This year, Wizards have found themselves in a lot of tepid water thanks to changing some longstanding MTG language. Renaming Tribal to Typal and then Tribal to Kindred, Wizards has attempted to make MTG more culturally sensitive. Unfortunately for Wizards, this change has been met with some backlash. That being said, however, most players are for, or at least apathetic toward, the change.
While the changes made to Tribal were already controversial enough, Wizards of the Coast hasn’t stopped there. For the MTG Arena re-release of Khans of Tarkir, Wizards has gone back and changed things once again. Adjusting the set’s Rakshasa cards, Nagas, and Totem Armor, additional changes are being made in the name of inclusivity.
More than just adjusting the language on cards, Wizards is taking things a step further in Khans of Tarkir. In order to be more culturally appropriate, Wizards of the Coast is also updating art for many classic MTG cards. As you might expect given the past precedent, opinions surrounding this change are mixed, to say the least.
Rakshasa Are Actually Rakshasa Now
Out of the 254 cards from Khans of Tarkir 23 have been given updated art. The majority of these changes are centered around the set’s Rakshasa. Initially, creatures that featured this name were Cat Demons, however, this has since been changed. Now, all the Rakshasa creatures in MTG are just Demons.
As you might expect from this creature type change, the new art changed as removed the feline features from MTG’s Rakshasa. Instead of this more catlike nature, the Rakshasa in MTG are now more similar to Hindu mythology. While depictions of these beings vary typically they can be identified by their demonic features and facial horns.
For MTG, this means the art change is rather minor since Rakshasa cards already had those visual cues. The main change is simply that these creatures and spells no longer look like cats, just demons. For some players, this is a change for the better, however, others do miss the feline appearance of the cards.
“Personally really like the new look of the Rakshasa, they look a lot more menacing than just random demonic Leonin. Makes me more excited for the return to Tarkir in 2025.”u/GrizzlyBearSmackdown
“I may miss the tiger people, but this new look for them is much better in a number of ways.”u/ToxicAtomKai
While all of the Rakshasa creature cards in MTG have had their card types errata-ed, not all the art has been changed. Somewhat unsurprisingly, only the cards being re-released in Khans of Tarkir on MTG Arena have been altered. This amounts to a grand total of six cards. Alongside these, there are still four more Rakshasa cards with the old feline-inspired art. For reference, the Rakshasa cards with new art in Khans of Tarkir’s MTG Arena release are as follows:
- Act of Treason
- Rakshasa Deathdealer
- Rakshasa’s Secret
- Rakshasa Vizier
- Secret Plans
- Villainous Wealth
Nagas Are Almost No More
Alongside the changes that were recently made to Rakshasa, Wizards also stated the Naga subtype will be changed to “Snake”. While this change hasn’t come into effect yet, Wizards is giving themselves a headstart with some updated art. Curiously, however, this new art doesn’t appear to be nearly as dramatic compared to the Rakshasa changes.
Rather than overhauling the features of the Naga cards, the new art is quite simply just new art. As you can see above, for instance, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant still very much looks like Sidisi. The only real change is that Sidisi is in a new pose and their wardrobe has had a colorful refresh.
For better or worse, the other Naga to get new art, Kheru Spellsnatcher is similarly non-transformative. While this soon-to-be Snake does have a very flashy new pose, they’re still the same old Naga. Ultimately, this just makes the new art on MTG Arena a simple reprint, with not much explanation behind the change.
Despite the lack of a clear motive, it’s nevertheless always nice to get new art in MTG. That being said, however, this new art is only on MTG Arena, for the time being. Currently, there’s no indication this art will be used elsewhere. This may be a shame to MTG players like u/Gasterakantha who shared their enthusiastic support for the new art.
“I love the directions they went with these and hope they get printed in paper. Sidisi looks so regal!”u/Gasterakantha
Curiously, while Wizards has changed two of the Nagas from Khans of Tarkir, more were left untouched. Sagu Archer, Sultai Flayer, and Sultai Soothsayer all have their original art. At the same time, however, the art of Sultai Ascendancy was changed, leading to added confusion.
Additional Art Adjustments
As well as the changes to the art of Rakshasa and Naga cards, Wizards has also given multiple other cards new art. Some of these, such as Dutiful Return seem to soften the art, as some players describe. Rather than being a rather gruesome fruit basket, the art is now simply a scene from a battlefield. While this isn’t exactly less gorey, it is nonetheless less unsettling.
Currently, it’s unknown exactly why Wizards made all the art changes that they have. Among players, the prevailing opinion appears to be self-censorship, as Wizards tries to make Magic as approachable as possible. While this seems like a sensible suggestion, right now there’s no telling if it’s right or not.
“The art updates for Rakshasa, of course, but also several others that I suspect are to remove exposed bones for the Chinese client, and others to make the Sultai less comically evil (from skimming, it seems they got rid of a lot of depictions of Sultai slave-zombies).”u/mweepinc
Ultimately, we don’t expect these art updates to be the last from Wizards. Moving forward, many reprints are sure to get more culturally appropriate art when the time comes. Players should at least expect this for the remaining Rakshasa cards, provided they get reprinted, that is. Whether or not that will happen, however, remains to be seen, so we’ll just have to wait and see for now.