His Dark Materials and MTG

Hey, I’m no professional card designer.

To complement my review, I decided to blend my love of both HDM and MTG. Both series are surprisingly congruent with each other, both featuring a multiverse focused around a magical substance aligned with philosophy and sapience, with a fathomless chasm between worlds. True, there are significant differences on the overall ontology, but those are trivial details.

In general, His Dark Materials is about the conflict against the oppressive institution of the church, in favor of experiencing life to the fullest. This would be a rare case where Black and Red are pitied against a villainous White, and indeed the main character, Lyra, is in my opinion Blue/Black/Red: someone who is not above lying and other trickery for the sake of her freedom as well as her loved ones. Nearly all major villains are White aligned to at least some extent, being overly zealous to their religious cause.

However, things get murky when you look at both the other characters and the ontology of the world. Prophecies cannot be avoided, fundamental natural laws cannot be broken (like daemons in the realm of the dead) and both Mary and the Mulefa advocate a harmonious existence with the environment while the freed dead rejoice in holism with the universe. All of this is pretty Green. Meanwhile, freedom of knowledge is prized by the heroes, so Blue is also well represented. In this case, you can argue that it’s less White vs its enemy colors and more White against ALL colors.

On the flipside, some heroic characters are White-aligned (Lee Scoresby for instance) and the highly byronic Lord Asriel is Black-aligned, as is the more overtly antagonistic Marisa Coulter (I’d argue she’s White/Blue/Black, more so even in the series). Iofur Raknison is pretty overtly Blue/Black, and both the Subtle Knife and the specters feel very Black aligned, so while the overall theme might put White in the center antagonist role, not every character is easily square pegged.

I don’t have time to go through every single character, so I’ll go over some major factions:

  • The Magisterium and the Kingdom of Heaven as the main antagonists represent White’s bad side: dogmatism, oppression and self-righteousness. The former might dip into Blue in the form of the General Oblation Board and similar scientific projects.

As you can see, I did a piss-poor attempt at making cards of the three pivotal artifacts of the series:

  • The Alethiometer (or “Golden Compass” if you’re an idiot) is pretty Blue, its purpose being to deliver information in what amounts to a puzzle, forcing the reader to perfect the mind as well. Lyra manages to read it intuitively (a Blue/Red mindset), but eventually loses this ability as she matures and now has to learn the symbols and how to interpret them (pretty mono-Blue).

And that’s it for now, and probably forever. Let me know what you think!



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