The Curious Case of Birds of Paradise

The Curious Case of Birds of Paradise


A creatures as old as magic itself – Birds of Paradise – Otherwise known by its acronym “BoP,” is beloved by all green players and ramp fanatics alike. But not as many know this card was conceived somewhat by accident That’s right. Birds may have never seen the light of day if it weren’t for this card: Tropical Island. You see, way back in Alpha when Richard Garfield was designing Magic’s first set, he didn’t have gratuitous amounts of cash like WOTC does now. Art commissions for the game’s first cards therefore were expensive and precious. One of the commissioned artists at the time, Mark Poole, was tasked to provide imagery for Tropical Island, the blue-green dual land. What was sent back to Garfield however was this guy. Garfield recognized right away that this art would not fit the representations of the other duals at the time since its focal point was not the island at all, But rather the exotic bird taking up most of the frame in front of it But he was low on time and money rather than recommissioning the piece, he was inspired to turn it into a creature Therefore Birds of Paradise found its origin But what about Tropical Island? Well, if you notice, Mark Poole is still credited for the piece in the alpha print run but the beta version credits Jesper Myrfors, Magic’s first art director and true artist of tropical Island. In the scuffle Jesper quickly painted Tropical Island while Garfield redesigned the artwork into a totally different card, and the original print run wasn’t updated in time to reflect this change. But birds stuck around seeing reprints across every core set following. In 7th Edition Mark Pooles iconic artwork was replaced by Edward P. Beard, Jr.’s version: a gorgeous specimen whose wings reflect the colorful mana it can produce. Here, there is no tropical island in sight. Birds of Paradise’s next iteration came in 2003 in Ravnica, City of Guilds: a multicolored set that benefited greatly from this creature’s tap ability. The imagery was updated again. This time the Bird’s feathers drew direct inspiration from Birds of Paradise the flower, and it is seen flying in front of a Gothic cathedral inside a city. It is this version that stuck around in Core Sets afterwards up until M12 when Birds finally got the ax. Although a bit inconspicuous, it turns out a 0/1 flyer on turn one that taps for mana is freaking powerful in Magic and players learned this quickly. Maybe more famous than its nickname is the Mantra of all eternal players to date: Bolt the Bird. ie, cast Lightning Bolt targeting Birds of Paradise as quick as possible Commentator One:”I get to take up Wilson, who relies on those Gavony Townships.” Commentator Two: “Bolt your Bird! 22 years and counting!” Narrator: And actually, Bolt the Bird applies to any kill spell that targets any other mana dork. Commentator: “Yeah, Slash the Heirarch, not quite as catchy as bolt the bird, but functionally pretty much what’s going on there.” Narrator: No matter what, don’t let players untap with their accelerator. In Modern of recent times, BoP combined extremely well with Birthing Pod before it was banned. Not only could you get the artifact in play as early as turn two, But you could then sacrifice the flyer to grab any other two mana value creature – of which there are plenty. Not only that, but late game Birds of Paradise turn into Lethal flying threats when combined with cards like Gavony Township and Kessig Wolf Run. Yeah. Birds are that good. Which is why WOTC has stopped printing them. Player speculated that for its final Core Set, Magic Origins, Birds would get one last hoorah under the sun – a throwback to Magic’s true origins. But WOTC has since taken extreme measures with BoP and other accelerants like it. They’ve made mana dork slower and much more narrow, as we can see on cards like Rattleclaw Mystic and Beastcaller Savant of recent sets. Even Elvish Mystic, which only taps for green, dominated ramp decks in recent standard. Simply put, having a turn one play that immediately takes you to turn three is a huge effect, and Wizards seeks now to drift away from this tradition. So will we ever see Birds of Paradise again? Maybe only IN paradise with a cheeseburger alongside Jimmy Buffett, but until then, we can sleeve it up in Modern, Cube or EDH and indulge in this little gem of Magic’s history. Commentator 1: “Jacob Wilson Straight into action: it’s Birds of Paradise. Brian David Marshall, what’s going on here?” Commentator 2 (Brian): “What’s going on here is we have a semifinal Pro Tour competitor who is not as old as the card Birds of Paradise.” (laughter) Narrator:Thanks for watching. Cheers! If you enjoyed this video, check out some more of my stuff right here! I’m also on Twitter at TheMagicManSam3 and on Instagram TheMagicManSam. Come hang out. See you guys soon!