Alpha Top-Down cards

Posted in Arcana on June 13, 2003

By Wizards of the Coast

birds of paradise

Most enfranchised long-time Magic players know the story of how Birds of Paradise was created as an afterthought by Richard Garfield. The card was designed at the last minute, and was done so just to use an extra piece of art he had lying around (the art used on the original Birds of Paradise was originally commissioned for Tropical Island, but the prominence of the bird made them scrap it).

But very few people know that Birds is really part of a cycle of rares designed from the top-down at the last minute before Alpha was released. All five of the cards—one rare in each color—were designed to match art that was not used in the set's first pass. Here are the other four cards:

Island Sanctuary
Word of Command
Sedge Troll

None of these cards were playtested before the game was released, and some of them worked out better than others (Word of Command is still known for being one of the biggest rules headaches in the history of the game.)

It is interesting to note that Sedge Troll's cross-colored activation and Stasis's "cumulative upkeep" effect were stolen from the team that was working on the outline for Ice Age at the time.

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