Wednesday, 08 January 2020 00:17

Errors and defunct brands: How the backs of 'Magic' cards came to be

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Errors and defunct brands: How the backs of 'Magic' cards came to be WOTC

Ever since the 90’s Magic the Gathering has had the exact same card backs. Originally designed by Jesper Myrfors, the constant backs have brought familiarity as well as a back where one card could never be mistaken for another when flipped over. You know the one:

MTG card back / WOTC

There have been a few exceptions, with some newer expansions having double sided cards and some, like Vanguard and the oversized Commander cards, being a bit bigger with a somewhat cleaned up back.

But, for better or for worse, ever since they decided not to always have different colored backs like they had originally planned with the Arabian Nights expansion, the backs have stayed the same.

But the need for a back that never changes has brought some oddities. For example, the Deckmaster logo found near the bottom.

In the 1990’s Wizards of the Coast decided to make several card game series with Magic as the flagship product. They grouped the games (which included the likes of the original Netrunner and Jihad - quickly re-branded as Vampire: The Eternal Struggle - games) together under the Deckmaster brand. However this quickly crumbled with WotC abandoning both V:TES and Netrunner in 1996. But seeing as it was already on there for a few years, the logo had to stay.

Also staying was an accidental scribble. In the ‘Deckmaster’ logo a purple squiggle floats around starting at the letters "T," "E," and "R." According to the designers this was a pen mark an artist scribbled by accident that was never even noticed during printing. And once it did? Too late. Just like the Deckmaster logo itself, after a few expansions it was basically law so other players couldn’t tell cards apart.

The Magic logo itself is also outdated on the cards. Despite changing to a yellow logo later on and onto the modern Beleren typefaced one in use currently, all cards use the ice blue the backs are now famous for. This has been the most discussed change, since it would only take a year or so for all possible cards to be played to cycle out, but much like NBA teams that had an awful redesign attempted in the late 1990s, the classic design proved to have the staying power.

Mark Rosewater has said that, despite talks of changing the backs happening every few years, and most players using card protectors that block the back, the back will stay for at least the near future

The back of the card is riddled with out-datedness and random mistakes, but to many Magic players it’s one of the things that make Magic…well…Magic.