Slicing the Pie a History and Philosophy of Shards and Wedges
Updated: Apr 6, 2021
If you have been with my website or channel for a while now, you are probably quite familiar with the ideals and philosophies of all five of the colors of Magic the Gathering. You probably remember when we brought those colors together into pairs, and in turn, learned what new philosophies are created from their combinations, but what about Shards and Wedges, the underrepresented side of the MTG color Pie?
Well, this article will set you up with the knowledge you need to understand their history as well as what each is and how they are represented.
If you want to learn more about a specific Wedge or Shard be sure to search for it here on this site or head over to my Youtube. Now before we can learn about what Shards and Wedges are I think its important to go back to where multicolored cards began. For that, we will have to go back to the summer of 1994. Ace of base was on top of the charts and Magic the Gathering was about to publish its seventh set Legends.
Up until this point in the game's life, every card had consisted of only one color and even activated effects stayed within the same color as the summoning cost. That wouldn't last forever though, as everything would finally change with the set Legends, in it, the Magic team would introduce us to something that we take for granted now. This would be the beginning of Magic the Gathering's use multicolored cards. What's more, is that the multicolored cards of Legends wouldn't just be dual colored.
This set would also give us our first taste of what would be eventually called shards. Unfortunately, it would take much longer before we would see anything even resembling wedges. This first rendition of Shards, which wouldn't be referred to as such until Shards of Alaraa in 2008, was merely a grouping of allied colors, with five possible combinations in total. This was best represented at the time by the five elder dragons of the set: Arcades, Chromium, Palladia-mors, Vaevictis, and of course Nicole Bolis. Multicolored cards would be something that would come and go over the years, with some sets sprinkling in a few, while others deciding to leave them out.
Multicolored cards, as well as the early versions of Shards became something that players latched on to pretty quickly, and it would be a popular concept until the present day, but there was still something missing. We had Pairs and Shards in every possible combination, but there was still one kind of combination missing in Magic. We had Shards that brought together three colors based around a common ally, but where were the cards that did the inverse of that? Where were the cards grouped around enemy colors? Where were Wedges? Well, Wedges, as we know them today, wouldn't come into the game until the set Kaans of Tarkir, but this wouldn't be the first place that players would be introduced to wedges. That would actually be in the year 2000 with the invasion block, so before we can arrive in Tarkir we will have to make one stop along the way, to the plane of Dominaria, six years after Legends.
The Invasion Block consisted of three sets: Invasion, Planeshift and Apocalypse. It was in the invasion block that the MTG Design team decided to craft three sets that prominently focused on multicolored cards as its primary identity. The first two sets once again gave us a taste for shards with its five Legendary Dragons: Crosis, Darigaaz, Dromar, Rith, and Treva, which would be a call back to the elder dragons of Legends who represented the shards back then.
t wouldn't be until we got to the end of the block with the set Apocalypse that Magic the Gathering would finally introduce the community to the idea of Wedges. With cards like Fervent Charge, Guided Passage, Lightning Angel, Overgrown Estate, and Fungal Shambler. Now, even though the first wedge-based cards would finally be introduced, the players wouldn't gravitate to those card names when referring to Wedges. Probably due to the fact that those names were so all over the place and didn't really roll off the tongue. What players would actually call Wedge-based decks, until the Clans of Tarkir, was actually based off of a cycle that wasn't multicolored cards but instead had the activated mana cost of their enemy colors. This cycle of cards, known as the volver cycle, as well as their companion cards, would be the names used for Wedges for some time. Those names were: Ana, Ceta, Dega, Raka, and Necra.
Now the Mana bases were set and the idea of Bringing every possible combination of Mana together was solidified in the player's mind. There was still something missing though when thinking about our modern view of the color pie. You see, during this time period Multicolored cards, and the colors of magic in general, didn't really have much of an identity outside of superficial connections, such as elves were green, dwarves were red and mages were blue. Over the years, due in great part to the work of Mark Rosewater, the five colors of magic the Gathering would begin to form their own solid identities. Something that would become an integral part of developing new worlds and factions, and yet multicolored cards, lacked any real definition. It wouldn't be until the set Shards of Alaraa, in 2008, that the idea of Shards would truly be given its modern definition and form.
The lead designer of Shards of Alaraa, Bill Rose, set up five teams, each given their own combination of three allied mana. They then were set to the task, discovering the identities of each of the five Shards. They would use a method wherein they looked at the group of three Mana that made up the shard and thought about what a world would look like without the man that was missing.
It was because of this set that we received the first philosophical identities of the five shards as well as their names.
It would take another six years, with the set Kaan's of Tarkir, in 2014, for Wedges to get the same treatment. But once that set released the players finally had an example of what the identities of each Wedge could be and in turn a complete picture of the color pie.
WHAT ARE SHARDS AND WEDGES?
Now at this point, it's safe to say that we are all familiar with how we got to where we are today with Shards and Wedges, and through the cards, we looked at you probably have an idea of what Shards and Wedges look like. This still leaves us with the next question. What exactly are Shards and Wedges? We know that these are names given to groupings of three colors, but what exactly does that look like and how are they formed?
Well, let's start with Shards. A Shard has one primary color that is then combined with its two allies. The primary color gives the Shard its focus, with the allied colors influencing it. So as an example of a Shard, we could have Red as the core, we would then group it with the colors on the pie that are adjacent to it, which would be Green and Black, its allied colors. This would give you the Shard of Jund. Wedges work in a similar fashion except instead of combining the colors adjacent to the primary source you would instead add the enemy colors. So as an example if we take that same Red mana source and then instead add its enemies which are White and Blue, we would then get the wedge Jeskai.
So now you have an idea of how these mana sources come together, but what does their merger mean? How do we find what new philosophies are created from their grouping? When it comes to Shards it's a matter of finding out what the two colors being added to the core color have in common with each other.
Now, this may sound tricky but in the end, the key is the primary colors ideals, as it is quite literally the color that bridges the gap between the two. Now when it comes to Wedges things get a bit more difficult as we cannot use the bridge method.
The trick becomes the difficult task of finding out what new philosophies lie within colors that are usually at odds with each other. But hey, as we found out in the duality series it's not impossible. The method then is changed into a question of what the particular wedge is not.
What I mean is, what does the missing mana tell us about each Wedge combination. This is a method that was originally used to figure out what each Shard of Alaraa would look like, and as such is an alternative method for learning about shard philosophies, but also wedges as well.
As to what exactly those philosophies are, well that's something for my future series on Wedges and Shards.
So like I said at the top, if that is something that you would be interested in then make sure to sub to the channel. That way we can learn together what ideals and philosophies each tri-color combination is comprised of. OK so we have learned the history and a basis for understanding what Wedges and Shards are and how they can be deciphered, but there is still one thing missing from the equation.
WHO ARE THE SHARDS AND WEDGES?
What are each of the five Shards and five Wedges of Modern Magic the Gathering? Let's start things off by learning who each of the Shards is. First up with Green at its core and White and Red as its allies we have Naya, represented by cards like Zacam, Primal Calamity, and Marisi, Breaker of the Coil.
Next up, with Red as the base, mixed with its allies Black and Green you get Jund, represented by the cards: Adun Oakenshield and Hellkite Overlord.
Now we have my personal favorite Shard, Grixis which has Black as the main color with Blue and Red allied with it. Grixis is represented by cards such as the OG Nicol Bolas and of course you can't forget Nicol Bolas.
The fourth Shard is a combination of White, Black, and Blue With Blue being the primary, which is known by the name Esper. This Shard is represented by cards such as Ertai, the Corrupted, and Zur the Enchanter. The final Shard is based in Blue mana combined with its allies Green and White. This is the Shard of Bant and is represented by the cards: Tamyo, field researcher, and Estrid, the Masked
Ok, so there we have it, the five Shards of Magic the Gathering but what are the five Wedges? Well, let's start things off with my favorite which is, Mardu, which has White as its core. Now, since this is a Wedge we won't be adding its allied mana sources, but instead, we will look at what its two enemies are which are Black and Red. Mardu is represented by cards such as Kaalia of the Vast and Butcher of the Horde.
Next up, comprised of Blue mana as the primary and Red and Green as its enemies we have Temur. This combination is represented by cards such as Maelstrom Wanderer and Surrak Dragonclaw.
Our third Wedge has Green at its center with its enemy colors being Blue and Black. This Wedge is referred to as Sultai and is represented by cards such as Muldrotha, the Gravetide, and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.
With Red at its core and Blue White as its enemies, we have Jeskai. This Wedge is represented by the cards: Narset of the Ancient Way and Ruhan of the Fomori. Now we come to the final Wedge, Abzan. Abzan is comprised of Black mana at its base and Green and White as its enemies. This Wedge is represented by cards such as Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and Nethroi, Apex of Death.
Shards and Wedges have a long history of incremental iteration, especially when talking about Wedges, which took a long time to truly form. Because of this, there isn't as wide of a variety of examples in the game as there are for dual-colored cards. Yet we know through the factions who introduced us to these concepts that there is a philosophy to uncover.
By taking the core color of its identity and adding the ideals of its partners, we can begin to form a philosophy.
So with the methods that we have put in place, we will be able to uncover what exactly makes each grouping tick. So stay tuned to the future of the series as we will be learning together what philosophies and ideals make up each of the Shards and Wedges of Magic the Gathering.
I hope this article gave you a better understanding of Shards and Wedge and sparked some curiosity in you. I always love talking about Color Philosophy, as it's not only pure fun, it can be used in a way that helps us understand ourselves. Be sure to browse the articles on this website or head over to my Youtube Page to learn more.