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WotC now banning "racist" cards

Oversoul

The Tentacled One

Today, we will be changing the multiverse ID and removing the Gatherer card image for the card Invoke Prejudice, originally printed in 1994. The card is racist and made even worse by the multiverse ID it was unfortunately codified with years ago. There's no place for racism in our game, nor anywhere else.
But to that point, it should never have been published nor placed in the Gatherer. And for that we are sorry. The events of the past weeks and the ongoing conversation about how we can better support people of color have caused us to examine ourselves, our actions, and our inactions. We appreciate everyone helping us to recognize when we fall short. We should have been better, we can be better, and we will be better.

To that end, we will be removing a number of images from our database that are racist or culturally offensive, including:
  • Invoke Prejudice
  • Cleanse
  • Stone-Throwing Devils
  • Pradesh Gypsies
  • Jihad
  • Imprison
  • Crusade
Replacing those card images will be the following statement:

"We have removed this card image from our database due to its racist depiction, text, or combination thereof. Racism in any form is unacceptable and has no place in our games, nor anywhere else."

Additionally, these cards will be banned in all sanctioned tournament play.

There's much more work to be done as we continue to make our games, communities, and company more inclusive. Know that we work every day to be better and that we hear you. We look forward to sharing more of our plans with you as our games and organization evolve.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Well, I don't know where to start on this one. I've discussed it elsewhere and seen a lot more discussion of it elsewhere, with a lot of different takes. So far, it looks like there will be more "sweeps" with more cards banned. And with one exception that I know of, organizers for non-sanctioned Magic have committed to following suit and going along with WotC on this, so Commander and other popular unofficial variants will likely also ban the same cards. Implications for casual play are going to depend on where you're playing and whom you're playing with.

Jason Jaco at Eternal Central wrote an excellent response, which I generally concur with: https://www.eternalcentral.com/on-magics-impure-history/

Banning Magic cards for ideological or puritanical reasons is about as intelligent as banning or burning books, or the modern trend of removing them from libraries and bookstores. Sunlight is said to be a natural disinfectant, and by shining the light on weak and illogical ideas they are more easily defeated with open and honest debate. This is the most effective way to influence and genuinely change the opinion of someone you disagree with, by showing them the underlying logic of why their argument or belief is faulty – and not just berating or deplatforming them.

Historically, museums were a great source of knowledge and artifacts that would otherwise be lost to the sands of time, and the past can help serve as a stark reminder of our previous behavior and moral turpitude. In this context Wizards would be better served by adding an editorial note to each card’s page in the Gatherer database that they deem problematic, rather than attempting to simply memory hole things.

Each new day presents a new opportunity for growth. Working together for institutional change and a better path forward requires confronting mistakes of the past and uncomfortable truths openly and honestly, and learning from them to become stronger as an individual and as a community. Stay safe and healthy, be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday, and we’ll see you again soon.
 

Mooseman

Isengar Tussle
I can understand the artwork on Invoke Prejudice being banned by WoTC for their events and sites. Hey, they are a private company that is allowed to react to situations. The rest are a bit odd for me.
If cleanse is banned because of the wording, why isn't Virtue's Ruin or Mass Calcify?
And what is wrong with stone throwing devils? Who exactly is offended by that? Devils? Stone throwers? Did I miss something in the artwork?
BTW - this is not like banning or burning books.... it's the INTERNET, nothing ever actually goes away..... You want to see the card Invoke Prejudice, just type it in to any search engine and there it is. It's just not showing the image on gatherer.
But then again, maybe I missed something in all this.
 
I think this whole thing is being blown out of proportion. Now they want to eliminate Southern cities that were named after Confederate War generals. We are destroying our own Nation...where will it all end. "Take away their name and give them a number."?!?
I'll see you in 76544 lmao
 

Mooseman

Isengar Tussle
Cities, towns, etc. have always been able to change their names. Washington National Airport was renamed for Reagan, Pittsburgh used to be named Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne. Mt. Pleasant, VA was changed to Mt. Jackson.
 

turgy22

Nothing Special
I'm fairly ambivalent about the decision.
On the one hand, WotC needs to avoid getting a bad reputation on things like this before some movement notices and decides to boycott the company.
On the other hand, most of these cards are really old and probably don't see much play nowadays, so should anyone even care? Also, a few of them are definitely on the far reaches of "offensive" and this makes it seem like a bit of an overreach.
On the first hand again, though, Magic tends to not draw in a lot of diversity, so if they want to expand their customer base, they need to be sensitive to things that could offend a pretty wide swath culturally.
On the second hand again, society is constantly evolving and cards being printed as perfectly acceptable today might someday be classified as offensive, so where do you draw the line?

At any rate, I think it's a bit extreme to liken this ban to a book burning, but it also feels like a reach in many ways.
Let's all agree that Invoke Prejudice needs new art and reprint Reparations and call it day.
 
It's almost like the early days of Dungeons & Dragons when the parents used to think that it was a satanic cult thing...
The nation is now starting to tear down statues over 3,000 statues in the United States need to be taken down according to this new thing that's going on in the news. The mayor of Alabama with sued for taking down statues by the city.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
So I wasn't going to delve into the context behind what led up to this, but it occurs to me in retrospect that not doing so was a mistake. The CPA is one of those places where most of us could easily have missed the events leading up to this. So...

Last week, a bunch of corporations did this "Blackout Tuesday" thing where they replaced their digital images on social media, such as banners, avatars, etc. with blank black fields. They made statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and posted them over blank black fields. I don't know how it went over for corporations across the board, but in the case of WotC and some other ones I knew more about, these messages were perceived as ringing hollow for various reasons. Some, myself included, saw it as a rather toothless PR stunt. This isn't to say that I thought WotC was racist, as I saw some claiming. It's just that as a company in their circumstances, they're relatively isolated and removed from the social issues they're commenting on. Anyway, this came to a head on Monday when the former editor-in-chief of ChannelFireball published a hit piece against WotC using Google docs, overtly accusing them of racism.

My own reaction to this document was mixed and mostly neutral. But you can view it for yourself if you like: https://docs.google.com/document/d/...lrthoSI3nfYLoHfl-XhL9SAgRi1tRLSe2Zmp_O0r45_ZI

I don't dispute the details of Zaiem Beg's claims here, but I also don't know the full stories there, and the whole thing reads very much like it was written by someone disgruntled with the workplace relationship for personal reasons. I'm all for taking WotC to task if it's warranted, but the case presented in that piece doesn't, to my standards, make a compelling case that the company is a racist company. Your mileage may vary.

At the end, as a kind of ace-in-the-hole for this whole WotC=racist thing, Zaiem Beg threw in the card Invoke Prejudice and its multiverse ID number.

Two days later, WotC made the announcement that they were banning seven cards from all sanctioned play as well as removing the images of those cards from Gatherer. They also changed the URL from the old multiverse ID to a new number.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
This was all sparked by Invoke Prejudice, a card that is old and obscure enough a lot of people aren't familiar with it. So before I say anything about the other cards they banned, I'd better go over this one. Oh, and as a preamble, while most people are just going to flat-out dismiss Invoke Prejudice as such an utterly unimportant card that banning it doesn't affect gameplay, I want to emphasize that this isn't quite right. Invoke Prejudice was mildly popular in Commander. Keep in mind that if you have no creatures on the battlefield or only artifact creatures, the enchantment has a very one-sided and powerful effect against all of your opponents. The scarcity of the card and its uniqueness made it pretty expensive, much along the same lines of other Legends rares that are playable in niche roles in Commander, like Land Equilibrium, Willow Satyr, and All Hallows Eve. Although I don't own a copy of Invoke Prejudice myself, I am working my way toward completing a set of Legends singles and I'm always trying to include Legends cards in my Commander decks. I'd have already played the card in Commander at some point if I'd owned it. A friend of mine has used it. The last time I played a game of Magic against Invoke Prejudice was March 1st of this year. I know that a lot of people have been saying, "No one plays with these old cards anyway." But that's just not true.

Anyway, there's some weird history with this card, so I'll review that now...

The artist
I can't prove it, but I believe that the card would probably have been viewed as innocuous even by the most vocal of critics if it hadn't just so happened to have been illustrated by Harold McNeill. What WotC and others haven't necessarily made clear is that most controversy around this card started and continued because of who illustrated it, not so much what it actually looked like. Unbeknownst to WotC at the time, Harold McNeill was/is somewhat obsessed with racist iconography. I've read or heard numerous second-hand accounts that he's either a white supremacist or neo-Nazi. While I haven't actually seen a statement from the man himself providing 100% confirmation of this, I have seen that one of his painting (outside of Magic) is a Jesus-with-crown-of-thorns motif, but with a face resembling Adolf Hitler's. Classy, right? So yeah, the guy's a neo-Nazi or at least he likes to draw art that is something a neo-Nazi would be into.

Obviously WotC don't still work with Harold McNeill. While they haven't said so, I'm guessing that they terminated their relationship with him entirely once they learned about what he was into. But he did illustrate some classic Magic cards in the mid-90's, including Enduring Renewal and Sylvan Library. Until recently, I was unaware of any assertions that any of his other illustrations on printed Magic cards other than Invoke Prejudice were considered to have any racism issues, but now that the topic has resurfaced, I've learned that some players believe the Tempest version of Circle of Protection: Black is supposed to depict figures in KKK robes and want that printing of the card to be banned.
1591978761253.png

Personally, I don't see the resemblance. But there you have it. If you're curious, it's not hard to find more of this guy's work. But yeah, I pretty quickly came to the conclusion myself that Harold McNeill is either an outright neo-Nazi or a super-weird guy who wants his art to edgy and borrows from Nazi iconography because he enjoys the reactions he gets from people. It's unfortunate, but I don't blame Jesper Myrfors or Sandra Everingham (they'd have been the art directors back when McNeill's illustrations were commissioned) for not knowing. If the examples of his work that they saw are anything like most of the cards he illustrated, they probably just thought his work was cool and different, and that it could be a nice fit, especially for cards like Nether Void or the CoP cycle.

The connotations of the art itself
Now that tons of people who had never seen Invoke Prejudice are seeing it for the first time, one question that has come up has been, "How did they miss this in the first place?"

While I don't know what prompt McNeill was given for this piece, I contend that, for this card, it kinda works. Don't get me wrong: in hindsight with the artist being a neo-Nazi, it's super-awkward. But let's say it's generally the same art, but somehow the person who created it was different. If I'd been the art director in this scenario (I mean an adult version of me, not the actual version of me, who was 9 years old in 1994), I'd probably give direction notes that it should be some kind of foreboding, mystical figure. The card's an enchantment, and it's always awkward when the art for an enchantment looks too much like it's depicting a creature.

With that in mind, if my artist hands in an illustrating with smoky, shadowy figures, kind of enshrouded in mist, maybe not really there, it really captures the idea of an enchantment. Mechanically, the enchantment is supposed to react when your opponents try to summon creatures, but it also is selective, only affecting certain creature spells while letting other ones go. These shadowy figures, complete with executioner-style hoods and axes, did a good job of conveying that. They look foreboding. They look like something that might scare creatures away so badly that a planeswalker would need to pay more mana to be able to summon those creatures.

The shadowy figures are also very reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods. While the axe is more evocative of medieval executioners, the overall picture could easily make one think, "Those look like Klansmen." And that seems fitting for a card with the name "Invoke Prejudice." One could certainly argue that it was too on-the-nose, and it just seems worse after one realizes in hindsight that the artist must have definitely intended the art to be Klan-inspired. Even so, I'd say it still works. And even if the artist was racist, the art itself doesn't have to be.

The mechanics of the card
So I haven't seen this as much, but it has come up that the rules text of Invoke Prejudice is meant to be racist. Not only does that seems like a very cruel and baseless accusation to level at the designers of Legends, but I happen to think that the card, weirdness aside, has some interesting gameplay.

I mentioned that back in March, I played against it. The deck I was piloting was my "Barrin's Spine" deck, which you can find in the Casual Decks forum. The guy with this card had a deck with Venser, Shaper Savant as commander. The other two players had multicolored decks. Once Invoke Prejudice was on the battlefield, it made a splash. I worked to rush out my blue creatures while Venser player was tapped out, so that he couldn't bounce his own blue creatures. Later, I deliberately bounced the Venser player's blue creatures so that one of my other opponents couldn't afford to cast his blue creatures. And then I used my own spells to protect Invoke Prejudice, even though it wasn't my enchantment, so that the other two players in the game couldn't afford to play their creatures. And after more turns passed, the Venser player was trying to bounce his own blue creatures so that I couldn't afford my blue creatures, but he had to save his countermagic to stop me from also bouncing his artifact creatures, which would leave him without blockers. It's not the best card by any stretch, but it did lead to some dynamic, interactive, multiplayer shenanigans. That's usually how it goes with Invoke Prejudice. Your opponents with blue creatures might actively work to protect your blue creatures from other players. No other card does anything quite like it.

The multiverse ID
WotC mentioned changing the URL on the Gatherer entry for Invoke Prejudice. I'd guess most people are understandably out-of-the-loop on this aspect. It's silly in my opinion, but here's what happened. Either concurrent with or shortly before WotC created Gatherer, they used a card-cataloging system called Multiverse ID, which tagged every Magic card in Gatherer with a sequential number. The system for assigning these numbers ordered the cards is a bit convoluted with different versions of cards and even different language printings of cards in the same sets getting their own numbers. There are gaps in the sequence, especially in newer, non-Standard sets. But generally, for older sets, the process was rigidly formulaic. Cards were sequenced by set first (with Alpha and Beta counting separately), then by color (and not in WUBRG order, but instead it was artifacts, black, blue, green, red, white, multicolored, lands), and then alphabetically (except basic lands break from that, for some reason). So cards in Alpha ran from #1 being Ankh of Mishra to #295 being Plains, and then Ankh of Mishra in Beta gets #296, and so on.

The number that Invoke Prejudice happened to land on in this formula was #1488. This is a number that wouldn't ordinarily be particularly meaningful to most of us. However, if you're actively looking for reasons to care about the connection of the Magic card Invoke Prejudice to anything involving neo-Nazis, it turns out that the number 88 has been used by those people because "Heil Hitler" could be abbreviated "HH" and "H" is the 8th letter of the alphabet. And you might be delighted to learn that a defunct neo-Nazi propaganda publisher was called "Fourteen Words" based on a 14-word slogan. In fact, a small subset of American neo-Nazis was known, in the 80's, for extensively using the numbers "14" and "88" together. There was even a high-profile murderer who had lots of tattoos, one of them being the number "14" and another being the number "88." And hey, if you run "14" and "88" together, you get "1488." I don't mean if you add the numbers. That'd be 102. I mean, if you actually just take the digits themselves, not the numbers they usually represent, and just jam them up next to each other for some reason, then you get "1488."

At some point, several years ago, the fact that a card illustrated by a neo-Nazi also happens to have randomly been assigned a multiverse ID number with digits than can be split to create two different numbers with significance to neo-Nazis. I don't know who first pointed it out. The circumstances of when and how this was discovered are probably lost to time. But it looks like the information made its way into the Gatherer comments starting in 2008 or so. On rare occasions, I've seen people on the internet claim that this was a racist conspiracy by WotC, like a sneaky endorsement of white supremacy or something. But frankly, that's insane. They didn't deliberately set it up that way as a dog-whistle to white supremacists.

It's not a conspiracy. But it's also not a coincidence. It's a phenomenon called the "law of large numbers." There are lots of different ways someone can find numbers associated with something bad. Take any two-digit number or three-digit number and there are going to be multiple significant things associated with it. Work hard enough to combine those and you're going to find something to offend someone out there. If it hadn't been Invoke Prejudice getting 1488, it would have been some other card assigned some other number.

So while WotC have been aware, for years, of the fact that an obscure Legends rare was the subject of a stupid conspiracy theory because of the sequential, system-assigned number it was filed under, I'd guess that (up until this recent change) they left it that way because they didn't want to go down the rabbit hole of letting numerology dictate their filing system. And rightfully so.
 

Ferret

Moderator
Staff member
I'm suddenly reminded of the release of Fourth Edition when cards like Demonic Tutor and Demonic Attorney were taken out of print along with Earthbind and the art of Unholy Strength were removed because they were all too "provocative"...
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
I can understand the artwork on Invoke Prejudice being banned by WoTC for their events and sites. Hey, they are a private company that is allowed to react to situations. The rest are a bit odd for me.
They totally can ban cards for any reason. I think it's a bad idea to ban cards for this reason, even Invoke Prejudice. Some have suggested that considering the whole awkwardness with the artist, they should have left Invoke Prejudiced fully viewable in Gatherer, but made a note along the lines of what Warner Brothers did with their old racist Looney Toons.

"The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While the following todes not represent the Warner Bros. view of today's society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed."

Seems appropriate to me. Maybe put it on all of the cards with Harold McNeill's illustrations. I don't know.

But I do think that banning any card, even Invoke Prejudice, based on this kind of thing is opening the conceptual floodgates. Different things offend different people. I've already seen a couple dozen cards mentioned as ones that people find offensive. WotC have now put themselves in the position of needing to arbitrate that, to make a decision that a card that offends one person is fine and the person just needs to deal with it, while a card that offends another person is egregious and needs to be banned. There's already been at least one notable complaint that the message banning one of these cards (Jihad) sends is itself bigoted. While I didn't really see much of a case for that, I also didn't see any case for banning it in the first place.

If cleanse is banned because of the wording, why isn't Virtue's Ruin or Mass Calcify?
Exactly!

And what is wrong with stone throwing devils? Who exactly is offended by that? Devils? Stone throwers? Did I miss something in the artwork?
It's alleged to be a racial slur. I'm actually rather weirded out by this one. I did some Google searches, but they're dominated by mentions of the card itself and by commentary on the early-modern English folk tale "Lithobolia." If the exact phrase "stone-throwing devils" is a racial slur, it's an incredibly obscure one.

BTW - this is not like banning or burning books.... it's the INTERNET, nothing ever actually goes away..... You want to see the card Invoke Prejudice, just type it in to any search engine and there it is. It's just not showing the image on gatherer.
But then again, maybe I missed something in all this.
Well, since I said that I generally agree with the statement Jason Jaco wrote, I'd better clarify at least what my own stance is. Obviously I can't speak for him.

Mostly, banning and burning books doesn't actually remove the information. It's still available somewhere. But I do think that it's a bad idea, and I think that it's a bad idea for the same reason that Jason Jaco alludes to in that same paragraph: "sunlight is a disinfectant." If material is inappropriate, call it out. Tell the world why that thing is wrong. Trying to hide it is stupid, because people are just going to find it anyway.

WotC has claimed to be opposed to racism. I think that if they really want to commit to that stance, they should be open and forthright, rather than trying to pretend that racism never happened.

I'm fairly ambivalent about the decision.
On the one hand, WotC needs to avoid getting a bad reputation on things like this before some movement notices and decides to boycott the company.
Probably too late for that.

On the other hand, most of these cards are really old and probably don't see much play nowadays, so should anyone even care? Also, a few of them are definitely on the far reaches of "offensive" and this makes it seem like a bit of an overreach.
People are already accusing them of deliberately targeting irrelevant cards so that they can make a statement to try to cast themselves as committed to opposing racism without banning cards that people actually play. Kind of weird that they'd pick Crusade, but it's entirely possible that the employees who came up with this list have little to no knowledge of the formats in which Crusade was still seeing play.

On the first hand again, though, Magic tends to not draw in a lot of diversity, so if they want to expand their customer base, they need to be sensitive to things that could offend a pretty wide swath culturally.
On the second hand again, society is constantly evolving and cards being printed as perfectly acceptable today might someday be classified as offensive, so where do you draw the line?
Well up until this fiasco, they didn't need to decide. That's why I find this so stupid and annoying. Leave the cards alone and you can always fall back on the answer that they're relics of a bygone era, that your company doesn't do cards like that anymore. But once you start banning any cards for ideological reasons, now you've got to draw the line somewhere.

At any rate, I think it's a bit extreme to liken this ban to a book burning, but it also feels like a reach in many ways.
He did say that it's "about as intelligent as banning or burning books." I don't think that's going too far. Seems like both courses of action demonstrate a comparable lack of intelligence; or more charitably, I could say both display a lack of critical thinking.

Let's all agree that Invoke Prejudice needs new art and reprint Reparations and call it day.
Sorry I burned down your village. Here's some gold.

I'm suddenly reminded of the release of Fourth Edition when cards like Demonic Tutor and Demonic Attorney were taken out of print along with Earthbind and the art of Unholy Strength were removed because they were all too "provocative"...
I know the art on Unholy Strength was edited, but were those other cards actually removed because of their art? Fourth Edition had a lot of changes from Third/Revised, and those cards were only a few of them.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
Although major singles sellers, tournament organizers, and most other organizations are decisively following WotC's lead on this, the broad consensus among people who aren't actually in charge of anything seems to be that most of these cards are either not racist at all or that calling them racist is at least a bit of a stretch. Invoke Prejudice is the one that sticks out as an issue. And on that, I'll reiterate that while it's unfortunate that WotC unknowingly commissioned this particular artist, I don't think that banning or censoring the card is a good idea.

Incidentally, I read that someone reached out to Harold McNeill and that he said the art direction he remembered being given was that the card was a blue enchantment named "Invoke Prejudice" and that was it, so he thought of what would be prejudicial and drew "wraith-like inquisitors." I don't know how much this matters. But there you have it.

Anyway, I know that some have espoused the idea that Invoke Prejudice should have been banned and the other six cards left alone. I've also seen it go other ways. Some feel that a single one of these cards is egregious, while the others aren't. And it's a different card for different people. That's why opening up this can of worms is so frustrating. Well, that's one reason. There are other reasons. And maybe I'll go into those. But first, I should go over the other six cards. There have been questions here and elsewhere about why some card was even considered a problem in the first place. I had that question myself. With the caveat that I totally disagree with banning the idea behind banning these cards, I'll try to present the nuances, just to clarify the issues as much as possible...

Stone-Throwing Devils
Several years ago, someone asked Mark Rosewater on his blog about reprinting this card, as it was quite unique: a one-drop devil in black with First Strike. Mark Rosewater replied that unfortunately, the name of the card was a slur, which they hadn't known at the time. This is probably the most frequently questioned card out of the 7, because people just flat-out had no notion that it would be construed as racist, nor which race it's supposed to be racist against. The art seems to show clearly non-human creatures and the flavor text is an indirect reference to a biblical story about Jesus shaming some people who wanted to publicly execute an adulterer by stoning her. No mention of race. I did some cursory Google searching. And wow, this gets weird.

As far as I can tell, the term "stone-throwing devils" is not actually a racial slur at all. Using the card name and "slur" or "racism" as search terms causes searches to be totally dominated by mentions of the Magic card itself. That's not solid proof that the term isn't a racial slur, but if it is, it's such an obscure on that this raises some strange questions. How many people have to use a term as an insult before it's officially a "slur"?

Although this card is from Arabian Nights and most of the cards in that set are loosely inspired by the One Thousand and None Nights collection of folk tales, Richard Garfield also borrowed inspiration from some other folk tales when he created the set, and this one almost certainly comes from an English folk tale called "Lithobolia." A bit out of place for an Arabian setting, but it's not the only card in the set that seems to have been pulled from some other source. And hey, it is from a folk tale, just one that was written in a different region. "Lithobolia" has a somewhat troubled history itself, being associated with real-world conflict between Puritans and Quakers in New England. In the aftermath of these card bans, at least one discussion of Stone-Throwing Devils contained the assertion that the term is a slur against Quakers.

There is an Islamic ceremony called Ramy al-jamarāt aka "Stoning of the Devil." It involves worshippers throwing pebbles at some pillars in a specific location in Mecca (actually, they've been more like walls in recent times for safety reasons because of all the people accidentally missing and hitting each other when they were pillars). This really doesn't seem to have anything to do with the card. The people throwing stones aren't "devils" in this context. The pillars are what symbolize a devil. So at best, it's the total opposite of what the card is showing. Nevertheless, I did find assertions that "stone-throwers" is a slur against either Arabs or Muslims in the region of the India/Pakistan subcontinent. I didn't find a reliable source laying this out, but people have said that it's a slur.

Jihad
I think this one is generally pretty well-known. The word translates somewhat literally to "struggle" and has been applied very broadly in Arabic and Islamic cultures. In modern times and in much of "the West" the word is unfortunately associated with terrorists, because they frequently use the word to refer to their own actions. But the word is much, much more general than that. One of the major interpretations of the word is its application to defensive warfare, and the pike formations in the card art make me think that this was probably the idea in Magic.

While a lot of people, myself included, have been critical of WotC for banning and censoring these cards, this is the only one I know of where the implication of the choice has offended people. I first saw this with Rich Shay...

Personally quite upset at today's racism from @wizards_magic. First, here is some personal background: I am 1/4 Syrian and 1/4 Lebanese -- Christians from both, for context. My ancestors departed very unenviable conditions in those countries to come to America in 1904-1914.

When I was younger, I fell in love with the Arabian Nights set. I guess that is what people these days call representation. It was a positive depiction of my culture, which is often depicted in very negative ways. I love it enough to have a full set.

WotC removed Jihad, calling it "racist." Recall, even when I griped about Amonket, I didn't call WotC racist. Now I am! ISLAM IS NOT A RACE. Remove Jihad because it might offend? Sure. But removing it as "racist" is itself a racist act.

The implication that Islam is a RACE is incredibly offensive. It obliterates the Arabs who don't follow Islam. (Of course, many who follow Islam are not Arabs). The Turks who made my ancestors pay Jizya failed to erase them. I won't allow Wizards to do so either.
I'll readily admit that this reaction seems a bit strange to me and I don't feel like I really get it. But I've encountered the same sentiment from others since. And if we're to take seriously the concept that people could be offended by the art or title of a Magic card, it seems like the corollary is that people could be offended by the removal of a Magic card based on its art or title. It cuts both ways?

Cleanse
People have asked about this one a lot. The only answer I've consistently seen is that the card name has an association with genocide, also known "ethnic cleansing." Well, I looked at the card through a magnifying glass and I couldn't see the word "ethnic" anywhere. So that seems like a weird conclusion to jump to, but here we are.

In fact, it seems pretty obvious from the flavor text that the inspiration for this card is the old fantasy concept that evil monsters are destroyed by sunlight, which goes back to ancient mythologies. The excellent Phil Foglio art seems to convey this well enough, or so I thought.

Since WotC haven't explicitly said why they selected these particular cards (although I think I have a pretty good guess), there's been speculation that the specific phrase "destroy all black creatures" is part of the problem. Personally, I find this unlikely. It's so well-understood in Magic that black creatures are creatures affiliated with black mana in the context of the game, and not a race, that it's got to be something about the title and the tenuous "ethnic cleansing" connection. And yes, they didn't also ban "Purge" for that exact same reason, at least not yet.

When I first saw the card Cleanse in 1999 or whenever, I immediately thought of The Hobbit. If you'd told me that the card was going to get banned because it was racist, I wouldn't have believed you.

Crusade
So this card has easily seen more play than the other six newly-banned cards combined. And it's not close. Crusade used to be a staple. WotC fully intended to put Crusade in Eighth Edition, but they used it as part of a gimmicky contest where players could cast votes for which cards would be reprinted. Crusade lost to Glorious Anthem, which surprised WotC because Crusade was a stronger card with more tournament success. Later, they decided that it was strange for Bad Moon to have a more splashable mana cost than its white counterpart, so they created Honor of the Pure, which was strictly better and supplanted the classic version in almost all formats. Before that, Crusade was the definitive team-boosting card for the "White Weenie" archetype.

From what I've seen, most of the discussion of why this card was banned centers on the religious iconography of the original card art. Uniquely among these cards, it's been reprinted with other art (twice), and reprinted in the Modern card frame. I'd assume logically that the art isn't the problem, but then nothing has been logical about any of this. Also, there are other cards out there with way more overt religious iconography than this one. But then what's the issue? The card name? 39 other Magic cards have the word "crusade" or "crusader" in their names.

This is probably the one I've got the least clear answer on. To make matters even more bizarre, if the trouble with "racism" on this card is supposed to be association with the real, historical crusades, then it's extremely awkward that this card is much newer and sees much more play...
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I have no idea what possessed them to use the word "cathar" for a faction on the plane of Innistrad, but it's totally a real, historical group of people from our actual planet, and there was a crusade against them in France, the Cathar Crusade, more commonly known as the Albigensian Crusade. This was a very real genocide in which hundreds of thousands of people died. In real life. I'm not saying that the reference offends me, but I'm at a loss to see how an inescapable reference to a real-life genocidal crusade is somehow not as offensive as the general umbrella concept of crusading. Also, there's this card too...
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That is clearly racism against goblins right there.

Imprison
This is another one I'm not certain about. The card name is so generic that I initially assumed that it had to be the fact that the man in the art looks dark-skinned. He's wearing an iron mask, so you can't actually see what race he's supposed to be for sure, but I'm going with the assumption that the concern here is racism against anyone with dark skin in general. That seems like it doesn't really work though, because there's nothing on the card to indicate that this figure was imprisoned because of his race. Looking around online, the main contention seems to be that the iron mask in the art is a reference to the use of iron masks in the Atlantic slave trade. This has given rise to a lot of questions about cards like Enslave and Enslaved Scout. But my own reaction to this has been to point out that iron masks predate the Atlantic slave trade by a lot. They're much older and were mostly used for other purposes, particularly as a form of public humiliation and usually used on women. These masks and the ones later used on slaves did not usually conceal very much of the face. Instead, they were more like cages. The mask in the art of Imprison is almost certainly inspired by "The Man in the Iron Mask" (I mean the historical figure, not the book, although maybe that was the inspiration too). And there's nothing racist about that?

Pradesh Gypsies
This is the only one where it seems really legitimately obvious what the complaint is, and it's that the term "gypsies" is considered objectionable. The issue isn't as simple as just "the word is a slur" though. Not in this case. The term "gypsy" comes from a very old, mistaken understanding that the Romani people were originally from Egypt. It literally just meant "Egyptian." There are a couple million people worldwide who are of this ethnic group (which we now know originated in India), and they don't all call themselves the same thing. Some object to the term "gypsy" and others proudly refer to themselves as such. Meanwhile, some go by "Romani" and others insist on "Roma." It's a mess.

The word "gypsy" is also sometimes applied to other people who happen to share similar nomadic lifestyles, even though they're not Romani. Back in 1994, probably almost no one in America would have associated "Roma" with this people/ethnicity/culture, and the word "gypsy" would have been common, as it's been the general term in use for centuries in the English language. But more recently, it's become well-known that a lot of Romani people consider "gypsy" to be insulting. On the other hand, the most prominent institution associated with them in English-speaking countries is still named the "Gypsy Lore Society." I don't think that the word itself is a slur, but it does have some uncomfortable connotations and I could totally see WotC wanting to distance themselves from that.

The Fifth Edition reprint of this card added flavor text with a quote from Lord Magnus of Llanowar. I have no idea what the impetus for this was, as there's no actual information in Magic lore about what "Pradesh" even means.
 
People can find fault with anything. Rarely do people look for the good, or news networks would be out of a job. I use to enjoy listening to radio in the morning, for the weather report and fishing report. Now its nothing but Covid and racism. I got rid of my television and listen to CDs or play online games, or just read. How many peopled even read anymore?!?
 

Ferret

Moderator
Staff member
Reading's hard. Don't want to do that.

Seriously, I understand what you mean. My wife and I got rid of cable years ago and just use a couple of streaming services for our entertainment purposes. It seems that everyone has gotten back to being afraid of offending a small portion of the population that they've started walking on eggshells (sprinkled over broken glass, poured over molten lava).
 
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