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Maro talks Nephilim


Mark Rosewater talks about Ravnica's Nephilim with Magic Untapped.

The Nephilim -- four color creatures from Magic: The Gathering's second original Ravnica set, Guildpact -- have become rather infamous over time.

Not only were they the collectible card game's first-ever four-color creatures printed, the whole reason the even were created to begin with was as a sort of backup plan just in case the whole concept of the original Ravnica block's two-color guilds wasn't received as warmly as some at Wizards of the Coast were hoping they would be.

"Somebody (my guess it was Bill Rose who was VP of R&D) said...we should make something for people who don't like the guilds," tells Magic: The Gathering senior designer Mark Rosewater.  "And so I said let's do a four-color cycle -- I think we hadn't done a four-color cycle before."


And so, that's what happened.  MTG's four Nephilim creatures -- Dune-Brood NephilimGlint-Eye NephilimInk-Treader NephilimWitch-Maw Nephilim, and Yore-Tiller Nephilim -- were created with each creature having a casting cost of each of Magic's four-color combinations.

They were not very popular when they first came out and, in hindsight, those at WotC say the would have done things differently if they knew then what they know now.

"Ironically, looking back, what we should have done is a team up... like, oh we're on Ravnica -- let's have this guild and this guild (which together make four colors) team up," Rosewater commented.

But the infamy of the Nephilim go beyond just being "not normal" Ravnica as the popularity of the game's Commander format took off.  Specifically, the fact that the Nephilim -- creatures that are each rather unique not just among themselves, but to the plane and to the game overall at the time -- were not legendary.

"There weren't any four-color [creatures] at all, so I think what happened was they became sort of adopted by the Commander crowd as 'well, we want to play four color creatures'," says the senior designer.  "I do get a lot of people bugging me of could we make them legendary."

Despite the many calls for Wizards of the Coast to do so, it's a reality that will never come to fruition.

"We don't do what's called functional errata," explains Rosewater.  "It changes how the cards works in every other format, so that's not a change we can do."

Had he had to do it all over again, however, Rosewater says he would have made them legendary to begin with.

"Had I known then what I know now, I would have made them legendary," he confesses.  "In fact, it's kind of weird that they're not legendary.  I mean, how many are running around Ravnica?"

And, as for the chances that Wizards will finally make new (and possibly legendary) Nephilim cards in the future?

"The reason you don't see more Nephilim running around Ravnica is that they weren't very popular," says Rosewater.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.