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Real-world Flavor: More Classic Traits of White’s Color Philosophy in Magic Citations

Second Sunrise

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Let me redeem my brothers both from death.

William Shakespeare

in the last installment, we began dealing with some of the typical values and themes seen in the color White, focusing on Courage and Peace. In this installment, we'll complete our look at White's color philosophy by looking at two more characteristics of the color: Endurance and Honor. I chose the above flavor text to open the piece because of its ambiguity.

As we'll see in more detail later, redeeming someone from death would be accurate for Black, too, if the meaning intended was more in the sense of "retrieving." The only reason why it works on a white card is linked to the fact that the "brothers" it's referring to are still alive... or are they?

We'll come back to this later. For now, let's take a look at some more cards showing typical values of the color White.

Endurance

Fortitude, or the ability to endure adversities, is among the most typical traits of White, in Magic and in other areas of the fantasy genre. Just as happened with Courage in the last installment, you might think it is most easily displayed by creatures. After all, it's creatures that fight in battle and endure the pain of combat. And yet, one of the two cards we are going to see is an Enchantment. Again, the point is that it refers to the area of creatures, as you'll see soon.

Squire


Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
Of his stature he was of evene lengthe.
And wonderly delyvere, and of greete strengthe.

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

Squire is a funny card for several reasons. First printed in The Dark (1994), it has a name that is weirdly generic. over the course of Magic's history, over a dozen more "Squires" have been printed, each with a specific name reflective of the setting or set of their printing. In past articles, we looked at how naming conventions of Magic cards have evolved over time. As we have discussed, early in the game's creation, it was quite normal to see cards with names referencing generic animals, fantastic beasts, or in this case simply roles.

The second funny thing is the pairing of flavor text and illustration. The flavor text comes from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. The words might appear strange to modern readers because they were originally written in Middle English. The modern translation is: "Of twenty years of age he was, I guess. / Of his stature, he was of middle height, / Wonderfully agile, powerful in a fight". The point is that the illustration doesn't live up to expectations. I mean, this is just a 1/2 vanilla creature, but with such an emphatic flavor text one would expect something more. He also looks much older than twenty.

Both text and art convey an idea of humbleness, honesty, and overall simple strength. A very human kind of strength, of course: there is no magic, just hard work, and commitment. Which fits really well with what you'd expect a squire to possess.

Castle


Hang out our banners on the outward walls;
The cry is still “They come!”; Our castle’s strength
Will laugh a siege to scorn.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

As we mentioned earlier, Castle is not a creature, but rather an enchantment. Nonetheless, it works with creatures and refers to their field. In fact, it gives your creatures a bonus +0/+2 as long as they are untapped. It's a very White feature, and in this, it's quite similar to what we saw with the card Inspirit in the past installment. Actually, the only reason I put one of them with the tag "Courage" and the other with "Endurance" is that Inspirit also gives a boost to strength.

The flavor text is a quotation from Shakespeare's Macbeth. Right at the beginning of Act 5, Scene 5, the protagonist is preparing for a siege. And he's not particularly worried, as "[his] castle's strength will laugh a siege to scorn". His plan, as he says in the following lines, is just to wait and let the besiegers die of famine. Even if we don't take into account this text, the very name of this card (and its image) are great examples of White's philosophy. It tends to endure, resist, and protect.

Honor

Now let's look at another virtuous color attribute: honor. We've seen numerous white cards in previous installments that share this attribute. Here, we'll look at a few we might not have discussed yet.

Warrior’s Honor


No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.

Calvin Coolidge, Have Faith in Massachusetts

Once more, Warrior's Honor is a good example of two different values of White. At the same time, it's about endurance and also about honor. I put it here because its name directly mentions the concept of "Honor." Aside from the name, the card is very similar to Inspirit and Castle.

First printed in Visions, it got this flavor text with its reprint in Ninth Edition. It's a quote from Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States in the Twenties. The sentence here is quite self-explanatory. Honor is a reward for what you give, not for what you receive. Of course, honor is also something you receive, so you might end up with more material gains, but the point is still true.

The card itself is a three-mana instant that gives your creatures +1/+1 until the end of the turn. We might be used to a higher power level these days, but even that aside, this card is still rather weak. It is a decent example of White's Solidarity cards, pumping your entire team.

Redeem


Let me redeem my brothers both from death

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

We'll end with the quote with which we opened the piece. The line is from Shakespeare's first tragedy, Titus Andronicus, and spoken by Lucius Andronicus, son of the protagonist Titus. It's about his brothers, Martius and Quintus. The tragic bit is that in fact they are already dead. Even worse, Lucius and Titus are asked to chop off one of their hands in order to redeem the two prisoners. Since they don't know the brothers have already been killed, Marcus and Lucius begin to quarrel about who is going to sacrifice his hand. Spoiler alert: as soon as they do so, they are presented with the heads of Martius and Quintus.

A bad ending indeed, but the concept of sacrificing yourself for the sake of your friends and for the honor of your family is very White. Redeem, is a rather ambiguous card flavor-wise, having aspects of both white and black. White and black both are able to fight death. Black can reanimate, acting after death, while White seeks to prevent death from happening at all. While the card might not be that impressive, the pairing of it and its flavor quotation works, but misses a bit of the aspect of sacrifice present in the quote but not in the card.

Conclusions

In this piece and the previous installment, we looked at White's color philosophy through the lens of real-world flavor texts. Even from that narrow lens, White's color values still shine through. In the next installments, we will look at the remaining colors in Magic's color pie. What characteristics do you think we will find that define with each color?

Francesco Spagnol

Francesco started playing Magic in middle school just as the Onslaught came out. He has taken part in many tournaments and organized several events himself. Booster draft is by far his favorite format, but he also enjoys Pauper and Pre-Modern. When he doesn't play Magic, he works in the publishing industry, as an editor of children's books. He is always looking for good stories.

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