I started playing Magic: The Gathering in 1997, when the Fifth Edition had just been released. The game immediately captivated me, and I especially loved the visual design.

Fifth Edition Plains Mana Eighth Edition Plains Mana

A radical card face redesign was announced in early 2003 for the Eighth Edition. Today, in 2016, this is ancient history, and the "new" look has been the standard for more than half of the game's existence.

My question is this: Wizards of the Coast has repeatedly written followups for card mechanics, such as a lengthy blog post explaining design mistakes that led to several Urza Block cards being banned. Has anything like that (positive or negative) ever been published by Wizards employees about the 2003 visual redesign? I'd really love to know how they view their decision in hindsight.

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    Interestingly, the two images you posted are actually separated by about 4 card frame changes (many more if you count new kinds of frames for new kinds of cards).
    – murgatroid99
    Jan 31, 2016 at 21:08
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    They probably view the change positively, since they've kept it for so long.
    – jwodder
    Jan 31, 2016 at 21:10
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    You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but since your question ultimately is about how Wizards feels about the change, I'm not sure how relevant your aesthetic complaints are.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 1, 2016 at 2:53
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    I agree, and I've edited the question with the goal of preserving the little history lesson, and the question, while removing all of the complaining. I also tried to find the "lengthy blog post explaining design mistakes that led to several Urza Block cards being banned" so that I could make it a hyperlink, but I couldn't find it.
    – Rainbolt
    Feb 4, 2016 at 19:26

2 Answers 2


The references section of the Card Frame article on the MTGSalvation Wiki refers to a large number of articles published by Wizards about card frame changes. The ones about the Eighth Edition change that you're asking about are:

The article most relevant to your question is Frames of Reference, because it is where Mark Rosewater explains why exactly they made those changes.


To demonstrate exactly how not a big deal it is now, there's a mention in Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic" in 2013:

One day, CAPS, the department in charge of laying out and printing the cards, explained that there were a few changes that needed to be made for printing purposes. R&D saw this as a chance to fix a number of other problems with the card frames and revamp them. As this new frame first appeared in Eighth Edition, they were referred to as the Eighth Edition card frames.

This change had a huge impact on how the cards looked and many players objected to the shift. They felt the new layout had less of a fantasy feel and moved the game away from its roots. This was another very loud outcry with many words written both in articles and on message boards.

That is, they still just think of it as having fixed some problems (or at least Mark Rosewater does).

This is corroborated in Starting Over, where Mark Rosewater discusses what he'd change if they started over (in the form of a time travel conversation with Richard Garfield):

"We also changed the card frames to make the words easier to read. Especially in the name. The original font and layout made reading cards from far away very difficult."

(Looking back up at your example, I have to say I totally agree: whatever you might say about the beauty of the design, the old one is way harder to read, and that's pretty important in Magic!)

In fact, he goes on to mention that if they could have, they might well have made even more changes, mentioning the Future Sight frame as an example of some ideas (thought not the optimal form).

I don't think I've ever seen anyone at Wizards say anything negative about the redesign, and generally, it's not a topic comes up much at all, suggesting they're still pretty happy with the decision.

  • I think the example in the post actually doesn't sufficiently illustrate how unreadable some of the old cards were. Imagine sitting across from one of the original dual lands or an Alpha Clone.
    – murgatroid99
    Feb 1, 2016 at 3:07
  • Absolutely agreed, some were much worse! But even the better ones were bad in that regard.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 1, 2016 at 3:21
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    Back in the old days (Revised-6th edition), I knew the art work for every card, so reading was unimportant.... No longer the case (of course my eyes are a lot worse now too....)
    – John
    Feb 4, 2016 at 21:22
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    @John Sure, I think it's clear they didn't do this for the small fraction of players who've been playing that long, but rather for all the current and future players who haven't. In any case, the point here is, 10 years later, Wizards seems quite content with the decision and the current state of affairs.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 4, 2016 at 21:23
  • Wow, this question is a blast from the past. I gave up collecting and playing Magic as a result of this change. Scourge was the last expansion for me. :| Wrote Mark Rosewater a long email rant at the time as well. :) Feb 4, 2016 at 21:29

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