Linessa, Zephyr Mage
6, Mar, 23

Fan Favorite MTG Card Styles May Be Returning

Article at a Glance

Thanks to the game’s pedigree, the style of MTG cards is undoubtedly iconic, making the game recognizable at a glance. Despite this, however, throughout the 30 years of Magic’s existence, card styles have gone through several iterations. In 2003, for instance, cards were overhauled into the modern look players know and love today. Following this, in 2014, the ubiquitous card frame would be updated once again thanks to innovations in digital printing. Since the last major overhaul, Wizards of the Coast has continued to push slight innovations to the iconic card frame. Thanks to MTG’s Lead Designer, it appears another of these changes is now on the horizon. For better or worse, Enchantment frames may be coming back to Magic

Concise Communication

Alseid of Life's Bounty
Alseid of Life’s Bounty | Theros Beyond Death

Within MTG, unique card styles for mechanics or features within a set are nothing new. Futureshifted cards from Future Sight are an obvious and early example of this. Sporting a radically different look compared to traditional MTG cards, Goldmeadow Lookout’s card frame played into the set’s themes. While Futureshifted cards are the most striking example, they’re hardly the only unique card frame in MTG. Miracle cards from Avacyn Restored, for instance, were given their own twist on the classic card frame. Battle for Zendikar’s Devoid cards were given a similar treatment, with the top of the card getting a unique design. 

Ultimately, not every mechanic in Magic: the Gathering gets its own unique border to make it identifiable. Thanks to just how useful they can be at conveying information. However, these borders can be a very welcome feature. For instance, the Nyx frames from Theros block were lauded for their style and the information they provided. Used on Enchantment Creatures and Artifacts from the plane, the Nyx frames were immediately recognizable at a glance. This reminded players these cards were all Enchantments, without getting in the way of gameplay. Vehicle card frames serve the same purpose, allowing the card type to be quickly identified on the battlefield. 

Due to their usefulness in conveying information, it’s not uncommon for more unique card frames to be requested by the community. These questions are often pitched to MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, through their descriptively named blog, Blogatog. Recently, however, Rosewater has been turning the established order on its head somewhat, as they’ve been asking the questions for a change. Utilizing Tumblr’s poll feature, Rosewater has been canvasing the community to find out their thoughts on potential features, giving players a glimpse into the future.

Enchanting Designs

Dragonfly Suit
Dragonfly Suit | Kamigawa Neon Dynasty

In their most recent poll, Mark Rosewater asked their legions of followers a simple question; “Should enchantments have their own frame?” With only three options to choose from, yes, no, and “only in sets where it is mechanically relevant,” the community’s choice was clear. Commanding a strong 62.5% of the vote, at the time of writing, MTG players want enchantments to always have their own frame.

Alongside voting in the poll, numerous MTG players across Tumblr and Reddit highlighted why this feature should come into being. The primary reason for this is to enhance MTG’s visual literacy, making the game easier to understand. This point was noted by countless players across social media by players such as Magicalfvcker. “Yes, all the time, for sure, seeing as other card types have their own frames – artifacts, planeswalkers, soon-to-be battles. Helps with visual identification, especially in Commander.” 

Taking things one step further, some players even suggested: “all major types should have unique frames.” This idea was proposed by Reddit user u/Esc777, who stated, “Creature and Instant/Sorcery shouldn’t share a frame then.” While Esc777 admitted, the power/toughness box indicates a card’s “creatureness,” there’s nevertheless room for improvement. “I think there would be benefits in making non-permanent cards just a little more distinct.” 

Through Future Sight’s Futureshifted cards, MTG has already experimented with a ubiquitous identifier for card types. Positioned in the top lefthand corner of Futureshifted cards, there was a small icon to denote the card’s type. While not as visually distinct as a unique card frame, this little icon nevertheless eased identification. So much so, in fact, that even after 16 years, players are requesting it becomes the new normal. 

“I have always loved the future shifted frames, honestly makes it so much easier to look at the information in hand and graveyard, when cards are stacked.”


A Cacophony of Card Styles

Aphemia, the Cacophony
Aphemia, the Cacophony | Theros Beyond Death

While the majority of players were in favor of Enchantments always having a unique card frame, not every player was so enthused. Despite fetching only 13.6% of the vote, these players were surprisingly vocal across social media when highlighting their concerns. “I feel like frames are getting out of hand severely,” Reddit user u/TheDeadlyCat noted while explaining why more card frames could do more harm than good. “I don’t see an enchantment frame being helpful with tracking things when you deal with different showcase borders, borderless cards, wild art treatments, [and] non-foil cards. Battlefields today are mental overload already. Old border was much simpler times discerning what was going on.” 

Thanks to the growing number of foil and art treatments that have been introduced to MTG in recent years, this is not a new concern. Nevertheless, players such as u/RagePoop are still nostalgic for the simplicity of old MTG cards. “Genuinely miss how clean the board looked in the before times.” Unfortunately for these nostalgic players, however, it seems the times are changing. With Rosewater’s poll being dominated by a yes vote, it may only be a matter of time before even more card frames get created. 

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