Magic the Gathering Color Theory: Red
And we’re back with more lore behind the colors of Magic: The Gathering! This time, we’re going to cover Red. The absolute definition of aggro, red is fast and to the point with its style of play. With cards such as Lightning Bolt, Goblin Guide, and more recently, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, red is synonymous with aggression.
Red wants freedom. Freedom from others, freedom from authority, freedom from personal restraint. Red is the color of passion and emotion, and believes that one should never let their emotions be restrained. Red believes that everyone is on a particular journey in life, and that the only way to go through this journey successfully is to let your emotions lead you to your destination. If you want something, you don’t wait for it to come to you — You go out and get it yourself. Right now. Live in the moment, and live to your fullest. Normally, people associate red with anger and love. In regards to the color pie, that is incorrect; It is a color of all emotions. Yes, it has parts of it related to anger and love, but on the other side it also represents happiness, sadness, camaraderie… Anything that one can feel passionate about. So when I say red is an “aggressive” color, that does not inherently mean that red represents only aggression. At the end of the day, red is about recognizing what makes you passionate, and acting on it regardless of what others may think or do.
Red, mechanically, is fairly simple to relate to its beliefs. As red is a color that lives in the moment and chases down what it needs in an instant, it is obvious that it’s going to have a lot of cards focused on getting from point A to point B as fast as possible. In this case, point A being the start of a game, and point B being winning. There are 4 major mechanics I see in this ideology: Haste, card draw, First Strike/Double Strike, and direct damage.
First off is haste, which is fairly simple to understand. In Magic, as well as many other card games, there is this thing called “summoning sickness”, which basically means a creature cannot attack the turn it’s summoned. Creatures with haste bypass summoning sickness, and can attack the turn they’re played. Haste represents red’s want to go out and do what it needs to right away, as opposed to preparing at all. Red lives in the moment, and the moment doesn’t involve waiting around.
Card draw with red is very different from card draw with blue. In blue, as I mentioned in this article, card draw represents the search for knowledge, where as in red, card draw comes with a price: Most of the time, when you draw a card, you must also discard a card along with it. This is because of Red’s mentality towards accomplishing its goals. If something you have in the moment isn’t helping you, throw it away and get something better. You need to win right now, and what you currently have isn’t accomplishing that.
First Strike and Double Strike are probably the hardest abilities to explain in Magic. When two cards fight each other, they deal their damage to each other at the same time. If a card has first strike, it means that when it fights another card, it deals its damage first, and if the damage is enough to kill, the opposing card does NOT deal its damage to the card with First Strike, because it dies before it can do that. Double Strike is when a card attacks with First Strike, and then attacks a second time at the same time as the opposing card. Basically, it does its damage twice in one attack.
How does this relate to red? Quite simply, it relates to red’s “shoot first, ask questions later’ mentality. Red is impulsive. Red acts on what it feels right from the get-go, so of course it’s going to be the one to swing first. As for double strike, well, who says it stops swinging after the first attack? That’s not how you win a fight.
Finally. there’s direct damage. Do I really have to explain this one? What’s a more efficient way of winning the game than hitting your opponent in the face or blowing up a creature that’s in your way? The answer: Literally nothing. Like I’ve been saying, red wants to get things done, and get them done quick. Direct damage is the purest example of this.
In relation to its other beliefs, there is one sub-theme of red that it touches upon: love. But not love in the romantic sense people tend to use it as. According to red, love is caring for anyone who is important to you. Family, friends, romance, pets, anything. If they’re important to you, to any degree, they’re worth keeping in your life. End of discussion. Red tends to get abilities that focus on camaraderie, such as Battalion, Bloodrush, and Battle Cry, and flavor in cards like Cathartic Reunion, shown above.
Well, that’s red in a nutshell. As always, I’ll leave you with the card I think represents red as a whole: Lightning Bolt, The Best Card in Magic™. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times in this article, simply because it’s too important and iconic NOT to be talked about. Lightning Bolt is simple and to the point: 1 mana, deal 3 damage to target creature or player. It can take out a creature early in the game for more damage, hit your opponent’s face for 3, or help take down a bigger creature none of yours can. Its goal is to help you finish the job as fast as possible, just like red wants to do. It’s also just a generally amazing card and if you’re in red you absolutely play it 100% of the time.