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Red mana symbol


Freedom through action

— Mark Rosewater[1]

Red is one of the five Colors of mana in Magic. It is drawn from the mountains and embodies the principles of impulse and chaos. The mana symbol for Red is represented by a fireball. On the color pie, it is allied with Black and Green, and is enemies with White and Blue.[2][3][4][5][6] Believing that people fundamentally know what they want 'in their heart' and that satisfying one's individual passions brings true happiness, Red wants everyone to have the liberty to follow their own emotions and wills, and Red yearns to accomplish this through immediate action based on whatever present feelings Red has, such as aggression, compassion, and expression.[7][8]

In gameplay, Red's tendencies towards impulse and spontaneity are reflected by its game plan of maximizing bursts of damage and embracing chaotic, random effects like impulsive draw. Red is played as an aggressive color that tries to keep up its momentum or swing tempo in its favor by Power boosts, rapid combat keywords, burn spells, and bursts of temporary mana generation, like Treasure. Red's destructiveness makes it easy to destroy Artifacts, Creatures, and even Planeswalkers. With efficiently cheap creatures that can beatdown the enemy and a few high-end spells to finish them off, Red seeks to obliterate their opponents as quickly as possible before they can finish their strategies.[9][10]

However, Red's recklessness causes its creatures to be cheap and have the lowest toughness out of all the colors. Furthermore, Red's short-sightedness makes it vulnerable to losing in the late game by running out of resources after quickly burning through them. Red's adoration of anarchy also grants it large, chaotic effects that while possibly beneficial in a desperate scenario, may also lead to Red hurting itself as per its random nature. Red's love of physical destruction limits it from removing non-tangible enchantments and leads to an overreliance on direct damage, leaving it weak to high toughness Creatures. Additionally, Red's impulsiveness restricts its aptly named impulsive draw to only be used at the moment, fleeting as its view of life.[10][11]

The current member of the council of colors for Red is Jules Robins.[12]

Flavor[ | ]

Red is the color of emotion itself, impulse, and action. Red sees things in terms of doing, not thinking, and would sooner act now than wait and think about their actions. Red likes to do things as quickly and with as much power as possible, heedless of danger or complication. In its own eyes, its actions are unrestricted.

To that end, Red cares little for slowness or control; it would rather just do. Red employs damage and emphasizes damage through direct means, much greater than by creatures, and far greater than "technical" spells. Red opposes White because White begets the control that Red spurns. Red opposes Blue because Blue's rejection of the "irrational" in its systematically rational approach to life is in direct opposition to Red's highest esteem of emotion (this is the objective against the subjective). At best, Red is independent and free-spoken. At worst, it is dangerous and rash.

Red mages take their most devastating actions when challenged at the core of their philosophy. Red is the type of personality that will not travel to the mountain, they let the mountain travel to them (Explosively!). Anything standing in the way of Red will face at least as much destruction as is necessary to blow the obstacle away. When Red meets Red, the flames get high!

Philosophy[ | ]

Red looks at the world and sees adventure. Life is a chance to experience something - many things - and for Red, there is no more worthwhile endeavor than to enjoy life by the adventure it offers. Experiences are what life is about, and to appreciate the full range of life's experiences, Red lives by emotion. What makes one laugh, what makes one cry, what one hates, and what one loves, makes up what a person is. Red believes that a person need only look to these things to find one's wishes and desires in life; to deny them is to deny one's life of meaning.

To accord with its beliefs, Red seeks out new experiences, and new ways to express itself, and seizes on them. It finds these ends in the complementary pillars of Impulse and Chaos. Impulse, to Red, means emotional action. By acting (doing) as one's heart desires, and only by doing so, one can find happiness with the experience one has to show for it. With Chaos - random action - Red creates the freedom for anyone to express his or her emotions. In a sense, by opening up new possibilities, Red's Chaos frees novel experiences from the "lattice" of the status quo.

In valuing emotion and adventure so greatly, what Red truly prizes is freedom. To live life the Red way - passionately and imminently - Red must be able to act on its impulses, doing what it feels each moment without delay. It doesn't want to be censored or controlled, because when one's passions are shackled from the action, a person cannot be who they are. To disallow them to be who they are is to destroy them; in Red's view, censorship is death. As such, the idea of rules, of pinning someone to one course even if their emotions urge them down another, is atrocious to Red. As Red can see, those who dare to speak of rules and limits will meet with a furious ultimatum to shut up. All of these things often get Red into trouble, which Red seems to not care about. Red will fight against anyone who restrains anyone else, and the tools that Red uses to make this point, and those it uses to seek its richness of passion, are the basis of card design for Red.

Relationships and principles[ | ]

Red's defining characteristic in interacting with other beings is their passion. Love is not hard to define for Red, it is beautifully simple. It is caring about another individual and (to a smaller extent), a sub-group, such as a family, as much as you care about your self if not more. This can often verge on, if not go skittering down, the proverbial slippery slope into recklessness (explaining cards like Mogg Fanatic and red creatures' tendency to sacrifice themselves). Love is a passion for Red; to them, they are the same. (Red is not the only color with a tendency to make sacrifices: Black sacrifices to gain power in the long term, while White sacrifices for the good of the whole. In contrast to both of those, Red makes sacrifices because it is so wrapped up in getting what it wants right now - like ensuring the well-being of those it cares about - that it ceases to care about its survival.)

That being said, Red feels emotions deeply. Words like 'slightly' or 'sort of' or 'halfway' are meaningless to them. That isn't to say that their emotions are simplistic or easily explained. They swing back and forth; Red is by nature a creature of extremes. Joy and sorrow, bloodlust, and apology all swirl within them. This explains their dependence on extremely powerful, erratic, and direct magic at the cost of card advantage or long-term gain. Being passionate, Red, like to some degree Black, doesn't care how much it hurts itself as long as it hurts the opponent just as much (examples include Flamebreak, Bloodfire Colossus, and Earthquake).

As an adventurer, Red is always looking to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually. Any new ideas, as so long as they don't involve law or order, are eagerly and recklessly examined and adopted. Red is never the same in who they are, yet their goal in the game is always the same. To beat you and have fun doing it, using as much passion, fire, stone, Goblins, Dragons, and lightning bolts as they can find to chuck at you.

A neat way to look at it is through the element Red uses most often: Fire. Fire needs new fuel to keep its intensity, and to expand. If it stays still, a fire will fizzle out. So the need for new adventures and ideas is what keeps Red who they are. Examples of this desire to grow can be found with cards like Ashling the Pilgrim and Taurean Mauler.

Strengths[ | ]

Red acts without hesitation. As has been made manifestly clear, they don't believe in pauses, lulls, or breaks. Red wants to experience life in all its myriad forms. Red is strong, emotional, and impulsive. Red beings are tolerant people; the one thing that truly presses their buttons is someone telling someone else what to do. As noted by other color theorists, Red will break rules that don't even affect it just because it can. Red will always support the individual against the group.

Contrasted with White, Red's appeal to others is based on its strong sense of self. Red is charismatic, poetic, and artistic. Most art forms and even the idea of self-expression stem heavily from Red. People automatically warm to them, and that internal fire is in everything they do.

While White can always be counted on to do what is popular or per its rigid set of morals and concepts, you can expect Red to always do the unexpected. White depends on people considering the good of the group and neglecting personal growth; Red asks the group to think "What do I get out of this? Why should I listen to what someone else says?"

Red makes people consider their needs. Self-gratification is one of the tools Red uses to sow dissension and discord in the ranks of White and Blue. When members of a group start questioning the motives of their leaders, chaos erupts.

Red places a great deal of emphasis on combat, believing that at its core, life is a meritocracy; the strong will rise and the weak should either fall or get out of the way. This is not to say they have no compassion, just that their compassion for others is limited to lovers, family members, and friends (or whomever else Red also decides it cares about at any given moment). In combat, red believes the best fight is a short fight; thus, many speed-oriented mechanics, particularly the evergreen keywords haste and first strike, are predominantly Red abilities. While Red respects a fair fight and a worthy opponent, Red doesn't take the concept to what it considers to be ludicrous extremes as White does, meaning that Red will do what it takes to win and won't neglect an advantage. (Red shares the trait of respect for the opponent with Green, and the desire to take advantage of all loopholes with Black.) Red creatures know that endurance isn't their most stunning quality, so they are invested in winning quickly and with as much force as possible.

Weaknesses[ | ]

Red's weaknesses are the same as its strengths. A thinking opponent is simultaneously at a disadvantage and advantage when facing off against Red. On the one hand, they can count on the fact that Red will nearly invariably act first and think second, giving a calculating opponent a good chance of anticipating Red's moves. However, here lies the problem; Red is so passionate that they will do things that their opponents will view as utterly incomprehensible and reckless (such as damaging themselves to hurt the opponent, discarding cards at random from their hand to get a bigger bang out of a spell, or risking it all on a long shot). Unpredictability is a huge strength of Red.

Hand in hand with unpredictability comes a lack of endurance. Red, as mentioned, wants to win and do it fast. Red can't handle being restrained by rules; a lockdown is usually fatal to them, as they will use up all their resources in one massive, fiery attack hoping to immolate their foe.

Hedonism is a notable weakness of Red. Red loves physical sensations so much it is easy for them to become addicted to pleasure. Red's enemies know this and attempt to capitalize on it, which either has the effect of pacifying them or enraging them further if Red sees through the bribe attempt.

Red's passion empowers it but is vulnerable to manipulation. Red creatures will do anything to protect those they love; if an opponent manages to gain leverage over Red's loved ones or emotions for them, Red beings would rather lose or even die themselves than have harm come to those they love.

Values[ | ]

Red puts a great deal of emphasis on action. Red believes that thinking over an emotion, analyzing it to death, is to condemn it and by association condemn themselves. So Red accepts emotions as they come, recognizing them as parts of itself that need to be heard. And by heard, Red means acted upon.

Red acts with passion; doing something half-heartedly is a foreign concept. Chaos is another staple of Red's beliefs: a world with titles, rules, and regulations castrates and limits the possible adventures one could have. Logic, the idea of a linear progression of events, irritates Red to no end. Life just doesn't work that way, at least according to Red; Blue would love to reduce life to a mechanistic, precise series of actions and reactions, devoid of emotions. This worldview is something Red views as antithetical to living, loving, to experiencing the world.

Blue's dependence and synergy with artifacts is yet another thorn in Red's side. While there are a few artifacts that reward Red for playing with them (Dragon's Claw and Iron Star to name a few), they are most often used effectively in Blue. Artifacts are emotionless, cold, without soul or longings. Even worse, artifacts represent order and logic and are frequently used to enforce laws that Red considers arbitrary and unfair (read: any laws). So Red does what it does best: Shatter, Abrade, Crush and Demolish By Force. Sometimes there is even a way to get all of those pesky machines out of the way in one fell swoop, like Shatterstorm. Sometimes there is even a way to punish an opponent for playing with machines (Viashino Hereticbeing a shiny example here). Along with Green, Red holds the only real, permanent answers to the unnatural spread of artifice.

Rules[ | ]

A red card is defined as any card that has {R} in its mana cost or any card that has a red color indicator {CI_R}. Red is the color that has the most direct damage (e.g. Lightning Bolt and Fireball) and is often used in aggressive decks. Red creatures often feature high power and an emphasis on "damage" abilities like haste or double strike, at the cost of durability. Red is arguably the fastest color on its own, owing to its single-minded focus on getting what it wants and nothing more. The creature types Goblin and Ogre are primarily red, and several decks based on Goblins have been created.

The following evergreen keywords are associated with the color red (as well as the colors they share it with):[13]

Mechanics[ | ]

The following keywords are primarily associated with the color red:[14]

Card drawing[ | ]

Like other colors, red has a few cards that allow you to draw more cards, but almost always at the price of discarding the cards you already have in hand, since red is impulsive and throws away what it has in favor of something new. Wheel of Fortune and Sensation Gorger are examples of this side of red. Browbeat exemplifies red's use of force to impose its will. Lately Red has laid claim to the looting ability, best seen in Wild Guess. Finally, Red can exile cards that it must use that turn or lose forever: examples of this effect include Act on Impulse and Outpost Siege.

Combat[ | ]

As the primary martial color along with White, Red receives several abilities that help it dominate the battlefield. First strike and double strike represent red's speed in a fight with cards like Anaba Bodyguard and Ridgetop Raptor. Though the majority of creatures with trample are green, it fits well with Red's beat-'em-up philosophy as seen on such cards as Sunrise Sovereign and Orgg. Likewise, Rampage, as seen on Ærathi Berserker and Frost Giant, displays Red's focus on rage and blind aggression. To force Red creatures into combat, many Red creatures (Goblin Raider) have "can't block" as a drawback, other Red spells (Panic Attack) prohibit an opponent's creatures from blocking when Red attacks. A further way Red forces creatures into combat is with abilities that force your or your opponents' creatures to attack each turn if able.

Direct damage[ | ]

Red, angry, and impulsive, strikes down any opponent with spells and abilities dealing targeted and global damage (such as Shock and Pyroclasm respectively).[15] Along with Blue, Red invests in magical power with instants and sorceries, especially the latter, but where Blue's magic comes from careful study, Red casts spells fueled by raw emotion. Originally, Blue was the premier color for creatures that can tap to deal direct damage, but this ability eventually moved to Red (note the change from Prodigal Sorcerer to Prodigal Pyromancer, for instance).

Firebreathing and other +X/+0 effects[ | ]

As another staple of aggressive combat, Red has more +X/+0 effects than any other color. These appear as both spells (Enrage) and abilities (Dragon Whelp). The ability "{R}: This creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn" is informally referred to as Firebreathing after the card in Alpha.

Haste and sacrifice at the end of turn[ | ]

Red's aggression pushes it to move quickly, and as such many of Red's creatures can attack and activate the turn they enter play. Cards like Raging Goblin and Fervor show off this side of Red. Some Red creatures with Haste sacrifice themselves at the end of the turn they were played, effectively acting like direct damage, such as the iconic Ball Lightning or Spark Elemental.

Land and artifact destruction[ | ]

After direct damage, one of the most prominent non-keyworded effects in Red is the destruction of lands and artifacts. Land destruction in Red began with Stone Rain in Alpha (and every Core set through 9th Edition). In Red, land destruction takes the form of disasters (such as meteor showers), while artifact destruction takes the form of metal being exploded.

Mana production[ | ]

Like its ally Green, Red can produce mana to speed up its spells, but its shortsightedness leads it to throw away resources that could be used better in the long run for a larger boost in the short run. This ability was originally found in black but was later moved to Red, with cards like Seething Song taking the place of Dark Ritual.[16] Other Red mana producers include Skirk Prospector and Grinning Ignus.

Randomness[ | ]

Red's blind passion can hurt Red and others indiscriminately. This is reflected in cards dealing with coin flips (Mana Clash), random card discard (Gamble), and cards that randomly put permanents onto the battlefield after shuffling permanents into the library. Red also can shuffle opponents' libraries without additional effects.

Interactions with other colors[ | ]

Agreements[ | ]

Red and black[ | ]

In Black, Red sees a color willing to live its own life under its terms, overcoming any obstacles in the process. Black's emphasis on Free Will mixed with Red's emphasis on its Sensitivity leads to a combination that stands for the deepest, unrenouncable, and true desires of the human heart - be those sublime or abhorrent. Black/Red is the chain-breaker par excellence, which defends its importance and dignity against everything and everyone else, no matter other considerations. They're fearless, resolute, and able to express the true joy of life - or total depravity - more than any other combination.

Red and green[ | ]

To Red, Green is another color that embraces its emotions on a fundamental level. Green's instincts and Red's emotional impulses, when put together, create a very short-sighted and disorganized, yet very focused color pair that infuriates anybody going against it, especially Blue (Red/Green's common enemy), which finds Red/Green's shortsightedness repulsive compared to its careful contemplation. Also, since Red and Green put most value into emotions and impulses, artifacts, that represent the emotional sterility of technology, are considered abominations and are incredibly easy to bash to pieces. Red and Green, when put together, are the most aggressive creature colors, with such mechanics as trample and first strike being commonplace; if something can't be run over by Red/Green, then to them it's not worth bothering with.

Red and white[ | ]

When Red and White agree, it's usually more out of respect than actual ideological agreement. Red admires White's ability to gather large, well-organized armies for its cause, much like how Red can gather large, ill-organized mobs for its cause. In addition, Red also respects White's sheer devotion to a lawful society, which mirrors Red's devotion to a very chaotic and anarchic one. While Red disagrees with White on what an ideal society is, Red acknowledges that White does care about the fate of the people at large in the society it's trying to create. And of course, Red shares White's "smack the other side first" method of dealing with a threat. Red and White, when working together, end up with a very large army comprised of individually small creatures, all fighting for a common cause. Whether that cause is law or chaos depends on how much Red there is compared to White in that particular group. This also represents the biggest place where Red and White overlap: between Red's empathy and White's morality, they are the two colors that care the most about the concept of friendship.

Red and blue[ | ]

Red and Blue's agreements can be summarized in one sentence: Red and Blue both hate being tied down by society's limits. While Blue mostly wants to learn how to subvert society to gain knowledge, Red wants to subvert society to gain freedom. Hence, when Red and Blue agree, it's the overlap between the quest for knowledge and the quest for freedom; specifically, Red and Blue put together are incredibly unconventional thinkers, and have spontaneous bursts of creativity. Red and Blue, when working together, are heavily concerned with instants and sorceries instead of creatures, as bursts of pure magic aid Red/Blue's creative process more than a static being.

Disagreements[ | ]

Red versus white[ | ]

In White, Red sees a totalitarian menace that is bent on absolute control of everything. If White had its way, absolutely everything would be White. For Red, White is the ultimate worst-case scenario: a complete and absolute loss of freedom. White is a color that has ultimately lost sight of the individual in the quest for a perfect and lawful society. In Red's eyes, even if a White government would result in a completely safe populace, it comes at the loss of civil liberties and individual voices; in short, a White society is nothing short of fascism to Red and is completely reprehensible. The main conflict between Red and White is Chaos versus Law. Red feels that chaos can be put to good use and that an anarchic society would ultimately end up with enough individual freedoms to embrace life to the fullest, as opposed to a sterile, law-centric, and dictatorial White society.

Red versus blue[ | ]

In Blue, Red sees a color that has completely buried emotions in favor of careful, rational thought. Blue seems to completely overthink and overstudy everything, and Red feels that Blue would be much better off abandoning that in favor of listening to feelings and impulses. In Red's eyes, while Red at least cares about the people that it's trying to serve, Blue simply doesn't see the need for a person at all outside of study fodder and has buried the human soul completely to try to create perfection. The main conflict between Red and Blue is Impulse versus Logic. Red feels that impulses make human beings who they are and that any attempt to logically define humanity is impossible; after all, human emotion by its very nature is chaotic and impulsive, and to Red, that's what defines a human being.

Red versus black[ | ]

Red occasionally can't understand why Black thinks as much as it does. Yes, Black is certainly capable of enjoying itself, but Black can get too caught up in the long term to truly just have fun. Also, Red can't understand Black's willingness to cause human suffering. When Red causes suffering, it's usually unintentional, and Red feels bad about it afterward. However, Black not only causes suffering when it acts, it sometimes goes out of its way just to make others suffer. Black is also too distrustful of others as well, and that can pose a danger to Red, knowing how far Black is willing to go to not just kill something, but cause seriously long-term debilitating injury and suffering to whatever stands in its way. Red also cares about the people under its wing, even though it doesn't have much in its power to protect them. Black doesn't care about its servants or minions, and would usually just kill them just to get a little more power. Even if Red does have sacrifice mechanics, Black usually can go too far in what it does with its creatures. The way that Black recovers its creatures disturbs Red even more than whatever Blue would do: Black turns its former allies into mere shells of themselves to intimidate enemies and possibly cause even more suffering to the poor fellows than whatever Black did to them before. This utter heartlessness keeps Red from completely agreeing with Black's methods.

Red versus green[ | ]

Red sometimes notices that Green is too unwilling to just care about itself. Of course, Red sees value in protecting loved ones and close friends, but sometimes Red is astonished at the lengths Green will go to to preserve life that Green doesn't even know about. Also, Green can occasionally seem very blind to threats. While Red will usually strike first and try to get rid of something before it attacks, Green usually seems content to leave something alone until it does attack. In Red's eyes, this seems very foolish; just because something isn't attacking now doesn't mean that it won't later. Even this, to Red, is only a symptom of a larger problem of Green's; while Red is highly dynamic and constantly changing, Green will actively seek to prevent change from happening, and this causes the most strife between the two colors. Red is a liberal color and loves change. Green is conservative and despises such change. What allies Red to Blue is also what keeps them apart from Green, even if Blue is their common enemy; likewise, what allies Green to Blue is also what keeps it apart from Red, furthering this irony.

Red-aligned tribes[ | ]

Humanoid/intelligent races

Monstrous/subservient types


Trivia[ | ]

  • Mountains were the only basic land type printed in Arabian Nights, and this was the only time the pattern of printing all 5 basic land types in a set was broken. This means Mountains appear in more sets than any other basic land.
  • Highest converted mana cost among red spells (legal): 12 (Volcanic Salvo)
    • Realistically, this card will almost always be cast for far less.
  • Strongest and toughest Red Creature (legal/non-token): Bearer of the Heavens (10/10)
  • Most expensive Red card: Alpha edition Shivan Dragon ($3,500.00 U.S. as valued by Starcity Games)
  • Most expensive Red card not from an early core set: Arabian Nights Ali From Cairo ($400.00 U.S. as valued by Starcity Games)

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (July 28, 2023). "Drive to Work #1055: Black-Red-Green"
  2. Mark Rosewater (July 19, 2004). "Seeing Red". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (August 3, 2015). "Seeing Red Revisited". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (December 01, 2008). "Following Your Heart". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Dan Paskins (July 19, 2004). "Why Red is Simply the Best Color". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Aaron Forsythe (July 23, 2004). "Red Can Do This?". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Mark Rosewater (August 13, 2014). "I'm a bit confused on the actual idealogies of the five colors. Is there any way I could get a quick summary of them?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  8. Mark Rosewater (July 28, 2023). "Drive to Work #1055: Black-Red-Green"
  9. Wizards of the Coast (Accessed April 3, 2024). "Where to Start". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. a b Mark Rosewater (October 18, 2021). "Mechanical Color Pie 2021". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater (June 14, 2024). "Drive to Work #1146: Color Weaknesses"
  12. Mark Rosewater (January 8, 2022). "Who is currently on the Council of Colors?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  13. Mark Rosewater (February 19, 2019). "How big an issue is it if three colors all shared...". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  14. Mark Rosewater (June 5, 2017). "Mechanical Color Pie 2017". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Sam Stoddard (June 19, 2015). "Standing Issues". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Mark Rosewater (May 23, 2017). "Are rituals still in black or is that only red now?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  17. Mark Rosewater (March 15, 2015). "Characteristic and iconic creatures for each color?". Blogatog. Tumblr.