Magic: The Gathering is considering dropping the shaman and druid creature types, because of the terms’ significance as real-world religious identifiers, MTG head designer Mark Rosewater has revealed. This came up after Rosewater told his Tumblr audience that warlock was used instead of witch because the latter is a term used in religions today – by modern day Wicca groups.
Naturally, shaman and druid were then brought up as examples of other, better established MTG creature types that would also be excluded by that logic. To which Rosewater has said “We are currently examining that exact topic”. He then clarified that, indeed, Wizards of the Coast is considering retiring these terms from Magic: The Gathering. Currently there are 475 shaman cards and 290 druids in the game.
Obviously, the subject of language in MTG has been a hot topic of late, after Wizards of the Coast announced it was changing ‘tribal’ to ‘typal’ for its internal language. It should be noted that it’s particularly interesting to see Wizards of the Coast examining the use of the term ‘druid’, since the 5e Druid is a major DnD class, and has been part of the game since the 1970s. Could a similar change be about to take place in Dungeons and Dragons?
Magic: The Gathering is full of creature types that originate from religion and mythology. Much of the fantastical elements of the trading card game, like angels, demons, golems, and even zombies if you trace them back to Haiti, come from real world religious stories and beliefs.
Their inclusion in Wizards-owned games has not been uncontroversial in the past, either. From the infamous satanic panic around DnD in the 1980s, to more modern questions of cultural appropriation, plenty of criticism has been leveled at the inclusion and depiction of certain creatures, in both Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering alike.
But it seems that Wizards of the Coast and Mark Rosewater are right now only talking about instances where Magic: The Gathering’s language overlaps with existing cultural and religious terms related to real people, like shamans, witches (and arguably ‘tribal’). The head designer has also argued that the terms are more acceptable in individual card names than as official creature types.
“Creature types are used for vocabulary for how people group cards together in a way card titles aren’t,” he writes, in a post made September 28. “For example, Priest has existed in card names since the early days of Magic, but no one is building a Priest deck. Our issue is people using vocabulary as game terms in a way where it takes meaning beyond just identifying a particular card.” We’re left a little unclear by his wording here.
It’s worth noting that the very next MTG set takes place in a world inspired by Mayan and Aztec cultures, societies that had shamanic practices (and the word is now used to describe religious leaders for their modern-day descendants). The first two Ixalan sets were chock full of shamans, in both the dinosaur riding Sun Empire and the river-dwelling merfolk. Perhaps, with MTG Lost Caverns of Ixalan, that won’t be the case.