The Color of EVIL | MTG Color Philosophy
Updated: Apr 6, 2021
I want you to stop for a moment and think about what evil looks like to you in the Multiverse and how it's represented in the cards that you play. What do you picture? Is it a demon from a dark realm with a taste for human suffering? Or perhaps you imagine an old wizard chanting dark passages over the remains of those he butchered.
Of course, you wouldn't be wrong in conjuring up these ideas. I think everyone would agree that those are perfect representations of evil. Now think for a moment what color you tend to associate with evil in the Multiverse. I don't think it would be much of a stretch for me to guess that you chose Black mana, and you wouldn't be alone in thinking that.
You see, Magic the Gathering tells us, and more importantly shows us, that evil or villainous characters are a product of Black mana.
You see, Magic the Gathering tells us, and more importantly, shows us, that evil or villainous characters are a product of Black mana. So of course we would believe what we see on each and every card. But I am here to argue that evil can be found in any of the other colors of Magic: the Gathering. All it takes is stripping down a core aspect of their ideals and pushing it to its limits. This will in turn create something that is radically different from the intended ideology. So let's do just that. In this article, I will lay out how each of the four other colors can be a force for evil, and how any ideal pushed too far can become fanatical. So what better place to start than White: the polar opposite of Black, and the color that's seemingly always standing on the side of good.
From what we are told, White only wants to help others, and so it justifies putting strict rules in place to protect society as a whole. So how could something with such noble intentions as White be turned against that same society? How could those ideals of protection and order for all be corrupted? Well, I think the first place to look is its use of laws to dictate morality. An important question to ask, and one of the other colors often brings up, is: Who gets to dictate morality? You see, what is right or wrong to one person might not be right or wrong to another. So lets strip down everything else and push this side of White a bit further.
Imagine if you would an oppressive force, whether that be a governing body, a deity, or a monarch who decides on rules that it believes will hold society to an even higher standard than that of social norms. When pushing White's ideals further, we start to craft a color that sees humanity as fundamentally rotten to its core. White, then, is a color that believes that only by its hand can humanity be molded into a society of order. Now, instead of building others up, it would instead crush a perceived sickness of the soul. These rigid rules aim to create a society that does not give into its most human desires, for desire leads to further corruption. For those that do not fall in line with White's strict laws, the sentence would be exact and ruthless. They would be put on display for not falling in line, their rotting corpse serving as an example to all.
As another way of dictating morality and order, White is the color that often leans pretty heavily into religion. So what happens when it leans even further and we push its use of religion until it becomes radicalized? I don't think we need to look any further than our own human history, as there are countless examples of those doing villainous acts in the name of religion. Think of the crusades: millions killed for not praying to the right god. Or even the witch hunts of American and British History for another example, which led to the killing those deemed as unholy monsters.
Think the crusades: millions killed for not praying to the right god. Or even the witch hunts of American and British History for another example, which led to the killing those deemed as unholy monsters.
Picture this: a pious character who views others that share its plane but not its religion as unholy savages. This character or faction would then lead a crusade to cleanse those it believes are below them. This villainous form of white would torture those it deems not of their god in an effort to exorcise the evil from them. What's worse is that this form of White would feel validation for their actions.
The more and more I thought about this subject, I began to see how evil could easily worm its way into White mana. I believe that nothing is worse than a villain who can justify their actions as holy or moral. Imagine the struggles any hero would have dethroning a king who rules with an iron grip. One whose followers were either fanatical and cult-like or too afraid to act. In a lot of ways, White has the most room for evil; all it takes is pressing its ideals past a reasonable point. Now, that's not to say there aren't any interesting villains in the other colors. No, quite the opposite -- there is a lot that can be done to craft villains or represent evil outside of Black. All it takes is applying this same method. So let's see what happens when we push Blue's philosophy and ideals past their logical limits.
I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that in its preference for knowledge over emotion, Blue can be a truly cold and uncaring color -- one that see humans as imperfect beings. So I think it's not much of a stretch for Blue to go as far as having disdain for humanity and a preference for its machinations instead. This disdain and coldness for humanity could then be pressed even further and become an absolute disgust and hatred. Pushing this side of Blue even further could then lead it down the path of wanting to replace the weak-minded rabble, in turn bringing its own creations to the forefront of existence on the plane. This form of Blue could even rationalize its actions as ends justifying the means, and that the only way to achieve perfection is through the eradication of imperfect beings. You see, Blue has spent ages learning about what perfection is and sees us as nothing more than incomplete and useless creatures, something that must be forced to change or perish.
Let's stretch Blue in another direction now. Blue is a color quite confident in its capabilities and is improving all the time. Blue might, when pushing this hyper-intelligent side of itself, believe that those of lesser intelligence are better off as pawns.
This side of Blue would be all too willing to use its vast intelligence to manipulate those that it deems below it. Just as we would not think twice about training a dog, Blue would see manipulating others as just that.
This side of Blue would be all too willing to use its vast intelligence to manipulate those that it deems below it. Just as we would not think twice about training a dog, Blue would see manipulating others as just that. I imagine a character like Light Yagami from Death Note, who had lofty ambitions, but was eventually corrupted by their own self-importance. This version of blue would feel so far removed from humanity that they could justify to themselves the actions that they forced others to play out. They wouldn't be acting out a warped sense of morality like White, but instead see others as nothing more than tools to be used like any other tool.
Blue is the color that has everything figured out and everyone around them is just puttering around in their meaningless existence. When pushing this color into its more unfeeling and inhuman side, it can become corrupted, not by an outside force, but instead by its own mind. It's Blue's confidence and intellect that would slowly turn it away from humanity until all it sees is a resource to be used.
So now let's analyze the color that is the polar opposite of Blue's philosophies, the color Red. A color not driven by a grand scheme or cold, calculated thought, but instead one moved by its emotions, impulses, and action. Now the question becomes: what would happen if we have a character whose impulses were situated in depraved actions? With its inability to resist its own urges, it wouldn't take much for Red to be pushed into acts of hatred and violence.
We know that it only takes some fundamental misfires in the brain and a traumatic childhood event to turn any human to a life of murder and depravity. Now this becomes doubly true when talking about beings comprised of Red mana. My mind instantly goes to the serial or spree killers found right here in our own world, like that of Jack the Ripper or Ted Bundy. Men whose acts of violence and depravity display the savagery that a human can be overcome by. These types of people, and this version of Red, have a compulsion that they cannot control. They become obsessed with the idea of inflicting acts of violence on others. Red isn't a fundamentally evil color, but a Red creature can become a victim of their own heart. So much so that if that the seed of evil is planted there, they will never be able stop themselves from committing villainous acts until they are forcibly stopped. Where another color might try and control their dark thoughts, Red would instead embrace them.
Red feels things and it feels them more strongly than any of the other colors.
Red feels things and it feels them more strongly than any of the other colors. Think for a moment what would happen to Red when it is scorned. Even if the action which brought about these negative feelings was based on a misunderstanding, Red might stay up all night obsessing over minute details until a transgression becomes an act of war.
Red could easily become the color with uncontrollable OCD that causes them to go mad. Perhaps Red sees something in others it does not like, or perhaps it has been bullied or even wronged in some way. Other colors might find a resolution to their feelings or work on changing their behavior, but not Red. It would obsess and obsess over those transgressions until it turned itself into a bubbling hatred -- one that could only be resolved with violence. It's emotion and obsession without any rational basis to keep it grounded in reality.
It's when the guiding heart becomes corrupted with anger that Red can become the most dangerous color. It doesn't think, it just acts on its desires. Desires that are stronger than any rational thought could be. When stripped down to its core, Red only wishes to move from one emotional response to another, and if that emotion is anger, hatred, or contempt, then evil can come to the surface.
When we think about Green, it may seem like the one color that is more of a passive observer to the events around them, and so there is no room for outward acts of villainy. Of course, it is the color that simply wants to be part of the bigger picture and fulfill their destiny. But that in itself may be the answer. You see, Green wishes only to fulfill the destiny that it believes has been handed down to it, and nothing can stop them from following through with that belief in a destiny that they may see as noble, or at the very least important to the good of all. As you can see, it starts to become a matter of the wording being used. Green wishes to fulfill the destiny that they believe to be laid out before them.
Green wishes to fulfill the destiny that they believe to be laid out before them.
They may not always know what that destiny is exactly, so they create it within their own mind. When thinking about how Green can be pushed into misuse of its convictions, I instantly think of a villain like Thanos. Here we have a character who believes he is fulfilling a destiny that is for the betterment of the universe, but it is one that comes at a major cost; a cost that those affected aren't willing to pay. It's when you strip down Green's other philosophies and concentrate only on its wish to be a cog within the machine, that you create a character who doesn't see their actions as anything but inevitable. Green would simply think to itself of mother earth, the greatest agent of extinction.
On a smaller scale, we see that Green is all too willing to act upon others when it sees something that it deems unnatural. We see this all the time in cards such as Naturalize or Reclamation Sage. This shows us that Green has a fundamental problem with things that are outside of what it deems to be part of nature. So of course, this pushes Green into a hatred for cities, and to an extension, those that build them. This would, of course, cause Green to wish destruction on those cities and death on their creators. What's more is that if we push this further, then perhaps Green would hate other things, creatures, or even races that it deems as unnatural.
Think for a moment what this type of Green character would think of an alchemist's recreation of life or Frankenstein's monster. Lets' say these creations meant well and were fairly intelligent with their own thoughts and emotions. While that may garner sympathy from us, this would instead be met with resentment from Green. They would see something unnatural to this planet, and so something to be killed without mercy. Pushing this even further still, what would this version of Green do to another race that it deems as not of this world? Would this race then deserve to suffer at Green's hands for simply existing on a plane they were not born of? Of course not, but when Green hates what it deems as unnatural, then it is only up to the character to decide what is unnatural is to them.
Green may seem like the color that would be the hippy sitting under a tree, and sure, most Green wouldn't be that far off of this image. But when we apply this method of stripping down Green to some of its core ideals, we then get a color that is xenophobic and hates change to the point of utter disgust. It sees outsiders as enemies and creates a narrative of hate instead of acceptance.
[Edited by Cameron Davis]