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Flavor text

Flavor text is the italicized text (but not in parentheses) on a Magic card that serves to provide a mood or give background information on the game world, but has no effect on gameplay.

Description[ | ]

Each set has a person assigned to it who is responsible for overseeing names and flavor text.[1] In the past, this was a single person who oversaw all the names and flavor text of all the sets, but a number of years ago, R&D began switching to different people from set to set. That person, known as the creative lead, works with a collection of writers (both internal and external to Wizards of the Coast) who make up the Creative Writing team for the set. Each card is put into a special online database with the information of what is needed from the writers.

Each member of the Creative Writing team for the set writes several suggestions for every name and flavor text. The creative lead will then go through all the suggestions picking what they think are the choices that work best. They then work with the editing lead of the set to make sure the names and flavor text they've selected will work. (Certain choices, for instance, might not physically fit on the card or might conflict with choices made in a nearby set.) The Set Design lead (along with other members of R&D) will also give notes on the chosen names that the creative lead can respond to. Freelance writers are paid if their submissions are accepted by the creative team.

Real-world quotations (mostly literature, the bible and so on) were a thing in early sets, but nowadays they are mostly avoided. A few versions of iconic cards (e.g. Wrath of God, Lightning Bolt, Counterspell) may have no flavor text, even though there is room for it, as flavor text could be seen as detracting from the overall aesthetic of these staples.

Rules[ | ]

Any italicized text in parentheses is not flavor text, but reminder text.

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 207.2. The text box may also contain italicized text that has no game function.
    • 207.2a Reminder text is italicized text within parentheses that summarizes a rule that applies to that card. It usually appears on the same line as the ability it’s relevant to, but it may appear on its own line if it applies to an aspect of the card other than an ability.
    • 207.2b Flavor text is italicized text that, like the illustration, adds artistic appeal to the game. It usually appears below the rules text.
    • 207.2c An ability word appears in italics at the beginning of some abilities. Ability words are similar to keywords in that they tie together cards that have similar functionality, but they have no special rules meaning and no individual entries in the Comprehensive Rules. The ability words are adamant, addendum, alliance, battalion, bloodrush, celebration, channel, chroma, cohort, constellation, converge, council’s dilemma, coven, delirium, descend 4, descend 8, domain, eminence, enrage, fateful hour, fathomless descent, ferocious, formidable, grandeur, hellbent, heroic, imprint, inspired, join forces, kinship, landfall, lieutenant, magecraft, metalcraft, morbid, pack tactics, paradox, parley, radiance, raid, rally, revolt, secret council, spell mastery, strive, sweep, tempting offer, threshold, undergrowth, and will of the council.
    • 207.2d Similar to ability words, flavor words appear in italics at the beginning of some abilities. Flavor words provide a flavorful description of abilities, but they have no special rules meaning and are not listed in the Comprehensive Rules. While an ability word ties together several abilities with similar functionality, each flavor word is tailored to the specific ability it appears with.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Flavor Text
Text in italics (but not in parentheses) in the text box of a card that has no effect on play. See rule 207.2.

Four-letter flavor text[ | ]

Starting with Mirage expansion, the flavor text team included a four-letter piece of flavor text, one of which was a sharp, evocative quote. The team decided to end the trend in Unglued with "Mooo" on Hungry Hungry Heifer in extra-large type, seven sets later.[2] Time Spiral had "Obey!" on Word of Seizing as an homage to Ray of Command. Zendikar Rising had the first new one in fourteen years, though it wasn't a signifier of a new trend. The Fallout decks brought an incidental one, as the quote "Gary!" would be the same regardless of the name's length. Secret Lair cards brought a new way to add to this tradition, as new printings could have new flavor text.

Two cards with three-letter flavor texts exist, though they had no particular sense of continuity; "Sit." on Krosan Drover and "Now!" on Entrapment Maneuver.

Set Flavor text Card
Mirage "Heel." Ray of Command
Visions BOOM! Magma Mine
Visions "Next!" Goblin Recruiter
Weatherlight "Ewww!" Mwonvuli Ooze
Tempest "Here." Jinxed Idol
Stronghold "Mine." Cannibalize
Exodus "Stay." Monstrous Hound
Unglued Mooo. Hungry Hungry Heifer
Time Spiral "Obey!" Word of Seizing
Unstable S-U-C-K Spell Suck
Zendikar Rising "Hush." Drana's Silencer
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Don't. Split the Party
Doctor Who "Gary!" Gary Clone
Secret Lair "Paws." Mental Misstep
Secret Lair Pray. Avacyn, the Purifier

Flavor text matters[ | ]

Un-cards may care about flavor text. Flavor text matters is featured in Unhinged (Carnivorous Death-Parrot and My First Tome) and Unstable (Ineffable Blessing).[3]

List of mentioned persons[ | ]

  • The List of secondary characters is a comprehensive sortable table that lists every character that is mentioned in flavor text, but only played a minor role or even have never appeared in the storyline.

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (March 4, 2019). "You Know Who.". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Magic Arcana (March 21, 2002). "Four-letter words". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Adam Styborski (November 14, 2017). "Welcome to Flavortown! (Or Not)". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[ | ]