Ask Wizards is a weekly feature that allows you to ask us questions! If you'd like to submit your question please email it to AskWizards@wizards.com. We aren't able to answer every question we receive but if your question is good then it might show up in the coming weeks!
This week, we dove into Senior Creative Designer Doug Beyer's Tumblr, dedicated to those of the Vorthosian persuasion (i.e., those who enjoy the flavor aspects of Magic), for a smattering of questions on various topics. If you have flavor-related questions, that is an excellent place to get them answered!
And yes, we included Doug's tags at the end because they are often part of the question and are always amusing. :)
—Mike McArtor, copyeditor of DailyMTG.com
Q: Is there a word for when a mechanically identical card gets new creative in a new world? Like Searing Spear into Lightning Strike, or Glory Seeker into Traveling Philosopher. I've seen it happen more often the past few years. It's not like color-shifting (Prodigal Sorcerer into Prodigal Pyromancer). — talkinggorillabutler
A: Doug Beyer:
We usually call those "functional reprints," as the function (mechanics) of the card remains the same but the flavor treatment is different. We do it when design or development likes what the card is doing for the set mechanically, but creative has some reason to change the flavor (to express some aspect of the setting, for example, or to create a more fantasy-resonant card).
Some cards (such as both of the cards you mention) had other rules text at an earlier stage of development, got their art commissioned based on that text, and then had their mechanics change to become functional reprints of some other card. The card that you know as Lightning Strike was something else for a while, then was changed to become functionally identical to Searing Spear. But by that time it already had art of a bolt of lightning (rather than, like, art of a fiery spear or spear-shaped blast of flame), so couldn't be called Searing Spear. That's another way a card can become a functional reprint.
#lightning strike is a nice name for the basic 2-mana 3-damage effect though
#I am not sorry to have that around for reprinting in future sets or showing up in Duels or whatever
#the aesthetics of card names
Q: Why isn't Noble a creature type? There are so many kings, bon vivants, and aristocrats in MTG, it would only make sense for the classy to have a class of their own. There is even tribal space, haha. It just seems strange that the best party thrower in Innistrad and some noble Falkenrath ladies are at the same league as an Erdwal serial killer or some Night Revelers. —Anonymous
A: Doug Beyer:
I do think there might be a need for a type like that, and we've actually discussed Noble in particular in the office. Something different from Lord, in that it's not supposed to apply to any creature that's in a position of leadership, which I feel is too broad—just a type for creatures with an aristocratic feel in particular, who don't have an obvious other job (I'm looking at you, Imposing Sovereign). Sometimes being an aristocrat actually is your whole job, like when you're a certain flavor of vampire, one of the Orzhov glitterati, or a full-on blueblood head of state—that sort of thing. My impulse would be to only use it in cases where another class type wouldn't make more sense, but I think something like Noble could do some good. What do you guys think?
#or aristocrat or whatever
#GIVE THE CLASSY A CLASS
#I like that as a slogan anon
Q: Can the Phyrexians infect someone or something that is already dead? —broadswordandthebeast
A: Doug Beyer:
I've heard that sometimes authors get questions from fans that are kind of like cheating on English homework assignments, a la: "What would you say the central theme of your book was?" or "Could you summarize the transformation of the main character or protagonist? I need this by tomorrow please help me graduate thanks."
But I'm pretty sure you guys are not contacting me for homework advice, or getting me to write your papers for you, or whatever, because LOOK AT THE QUESTIONS I GET.
I like you guys (and/or, I reeeally admire the insane-o-tronic classload you're taking, if you are writing papers about the Phyrexian life cycle then please let us all know where to enroll okay).
ANYWAY they can use dead tissue in their creations. The flesh that goes into a newly created Phyrexian isn't always grown in vats or taken from living enemies; sometimes it's harvested from the dead. I'm not sure that's the same thing as "infecting a dead person," per your question—the way I think of the Phyrexian psyche, they don't have that good a grasp of the distinction between a body and a person, so they might not see a huge dividing line between a dead thing (useful organic harvestables!) and a living thing (liable to try to fight or run away, but soon: useful organic harvestables!).
Does that answer your question? I hope you get an A on this paper.
#it's going to be that kind of sunday night I can feel it
#I don't know exactly what I mean but there's something in the air
#and in my tumblr askbox
#phyrexia kind of wants to liberate all organic matter from the misery of uselessness
#living or dead it's so good at serving
#that they consider it a waste for it not to be contributing to the glory of Phyrexia
#which is sort of eco-friendly if you think about it NO DON'T THINK ABOUT IT THAT'S WRONG AND BAD
#phyrexia makes you think weird things you guys