Sperling’s Sick of It: Beta

The recent 25th anniversary Beta Draft at GP Las Vegas was amazing.



In the spirit of that 25th anniversary event and surrounding hoopla, here is my Sick of It for Beta.

Animate Dead

The first of many great printed wordings I’ll examine. “Summon dead creature” gets the fun started before I even get to the text box. The text is great for at least two reasons. First, it shows how much they leaned into natural language and tried to put the FAQ right in the text box. Second, the Oracle wording on this card is arguably more confusing than the original text (it is consistent with the rules, but not more clear):

Raise Dead

Staying with the dead theme, check out “Return creature from your graveyard to your hand.” Which creature?


In the early days, part of the balance of the game was that not every play group would have someone with good enough eyesight to read black text over dark wood grain. So this card, while powerful, wasn’t guaranteed to have any known effect, which kept things in check. Dr. Garfield can hardly be blamed for not predicting that his little game would so popular that this card would eventually be translated into over 45 different background text box colors.

Animate Wall

Our first great art piece. The wall looks frustrated. “Look lady, I know you’re lonely, but this has to stop.”

Birds of Paradise

This card is currently worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000, depending on condition. It has been reprinted around 20 times and is not on the Reserve List.

The moral of the story? The Reserve List is necessary to protect collector value.


Another card where the Oracle wording is more confusing than the printed wording. Here it is in the Oracle format:
“Cast Camouflage only during your declare attackers step. This turn, instead of declaring blockers, each defending player chooses any number of creatures he or she controls and divides them into a number of piles equal to the number of attacking creatures for whom that player is the defending player. Creatures he or she controls that can block additional creatures may likewise be put into additional piles. Assign each pile to a different one of those attacking creatures at random. Each creature in a pile that can block the creature that pile is assigned to does so. (Piles can be empty.)”

Someone is going to post in the comments, “Actually, it’s really not that complicated. I understood it after one reading.” This happens every time you ever publicly call something complex or hard to understand. “I don’t see what’s so confusing about banding.” What a big man you are. The concept was complex for me, but not for you, the big man on campus. It’s the geek version of truck nuts.


I tweeted this when 50 Shades of Gray was released:

Holy Strength, Creature Bond, Elvish Archers, Veteran Bodyguard

The set was just dripping with goth sexuality.


And at that evening of leather and sweat, here’s the nerd, in costume, with performance anxiety and a weird beard, bothering all these cool goth people at the adult gathering (this is what Magic: The Gathering comes from, by the way).

Natural Selection

Did anyone involved in the making of this card understand Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection at all? Or did they just make rules text based on the word “selection” and find an excuse to paint a nude birdman holding a ball gag?

Keldon Warlord

The second goofiest looking creature in the set…

Earth Elemental

Dan Frazier gets pretty abstract in the lower half of the image to avoid having to shade in the rocky genitals. But the result is no less dumbfounding. I love this card.

Spell Blast

A cheeky bit of art, as our friends in England might say.


Love the expressiveness of this art. And are you starting to notice how every character in Dominaria is semi-nude? Future sets really botched it, and then we all flamed the anime alters community for trying to put it back.

Fire Elemental

If this shows up at your LGS as an altered card, the kid who brought it is banned for two weeks.


It started when a wizards’ husband was describing how his hobby was actually a good mental exercise and not that expensive if you take into account the value of the collection, after which the wizard summoned this giant rolling eyeball. We don’t know what the hobby was called.

White Ward

“Oh crap, we already have art for Savannah but we do still need art for White Ward. Any chance you can just draw some crap in the sky?”

Demonic Attorney

One of the most offensive Magic cards ever printed.

Granite Gargoyle

How can you not smile at their decision to name a character “Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar.” It started as a decent wizard name but sounded a little cliché, so they added a few characters. Then it didn’t flow smoothly and they added a couple more. Then it became a joke and they added a couple more characters and started to enjoy it, ironically, and then they added just a couple of more characters because one person on the team hadn’t gotten to do it yet and they didn’t want to leave her out. Then it was too long to say and enjoy, even more ironically, so they added five more characters so that no one would be tempted to try.

Reverse Damage

“Is this just a portrait you had lying around that you added some white junk to?”

Uthden Troll

I used to love this card and the flavor text as a kid. “Traditional” is an interesting attribution that I always assumed was a typo.

Wall of Air

So much great, iconic art in the set. And a few doodles.

Clockwork Beast

Every now and then I’ll see someone say they love Drew Tucker art. Do not trust these people.

Control Magic

How were players supposed to know whether “If destroyed, target creature is put in its owner’s graveyard” referred to “If the creature is destroyed…” or “If this enchantment is destroyed…”? In my experience, it depends heavily on whether the older sibling or the younger sibling was the one Disenchanting the Control Magic. There was no judge forum. There was no FAQ. But there was sometimes an older brother twice your size (who probably stole the Control Magic out of the pack you opened in the first place), and that creature was heading to the bin.

Dingus Egg

Call your congressional representatives now to complain about the lack of Dinguses in the new Dominaria set. Stop whatever you are doing and call. We must act.


“Rather than sheltering her young, the female Fungusaur often injures her own offspring, thereby assuring their rapid growth.”

Today’s helicoptering, gluten-obsessed, peanut-free Fungusaur parents wouldn’t get it. But let me ask you this: What’s gonna happen when these 2/2 Fungusaur kids get a job and their boss Lightning Bolts them every Monday morning?

Kormus Bell, Living Lands

“And so forth” is great rules text.

Living Wall

“How drunk did Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar get last night? When I left he was already stumbling around.”

“We found him in the backyard this morning near the Living Wall, with no pants on.”


Ironroot Treefolk

Before you accuse me of going crazy with that last bit of dialogue, let’s check in with the flavor text of this card to see if I’m actually off-theme for the Beta set.

Resident Treefolk anthropologist: “Molasses comes to mind.”

What the hell does that mean?

“You know.”

No… no I don’t.

Earth Elemental

I have to show you this guy one more time. And I just have one request. Dear cosplay community, it’s going to take courage. It’s going to take confidence. It may even take approval from venue security. But you can do this.


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