February 02, 2015

Whatever It Takes

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Welcome to Sultai Week! This week, we'll be talking all about the Black-Green-Blue wedge. As this is the fourth of five clan weeks, I'll be continuing my look at how the three colors from each clan get along. To do this, I'll put all three colors in a room together and interview them. I've previously interviewed the colors from Abzan, Jeskai, and Mardu. If you are interested in reading more about the color philosophies, you can check out my color pie page where I talk about the topic at great length (in more than 20 articles).


My goal with the wedge series is to help you all get a better sense of how the colors interact and what they think about one another. I'll ask questions and then get out of the way. As I've said my required explanation, let's get to the interview:


Hello, colors. As always, I'm going to start by having each color introduce itself. We'll go in the order you all appear in the mana cost of a Sultai card.



I'm Black. I'm about achieving power through opportunity and apparently I'm forced to say this every interview.



I'm Green. I'm about achieving acceptance through wisdom. Unlike Black, I am more than happy to repeat rituals.




Rituals, I like.




I'm Blue. I'm about achieving perfection through knowledge.


I always like to start by talking about the attribute the clan represents. Sultai is about ruthlessness. Could you each talk about what ruthlessness means to you?




You do understand this is the fourth time you've done this? I'm not sure sticking to the same routine is the best way to make this entertaining. I have some ideas how we could spice this up.




Black is correct that the anticipation of surprise can often create an adrenaline rush in the audience. There is something inherently thrilling about not being able to anticipate where something is going. Of course, if you take the time to evaluate the cues being provided, you can often plot out the most logical path.




We're not changing anything. This interview structure is sound and proven. We can take comfort in this being the fourth time because we can look back and see how successful the previous interviews have gone.




As Red likes to say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."




Why are you quoting Red? Oh, I see what's going on here. You're trying to change things to annoy me.




I'm trying to change things because I can. If it annoys you, that's just an extra bonus.




Is that your recurring theme, changing things just for the sake of changing them?




I find the tone of your voice interesting every time you say the word "change." It's as if you find it to be a repugnant idea. Last I checked, nature changes all the time.




No, nature evolves. It's a slow, gradual change over time. What you and Black are talking about is quick, sudden changes made solely to satisfy some egotistical drive to show that you exist in the world.




Here's what I don't understand, Green: Whenever someone does something the way they want it, it's unnatural and disruptive, but whenever you do the things you want, it's part of the natural order. I like how you define the world such that the way you want to live is the only proper way.




If it isn't broke, you don't fix it.




But there's always room for improvement. Just because something works doesn't mean that something else might not work better. And how are you going to know that without experimentation?




Maro asked us our thoughts on ruthlessness. We should talk about that.




This is a freeform interview. Rosewater said he'd "get out of the way." We can answer however we wish. I want to talk about your pathological fear of change.




I'm not afraid of change.




You're the enemy of both Black and myself, and the core overlap between us is the belief that you have the ability to steer the course of your own life.




Your life is already on a path. You don't have to steer anything. Just follow the path.




But what if I don't like the path? What if I want a different path?




There isn't even a singular path. It's a giant network of constantly splitting paths.




Heaven forbid, the world be simple. You have this insatiable desire to create complexity where there doesn't need to be any.




But if I have a desire, isn't that an internally generated feeling. Weren't I born with it?




You can mock me all you want. The difference between us is I know the true path.




All this talk about paths. What is life, the yellow brick road? You follow it to find the answer to all your problems? That worked out so well for Dorothy.




She got home.




Not because of the yellow brick road. She got home because she took matters into her own hands. If she hadn't killed the Wicked Witch would she have ever gotten back to Kansas?




She got home because the power to do so was always within her.




I'm pretty sure it was the ruby slippers, which interestingly in the original book by Frank L. Baum, were silver slippers. You see, they represented the silver standard in contrast to the gold standard symbolized by the yellow brick road. It turns out the book was an allegory for a late nineteenth-century debate regarding monetary policy.




Blue!




Sorry. My point was that Dorothy's triumph was the result of an external force—i.e., her slippers.




But metaphorically, the author was trying to make the point that her ability to solve her problems was something she had had throughout the entire story. She had to search within, not without.




You want to understand what ruthlessness is. Ruthlessness is being willing to take action to get what you want. The difference between being a victim and being in control of your life is simply the willingness to do what needs to be done. And that requires the willingness to embrace change when necessary.




Exactly. Personal growth comes from the conscious choice of taking actions to promote change.




Ruthlessness isn't about change. It's about accepting who you are and having the guts to be true to your nature.




Can we at least agree that it's the willingness to do what needs to get done?




Yes.




Fine.



Let's talk about what mechanical tools you three have for a strategy of ruthlessness.




Blue and I are willing to do something none of the other colors are—go after the opponent's mind, represented by the hand and library. Blue has counterspells. I have discard. Blue has milling. I have spells that extract cards directly out of the library.




I guess Black and I are both willing to destroy things. Black kills creatures, lands, and Planeswalkers, while I will destroy everything but creatures.




I, and Black on rare occasion, are willing to steal things. I also redirect spells. Attack opponents with their own resources.




I'm willing to pay whatever additional costs I need to get effects. Pay life, sacrifice creatures, discard cards—whatever, I'll do it.




Black and I, and Blue a little with spells, are willing to bring things back from the graveyard.




In general, we're the colors willing to do whatever it takes to win. We'll cut off your resources, go after whatever element of the game we have to, steal things, use the dead. Not a lot is off limits with us.


Green, why don't we talk a little more about what it's like for you to work with your two enemies.




I think the biggest problem I have is that it's hard to work with two colors that you pity.




You pity us? Us? I believe you're supposed to pity the fool. That's you.




It's hard when you see the answer to watch others struggle so much to find it.




You and White just love making stuff up. Tell me more about this mystical force that guides the universe.




I'm not sure what I can say. You both are nonbelievers.




We're nonbelievers because there is no empirical proof of what you are claiming exists.




It's not something you know, it's something you believe. Not everything is quantifiable.




Well, it's very convenient that what you believe in cannot be proved. It makes it impossible to disprove it.




It's not about proving or disproving. It's about examining the world around you.




You don't examine the world around you. You do the exact opposite. You huddle up with what you know and then turn away from anything that contradicts that world view. You want to know how Black and I know about the world? We study it. We live in it. We experience it. Black is right. You're afraid of change. You're afraid of accepting that all your strongly held beliefs might not actually be true.




That's my biggest problem. You keep talking about destiny and your role in the world. Nothing gets to dictate who you are or what you are capable of doing. The only things that can stop you are your own limitations or someone more powerful than you preventing it.




I'm sad that that's the world you choose to live in.




It's not the world I choose. It's the world that is. That's the problem with all you other colors, although less so for you Blue.




Noted.




You live in denial. You refuse to accept the world as it is. I didn't, for example, make people greedy. They are greedy. I just chose to act in a way that takes it into account. You know why I think it's okay to kill someone else? Because I know if I don't there's a chance that person is going to kill me, and if I'm not the one proactive about it, I'll be the one dead. Note that I don't just going around wantonly killing people. I kill only when necessary.




I guess your penance is you have to live in a world where you believe that to be true.




You keep stating things as if they're facts when there is no data to support your claims.




No data? Just look around you? Walk into a forest. Climb a mountain. Dive under water. You are literally surrounded by nature, by life. You're all about observation, Blue. The things I'm talking about can be observed.




I admit there's a structure to nature. That doesn't mean it's optimized. That doesn't mean it can't be improved upon.




And I'm the one making statements that can't be proven?




You want proof? How about tools. Humans have made tools that allow us to do things better than without them.




Do you think a swan cares about how much harder you can hit a nail?




What?! It's like you're talking in badly constructed haikus. Who cares about swans? Why is Green talking about swans?!




If I understand correctly, Green is trying to counter my argument about tools by saying that they grant us advantage but not one that matters in the larger scale.




Exactly.




I call bull. One whole subset of tools is weapons and weapons clearly change the balance of power.




So humans fight with other humans. What does that mean to a gazelle?




Gazelle? Do you have some hidden wheel where you just randomly produce animal names? You know the problem here. Blue and I are trying to make it a better world while you're content to do nothing.




You kill people. How is that making it a better world?




The same reason you prune a plant. Healthy things thrive when you cut away the weak. Check it out, I made a nature metaphor.




Duly impressed.




As far as I'm concerned, you're a fraud. You keep trying to sell a bill of goods that doesn't add up.




Says the thirsty man wading in a stream.




Blue, you do the talking. I'm pretty sure Rosewater will get pissed if I kill Green.




Tag team it is. So Green, do you understand how disheartening the concept of destiny is? The idea that nothing you do matters because everything that's relevant to your future has already been determined.




Disheartening or enlightening? Too many people spend their time fighting their nature rather than using it productively. I don't think you understand the weight that is lifted off your shoulders when you realize that your role has already been determined. So much stress comes from people try to live up to some unattainable ideal.




But out of that stress comes productivity. And that productivity over the long haul leads to improvement.




But does it?




Okay, I think I understand Green's arguing format. Make a bold and true statement.




Two plus two is four.




True; not so bold, but good enough. Okay, say it again.




Two plus two is four.




Unless it's not. You see, no matter what's said, Green diffuses it by stating the other side as an empiric truth that cannot be questioned because its defense is about things that cannot be measured.




I'm trying to show you the light. Life has a purpose and it's all spelled out for you if you would just stop seeing it as some quest to gain more power.




So people can't improve themselves because nothing will alter them from their preordained path? Why bother gaining knowledge or training or experiences? It's just going to pull you away from your true calling.




I'd feel better if you didn't always state my philosophies with sarcasm.




I'd feel better if we could say them without having to be sarcastic. Look, let's cut to the chase. I actually admire you Green. You've taken laziness and raised it to a whole new level. "Let's not do anything because we might miss our genes telling us what we're supposed to be doing." And you've done so by wrapping yourself in a system of answers that have no checks and balances. They're true because you say they are. Well, guess what? I don't believe you. I believe you made up an elaborate series of lies as a means to avoid having to face any hard truths about life.




You act as if I had a hand in the making of nature. You keeping saying we have to accept the world for what it is. Well, that also goes for nature itself. Everyone's so busy looking for ways to change nature that people overlook that perhaps it's not the nature that needs the changing.


Obviously, Blue and Black, you have some issues with Green. I'm curious, what conflicts do the two of you have?




The key to understanding the conflict of allies is you have to start by looking at the two other allies of those two colors. For me and Black, that's White and Red. The key conflict of White versus Red is one of Order vs. Chaos. I lean toward the orderly side of White while Black leans toward the chaotic side of Red. I want to have a plan. I want to know what I'm up against and prepare. Black is much more of a "roll with the punches" kind of color. It's nowhere near as reckless as Red, but Black is a little too willing to accept risks.




My biggest issue with Blue is its unwillingness to be more proactive. Everything's about being reactive. Blue has to always wait and see what happens before making any moves.




My biggest issue is Black's willingness to do just about anything to get what it wants. There are lines the other colors draw and those lines exist for a reason. They help mark who we are as a society and as a people. Black seems to cross the lines half the time just to prove that it's within Black's power to be able to do so.


It looks like we've used up all our time, so I'll end just as I have for all the other interviews and ask for each of you to give me a short, pithy pitch of one sentence why people should play Sultai. As always, we'll go in the order of your introductions.




The person who wins the battle is the one more willing to do what it takes to win.




Nature has no limits to what it is capable of doing.




The most dangerous warrior is one who understands what he or she is capable of doing.



Thanks to all my guests for another interesting interview.


I hope you all enjoyed this interview as much as the last three. As always, I would love to hear any feedback, positive or negative, through either my email or any of my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram).


Join me next week when we'll see what manifests.


Until then, may you find the right level of change in your life.


"Drive to Work #196—2006"


This podcast is another in my "20 Years in 20 Podcasts" mega-series where I explore each year of Magic's life. Today, 2006.


"Drive to Work #197—Playtesting"


In this podcast, I talk about the process of playtesting in design and walk through the various stages we go through.









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