06 November 2023
Cards that mentioned 'Tribal,' 'Totem Armor' or depicted Hindu figures have had minor changes to be more representative.
It's not the first time Wizards have made changes to their games to be more culturally sensitive (and possibly won't be the last), but another swathe of over 100 cards have had minor errata as part of the companies efforts to be more considerate of beliefs and representation within their popular trading card game.
Why are Wizards making changes to over 100 Magic cards?
As part of their efforts to make older sets available on their primary digital platform Magic Arena, Wizards are currently preparing to release the 2014 set Khans of Tarkir online. The set was themed around Tarkir, a world of dragons and dragon hunters, with many cultural references to various Asian cultures. As stated in their announcement for this news, Wizards said that they "are continuously reviewing our card catalogue and finding ways to update the game's language and visual representation with the processes, care, and sensitivity built into modern sets. As such, and to make our game as inclusive and welcoming as possible, we have several changes upcoming."
What's being changed with the latest Magic errata?
The first and most minor change is replacing the word 'tribal' with 'kindred.' The term 'tribal' was colloquially used to refer to cards that cared about specific creature types (such as goblins, elves, merfolk etc.) which was officially integrated into the game in 2007. However, given the connotations with the term, Wizards development has steered away from the term in recent years, preferring instead to use 'Kindred' when referring to creature types in card games, as seen in their most recent set with the card 'Kindred Boon.' This change is purely an aesthetic one and will not have any impact on the game's mechanics.
Another terminology change is replacing 'Totem Armor' with 'Umbral Armor.' Given that every card with this keyword ability is already referred to as some form of Umbra (an old latin term meaning 'shade' or 'spirit') it makes sense to again change this terminology, given that Totems are a key aspect of many practised religions.
The other two changes announced will have a potentially minor impact on the game and relate to creature types. Six cards that depicted 'Rakshasa' (demonic entities in Hinduism with bestial visages) are having the type 'cat' removed from their cards, so that they are now only referred to as demons. The 'cat' addition to their creature type was likely a reference to how Rakshasa have been presented in Wizards other popular game, Dungeons and Dragons, having had feline designs since the 1st edition of the game. However, given this was a cultural misinterpretation, it makes sense that the designers would take this opportunity to rectify that mistake with the latest versions of these cards.
Whilst only 6 cards will be affected by the removal of the term 'cat,' the other change to creature types might have a bigger impact. The creature type 'Naga' is now removed from the game, with every instance of the word Naga being replaced with Snake. Again, Nagas are an entity in Hinduism, divine beings who most commonly appear in a snake-like form, but can also take a human form or half-human, half-snake form too. Given the cultural significance of this title and that other creatures inspired by real-world religions are also grouped by generic animal names (Kitsunes from Japanese mythology are referred in-game as 'Fox' creatures), this change also makes sense from a cultural perspective. Ironically, the first Nagas in Magic were printed in 'Khans of Tarkir,' so this change has effectively corrected a mistake that was complained about at the time of release.
What does the latest errata mean for Magic: The Gathering?
Whilst the Rakshasa change is unlikely to make any major change to Magic overall, some fans have been brewing new deck possibilities with the sudden inclusion of 40 snakes into the game.
In formats like Commander (where players build a 100-card deck, with one legendary creature designated as the deck's commander) the change is a welcome addition to decks that already care about snakes, such as 'Kaseto, Orochi Archmage,' who empowers snakes to be stronger and unable to be blocked. The change is also being considered for more budget-focused decks in formats like Modern, with cards like Sosuke's Summons now having a lot more playable creatures to interact with, giving players a spell they can keep reusing to attempt to swarm the battlefield with snakes.
I guess in termsss of impact to the wide game, we'll have to wait and sssee (sssorry, we couldn't resissst.)