08/10/2011 StF: "Magic's Exclusive Creatures"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Savor the Flavor, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Considering the original Masticore was printed in Urza Block I don't see how it doesn't count. It's been on 2 planes, has a unique identity (both physically and mechanically). If slivers can make it for on the list for being transported to Rath from where ever and then dumped on Dominaria (while we have seen them on two planes, they were not natural to either), why can't Masticores make it for being on two planes?
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I am baffled...you say the Viashino, aka lizard-men, are shoe ins then immediately discount the other anthropomorphs. Also...Wurms? Seriously? Wurms have been around in Fantasy for....ever. Right off the top of my head is the Fred Saberhagen "Swords" books (late 80s)....

Logic? Not for Vorthos!

Why does it need to be seen on at least 2 planes?  I think that's arbitrary garbage.


And I'm going to nitpick every decision you made, because that's really the point of this article.


Slivers are pretty awesome and distinct, and I think they pull a lot of their uniformity from the "everybody gains..." mechanic.  The original slivers were pretty distinct from one another (arguably too distinct), and I think the Legions slivers could use some more variety, but overall I think they work.  I always felt like Metalic Sliver and Horned Sliver looked most like the archetypal sliver (with a big, long, rigid crest, rather than the snakey stuff seen on Plated Sliver and Pulmonic Sliver), but I think anything with one claw, two tails, a funny head and no legs would look like a sliver to me.


For the Baloths, you condemned them for their lack of uniformity, and then claimed that wurms were a "unique Magic property".  WTF?  I've not seen a baloth in any other property, and a Google search for "baloth" turns up nothing but Magic websites.  Wurms are a staple of fantasy in general, popping up in everything from DnD to Dune to Tremors and more.  Furthermore, wurms in Magic lack uniformity just as badly as the Baloth does -- Craw Wurm, Arrogant Wurm, Autochthon Wurm, Bellowing Tanglewurm, Charnelhoard Wurm, Duskdale Wurm, et al.  That's only a tiny selection of this creature type which exists in many properties, even outside of dedicated fantasy properties.  Magic cannot possibly claim "wurms" as its own.  At the same time, the variety represented in the wurms demonstrates how a large number of visually distinct representations can all be the same thing.  Baloths are big, loud, and menacing, whatever they are, and there's a much stronger case for them being "a unique Magic property".  In other words, if I were establishing my own new IP, Wurms would be on the table and there's not a darned thing you can do about it, but Baloth is all yours and the courts will back you up.


Hellions are pretty cool, and I like them.  They're definitely unique, although I think they're ultimately derived from the wurm heritage (but they're distinct enough with their barbules and affinity for fire to get by).  The term "Hellion" is not distinct to Magic, but Hellions as fire wurms with tentacles is.


The Vedalkin is a color-swapped person -- they're blue humans.  Ditto the Kor, who are white humans, although the barbule beards are pretty cool.  The Kithkin are just squat halflings or hobbits, existing archetypally in fantasy.  If we're tossing out all the anthropomorphic animal/people (which I can respect), then I think the Viashino have to go because they're nothing more than lizard men.  Giving the groups unique names lets you own the name, but it doesn't change that they aren't fundamentally derivative creatively.  The Kithkin's psychic connection isn't completely unique either, it being a staple of science fiction and fantasy (and already popping up in the Slivers, for heaven sake).


I do agree that Phedagrifs are pretty cool, and "distinct enough".  I'm kinda surprised I didn't see one in Time Spiral block.  "Normal animal with wings" might not really qualify as creative, but I think this one manages to do its thing well enough.  Everything is made from other little bits in the end.

I like Archons; the relation to the traditional 'blind justice' figure is appealing, and they manage to simultaneously mirror both Specters (being armed humanoids riding flying mounts) and Angels (being an opposite-gender derivation of a real-word referent). That's either clever character design or tremendously fortunate coincidence; either way, it's very cool.

I do, however, dislike the way Archon of Justice and Vengeful Archon are 'blinded' by having their faces cast in shadow. It's much too close to the way Specters are depicted for my tastes; when I first saw Archon of Justice's art back in Eventide, my first thought was that it was some sort of () hybrid Specter. It also seems to go against the idea of being an incarnation of justice in the first place: since when is the face of justice hidden or shrouded in darkness?

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My first thought on reading this article was, "Masticore's only on Mirrodin? That ain't right."  Not only does the original Masticore exist on Dominaria, but it predates the Mirrodin plane completely, both in terms of design and chronology.  Check out Deep Analysis if you want to argue that the original Masticore may not have actually been on Dominaria (since Urza Block had some admittedly murky plane-hopping going on).

Although I'll definitely agree that Archons being blind needs better representation, art-wise.  Obscuring their faces really isn't enough to get that concept across, and it does give them a confused overlap with Spectres.  (Though I certainly wouldn't object to a B/W Spectre/Archon!  That'd be awesome, since, of course, B/W is the best color combo ever.)
I don't have a lot of complaints here - after all, the list is fairly subjective - but I can't accept Wurms being "In". Rhox, Loxodon, and probably even Leonin are more "unique" to Magic than Wurms are. Wurms are everywhere. Well, maybe not everywhere, but enough places you really can't claim them as Magic-exclusive.

Viashino are probably in the same boat. Lizardmen are very common, far more than any of the other races mentioned. The Rhox and Loxodon seem to me far more exclusive than them.

Kor and Vedalken may be very humanoid (as are Elves), but they're unique enough that I'd say they qualify. The Thoughtweft sets the Kithkin apart from hobbits and other fantasy halflings, but also limits their qualifications on the plane-spanning requirement.

Overall, given the requirements listed, I'd make the following changes for my own (still highly subjective) list:

In:


  • Myr (Dubious, having only been seen on one plane, but still worthy I think)

  • Masticore

  • Rhox

  • Loxodon


Out:


  • Viashino

  • Wurm

  • Kithkin


The other borderline cases could go either way, but those are the ones I feel strongly about. The anthropomorphs could really go any way, but the Wurms must go!
Rules Nut Advisor
Magic needs more Baloth creatures. They're awesome.

I remember when me and my friends started playing, I had given my friend Brandon an Enormous Baloth. Heh, I remember him saying, "HOLY ****, 7 POWER AND TOUGHNESS?!". I loved the days of being naive and playing bad cards ^^ That's probably why I like pauper so much...

And I kind of disagree that they lack a consistent visual identity: they're all reptillian.
Dark Ritual, because slow and steady does not win the race.
Wurms are a staple of fantasy in general, popping up in everything from DnD to Dune to Tremors and more.

Pretty sure they're worms rather than wurms in Tremors, Dune, etc. Not a clue about D&D.


The distinction? Giant worms are giant worms, while wurms are dragons... Specifically the Old High German word for Dragon (the Old English equivilent was Wyrm. Now, I agree that it's probably not enough for a court to hold up as 'distinct IP' but reconceptualising dragons into what Magic calls Wurms is certainly... Different... Especially considering there's nothing about wurms to indicate R&D actually know they're doing that. "Blue dragons are small dudes who fly but have no breath weapons, red dragons are fire breathing traditional European dragons and... Green dragons are... Giant, carnivorous earthworms. Huh." was pretty much my first reaction to seeing Blue drakes, Red dragons and Green wurms, anyway... I'm still trying to figure out how you get from European Dragon to 'giant carnivorous earthworm' - At least Craw Wurm is a reptile.


The Vedalkin is a color-swapped person -- they're blue humans.  Ditto the Kor, who are white humans, although the barbule beards are pretty cool.  The Kithkin are just squat halflings or hobbits, existing archetypally in fantasy.



Kithkin are Magic brand Halflings in the same way that Hobbits are Tolkein brand Halflings... Are they distinct enough to be unique... It's borderline, certainly the only interpritation of Halflings I've ever seen with a passive empathic link.

If we're tossing out all the anthropomorphic animal/people (which I can respect), then I think the Viashino have to go because they're nothing more than lizard men.



Agreed entirely with that. (Heck, lizard men are probably more common than elephant men or rhino men)

Giving the groups unique names lets you own the name, but it doesn't change that they aren't fundamentally derivative creatively.  The Kithkin's psychic connection isn't completely unique either, it being a staple of science fiction and fantasy (and already popping up in the Slivers, for heaven sake).



On halflings, however, it's certainly something I've never seen before.

I do agree that Phedagrifs are pretty cool, and "distinct enough".  I'm kinda surprised I didn't see one in Time Spiral block.  "Normal animal with wings" might not really qualify as creative, but I think this one manages to do its thing well enough.  Everything is made from other little bits in the end.



Flying hippos are... slightly ridiculous, though. Charming but ridiculous.

(Which means there should be more of them, clearly. Owlbears may be utterly mad conceptually but their existence doesn't seem to have done D&D any harm. Shame their being multicoloured makes them utterly impossible to include in a core set, really.)
Slivers started on Rath, so they definately meet the requirements.
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The only real, truly scandalous, unbearable forgotten ones are Atogs and Lhurgoyfs ! They may be restricted to Dominaria, but I don't like that much that "must have appeared on several planes" rule. Plus, Dominaria is still the Nexus of the Multiverse ad the most developed plane in terms of chronology and background. And... atogs ! lhurgoyfs ! Aren't those ones among the most unique creatures Magic flavor has ever created ? And seriously, if you count pheldagriffs in (which is a good thing, I like them), you must count atogs and lhurgoyfs in, as they are way more known and more numerous too.

Baloths... humpf. Yeah, they're cool. They just aren't, by far, the most original creature type Magic has to offer. Especially when compared to atogs or viashinos (or slivers).

The "anthropomorphic animals" people do cause some problems, because they're still rather generic. I'd say the rhoxes and loxodons may be counted in, as they are more rare than, say, cat-folks or lizard men. But I'd like to count the viashinos in, because, well, I've always had a soft spot for them, and they've always had some cool background to enhance their originality.
Also, I'd classify the kithkins more into the "hopeful" category, as in the beginning they were basically hobbits-but-hush-we-can't-call-them-hobbits. It is only with Time Spiral and Lorwyn that they got some real distinctive looks and original background.
I am glad, on the other hand, that the kor got in. I love them, and I hope we'll see them again.
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As some other posters have stated, if Loxodon are out, then Viashino should be out as well.  I would even be more comfortable including Merfolk than Viashino.  (Many fantasy settings have some form of merfolk, but Magic's recently printed Merfolk have legs, which distinguish them from generic merfolk more than anything about the Viashino distinguishes them from generic lizard-people.)

Phelddagrifs are also somewhat dubious; there are only two of them, and one is a direct reference to the other.  I'd hardly call them a "fixture of the game".  It would make sense to include them if we were going to see more of them, but I don't see any indication that that is the case.
I agree about Phelddagrifs one is a LEGENDARY creature the other is just a version of that and it should also really be Legendary.

What about Atogs?  They have defined characteristics and have been everywhere!

Wurms? Don't make me laugh they've been around in myth for hundreds of years:  The Lambton Worm 

What about Thrulls? Or have they not been around enough.

As for humanoid creatues Loxodon's and Rhinox's have you see Babar the Elephant?

Leonin? Thundercats?

Phil





I love Doug's flavor explanation that Dredgers are insane on purpose. It just gives me this mental image of someone who's completely off the deep end but who might very well manage to kill you because his brand of crazy is, in fact, deadly.

It almost makes me hate Dredge less.

Almost.
Phelddagrifs are also somewhat dubious; there are only two of them, and one is a direct reference to the other.  I'd hardly call them a "fixture of the game".  It would make sense to include them if we were going to see more of them, but I don't see any indication that that is the case.

They are a very special and unique feature of Magic. In case you're not aware, Phelddagrif is an anagram for "Garfield, Ph.D." That alone qualifies for inclusion.

And I agree with all posters above. Doug's list is very much open for disagreement, and the omission of Atogs and Lhurgoyfs is inexcusable.
They are a very special and unique feature of Magic. In case you're not aware, Phelddagrif is an anagram for "Garfield, Ph.D." That alone qualifies for inclusion.


Yes, I was aware, and no, that does not alone qualify them for inclusion.
Doug is being so completely arbitrary in this article that there are only two interpretations - he's being utterly goofy and unreasonable just because he can, or this article exists for the sake of delivering a sneaky hint about stuff that's coming down the pipe.  I will charitably believe the latter.

Possible clues:

1.  The obvious tease is that Eldrazi are certain to come back soon.  That hardly even counts though.

2.  Very likely the decision has officially been made to treat Wurms as the green iconic and this article exists to announce that fact in lopsided fashion since it hasn't been approved for outright admitting it.  If this is true then I'm sad, for I never have felt Wurms were right for the position; I'd much rather have Hydras, even if they have to be vanilla dorks like Khalni Hydra rather than having +1/+1 counter abilities - I don't see that as a problem at all, any more than every dragon needs firebreathing or even demon needs to drive a hard bargain.  So I hope I'm wrong here, but this does seem the likeliest explanation.

3.  Thrulls in Innistrad?  They would seem to fit thematically.

4.  Presumably Baloths will get consistentized soon.  Personally I couldn't care less as long as they persist in being Beasts, but it does seem as though a lot of players like them.

5.  More new Vedalken?  Not revolutionary, but it'd make me happy.

6.  Point 3 in the list here makes me hope that one day we will see the pre-Shadow origins of the Soltari, Dauthi and Thalakos.

7.  A new Phelddagrif?  Seems doubtful, but Doug did call them out despite Ice Age and Planeshift both being set on Dominaria (arguably Planeshift could also be considered set on Rath, maybe this was such hair-splitting or just an honest mistake, but again I'm assuming Doug is pulling a Xanatos Gambit on us and not simply having a brainfart).

I would disagree that the Orochi are out, especially if Viashino are in.  While I don't agree that Viashino are just lizardfolk (desert-dwelling, serpentine lizardmen who are kin to dragons and dinosaurs are a far cry from the swamp-dwelling foes in D&D), there is no way that four-armed humanoids are no more than anthropomorphic Snakes.  This makes me think Doug is strictly going by creature type - Viashino aren't Lizards but Orochi are Snakes, so what else could his criteria be?  (Also minor nitpick on the Illithid comparison - Intellect Devourers are a completely different species, the Illithids are called Mind Flayers.  Gotta love D&D's "that's not a hell hound, it's a fiendish half-dragon direwolf" nomenclature.)
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I love the flavour description of manaless dredge. My first thought when I saw the question was "Psshhawwhaww yeah right". But Doug pulled it off admirably.
I'm glad I'm not the only one who picked up on Illithid's and Intellect Devourers being different species.

I couldn't care less about baloths, I like them as beasts alone as that seems to describe them perfectly.

Phelddagrif though, really? One out of the two cards is a legendary creature whose actual name is Phelddagrif. Although technically it conforms to your rules, shouldn't there be some sort of common-sense exclusion for something like this.

Atogs definitely should be included. Lhurgoyfs I don't agree should be included, they don't have a characteristic look.
2.  Very likely the decision has officially been made to treat Wurms as the green iconic and this article exists to announce that fact in lopsided fashion since it hasn't been approved for outright admitting it.  If this is true then I'm sad, for I never have felt Wurms were right for the position; I'd much rather have Hydras, even if they have to be vanilla dorks like Khalni Hydra rather than having +1/+1 counter abilities - I don't see that as a problem at all, any more than every dragon needs firebreathing or even demon needs to drive a hard bargain.  So I hope I'm wrong here, but this does seem the likeliest explanation.



Hydras are greens Iconic creature type. You can stop wishing now.
Rules Nut Advisor
So I've decided if you can have wurm you can have Juggernaut. Yes I know they are based on a mythical thing but they are pretty unique in style to MTG.

Where do Hellkites fall into this? While they are only a sub-set of dragons they seem to be unique to the game and we've had a lot of them recently. 
You should have maybe checked with the dudes in the other part of the building whos game has been around a bit longer.

Kithkin with their psychic link are very very similar to Ghostwise Halflings (who are telepathic) which appear in D&D (Forgotten Realms).

Wurms have existed in D&D for quite some time and are distinct from dragons, just as they are in Magic.  In fact, D&D and Magic wurms are strikingly similar.

Really, I imagine a lot, maybe even most of Magic's creature types are inspired by D&D.  Especially in the early days.

 
Wurms are pretty much in the same boat as Archons and Specters in that while the word "wurm" is used outside of Magic, it's not used in the same sense at all. Outside of Magic, "wurm" is generally used as a generic archaic term for dragons of pretty much any kind. There's no general consensus on what a "wurm" is; no other fantasy setting (as far as I'm aware of, anyway) has created its own definition for the term the way Magic has, and there's no real equivalent to Magic's wurms in any other setting, by any name.

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Wurms are pretty much in the same boat as Archons and Specters in that while the word "wurm" is used outside of Magic, it's not used in the same sense at all. Outside of Magic, "wurm" is generally used as a generic archaic term for dragons of pretty much any kind. There's no general consensus on what a "wurm" is; no other fantasy setting (as far as I'm aware of, anyway) has created its own definition for the term the way Magic has, and there's no real equivalent to Magic's wurms in any other setting, by any name.


That's just nonsense. "Wurm" may, at some point, have been used synonymously with Dragon (although I personally see the spelling "Wyrm" associated with that definition more often), but the "Magic definition" of Wurms as long, tubular, large-mouthed eating machines is a fairly commonplace one in modern fantasy. As far as I know, the popularization of this definition has its roots in the Dune universe (that's where I know it from, at least), and in fact one of the very first Wurm creatures is almost exactly like the sandworms in Dune. Magic didn't create the Wurm. They made Wurms a little less burrowing-based than most other fantasy settings, but that's as far as it goes. If having a slightly different definition than everyone else qualifies them as a unique Magic race, then the whole article needs to be drastically reevaluated.
Rules Nut Advisor
The classic big mouthed tubalar wurm is drived from Myth as pointed out in my link posted earlier.

Look at it this way if I wrote a book about about something like a wurm magic could not argue I ripped off their intelectual property and that's also probably true about any of the anthorpormophic creatures.

However, if I made a film called Munchers which featured a bunch of football headed bug eyed monsters eating electrical goods, bicycles, cars, jewellery and pretty much any other inanimate object. WoTC may have an issue with it.
Wurms are pretty much in the same boat as Archons and Specters in that while the word "wurm" is used outside of Magic, it's not used in the same sense at all. Outside of Magic, "wurm" is generally used as a generic archaic term for dragons of pretty much any kind. There's no general consensus on what a "wurm" is; no other fantasy setting (as far as I'm aware of, anyway) has created its own definition for the term the way Magic has, and there's no real equivalent to Magic's wurms in any other setting, by any name.



D&D makes the distinction pretty clear in that "Wyrms" are Dragons and "Wurms" are long tubular eating machines.  Basically the same definitions that Magic uses.  In fact, I imagine that Magic got it from their partners in WotC or as another poster said, Dune.
Definitely throwing in my hat for the unquestionable inclusion of Atogs; they meet all the requirements of the article, do they not? Plus the original artifact chewer is, like, only the most iconic of all Magic's early creatures (except Hurloon Minotaur, but he sucks :p)!

I'm also in the party that supports Lhurgoyfs. Sure, their look hasn't been terribly consistent, but the existing ones, across all colors to boot, are similar looking enough that they could become like what you're hoping for Baloths. And come on, if you're going to the trouble of naming something Lhurgoyf and reusing that concept over the course of many years, how can they not be included?

Time to speak up for the Spikes. I love 'em. They were hot stuff on their heyday, and have enough design space to take the world by storm again (someday. I hope). And they didn't appear only in the Rath Cycle; let's not forget Spike Tiller from Time Spiral! ...okay, that one doesn't count so much, but what about Quillspike? His creature type is beast, but he sure looks and acts like a Spike to me. If he indeed is one, then the Spikes meet the articles requirements, huzzah!

I enjoyed this article a lot overall, fine job this week. The flavor explanation of Manaless Dredge is something to write home about.
Wurms are pretty much in the same boat as Archons and Specters in that while the word "wurm" is used outside of Magic, it's not used in the same sense at all. Outside of Magic, "wurm" is generally used as a generic archaic term for dragons of pretty much any kind. There's no general consensus on what a "wurm" is; no other fantasy setting (as far as I'm aware of, anyway) has created its own definition for the term the way Magic has, and there's no real equivalent to Magic's wurms in any other setting, by any name.


D&D makes the distinction pretty clear in that "Wyrms" are Dragons and "Wurms" are long tubular eating machines.  Basically the same definitions that Magic uses.  In fact, I imagine that Magic got it from their partners in WotC or as another poster said, Dune.


By the way, I'm still waiting on that Magic/D&D crossover, Wizards.
[...]but the "Magic definition" of Wurms as long, tubular, large-mouthed eating machines is a fairly commonplace one in modern fantasy. As far as I know, the popularization of this definition has its roots in the Dune universe (that's where I know it from, at least), and in fact one of the very first Wurm creatures is almost exactly like the sandworms in Dune.

Except that Dune's sandworms are called "worms", not "wurms", and Elder Land Wurm is not at all similar to a sandworm. Hellions are closer to sandworms than the vast majority of Magic's wurms are.

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Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

[...]but the "Magic definition" of Wurms as long, tubular, large-mouthed eating machines is a fairly commonplace one in modern fantasy. As far as I know, the popularization of this definition has its roots in the Dune universe (that's where I know it from, at least), and in fact one of the very first Wurm creatures is almost exactly like the sandworms in Dune.

Except that Dune's sandworms are called "worms", not "wurms", and Elder Land Wurm is not at all similar to a sandworm. Hellions are closer to sandworms than the vast majority of Magic's wurms are.


Changing just a single letter does not an entirely new creature make. If I make a pointy-eared nature-loving forest-dwelling race and name it Alf, it's still not even remotely my own idea.

Besides, how can you say that Elder Land Wurm, which is a gigantic worm creature who burrows through a desert, is not in any way similar to the sandworms from Dune? The fact of the matter remains, Giant Worm Creatures, whether called Wyrms, Wurms, Worms or whatever you want to call them, have been around for centuries. They're straight out of mythology. They are certainly not in any way unique to Magic, no matter how cool they are.
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