Duality in Magic - Red Black (Rakdos)
Updated: Apr 6
One of the most iconic elements of magic is the five colors that bring life and meaning to the pieces of cardboard we play with. Each one of those colors has their own personality, which over time have all become familiar to us, but what happens when those colors are combined.
Well, what we get, is something entirely new, in essence, ten new colors. The subject of this article will be the color combo that revels in its dark desires, the one that will go to great lengths to fulfill its every need... we of course will be talking about Red-Black.
Just like in the previous posts of this series, I want to quickly lay the foundation of the primary colors that make up this combination. If you want a more in-depth explanation of the colors, check out my other color theory articles, or take a look at the color theory videos on my YouTube channel.
First things first, let’s talk about Red, the color of passion and impulse. The best way to look at Red is to understand this sentence:
“I believe everyone should have the right to follow their heart no matter where it leads them.”
In essence, this represents the freedom to answer the call of your heart, not bound by arbitrary laws or restrictions. There is no need to question our impulses because that is what our hearts truly want. And when we begin to dissect why we desire something, it begins to lose its meaning.
What Black wants isn't so dissimilar; it just goes about it in a colder and more calculating fashion. Black wants everything that life has to offer, and this means having the power to do so. The thing with Black is that it will do whatever it takes to get itself into that position; it has no ties to kin or morality.
It sees what it wants as a straight path, and isn't obstructed by limitations that others put on themselves.
So, I'm sure you can see where these two ideologies begin to intersect, and that's a given because unlike in some of the previous articles, this colors in this combination are natural allies on the wheel. This does not mean that they are the same, nor do they always agree on everything. It’s just that they hold very similar values, and go about it differently.
For instance, Red needs freedom, for without freedom, how can it fulfill its impulses? Whereas Black needs not only freedom but the freedom to fulfill its every wish. These two ideas may sound very similar and you may think to yourself, ‘Dice, you're just splitting hairs here,’ and to a degree, you would be right. But that is what it comes down to with allied colors.
Let me explain further. You see, Red wants the freedom to express itself; it wants to love whoever it wants to love or fight whoever makes it angry. Black, on the other hand, wants those same freedoms, but for purely selfish reasons. Black wants the freedom to do as it pleases; it wants to use others it lusts after, or kill those who get in its way. So, what happens then when Red and Black are combined?
Well, Red-Black wants freedom, pure and simple - not allowances of freedom handed out by lawmakers, but pure, chaotic freedom that allows them to express their darkest desires.
We see this best represented on Ravnica with the Cult of Rakdos, a guild whose antics have no boundaries, and who live a lifestyle that others have trouble understanding. They live on the edge of society, personifying the darkest desires within us all. They act without much thought beyond accomplishing carnal satisfaction, a twist on Red's ideals, and they will go to any length to achieve this, spurred on by their Black side. Within us, all are those dark thoughts that we would never act upon, but to Red-Black, no idea is off the table, and in fact, those dark thoughts are what we must seek out and act upon.
When we see Red-Black within the Multiverse, it often represents chaos and madness on many planes. You see, when passion goes unchecked and that same passion is always hungry for more, it can push the mind of Red-Black over the edge. Nonetheless, out of all the colors of Magic, they are the ones that thrive on their madness.
In flavor, they are often colors that care not for their safety or for those who fight alongside them. It presses forward not just to win, but to simply kill and cause pain for the sheer enjoyment of it. I think that in any one color, it would be impossible to represent madness, but when we take the two sides that Red and Black bring to the table, we see it displayed perfectly.
In Red, we have an almost frantic desire to act upon our whims and not our minds. Yet in Black, those same frantic desires take dark turns. Red-Black's mind is a mess of one selfish impulse after another, making it hard to make long-term decisions and causing a loss of stability. Living this life with no stability and, in essence, chaos, creates madness.
Very often in Magic, the colors are represented to be neutral. No one color is truly evil nor are any truly good; it's simply a matter of perspective.
Even Black isn't purely evil by its nature.
It’s selfish, sure, but it's not always evil. Something happens, though, when Red and Black are brought together - something sinister. I think it has a lot to do with allowing our darkest impulses to take center stage without any guardrails of morality to keep it in check.
Within Red-Black, we see what the true personification of that would be in physical form, as the demons and horrors that are common among this color combination, or even the many elementals that take the form of true fiery rage. Sure, there is usually a reason for everything, but for Red-Black, I think we have the one exception to this rule. Redeemable characters do exist in this color combination, but they are just that: exceptions.
To me, Red-Black is the most unique of all the Color combinations, because it is hard to find any redeemable qualities. It desires to cause harm to all those around it and enjoys causing suffering.
When we look at any of the other colors of Magic, we can see that the Magic team really does try to make it so that there is no good or bad, and that morality is all a matter of perspective based on what color you relate to. Even Black, who is willing to kill those in its way to get what it wants, does so with a purpose, whereas Red-Black finds purpose only in the act of killing. Any world where Red-Black exists can never truly be safe, but hey, at least they’re having fun, and that’s got to count for something.
Thanks for reading my latest Duality in Magic Article. Hope to see you again when I cover Red-Green. The color combination that fulfills the animalistic side of our brains.
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[Edited by Cameron Davis]