Havic: The Bothering - The First Attempted Parody of MTG


Believe it or not, Unglued wasn't the first Magic: The Gathering parody "set."

Parody is hard to get just right. Sure, Weird Al and movies like Airplane! manage to thread the needle, but others don't have that delicate touch. Make fun of it too closely and you get a lawsuit. Do it too loosely and no one will get the joke. In 1998, someone tried to do that to Magic: The Gathering.

They succeeded. Well, for a while.

The name of the parody game was Havic: The Bothering. Created by PGI Limited, Havic followed MTG closely. Instead of a fantast setting though, it was the real world, and you were trying to take over a college. And instead of "life" you have points of sanity. Yeah, the whole point was to drive your opponent insane at a college, which should be familiar to anyone who attended California State University, Chico, or just about any college located in Florida.

The first set, called Skool Daze, came out with almost 100 cards, with starter packs including a random 60 in shrink-wrapped decks. They started selling too. Well, that is until Wizards of the Coast got wind of it.

In July, Havic attempted to set up shop at GenCon. However, by then, Magic, which started looking into the legalities of the whole thing, got them banned from the convention. Getting barred from a Milwaukee convention center was the least of their worries though, as Havic was facing, well, havoc. Close to breaking copyright, they printed on "This is a parody" on each card. And, to avoid patent trouble, they had printed on the rule card "Do not have each player: construct their own library of predetermined number of game components by examining and selecting the game components from a reservoir of game components or you may infringe on U.S. Patent No. 5,662,332 to Garfield", referencing Richard Garfield's patent on the game.

Despite being legally clear now, problems continued to fall on the game. When PGI tried to strike a deal with InQuest Gamer Magazine for a promo card insert, a card called 'Vegan', InQuest shut down the deal because of possible legal issues. They didn't even print it. A proposed expansion, Spring Break, was also put on hold. Eventually it just fizzled out, and by 1999 it all ended due to the continued legal pressure.

While Havic: The Bothering never really made it past the original run, today it is still remembered as the first real parody challenger to Magic, with starter decks still going for hundreds of dollars today. So, in a weird way, it did succeed. On the secondhand market. Decades later. Well over 20 years after the final printing. 

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.