Humans 101

How the ‘Magic: The Gathering’ Color Wheel Explains Humanity

Move over, Myers-Briggs

Duncan A Sabien
Human Parts
Published in
30 min readApr 3, 2018
Photo by Wayne Low on Unsplash

Magic: The Gathering is a fantasy card game by Richard Garfield, Ph.D. and Wizards of the Coast centered on a “color wheel” in which five distinct colors in a particular order represent five different flavors of magic. How this works in actual gameplay is irrelevant to this post, which instead exists to explore the philosophy of the MTG color wheel, and how that philosophy is a near-enough-to-be-thought-provoking match for reality.

Personalities, organizations, goals, and means can all be thought of in terms of the Magic colors they typify, allowing you to draw interesting connections, make surprisingly useful predictions, identify deficits and growth areas, and increase empathy. I claim that the Magic system, which was designed to be resonant and trope-y and archetypal, does a lot of the same good work that naming things does, and is a richer intuition pump than other popular wrong-but-usefuls like Enneagram or MBTI or chakras or the integral theory colors.

Below are the five colors of Magic: white, blue, black, red, and green.

Each color has a central goal, and a default strategy.

White seeks peace, and it tries to achieve that peace through the imposition of order. White believes that the solution to all suffering and unhappiness is coordination and cooperation and rules and restraint. The archetypal white organization would be a church, and a white dystopia would be a fascist regime such as the one in George Orwell’s 1984, or a stagnant society like the one in Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

The “white mana” symbol (™ and © Wizards of the Coast)

Central examples of white characters from pop culture include Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones, Ozymandias from Watchmen



Duncan A Sabien
Human Parts

Duncan Sabien is a writer, teacher, and maker of things. He loves parkour, LEGOs, and MTG, and is easily manipulated by people quoting Ender’s Game.