We Make The Card, Part II: The Critical Part

As I’m sure all or most of you are aware, www.MagicTheGathering.com is once again allowing we, the Magic players, to design a Magic card of our very own! What we’ve got so far looks really good; all we’re missing is a flavor text. And as anyone who’s looked in on my”The Real Story Behind…” series knows… I’m a big fan of flavor texts!

As I’m sure all or most of you are aware, www.MagicTheGathering.com is once again allowing we, the Magic players, to design a Magic card of our very own! What we’ve got so far looks really good:

Crucible of Worlds



You may play land cards from your graveyard as though they were in your hand.

All we’re missing is a flavor text – and as anyone who’s looked in on my”The Real Story Behind…” series knows… I’m a big fan of flavor texts! The votes have been cast but not yet tallied, so before the results hit the press, I’m going to analyze each flavor text and give a final prediction as to what I feel should win. (Note that most of this article was written before the voting was finished, so the analyses will involve statements like,”I will not vote for this flavor text.”)

(Note that this article was written before the voting finalized, but it’s still an interesting analysis – The Ferrett)

Flavor Text #1

It creates the world below from the world above. Some wonder if their own world is in such a clock, and in which half.

At first, I thought that this was the flavor text I was going to vote for. But more than simply not wanting to start my article off with my winner caused me to change my mind. I think that this flavor text is trying too hard to dictate what, exactly, the crucible does, mainly with the use of”below” and”above.” Also, I don’t particularly like the use of”world” in any of the flavor texts for these cards because of the difference between worlds (planes) in the storyworld of Magic and lands in the game of Magic. Of course, this tension already exists between the title and the flavor text, but I feel that a text more agreeable to truth is possible.

Now, what originally drew me to this flavor text was the second sentence. At first, I thought that was very clever – but on second glance, it begins to break down. One world is created from another. What happens to the original world, then? The flavor text intimates that it is possible for the original and the new world to exist at once – and besides this, the artwork clearly shows the”world above” to be destroyed or at least uninhabited. So, when analyzed, this flavor text breaks down and ceases to make sense.

Flavor Text #2

Amidst the darkest ashes grow the strongest seeds.

Now, this flavor text is very descriptive, but I don’t feel that it belongs on this card. I think this would be awesome on a Black or Green card, but not an artifact. Crucible of Worlds is an object that recreates or regenerates lands – this flavor texts belongs to a process of natural regeneration and thus does not fit the concept of the card.

Flavor Text #3

If a tree falls and rises again in the forest, but no one was there to see it, did it really ever die?

I think this card is too much of a stretch of the old maxim to be funny. Also, like the previous flavor text, this card focuses on the tree itself and not the Crucible which is supposed to be transforming it. I think this is a quick”pass.”

Flavor Text #4

Nature’s favorite form of retaliation, regrowth.

Again, I really like this flavor text, but I find that it doesn’t deal with the artifact nature of its card enough. Now, one could reasonably argue that the Crucible uses nature’s favorite form of retaliation to fight on behalf of nature. However, we certainly have better options available to us than this stretch of the imagination.

Flavor Text #5

Alchemists use a crucible to refine pure minerals from crude slag; this differs only in scale.

-Vedalken research notes

I like this flavor text quite a bit in that it outlines what the Crucible does without trying to establish how (like in Flavor Text #1). I appreciate the use of the word”crucible” in this flavor text – it doesn’t refer to the Crucible itself while still effectively identifying the artifact and its use. The flavor text is simple and effective and would most likely be my number one choice.

However, one must consider the”Vedalken research notes” part of the flavor text. If this were appearing in any set other than one within the Mirrodin expansion set, I would vote hands-down against this card. It’d be like having a legacy inscription on a card in Odyssey. But, as stated by Mark Rosewater, the card will be in the Bacon (Mirrodin) block.

So, the question is: Is a Vedalken research note out of place in the last expansion of the Mirrodin block? I leave this up to the folks who make the Big Decisions. Given that the Vedalken are still doing their thing in the third expansion of the Mirrodin block, I’d definitely consider giving my vote to this flavor text.

Flavor Text #6

Infinite resources; borrowed time.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but this flavor text is very confusing to me. I certainly understand the part about infinite resources – that’s basically what the Crucible allows you to achieve. But, the only connection I can draw to”borrowed time” is the hourglass formation of the Crucible. Now, one might certainly consider an attempt to bring the artwork into the flavor text meritorious – personally, I think that the flavor text should first be tied into the function of the card, then the name (which should likewise be tied into the function), and finally the artwork. The fact that the flavor text addresses function as well as artwork is favorable, yet its doing so in two parts takes away from the overall effect. At least for me. This is certainly a high contender, but not my number one choice.

Flavor Text #7

Every grain a tree, every second a grove, every minute a forest, every hour a world.

Here again we have an appeal to the hourglass nature of the artwork, but in a much firmer manner. I think that this flavor text is stronger than the previous one because it’s more unified artistically while not losing a focus on the regeneration effect of the Crucible. However, like the first flavor text, this one once again deals with a world instead of just land. Unlike the first example, though, this one encompasses the land feature of the function in the phrase”every minute a forest,” thus able to address all three parts of the card. Even though the order of focus of this flavor text is artwork, name, function (instead of my preferred function, name, artwork), its ability to address all the components of Crucible of Worlds makes it a contender for the vote.

Flavor Text #8
It was built by a mage who feared the passing of time. His body was found, lifeless, amongst a lush and fertile forest.

Once again, we have flavor text dealing with the hourglass part of the Crucible as well as the regeneration effect; the main difference is that this flavor text has a narrative setting. Such flavor texts are usually interesting, attaching a nameless face to the presence of the card. In this case, the flavor text seems to imply that the power of the Crucible is greater than that of its creator (a mighty characteristic indeed). Although one does not have to assume that the Crucible killed the mage (he was, after all, afraid of time, so he could easily have died of old age), it is not impossible to consider. This flavor text certainly adds mystery to the Crucible (for example, it doesn’t mention anything about whether this artifact was found with the mage’s body), so if that excites you, you might wish to cast your vote for this flavor text. Personally, I’d prefer not to have the mystery present, but this is certainly a contender.

Flavor Text #9

There was nothing until it came to pass;

a thousand worlds in a tower of glass.

Here, of course, is our poetic example. Naturally, we have the poetic description of the hourglass as a”tower of glass” and the regeneration feature in the first line, the”Worlds” feature in the second. If poetry’s your thing, then this is your flavor text.

But if you look more analytically at the flavor text, you can see some inconsistencies. For example, the”thousand worlds” part doesn’t work with the artwork, and the game mechanics along with the idea of a crucible make implausible the notion that so many worlds could be formed in the Crucible at once. Also, the first part of the poem is very esoteric, which could be desirable. However, its presence in the Mirrodin block is misplaced because we as readers and followers of the storyline have indeed seen the creation of the plane Mirrodin. If the flavor text wanted to incorporate the beginning of the world in which the artifact appears, it should have included some mention of Karn in it – or the storyline should have mentioned the Crucible (an impossibility due to the nature of the card). Personally, I won’t be voting for this one, but poetry buffs might be big supporters of this flavor text.

Flavor Text #10

Unearthly whispers hang in the air around the Crucible, murmuring stories of long-forgotten heroes and long-faded worlds.

How perfect to end on the flavor text for which I’ll be casting my vote! Although the flavor text mentions the artifact itself (a concept I hinted against when discussing Flavor Text #5), it doesn’t pretend not to be doing that. In other words, the flavor text is designed to discuss the physicality of the Crucible, so mentioning it as a tangible object is not a negative quality here. Furthermore, the flavor text seems to work perfectly to me with regard to function: The murmuring is heard in the present,”new” world while the”old” world from which the new one was formed is still acknowledged. Moreover, that acknowledgment has the esoteric quality admired in Flavor Text #9 – there’s just something powerful about the phrase”unearthly whispers.”

Function is dealt with before name here by using the word”heroes” to make personal the”land” part of the function and reverting simply back to”worlds” for the”Worlds” part of the name. I like the poetic repetition of long (long-forgotten and long-faded) as well as the descriptive”murmuring.” This flavor text doesn’t deal strongly with the art, but I find that perfectly acceptable. The overall writing quality inherent in this flavor text makes it my number one choice, vaulting the analytic qualities discussed above over the proverbial Pole of Acceptance.

So, for what it’s worth, I cast my vote for Flavor Text #10. I would personally rank the group thusly:

#10, #5, #7, #8, #9, #6, #1 ,#4, #2, #3

However, I don’t seek to propose that this will be the final result.

Hopefully, I’ve been able to help you confirm your own thoughts about the flavor text submissions for the You Make the Card contest in order to help you appreciate the flavor texts that you don’t get to write! Once the results are reported, I’ll mirror my article from the last contest by making cards to fit the flavor texts that don’t make the cut.

Daniel Crane