Black Red - Rakdos | MTG Color Pie Philosophy
Of any color pair in Magic the Gathering, none have a worse reputation than Rakdos. What I mean is that its a color pair who seems destined to play the villain. Which is a shame really, because while its traits can lead to debauchery and wickedness, its actually a lot more nuanced than that. You see Black Red, or Rakdos is a color pair that simply desires to get the fullest experience when it comes to its own life, and is that so wrong. Is that not what we are all strive for in this limited life of ours.
In this article I aim to give you a deeper perspective on Rakdos, and one that may change your opinion on this color pair. To do so we will dig into its root philosophy, by breaking down the spaces where Black and Red's own philosophies merge to create something new. With that, let us break down the first, and core pair of ideals shared between Black and Red, to begin understanding the philosophy of Rakdos.
Experience & Self-Satisfaction
The coupling of Black and Red happens on four levels but I believe the core of where these two colors see eye to eye is the idea of experience and self-satisfaction. Red as a color is one who desires to experience life in all of its messy glory. It will follow its whims to their conclusion, as each new avenue is but another facet of what makes life worth living. It is the act of the here and now, the tactile expression of self. On the other side of it we have Black a color who aims to get the most out of its life. To Black life is what you make of it. You must reach out and grab hold of every bit of sweetness it holds and squeeze the very essence from it.
If we are destined to die then should we not take everything from this life that we can? When these colors are combined a sort of extreme of these two ideals are formed. It becomes a restless need to act upon our every desire, to go out and make memories, fleeting as they may be. In or own life this could mean casting aside responsibilities in favor of adventure, fun or pleasure. Why work to a future that is uncertain when we could simply make the most of the here and now.
In many ways a Rakdos aligned person's greatest fear is to live a life of conservative caution, and that to lie on ones own deathbed regretting that they could not have done more with their limited. Should we not then follow every desire as it comes in order to forgo a life of regret? A Rakdos aligned person is one to see those who scurry about in their pursuits of societal pressures to be fools.
Many restrict themselves based on such pressures and never get to take life by the horns. We fear to much what others think of us and how we will be perceived when it comes to expressing our impulses and desires, that we willingly lead shallow lives. Ones where our jobs and obligations are more important than getting the most out of our limited lives. Rakdos says then that we should reject what is expected of us and instead live the life we want, and to follow our heart and our desires to their every conclusion.
Honesty & Realism
We have discussed what it is about the color pair of Black Red that leads its motivations in its life but we have not dug into how this pair has come to this conclusion. This is where the combination of Honesty and Realism comes into play. A coupling of concepts which lead to a truth of self, an outlook which rejects abstract and arbitrary restrictions and falsehoods. On one side you have Red, a color who leads a life that is down the middle, or honest in its actions. In that by following its heart it leads a life that is purely ones own, one unaffected by doubt. It does not lie to itself or others, what you see is what you get. From feeling to action there is no blurred lines.
Then on the other hand you have Black, a color that imposes truth on its surroundings and others. It sees the world for what it is and through this knowledge makes the conscious decision to act in a manner which reflects the real side of humanity. Black sees how we lie to ourselves and play along with what has been defined as who we should be, when in reality these definitions are in stark contrast to how humans actually are. This combination then leads to a philosophy which is honest of action and realistic in outlook. It understands that while we are creatures of community we are also selfish beings who see the world through our own lens and experiences. And that this idea of selfishness being a taboo word is further proof of our indoctrination within society.
Rakdos believes that most of us end up living a life that is a tepid version of our true selves. We water down who we are to please others, or to not stand out. The idea that we only have one run on this earth and that we would bow our heads to others in fear of being rejected by society is foolish. Its said that there are three versions of ourselves. The public us, the private us and the true self. Meaning the side we show to others to gain the approval of society, the side of ourselves we show to people close to use and then the side of ourselves we hide in fear of shame.
This idea, to Rakdos, showcases how we manipulate not just ourselves but those around us instead of being purely authentic. Rakdos rejects the three selves and aligns only with the true self, and in that way it may clash with society but it never regrets its actions or who it is. Rakdos says to you, look deep into who you are, and the thoughts that bring you shame and analyze why that is. Is it that your thoughts, or outlook is wrong, or is that you fear being ridiculed, outcast or shamed. Are you satisfied living a life where your true self is forced to live in the shadows or will you break free and reject what society has defined you to be?
Self-Assurance & Confidence
Within both Red and Black lie a true lack of doubt in ones self. For Red it's a feeling of self-assurance, the knowledge that who they are is their true self. In that they do not question their own actions as they are firm in the belief that every action they take is a pure reflection of who they are, and to stop at any point and doubt themselves is an act of stepping away from their firmly held intent. In a similar but distinct way, Black is a color who has the greatest confidence in ones own abilities and qualities. To them, life is defined by their outlook, meaning any wavering in their confidence in ones self is a lie propagated by doubt.
Once again the combination is that of Assurance in ones actions married to a confidence in ones ability and qualities of self. It's both how Rakdos expresses itself outward as well as its view of self. This means that Rakdos is the true pair when it comes to a rejection of any form of doubt, when it comes to self, and that it's a pair who rejects any imposed questions on its methods, thoughts and expressions of self. While this means it's a pair who can be blind to its faults it does strengthen its view of who it is and who it wants to be.
Often times we water ourselves down because of that lack of confidence or self assurance, and that is just not the case with Rakdos. You are who you portray yourself to be and if you are confident in yourself and who you are then then others will be as well. We in fact allow others to doubt us when we doubt ourselves and in that way we can be walked upon and made to change ourselves. We all to often cower at the feet of expectations when in fact through confidence and self assurance we can define the expectations others have of us. Rakdos then says, hold your head up high and be assured that if you hold each action, thought and portrayal of self in high regard then others will to, and if they do not then cast them aside for they are not worth diluting yourself for.
Freedom & Autonomy
At the top I stated that the philosophy of Rakdos is created as a rejection to the shared enemy of Black and Red, White. This then has a profound effect on our next marriage of ideas between the colors present within this pair, and that is the idea of Freedom and Autonomy. Red as a color values above all else the freedom to act, to be its true self and to follow its passions unabated. While Black is a color who places the upmost importance to total autonomy of both mind and body. It rejects wholeheartedly any restrictions others would put upon it. While both of these needs are similar they do have some nuances to them. Freedom is rooted in outward expression of self, while autonomy is based on inward protection of ones own being.
Red rejects the shackles upon its feet which aim to restrict its movement while Black rejects the laws that define who it's supposed to be. When these colors come together to form Rakdos, it becomes the purest form of self governance and outward action. It is a pair that has an almost violent reaction to being told how it should act, who it should be or what is allowed of it. Rakdos then states that all must, and that is a hard must, be allowed to follow their whims and desires, that we should be free to shape our own identity. For me to even use the word 'allow' wouldn't exactly align with the Rakdos philosophy.
It is one based in a total rejection of any stated allowance granted by some outside force, whether that be government, parents or peers. A person aligned with Black Red believes in only absolute freedom, and absolute autonomy. Further more if we need laws, or ancient books to be good people we were never good people to begin with, so then why do we need these arbitrary restrictions upon ourselves.
This can make it difficult to form a society within these ideals, but such is the effect of the most personal pairing in all of the color pie. This society, loose as it would be, is merely a collection of people who share the same concept of self, and who gain something for themselves through the interactions they hold with others. To say it cannot happen is untrue, but it is never something that is binding. For in the mind of Rakdos, my life is my own to define.
Rakdos is a color pair who fits nicely into this idea of debauchery and evil in magic the gathering but in reality it doesn't have to be. The truth is that Black and Red are the two most personal of colors and when they come together a pair is formed that values the self above all else. The truth is that we lie to ourselves and work tirelessly to ignore our selfish thoughts, pretending they don't exist, as we have labelled selfishness as taboo word. When in reality it is rooted in an honest look at oneself. You see rare is the person who is truly selfless and common is the one who lies to themselves about what they want from this life.
Through the brow beating of society we are taught to undervalue ourselves while those who don't reap the rewards of our suffering. Rakdos does not ask that you cast all aside but rather that you stand up for yourself as the one true being who matters, as life is experienced by our own view of it, and if we spend our limited time fulfilling the needs of others rather than ourselves then that is the only true regret one can have. Instead experience all that life has to offer, be honest with yourself, value your freedom and always act with confidence. If you follow these tenets Rakdos guarantees that you will lead a more fulfilled life.
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