I've finally figured out how to design four-color!

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am proud to welcome you to the plane of Garemond, where four-color factions finally figured out how they should work. Let me walk you through it. On Garemond there's five ancient families, each occupying four colors of the color pie. These are:

GWUB (non-red) - Selizdan
BRGW (non-blue) - Etriskai
WUBR (non-green) - Cygorus
RGWU (non-black) - Narshalla
UBRG (non-white) - Haagram

And this is how I approached the design of four-color factions. First thing about four-color combinations is the absence of one color. This tells us what the color is NOT and what it then leaves it to be. So:

Selizdan misses red, which means they will not follow emotions at all. They will be cold, smart, plotting, but never emotional, passionate or fast to action. Etriskai misses blue, which makes them value actions over words and thinking. They will rather go out to battle or to do something than just sit and read or make up strategy. Cygorus misses green and that means there is nothing natural about them, everything became a construct of society and science. Narshalla misses black, which means they will be altruistic and not selfish at all. They will have a strong connection to community and life. And lastly Haagram leaves out white, and with it order and balance. They will be chaotic, almost mad.

But that is absolutely not everything. You know, the problem with four color combination is that there is too much going on, too many colors to keep track of and too many overlays between the five pairings. That's where my next point comes in. We need to break things up into more managable parts. More specifically two.
Take a look at this. This is a diagram of the Guilds - we all know and love them. And it's also something like an advanced color pie. The four factions will not be combination of four individual colors, they will be a combination of two color pairs. And those color pairs are those that find themselves directly opposite to one another on the diagram. That means:

Selizdan = WU (Azorius) + BG (Golgari)
Etriskai = RG (Gruul) + WB (Orzhov)
Cygorus = UB (Dimir) + RW (Boros)
Narshalla = GW (Selesnya) + UR (Izzet)
Haagram = BR (Rakdos) + GU (Simic)

Note that each four color faction is a mix of one allied pair and one enemy pair. The allied pair of the two is also the one that finds itself in the middle if we write down the four colors in the correct order. That pair is what I call a "base" of the four color faction. On the color pie it is directly opposite to the faction's missing color. This way each of the factions is unique in its design and there are no overlaps.

And now when you know all that, let's look at some cards. I've designed the leaders for each faction, and then a few cycles of cards, similar for each family.


Monocolored cards would probably not exist in this set, just like Alara Reborn.

So, this is Garemond, the world of four color families. What do you think about this approach to the four-color factions in Magic? I know many people don't like it in actual games, because it's too much colors, but I really loved making this from the lore and color-pie perspective. It's really amazing how the color pie really works together and when you really think about it, everything falls into place perfectly.

And now - I don't want just your approval; I think it would be fun to see some of you expand on this idea and create cards for the potential Garemond set. I hope you understood the mechanics, ideas and philosophy of each family, but if needed, I will provide lore, further explanation of my thoughts and stuff like that.

I will also gladly join a constructive discussion. Let's let the world know that four color factions are possible!

Edit: Forgot to credit @TerryTags who is the author of the simple yet beautifully fitting set symbols. You've said you were saving them for a four color set, so here it is!


  • This actually seems very cool! It seems like there will need to be a lot of mana fixing in this.

    How about cards similar to the courtmages in the other colors? Something like this?

    Obviously, you could change the flavor and effects however you'd like, but I'm just giving a suggestion.
  • This seems like a good idea, definitely winning my approval. Really nice work with the concept.

    I immediatly took a liking to Selizdan, the tribal concept seemed cool. I tried my gut with a rare:

    Selizdan Seeker

    Purely, all my cards are for fun, feedback welcomed, great concept btw!
  • edited March 2021
    @TheDukeOfPork I don't think Selizdan is tribal? It's just exile and graveyard matters.

    And I think that each family is specifically two color combinations, so Selizdan is Azorius and Golgari, not Dimir, Selesnya, Orzhov, or Simic.
  • @TheDukeOfPork I've wanted to say the same things as @feralitator - Selizdan is not particularly tribal (but I don't really care about that interpretation), the main point is that you've kinda missed the point of the families.

    Each one is a combination of two color pairs. It makes them sort of like Guilds made of Guilds. So a Blue/Black card would automatically belong to the Cygorus family, while Selizdan is made up of White/Blue and Black/Green. I've thought about all this really hard just so there is no confusion between the families/four-color combinations.

    However, I'm really glad that you've decided to join and that you like the concept! I'm looking forward to other cards you decide to make in the future.

    @feralitator Hm, that's a nice concept. You are of course right about the mana-fixing (that's why I think many people would dislike this as a standart set, but I'm more about just the feeling, the design space, lore and color philosophy). I intentionally left the Courtmages as a five-card cycle, each one being based in one of the "base" pairs of the families. But the design is nice.
  • Alright cool you’ve got a good plan here! I really like the breakdown of each four color faction into two dualcolor pairs. The only thing to consider following that is draft. The biggest thing I’ve had trouble with in theorycrafting four color is how to get drafters to draft four colors instead of five, since once a drafter is doing five, the draft becomes “pick the best card in the pack.”
    (Joke but still)
  • This probably is great for an EDH set or something like that. Personally dislike standard or any other "fast-paced" formats anyway.
  • I think that this is an interesting concept!

    I think that one thing to remember is that one plane's combination of the color pie is not the only way for those colors to be paired (I'm hoping that Strixhaven deals with this a little bit more with the remaining five dual-colors, but Ojutai=/=Azorius, Dromoka=/=Selesnya, Kolaghan=/=Rakdos, Silumgar=/=Dimir, and Atarka=/=Gruul even though they can be very similar). So I definitely think that this is a nice new way to interpret the four-color combinations!

    With that being said, I think that using the Ravnica guilds has really given a cool new way to look at Selizdan, Estrikai, Narshalla, and Haagram. These four to me seem like they are drawing in parts of the two guilds that are being "synthesized". However, I don't get the same feeling for Cygorus. Cyrgorus just seems like a rehashing of the current four-color combination "Artifice" which is strange because neither Dimir nor Boros to me really deal with artifacts like that.

    From that, I think that it would be important to understand what the two guilds share or don't share conceptually/ideologically, not just how their abilities may overlap. For example, Azorius is about the maintenance of the status quo (order of life), while Golgari is about the maintenance of death in the cycle of life (order of death). Essentially, it could be said that these two share in maintaining orders, though of different kinds. Likewise, it can be said that Izzet is concerned with the expansion and application of knowledge (often for the betterment of people as most tech on Ravnica is thanks to the Izzet), and Selesnya is concerned with the betterment and protection of the group. They share a fundamental dedication to the improvement of the condition of life, just for different reasons. (These are obviously not all the guilds are dedicated to, but parts that may overlap). In that sense, I think it might be interesting to ask "What do Dimir and Boros share"? And I think that the question ends up with being the enforcers of something. Boros enforces the law, and Dimir enforces ???? with their shadowy presence and subtle tactics. Together, they, at least to me, cut down deviance. 

    In some sense, that can be the implementation of artifacts, but I don't know if I would consider artifacts as the centerpiece. Just to me, I feel as though with how well the other four-color combos you've produced synthesize the ideals of the guilds, Cygorus just doesn't quite hit it for me. Feel free to disagree. 

    Another thing that might be interesting for a design like this (and maybe it's too early to introduce something like this), is cards that are in between the factions (most notably three-color cards which could draw from two factions without being contained in one, thus giving more playable cards for each faction). Just some thoughts!
  • edited March 2021
    @Arceus8523 This probably would not be for a draft at all, as @Fallen_Lord_Vulganos pointed out, this is more for EDH (and sir, I aggre with you on your dislike of fast paced formats, commander is just great).

    @KorandAngels I know it's a joke, but I need to react. Being fast to action and acting before speaking is not necessarily a "negative" trait. Sometimes it is needed to just do something instead of only thinking about it. I think of Etriskai/non-blue as hot-headed but at the same time brave and decisive.

    @RohanDragoon And now the big fish. Thank you so much for taking the time to write out a long comment like that! You are right on pretty much all things that you've said. One plane's interpretation of the color pie is not the same for the whole multiverse (that's why I'm also looking forward to Strixhaven and some innovation on the two-color pairs). I don't say that this is the only way to look at four-color, but it really made sense to me and I wanted to share.

    Thanks for the criticism of Cygorus. To be honest, I really just went for the "Artifice" theme, but at the same time, I don't think it's that illogical. Blue/black is all about knowledge and innovation for its own sake. And artifacts fit into that well, I think, look at Silas Renn for example. And Red/White is often about equipments, enhancing one's self and that combined with Blue/Black in my oppinion would create a faction that is all about improving individually by mostly "unnatural" means. But yes, I could have taken a less "lazy" route. Then again, there's just five cards yet, so there's room for expanding on all the ideas.

    About three-colors combination... I thought about it and the concept I have is really similar to what I have created so far. Just like with the dual pairs, each family would have two three-color combinations - one shard and one wedge - under their domain. But you've talked about overlapping the families, I know. Well, I'm not sure I want to do that (not yet at least), beacause it has taken a great effort to distinguish between the families and make them stand out, make them unique and not overlap. So, we'll se about three color combinations.
  • One other thing about the families. There's five of them, not ten like with two and three color combinations - which is exactly the number of colors in Magic. So I think each family would have a "rival" color (the one that's missing) and a "base" color (one that is opposite to the rival color, is part of the base pair of the family and best showcases the ideas of the family). So, take a look at this:

    Selizdan GWUB, Rival: R, Base pair: WU, Base color: U
    Etriskai BRGW, Rival: U, Base pair: RG, Base color: G
    Cygorus WUBR, Rival: G, Base pair: UB, Base color: B
    Narshalla RGWU, Rival: B, Base pair: GW, Base color: W
    Haagram UBRG, Rival: W, Base pair: BR, Base color: R
    (Also, see how it looks really neat when you put it one after another in this order and then the next families base is the rival of the previous one? That's why I love the color pie)

    This is how we can slowly build up the families. (I will be simplifying a little bit.)
    Selizdan - base in blue tells us the main focus is knowledge; the rival red tells us it will be knowledge not affected by emotion and fast actions; base pair of WU tells us it will be knowledge with the intention of order; and adding BG leads us to the conclusion "knowledge from all places".
    Etriskai - base in green tells us the main focus is nature and strength; the rival blue tells us this focus will be derived of logical examination and search for wisdom; base pair of RG tells us it will be a focus on nature and strength that is reckless and passionate; and adding WB brings some order and faith into the mix. The Etriskai will be passionate about nature and strength, but it's not chaotic, there is an order and a belief behind every battle. But they don't question.
    Cygorus - base in black makes this combination a very ego-centric one; the rival green tells us that this family doesn't care about the primeval laws when seeking the best for themselves; the base pair of UB then tells us that it is a focus on one's self driven by the need to improve, seek new horizons and possibilities; and adding RW tells us they will be unyielding in their search for self-improvement and will try to enforce their ideas onto the world.
    Narshalla - base in white tells us this will be all about order and community; the enemy in black tells us there's nothing selfish about Narshalla and that it is based heavily in morality; the base pair of GW tells us this focus on community is derived strongly from the primeval laws and that this community will not go against the ideas of nature, but rather seek harmony with the world; and the addition of UR means this community will always try to improve itself, explore and work tirelessly for others.
    Haagram - base in red tells us this combination is all about impulses and emotion; the rival white tells us that there is no order to this passion, no restrictions and laws; the base pair of BR tells us that this passion will be reckless, almost cruel and chaotic; and the addition of GU means that this chaos and reckless passion will not be only self-destructive, but rather experimental, always seeking for new horizons and resources in the destruction it brings in its wake.

    I know there might be some flaws, but I'm still figuring things out and that's why I brought it to this forum. So let's discus!
  • I'm going to look at this collection more later, but I started reading and saw the plane name and couldn't help but chuckle. Garemond is so very close to Garamond, a popular (and one of my favorite) typefaces/fonts. Not suggesting a need to change it or anything, and I imagine it wasn't intentional, but as a English major/writer I found it pretty funny.
  • Ah, alright, gotcha! Best of luck to ya', then!
  • Hi everybody, here's a few more random cards that could appear in the Garemond families:

    Most of them are Cygorus for some reason.
    Zenn's Colossus is inspired by Fusion Elemental and shows what a lower rarity four-color card can look like
    Spawn of Cygorion is a little dragon that shows how two-color cards can utilise the four-color aspect of the plane. The same is true for Spellseaker Dryad.
    Blade of Silverhall is another artifact from the hands of the Cygorus, that again plays in the four-color theme, but doesn't really allow you to run it in a five-color deck
    Silverhall Egocentrist shows the selfish nature of the Cygorus and the mechanics work quite well with having a lot of equipment (self improvement is another Cygorus theme)
    Margmaret's Bloodhorde is another one of the lower rarities four-color cards. Maybe each family could have their uncommon vanilla/french vanilla creature that's all four colors, I don't know.

    I hope I've inspired you some more and I'm looking forward to other ideas and suggestions!
  • Also, did you know that Fusion Elemental is the only uncommon WUBRG card in Magic? Cool!
  • This is a great idea! One question: How do you get such good art.
  • @NotTheCardSmith_1 Thanks! I just go to google images and type "[whatever I'm looking for] fantasy art" and then look for a while. For example "minotaur warrior fantasy art" for Margmaret etc.
  • Love it. I think this is such a great way to approach 4-color. I don't think it's the only legitimate way to identify the groups of 4-colors, but it's an awesome way and I definitely am sold on this as an iteration of it, such a good one.

    Cygorus is possibly my favorite. Just how bad@$$ can you get, you know?

    Haagram, though.. the whole genius/madman, ha! Too cool.

    Etriskai Supremacy feels strong in exactly the way it should.

    They are all awesome and the Totems are a great way to simplify the potentially complicated space, too.

  • @ThePhantomJoker
    I started a set a while back trying to get 4-colors to work, and I'm VERY impressed with the direction you're going, because I was very unsuccessful, lol!
    For your Narshalla guild, you might like this one I made during my own set, feel free to swipe/steal/borrow/improve-upon/ignore/etc with my permission!

  • Finally, I've found time to feedback here.

    Designing 4-color is extremely, extremely, extremely hard. 

    I figure that people playing would be extremely confused if they were shoved in the face with these cards and then there's np backstory. We know almost nothing about these 'Clans'.
  • @TheDukeOfPork I mean, there might be backstory, there is already some backstory, I just didn't think I want to spam it much here. I kinda agree tho, but just a little bit
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