Since 2002, Magic has sporadically announced a “You Make The Card” contest. These cards get suggestions from players, which are then judged by Wizards of the Coast, and then the top cards the judges choose are voted on by players. It’s proven to be incredibly popular and deserves an entire article to itself (look for this one in the near future).
But Wizards of the Coast only stuck to running the contest every so often because of an idea they had back in 1999: Let the fans make up a creature. Not only did this inspire the future contests, but it made a once-terrifying creature card that is still remembered some 20 years later.
Back in the fall of 1999, Magic wanted to get fans more involved and thought that since everyone played the cards, maybe they could have some input. But rather than letting them suggest anything, like lands or spells, they limited to what was arguably the most fun card type: creatures. Fans were asked to describe “the most bizarre, monstrous, powerful creatures.” The fans obliged. A lot.
More than 12,000 entries flooded in. The judges (compried of Magic R&D, Creative, and Brand personnel) joined in to pick the 11 they liked the most. The process itself took weeks, as every entry submitted was read and discussed on how it would fit into the game and the world.
Those 11 were presented on Magic’s website in 2000 for a vote. Despite the limits of turn-of-the-millennium internet capabilities, tens of thousands of votes were recorded. The winner turned out to be ‘Spirit Monger’, a devilish looking thing created by two brothers from Madison, Wisconsin.
R&D took it from there and decided to make the part-tree creature into a real card. As it also dealt with dead spirits, the tree/death combo was perfect for a green/black type. And the concept art artists came up with was actually pretty terrifying:
After its debut, Spiritmonger quickly became more and more notorious. As a 6/6 beast that accumulates +1/+1 counters after every hit, Spiritmonger was devastating when played early on.
In many 2001 and 2002 tourneys Spiritmonger was a staple in black and green decks with one deck in particular, The Rock, finding tremendous success. By the time it was rotated out with new decks, Spiritmonger managed to have entire websites devoted to hating it (and since this is the early 2000’s, many were hosted on Angelfire.)
It got so much of a reaction that Magic started allowing fans to input on cards more often. While another creature-only fan design competition never happened again, its legacy remains. Namely in that fans can help create creative yet also utterly devastating new cards.