Exploring Could-Havnica, by Pat Robotta
y now, you've probably learned the four guilds in Ravnica: City of Guilds: House Dimir, the secretive order of information traders; the Golgari, a clan that worships the cycle of life, death, and taxes; the Selesnya Conclave, all for one and one for all; and the Boros Legion, a fervent militia of fervent militiamen, fervent militiawomen, and fervent militiagoblins. If you somehow didn't know the four guilds yet, now you do. If you didn't read this paragraph, I hate you and your family. That's right. I can say that without The Man coming down on me because you aren't reading this.
If you weren't reading my article up to this point, start reading here. Hello, and welcome to my column! Today I'm going to reveal to you the secrets of Ravnica. Not even the House Dimir would know these secrets, however, since I'm about to tell you the early flavor concepts for each guild. This is the creative stuff that didn't make it to the set, and you'll see why.
The Color of My Boo-Boo (Not That!)
Starting with what is now Dimir, I'll be following the same basic format for each guild to show you the initial thoughts when conceptualizing the color pair and how they led to the very first idea what, for example, blue/black should be.
Blue is a Spell Counter. Blue thinks, plots, schemes, and doesn't let anyone get in the way of its plans. Strongly devoted to both the arcane arts and science, blue is the best of the five colors at countering and counting.
Black is an Arrogant Vampire. Black stalks, steals, and vants to suck your blood! Blah! Black holds its own interests over all others, except, of course, when helping others would more greatly benefit itself. Creatures of the night, from shades to skeletons to vampires, call black home.
The first, and most logical (blue would appreciate this) conclusion reached was that blue/black is the color of Sesame Street's The Count.
The blue/black guild was going to ruled by a sect of vampires that counted numbers, themselves led by one known only as "The Count". The natural combination of black for vampires and blue for counting was almost too convenient. Actually, it was too convenient. Research showed that too many Magic players hated numbers and/or vampires. (Surprisingly, the intersection between these two groups was virtually nonexistent.)
While many of the counting and vampire themes were lost, you can still see vestiges of them in today's Ravnica. The Count was obviously retooled to be Szadek, Lord of Secrets, and Moroii was also left in the set as a tribute to the once large vampire theme. Hex and Grozoth are all that remain of what was once a nine-card cycle (in order, Swaddled Singularity, Duodenum, Skeleton Trireme, Four-Runners, Quintessence, Hex, Jackpot!, Octoplox, and Grozoth.) Necroplasm merely devolved from a vampire into a puddle of ooze, but is otherwise nearly identical to its original concept.
You Ought to Get That Guild Looked at by a Doctor
Black is a Gluttonous Zombie. Black groaned, it stirred, it all uprose, nor spake, nor - you get the picture. Zombies, skeletons, wraiths, ghosts spirits - all embody (or disembody) the essence of the swamp. Black is all about death, undeath, and redeath.
Green is the Natural Order. From ferns to trees, from border collies to snakes, all of nature is represented by this lovely forest hue. Green is the color of life, of growth, and of flourishing, which is a fancy way to say life and growth. Sentient green races include Elves, Treefolk, and tree-hugging Humans (more on that later.)
The simple combination of these two colors leaves...not much at first. After several days of sitting around, playing with pencils and whiteboards, and intermediate games of Guess What Animal, Occupation, and Nationality I Am, somebody threw out the idea of making black/green the guild of zombies with trees growing out of their heads. Dead tired (probably more of a blue/black card), everyone agreed.
Soon after, other green guilds caught the tree-growing-out-of-your-head fever. What would become Ravnica's Selesnya Conclave was conceptualized as a guild of elephants with trees growing out of their heads. Red got goblins with trees growing out of their armpits. (Both goblins and armpits are funny alone. Together? Laugh-o-rama!) For blue, it was decided that it might finally be time for the return of merfolk...with kelp growing out of their heads.
Fortunately, everyone came to his senses after a couple of days' rest. This idea was stupid. All four green guilds had the plant-life-growing-out-of-the-body extracted. Then...I'm sorry to have to say this, since I know the devotion many people have toward a certain creature type, and what I'm about to tell you will not sit well. Then, merfolk were removed altogether. The only tie they had to Ravnica was their kelp-headedness. Without that, the right environment simply didn't exist for our sea-dwelling friends. Better luck next year, fishies.
As for the black/green guild, while trees growing out of heads is outright silly, flying plant zombies are perfectly reasonable. Enjoy your Vulturous Zombies!
Have You Hugged a Tree Today?
Green is a Utopia Tree. Nature lovers strive for a natural paradise in which all of Gaea's creatures can coexist. In green's primal mind, only a full return to nature will bring about this goal. Forest creatures, druids, and shamans' love for the forest itself help clear the path to Utopia.
White is Peace Talks. White, too, seeks paradise, though one with a bit more civilization attached. It has compassion for its fellow beings and the ability to heal all ills, whether by spell casting or magical vapors. Unicorns, elephants, and pegasi are traditional white creatures.
Put them together, and you have a bunch of tree-hugging peacemongering hippies.
Who knew hippies could be something to fear (aside from their smell, of course.) This green/white guild concept lasted the longest of the four early ideas; this is evident from the hippie subtheme in the Selesnya Conclave. "Hippie" itself was stopped just short of making the vaunted list of creature types.
So why didn't hippies make it to print? Late in the process, it was pointed out that mind-expanding - a major theme for the hippie guild - was too flavorfully vital to blue to be in the green/white color pair, despite the methods used to achieve it. Among others, a reprint of Collective Unconscious was nixed for this reason. See if you can guess which card was originally named "Elvish Tree-Hugger".
What's White and Red All Over?
White is a Crusading Knight. White guards, white strikes, white wages honorable battle. Knights and soldiers wage war against those who would disrupt white's way of life. White's crusade to spread civilization and order is both relentless and without relent.
Red is a Bloodfire Dwarf. Red is all about blood.
Red's pretty straightforward like that.
How can two such single-minded colors reconcile their differences and form a guild? The answer was found in a totally awesome power metal music video: knights on fire. The video also had fire-breathing dragons, powerful wizards, guys in tunics, and rock. It was pretty sweet.
None can deny that knights on fire are the epitome of cool. If Burning Shield Askari or Searing Spear Askari were reprinted today, they would be in the white/red guild, and they would be unbelievable cool. I mean, seriously, knights on fire! Even the Fonz would have to take a break from "'Eyyyy" to acknowledge the pure awesomeness of knights. on. fire.
So why didn't knights on fire make it to the final set, and where is your completely amazing "what if" card mockup? You see, somebody thought it would be a good idea to set on fire all the documents describing knights on fire. Admittedly, it was pretty cool for a while, but then all the paper and discs were ashen and melted, respectively. Nobody remembered enough about all the super-cool ideas we had regarding the knights on fire guild to recreate it, so we ended up going in a different direction.
If you still don't believe how astoundingly suave knights on fire were, I leave you with what Skyknight Legionnaire would look like...on fire.
Man, that was so cool.