What’s In A Name?

Thursday, December 16th – Everything Geordie Tait touches on in his articles turns to gold, and this is no exception. You’ll never look at Kamigawa block the same way again.

Section 1:  What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name?

Ask the Campana Corporation. They had strong sales in the 70’s and 80’s with an appetite suppressant candy that was receiving strong response. The delicious, vitamin and mineral-rich treats were available in a variety of flavors. Chocolate. Butterscotch. Chocolate mint. They even came through with a peanut butter flavor, no small feat for the time, with food science still in the relative dark ages. (Don’t argue with me — I attended the wedding of a woman who once worked at Pepperidge Farm.)

Campana’s appetite-reducing health candy was poised to make a big splash in the second half of the 1980’s. It seemed like nothing could go wrong.

The name of the candy?


Pronounced “aids.”

By 1988, the product had made a full-blown exodus from the market. Perhaps the slogan “Lose weight fast with Ayds!” wasn’t reaching the people in the way it once had.

Bill Shakespeare famously wrote:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Perhaps the marketing guy for Campana should’ve thought of that line. Philosophically I agree with Shakespeare — a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover. On the other hand, though, some naming decisions do have tangible consequences. If we asked Bill about a Magic card, he might say:

What’s a card name? It is nor rules, nor creature type,
Nor power, nor toughness, nor any other part
Belonging to a card.

He’d be right, but most consumers don’t aspire to the right-thinking, non-prejudicial angle that Juliet was espousing whilst dangling her Capulet goodies over that balcony. Because of the prejudices of the consumer, some names are better than others. This is why roses are not called “stinkblossoms.” And why Damnation is named Damnation and not “Thirst Of The Killmasters.”

Section 2: Who Is Even Qualified To Say?

It’s usually pretty obvious when one Magic player is better than another. If a magician is running off high finish after high finish, or if he has a truckload of Pro Points, you can trust that he’s smarter than the average bear and liable to easily purloin the picnic basket of any given rube. When the Gerry Thompson and Patrick Chapin of the world speak up on the topic of tech, we listen in a way we wouldn’t be inclined to others. It’s much easier to tune out that guy who was “running hot” by winning the FNM random drawing three weeks in a row.

There’s nothing subjective about a string of high finishes. You can evaluate the relative strength of the field, or talk about “running good,” but in the end, a finish is a finish. Flavor work, on the other hand, is very subjective. While a person might consider himself a naming and flavor text pinnacle, there’s at least one other windbag on the opposite side who believes the exact opposite, and is ready to fight to the death to back it up. The sensibilities expressed in this article with regard to names are my own and nobody else’s — not even those of the people forking over money to buy these cards.

I’m less interested in what the public actually wants and more interested in what’s good for them.

Sometime near the end of the
Chappelle Show,

right before poor Dave went crazy and started hanging out in his basement and playing World of Warcraft for 24 hours/day, he did a standup comedy act and became a little raw with the audience when many of them were drunkenly slurring references to Rick James throughout the entirety of his set.

I can’t find the exact quote, but it was something like this:

“I go in there every day and fight for you people,” he said to the audience. “The network doesn’t believe you can get what we’re doing, and I tell them you’re smart enough to get it. I was wrong. You people are stupid.”

I feel the same way about the names and flavor text that’s sent out to the teeming masses. The companies don’t think players will understand anything above a certain level, and I feel like I have to go in and fight for something better:

“No, really, guys — there’s no need to be this inane. Players are smart enough to get this, and they’re interested enough in good ideas and good writing to care.”

A gaming company that just shovels out a bunch of tropes and cookie-cutter names and flavor texts is just feeding the masses a bunch of junk — the bare minimum. Like a TV network that has a dim view of each and every demographic. Did you know that one network once teamed up the shows “Turner & Hooch” and “K9” and advertised it as “Two Dog Night”?

That’s right. Two police dog shows, back to back. These are the people who are creating your products.

As I’ve said before, as gaming companies go, Wizards of the Coast insults the intelligence of their players relatively seldom. That said, even a giant of gaming commerce could stand to improve a few things.

Okay, time to get down to it. Let’s talk about some names. We’ll start out with names I like, and I’ll try to use them to demonstrate what makes a name successful.

Section 3: Let’s Talk About Some Names

Toils of Night and Day

Luckily wasn’t named: Flinch

The names of cheap, blue tapping/untapping spells have historically been synonyms for “pulling it.” This card falls into that mold nicely but has a little more style than most. I actually can’t decide which of these cards is funnier in the role of masturbatory slang:

Toils of Night and Day
Dream’s Grip
Psychic Puppetry
Reality Spasm

(Struggling to keep a straight face.)

Anyway, in the case of this card, I’m glad the naming people were thinking outside of the box. They managed to stick to blue’s proud self-stimulation traditions while simultaneously keeping the name a bit more abstract and interesting. (I like “Fable of Wolf and Owl” and “Wheel of Sun and Moon” for the same reason.) I got into a little bit of trouble the last time I used the word “abstract.” All I mean by it is, if you look at this rules text, a name like “Tug” or “Toggle” (which is a name they should use for a card like this, by the way) speaks very directly to the text. “Toils of Night and Day” requires the player to take that extra step to understand the name. Sometimes, this is a bad thing, but when the rules text is largely flavorless, “abstract” names become better and better.

(Disclaimer: This article is about to go off the rails.)

Lol… speaking of pulling it, I was just scrolling through Gatherer and saw Saltblast.

Sorry. Now I’m on to Kamigawa block, here, looking for examples of…

Cage of Hands.

Hahaha… I’m sorry. It’s just that good old stuffy, dignified Kamigawa block probably has the least sense of humor about itself in terms of card names (they’re all very mystical, serious, and steeped in tradition — must be all the legends), but it also just so happens that one out of every five cards in Kamigawa block has a name that’s a euphemism for self-gratification.

Choice of Damnations. It sure is.

Lol, Desperate Ritual. Okay, seriously — fire up the Gatherer page for Kamigawa block, we can do this together.

Dosan’s Oldest Chant. I bet it is.

First Volley.

Flames of the Blood Hand.

(Two ends of the spectrum there.)

Time to explore the ol’ Forbidden Orchard.

I don’t know about any Hondens, but it’s about time for the Night’s Reach.

My Shaku is more Honor-Worn than you know.

I don’t know whether to use Kagemaro’s Clutch or Terashi’s Grasp.

Haha, Night Dealings.

Otherworldly Journey.

Pull Under.

They used to call me both Kodama of the South Tree

Zo-Zu the Punisher.

I’m sorry; I’d better stop before I lose it. This is a serious article.

(Gnarled Mass.)

(Ragged Veins.)

Seriously though, there is a minor lesson about naming to be learned here — people do occasionally play these sorts of games. So when you set them up with a name like “Tunnel Ignus,” the sophomoric side of every player is going to rise up and knock it out of the park. It’s the same reason I giggle when I hear a sportswriter refer to Baron Davis as “one of the most ball-hungry guards in the NBA.”

Let’s move on.

Pernicious Deed

Luckily wasn’t named: Freyalise’s Bomb, Autumnal Explosives, or (god-forbid) Dirty Deed

I’m of the opinion that Pernicious Deed is one of the greatest card names of all time. It’s a total success.


-Neither the word “Pernicious” or “Deed” appears in the name of any other Magic card.

-It was one of the most heavily played cards of its era

-It has an easy-to-remember, one-syllable shorthand name: “I’ll play a Deed.” Or “I’ll Deed.”

The name is good because it doesn’t directly reference some canonical fantasy fiction schlock but instead leaves that job to the flavor text (the garbage can where exposition goes to die) and simply executes perfectly on a name that rolls off the tongue. Without seeming too heavy-handed, Pernicious Deed brings to mind the image of a well-laid plan, capable of great destruction.

The dictionary definition of “pernicious” reads: ”
causing insidious harm or ruin; ruinous; injurious; hurtful.”

Great choice. Pernicious pleases the ear in a way that synonyms like “injurious” or “ruinous” don’t. Pernicious. It’s more mischievous, somehow — almost sprightly, yet destructive. Which is exactly black-green, right? Bravo.

Absorb Vis

Luckily wasn’t named: Spirit Syphon

Kudos to whoever came up with this one. It could’ve been boring and by the numbers, and instead we get something that’s unique and memorable. “Vis,” as it’s used here, is a synonym for “force” or “power.” Not the Incredible Hulk style of force and power, though. It’s basically taken almost straight from Latin (where it’s “vim” and means “robust energy and enthusiasm”) and as a result has the connotation of “life force” or “vitality” rather than a measure of how many rocks you can lift. In short, a perfect word for this card.

While Absorb Vis’s heyday has come and gone, and only a few aficionados of Shards/Conflux/Alara Reborn Draft can readily bring it to mind, it’s comforting to know that in the brief window of relevance it enjoyed, it wasn’t saddled with a boring, cookie-cutter name.

Aspect of Wolf

Luckily wasn’t named: Armor of Fangs, Blessing of the Wood, Feral Might

Going all the way back to the Alpha/Beta/Unlimited days now, Aspect of Wolf is a well to which WotC has only returned once, with Aspect of Mongoose in Time Spiral. I’m glad this name wasn’t screwed up right from the start. I mean, we’re talking about “Alpha” here — it could have been called “Fang Boost” if things had shaken out a little differently. I think they should come back with a few more of these and use the same naming convention, as I find it pleasing to the ear.

Eater of Days

Luckily wasn’t named: Sky Leviathan

Eater of Days is noteworthy as the first card to have a cosmic, Chthonic sort of name, denoting an all-devouring life form from beyond the stars. In order to find anything earlier that compares, you have to go all the way back to Cosmic Horror, from Legends, which certainly has the “terror from the lost dimensions” vibe going for it. Still, the name Cosmic Horror doesn’t do the same things that Eater of Days does.

Eater of Days is what you’d call an awe-inspiring name, and after it opened the door, more would follow in the form of cards from Rise of the Eldrazi: All Is Dust, Not of This World, and of course, the successor to Eater of Days, Emrakul, The Aeons Torn, whose name has a very similar meaning. This isn’t surprising at all since one of the inspirations for Rise of the Eldrazi was the Cthulhu mythos.

Door to Nothingness and Journey to Nowhere also fall into this ominous, “cosmic” category.

As an additional note, card names like All Is Dust and Not of This World, with their length and villainous overtones, would serve as part of the inspiration for many of the Archenemy “scheme” names, such as “All Shall Smolder In My Wake.”

Funny how one thing leads to another, huh? My Puny Mind Cannot Fathom.

INTERLUDE:  Good Ol’ Legends

Ah, Legends. The rules were different back then, and as a result, names were different too. In my article
“Just Another Dead Bonsai”

I talked about how context, real or manufactured, is what makes a flavor text great. Context is hard to manufacture, though, and when you try, you often just get a lot of crap. Well, Legends has its share of sketchy spell names, but for the most part, the names on the creature cards are interesting and diverse, especially the names of the “legends” themselves.

Why did this happen? Why wasn’t Legends filled with guys named “Phoenix Dark Dirk” and “Lady Breastilicus?” Well, the people who did the creative for Legends didn’t just try to manufacture context out of nowhere. Many of the names were those of characters lifted from an ongoing tabletop roleplaying campaign. In much the same way that “The Love Song of Night and Day” provided an ocean of deep context for the verses that were chosen to represent Mirage, the names chosen for the Legends belonged to actual characters who were part of a larger world, characters the set designers had themselves come to know very well.

While the result isn’t the most flavorful thing in the world in terms of a consistent theme, there really aren’t many awkward character names in Legends, and some of them, like Dakkon Blackblade and Sol’kanar the Swamp King, really strike a chord. This is fortunate since they accidentally forgot to make Sol’Kanar into an overcosted piece of trash like the rest of his buddies.

Here are some of my other favorite card names from Legends:

In the Eye of Chaos

Luckily wasn’t named: Counterstorm, Aether Haze

Again, that one level of abstraction, which requires the player to think for a second about exactly how the name relates to the rules text, is what makes this a good card name. It’s tough to get a five-word card name through the pipeline these days.

Presence of the Master

Luckily wasn’t called: Anti-Enchantment Field (Legends is full of terrible names like this), Austerity Bubble

A mysterious name. Who is the Master? Why does his presence cancel out further enchantments? We don’t know. But it certainly sounds cool.

Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore

Luckily wasn’t named: Gloom Eye, Cyclopic Fiend

I’m going to guess this is another product of the D&D campaign because you could put a flavor team in a room for eight hours and still not come up with this. You’d end up with “Death Weeper” before 11:00, and before long it would be time to hit up Panera Bread.

Spinal Villain

Luckily wasn’t named: Thought Feaster, Crimson Igniter, Idea Eater

This name would be a lot more straightforward (and a lot worse) if the creature depicted was skeletal. It isn’t, and as a result I’ve always read this card name as if the grotesque fiend in the art were hunting for

spine… and sending chills up it, as well.

The Wretched

Luckily wasn’t named: Whippoorwill From Hell, Wretched Demon

I’ve been a sucker for anything that begins with “The” ever since I started my first chapter of Final Fantasy Tactics. This naming style isn’t often used anymore, and I think it’s time to bring it back. A “the” prefix on a card lends weight to its significance in whatever world in inhabits. If people on earth referred to me as “The Geordie Tait,” I’d be rolling on 24’s by now.

BONUS SECTION: Top Ten Cool Card Names Ruined By Legends

Flavor teams will never be able to use the below names for anything useful, and it’s a shame — they could’ve been so cool!

1. Rapid Fire (red direct damage)

2. Equinox (sad they wasted this name — either a huge sorcery or an enchantment)

3. Ghosts of the Damned (a nice black creature)

4. Hell Swarm (black removal)

5. Puppet Master (Aboshan-style rare blue creature)

6. Quagmire (non-basic land, producing black + some effect)

7. Silhouette (either a white or blue spell, with a black kicker)

8. Undertow (blue bounce or Submerge variant)

9. Deadfall (possible removal or Fog effect, red or green)

10. Imprison (Pacifism variant)

It’s a shame, isn’t it? Equinox is the biggest tragedy here — single-word card names that reference major natural events are at a premium. If you feel like contributing to the forums of this article, fancy yourself an amateur designer, and want to show off the potential that’s been lost here, then try designing a card for each one of these names — one that could be part of the Standard environment in the next couple of years. Then contrast it to what the cards actually do and cry that single Native American tear as though you just saw a fat guy wallpapering the highway with Big Mac wrappers out of the driver’s side window of his Dodge Ram.

Let’s talk about a few more names that represent key naming concepts:




Luckily wasn’t named: Angry Churnbeast, Plated Crashbeast, Adjective Verbbeast, Verbing Adjectivebeast

Thank the Hundroogs and Valesks,
Lorians, Drubbs, Graxiplon elders and Groodion cubs,
By the might of the Bulvox, by Erithizon’s hide
Give voice ten Darbas high and ten Vorracs wide.
Give a thanks to the Grollubs and their Murldont pals
Pat Baloth behinds and squeeze Gurzigost jowls
Thumbs up to the Pallimud (that paladins get stuck in?)*
And don’t forget that Nucklavee that keeps on truckin’.
Kudos to Groffskithur, Qumulox and Thragg.
Give a trophy to Krakilin, and a box.
(To pack it in.)
Nodorog? He’s what’s up, dawg.
Imagine Kezzerdrix cities, a full country of Rannet…
and at night you can dream of a Drekevac planet.
These all could have been Vicious Crashbeast number fifty.
So let’s have a round of applause for the people
Who made them quite nifty.

I just wanted to use this space to thank the naming people who went the extra mile and came up with fun-to-say Green Beast names throughout history. I’m happy with names like these as long as they don’t seem forced. I’m also a big fan of adding proprietary proper nouns in reasonable quantities, especially for primal things like beasts. Zendikar/Worldwake would actually have a little too much of this for my taste with every second card name referring to Harabaz, Agadeem, Akoum, Jwar, or some other place that sounds like an Arabic curse.

Savage Beating

Luckily wasn’t named: Battle Lust, Warcall of the [insert proper noun here]

Sure, Savage Beating is a gamer colloquialism, but it’s part of a larger group of contemporary phrases that have made an appearance on cards, giving us a break from Magic’s relentless juggernaut fantasy theme. Aggravated Assault and Gratuitous Violence are other examples of this (on the same sort of card). Price of Progress is another example.

It’s important to give your players a rest from the Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho sort of names every so often and remind them that the real world exists.

Myr Moonvessel

Luckily wasn’t named: Energized Myr, Battery Myr

Noteworthy just because it takes a little bit of extra effort to come up with “Moonvessel.” If it was in the style guide, kudos to the creative team. If it came up later, kudos to whoever came up with it. “Moonvessel” isn’t the sort of proper noun that a thesaurus will show you — it takes a lot of trial and error, or at the very least, a burst of inspiration. There are actually other cards (like Lunar Avenger) that play off this theme, so perhaps it was part of world-building for Mirrodin all along. That’s pretty cool if so.


Luckily wasn’t named: Unlimited Growth, Utopia Explosion

Falls into the contemporary language category above and also paved the way for exclamation cards like “Kaboom!” Also has that one layer of abstraction between rules text and name.

Kill-Suit Cultist

Luckily wasn’t named: Mad Cultist, Goblin Martyr

There’s something to be said for names that sound cool and are fun to say. This has always been one of my favorites, as it contains a flavorful, interesting proper noun (“Kill-Suit”) and some nice alliteration as well.


Luckily wasn’t named: Rotting Maiden

Cute. A good place to borrow a real-world term of endearment. I’m hoping that other “fun to say” words, like “Shenanigans,” make the transition.

Wit’s End

Luckily wasn’t named: Brain Dump

Another nice borrow.

Banishing Knack

Luckily wasn’t named: Brand of Unsummoning

Similar to Myr Moonvessel in that it wasn’t phoned in and probably took some thought, this name executes on all levels, including the crucial need to sound “mischievous,” considering the effect and all the Faeries in the set.

Raven’s Crime

Luckily wasn’t named: Mind Lance

Discard spell names are often straight-up thesaurus jobs. Considering the art, this name must have been part of the plan all along, which is nice to see. Again — the level of abstraction is there, and the art connects the name to the rules text, helping us to understand how a Raven could steal spells/thoughts.


Luckily wasn’t named: Greven’s Anguish, Greven’s Fury, Greven’s Anything

Some cards need iconic names because they have powerful, iconic effects. One-word “knockouts” are reserved for these, and there are plentiful examples throughout Magic’s history. How cool was it when Kai Budde drew and said “Götterdämmerung,” revealing the card that would seal that victory? How much less cool would it have been if his exclamation had been “Markierung der Vertreibung!”? I’ll answer that. A lot less.

Aside: I don’t think there’s a better card than Armageddon for anyone to name in German at a key moment, by the way. It has a lot of opera backing it up. The
Twilight of the Gods

is the only Twilight I can get behind. But hold up — we’ll talk more about Armageddon in a second.

Doomsday, Balance, Terror — all are good examples of memorable, one-punch-knockout names. The more base and unencumbered by nuance the word, the better the name is. Inferno was a good one. Hellfire was a great one. Damnation may be the best ever. Some have been wasted on underwhelming cards, like Greed. (At least Hellfire has an awesome effect.) Some words in the English language just carry

if you catch my drift. Words that describe emotions or events that are nothing short of wondrous.

“Doom” could’ve been a great sorcery, but it’s been used in various forms so many times (Doom Blade, Doomsday, Seal of Doom) that the impact would be lessened.

“Love” just isn’t martial enough for Magic. It would be a white enchantment if it did exist alone, but it seems like it’s more likely to be used as half of a Love/Hate split card. I hope that one is in the pipeline.

“Life” and “Death” were both used on a split card. “Pain” was also used on a split card.

“Anger” was an incarnation.

“Kill” and “Murder” are still up for grabs. Somebody call
Doom Blade Guy
for suggestions.


They need to make a card: Get Big or Die Trying, Sorcery, 2GB. Opponent divides your creatures into two piles. Half gain +3/+3 and trample. Sacrifice the other half.

Wrath of God

Luckily wasn’t named: Day of Judgment

They’ll never print names like this again, and what a shame that is. You’ve heard me talk again and again about context being the number one ingredient for a name or flavor text. You’ve also heard me say, just a few paragraphs ago, that some words carry a dignity and weight, the weight of millennia of use by entire populations the world over.

Say what you want about the Bible in terms of the good or ill it’s caused humanity — it’s a goldmine of context regardless of what you believe. I actually think they wrote the Book of Revelations just so that screenwriters, game designers, and creative teams of every stripe could steal from it. You don’t even need to have the reference make perfect sense — all you need are those beautiful words that people have been using for the last two-thousand years.

Wrath of God is the best example of religious imagery used for creative effect, and I don’t blame anyone for doing it. Sometimes, when you need a punchy name that makes people pay attention, it’s…

(puts sunglasses on)

…Yahweh or the highway.

Fire and Brimstone, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Swords to Plowshares, Leviathan — they’re all from the Bible. Cross over to other religions (or spiritual leanings, I guess), and you have names like Jihad, Karma, and All Hallow’s Eve. This only scratches the surface.

WotC has moved away from this sort of thing, leaving us to look to older sets for our biblical fix — or to Redemption. Who plays Saul of Tarsus without Road to Damascus?

INTERLUDE 2:  The Dark

The Dark came along not too long after Legends and brought with it some very flavorful names. My three favorites all contain the word “of”: Elves of Deep Shadow, Season of the Witch, and of course, Dark Heart of the Wood.

So what is it about “of”? Sometimes it’s a nice way to mix things up — and the name almost becomes like the telling of a story, rather than just spitting out a few syllables. Contrast Elves of Deep Shadow to the alternative — Deep Shadow Elves.

Adding “of” to a card name makes it sounds more archaic, as well, since it’s something rarely done today. For example, I don’t call myself “Tait of Fangboner Road,” even though I’ve often driven past it to attend PTQs. Ah, yes. Fangboner Road. You Ohio mages know what I’m talking about, right?

BONUS SECTION: Top Ten Cool Card Names Ruined By The Dark

It’s a shame that so many good names ended up saddled with turds rules text like this. Oh, what could have been…

1. Blood of the Martyr (not sure whether this is red, black, or white)

2. Eternal Flame (repeatable red direct damage)

3. Fire and Brimstone (could have been some huge sorcery)

4. Sorrow’s Path (white or black removal)

5. City of Shadows (could have been a much better land)

6. Cleansing (white enchantment removal)

7. Erosion (red or green land destruction — doesn’t have to be blue, erosion is a natural process)

8. Miracle Worker (some

better weenie)

9. Necropolis (a really cool land — was partially salvaged by Keldon Necropolis)

10. Venom (such a nice, simple name — could be black removal or a

poison-counter B/G card)

As before, feel free to try some top-down designs in the forums. I might give it a shot myself. Of course, without new art descriptions it won’t be perfect, but what are you going to do?



Natural Selection

Luckily wasn’t called: Leaf Search (seriously… this could have happened. We’re lucky Magic had a more mature tone from the very beginning)

Not too many people remember this card, but it has pretty cool art, even though it’s god-awful… one of Alpha’s biggest wasted opportunities. I think it’s noteworthy, though, because it started the precedent for green cards to have names mirroring environmental/natural concepts or processes. Survival of the Fittest being the best example.

Goblin Piledriver

Luckily wasn’t called: Goblin Ruinblaster

Like Myr Moonvessel, this name went the extra mile and found something interesting. Many Goblin cards actually have blue-collar names like this, to good effect. Goblin Bushwhacker is another nice one.

Yore-Tiller Nephilim

Luckily wasn’t called: Basically anything else

Sometimes a name itself can contain a nice turn of phrase. “Yore-Tiller” is one such example, raising the image in my mind of some unspeakable power sifting through the very millennia.

Section 4: Names I Don’t Like

I guess to wrap this up I should say a few words about some…


That’s right, card names I don’t like, Rapid Fire style. (See? Found a better use for that name already.)

Icatian Town

Okay, some names basically get a pass since they came into being before WotC had nailed down exactly what sorts of flavor links were acceptable and which weren’t. This is one of those — a sorcery name that belongs on a land, the idea here is that you summon… I dunno. A town. And the dudes come out of it and jack people. It’s funny to imagine the following conversation at a PTQ.

“How did your round go?”

“In the third game, he Towned twice and then cast Jihad.”

Goblin Ruinblaster

Terrible name. Compare to Ruin Ghost — which wasn’t called “Ruinhaunter Ghost” or “Ruinflicker Ghost.” There’s nothing wrong with this name that simply calling him “Goblin Blaster” would not fix. Again, Goblin cards have often had blue-collar suffixes — there’s no need to make them up; there are plenty to go around. Are you telling me that “Ruinblasting” is an industry in Zendikar, such that a Goblin would actually call himself a “Ruinblaster?” If that’s not true, the name is terrible, and if it’s true, then the idea is terrible, and the name is still terrible.

Rank and File

Everyone likes card advantage, right? This name both ruined the card it was on and also ruined a future split card. Way to go, dingleberries — two for one.

Day of Judgment

Should have been Judgment Day, absolutely no reason to do the reverse.

Gravelgill Axeshark

Some flavor guys would name their firstborn sons “Howlingmouth Wombspawn” if allowed.

Unscythe, Killer of Kings


Fantasy worlds typically don’t have “nerds who think they’re clever” — that’s an exclusive feature of our own mortal dimension. Yet, this is a name that only a sixteen-year-old Dungeon Master would love.

In the war-torn world in which the scythe exists, the guy who would’ve named it “Unscythe” couldn’t have.

This is one of the worst names of all time.

Wrexial, the Risen Deep

Got a dark character, villain, or monstrosity? Break out the X!

Archdemon of Unx
Carnifex Demon (Hypocrite alert — I actually named this card)
Ob Nixilis
Xathrid Demon

And of course…

Pillarfield Ox.

It’s the go-to letter when something is an amorphous monstrosity or scheming unholy presence. In my defense, the word “Carnifex” isn’t just a name and has an actual English meaning.

Wrexial isn’t so bad, I guess. As these sorts of names go. I just think maybe we’re getting a little too comfortable in this space. I’ve always liked the name “Nicol Bolas” for this reason. It isn’t some contrived name with ten X’s and five Y’s. Nicol Bolas sounds like the name of the guy who pressure-washed the sidewalk of my apartment building this morning. But he’s still a bada**.


My candidate for worst name of all time.

A: “So we’ve got a weaker version of one of the best-loved enchantments of all time. It’s definitely not as good, but we want to drive the link home.”

B: “Sweet. I just took a look at the card. I have the perfect name. Check this out.”

A: “‘Electropotence’… When I said ‘best-loved enchantments,’ I was obviously talking about Pandemonium. What are you, retarded?”

B: “Yes.”

A: “…”

B: “As an added bonus, let’s not tie the art into either card.”

Calling this card Electropotence was probably the dumbest naming decision in Magic history. I mean, do I have to draw you a diagram as to why it’s bad and a huge missed opportunity? Just call the card “Mayhem.” Done. Name ties it into Pandemonium, effect ties it in to Pandemonium, and everybody is happy. That took me


I want to know who approved this name, ask them why, and then ask them if they’ve ever played Magic before they were hired by WotC.

Lorthos, the Tidemaker

Maybe switch up one word so people can’t make the “Mentos” joke. “Tidemaker” isn’t that good, anyway. What’s wrong with Tidebringer? Or “Lord of the Tides?” Or maybe take the “os” suffix off the name. Any of these would have worked.

Brink of Disaster

Wrong color. This is the first and last time we’ll see the word “Disaster” on a card that’s black and not red. What? Didn’t like how Impending Disaster turned out?

Novablast Wurm

Why not just call it Novablastburst Wurm? Did “Nova Wurm” sound too unimpressive or something? Here’s what happened here:

Guy: “Man, I want to get the concept of “Blast Nova” into this name… but how do I shoehorn it in there? Bah, eff it — time for lunch.”

Okay, I’m spent. That’s all for me this week. I hope you found this fun and educational. Feel free to chime in on the forums with your card ideas, opinions on the names in this article, or any other names you might especially like or hate.

Best wishes,
Tait of Fangboner Road


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* — I stole this from somebody, but I don’t remember who.