Guff Rewrites History | Commander Masters
8, Nov, 23

MTG Designer Wants to Fix Needlessly Problematic Language

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Article at a Glance

Having been around for over thirty years now, Magic: The Gathering unsurprisingly has an awful lot of cards. In fact, according to Scryfall, over 27,000 cards have been created since way back in 1993. During this time, it’s safe to say we’ve seen plenty of powerful, interesting, and downright novel cards.

Unfortunately, as much as MTG’s 30 years of history have brought some good, there’s also been plenty of confusion. Between bold new mechanics, baffling pre-release misprints, messy terminology, and Alchemy’s existence, MTG is quite an unruly beast. Thankfully, however, Wizards of the Coast is well aware of the game’s issues and the plight of confusion. 

Typal 2: Electric Boogaloo

Llanowar Tribe | Modern Horizons
Llanowar Tribe | Modern Horizons

Since the change was first announced back in June, Typal has been the talk of the MTG-playing town. Internally replacing the nomenclature Tribal, which was used for themed decks, this change sparked immense controversy that hasn’t died down. While some MTG players were accepting of the change, others have pushed back at every turn, lamenting the harmless language change. 

As much as some MTG players may not like it, Typal is here to stay in MTG from now on. Curiously, however, the existence of Typal didn’t mean that Tribal was completely dead and gone. Not until recently, at least. Rather than simply being community nomenclature for themed decks, Tribal was also a mechanic.

First released in Future Sight, the Tribal mechanic quickly became a community favorite. In November, however, this too was changed to Kindred, in a move that, once again, sparked controversy. As much as there may be varying opinions spread across the internet, however, this latest change is already done. Whether you like it or not, Tribal is out of MTG. 

When making the decision to remove Tribal from MTG, Wizards cited the “Negative connotations,” of the word. While this was the major factor behind the change, it’s not the only positive of Typal and Kindred. As we mentioned before, Tribal used to mean two things, which is hardly perfect in terms of clarity. Thankfully, now this has all been cleared up, however, it’s not the only problem.

Due to the immense history of MTG, there are multiple terms with dual meanings, creating confusion amongst the community. In theory, this is a problem that Wizards could errata out of existence just as they did with Tribal. Unfortunately, however, I wouldn’t hold your breath for this hypothetical to be realized. 

Counter Counters With a Counter

Counterspell | 30th Anniversary Edition

Unsurprisingly, following the change to Kindred, MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, has received a lot of questions and comments recently. Arriving via Blogatog, the majority of these questions and comments have been rather positive, with many seeking further clarification. Tumblr user Krorsai-blog, for instance, asked “Did you consider using Kindred as the slang?”

Answering this question, Rosewater acknowledged how Wizards specifically wanted two different words in order to mitigate confusion. Following on from this, Rosewater mentioned how, ideally, this wouldn’t be the only bit of confusing MTG language they would fix. “I would fix “counter” (stop a spell) and “counter” (the glass bead that goes on cards) if I could.” 

Having existed since Alpha and Legends respectively, these mechanics are literally decades old, but that doesn’t mean confusion can’t happen. Sure, veteran MTG players may know what’s what from context, but new players can seriously struggle. Unfortunately, this problem may only get worse as time goes on until we reach the point of Thunderweb’s jovial comment. 

“‘Remove a counter counter from a permanent: counter target spell.’ /j”


While this is definitely somewhat of a problem, unfortunately, it’s one that may never get fixed. Mark Rosewater admitted so himself, stating “I’ve tried, and I don’t believe it’s going to change.” Thanks to this statement, it seems that unless something dramatic happens, counters and counters are always going to share the same name.

As much as it would be nice to mitigate some of MTG’s immense complexity, this lack of change may be for the better. After all, counters are one of the most iconic parts of MTG, regardless of which mechanic you’re talking about. Due to this, most players would likely be hesitant to embrace the change, leading to increased confusion as everyone is saying different things. Hell, we’re already seeing this with Tribal, Typal, and Kindred.

A Historic Historic Deck

Reconstruct History
Reconstruct History | Strixhaven: School of Mages

Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t just end with Counters, as Historic can also cause plenty of needless confusion. The name of both a mechanic and a format, Historic is an absolute nightmare to deal with. Of course, context clues can help, but if you want to know the best Historic cards or decks, you’re out of luck. 

As if Historic wasn’t bad enough in itself, MTG Arena has caused plenty of other problems. With Alchemy cards changing effects with rebalancing and repeating art, it’s incredibly easy to get confused, depending on what you play. Thanks to Arena’s plans for Explorer and Pioneer, even more confusion may be on the horizon due to mismatched card pools. 

Ultimately, this is a very solvable problem, as Wizards can simply change the names of mechanics and formats. Whether or not these arguably needed changes will happen, however, is a different story. Given what Rosewater said about changing Counters, it seems unlikely that any major errata will happen soon. 

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