Treasures in MTG - Design Vs. Flavor
Treasure tokens are a relatively new addition to Magic the Gathering having first shown up in Ixalan and then nearly every set after that. More still its a mechanic that doesn't seem to be tied to any one color which is quite unique in magic as most mechanics reflect an aspect of a given color. Think Haste and Red or scry and Blue. Why is this important, well Magic is a game which builds characters, worlds and effects tailored to the philosophies of a given piece of the color pie, whether you realize it or not and when an effect is indiscriminately spread across each color it gives me this odd itch that only discussing here with you can scratch. For one why is green creating artifacts and Is there more to treasures that we aren't seeing and yet the designers have in mind? Well I believe I have some answers and I would love for you to join me in the discussion.
To start I need to say what started me on this path of looking deeper into treasures and that was a discussion I had with Macreedy, of Macready Musings, where they asked me my opinion on the subject. I gave them my thoughts as they were gathering the opinions of others to form their own video. Which I will link in the description, I suggest you check it out after if you are looking for more insight into the topic. After I was done chatting I was left feeling like there was more I could have said on the topic. You see mechanics and the color pie are very much tied together and yet the treasure mechanic seems to be an anomaly in that every color can generate them. There are instances of great thematic usages of treasures.
For one using it on Dragons such as Gadrak and Rapacious dragon make a lot of sense, they horde their wealth and this is reflected in their ability to conjure forth treasures. Of course Pirates are another perfect instance of those who are motivated by the finding of treasure, and so it makes sense that they generate it. But that's not why I am here, being a channel focused on the color pie I have to look a little deeper than that. As there is just something that doesn't sit right with me in how treasure as a mechanic has been implemented, but perhaps I am not seeing the whole picture. Let me try and pinpoint where I would place treasures on the color pie if it was up to me, which it most certainly is not, but hey its my job to talk about the color pie so let's do it.
For one I would set treasures primarily in Black and White. For one Black is the color most associated with gaining more for itself, of enriching itself. So of course Black would look to gather treasures. Second I would place White as the other primary, as it gathers treasures from taxing its opponent and to place it more into the multiverse, white is the color that would implement such taxes and thus have a treasury to manage its lands. Interestingly enough I could see treasures being secondarily in Blue, simply for the rare thematic cases such as pirates which are tied to the color, even though I don't think philosophically pirates should be Blue, but that's a discussion for another day. That leaves us with Red and Green.
For Red I don't the gathering and hording of treasure is much of a concern to them but you could apply their adventurous side and say that they gather treasure for the enjoyment of the adventure. Its a loose tie in but work. In my mind the one color that should not generate treasures or at least on the surface seems that way would be Green. Why would a color so against artificial things generate such artifacts. To me it makes no sense, well, at least until I started thinking more about it and tried to get into the mind of the designers, because perhaps there is something there and they have some intentions in mind.
I do think its important to give the makers of our favorite game the benefit of the doubt. So for a second let's try and understand why they would give treasures to Green. For one let's look to the effect of treasures. Tap and sacrifice this artifact: add one mana of any color to your mana pool. Now if we are looking at the effect only and not what it represents then we have an effect that is all to familiar in Green. It is indeed the color which generates mana the most. If we think of it that way should Green not be primary in treasures, well yes and no. I believe the core issue comes down to how treasures are represented in the game. Pull up any treasure token and what do we see. A token artifact which is a pile of gold and jewels.
In recent times we have seen the idea of treasures stretched a little bit with the goblets of Halo or the Prismary gem but for the most part the idea is solidified in the classic concept and is nothing more than a lump of shiny things. For one artifacts and Green don't mesh and seeking treasures of this sort aren't something Green is concerned with. So let's once again get into the mind of the designers for the answer to this question. Perhaps the problem is simply the art on the tokens and I think that treasures could mean different things to different colors. If we think about it that way then perhaps that is why every color gets treasures. That leads me to believe that Green sees its own version of treasure.
To Green treasure could be sacred objects, totems of the old faith, relics of the ancient ones, or even something as simple as mana condensed into a solid glowing form. Perhaps the issue isn't that Green produces treasures its that the only way we see treasures represented is in the traditional sense. For what dictates treasure to one person or another is its perceived value and each color values different things. So moving forward could we not then get more varied art for treasures to represent how our decks and colors see them?
Would that then allow it to sit better with the player base, or at least with me because as you I know I mull over things like this a little bit to much. I honestly believe that would do a lot and add a lot of flavor to this mechanic. Treasure isn't just this simple thing that Pirates clamor for or dragons horde, treasure is what is special to us and special to each color. So in that way perhaps its fine to have treasure in each color. We have seen more recently the idea of treasures stretched within the token art but I would like to see this stretched even further to suit Green in the cases where it would produce such a thing.
There is one final issue I have with it being used in Green and that comes down the fact that treasures are artifact tokens. Producing artifacts, or artificial things no matter the effect jut goes against Green in most cases, sure we have seen what this could look like on Kalidesh but that is the exception not the rule. Once again though let's think like a designer. What would you do in this situation? Would you create a whole new token that has the exact same effect as another one simply to make it flavorful. Well that's a tough one, I could see the value in it while at the same time understand their position. For one its a bit of a waste to do so, for another would they want their players to have to collect a whole other type of token for the times when Green produces this symmetrical concept.
On another hand it could be that having the treasure wording is important to keep across every color, that way it makes deck building better. There can be more synergies when there is a shared name. Meaning Green would clash and thus be harder build strategies around because of its completely different token, even if the effect is the same. In the end this is a case of game design versus world design. Its a sacrifice that must regrettably be accepted. We see this sort of thing all throughout magic which is unfortunate because explicit themes around colors makes for more consistent expressions of those colors.
So to answer my own question does it makes sense for every color to have treasures. Well the answer is a mixed bag, if we think of treasures as more than a pile of gold and jewels in a box then yes every color can have its own version of what it treasures and honestly I like this idea. What we need then is art to represent these ideas, let the players choose what kind of treasure token suits their deck and colors. As far as the colorless or artifact aspect and how it applies to Green is a different story all together. This is a case where design trumps the color pie and is just a part of the game. I do think its odd for Green to create artifacts but I would love to know what you think of this debate. Let me know where you stand in the comments.
I hope this article gave you some things to think about. If you enjoyed it then consider becoming a site member that way you will be notified when the next one goes live. If you want more Dicetry then check out my other links below. With that friend, I will catch you in the multiverse, bye!
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