Top 10 Flavor Text Fails

TobiH

From missed opportunities to missing words, no part of an English Magic card is as prone to little accidents as the flavor text. Proofreaders sometimes seem to skip this text, which is of course less important too and doesn't follow a predetermined script either. Some errors are merely clerical, but some are biblical!


patheitc
Inspired by the famous Twitter account

Verbosity in the Way of Animosity

We all know the trope about the triumphant Bond villain. They stand over the seemingly defeated hero and hold a long monologue about the brilliance of their plan, how the protagonist never stood a chance. Only, it is exactly this bombast that gives the hero the time to escape/foil the sinister scheme/destroy the villain after all. If only they'd gone for the kill rather than bask in their own glory and gloat.


wit's end

Wit's End from Magic 2013 set out to depict one such scene. However, with just one switch of two letters, the scary Nicol Bolas went from Ernst Stavro Blofeld to Doctor Evil, from mastermind to merely smrt. Reading the flavor text, one can't help but imagine the monologue turn into a dialogue.

"Your patheitc ideas lie in shambles— Wait, why are you laughing?"
"You said, 'patheitc.'"
"I meant pathteic."
"Still not a word."
"Patethic?"
"No."
"Phatetic then!"
"Again no."
"Ptahetic?"
"Sorry. Give up?"
"…"
"…"
"Yes."

Mixed Messages


repulse
exclude

I'm not invited? Are you saying you want to exclude me? And what do you mean, you don't have time for me right now? Is it okay if I try again next turn?

Speaking as a creature trying to fight through Invasion's duo of blue commons, one can't help but feel confused. Why do the words quoted not match the action performed? Why does the flavor text of one card fit the rules text and name of the other to a tee, and vice versa?

It's almost shocking to see how alike these cards are: same set, same rarity, same exact casting cost, similarly super strong, both cantrips, both concerned with "target creature," both bearing a name that's a two-syllable, seven-letter verb, with the same progression of the same three vowels, both ending on a silent e. It cannot be coincidence that Exclude and Repulse received flavor text that would have been perfect for each other but not perfect for each itself. Somewhere in some database at some point two adjacent-cell mates must have traded places by mistake.

Selesyna Senescence

You know what's great about recycling flavor text? If it was correct the first time around, you don't need to spellcheck it again and can just copy and paste it onto another printing of the card.


selesnya guildgate selesnya guildgate
Spot the difference: Dragon's Maze & Modern Masters 2017

Or, I guess, you can type it out again and accidentally turn Selesnya into "Selesyna." Yes, here's the gate to the famous Selesyna Cocnlave led by the drayd Torstani.

Fortunately, Wizards rediscovered copy-paste technology in time for the reprint of Selesnya Guildgate in Commander 2017. Unfortunately, that one didn't copy the correct original but repeated the typo.

That Middle Child

Wizards abandoned the Selesyna text after two failed attempts in favor of wholly new flavor when the Guildgate returned. Other stories conclude on a happier end. For Tempest of Light's core set stint, they first got it right, then wrong, then right again.


Tempest of Light Tempest of Light Tempest of Light

I like to imagine two dueling copy editors working on Tenth Edition. One declares the auxiliary verb unnecessary and changes the text to: "so that destiny takes its course." The other points out that it's a direct quote, to be preserved verbatim, and changes it back to: "so that destiny may take its course." This goes back and forth a couple of times until, eventually, "destiny may takes its course," which was of course destined to happen.

All (That) Is Lost


coercion

As someone who has written millions of words on Magic cards as a topic, I can sympathize with those who write all these words onto the cards themselves. Sometimes you just can't decide whether to go with "all I have" or "all that I have." It'll almost make you lose your mind.

Numbers?


Segovian Leviathan Segovian Leviathan

If you have a Bible at home, chances are you won't be able to find the quote in chapter 40, verse 25 of the book of Job. In fact, chapter 40 won't even have a 25th verse. How embarrassing that it took Wizards five editions to fix the mistake, right?

Well, not so fast. Actually, the original flavor text never specified that it was quoting the Bible. The book of Job is of course older than god's own anthology, and Hebrew texts indeed count this as 40:25. Frankly, who would begin a new chapter with such a line anyway?

So between Fourth Edition and Fifth Edition Segovian Leviathan's flavor text simply changed its source. Was it the same appeal to Christian sensibilities that motivated the removal of pentagrams and Demon creatures during the "Satanic Panic" of the nineties? Consider how embarrassing that is.

Why at least the first two Italian versions of the card attribute the quote to "Libro di Giobbe 40:20," however, is anyone's guess. All online resources suggest that this is just flat-out wrong.

Move on the Water

Please play the main power chord riff from Smoke on the Water here, if only in your mind's ear.


Slither Blade Slither Blade Slither Blade

It's a fun exercise to try and parse the original flavor text as written. What do some naga initiates move? They move the suns' reflections. Where do they move them? On the water. How do they move them? As silently. As silently as what? No one knows, but perhaps as silently as Slither Blade.

Alas, the reprint in Zendikar Rising Commander removed the mysterious quality, admitting the missing word. They don't move anything transitively. They intransitively move themselves, and they do so as silently as the suns' reflections on the water. First, though, Slither Blade's Mystery Booster reappearance repeated the mistake, probably even intentionally. (These cards are meant to be indistinguishable from the source material, copyright note and all, except for the little planeswalker pitchfork in the bottom left corner.)

Discretion Advised


Seal of Doom Seal of Doom

Homophone fun! When you break a body apart, into discernable pieces, you could theoretically use the word "discrete." However, when you break a body apart by way of dissolving it, until no evidence remains, the word you're looking for is "discreet" and very emphatically not the other.

First the Answer, Then the Question

Assume you have two flavor texts, one posing a question and the other answering that very same question, in the exact same words. Let's further suppose the reply illustrates a counterspell, so it can act as a literal response to the other spell. Finally, let's entertain the idea that this counterspell comes with a significant bonus, an extra punch that only applies when it targets an artifact or a creature.

Wouldn't it be great if the question appeared on an artifact or creature?


undermine desertion
These two even shared six months of Standard time

We can still picture an awe-inspiring interaction at the Commander table: One player casts a lethal spell, another responds with an equally lethal Undermine and recites the card's flavor text, only for someone else to counter it with Desertion and their own flavor text recital. (If you've ever done this or witnessed it be done, please leave a comment!)

But just imagine how much better these two flavor texts would have fit together if the question had appeared on, dunno, Flametongue Kavu or Sleeper Agent or something. One surely could have found a creature where it fit, especially in Invasion, maybe one with the set's brand-new kicker ability. As a proverbial kicker, it doesn't even make sense for Undermine to ask the question. After all, it first insults/counters and then injures.

From Solid to Solidest


Nykthos Paragon

On many other worlds, the supernatural realm would find itself represented by ephemeral spirits. Meanwhile on Theros, the essence of Nyx condenses into enchantment creatures that aren't just solid. Some of them are solider.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.



5 Comments

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Thombaer(05.10.2022 15:01)

Not sure if the 'I' in Coercion is a typo.
If you read it as an object type for the speaker it works like 'of me' meaning he lost more of himself than his mind, but misses the mind the most.

TobiH
TobiHenke(06.10.2022 17:07)

Oh, interesting theory! I have not considered this possibility. If that was the intent, then I have to count this as a flavor text (reading) fail on my part. Thanks for your comment!

Bongoking(01.10.2022 15:46)(Edited: 01.10.2022 15:48)

Such things did happen in other languages as well. See italian Ravnika Helldozer:
"A volte vai tu !! All'infermo!!, e altre volte è l'inferno a venire da te."

Sometimes you go to the Infected, and sometimes hell comes to you :-P

It got corrected later in the Salvat print of that card.

urza-tg(30.09.2022 12:26)

After more than 25 years, I have noticed yesterday that ALL cards from Italian Homelands ('Origini') have the Italian for 'All rights reserved' as 'Tutti i dirriti riservati', where dirriti should be diritti

Vayra86(30.09.2022 11:13)(Edited: 30.09.2022 11:16)

Fun article, I couldn't stop myself thinking that ironically, MTG is on a very high level wrt overall spelling or grammar mistakes/typos. Comparing that to the general level of written advertising for example, is already mind blowing, at least over here in the Netherlands. I'm not sure what's happening, but using the English written word is something everybody does, and almost nobody really gets right. And even in my native language, the quality of what people write is taking a nosedive. Seems to coincide with the acceptance of brief, written messages in communication, such as SMS, and social media elevated that style of writing to normality or something. Schooling also plays a role, somehow the idea that 'if people understand what you mean, it's okay' has infected everything.

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