Tokens in Magic the Gathering – A History Video Essay | MTG

Tokens in Magic the Gathering – A History Video Essay | MTG


Tokens are often an under appreciated part
of Magic, something that’s easy to forget when packing your deck boxes ready to head
down to your Local Games Store. How often have you heard someone therre asking if anyone
has a spare token, a dice or even a scrap of paper whilst mid-game. But they add so much to your game. Not only
do they help to accurately represent the boardstate, which is really important, but they add to
the sense of immersion in the setting. A dice or two placed on your playmat isn’t
going to evoke quite the same feelings as a handful of beautifully illustrated bits
of cardboard. Speaking of the cardboard, fun fact time,
tokens aren’t made from the same cardstock as regular Magic cards! They’re missing the
coloured inner strip of whatever it is! Token creatures have been a part of Magic
since the very beginning in Alpha edition, due to just one card. The Hive is an artifact,
or mono artifact in the parlance of it’s time, and you could pay 5 mana to make a 1/1 wasp.
There weren’t tokens included in packs back then as there are now so you had to make do
with what you could. Glass beads were the de rigueur choice of
token representor back then, and bonus points if you had a snazzy draw-string pouch with
vaguely fantasy-inspired overtones to it to hold them in. Then Fallen Empires came out in 1994. A small
set not packing much of a punch, although it did bring massive Homarid support to the
game, and it did create a bit of an issue. It had 6 cards that created creature tokens,
and that was unprecedented. Thankfully Wizards Of The Coast also published
a magazine at the time, remember those?! called the Duelist, and in issue number 4 they actually
printed some tokens and counters for all the cards in Fallen Empires, and so the first
official tokens were created! By the way if you’ve never seen or heard of
the Duelist magazine I reviewed an issue from 1998 a while back and the link is up in the
top right corner! It was a really fun read, and one of the only sources of MTG news in
days before the spread of the internet. Whilst we’re on the subject of tokens that
aren’t tokens how we know them now, 1995 saw the release of these tokens from a company
called Citadel Gaming, and no they’re nothing to do with Games Workshop. They released three
batches and then disappeared! An oddity and a collectors item now! Unglued in 1998 brought the first genuine
tokens from WotC. There were 6 of them, and they look awesome! They don’t have any details
to help you play, like a power/toughness box, or even a name, but they do look amazing,
and I feel the recent Unstable set threw back to them with their true full-art tokens, where
the entire card was filled with art and nothing else. On the flip side they printed the actual
token with all the info you’d need, and I felt it was an awesome touch, and wish they’d
have continued this style with all future sets. When we think of the Magic Player Reward program
most people think of the incredible textless cards like these, and yes I was lucky enough
to be playing during this period when WotC actually posted things to you, I even have
a plastic DCI card and wallet still! But from 2001 through to 2004 WotC used this
program to print tokens. The early ones had a beautiful design to them. They have huge
art, flavor text, and looked like a magic card but not, if you catch my drift. One huge
thing to notice is the word TOKEN written across the top of the card where the name
or creature type should be. This changed mid-2003 with the release of
8th edition and Mirrodin close behind. All magic cards had a face lift, and tokens didn’t
escape this treatment. Text boxes became cleaner, or non-existent if the creature didn’t have
any keywords or abilities. The creature type jumped to the top of the card where the name
should be, but interestingly the Token label was dropped completely. These new tokens, or Modern tokens, looked
much closer to actual magic cards now, although the name box was unique to tokens, being black
and gold, and trimmed to the exact size of the text inside. 11 years passed with only minor cosmetic changes
to tokens along the way, mostly just ways to facilitate in-game mechanics, new backgrounds
to signify colour identity like the gold Beast token from Shards of Alara, or the semi-transparent
frames of colourless tokens like Eldrazi Spawn from Rise of the Eldrazi. Also of note are the tokens from Theros block,
where Enchantment creature tokens could be created, and so the card frames got the galaxy-print
treatment which I love! So back to what happened after that 11 year
gap. M15 is what happened, and another massive overhaul of magic card templating, of tokens
and actual cards. I personally prefer post M15 cards to modern-era cards, but my ideal
choice is original frames where possible. What is your card frame of choice? I’d love
to know down in the comments! The new look tokens involved a few cosmetic
changes, and one mechanical one. The frame was changed to create more space
for the artwork. Curves were kept to the top, and the art was extended and the way down
to the type line. The space for artwork was also widened. The type line was changed too, and the token
sub-type was added back on to the card. Collector info and artist credits were also made way
more visible. I’ve already mentioned the Unstable tokens
and how stunning they are, and in the year following that set’s release came Dominaria,
jam-packed with legendary creatures, and as a by-product, legendary tokens, so once again
we got a cosmetic update to the humble token with name box getting the same legendary treatment
as regular magic cards. Finally this year, 2019, brought a huge aesthetic
update to the tokens we get in our booster packs. The card frame was totally banished! Now artwork
reached all the way over to the black border, surrounding the name and type boxes. Without
a frame to indicate the colour of the token, these boxes are now used to indicate the colour
identity, and they look amazing! And that’s the bulk of the story, but there’s
a number of footnotes I really want to mention here! Double-sided tokens are a thing now. They’re
mostly found in the Commander pre-con products each year but were debuted alongside 2012’s
Innistrad block representing the human/werewolf transformation. Controversially WotC tried to pass foil double-sided
tokens off as FNM promos for a brief period before relenting to pressure from a quite
riled up community. Reverting back to printing standard-playable cards like we all wanted
all along! Another type of non-cardboard token recently
came out too, both Wizkids and Ultra Pro created collectible tokens sold in blind packs much
like a booster! The Wizkids line were actual miniatures, figurine
representations of card art like zombies, angels and dragons that wouldn’t look out
of place in a D&D game. Ultra Pro went a different route creating
flat-ish plastic tokens with built in spin-down counters. They had actual licensed artwork
on them, and were thin enough you could squeeze them into a deck box if you were that way
inclined. Personally I felt these were a bit of a fad,
so haven’t purchased any, but please let me know if you have and what you think of them! Then there’s totally unofficial tokens, which
is where things get really exciting, and the personalisation options are endless. On a
related note, even the Judge Program got in on the act creating really special tokens
that judges can hand out as prizes at events. They look amazing, and are a quite obscure
collectors item I feel. The main thing I wanted to cover in this section
were artist-made tokens. If you’ve ever been to a GP or MagicFest you’ll have seen all
the usual card trader stalls, and nestled between them are usually artists selling tokens
of their own design. There’s a website called Original Magic Art
where you can purchase these tokens from and there’s some real stunners there. There’s
many other sites out there too, including personal sites from many magic artists themselves,
with exclusive pieces of artwork, so if you’re really into a certain artist you can go all
out on pimping your play experience! One of the sites I really like is Cardamajics,
who sell tokens, even some from mtg artists such as Magali Villeneuve, and bags for your
cube packs to be distributed in, amongst other things. It’s a great site to just click through
and explore when you have a spare minute or two. And then there’s Coffee Tokens, who doesn’t
have a website but can be found on facebook and twitter, and makes ridiculously cute,
hand-drawn tokens. I’ll pop links to all of these down in the video description for you
to check out. I couldn’t make these videos without the support
of my Patrons who donate a little bit of money each month to the channel for things like
equipment and time, as creating a video like this takes many many hours. So a huge thanks
to each of you, i appreciate you so much. If you’d like to see more video essays like
this one there’s a playlist of them right here, or if you want to see some of my commander
deck techs here they are! Before you go don’t forget to subscribe, and
I’ll see you all on the next one, cheers!

Dereck Turner

6 thoughts on “Tokens in Magic the Gathering – A History Video Essay | MTG

  1. Komoli Rihyoh says:

    that poor octoprophet ;-;

  2. NormanConquest says:

    This was a great video mate! I love the new tokens. I was wondering what your favourite creature token is? Mine is now either the mouse or the bear from Thrones of Eldraine.

  3. Diomendez FJC says:

    Great video! That must have been quite some work!
    My favorite token is the fullart thopter. It looks stunning. Sadly I don't own one 😢.

  4. Dustin Lim says:

    Nice video again DL,Tim.😊👍 something interesting. Great job!👍👍

  5. stuhl232 says:

    Really awesome video! I love the original card frames and old-school tokens… Particularly the sliver token! Very interesting to hear about the fallen empires token situation as well. Well done!

  6. My Teacher The Geek MTG says:

    Brah, freaking loved it! Glad to see you back doing the things that make you happy! I’ll be visiting some sites for some tokens!

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