The Will the Wise Art Debacle: How a Secret Lair Card Needed an Artistic Change

The original artwork for the card Will the Wise had an unfortunate background. (WOTC/PAULINE VOSS)

How an accidental slur in a Magic: The Gathering card's art caused a bit of an uproar (and what Wizards of the Coast did about it).

Magic: The Gathering is known for a lot of things with one of the biggest being the card art. But even publisher Wizards of the Coast needs to fix a problem with that every now and then.

Until the late 2000s, all images with skeletons had to get new art in the Chinese market due to the countries beliefs about showing skeletons. In '95, Unholy Strength had to get an art redesign due to parents groups being upset about a pentagram in the back. Point is, when something is wrong with the art, Wizards corrects it and tries to make it all better. And, as we've seen more recently, this is still in play today.

In the fall of 2021, Wizards released a new, limited-run Secret Lair drop based on a pop culture property. In this case, that would be Netflix's Stranger Things, a show that combines horror, sci-fi and other genres. It even mentions Dungeons & Dragons a lot, with some of the main characters constantly playing it and naming some of the monsters that show up from similar ones in the game.

By the time Wizards decided to do the tie-in, the show had three seasons under its belt and had a huge trove of monsters, characters, abilities, and other things to draw from. Tie-in cards are always polarizing, but Stranger Things was ultimately seen as a bit more worthy than others due to the strong connections to some similar themes with the game.

However, a problem soon popped up. While the art was excellent as ever, one of the cards had an unfortunate mistake on it. Will the Wise. based on the show's Will Byers character, accidently spelled out a slur in the background. Just see for yourself:

It was totally not intentional, with the artist and Magic only realizing it when the art came out. The artist, Pauline Voss, is German and thus didn't really think to check the blocking of some letters to colloquial American English. Players, though, quickly spotted that slur, which was really just unfortunate blocking of a banner that read "Homecoming."

Luckily, Wizards was on it and it was quickly changed within a week. Now? It reads Homm, a word that should offend no one.

Wizards of the Coast makes mistakes, as do artists. But MTG is also very receptive to changes, especially in this post-#MeToo, George Floyd world. They've banned cards because of it. This slight mistake was simply just another correction that was easily fixed thanks, in part, to the card having not yet being printed into physical form.

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.