Duality in Magic - Red-Green (Gruul)
Updated: Apr 6, 2021
In the beginning, there were five colors at the heart of Magic: the Gathering, but as time went on, the concept of pairs had emerged. The new multicolored cards became more than mechanical identities, in that they also, much like their mono-colored counterparts, gained a life of their own with their own philosophies and ideals, in the end separating themselves from the colors that spawned them. In this article, we will be taking a look at the color pair Red-Green, the color of impulse and instinct...
As is tradition with this series, I will first lay out the basic ideals of each of the two colors being discussed in this video. If you want a more in-depth analysis of each color and how they interact with the others, feel free to check out my videos on the five colors and come back, or look at them afterward.
Let's begin with Red, the color that follows its heart no matter where that may lead them. Red believes that the answer to life lies in our souls and not in our minds; it’s that fiery feeling you get down in your gut that tells you to act, and act Red does. Because the more time spent deciphering our feelings, the more we move away from who we truly are.
Green is confident in the knowledge that we are all part of a greater ecosystem, one that spans the world and has been thriving before us and will thrive after we are gone. We all have no choice but to move along with the winds that guide us, and in fact, it is our honor to do so.
On most planes, the ideals of any color pair may vary, as they are affected by their environment, but when it comes to Red-Green, I feel that it is the pair most confident in its design. Very rarely do we see a separation or change in the way it thinks; it's very consistent. When brought together, Red brings out the side of Green that is wild – the side of it in every beast that resides in its forest – a side that even hides within us all. What Green brings to Red is the validation of its feelings. It becomes more than following your heart because there is also greater purpose: you are following nature, you are who you were meant to be, and you are simply fulfilling your purpose.
So how do we know what that role is and how we fit into it? Well, Red-Green knows, for the answers are there with us the moment we are born. It’s in the impulses that lie deep within our gut, a trait that is Red through and through. It's in the instincts that sit in the animal part of our soul, which comes from Green. So when Red and Green are brought together, so too are these ideas. They become a product of their impulses and of their instincts. Red-Green acts as it knows it should, and never stops to question the validity of such actions.
It is the combination of humanity’s latent impulses and of the animal’s guiding instincts. It is wild and free, passionate and vicious.
There is no part of Red-Green that seeks more from life beyond following its primal urges, because, to this color combination, existence isn't any more complicated than that. Green on its own may find reasons for stability and order, but when combined with Red, it taps into its animalistic nature, a side of Green that lives in every animal, and a side that hides in each and every one of us. We can see examples of this merger of humanity and of the beast in the types of creatures available to Red-Green, ones that blur the line between humans and animals, such as its many Centaurs, Satyrs, and Were-Wolves. These creatures are not quite man or animal and are a literal representation of the passions of humanity mixed with the wild nature of beasts.
Just like in the animal kingdom, Red-Green lives in packs and small families of others of its kind, or those who share their way of life. You see, Red may bring out the wild nature of Green, but it is in their merger that Green shows Red the value in family and kinship. Red on its own does make friends and follow others it agrees with, but because of Green's value of the group, Red-Green is able to form tight bonds with others who share their way of thinking, or who maybe like them in other ways. Now, this isn't to say that they create a social structure.
Instead, it’s more like friends who share the same ideals and the one in charge is the loudest and strongest. In fact, when it comes down to it, Red-Green has a natural disdain for the structures that it sees in say, White or Blue. While Green on its own can agree with aspects of White, this is not the case when combined with Red. The difference between finding and sticking with others like you, rather than forming cities and governments, is that it doesn't stop Red-Green from being wild and free.
Just as a lion in a cage would shrivel and die, so too would Red-Green, and so it sees cities as just that: cages. This aversion to structure can often become more than just that and turn into a disdain, such as with the Gruul Clans on Ravnica, who see the city as nothing more than a prison – something that strangles the land. “When Civilization teeters on the brink, I'll be there to kick it the rest of the way.” So even though you may see Red-Green roaming in packs, you'll never quite see them stuck adhering to the laws of those who build cities on land that was meant to be wild.
Sometimes the wild and destructive nature of Red-Green can be more than an idea, and on some planes, it can take on a physical form of its own. We see this not only in the storms, earthquakes, and fires that the planes themselves may conjure up but also in the elementals of Red-Green, beings who are swirling destruction given sentience. These Elementals and storms are the ultimate manifestations of Red-Green, and of the wild and fierce side of the natural world. The paw of a giant bear may cut into you, or the breath of a dragon may burn you, but Nature itself is the ultimate mindless destroyer; it has no pity and it does only as it wishes. It’s as if the base ideals of Red-Green have been conjured up and refined into something that never thinks, never reacts, and just does as it wishes.
The combination of Red and Green is what happens when the true animal side of us all is allowed to come bursting forth. It’s what happens when we tune out all doubt that surrounds our impulses and instead listen closely to the instincts that drive the natural world. Any actions outside of this push us further and further away from what we were meant to be. All we can do is become part of the current that drives every world by following our hearts and soul.
[Edited by Cameron Davis]