Grixis Color Philosophy [Slicing the Pie]
Hello, and welcome back to the next installment of Slicing the Pie, a series where I will be breaking down each of the Shards and Wedges of Magic: The Gathering. In this article, we will discuss what philosophy can be when you allow yourself to experience every aspect of your humanity, from intellect and creativity to malice and ambition, Grixis is the Shard of human extremes.
Let’s start things off like we always do, with the basis – or framework – for our discussion; the building blocks, if you will, which will allow us to better understand the Shard of Grixis. We do this in order to properly make educated assumptions as to what Grixis is, based on what we already know of each of the colors. For those of you who are new here, don't worry. I’ll break down each of the steps as we go.
First things first, what we need to do is talk about the primary color that holds the whole Shard together. Each of the five Shards is a grouping of three colors with one color in the middle, surrounded by its allies. We call this the “bridge color.” This color gives the Shard its focus and binds its two allies together.
In the case of Grixis, that color is Black. As we have learned from previous videos
we know that Black is the color most concerned with the self, and of what it can get out of its existence.
Black knows that no one else is looking out for you but yourself, and that it’s up to you to take what you want from this life; nothing is off-limits to those who live by this ideal.
With that covered, we must now move onto the second step, and that is figuring out how the bridge interacts with each of its neighbors. This way, we can begin to glean core aspects of Grixis' philosophy. Let’s start with the combination of Red and Black.
This pairing is one that allows itself to fulfill Black’s desires with a focus and fervor only brought on by Red.
There is no question to Red-Black as to the purpose of life; it takes what it wishes and does as it pleases, never stopping to question its actions.
These desires may often be rooted in sadistic human impulses, but not always. It’s important to note that Red can love and that red can have empathy; it’s just that Black makes sure that there is always something in it for itself.
On the other side of it, we have Black and Blue, a pairing that takes life a bit more seriously. This pair believes that to get what we want and to be in a place of perfection, we must take deliberate steps through control and subterfuge to position ourselves in a place where we make the rules and shape the world around us – a world where our power and knowledge is absolute.
So, with both of those pairs explained, we can begin to see that Grixis is a combination that is focused on what it can get out of life; it sees its desires as objectives to be fulfilled, no matter the means. It may take a direct and short-term approach, or it can plan and plot its way into a position of absolute power. It’s all a matter of leening more or less into different aspects of the colors present, but with Black as its bridge, it will always make decisions that will better itself, or what it deems important.
With what we have uncovered so far, we can begin to see what the philosophy of Grixis could potentially be, but our framework is not complete. To get the whole picture, we still have to move on to the final step, which is to select the two colors that are missing in order to learn what the Shards is not because what the Shard is not (or cannot) be, tells us a lot about Grixis.
First up, let’s cover White, because I think its absence will really give us a perspective on Grixis that is very important. White is the color whose actions are always concerned with how it affects others.
At a macro level, it shapes society in a way that it sees as improvement, and at a micro-level, it is the color that will go out of its way to change the lives of people for what it deems to be the better. What this tells us in the end, and especially with a focus on Black, is that Grixis is a combination whose decisions are always rooted in the self. It will only act in regard to others based on how it is affected, and if that effect benefits them in any way.
Next, we also have a complete lack of Green mana in Grixis, and the result is something very similar. With no Green mana present, we can now see that Grixis is in no way concerned with how things should be.
What I mean is that Grixis will never make decisions based on the natural order; it will bite above the food chain; it will consume without thought and it will pervert whatever it feels it needs to.
In the end, the real thing we glean from these colors being devoid in Grixis is that we have a combination that only acts in accordance to self, sometimes actively doing harm to others for gain or pleasure. Well, there we have it: the basis, or framework, that will allow us to build our philosophy for Grixis. For this video, I will cover what I feel are the Shards three core ideas, but as I have said before, it won't be the whole picture, as there is always more to be discussed and discovered when it comes to color philosophy in Magic. So, with that out of the way, let’s cover the first tenet of Grixis' ideals...
Unbridled ambition through control is a core tenet of Grixis philosophy, as it perfectly encapsulates what is at the basis of a lot of its decisions. What I mean is that Grixis is an obsessive combination that is never satisfied with what it has, and is always looking to what others possess, thinking only of what it can take.
Grixis sees lives and possessions as something that is merely not theirs yet.
It is greed and envy in the strongest sense of the words. What's more is that it knows that in order to wrest from others what they hold dear, a crushing level of control must be created and maintained. Through fear and manipulation, Grixis may take what it covets from others. In Red, we have obsessive tendencies, in Black, we see ruthless greed, and in Blue, there is the manipulation of its surroundings, all culminating into greed and envy disguised as ambition.
When it comes to a Shard like Grixis, it will consume life, knowledge, and possessions until there is naught but dust, and still it will look to other places for what it desires. It is a hunger for power beyond what we can imagine.
Now, the need is not the whole picture, for to simply want is not enough to bring about results. To gain what Grixis desires, it must use what it has at its disposal to gain control over others, and in turn, use them to gain even more influence, control, and power.
To extend yourself beyond your limitations, you must exert yourself onto others, and in turn, those you have gained influence over may spread your tendrils of control even further. Think of a cult leader on a small scale or a Multiverse-spanning threat like Nicol Bolas. All must bow or die; you are their god or their devil; it is their choice and there is no in-between. Now let's move away from what I would call peak villainy into something a bit more grounded in real-world thought.
To say Grixis is only world-consuming dark plots wouldn’t be giving it enough credit, as there is a side of its ideals that we can find in our own world. This aspect of Grixis' philosophy is based on its creative side, an artist’s mind if you will, and it’s one I want to highlight in this video. That way, you can get a better perspective of the facets that make up this Shard.
I call this side of Grixis philosophy: self-indulgent creativity. It is a side of Grixis that wishes to create instead of destroying or consuming.
Now, of course, as we discussed earlier, this is a Black-focused Shard with a lack of White or Green mana, and therefore, every aspect of its creativity only serves to fulfill its ego or desire. This manifests itself in a few ways, but I think the most obvious is the egotistical artist. This side of Grixis pulls heavily from the combination of Red and Blue, who together, have an insatiable need to experiment and create, with Black's requirement to be the focus of every decision it makes.
Think for a moment of the creative who spends more time waiting for a compliment than working at their craft. They obsess over the image people have of them in their heads and use their creative ability to achieve fame or greatness.
It’s more a result of the ego than a need to create something that others may enjoy.
Perhaps they don't even create something that is necessarily enjoyed, as long as its creation, or art, is on everyone’s lips. It’s legacy over content. Of course, every creative act is done so that others may witness it, but to Grixis, the result is worth more than the action. It is creativity used only for fame and fortune, not to create in order to better others. Alright, now let’s cover one more primary aspect of Grixis ideals.
When thinking of what a world populated by those who have lived within the philosophy of Grixis would be, I think it's best to understand what structures it would find most important. It's not just a matter of constant ambition, desire, and control, as those are an end goal or a motivation.
No, what I want to answer with this tenet is, what is the type of action a soul who is wrapped up in this philosophy would take? What sort of mind would you be working with and what interests would be important to that mind?
It is with this question in mind where I came up with the concept of Revelry in Cruel Magic. What this means is that a Grixis Mage, which I think would be quite common considering Blue is part of the equation, would be one that would seek out Magic that accompanies its mindset. This of course would manifest itself in Magics that were routed in death, Malice, and hate. Not just ways of Control but ways to punish and to merely draw satisfaction through the exertion of its magic.
Think for a moment of the Magic that would be created with Blue's need for constant iteration and perfection, combined with Black's ruthless and A-moral outlook, with the impulsive and emotional side of Red.
We naturally see this in the combination Red-Black, an almost cruel obsession with pain and the human experience, so if we combine that with the Magic Focus of Blue, it's no surprise that we can find ourselves in a place where suffering and Magic go hand in hand.
Of course, this Magic isn't just a matter of causing pain, but it is one that is always looking to take every aspect of humanity and stretch it as far as it can go.
It is bringing death into life, it is bringing pain into pleasure, and it is taking trust into fear. It's with these tools that Grixis may exact its control and fulfill its ambition.
When it comes down to it, I believe what lies at the core of Grixis is the human experience brought to its most extreme conclusion. It's the obsession and emotion of Red, the Curiosity of Blue, and the focus on the self of Black.
This of course leads us down an inevitable road where there is no place to go but up and that stairway is littered with the bodies of those that must be sacrificed for your dream.
It doesn't always manifest itself in such a cartoon version of the villainy as it may show itself through vanity bread through creativity. None the less though, It is using the skills at its hands to get what it wants and to manipulate for personal gain. Grixis is the Shard that is never satisfied, it is greed, curiosity, and envy given absolute form. It may be hard for us to have sympathy for those that follow Grixis, but to them, they would have it no other way. For if you are not exacting the entire extent of your existence then what is the purpose of that existence.
Wow, I can't believe we have finally covered Grixis, thanks for the patience on this one. It ended up being much harder to piece to together than most color philosophy articles so I would really love to hear your input.
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With that friends, I will catch you in the multiverse bye!
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