Over the years, while some cards have gone through the process of localization, errors in foreign misprints have crept in here and there. And I’m not even talking about translation errors like Descend upon the Sinful being mistranslated as “Descend upon the Fishermen” in French, oh no – I’m talking about rules text being changed, added or left off as cards changed language.
There are so many examples of these cards, but today we’re going to go through ten of the best. As a reminder, these cards are not played as printed – they are played as they were intended to be printed, reflected by the Oracle text, even if we have a bit of a laugh at what might have been as we get through the list.
Keranos, God of Storms was such a sick card, but never got a real chance to shine outside of selected sideboards during its time in Standard. Maybe if the German version had been the way the card had actually been printed, things would be different – instead of just triggering with the first card you draw on your turn, German Keranos triggers on every turn. Given that blue-red decks that want to play Keranos would almost always have instant-speed ways to draw cards, this slight change to the card might have actually made it good enough to run with the big dogs.
For an unassuming common, Expedition Map has done a lot of work, over the years. Its most famous home is of course in Tron, where it can search for a missing Tron piece and help you get to seven mana. That is, of course, as long as you’re not playing the Portuguese version, which can only fetch basic lands. While the rest of the world got a powerful land tutor, the Portuguese-speaking world ended up with… a bad Traveler’s Amulet.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver saw a decent amount of play in Theros Standard as a useful utility card against creature decks as well as an outright win condition against control decks via mill. Ashiok came down early, ticked up to high loyalty and could be very difficult to kill. Except, as it turns out, in Korea, where the first ability only gained one loyalty, not two. Instead of whizzing ahead to ulting two counters at a time, Korean Ashioks lag behind at half speed. Not such a potent threat after all!
Meloku the Clouded Mirror is already a pretty beastly card, turning excess lands and mana into 1/1 flyers. Might not be much these days as a five-mana 2/4, but Meloku used to put in work, back in the day – particularly in Spanish-speaking regions, where instead of just making 1/1 flyers, it instead made 2/2s, for exactly the same cost. If you thought Meloku was a house already, imagine being able to pay one and bounce a land to make a Wind Drake – if the card had actually be printed like this, it would have been absolutely ridiculous.
Dragons had spent awhile on the bench before M13. There hadn’t been a really powerful and properly pushed Dragon for quite some time, and Thundermaw Hellkite was purposefully created to change that. It was designed to punish Lingering Souls, in particular, as its one damage to all flyers cleared out Spirit tokens, while the tap ability made sure it would get in for five. In Russia, however, Thundermaw Hellkite did kinda the opposite – it only hit non-flyers. There’s a Yakov Smirnoff joke in here, somewhere, but I can’t quite find it.
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed was used as a way to punish controlling decks that relied on sweepers and removal instead of creatures in order to win games. As a six-mana 6/6 that had to attack every turn, other decks with big creatures were generally able to deal with it pretty well – but as the curve-topper against control decks, this card was so punishing because often you didn’t have six life laying around to pay for the Supreme Verdict that would kill it. The drawback was, of course, that you yourself would take a beating if you played a noncreature spell, as Ruric Thar’s effect is symmetrical – except, that is, in Spanish. Spanish Ruric Thar only hits opponents – time to splash red and green in your Esper Control decks in order to break the mirror!
Thopter Foundry is a combo piece alongside Sword of the Meek – you can sacrifice the Sword to the Foundry, make a Thopter, bring back the Sword, rinse, repeat. It effectively means that for one mana you can make a 1/1 flyer and gain one life. The French version, however, requires you to tap it rather than pay one in order to activate it – what’s really interesting about this is that in a lot of cases, a “free” activation via tapping is a lot better than having to pay mana. With Thopter Foundry, however, it removes the best part of the card – its combo potential!
Jackal Familiar is one of those classic cards you get excited about, until you read the rules text in full. A one-mana 2/2? Oh boy! Ah, right, it can’t attack or block alone. Boo. So much worse – unplayably worse, in fact. Believe it or not, however, the Spanish version manages to be even less playable, because it can’t attack or block… at all. It’s just a one-mana 2/2 that sits there and… I dunno, gives you a buffer against an edict effect? Jackal Familiar is bad enough as it is (which makes sense, it’s rare to see a good jackal), but the Spanish version is laughably terrible.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is one of the most powerful planeswalkers ever printed and has seen plenty of top-tier play across multiple formats. But all this time, we’ve been playing with a half-baked version, a version that pales in comparison with its final form: German Ugin, whose -X exiles things with mana value X or greater. That’s right: X=0 exiles all permanents that are one or more colors, every turn, forever. And it’s all upside from there – supposing you play a Spanish Jackal Familiar in your German Ugin deck? You can just X=2, and keep it alive. Perfect.
The most famous – or infamous, rather – example of a foreign card with a misprinted bit of rules text has to be Portuguese Stoic Rebuttal. All of the examples we’ve talked about so far have involved minor things like the wrong number being printed, or a tiny bit of text left out, or something small like that. Portuguese Stoic Rebuttal, however, is in a class of its own.
The Cancel-with-upside is something that gets wheeled out in most sets these days, and back in Scars of Mirrodin, it was a Cancel that became Counterspell if you had metalcraft. Not bad, although you had to do a bit of work to get this juicy one-mana discount as a payoff. The Portuguese version still offers you the discount, but… well, the payoff isn’t all that great, because they forgot to include the part that counters a spell. Contestação Estoica does actual, literal nothing – it still has Metalcraft, sure, but even with the discount, this card doesn’t do a thing!