize the welfare of the group.
The Importance of Choice (Blue and Black)
Blue and black's shared enemy is green. Green is about embracing the world as it is and understanding that everyone has a role to play in the greater ecosystem. As far as green is concerned, you are born into who you are and what role you will play. It isn't something you decide but rather something decided for you at birth.
Blue and black dislike the inability for an individual to have a say in their identity and their purpose. For blue, which is focused on maximizing its potential, this keeps people from having a say on who they want to be, undermining blue's ultimate goal of perfection. For black, which seeks avenues to expand its influence, this locks people into a very narrow path, undermining black's ultimate goal of power.
Blue and black's alliance is therefore about choice. It's about giving people the option to dictate who they are or what they do. For blue, this focuses on things like complex decisions, adaptability, and change. To reach your full potential, you need to have access to a wide variety of options and then have the ability to change midstream if things aren't working out. For black, this centers on things like drive, opportunity, and ruthlessness. To gain access to the things that will grant you control, you need the ability to choose your own path regardless of what obstacles are in your way.
When blue and black get together, they focus on creating a plan that both leaves them open to having as many options as possible while at the same time obfuscating what they're up to. They want to win in such a way that the opponent isn't quite sure how exactly they were victorious. The key to making this plan work is being willing to do whatever it takes to win, along with the ability to be adaptable. This makes blue and black harder to predict, but it's more likely for aspects of their plans to go astray.
Blue's other ally is white and black's other ally is red, which makes their conflict one of freedom versus security. Black believes that people have the right to do what they want to do, and as such frowns upon any measure (not made by them) that limits freedom or opportunity. Blue believes that chaos left unchecked will ultimately become a threat to its own self-improvement, so it supports upgrades to the group that can keep troublesome individuals in check. Black believes that individual suffering of the meek is an acceptable cost for letting the strong thrive. Blue believes that one of the roles of society is to ensure security, allowing each person the ability to look within without having to worry about threats from without.
The Importance of Individualism (Black and Red)
Black and red's shared enemy is white. White is about prioritizing the needs of the group. White believes that each person should be making decisions based not on what helps them individually but rather on what helps the society at large, even if that decision is harmful to them personally.
Black and red dislike the idea that individuals should be forced to make decisions that are fundamentally bad for them. For black, which is focused on achieving power at any cost, such a decision is counterproductive to its end goal. For red, which wants to indulge its impulses, it forces a looking without rather than a looking within.
Black and red's alliance is therefore about individualism. It's about having the ability to prioritize personal decisions. For black, this focuses on things like merit, initiative, and self-esteem. To properly motivate people, you need to have the ability to reward those who have done a better job. For red, this focuses on things like passion, enthusiasm, and motivation. To follow one's heart, it's essential that people have the freedom to listen to their impulses.
When black and red get together, they focus on eliminating any and all restrictions. They are impulsive and brutal, doing whatever it takes to follow the plan they've set out. They are a balance of threats and answers. This makes black and red dangerous but susceptible to subtler threats.
Black's other ally is blue and red's other ally is green, which makes their conflict one of nature versus nurture. Black believes that individuals have the ability to shape their own destiny, that through ruthless opportunity, people can forge their own destiny. Red gets its messaging from looking within and thus believes that what drives a person is something they are born with and not something that they obtain. Black believes that individuals are capable of becoming what they chose to become. Red believes that people are the composite of their impulses and thus must learn to accept who they are.
The Importance of Intuition (Red and Green)
Red and green's shared enemy is blue. Blue is about utilizing one's intellect to gather information to maximize its own potential. Because blue is so focused on making the right decisions, it is slow and methodical, relying on its smarts to make each decision correctly. This leads blue to adopt a preference for being cold and calculating, eschewing any internal processes that might lead it astray.
Red and green dislike the idea that people shouldn't listen to their hearts or their guts, that the proper way to live is to reject any internal messaging. For red, which is focused on listening to its emotions, such rejection of impulses is insulting and counterproductive. For green, which embraces its natural side, the idea of abandoning instinct is an insult and a direct contradiction of its values.
Red and green's alliance is therefore about intuition. It's about respecting that all creatures are born with innate qualities that can help guide them through life. For red, this focuses on things like emotions, spontaneity, and desires. To live one's life to the fullest, one must look within and listen to their impulses. For green, this centers on things like hunches, alignment, and connection. To grow, you must accept the gifts given to you by nature and use them to find your true calling.
When red and green get together, they take advantage of their connection to their impulses and instincts to act with a speed that others can't rival. They also tap into their feral side to attack with an unparalleled ferocity. The downside of this method is that they don't have alternative strategies if the aggressive approach is somehow countered.
Red's other ally is black and green's is white, which makes their conflict one of the good of the group versus the good of the individual. Green believes in the connectivity of life, that all creatures are part of a greater web. As such, green sees the importance of looking at the big picture and respecting the role each creature plays. Red believes that each individual has its own path and that the goal of life is for creatures to focus on the role they play. Others need to take care of themselves; red's job is to look after itself.
The Importance of Responsibility (Green and White)
Green and white's shared enemy is black. Black is about discovering and exploiting opportunities to maximize one's ability to shape their role in the world. Black prioritizes itself and always makes decisions based on what will advance its causes the most. As a result of this way of thinking, black is willing to take advantage of others if doing so will help it achieve the power it craves.
Green and white dislike the idea that people should be willing to sacrifice others to further their own agenda. For green, which is a big believer in the web of life, this willingness to sacrifice others threatens to disrupt the natural order. For white, which is all about protecting the group, this selfishness encourages people to act in dangerous and destructive ways.
Green and white's alliance is therefore about responsibility. It's about recognizing that you play a part in the bigger picture and thinking about how your actions will affect those around you. For green, this focuses on things like interdependence, symbiosis, and destiny. Each creature fulfills a role in nature's complex ecosystem, and messing with just one piece can have catastrophic results. For white, this focuses on things like society, charity, and the greater good. The welfare of the group must supersede the welfare of the individual, or else base impulses will lead society to ruin.
When green and white get together, they take advantage of the power of the group. By working together, a horde of creatures can become something greater than the sum of its parts. They can build up their forces and ultimately overwhelm any defenses. The downside to this approach is that it takes time to bring a group together, and enemies acting more independently can at times outrace green and white.
Green's other ally is red and white's other ally is blue, which makes their conflict one of head versus heart. Green believes that each individual is born into its role in life complete with the attributes it needs to accomplish its task. This means the key to success is to act on one's instincts. White believes that the true purpose of each individual is to contribute to the welfare of the group. To accomplish this, one must override their impulses and instead use their intellect to figure out how best contribute.
The key to understanding a color's motivations is to see the intersection of its two alliances.
White is about responsibility and restraint. You have a role to fill, and to properly accomplish your goals you need to adhere to structure so you can do what needs to be done to advance the cause of the society as a whole. The key to peace is following obligation through self-discipline.
Blue is about restraint and choice. To maximize your potential, you need to be very studious in exploring all your options. This requires a dedication to the process of careful evaluation and an openness to the idea that a multitude of future paths exist. The key to perfection is an acceptance of the need to be methodical and adaptive.
Black is about choice and individualism. The key to success is understanding that you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to advance your agenda. The power to craft your life is limited only by your ability to see where you need to go and your willingness to do the things you need to do to get there. The key to power is flexibility and selfishness.
Red is about individualism and intuition. If you want to be happy, you have look within and listen to what your body is telling you it needs. Success in life is about taking action to fulfill impulses. The key to freedom is trusting yourself and your feelings.
Green is about intuition and responsibility. There's no need to search for an answer, as it's already right there before you. You were born with abilities and a role to play in life; you just have to recognize what they are and welcome them. The key to acceptance is embracing who you are and doing everything in your power to fulfill your role in the ecosystem.
And that, in about four thousand words, is why each of the allies get along. I obviously love the color pie, so I'm extra eager to hear what you all have to say about today's theme and column. You can email me or contact me through any of my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram).
Join me next week when I do a Storm Scale on the two Innistrad blocks.
Until then, may you, like the ally colors, all get along.
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