Ensoul Arcana

Posted in Best of Mike on March 25, 2015

By Mike McArtor

Mike first played with Ice Age and became the copy editor for DailyMTG.com in December 2011. Before DailyMTG, he was an editor on D&D's Dragon magazine for four years.

We are remembering Mike McArtor by taking a look at some of the best articles he produced while working a job he clearly loved. This is only a glimpse into Mike’s world, but as we all reflect on this loss, we wanted to highlight some of the joy he brought to us through his own words.


Let's talk about soul. Or rather, "soul." Or actually, let's back up a little bit. Hi, I'm Mike, your DailyMTG copy editor. I love this language of ours (and also hate it on some levels, because wow, what a mess). This love comes out mostly in the etymology entries I've written for Card of the Day in the past (it's coming back, I promise!) and an Arcana about the word "Æther."

This Arcana therefore follows a similar line, but it's about the word "soul."

The Multiverse

A couple months ago, Custodi Soulbinders was included as an entry for Card of the Day:

Custodi Soulbinders – Conspiracy. The Custodi were an order of priests who served King Brago. They unnaturally prolonged his life to preserve their own power, with unintended consequences. Soul has held its meaning since roughly Old English, which got it from Proto-Germanic. Bind also has pretty consistent meaning all the way back to Proto-Indo-European.

Here in August, most of us are thinking about other cards with "Soul of" cycle definitely gets attention.

The Souls of Magic 2015 have been written about by esteemed Limited expert Marshall Sutcliffe, R&D insiders Aaron Forsythe and Gavin Verhey, and Pro Tour Hall of Famers Luis Scott-Vargas and William Jensen, among others.

Of course, there is more soul in Magic than in Conspiracy or the newest core set, going all the way back to Alpha:

Cards with Soul in the name appeared in all five colors (and colorless) long before Magic 2015.

White's Soul cards tend to deal with Spirits, increasing your life total, and caring about creatures dying.

There aren't really any trends yet in blue's few Soul cards.

Graveyard and life-total shenanigans dominate black's Soul cards, with a sizeable subset of them caring greatly about 3 life.

Making creatures bigger and dealing damage right to the opponent's face largely define what red's Soul cards do.

Finally, green's handful of Soul cards primarily give +1/+1 counters and let you draw cards.

The multicolor and colorless Soul cards produce all kinds of cool effects.

The Word

We can expand a little bit upon what the Card of the Day entry said about the origin of soul. It is first attested (meaning it first appeared in writing) in the well-known Old English epic, Beowulf. It came to Old English (also known as Anglo-Saxon) from the Proto-Germanic language and was related to similar words from other Germanic tongues (including Old Norse, Dutch, and Gothic).

And that's about all we know. Beyond that, there exist some theories about the word's origin in lost mists of Proto-Germanic's history, but little that suggests agreement.

Thus ends this Arcana—not with a soulful speculation, but a doleful declaration.

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