Hidden Blade | Assassin's Creed | Art by L J Koh
26, Jun, 24

MTG Assassin's Creed Etched Foils Hold A Surprising Secret!

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Even for a deeply enfranchised player, it can be tricky to keep track of all the different card treatments available in modern Magic. The days of foil and non-foil being the only options are long gone. Now each set features multiple variants, all of which are crammed into the confines of Collector Boosters. Since Commander Legends in 2020, Foil Etched cards have been part of this lineup, to mixed reception. The Etched Foils found in the MTG Assassin’s Creed set have a fun twist, however, which may just change your opinion on the treatment.

Etched Into History

Assassin's Creed Etched Foils Example

What exactly is that twist? It’s extra flavor text. As pointed out by randomette2 on this Blogatog post, some of the Etched Foils in Assassin’s Creed have bonus flavor text that their regular versions do not. This doesn’t apply to every card in the set, mind you. Overall, there are 15 cards in Assassin’s Creed that come with exclusive flavor text in Etched Foil form. For those interested, the 15 cards are as follows:

  • Tax Collector
  • Become Anonymous
  • Escape Detection
  • Evie Frye
  • Ezio Auditore da Firenze
  • Jacob Frye
  • Petty Larceny
  • Monastery Raid
  • Overpowering Attack
  • Aveline de Grandpr√©
  • Viewpoint Synchronization
  • Lydia Frye
  • Sigurd, Jarl of Ravensthorpe
  • Adrestia
  • Excalibur, Sword of Eden

At first glance, this appears to be a nice bonus for those lucky enough to open, or purchase, the rarer Etched Foil version of a card. For better or worse, there’s actually more to it than that. Looking at all 15 of the cards with extra Etched Foil flavor text, it quickly becomes clear that they all have one thing in common. They all got extra space when their reminder text was removed.

You see, most non-standard printings of cards do away with Magic’s player-friendly reminder text. This is likely done assuming that those playing them will be experienced players who already know what the card does. This is true for Etched Foils as well, and Assassin’s Creed decided to take advantage of that. Rather than just leave the extra space blank, it’s been filled with new lines of flavor text.

These are nothing groundbreaking, and are typically very short, given the limited space. But they’re a cool addition nonetheless, and a great way to make efficient use of a card’s available real estate.

What Has Come Before

This isn’t the first time Magic’s designers have experimented with alternative forms of flavor text delivery. We saw something similar with the many Alchemy-exclusive cards on Magic Arena. On Arena, flavor text isn’t printed on cards the same way it is in real life. Instead, you access it by hovering over the card in question, at which point a pop-up box appears that lets you read it.

In theory, this is a nice easter egg for any MTG player who happens to hover over their cards for one reason or another. Whether you’re after a keyword’s description or want to gawp at the art, being jumpscared with flavor text is no bad thing… right? Sadly, as nice as extra flavor text is, there is a major fundamental problem with this distribution method.

Since Alchemy cards don’t exist on paper, there is no fancy foil or variant that has flavor text on the card. Ultimately, this means this added flavor text can easily be missed by anyone not looking for it. Even the ever-useful Scryfall doesn’t feature the hidden flavor text, burying it even further.

As much as difficult-to-find flavor text is hardly ideal, it’s still a welcome added detail. Even if the flavor text itself is unremarkable, little details like this are catnip for Vorthos players. The flavor text on the Assassin’s Creed Etched Foils achieves a similar purpose.

The Right Approach?

Of course, there are downsides to this secretive approach as well. By restricting fun lore tidbits to more expensive printings of cards, there’s an argument that WOTC is putting some of Magic’s story behind a paywall. It’s not a particularly compelling argument, since these cards can all be viewed for free online, but it’s an argument nonetheless. There’s a marked difference between these new Etched Foils and their regular counterparts that didn’t exist for sets in the past.

In this case, it’s honestly not a huge deal. The extra flavor text added is made up of either short quips or quotes from the game in question. Not exactly rich, world-building stuff. If this concept were to be applied to a mainline Magic set, however, that could change very quickly. Imagine if key details on Bloomburrow’s animal heroes could only be found on their Etched Foil printings, for example. Would a change like that be good for Magic as a whole?

Most likely yes. It’s clear from the limited examples we’ve seen in this set that bonus flavor text on Etched Foils is a product of extra available space. It’s not an exclusive feature intended to push the appeal of the cards in question and Collector Boosters as a whole. As Magic cards grow more complex, every line of text comes at a premium. Since reminder text is vital for new players, sacrificing it for extra flavor on non-foil cards simply isn’t an option in most cases.

For that reason, having two versions, one with reminder text and one with flavor text, makes a lot of sense. Whether this idea carries on into other sets remains to be seen. If it does, I think it would be a positive move for the game overall.

Read More: MTG Best Assassin’s Creed Commanders

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