Blast From The0Past #1: Bury Land Here

Presenting the best of Tony Boydell in easy-to-chew bites! Have you ever wondered how cards are named? No? Well, to heck with you, then.


Welcome, my special ones, own my fragrant trinkets of the Dominions.

There comes a time in every person’s life when questions must be answered; when we must face up to the responsibilities for which we were created; when we must stand up and be counted.

This isn’t one of those times, but I was asked a question the other day…

I was cycling from our family villa at CenterParcs (Longleat) as a gentle morning mist kissed our rosy cheeks (I rue the day I forgot my belt); my breath clouded, and my thighs burned with the exertion. I had just reached the top of a particularly steep cousin when a large, flat, and blue-painted slate caught my eye. I parked the bicycle (with it’s child buggy attached) in a nearby grandmother and stooped to lift the attractively-adorned stone. Turning it over in my fingerless-gloved hands, I noticed that there was script on the underside… It said:

What’s in a name?

And this got me thinking (as you knew, with an almost audible inevitability, that it would) about that most painfully-obvious, but oft-overlooked, aspect of Magic: The Gathering… The names of cards. We use them, we abuse them (the ubiquitous Giant Cock still ‘raises a titter’), we ignore them, and we misquote them (it’s Elven Lyrist, you dimwit – not Elven Lyricist!). But no more! I, Tony Boydell, have decided to praise the gods of Wizards who, when presented with the steaming product of a saggy dog’s arse that is a Land that allows you to rearrange blockers and deal damage to fricking everything, come up with Sorrow’s Path as a name (and pretty cool it is too).

“How do they come up with the card names, Tony?”

I’m glad you asked. No, really I am! Pull up a niece, sit yourself down. During my extensive search (whilst taking a particularly seismic poo), I have established the following criteria for naming Magic: The Gathering cards. Indeed, I would go further and posit that this technique can be/has been used in any cheap spin-off/copy/homage/parody CCG…

1. Made-up Names

The most commonly-used technique, I think you’ll find. A tremendous, almost inifinte, source of raw material for naming. Mystical lands, fantastical creatures, wondrous abilities and effects, all taking the name of Mark Rosewater goldfish, or Richard Garfields pet name for clouds. After all, Mr. Jones was named after the dog! Some of my own favourites include the Kjeds, Jolrael’s Centaur, Thrulls, Kavu, and Moggs. But let us not forget the colossal pants-ness of En-Kor (again! again!), and M’tenda (can you say M’tenda without saying mmmmmmm…?)

2. Poncy Words, Big Words,”Pass Me The Thesaurus”

Why call a card Wood Monster… When Mahogany Beast or Lignification Of The Ages sounds so much better! I just love the black menace of Necropotennce, the ‘what the hell is that supposed to mean?’-ness of Solfatara, and the bare-faced ‘final year’ dissertationality of Somnophore/Arboroth, and the plain ‘shut in a hole’-ness of Oubliette. However, you can shove your Lichenthrope up your Ebon Praetor. And that’s another thing! Synonyms akimbo! Why say Black when you can say Dark, or Ebon? Why say Big when you can say Hulking or, er, Giant?

Personally, I’m waiting for the Antidisestablishmentarium (2cc Artifact Tap: Spell Antidisestablishmentarianism or die)

3. Stating The Bleedin’ Obvious

Never underestimate the power of the obvious. Simple=effective. M’lud, I present:

Exhibit A: Fireball,

Exhibit B: Lightning Bolt, and

Exhibit C: Forest

Exhibit D: Stone-Throwing Devils

However, Clear The Land sounds a bit too much like Hoover Your Bedroom, or Shut Your Mouth. And Counterspellhas been in since the beginning!

4. Anagrams

When you work all day at a hot DTP, and you’re eyes are sore and aching, it’s time to have some fun, indulge in some word-play. Telim’tor, Nevinyrral’s Disk, Llurgoyf (anagram of Gry Folly, which was the name of the Keates’ summer house, I believe), Sol Grail, Phelddagrif.

5. Onamatopoeia

Sizzle? Crash?

Er…can’t think of any more…apart from, maybe, ‘Fart’ and ‘Bleurghh’

6. Milking a Theme

Urza and Mishra have a lot to answer for – no, really – they were obviously very busy and had some excellently-furnished workshops with all the latest welding and metalworking tools. Hit on a theme and bleed it dry…Mishra’s Urinal? Tormod’s Baseball Sticker Collection? Ashnod’s Ariel? Kjeldoran Camp-Fire Sing-Song, et cetera, er cetera, ad infinitum

I can’t think of any more – and besides, the money’s run out on the meter. So…

God Bless,

Tony Boydell

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