Magic Untapped is looking back at where some of the most iconic characters in Magic: The Gathering made their debut. Each go-around we'll highlight five or so popular characters, looking at where they are now and how Magic players were first introduced to them.
Sound neat? Great!
And, to kick things off, we're beginning with one of the most popular planeswalkers in the game today with:
When we first get introduced to Teferi in the set Mirage, the time mage is already a planeswalker. He gets a number of mentions in cards within the Mirage block including a number of cards (such as Teferi’s Isle) that bear his name. There’s one problem, though. We don’t actually get to see him. As far as the Mirage block is concerned, he exists purely in card names and in flavor text. And that’s all we’ll have of Teferi until a few years later when the set Urza’s Saga comes out.
While today Teferi is considered one of the most powerful planeswalkers in the game of Magic, when players first actually got to see him he was little more than classroom punk. He’s first seen (alphabetically stated) in Confiscate, an uncommon aura, in which his professor, Master Wizard Barrin of the Tolarian Academy, is seen taking a bauble away from a rather “it wasn’t me” looking young Teferi. Also, in that same set, is the first time Teferi is depicted as a creature. While all great and powerful now, back then Teferi was little more than a “strictly better” Vodalian Mage in the form of Disruptive Student.
Stay in school, kids. You just might wind up a time mage planeswalker.
Unlike Teferi, Gerrard Capashen doesn’t have to wait very long between first mention and first sight. In fact, it all happens in the same set: Weatherlight. He (along with a few of the other members of the original crew of the skyship Weatherlight) all make their first appearance is the set. Alphabetically speaking, Gerrard’s first appearance is in the artwork for the black card Abyssal Gatekeeper in which he seems to be negotiating with the horror in a rather aggressive manner. Later on in that same set we get the card Master of Arms, which depicts Gerrard as the skilled soldier he his (though the card’s ability is rather lackluster).
At least his most recent printing, Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero, from Commander 2019 is actually halfway decent.
While Urza’s name has been around since the inception of Magic: The Gathering thanks to the cards Glasses of Urza and Sunglasses of Urza (he must have had some sort of Luxottica contract at the time), it would prove quite some time until Magic players would get to see him in card form. And that’s despite an entire set (1994’s Antiquities being focused on the war between him and his brother, Mishra (though, he does get his first flavor text mentions many times over in the set).
It won’t be until 1997’s Exodus when Magic players get their first glimpse of the artificer planeswalker on a card (that is, unless you count the hand seen on the Antiquities card Urza’s Chalice to be Urza – and even then that’s a stretch). In that card, Mind Over Matter, we see Urza orchestrating things from the background as he always seemed to do.
It won’t be until two years later, though, in 2000’s Invasion set that Magic players would finally get see Urza as a creature. Funny enough, that creature, Blind Seer, was so un-Urza-like that players at first didn’t even realize it was him! Seeing as the card was meant to be the planeswalker in disguise, it’s probably safe to say that Urza’s goal of being hidden in plain sight worked almost too well. It probably didn’t help that the card itself was lackluster (to say the least), but this blind seer’s legendary status coupled with his bright purple robes were a bit of a give away.
Akroma, one of Magic’s most recognizable angels, was a key figure in the Onslaught block and had an influence on sets yet to come. The character came into existence through the desperation of the reality sculptor, Ixidor, who (quite literally) gave his right arm when his intense feelings of remorse and grief manifested into his personal guardian angel.
She makes her first visual appearance in the game with the Onslaught card Akroma’s Blessing where she is seen defending some Daru nomads in battle (presumably against Otaria’s Cabal), though she doesn’t get her first mention in flavor text until the card Infect (also in Onslaught). Even then, it’ll be yet another two sets until Magic players finally are given a card version of the angel herself with Legion’s printing of Akroma, Angel of Wrath.
While Akroma is technically no more (she merged with Phage the Untouchable and Cabal leader Zagorka to form the false god Karona), her legacy is hardly forgotten thanks to the Future Sight and Magic 2013 printings of Akroma’s Memorial. She also got a nod (though not a printing) in M11 with the equipment card Sword of Vengeance. If you notice, Sword of Vengeance is the same sword Akroma wields not only in the memorial statue for her, but also in her original card art.
The golem, a construct from Urza himself who once took a vow of pacificity, is one of the most powerful and capable planeswalkers in post-mending Magic lore thanks to it possessing the late lord high artificer’s spark. That wasn’t always the case, of course, as can be discovered by anyone who reads the Magic: The Gathering novel Rath and Storm.
Karn is first mentioned in the flavor text of Fit of Rage in Weatherlight, but isn’t actually seen for the first time in the first round of the supplemental Vanguard product that Wizards of the Coast released in December of 1997 shortly after Weatherlight’s release. The golem’s first appearance on a tournament-legal Magic card, however, wouldn’t be until the following year in the Tempest card Imps' Taunt (alphabetically speaking, that is). Interestingly enough, even back in the day Karn was extremely powerful as its Vanguard card was considered one of the strongest in the casual format, not too far off from players’ opinions of it as a planeswalker today.
That’s not quite the case with Karn’s first appearance as a creature, however, as its Urza’s Saga debut wasn’t exactly heralded an the over-powered entity the character is historically considered. In fact, for Vorthos reasons, the 4/4 artifact creature instantly becomes a 0/8 whenever it’s blocked or is assigned to block during combat as the golem is staying true to its pacifist ideals. Thankfully, it has a rather neat and useful Animate Artifact-like ability tacked on.
If there are other Magic: The Gathering characters you're curious about, let us know in the comments below and keep an eye out next month for our next edition of "Before They Were Famous."