On September 30th, 2011, Magic: the Gathering released Innistrad, its 56th expansion, as the opening act of a three-part block codenamed “Shake,” “Rattle,” and “Roll.” Inspired by Gothic horror, Innistrad was a top-down flavor knockout, and is arguably the best Magic set of all time. Not only did the game play extremely well within this dark landscape, but it also debuted some of Magic’s most iconic and well-known cards: Liliana of the Veil, Delver of Secrets, Past in Flames, Geist of Saint Traft, and Olivia Voldaren have all seen eternal place since, and were all originally printed in the first expansion. Innistrad also brought us this guy, Snapcaster Mage, a 2/1 for (1)(U) with Flash, whose Enter the Battlefield ability gives flashback to any instant or sorcery in your graveyard until end of turn. Not only did Snapcaster dominate standard during its reign, but its utility has transcended all formats, and it is now arguably one of the strongest creatures to ever see print. Each color across the color pie is often represented by its best two-drop creature. Green has Tarmogoyf, red has Young Pyromancer black has Dark Confidant, white: Stoneforge Mystic, and Magic’s mega-man holds the throne in Blue. Snapcaster Mage is without a doubt a card that any seasoned magic player knows, and knows well. But there’s more to the story than simply another powerful Magic card. In 1997 Wizards of the Coast introduced a new tournament called the Duelist Invitational in attempts to both recognize Magic’s most elite players and provide an entertaining more casual event for fans. The tournament pitted the 16 best players of the year in a round-Robin style competition of wacky and irregular formats like Duplicate, in which all competitors receive an identical card mix from which to build a deck, and Mystery Constructed. The winner of this tournament was promised not only space to design their own Magic card, but also their likeliness reflected in the artwork. The tournament lasted 10 years, giving the game 11 cards total designed by Magic’s best professionals. Meddling mage, Shadowmage Infiltrator, and Dark Confidant are all names you may know from the game, but Chris Pikula, John Finkel and Bob Maher, are all names you should know and I do not say this lightly. The last invitational in 2007 was won by this, man, Tiago Chan, but Innistrad was printed in 2011. What’s with the disconnect? Well it turns out when you ask a professional Magic player to submit card designs, they’re often way too overpowered.
Look at Snapcaster Mage and tell me I’m wrong… and that wasn’t even the design they rejected! Originally Chan’s card looked like this: Denying Channel–Land, tap to add one colorless to your mana pool. By paying (2)(U)(U) and discarding Denying Channel, you can counter target spell. Yeah, a counter spell land. Ridiculous! The other half of a time sink is in the artwork. Since these cards were a bit more regaled than normal card art, artists were often given more time than usual to best depict not only the fantasy character created by the professionals, but the faces of the pros themselves. Volkan Baga, one of the game’s most beloved artists, whose work is represented on 87 different cards today, and another invitational card in Ranger of Eos, was commissioned for Tiago’s card. The description given to him read as follows: Color: Blue creature. Action: Start with a reference. Design a badass human mage based on the reference. He is wearing a metal arm enhancement with glass tubing that contains ghost energy. We can see the ghosts swirling around inside the glass. The mage should look smart and powerful. Focus: The mage. Mood: Powerful, smart, dangerous. And in the end, Snapaster Mage became into existence. So to recap, take an exclusive invitational tournament, a professional player’s card design, and one of the game’s most prolific artists. Mix it all together and what do you get? A unique blend of Flavor history and playability all in one card frame But all of that has since faded into antiquity. I present to you the 2016 Regional Pro Tour Qualifier promo card, Snapcaster Mage. No, that is not Tiago Chan. Instead, a generic magician, presumably from Vryn. spinning Red man on a hillside. That isn’t Volkan Baga either. The new art was provided by Joseph Meehan, whose work includes 9 total cards dating back to Dragons of Tarkir, and while the stats and playability of the card hasn’t changed, it’s as if everything still has. Needless to say, this is not Snapcaster Mage. And this isn’t even the first time that Wizards has replaced a cultural icon with new art. Out of the 11 cards from the original invitational series, six now pay no tribute to their inceptors. Remember Chris Pikula, John Finkel Bob Maher, now at best, you’ll know these people simply is Meddling Mage, Shadowmage Infiltrator, and Dark Confidant. Despite being a huge fan of the new art on many of these cards, I can’t help but feel betrayed and… lost in the dark by this gesture. It’s as if slowly, but surely, the history of the invitational is being swept under the rug. Little by little, these cards are losing character, or better put the character that made them. This is not only Magic history that is being erased, But also the game’s legacy, its heritage, its people. And that is enough to leave me shaken, rattled and rolled.