Adarkar: The Story Of The Mysterious Ice Age Name

Adarkar Unicorn (Illus: Quinton Hoover)

Every so often, a Magic: The Gathering card has a really unique name background.

Early on in Magic, card names were pretty straightforward. You would have the odd anagramed creature name or something, but for the most part, the names were pretty simple. The creature's card name would often just be that creature, maybe with an adjective before it. Everyone had somewhat regular names, with a tinge of fantasy.

Wards and Moxes and other cards like that literally had colors or elements to tell them apart. You could just read the title of a card and have a good idea what it was all about.

But after a few years, cards became more complex, with designers starting to insert jokes and tributes into the names. Which brings us to Ice Age. Released in 1995, Ice Age was the first to have a snow/ice theme as the name implies. But a few cards had a mysterious moniker: Adarkar.

For example, there was Adarkar Sentinel, a five-mana 3/3 artifact creature:

There was also Adarkar Unicorn, a 2/2, three-mana creature that's designed to assist with cumulative upkeep costs:

And there was Adarkar Wastes, one card in a cycle of non-basic lands that deal damage to its controller when tapped for colored mana:

So what was the mysterious origin of the name? Was it another language?

Ice Age had some nordic-inspired names, after all.

Was it an anagram? They had some of those too. No, as it turns out, it was named after a real person.

Skaff Elias, who was a Playtester, and designer for Magic from 1993 to 2003, officially gave the name. He had a friend named Adita Adarkar, and apparently simply thought it sounded cool.

That's it.  That's the story.

A designer had a friend with a cool name and he just stuck it in there for several cards.

Today, names are discussed for quite some time, especially since they need to check them nowadays in case a word means something else in another language or something like that. But in 1995, the attitude was if it sounded good, use it.

Adarkar never really came back after the Ice Age block (occasional reprints aside). Elias himself left in 2003 and is now an accomplished game consultant. But the name, nonetheless, lives on.

Magic: The Gathering cards never really die, so someone within the game wanted their friend's name to live forever, well, that is one heck of a way to do it.

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.