Characters: Magic The Gathering Factions
These are the tropes that apply to entire factions in Magic: The Gathering
flavor, such as the Shards of Alara, the Guilds of Ravnica, and the five color factions of New Phyrexia. They're not the five colors (for that see Color Tropes
) and they aren't creature types or characters either, but each has a cohesive flavorful and mechanical identity.
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Phyrexia, Rath, and Mirrodin
Perhaps the most iconic, notorious, beloved, and horrifying bad guys of the whole franchise, Phyrexia began in Magic's early days as a flesh hating cult, and since then has been fleshed out
as one of the most disturbing and complex factions of the Multiverse.
Phyrexia was originally a dying, swampy plane designed by a dragon planeswalker. Later came Yawgmoth
, which alongside the members of his civilization that were banished alongside him after a series of events in his homeworld, turned the plane into a world of nine layers that can best be described as Hell
. The Phyrexian civilization was a well-structured, organised dictatorship that had a vicious, semi-religious philosophy that declared that flesh was imperfect and should be replaced by metal in various manners of Body Horror
, turning the altered creatures into unrecognisable monstrosities. Worshipping machines
(but only those made by Yawgmoth; the rest are heretical mockeries), the Phyrexians tried to take over Dominaria, but were ultimately defeated and their plane destroyed.
However, the process of phyresis required an oil created by Yawgmoth himself, an oil that infects creatures and changes their minds, making them want to become Phyrexians. Karn's "heart" had a bit of this oil in it, and it infected his created plane Mirrodin. It infected the guardian of the plane, Memnarch
, leading him to become insane, and once he died, the organisms of the plane became vulnerable to the oil's influence, resulting in the rebirth of Phyrexia.
And even if New Phyrexia dies, all that is needed to create a new one is a single drop of the oil
- Assimilation Plot: Generally their modus operandi, as all must be "compleated", though it varies. Old Phyrexians resorted to brainwashing/lobotomy and then employing the Body Horror; new phyrexians simply inject people with their oil, though the descriptions for the White and Blue factions imply that they still opt for "au naturale" conversions before administering the oil.
- To this end, it's worth noting that New Phyrexia's Catch Phrase of sorts is "All will be one".
- Body Horror: The original Phthisis disease sucked bigtime, like supernatural leprosy or something. The "cure" is surgically cutting out, reshaping, and rearranging organs, bones, skin, muscle, etc. and combining them with machine parts, oil, and brainwashing. And Phyrexians don't believe in anesthesia. Their language has one word that means both "pain" and "improvement."
A barren plane of rock and stunted vegetation, Rath was artificially created by Yawgmoth as a staging ground for the Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria. Rath was ruled by a human evincar who served as Yawgmoth's governor and grand marshal. To provide food, conscripts, and slave labor, not to mention more land for the ever-growing plane, the evincars used planar gates to abduct whole tracts of land and their inhabitants from other planes, including two human tribes (the Vec and Dal), kor from Zendikar, the elves of Skyshroud Forest, the Rootwater merfolk, and all kinds of monsters. Some of these abductees served the evincars (like Greven il
-Vec and the mogg goblins), but most were brutally oppressed.
When the Phyrexian invasion began, the plane was literally overlayed over Dominaria: the smaller plane merged with Dominaria's fabric centered on Urborg, and the two worlds became one, instantly transporting Yawgmoth's troops directly to the battlefield. In the wake of Yawgmoth's defeat, the surviving people of Rath have integrated with Dominaria.
The world of Mirrodin is a mishmash of life and metal, populated by as many or more machines as organic life. Even the creatures there have metal within them. Since metal is colorless, the plane finds its mana sources in its suns/moons, five giant glowing satellites that glow with each of the five colors.
After its infection began to spread, many of Mirrodin's natives gathered in the lower layers of the world, and transformed themselves into Phyrexians. After a long period of time rebuilding, they emerged and battled the Mirrans, sparking a war that ended with the completion of Mirrodin into New Phyrexia
Unlike the mono-black Old Phyrexia, this one has all colours of Magic under its control, and has factions for each colour, each of them with a Praetor
guiding it. The White
faction is the Machine Orthodoxy
, the Blue faction is the Progress Engine
, the Red faction is responsible for the mass production of weapons (and is secretly hiding the surviving resistance members
), the Green faction wants to turn the plane in a savage sentient-less world where only the strong thrive
, and the Black faction is just a bunch of Starscreams
trying to usurp the throne, with no observable function to the rest of Phyrexia.
To see the tropes for the Praetors individually, click Other Characters
The Mirran Resistance
Over time, all of Mirrodin
unites against Phyrexia, except those already infected. The Mirran faction becomes smaller, but, as one might expect, individual Mirran cards become stronger against infect decks. For planeswalkers on the Mirran side, check out the planeswalker section.
Traditional Mirran mechanics such as imprint and artifact interaction remain, with first strike and double strike being more Mirran than Phyrexian to the end.
- Body Horror: A much milder example; the Mirrans will amputate and subsequently burn infected limbs, rather than become Phyrexian.
- The Missing Faction: There are almost no black-aligned Mirran resistance members in New Phyrexia. Most, if not all, of them have fallen to the Phyrexian contagion.
Shards of Alara
Many aeons ago, Alara was a single, whole plane. Then, a cataclysmic event known as The Sundering
occurred, which ended with the plane fractured and stripped of all its mana. Over time, the plane fractured and separated into five sub-planes, known as the Shards. Each of the five Shards regained mana over time, but with a twist. Only three of the five colors of mana returned—one dominant color and its two allied colors. Each Shard is defined not only by what mana they have, but the traits of the other two colors they don't
have. Throughout the events of the Shards of Alara
block, the planes drifted back together, bringing massive culture shock with conflicting ways of life and finally all-out war. It turns out Nicol Bolas was behind The Sundering, as he sought out the plane as a new base of operations after the disastrous events of Time Spiral. He planted spies in each of the five Shards, sowing dissension and mistrust wherever they went.
Bant: White, with green and blue (article here)
Bant is a world where White mana reigns supreme — its own virtues, combined with the absent forces of chaos and selfish ambition, have made this Shard an exemplar of law and order. The architecture is straight out of a Medieval European Fantasy
, complete with Knights in Shining Armor, glory and honor in battle, and expansive castles. The planeswalker Elspeth Tirel discovered Bant, and soon made it her adoptive home, never desiring to planeswalk ever again. Because it lacks black and red mana, there is no unnatural death, no disease, no natural disasters, and no anarchy. However, there is also no creativity, and almost no offensive magic (there is
nighttime on Bant and the people have enough access to heat and fire to warm their homes, cook their food, and forge their weapons, but that's about it). Because of the importance placed on honorable combat, Bant's keyword ability is Exalted
, which makes creatures more powerful if they attack alone and with other Exalted creatures staying behind.
- Arcadia: The "wilderness" is mostly non-threatening; even the forests resemble well-maintained gardens.
- Badass Bookworm: The Rhox.
- Combat by Champion: The main form of combat on Bant. It's even reflected in their exalted mechanic.
- The Chew Toy: With the exception of Naya, all of the shards turn their aggressive energies towards Bant after the conflux.
- Fantastic Caste System: Acquiring sigils through valiant deeds is one way of moving up in the social standing, but it's very difficult.
- Knight in Shining Armor: All over the place, with Rafiq of the Many as the exemplar.
- Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Taken to its logical extreme; combat on Bant is so honor-bound that some suits of armor don't even have coverage on their backs.
- Light is Good: Bant is probably the most conspicuous example of this trope being played straight since the Weatherlight Saga. It's not a utopia, but it's still the safest place to live in pre-Conflux Alara.
- Our Angels Are Different: More willing to charge into battle; fits in with the holy justice theme of the Shard.
- Redshirt Army: The nations' armies are primarily "Mortar caste" (commoners who have yet to earn a sigil).
- Religious Bruiser: Many of the Rhox.
- Warrior Poet: The Rhox, rhino-people who are part-philosopher-part-martial-artist.
Esper: Blue, with white and black (Article here)
An intellectual's dream come true, the Blue-dominated Shard of Esper is all about the pursuit of knowledge and technological advancement. However, the absence of green and red mean that emotion and instinct are completely under the control of Blue. Even the natural parts of Blue are controlled and documented like pieces of data; the night sky resembles a star chart, with every subtle nuance documented and accounted for, as are the tides and the winds (in fact, there are only 23 possible wind currents on the plane). White lends its desire for order and structure, but it also brings in the subversion and deceptive techniques of black. The pride of the plane is a highly malleable and durable metal known as Etherium, which oftentimes is implanted into a body in place of the much-maligned flesh...and the supply is running out. Tezzeret calls this plane home, but stumbling upon an ancient conspiracy led to his near-death...and the ignition of his Planeswalker Spark. Esper doesn't have a keyword mechanic to call its own; its main gimmick is that every creature native to Esper is an artifact creature (this also introduced the notion of colored artifacts to Magic
Grixis: Black, with blue and red (article here)
After the Shards developed their mana deficiencies, the people grew desperate and lost hope. With the rise of demon lords and death spreading, one king attempted to barter
with the new dark lords. This ended predictably
(the last of the civilized nations were overrun). Thus, the shard was given the name "Grixis", after an old-language word meaning "traitor." Without the presence of new life energy (green) and protection (white), the necromancers and demons of Grixis make use of beings that have died over and over in their armies, leading to their special keyword ability Unearth
Jund: Red, with black and green (article here)
On Jund, natural selection is the order of the day. On Jund, only the strong survive. The savage Shard of Jund is cruel and merciless, and each living being acts as a food source for something else. Living to see another day means killing something that was going to kill you first. Civility? Order? Those will not help you (and don't last long on the plane anyway). Getting stronger from consuming prey is the hallmark of Jund's keyword ability, devour
. At the very top of this food chain? Dragons. They are the ultimate predator, whose power and majesty ultimately drove the Planeswalker Sarkhan Vol to the plane, where he wished to worship them akin to gods.
Naya: Green, with red and white (article here)
If Green was allowed to have its way and follow it to its logical conclusion, nature would grow completely unchecked by opposing forces. That's exactly what happened on Naya. Similar to Jund, only the strong survive; but with white in place of black, there is reverence in place of bloodlust. Several sentient races live among the massive jungles of Naya, their rank primarily determined by what part they live in. Humans live among the jungle floor, the Nacatl (a race of catlike warriors) take up the middle, and elves sit high in the treetops. This is the start of the journey of the planeswalker Ajani. (Indeed, this version
of Ajani is him when he is young. When he meets Sarkhan Vol, he leads him to Jund, where his desire for vengeance and retribution lead him to awaken a stronger power in him, triggered by a volcanic ritual, which gives him access to red mana.) Like Esper, there isn't a keyword ability for Naya to call its own. However, its theme is big creatures, the bigger the better; specifically, creatures with power 5 or higher.
Guilds of Ravnica
Note: as stated several times even by the staff
, "guilds exist in layers"
. The following are the most common tropes, but do not cover all individuals.
Azorius Senate: White and Blue (article here.)
Enter the Senate, the seat of justice and the foundation of Ravnican society.
Logic & Power (Blue), and/or Law & Order (White). The Azorius Senate is the legislative body of Ravnica. Their goal is to control the city with law-magic and maintain order—at any cost. The status quo is prized above all else in the Azorius Senate, and thus its first Guild mechanic, Forecast
, allows them to use weaker variants of its spells without actually losing or casting them.
Similarly, in Return to Ravnica
, the Azorius Senate uses the Detain
mechanic, which allows them to stop cards on the field from doing anything for a turn.
- Ancient Conspiracy: It is revealed in the Return to Ravnica block that Azor I had created the Implicit Maze in the case that the original guildpact should ever be broken. The Izzet League's discovery of said maze through the block sets in motion the events that lead to the endgame presented in Dragon's Maze.
- By-the-Book Cop: Guild members that enforce the laws themselves qualify for this. They even practice their own branch of law magic.
- Calling Your Attacks: Forecast in a nutshell.
- The Evils of Free Will
- Instant Runes: As seen in spells like Righteous Authority. Appearently, an entire runic alphabet was designed for the Azorius.
- Knight Templar: Any mean is justified to prevent any non-static activity on Ravnica. Their guild mechanic, Forecast, allows them to maintain the status quo by re-using the same spell every turn.
- Lawful Stupid: They are this according to the Izzet.
- Light Is Not Good: Augustin IV was from this guild and one of the antagonists in the Ravnica novels. The rest of the guild are not really that much better; they're only in check because their obsession with bureaucracy keeps them perpetually occupied.
- Moral Sociopathy: Rather chillingly obsessed with laws and order and not the least bit caring for the people of Ravnica.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Cemented by their guildhouse's flavor text: Prahv, where much work is done to make sure nothing is accomplished.
- Principles Zealot
- Stone Wall: Azorius combines white's enchantments with blue's counter-spells to make a strategy built around defense.
- Vast Bureaucracy: They are apparently aware of this, as the Azorius's symbol is designed as a maze, representing how their bureaucratic processes intentionally draw things out and ultimately accomplishes nothing, preserving the status quo.
So, what do you get when you combine the equalizers (white) and those who want power at any cost (black)? You get the Orzhov Syndicate, a "religious" organization which resembles a mafia
more than a church. They manage business and commerce in the city by means of a protection racket — authorized businesses pay taxes to the Orzhov, and unauthorized businesses risk being shut down or worse. Ability-wise: Haunt
is perfect for either, because it combines black's ability to manipulate the game from the graveyard with white's incremental advantage. Strategy-wise: bleeding to death, slowly and painfully. The Orzhov takes white's ability to slow down the entire game and let the opponent be chiseled away, bit by bit. Plus you probably owe them money.
, the Orzhov Syndicate has gained the Extort
keyword, which allows the Orzhov to, whenever it casts a spell, pay mana up to the number of extorting cards they control to steal that much life from each opponent, strengthening itself while slowly whittling everybody else down.
- Bat out of Hell: Bats are often used as fighters in Orzhov.
- Black Eyes of Evil: Orzhov angels have pitch black eyes.
- Corrupt Church/Path of Inspiration: It's a church on the outside, a crime organization on the inside.
- Dark Is Not Evil/Light Is Not Good: Plays both roles, with the main organisation being assholes but with some members like Teysa Karlov being more decent people. Of course, given the nature of the guild, Light is Good and Dark Is Evil is also present.
- Flesh Golem: One of the guild's signature creatures are thrulls, unthinking golems made out of flesh that carry out tasks such as fighting and giving messages for the guild's higher-ups.
- Gradual Grinder: The core strategy of the Orzhov is the "bleeder" deck, which tries to slow down the game and slowly drain the opponent's life away with cards like Agent of Masks, Souls of the Faultless, Pillory of the Sleepless, Blind Hunter, and of course, Gatecrash's Extort mechanic.
- Life Drain: White is the master of gaining life; black is the master of taking life. Thus, Orzhov is the master of the Lifelink mechanic, as well as other ways to take others' life (see Gradual Grinder above).
- The Mafia
- Malevolent Masked Men: The thrulls of Orzhov wear faceplates that resemble golden masks.
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Some thrulls have leech-like jaws.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: The Orzhov has a council of ghosts as its leading body.
- Read the Fine Print: As expected from The Mafia. See Executioner's Swing and Immortal Servitude.
- Religion of Evil: The organization that comes closer to it on Ravnica.
- Sinister Minister
- Soul Power: Both White and Black are the colours most associated with spirits, so naturally these guys have complete mastery in this type of magic. It's led by ghosts, for crying out loud!
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: A prominent conflict within the guild's philosophy is that it cannot fully integrate White's need for community with Black's compulsion to look out for itself at the expense of others. It tries to compromise by way of smaller, insular groups, the members of which view the clique as an extension of themselves. But in practice, all that means is that each member wants desperately to rid themselves of the group but can't risk the immediate loss of their power base that would entail, so while the member continues to work towards the group's motivations, nobody actually trusts anyone.
House Dimir: Blue and Black (article here.)
Enter and become a mastermind of spies, lies, and deception.
The blue-black House Dimir is not interested in sharing information. In fact, they like secrets so much that they decided to conceal their very existence. As far as most of Ravnica's citizens know, there are only nine guilds, and that's just the way their leader, the mind-leeching vampire Szadek, likes it. As master mind mages, the Dimir have domain over both players' hands and libraries, with the ability to manipulate spells before they're even cast by discarding, rearranging, or milling them. Their guild mechanic Transmute
is just one example, allowing Dimir mages to exchange spells in their hand for other spells from their deck.Gatecrash
introduced to the House Dimir the ability to encode their Cipher
spells in creatures, making copies of those spells whenever the encoded creature sneaks through their opponent's defenses.
- Blatant Lies: For centuries, even the existence of House Dimir was a carefully-guarded secret, and citizens of Ravnica were told that there were only nine guilds. After the very public defeat of Szadek, the cat was out of the bag and the Dimir's existence became widely known, but the guild was left weak, leaderless, and disorganized, they swear.
- The Chessmaster: The favored modus operandi of both Szadek and, later, Lazav. House Dimir works behind the scenes, quietly manipulating the other nine guilds.
- The Dreaded: Before knowledge of the guild's existence went public, Dimir was the bogey-man of Ravnica. When they were revealed and started to provide public services like the production of libraries, they are still feared for providing less-than-savory services such as espionage.
- Knowledge Broker: House Dimir trades in secrets. Once they formally revealed their existence to the public, this was the face they chose to present, offering a network of couriers, spies, and informants for hire.
- Mind Rape/Stupidity Inducing Attack: Cards like Szadek (the Dimir leader) and Glimpse the Unthinkable are this in spades.
- Only Sane Guild: Dimir is the only guild that isn't violently insane, politically extremist, or suffering from backstabbing over in-guild leadership. Unfortunately, they're also the guild where the rather Bond-esque Diabolical Mastermind spawned from.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Their ghosts are employed as spies, cutpurses, and assassins.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Go after your minds instead of your blood. And have names that sound like the the word for "buttocks" in several Slavic languages.
- Sinister Surveillance
- The Sneaky Guy
- Voluntary Shapeshifter: Lazav, Szadek's successor.
- The Worm That Walks: Mindleech Mass is a pile of mind-sucking leeches. A similar creature features prominently in the Ravnica novel.
Enter those with the vision to create and the daring to release their creations.
The Izzet are the main researchers in Ravnica. Science, engineering, and other similar topics fall to them. They even have exclusive dominion over something called Meta-magic (or the study of magic itself). Through this, they have the ability called Replicate
, which allows a spell on the stack to be copied over as many times a player wishes. This combines blue's knowledge of magic and red's love for instant gratification. The guild's leader and founder is the vain but brilliant
Niv-Mizzet the Firemind, who used to be "the last dragon", a status which is no longer true by the time of Return to Ravnica
In Return to Ravnica
, the Izzet League gained the ability to Overload
its spells, combining Blue's knowledge and Red's impulsiveness to transform a single-targeted spell into a powerful, widespread one.
Incidentally, they are also responsible for managing the public utilities of Ravnica, such as water and power.
- Absent-Minded Professor
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: An In-Depth Look At The Izze-Hey, Look At That!
- Chaotic Stupid: According to the Selesnya Conclave.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: All other Guilds have a goal (even Gruul). The Izzet do crazy stuff like this to themselves for the lulz (and science).
- Discard and Draw: Izzet has a few cards that let the player draw cards from the deck but then have to discard cards.
- Elemental Embodiment: It's no surprise that several of their creatures are elementals, being a red and blue guild. They also created Weirds, a breed of elementals that combine two opposing elements (example: fire and ice) together into one creature.
- Exact Words: This card's flavor.
- For Science!: Their main motivation.
- The Heavy: In the Return to Ravnica set, much of the new hostilities are kicked off by the Izzet retreating from the public eye after redirecting all their efforts towards the search for... something. Not even the Dimir seem to know exactly what. This, naturally, makes all of the other guilds nervous.
- It is eventually revealed in the final set of the block that this was in order to locate the Implicit Maze and eventually end all the guild struggles on Ravnica by having one member of each guild walk it, ensuring that whoever wins will gain the power to secure one guild's dominance over the others once and for all, which is far preferable to all-out war.
- Impossible Genius: To quote An In-Depth Look at The Izze-Hey, Look At That!:
"Niv-Mizzet is the smartest living thing on the plane of Ravnica. This does not mean his SAT score would be 1 higher than the second smartest being. This means that he is so smart that he could, using #2 lead of course, fill in his little ovals in such a pattern that, when scanned by the computer, would reprogram it, giving him a perfect score and everybody else a zero, then the computer would shut off its fans, overheat, and burst into flames. Oh, and he'd be able to do this in the time it takes the other testers to open their booklets. Then he would burn everyone in the room wearing sweat pants thinking it would help them stay comfortable and, therefore, test better. Morons. (And yes, he can read minds - so he can spare the poor shmo who wears sweat pants because he thinks they're cool. He can… but he doesn't. Why stop the barbecue!)"
- Insufferable Genius: Niv-Mizzet is known for its incredible knowledge as well as for its unquenchable vanity.
- Narcissist: The Izzet signet is redesigned often, each time becoming closer to a vanity portrait of Niv-Mizzet.
- Mad Scientist
- Mathematician's Answer: Implied by the Izzet cluestones: "It holds within it an unsolvable riddle. A creative answer yields an invitation to the guild."
- Our Dragons Are Different: Niv-Mizzet, the most intelligent being on the planet and the only genius dragon left, who is also arrogant and vain.
- Proud Scholar Race Guy: They're much more eccentric than most cases, but still count.
- The Rival: To the Golgari Swarm.
- Shock and Awe: Some of their sorcery cards are electric-based attacks.
- Squishy Wizard: Izzet sorcery and instant spells can turn the tables on the opponent when the Overload cost is payed, but most Izzet creatures are physically weak and are made with spells in mind.
- Stuff Blowing Up: The Izzet care about two things: blowing shit up and arcane power.
- Tim Taylor Technology: Their Overload mechanic in Return to Ravnica lets them put more mana into a spell to make it hit everything.
Cult of Rakdos: Black and Red (article here.)
Enter and indulge your darkest fantasies, for you may never pass this way again.
For the Cult of Rakdos, the whole world is a party. The kind of party where you die. Led and founded by the demon Rakdos the Defiler, this guild is a sadomasochistic cult that thrives on causing pain and chaos just for the thrill of it. Their hedonistic outlook leads them to care very little about how many cards they need to discard or creatures they need to sacrifice to do what they want. This is exemplified in their Hellbent
mechanic — when you've exhausted all the cards in your hand, that's just an excuse to party even harder! And by "party" we mean "kill people". Despite their penchant for causing mayhem, the other guilds tolerate the Rakdos Cultists because they run a useful slave trade that provides the rest of the city with cheap labor.
The Cult of Rakdos's second keyword is Unleash
, which allows you to send its own creatures into a reckless rampage, making them stronger at the cost of being unable to block.
- Always Chaotic Evil: They're never shown doing anything but atrocity after atrocity.
- Supposedly, there are some more reasonable members of the guild, it's just we largely only see the really wild and crazy ones because those tend to be the fighters, who of course are more likely to have relevance in the plot or be shown on the cards.
- Their tendency toward chaotic evil meant that they were the only guild in the original Ravnica story that wasn't trying to either conquer or destroy the world. Rakdos even risks his own life to save the entire plane.
- Ax-Crazy: Almost a requirement to be recruited in Rakdos.
- The Berserker: Their Unleash mechanic gives creatures more power and toughness, but makes them unable to block.
- Big Red Devil: Rakdos himself.
- Circus of Fear: Their cards have a circus motif.
- Combat Sadomasochist: Perhaps best exemplified by Bond of Agony. They like torture so much that they'll torture themselves along with their victims. Torture for everybody!
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: They make legitimate money as Ravnica's entertainment industry, from circuses to cuisine. If not for the whole "psychotic killer" thing, the whole guild would be redeemed by that.
- A Fête Worse than Death
- For the Evulz
- Glass Cannon: Most Rakdos creatures are strong attackers and don't need much mana to play, but they tend to have low toughness and if they get a +1/+1 counter via Unleash, they can't block.
- The Hedonist
- It Amused Me
- Life of the Party: ...or rather the "unlife of the party".
- Our Demons Are Different: Rakdos demons are usually inexpensive but powerful fighters, with some exceptions, like Rakdos himself, who has high power and toughness.
- Psycho for Hire: One of the reasons Ravnica puts up with this guild's existence is that it provides other guilds with people to do their dirty work.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Rakdos are easily one of the most violent and evil guilds. In addition to their mana colors, many cultists wear red-and-black-patterned clothing as part of the circus motif.
- Religion of Evil: Well, they are a cult, and they do murder people as part of being a cult.
- Straw Nihilist: "All ends in obliteration—love in hatred, life in death, and light in empty darkness."
- Too Kinky to Torture
- Two-Faced: Their emblem in Return to Ravnica is a demon's head that's half black and half red.
Enter those who are starving and sick. You are welcome among the Swarm when the rest of Ravnica rejects you.
The green-black Golgari Swarm has embraced the dichotomy of life and death. Life and death are a natural cycle, and the Golgari see Necromancy
as an extension of that cycle. The graveyard is just another resource to the Golgari, a philosophy which manifests itself in their guild mechanic, Dredge
, which allows them to harvest and re-use spells from their graveyard while simultaneously cultivating that graveyard with new spells to dredge. Of course, their role in Ravnican society is more than just raising zombies: they're also farmers who supply most of the food for the rest of the plane. (And they always have very good fertilizer.
Its second guild mechanic from Return to Ravnica
, which allows the Golgari to combine Black's tendency for using the dead as a resource with Green's love of empowering the living.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: Insects are common Golgari creatures.
- Cannibalism Superpower: Inverted. Golgari with "scavenge" advertise the ability to have their corpses to essentially bestow as many +1/+1 counters as they had power points when sent to the graveyard to any creature who has basically eaten their dead body.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Guild leadership in the Golgari is always contested.
- Dark Is Not Evil: While in the story the Golgari suffered from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder among their leaders and Savra actually was a pawn in Szadek's plans, the truth is that most Golgari were merely the Ravnican analogue of farmers and were otherwise barely involved with the larger conflict. Eventually, their leader was replaced by a much more decent person, Jarad, who reformed the group's ways alongside his son.
- Also they're stated to feed the poor and outcasts and help them.
- Human Resources: Their new ability "Scavenge", as implied in their official R&D video.
- Let's Meet the Meat: See Cannibalism Superpower, up above.
- Meaningful Name: Golgari is derived from Golgotha.
- Medusa: There are a few gorgons, including Vraska, that are guild members.
- Necromancer: The Golgari combines green's control of life with black's control of death, making a guild full of these.
- Night of the Living Mooks
- Our Zombies Are Different: Let's see...plant Zombies...insect zombies...Elf zombies ... even Vraska, an honorary golgari, is a zombie gorgon! The list does not end there...
- The Rival: To the Izzet League.
- We Have Reserves: Understandable when your combatants consist of zombies, bugs, and zombie bugs.
Gruul Clans: Red and Green (article here.)
The red-green Gruul Clans are a collection of loosely-organized barbarian tribes who scorn civilization, preferring to live free in what's left of Ravnica's wilderness. The original Guildpact originally stipulated them as the wardens of the wilderness then existent, to keep the city's spread from getting in there. Unfortunately, thanks to the typical political machinations, not only did the wilderness get completely breached, their duties wound up divvied among the Selesnya and Simic, leaving them little to do but seek vengeance. They're not much for inaction, which is why their guild mechanic Bloodthirst
rewards players who take an active role in the game, actually drawing blood from their opponents instead of sitting around thinking about it.
The second guild mechanic introduced in Gatecrash
, which mixes Green's love for huge creatures with Red's love for instant rewards, turning cards in hand into ways to quickly power-up attacking creatures.
The Boros Legion are responsible for much of the law enforcement in Ravnica. They combine white's desire for order with red's passion, creating a passion for justice as they see it. Being of the law, they have to go by the rule "if it affects one, it affects all". And so, like modern law, they will arrest and execute anything they see as a danger, and empower anything they see as helpful (regardless of what that being is fighting for). This is reflected in their guild mechanic, Radiance
. Through it, the guild can affect everyone/everything that shares a color with the target.
, under the guidance of their new guild leader, the Boros Legion takes a much more active role in the battlefield with a focus on amassing huge armies to defend their ideals, which translates to their new mechanic Battalion
, which rewards you whenever the creature with Battalion
and at least two other creatures attack.
- Always Gets His Man: Agrus Kos.
- Anti-Hero/Grey and Gray Morality: The fact that there are frequent in-group conflicts and that the current leader, Aurelia, is set to become an antagonist don't help.
- Badass Army
- Cowboy Cop
- The Cavalry Arrives Late: Played for Drama when, at the end of Ravnica when the Dimir and Golgari team up to try and take over the world, Sunhome and all the angels mysteriously disappear, and aren't seen again until the end of Guildpact. Crashing into Prahv.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Their means to prevent guild warfare? Creating guild warfare.
- Knight Templar: Among other things, they are excessively violent and several members in the original trilogy are perfectly fine with the idea of a police state. Lately, the new leader Aurelia has gone overboard enough that even zealous angels within the Boros have decided to quit and go aid the Gateless instead.
- Light Is Not Good: The guild is half-white, but can overtly violent and hypocritical. Probably the worst of the White guilds in this regard, actually (Orzhov aside, of course), at least as of the Return To Ravnica set, as their new incarnation are basically an army of vigilante mercenaries, and dubbed by the Azorius as "their worst enemy" when they're in bad terms.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Feather, one of the protagonists from the original Ravnica trilogy, was pretty much the most compassionate and sane angel "on-screen". She was briefly the leader of the guild, before being overthrown by the far more warlike Aurelia.
- Our Angels Are Different: The Boros' angels act as the guild's leaders and are always hungry for warfare in the name of justice.
- Playing with Fire: A lot of their cards have a fire motif...
- Shock and Awe: ...But several of the more iconic Boros burn spells marry White's love of light and Red's long-standing dominion over lightning.
Selesnya Conclave: Green and White (article here.)
The Conclave loves to help one another. The good of the community is all they think about. All the time. Ever. In the original Ravnica block, their mechanic was the ability Convoke
; which combines green's mana acceleration with white's large army. With that, a spell can be played much cheaper at the cost of tapping a few creatures.
In Return to Ravnica
, they gained the Populate
mechanic, which allows them to duplicate their own creatures to grow their ranks.
- Assimilation Plot: Their main goal.
- Brainwashing for the Greater Good: Oh yes. The Song of the Conclave was an outright plane-wide brainwashing spell, making the Gateless more docile, which once the spell was broken led them to lynch the Selesnyans. Their new incarnations presumably still do things of the sort, but they've learned their lesson.
- Corrupt Church: Always a religious commune with the intent of spreading peace and harmony, at some point in their history they've converted with a brainwashing cult, their song keeping the masses docile and killing dissenters via their "quietmen". They seemingly grew out of it by their second return, though they're hypocritical and willing to sacrifice the lives of lower ranking members for the greater good.
- The Evils of Free Will
- Green Thumb: Not surprising considering it's a green guild.
- Hive Mind: All the members of the Conclave can hear its song in their heads.
- Light Is Not Good: Notice a pattern yet? Although white and green are the stereotypically "good color" combination, Selesnya at its worst is willing to create a World of Silence.
- Multiple Head Case: Trostani is a three-headed dryad.
- The Needs of the Many
- Our Centaurs Are Different: Centaurs that are in this guild tend to be healers and warriors.
- Our Elves Are Better: A good portion of the guild is made out of elves.
- Path of Inspiration: Ostensibly; while well intentioned, they still reduce or outright demolish individuality and are rather hypocritical about their means and goals.
- Self-Duplication: The Populate mechanic creates copies of creature tokens that are on the playing field.
- We Have Reserves: Their rather hypocritical battle strategy is to line up lots and lots of foot soldiers and let them die to buy time to summon larger elementals.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist
The Simic Combine blue's lust for knowledge and "improvement" and green's love of life. Like other green-based guilds, they focus on creatures more than anything else. Their ability, Graft
, allows strength and life to be moved to any incoming creature. Once a creature is complete, they are sellable to the mass market. But, like the Izzet, they aren't satisfied with just one; or rather with just one type. So, they continue to create new and "improved" versions of nature.
As of Return to Ravnica
, the Simic returned to their druidic roots, embracing long lost holism. This also translates to their new keyword: Members of the Simic Combine can now Evolve
, strenghtening themselves whenever another stronger ally enters the battlefield, demonstrating Green's love of life instead of Blue's detachment, like their old mechanic did.
On a more mundane level, the Simic Combine is also responsible for providing most of Ravnica's non-magical medicine and healthcare.
- Adaptive Ability: Their Evolve mechanic makes their creatures grow stronger when a stronger creature is played.
- Blob Monster: They do like their Oozes. Momir Vig's ultimate creation, Experiment Kraj, was a gargantuan oozelike mutant that could leech away the abilities of other creatures.
- Closer to Earth: Than the Izzet. This isn't saying much. Now truly straight as of RTR.
- Druid: What they once were. They have now returned to their roots.
- Evilutionary Biologist: Momir Vig.
- Gone Horribly Right: Mocked in this card.
- Genetic Engineering is the New Nuke
- Just Think of the Potential: As opposed to Izzet's For Science!.
- Mad Scientist: They're the "obsessive" kind, instead of the Izzet's "amiable madman" kind.
- Make My Monster Grow: The Evolve ability makes smaller creatures bigger as stronger creatures are played.
- Making a Splash: Some of their cards have a water flavor.
- The Medic: Their original purpose, which they re-embraced as of RTR.
- Mighty Glacier: Between small creatures with Evolve and mid-range fatties, Simic's strategy focuses on the late game in which it can lock down the game with an array of strong creatures and spells, but may not always live long enough to reach it.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: The new Simic love these more than ever (the old Simic employed bizarre unnatural mutants), although they claim to use "purer" methods to make them now.
- Our Elves Are Different: Simic elves are more gaunt and alien than the standard model, and focus on transmutation magic.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: The driving faction new Simic. Also, those merfolk were thought to be extinct until only recently.
- Redeeming Replacement: The guild's previous leader, Momir Vig, was an obsessive madman who wanted to cleanse Ravnica of life and start over. His replacement, Zegana, has restored respect to the Combine by rejecting Vig's excesses and bringing a respect for nature and balance back to the Simic.
- Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The new Simic give off this vibe, although the "aliens" are merfolk from the deep.
- The Social Darwinist: In the original Ravnica set, Simic's leaders weren't above creating plagues to kill all life on Ravnica, save for those who are rich enough to buy vaccines that they made, to start life on the plane all over.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: They will make your life better (for a certain value thereof) whether you like it or not.
Clans of Tarkir
Abzan Houses: White, with Black and Green
Worshipping the endurance of the dragons of old, the symbol of the Abzan Houses is that of the scale of the dragon. Their main theme is control.
- Base on Wheels: They have a few mobile fortresses drawn by extremely large elephants.
- Bird People: Abzan aven tend to resemble vultures.
- Body Motifs: Represented by the scale of the dragon.
- The Clan: It's the importance of family that makes them more than just another bunch of heavily armed assholes.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Based aesthetically on Persia and Mongolia.
- Happily Adopted: "Krumar" are adopted from conquered territories and raised as members of the Abzan families. Most of those shown on cards seem quite happy about it. In particular, this is how orcs make it into the Abzan.
- Our Orcs Are Different: Orcs are part of the Abzan armies. They're Black and focus on offensive skills, but are still completely loyal to their family.
- Mighty Glacier: Their "Outlast" mechanic gradually makes their creatures bigger and stronger as the game goes on.
- Petting Zoo People: The ainok dog-men are also part of the Abzan armies.
- Thicker Than Water: Family is the most important thing to the Abzan...
- True Companions: ...but that family need not be exclusively based upon biological relationships.
The bonds of family cross the boundaries of race. - flavour text, Incremental Growth
- War Elephants: Their intro pack rare, for example.
Jeskai Way: Blue, with Red and White
Worshipping the cunning of the dragons of old, the symbol of the Jeskai Way is that of the eye of the dragon. Their main theme is combat tricks.
- Bare-Fisted Monk: As well as an array of more eccentrically equipped monks.
- Bird People: With a falcon theme, in contrast to the vulturelike Azban aven.
- Body Motifs: Represented by the eye of the dragon.
- Enlightenment Superpowers: What their entire culture is centered around.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Based on Shaolin monks, ninjas and air nomads.
- Horse Of A Different Colour: For the Jeskai, "Mantis style" means riding a literal giant mantis.
- Ki Manipulation/Supernatural Martial Arts: The Jeskai revere the five colors of mana as metaphysical elemental forces called "fires", which seem function much in the same way as Ki.
- The Trickster: Enforced by their theme. Their mechanic even gives their creatures a boost for resolving a noncreature spell, making combat tricks that little bit trickier. Played straight in their lore with the Kaisham Wanderers school of enlightenment, which encourages the playing of harmless tricks on outsiders with the intent of making them question their beliefs or learn to enjoy the absurdity in life.
- Unstoppable Rage: Fighters with mastery of the bloodfire (red mana) are able to channel their Tranquil Fury into this, effectively becoming invincible killing machines.
Sultai Brood: Black, with Green and Blue
Worshipping the ruthlessness of the dragons of old, the symbol of the Sultai Brood is that of the fang of the dragon. Their main theme is resource manipulation.
- Body Motifs: Represented by the fang of the dragon.
- Cat Folk/Our Demons Are Different: The Rakshasa, tiger demons that the Sultai make deals with.
- Deal with the Devil: Again, the rakshasa.
- The Empire: If they're not already this, they certainly imagine themselves making all of Tarkir into this with themselves at the helm.
- Fantastic Racism: The naga do not think highly of their human subjects, and generally make up the bulk of the upper class. It's suggested it's fueled by envy of the humanity they lost long ago.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Based on Indonesia and the Thai Empire.
- Additionally, their architecture heavily resembles that of the Khmer Empire's Angkor.
- Mighty Glacier: Oddly for a Black-focused clan, Sultai encourages and features creatures with high toughness. The most obvious example being Meandering Towershell, a 5/9 that is so slow it takes a turn or more to attack.
- Our Zombies Are Different: The Sultai are necromancers that use zombies for everything, including furniture.
- Power Born of Madness: Their use of the Delve mechanic means that a strong Sultai mage will have heavy reliance on self-mill, which mechanically represents driving yourself crazy in order to fuel things with the bits of shattered sanity you left behind.
- Shark Pool: Or rather, crocodile pits.
- Snake People: Have a number of these, called naga, in their ranks. They sharply fill the upper class as well.
Mardu Horde: Red, with White and Black
Worshipping the speed of the dragons of old, the symbol of the Mardu horde is that of the wing of the dragon. Their main theme is aggro.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: Their "Raid" mechanic rewards attacking with creatures as much as possible.
- Blood Knight: They live for war.
- Blow You Away: Mardu shamans often have power over the harsh winds of the steppe.
- Body Motifs: Represented by the wing of the dragon.
- Born in the Saddle: There *are* Mardu infantry, but the clan is best known for its deadly cavalry.
- Death or Glory Attack: The Mardu leave nothing in reserve.
- The Dragonslayer: The most effective at killing Tarkir's dragons back while Tarkir had dragons. Of course, the three colours with the most kill spells are black, red and white, so it was probably inevitable.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The most stereotypically Mongolian of the clans.
- Our Goblins Are Different: They're treated like bright dogs, basically.
- Luke Nounverber: "War names" are taken by Mardu who come of age after their first big battle. Zurgo's war name, for example, is Helmsmasher.
- Mage Marksman: "Dakla" is an art based on a mixture of archery and shamanic magic.
- Make Me Wanna Shout: Mardu war shrieks are also used to channel magic.
- Our Orcs Are Different: Have quite a few orcs in their ranks, most notably their leader, Zurgo Helmsmasher.
- Our Ogres Are Hungrier: They have sharp things lashed to their hands, and are occasionally set on fire.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: While they do have a civilian class, they lack the infrastructure to provide for themselves without war. They also abide by an admittedly brutal code of honour.
Temur Frontier: Green, with Blue and Red
Worshipping the savagery of the dragons of old, the symbol of the Temur Frontier is that of the claw of the dragon. Their main theme is midrange fatties.
- Archetypal Character: Temur adopt clan roles that bear constant names from generation to generation, and view it as a way of getting in touch with their ancestors.
- Bears Are Bad News: They have a good relationship with the one-ton bears of the tundra.
- The Berserker: "Awakening the bear" causes warriors to fly into a killing rage where they can no longer tell friend from foe.
- Bigger Is Better: Their mechanic is based on an altered version of Naya's high-power-matters theme.
- Body Motifs: Represented by the claw of the dragon.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Of Mongolia and Siberian peoples.
- Fluffy Tamer: Bear Companion, for example, brings along a bear that weighs a ton when he enters the field.
- Had To Be Sharp: Their home is so cold and unpleasant that they have to be tough, or they die.
- An Ice Person: The heart of Temur magic lies in ice and their ancestors.
- Thicker Than Water: Second only to the Abzan in the importance of family.
- Un-Person: Those who perform particularly heinous actions are drowned in swift streams, sending their bodies off to be eaten by wild animals, and their names are not spoken.