The Legend of the Wyvern backs: When Magic cards were accidentally misprinted in another game


How a mistake caused Magic: The Gathering cards to appear in another CCG's packs complete with an incorrect card back.

At some point or another all card series are going to have misprints. It just happens: you print so many cards that a mistake is bound to be made. While Magic: The Gathering has had an odd few here and there (such as the infamous Summer Magic ‘blue hurricane’ cards) but the biggest, and most famous of these, are what are now known as "Wyvern backs."

Back in the 1990s, the trading card game was a much different landscape. The popularity of many games, such as Magic (and later Pokemon), brought in a mountain of competitors and similar games hoping to follow the leader. One of these just happened to be a game called Wyvern.

Courtesy: Alpha Investments

With so many more games being printed after Magic’s explosion in popularity in 1994, including Wyvern, printing was boosted all over. At publisher Carti Mundi, they were printing like crazy. That was especially true with Wyvern’s 1995 debut coming near and Magic’s Fallen Empires expansion coming even sooner that November.

At some point Wyvern’s card backs got shuffled with the Magic order and several managed to slip up, be wrapped into packs, and get shipped off before they realized their mistake. Only common level cards managed to go out, but nonetheless the damage was done.

Courtesy: CCGHouse

In 1995, players discovering Wyvern through their limited edition starter decks began finding rare, random cards that were a bit more...magical. The big "W" on the back was there, but the front was a random Fallen Empires card.

At first it wasn’t all that different, albeit with many Magic players wanting to have really weird cards they couldn’t play in duels (sleeves weren't exactly commonly used back in the day). As soon as Wyvern ended for good in 1997, however, interest in the misprints shot through the roof. The rarity of these cards was suddenly realized and prices have gone up and up since then. They currently go between $100-$200 a card with some going for even more than that. 

Courtesy: CCGHouse

And since the Wyvern packs themselves don’t go for much it’s not uncommon for Magic collectors to buy them up and keep hoping to find another one of these rarities. They aren't in many, but they still regularly appear on Amazon and eBay often enough that pack prices stay relatively low.

While it wasn’t the rarest misprint (and we’ll get to those blue hurricanes in another article), it was by far the most widespread and (arguably) infamous of all of MTG’s misprints.

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.