In the last installment, we introduced six cards printed with two different real-world flavor quotations and analyzed three of them. A seventh, Sacred Nectar also fits this list, but we've previously covered both versions of it here and here. This week we'll cover the last three cards in this category: Dark Banishing, Archivist and Mind Stone. How does the flavor on these cards hold up?
When Dark Banishing was first printed in 1995, real-world quotations had already been banished from expansion sets and relegated to core sets. For this reason, it does not have a real-world quotation in its first three printings. Instead, all of them are heavily focused on Magic's own IP, which had been slowly developed from the very beginning of the game. The Ice Age version quotes Leshrac, "Walker of Night"; the Mirage version shows a sentence from Hakim, "Loreweaver"; and the Tempest one is from none other than Hanna, Ship's Navigator of the Board the Weatherlight.
Seventh Edition (2001)
Hence ‘banishèd’ is banished from the world,William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1597)
And the world’s exile is death.
As soon as it was reprinted in a core set, it received a real-world voice in the person of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. What's even more interesting, is both the Seventh Edition and the Eighth Edition reprints received a different quotation from the same play. In this version, from Seventh Edition, a scene from the third act is quoted.
Romeo has just learned from Friar Lawrence that he has been banished from Verona, his hometown. Lawrence is trying to comfort him, saying that "The world is broad and wide", but Romeo is not of the same opinion. "There is no world without Verona walls," he says. He feels like he has been sentenced to death. A bit dramatic, but it is Shakespeare after all.
Eighth Edition (2003)
Ha, banishment? Be merciful, say ‘death,’William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1597)
For exile hath more terror in his look,
Much more than death.
This is the second Shakespearean quotation on Dark Banishing, again from Romeo and Juliet. The scene is the same, too, just a few lines earlier. Romeo is speaking to Friar Lawrence, moments before learning he will be banished from Verona. It's not that different from the Seventh Edition quote, but I think this works a bit better here for flavor text since it's more generic. We are now speaking of exile in broad terms, and we feel Romeo's horror for his sentence.
In both cases, the obvious connection between the quotation and the card is the concept of banishing. It's not too complicated, and any player will get the link even without knowledge of Shakespeare. I find this particular example quite fascinating, as the same scene has been used twice, with slightly different nuances of meaning delivered.
Archivist is a blue creature, and it displays some very in-color characteristics. First, it's a fragile and costly creature, a 1/1 for four mana. Second, it has a strong ability, allowing you to draw a card by simply tapping it. While definitely too slow and not nearly impactful enough nowadays, it was a fine card when printed.
The first printing, and the only one in an expansion set, was Urza's Legacy, where the flavor was great: "Some do. Some teach. The rest look it up". In Seventh Edition it appeared with a different flavor text, again with no real-world references. Finally, in Eighth Edition and Ninth Edition, it received two different quotations, which we will analyze.
Eighth Edition (2003)
Words — so innocent and powerless are they, as standing in a dictionary;Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks (1835 - 1853)
how potent for good and evil they become to one who knows how to combine them!
With Eighth Edition, the flavor text became this quotation by Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American novelist from the 19th century. The focus is centered around words, in both their apparent innocence and actual power. It's typical flavor text for a blue creature of this kind. The power of blue creatures lies not in their stats, but rather in their abilities. Thus, the concept of combining words in the right way makes perfect sense on a blue card. Don't forget, in Magic a player's deck is called their "library," therefore drawing cards or manipulating the order of cards in the deck has something to do with words and knowledge.
Ninth Edition (2005)
Sit down and read. Educate yourself for the coming conflicts.Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, Speech to railroad workers (1880s)
With Ninth Edition, the focus shifts to knowledge and the value of a good education. Mary Harris Jones was an American schoolteacher and dressmaker, mostly famous for her activism in defense of industrial workers. She coordinated many strikes, and this is one of her most famous quotations. Personally, I find it a strong suggestion. On the other hand, I can also see how this sort of flavor text mistakingly led people to think of Magic as "edutainment", and eventually led to Wizards limiting and then ending the use of real-world quotations.
Tenth Edition (2007)
Not by age but by capacity is wisdom gained.Titus Maccius Plautus, Trinummus (II sec. BC)
This quote is from Plautus' Trinummus. It is one of his last works and certainly not the most humorous of his plays. As we said when we discussed it originally, it's a bit too smart and proverb-like to be appreciated by casual readers. That is particularly the case on a Magic card, out of context and with no connection with the work and characters of the play.
Gateway Card (2007)
Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method (1637)
This promo card is from the same year as the Tenth Edition version, 2007. The art is also quite similar, but it's from Martina Pilcerova. The new quotation is from the celebrated work, Discourse on Method by French philosopher Rene Descartes. The work is most famous for being the origin of the quote "I think, therefore I am".
Luckily, we didn't get that borderline cliché quote on a Magic card, as it would have really been too much. What we have instead is a reflection on the process of thinking. Actually, I don't think all our thoughts are within our own power, but we certainly have a bit more control over them than over many other things.
We have now seen all seven of the cards with double quotations from the real world. Some received better flavor text with their second quote, while others did not. Some had great Magic IP flavor in their original printings before receiving equally great real-world flavor when printed in core sets. Overall, these cards show us some of the potential greatness of using real-world quotations. But what do you think? Should Wizards try giving real-world quotations a chance again? What real-world quotations would you want to see on Magic cards? What cards? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.