18, Mar, 21

Time Spiral Remastered: Best MTG Card Design Stories and References

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Article at a Glance

Time Spiral Remastered releases on paper and on Magic: The Gathering Online on March 19. The set features the best and most nostalgic cards from the original Time Spiral Block, as well as the much-vaunted return of the classic Magic: The Gathering border. I for one am most excited to experience drafting the cards for the first time, as I wasn’t playing when the original Time Spiral dropped in 2006. Other players might be more interested in picking up gorgeous old bordered cards like Thoughtseize, Ponder, and more from the bonus sheet.

Wizards of the Coast‘s Senior Designer for Magic: The Gathering Gavin Verhey was instrumental in bringing this remaster to print. To celebrate the set and hype it up before its release, Verhey has featured it on his YouTube channel Good Morning Magic (GMM) over the past few weeks. He recently posted a lengthy video where he opened a box of Time Spiral Remastered and shared his favorite design stories and card references.

Read More: Time Spiral Remastered Full Spoiler

While we wait another excruciating day until Time Spiral Remastered releases and we can get our hands on the lovely new cards, I’ve compiled some of my favorite stories from this awesome episode of GMM.

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The Borders of Time Spiral Remastered

While opening Time Spiral Remastered boosters, Verhey came across the card Blade of the Sixth Pride.


This card originally appeared in Time Spiral Block set Future Sight as part of a cycle of Vanilla creatures printed in the futuristic frame. Printing these creatures with no abilities in the “future shifted” frame was a great way to introduce full-art cards to Magic: The Gathering boosters for the first time.

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While these frames received mixed reviews from players, no one can deny that they’re a cool part of the game’s history. It was likely for that reason that Verhey needed to explain why these frames didn’t make it into Time Spiral Remastered.

According to the Senior MTG Designer, Wizards of the Coast ultimately decided to make the old-bordered timeshifted cards the centerpiece of the set. Even if the future shifted frames were beloved in their own right, having too many visual treatments in a set might detract from the overall experience.

I would have enjoyed seeing Tarmogoyf return to its future-bordered frame, but I agree that the awesome old-bordered cards deserve the spotlight for now.

Read More: Watch: MTG Designer Discusses Combos in Time Spiral Remastered Draft

Spellshapers are one of Magic: The Gatherings’ Coolest Creature Types

During his near three-hour long box break video, Gavin Verhey told a lot of great design stories about the Spellshaper creature type. Spellshapers first appeared in Mercadian Masques and were printed in small numbers right up until the original Time Spiral Block release. These creatures come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors of mana, but they all have something in common. Each Spellshaper has an activated ability with a cost that usually involves paying mana and always requires you to discard cards (usually one, occasionally more).

Spellshapers in Time Spiral Block have abilities that mimic iconic and/or powerful spells from Magic: The Gathering‘s history. One example of this is Dreamscape Artist, a Blue common that taps and discards a card to cast the spell Harrow.


Another cool Spellshaper is Jaya Ballard, Task Mage, a card that returns to print in Time Spiral Remastered. Jaya is a Human Spellshaper with three activated abilities. Gavin Verhey clued viewers in on the history behind this card.

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Each of her abilities represents a real Red spell: Pyroblast, Incinerate, and Inferno. The second awesome reference is that when these spells were first printed, they originally featured flavor text spoken by Jaya herself! Time Spiral Block kicked off Magic: The Gathering‘s trend of giving old-school characters, whether famous or obscure, their own cards. In my mind, Jaya Ballard, Task Mage will always be one of the most awesome executions of this idea.

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Incinerate from Ice Age

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Creature Token Spellshapers

Time Spiral Block is pretty famous for doing weird and innovative things with mechanics. Future Sight’s twist on the Spellshaper mechanic was creatures with activated abilities that put tokens into play. But not just any tokens!


These Spellshapers created tokens that were real creatures from previous Magic: The Gathering sets, with the exception of Goldmeadow Lookout, which was printed in the future shifted frame and produced Goldmeadow Harrier tokens that would be printed for the first time in Lorwyn.

Only three of these token-making Spellshapers made it to Time Spiral Remastered. To celebrate their return, we’re getting the tokens that they make in boosters for the first time ever! Here’s the shiny new full-art Llanowar Elves token.


Read More: 15 Full-Art Time Spiral Remastered Magic: The Gathering Tokens Revealed

A Reference Only Boomers Will Get

One final design tidbit about Spellshapers features the oddball card Ridged Kusite. This 1/1 discards a card and makes you pay two mana to give a creature +1/+0 and first trike until end of turn.


You might ask, what the heck is a Kusite? I might never have known until I heard Gavin Verhey explain the joke behind this card. Apparently, Ridged Kusite is an anagram of Guided Strike, a White combat trick from Weatherlight that-you guessed it-gives a creature first strike and a small power buff. The Spellshaper’s art even features the same weird swamp monster being fended off in Guided Strike.


Time Spiral Block was touted as a love letter to Magic: The Gathering, and it lived up to that by stuffing tons of obscure references into cards from the game’s early history. A lot of those references made it to Time Spiral Remastered, so it will be fun to discover more jokes and tributes as I draft the set.

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Time Spiral Mechanic Mashups

Time Spiral Block was well-received by heavily enfranchised Magic: The Gathering players thanks to its intricate gameplay and abundance of references. Unfortunately, less experienced players were turned off by the set’s complexity and the sheer number of mechanics Wizards of the Coast stuffed into the set.

Gavin Verhey noted that one of the set’s themes involved mashing up mechanics from Magic: The Gathering history that had never been seen on the same card, let alone in the same set, and making them interact in interesting ways. There are many examples of this throughout the set, including the creature Kavu Primarch.


Kicker and Convoke were two mechanics that debuted years apart and never featured in the same set together. Yet here they are, working together to make Kavu Primarch come down as a cheap 7/7 once you’ve already built out a decent board. Thanks to the rules of Convoke, creatures can tap to pay for the Kicker cost of a spell! I’m sure you’ll discover many more mechanic mashups as you crack packs and draft the set.

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Card Reference Lightning Round

Part of the reason that Gavin Verhey’s box opening video lasted almost three hours is that he told awesome stories about pretty much every card he opened. He shed light on a lot references that Time Spiral cards made to older sets that I would never have caught on my own. Here are some of the best pieces of Time Spiral Block trivia:

  • The card famous Dredge deck card Dread Return features the creature Mindslicer in its art. It even costs the same!


  • Keen Sense is a colorshifted Curiosity, which is easy enough to figure out. But did you know that the art of Keen Sense depicts the reverse of what happened in Curiosity’s story moment?


  • The first letter of each word from the flavor text of Coral Trickster spells out the card Twiddle, which has the same effect as Trickster’s Morph ability!


What’s your favorite card reference from Time Spiral Remastered? Let us know!

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