Without any further ado, here are 25 Random Things About Magic.
- Magic was almost not called Magic. In fact, when the first solicitation for the game was sent out the game was called Mana Clash. The reason for this is as follows. Richard (Garfield, of course) called the game Magic when he originally designed it. All through the original playtests the game was called Magic. Then when they went to officially name it, they got a lawyer involved who informed them that Magic was too broad of a word to ever be able to copyright. So they started looking for alternatives. Mana Clash was the name they liked best from that search and thus they used it on the solicitation. But everyone playing the game (Richard, the playtesters and the people at Wizards) still called the game Magic. The name just seemed too perfect. They went back to the lawyer and asked what they could do to call it Magic. The lawyer told them they needed to add something else unique and "ownable" onto it that allowing them to copyright the name as a whole. That is how "The Gathering" was added.
Even though Alpha was released with the name "Magic: The Gathering" it wasn't originally Richard's intent that that would always be the name. Richard's original idea was that the game would keep reinventing itself. When Ice Age came out, for example, the game would change its name to Magic: Ice Age. The plan was scrapped when they realized that, one, to keep the copyright they had to have a continual name, and, two, the name caught on and people liked it.
Another thing that almost ended up very different is the mana cost. During the original playtests (before Magic was released), here's how mana cost worked. Let's say you had the spell Giant Growth. Now we would write . Back then though, it was written as . This meant that the spell costs one mana to play, one of which had to be green. Let's look at a few more examples. Instead of , Giant Spider would be . Instead of , Craw Wurm would be . Richard chose to change how the mana cost was written because he found that the original way proved confusing to new players that were taught the game.
If you look on the back of a Magic card, you'll see a small box at the bottom with "Deckmaster" written in it. What does "Deckmaster" mean? The original idea when Wizards created Magic was that they would produce a whole bunch of different trading card games (TCGs). To identify Wizards of the Coast TCGs they came up with a brand they planned to put on the back of each Wizards TCG. Deckmaster was that brand. It was, in fact, used on numerous TCGs, such as Jyhad (later Vampire: The Eternal Struggle) and Netrunner. In the end, the branding never quite caught on and Wizards stop using it on their TCGs. So why is it still there? Because we wanted the back of every Magic card to look the same and thus were unwilling to change the back.
Another change that has occurred in Magic everywhere except for the back of the card is the color of the logo. In the beginning the logo was blue as seen on the back of the card. Many years back though, the brand team realized that blue was a poor choice for packaging and advertising. It didn't "pop"—that is, it didn't draw your eye to it. As this is important for a logo, the decision was made to change the color from blue to yellow. You'll notice that everywhere else the logo is used it is now yellow.
Can you pick up one more detail on the back of the card that has changed everywhere but remains the same on the back of the card due to us wanting to keep the back the same? Yes, the trademark of the logo. Everywhere else the logo is used it now has a registered trademark (an
) rather than a simple trademark (a ). At the time of the original printing, the logo didn't yet have a registered trademark so they weren't able to put it on the card.
Speaking of the back of the card, have you ever stopped to think what it's supposed to represent? Why the oval with the rivets in each of the corners? Why are the five colors circled in the center? The answer is that the card back was designed to look like a magic tome. Your deck is your "library" of magic spells, obviously kept in some kind of magical book. That's what the back was designed to represent. This was a little more obvious when the starter deck box itself (back in the days of Alpha) was also designed to look like a tome complete with pages on the side and a bookmark.
Also speaking of the back of the card, the card back almost changed with the release of the very first expansion, Arabian Nights. Keeping in line with Richard's original vision of each expansion being a mini-relaunch of the game, the original plan for Arabian Nights was to have a different back (see below). As the story goes, right before they went to press Skaff Elias (Magic designer, former Magic brand director, former member of R&D and creator of the Pro Tour) managed to convince everyone that changing the back was a horrible idea. Skaff has joked that its his most important contribution to Magic.
It's hard to read magicthegathering.com without tripping over numerous deck lists, but were you aware that in the beginning, for over a year, Wizards' official policy was to not reveal deck lists? Even odder than that, Wizards didn't reveal card text or even rarity of the cards. Why? The thought of the time was that a key component of the game was discovery. If Wizards told you what the cards were or how rare they were. or if they shared decks made by other players. then they would be disrupting this discovery process. The first full list of cards in Alpha, complete with rarity (although wrong in spots; they guessed based on the packs they opened) was published in a gaming magazine called Shadis. Full sharing of the deck lists did not happen until the start of the Pro Tour. The deck lists for both the 1994 and 1995 World Championships finalists, for example, were not shared with the public at the time. Interestingly enough, I was the reporter covering both matches for The Duelist and thus was the one who recorded all the decks and then specifically didn't give them out. Obviously, time and the growth of the Internet made Wizards realize that sharing information, not withholding it, was a key part of building the community and metagame.
Alpha was home to some pretty interesting misprints. For starters, two cards had the wrong mana cost. Orcish Oriflamme cost instead of , and Orcish Artillery cost instead of . Cyclopean Tomb wasn't even printed with a mana cost. (The ruling at the time was it was unplayable.) Elvish Archers was printed as a 1/2 rather than a 2/1. Red Elemental Blast was printed accidentally as an instant instead of an interrupt, and thus couldn't be played for half of its effect (you couldn't at the time play a counterspell at instant speed; interestingly, Sixth Edition rules, which got rid of interrupts, changed the card back to its Alpha wording). Island Sanctuary protected you against creature damage from any nonflying, non-islandwalk creature, even your own (prompting a fun Alpha Orcish Artillery / Island Sanctuary deck). There were numerous other misprints, but these are the major ones that affected functionality. The reason these misprints were so important in the early days was that the original tournament rules allowed you to play each card as written meaning, for example, that the Orcish Oriflamme cost if you had the Alpha version. This, incidentally for those that never understood why, is why Orcish Oriflamme appeared on the first ever restricted list.
When the game was first released there were two different card types that did not say their card type on their card type line. Creatures were originally printed as "Summon Blah" rather than "Creature – Blah." Auras originally were "Enchant Blah" (most usually creature) instead of "Enchantment – Aura."
The highest rarity a basic land has ever been printed in was rare—in Alpha! As part of Wizards plot to keep players from guessing rarities (yes, back then we tried to make it hard to know what rarity a particular card was) an Island was put onto the rare sheet. The idea was that no one would assume the Island was the rare card thus they would falsely assume that some other card was. This plan worked horribly as players pooled information and eventually figured out that there was a rare Island. From then on, players cursed whenever they opened one.
One basic land has been printed more than any other basic land. No, not Island, although that is number two thanks to the rare Island from Alpha. The number one slot belongs to Mountain, which was printed in Arabian Nights. How is it that only one basic land got into Arabian Nights? It was a mistake. Originally, the plan was to put all five basic lands into the set to allow it to be self-contained—everything you needed to play Magic could be found within an Arabian Nights booster (remember this was also important as the back was going to be different). When the switch back was made, it was decided that the basic lands no longer needed to be in the set and they were all removed—well, except one. Mountain was printed as a common in Arabian Nights because they missed it when they took the others off the sheet.
There are a handful of Magic cards that did not first appear in an expansion. Five of them (Arena, Giant Badger, Mana Crypt, Sewers of Estark, and Windseeker Centaur) were promotional cards that could be attained by sending in forms found inside early Magic novels. The book promo cards had an expansion symbol of a pen (recently brought back on the Jace Beleren promo card released for Agents of Artifice). Another card, Nalathni Dragon, was originally given away to attendees at Dragon*Con in 1994. The complaint from the audience was so vocal that Wizards decided to never again print functionally unique cards outside of expansions. Nalathni Dragon was put into Duelist #3 (a magazine produced by Wizards) to allow people who didn't attend Dragon*Con to get their hands on a copy.
Magic printing is like clockwork now but that wasn't always the case. The first three Magic sets (Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and Legends) all had redemption programs due to printing issues. Arabian Nights had a number of cards where the generic mana bubble was hard to see. Wizards caught this shortly into the printing and went back to press to correct the problem. If you opened any of the inferior versions (now collectibles, ironically) you could return them for the corrected version. Antiquities made a mistake where it was possible to get duplicate commons in the same booster pack (and remember that Antiquities booster packs came with just eight cards—for a short period of time, small sets came out in smaller boosters). Legends, though, had the craziest of printing problems. All the uncommons were split into two groups, group A and group B. An "A" box of Legends only had the uncommons from group A. This meant that if all the boxes you bought were from the same grouping you were missing half of the uncommons.
There was no tap symbol when the game began. Cards in Alpha simply said "Tap to". Then with Revised came the first tap symbol (see below). It was a T in a circle turned slightly on its side. This proved to a be a problem, though, as Magic added additional languages because the word for "tap" in other languages didn't start with a T. The next version of the tap symbol looked like a black card turned forty-five degrees with a white clockwise arrow in it. Then come Eighth Edition, the tap symbol turned into what we know today, a grey circle with a black clockwise arrow.
One type of card in Alpha required tapping to use but didn't mention the word "tap" anywhere on the card. This card type was artifacts. Artifacts that required tapping were Mono Artifacts on their type line. Mono Artifacts were defined as artifacts that had to be tapped to use and thus could only be used once (a.k.a. "mono"). Some artifacts were Poly Artifacts. These artifacts had activated abilities that you could use as many times as you wanted. Then there were Continuous Artifacts. These simply had a global effect that was always on. Finally, there were Artifact Creatures that—well, this one you should know.
The tap symbol isn't the only symbol to go through changes. The white mana symbol we know today was not the one the game started with. The original white mana symbol was closer to round (see below). The new one has more swirls coming off of it. The change happened in Ice Age. The reasoning was that the original white mana symbol was not distinctive enough and hard to make out from a distance.
GAMES Magazine hosts the Game Hall of Fame. The rules are that a game can be inducted ten years after it first goes on sale. Magic had the honor of being inducted the very first year it was eligible, the first such game to ever have that honor.
How many Magic cards are there? Magic has over 10,000 unique cards, the 10,000th of which was printed in Shards of Alara. The Magic brand team wanted to make a big event out of it, but there were too many different ways to calculate which cards was exactly the 10,000th.
When Magic Online was putting together their first ad campaign, they came to R&D to help with some math. At the time, Magic Online had somewhere around two thousand cards. How many different decks existed mathematically with those cards? We did the math and it turned out there were more existing decks than there were atoms in the universe. Suffice to say, they didn't run with that campaign. My point with this fact is that you might think there are a lot of potential Magic decks. It is probably several (if not many more than several—remember, the above math was with only two thousand cards) orders of magnitude larger than you assume.
While modern booster packs are primarily sold in 15-card boosters, it is not the only number Magic packs have ever been sold in. Magic has had boosters with quantities of 12 (Alliances), 10 (Unglued), 8 (all small sets through Homelands), and now 6.
The year with the most Magic sets in it is 1994. Depending on when you count Arabian Nights (it came out in December 1993 in parts of the country and January 1994 in others), 1994 had five or six sets released in it (Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, Revised, The Dark, and Fallen Empires). 1994 doesn't hold the record for most cards released in a single year. That record belongs to 1997 (and not 2006, the Guildpact / Dissension / Coldsnap / Time Spiral year with 922 cards) with a total of 1,133 cards. This year saw the release of Visions, Weatherlight, Tempest, and the biggest of all core sets, Fifth Edition.
One of the fun things about Un- sets is that I can break records that normal Magic sets don't have a chance at. In Unglued I created both the shortest and the longest name ever in the history of the game.
Then in Unhinged, I broke both records set by Unglued.
Man, the bar for the third Un- set is kind of high.
As this is a design column, I'm going to end with a fact about Magic designers. There are only a handful of people who have ever led the design of both a small Magic expansion and a large Magic expansion. Alphabetically, they are:
Mike Elliott large – Urza’s Saga, Mercadian Masques, Onslaught small – Stronghold, Exodus, Nemesis, Planeshift, Legions, Betrayers of Kamigawa Aaron Forsythe large – Lorwyn small – Dissension Richard Garfield large – Alpha small – Arabian Nights Jim Lin / Skaff Elias large – Ice Age small – Antiquities, Fallen Empires, Alliances Bill Rose large – Mirage, Portal, Invasion, Shards of Alara small – Visions, Torment, Darksteel, Planar Chaos, Conflux Mark Rosewater large – Tempest, Odyssey, Mirrodin, Ravnica, Shadowmoor small – Unglued, Urza’s Destiny, Fifth Dawn, Future Sight, Unhinged, Eventide Brian Tinsman large – Champions of Kamigawa, Time Spiral small – Judgment, Scourge, Saviors of Kamigawa
That's 25, so I'm going to stop. I hope you enjoyed today's random romp through Magic's history.
Join me next week when I explain why fourth time's the charm.
Special Bonus Section
This is a column about Magic, so my column this week is about Magic. But I know from my mail that a lot of my readers enjoy my more personal columns so as an extra bonus for those that are interested, here is my personal "25 Random Things About Me" that I posted to my Facebook page:
25 Random Things About Me
I hate bananas. Seriously, I completely detest them. So much so that yellow is my least favorite color. Everything about them I find sickening, especially the smell that brings me close to vomiting. Up until my wife Lora moved in with me, I never had them in my home. It turns out that my son Adam loves bananas and is too young to be able to peel them for himself. This means whenever Lora in not available (such as most mornings as she gets ready while I feed the kids) I have to peel them for him. It grosses me out each and every time I have to do it, but I love my son and I know bananas a good for him so I do it. I should stress that I find one redeeming thing about bananas: their skin as a comedic device.
I love my job. As far as I'm concerned, I've found my dream job, and I'm happy each day when I go into work. Before my family, I used to spend just about every waking moment at Wizards. I'm glad now that I have some distance from my job because I've realized that an important part of what I do (as a creative endeavor) is allow things to percolate. Having time away has proven to lead me to better ideas because I'm not constantly dwelling on them. The thing I'm proudest about my job is that I got it completely of my own doing. At each stage, I was the one that pushed things to the next stage. And even once I had my job, I feel that I took an active hand to move my job toward what I wanted to do. On top of all that, I feel I'm very good at what I do and I enjoy that I am at the top of my field in my chosen profession.
I'm a pack rat. I keep anything and everything. I find a way to take even the tiniest of things and find a way to make it personal for me. One of Lora's toughest jobs has been to slowly pry away my lowest level of pack ratness. As an example, up until I met Lora, I saved all my drier lint. I had a jar on my washing machine where I put it and it fascinated me how much I collected, so I kept it. I just kept swapping out the container for something bigger. When Lora started dating me, my lint container was a giant cylinder a foot high and a foot in diameter, and it was packed to the gills with all different colors of drier lint. Part of what makes me know Lora is special is that she both got me to throw the lint away and continued dating me (and obviously eventually married me).
I was once on a game show. The show was called "Trivial Pursuit: The Game Show" and was hosted by Wink Martindale. I managed to make it past the initial part and was one of the three people to play in the main part of the game show. Although I answered more questions correct than any other contestant, I did not win. Ironically, the grand prize was a trip to Lake Tahoe (where my dad lives). I did manage to win a few hundred dollars and a large hammock that I kept in my apartment during my bachelor days.
I'm seriously addicted to comic books. Every Wednesday like clockwork I'm in the local store. I've read them since my youth, with only a few years respite when I first took my job at Wizards. I'm a huge fan of the super hero genre and have a strong liking of the comic book medium (although you'll never hear me call it "sequential art"; that said, I am a huge fan of Scott McCloud). I make a big effort to read a multitude of different types of comic book stories. My biggest comic-related problem right now is that I have more interest than time, meaning that I have a stack of comics that I need to find the hours to read.
I believe everyone has a super power. Some people are just better at identifying what that power is. As a fan of superheroes, I've spent some time figuring out my super power. I have super spatial powers. I am exceedingly good at fitting things into a three dimensional space. This has become such common knowledge in our family that Lora just hands me things that have to fit into whatever item we are trying to stuff things into, be it a fridge, a suitcase, or a container for the kids' toys.
I have always been fascinated by the subject of creativity. From a young age, it came very easy to me and I never knew why. As such, I have spent a great deal of time reading about creativity and the way the mind works. My favorite book, A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech, is the book on creativity that did the most to steer me towards some answers. All this thinking about creativity led me to come up with my own theory on what creativity is. I explained it in a column I wrote on the subject (Connect the Dots). The short version is that I believe creativity is the skill to find connections between things that aren't normally connected. It is my belief that your greatest flaws are your greatest assets pushed too far. While I greatly value my creativity, I realize that my inability to not see connections often causes me all sorts of problems (the biggest one is explaining to people how I reached conclusions I have come to).
#7 is complicated by the fact that I'm insanely intuitive. I follow my hunches long before I can intellectually figure out why I feel so strongly (and by "long," I mean sometimes weeks). My intuition has a strong track record so I've learned to trust it. This has caused me no end of headaches, especially in my job, as I work with a group of very intelligent, very logical people. The combination of #7 and #8 is that I often feel strongly about things that I know I can't properly explain. I'm aware this is a very frustrating to thing to deal with and is one of the reasons I can be a pain in the rear at times.
To complicate #7 and #8, I am quite stubborn. If I believe I'm right, I am hard to sway from my path. This doesn't mean, by the way, that I won't listen to others or that I can't have my mind changed, but if I don't hear evidence to sway me from my belief, I'll stick to them like Super Glue. I've apparently passed this trait onto my children. As an example, when Rachel, my eldest daughter, was 2, I punished her one day with a thirty-second time out. All she had to do was sit on the floor for thirty seconds. She refused to sit. I explained to her that the timeout was going to last until she sat for thirty seconds. She stood for an hour and a half.
I wear a tee shirt, flannel, and jeans pretty much every day of the year. I have a huge tee shirt and flannel collection. So big, that I have more shirts than available space to hang them right now. If all my shirts were ever clean at once (which by the nature of a family of five is basically an impossibility) I wouldn't have room for them in my closet. I am very specific about what tee shirt I wear most days. In many ways my tee shirts are like my mood ring. Many weeks, I will have a theme to my tee shirts for the week. I happened to mention it offhand one day in R&D, so now certain people try to figure out what the theme is from week to week.
Three days before I turned sixteen, I broke the right side of my collarbone doing a pratfall in a play. I had won a playwriting contest and at the last minute filled in for one of the kids performing the play. My character was a klutz, so I fell down the stairs at the front of the stage during my bow. Unfortunately, I slipped on a piece of paper (a prop that got ripped up during the play) as I was doing this. As soon as the play was done I walked up to my parents and said, "I think I did something," and which point I started going into shock. To this day, I have a bump on my collarbone from where the bone healed. On my sixteenth birthday I got my driver's license despite my broken collarbone.
On February 1, 1991, a US Air jet landed on top of a small commuter plane at LAX. All the commuter passengers died as well as thirty-four of the passengers from the larger plane. Everyone save three people seated row four and forward died. Two of those people were my sister Alysse and my cousin Laurel. They were coming to visit me. There was about an hour between me learning of the crash and knowing my sister and cousin were okay. That hour was one of the most traumatic of my life.
As a child I had Scarlet Fever. In that day and age, a lot of kids did not survive it. I also had a mystery illness that a team of doctors could not figure out. They were so puzzled by it that I was paraded around in front of a horde of doctors, none of whom ever figured out what it was.
I've always known that I wanted a family. I'm happy to say that after finally getting one, I'm elated. It's everything I dreamed it would be. Yes, it's a huge amount of work, but it is satisfying in ways that nothing else in my life has been. I've made a strong effort to prioritize my family and never take them for granted. Only one thing changed from my childhood vision. I always assumed I was going to have two kids, a boy and a girl. The day we learned we were having twins was probably the most surprised I have ever been by a piece of information. Seldom do you hear news that big and understand at the time how big it is. Now, having my three kids, I could not imagine it being any other way.
In my youth, I made money as a magician for children's parties. I was also the back-up magician for the restaurant The Ground Round that hosted kids' birthday parties. The gimmick at The Ground Round is that they serve peanuts and kids can leave the shells on the floor. Mixing rowdy kids with access to handfuls of peanuts did not make for the easiest magic performing environment. It did properly motivate me to learn how to entertain kids. For Adam and Sarah's fourth birthday party, I dug out my magic tricks and did a show. I was very rusty, but the kids loved it. Also as part of my act, I taught myself to juggle. The only juggling I do nowadays is every so often when my kids bug me to "juggle something."
I have total faith in my ability to creatively solve problems—so much so that my attitude is that there always is an answer. I feel if I assume that an answer exists then I will find it.
I am a very picky eater. For example, I don't like fruit. Well, I take that back. I'll eat raw apples on occasion. I've gotten a little better as I've gotten older. Nonetheless I am always the sticking point when I eat out with people. As a trade-off for my pickiness, I have the ability to eat the same thing continually. In my youth, for example, I would have the same lunch for the entire school year. If I like something, I can eat it continually and it doesn't bother me at all.
Only one time in my life did I make a major decision logically rather than intuitively. My agent (also at the time Desperate Housewives creator Mark Cherry's agent—she later went to jail for embezzling from her clients) was cutting down her client list and recommended me to two agents, both of whom were eager to sign me. My gut said to pick one but the other seemed better on paper, as he was at a larger agency and seemed more connected. I went with my head and to this day regret that decision. I don't regret it too much though, as had I been more successful in Hollywood, I would never have come to Wizards which led to so much good stuff in my life.
Everyone (well, everyone who reads my column) knows that I was on staff of Roseanne. What few know is that three days after my pitch at Roseanne I had a meeting to talk with the producers of The Simpsons. When my pitch turned into a staff job, my agent cancelled The Simpsons meeting. I've always wondered what would have happen if I had gotten a chance to meet with The Simpsons people before I pitched to Roseanne.
I am better than average at only one sport: skiing. I started when I was seven. Almost all of my family vacations growing up were ski vacations. My form isn't the prettiest, but there's no slope I can't ski down.
I enjoy my celebrity as Magic's spokesperson. It's fun to sign autographs and have people excited to shake my hand. Plus, the celebrity is localized enough that I don't suffer the downside of real fame. The hardest thing about the celebrity is listening to/reading people talk about me in the most vicious language. It's forced me to grow a hard skin. Also, every once in a while one of my friends or family Googles my name and stumbles across someone raking my name over the coals. They always come to me so hurt and I explain that it happens all the time and I'm used to it.
As a result of being beat up quite a bit as a kid, I hate it when people hit me, even playfully.
In college, I got the nickname "Woody Rose." It became so prevalent that there are many people I knew in college that might not realize that it wasn't my actual name. It took me years to learn not to turn around when someone says "Woody." Woody Rose was the name I used when I did my stand-up act during and shortly after college.
My wife and I love throwing parties. We have the right mix of skills and I feel we are very good at it. We keep finding new events to throw parties for. Our biggest party is our Annual Holiday Cookie Party with between eighty and a hundred people in attendance. The party is holiday-themed, complete with a cookie making competition (we provide the sugar cookies and all the fixin's) and a live game show. Winning either contest has become a bragging right. Next year will be out fourteenth Cookie Party.
I've become a huge believer in the importance of memories. When you look back on your life I realize it's the things you've done and the people you've done them with that last the true test of time. Realizing this, I have completely changed my mindset about how to spend my money. If something will create a truly lasting memory, I'm willing to spend money on it.
And there you have 25 things for me. I hope this allowed you all to see me in a slightly different light.
See you next week.