Its easy to think of black as the evil guys. It doesn’t necessarily help that in western culture black is often the unlucky, evil color used by the bad guys and in the early days of the game had plenty of black cards with the word ‘evil’ in the title.
However, black might be out for itself, but its not evil, per se. In fact, white clearly has facets that could be considered evil, such as fascism, but in the end we shouldn’t talk about evil, because there’s always certain amount of subjectivity in that. I guess we can assume, in general, that demons are evil, but beyond that, I’d be kind of careful.
However, from the point of view of our heroes, whoever they might be, we do have ‘bad guys’ or antagonists. Its not always that clear-cut. Sometimes the hero’s role is not that obvious. Take Kaladesh for example. Chandra went in thinking the establishment is something completely evil and rotten, but in fact, the establishment might be somewhat dictatorial, but they are trying to build a society that can last. Of course, in the end there’s Tezzeret making Chandra’s role and involvement more understandable, but Chandra, her mother and the rest of the renegades are still toppling a working society, which probably brings things such as food and water to numerous people. Was the revolt better in the long run? Maybe. Who knows? Definitely not Chandra or her mother, since they were acting more on philosophical basis than empirical facts.
Does this mean Chandra is (or was in this particular situation) evil? No. Of course not. Let’s take an example from history. Finnish Civil War was very bloody, like most civil wars. But it was also ultimately meaningless. We had whites fighting to keep the reds from forming a communist country and we had the reds fighting to keep Finland from becoming a monarchy. The problem is, the whites had already forsaken the idea of monarchy (despite having had chosen a king previously from Germany, but that king had never been crowned and didn’t even arrive in Finland before abdicating, if you can even call it that) and the reds didn’t want a communism (as was made clear some years later when they had clear majority of the parliament, which is the only time in Finnish history, as there are usually three large parties and several smaller ones competing for the seats, but didn’t use that power to enact anything resembling a communism).
So who was evil here? Its either no-one or everyone. Its true that the whites committed horrible atrocities, but on a large scale. Based on what they did on smaller scale, reds would have as well, if they had been the winning side. These things are only black or white (not in the color pie sense) in fiction, and if you look closely, Magic does a pretty good job of keeping things grey under the hood. This is largely due to the intricacies of the color pie.
Each color has a very specific philosophy. They look at the world through a lense where they see certain ideas as intrinsically good. This also means that they are often dogmatic and this dogmatism is also often their downfall. But let’s look at how each color can be evil in its own way.
White is all about rules. Those rules protect the weak and keep the community safe from outside threats. At the same time, the rules are there to keep everyone in line. Deviating is seen as evil and anything is okay as long as it protects the existing structures. Pointing the finger at Jews in the 30s in not only Germany, but elsewhere as well, and pointing the finger at gay people or immigrants is pretty much the same thing today. The structure of the community requires a sacrifice and some people are more than happy to sacrifice someone else.
Then there’s personal liberties. Society is quickly moving into a direction where all our movements are discerned and evaluated.
All this works at a smaller scale as well. Can’t get anything done in the office, because you spend all your time in meetings? Its the white at work again. Its the structure squeezing the life out of the individual.
Blue is all about using knowledge to make oneself better. You learn about the world and how it functions, so that you can use that knowledge to your advantage. Usually this is for the betterment of the society as a whole, as they are White’s allied color, but their ability to distance themselves emotionally from the subjects of their study can be horrifying for others.
For a real-life example, take Josef Mengele. He and his Nazi compatriots took leaps in the understanding of the human body, but the price was the death and torture of numerous individuals. Sure, many of them were going to die soon anyhow due to other Nazi atrocities, but the Nazi scientists didn’t limit themselves to those who were unfortunate enough to be sent to concentration camps. Instead, they would use their own population for experimentation as well, including the soldiers in their service.
This one isn’t as easy as one would think. There are actually quite a few black good guys in the game (Liliana, of course, but also people like Toshiro Umezawa, Chainer, Yahenni, Maralen and Drana also qualify, among others). Black is all about looking after yourself and your own. There is no higher law which states how you do this. You just do, what you need to do. Quite the opposite. We kind of hero-worship people like this quite often. I mean, take a look at Steve Jobs. He was quite egotistical, not really caring for the well-being of his employees or even the company, but would rather just soak in the cult of personality he was bestowed with.
One might ask, how can I even think egoism (which is different from egotism) could be considered good? Well, there’s a difference between just trying to take advantage of everyone and understanding that you can cooperate with others for common goals. Networking is good for everyone. Of course black would do that. They might even let you have an upper hand in negotiations, because they see a longer term goal being advanced here. When I was an entrepreneur, instead of trying to skin our clients, we tried to find ways to gain benefits for both parties, because that’s what we needed to do in order to thrive.
Still, of course you can go far in your selfishness and hurt those around you. You might even do it for fun, where you aren’t actually even gaining anything meaningful, but the other party loses something significant.
Red is another color with a bad rep, often because its an enemy color of white. Red is all about freedom and following your own path. Red is impulsive and acts without thinking. Whatever red wants to do, it does. A lot of good can come out of this (superheroes often seem to have red sides to them), but at the same time, it can lead to results pretty close to black, but in some ways even more horrible in its thoughtlessness.
Let’s say our red person wants to fight, as they often seem to. Okay, they’ll fight. It doesn’t matter what the other party wants, because its what red wants, right now. Yeah, the end results might be pretty much the same as with black, but with different motives.
Green is all about tradition and natural law. Things can change, but only over time through evolution. Green see the world as a web of interdependent creatures. Everyone has their place in the whole. And that’s exactly the problem. The weak are there for the strong to prey on. But hey, that’s fine. That’s just the way things are. Circle of life and all that. It just happens that those on the pinnacle are much better off than those below.