Aimless Wanderings: The Poster that Changed it All
By Jake Sticka on October 26th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
Editor's note: don't take this article to mean that the MTGS staff appreciates or condones pranking the Rumor Mill, so please don't do it. Why, then, is this on the front page? Because it's an interesting story. Enjoy.
Table of Contents
Part One: The Poster
Today we will be jumping in the way-back machine to examine one of the more major events in recent Magic history. It all started on our little site and within a day spread around the whole community. It got people to see what they could have and became a rallying cry of what Wizards should be doing with its Core Sets. As almost all of the great stories of our game have, it originated in the Rumor Mill. The date: 5/10/05. The time: 11:47 PM PST. The following appeared:
Along with this post two images were attached:
Originally Posted by Tara Campell
Hi all! I used to post on MTGNews, and got on today to post this over there, but was told that RE was over here now, so I'm on here now! Yea! Anyway, went to my local shop today and talked to the guy if he had his SOK promotional stuff in. He said he did, so I asked if I could buy the poster (I collect them) but when he pulled it out it wasn't a poster for SOK it was for 9th. I figured that wasn't right so I took a picture in the store and then took another one later after he hung it up (he didn't sell it to me )
Heres a list of the cards on the poster (if you cant read them), a friend had to help me out with some of them, I don't know all the older stuff...
Winds of Change
As is the way with the Rumor Mill these two images would be scrutinized over and over again and every facet of them dissected over the next two days. Most of us already know how this one ends. However, for those who do not I am going to lay down the arguments for and against the reality of the poster so that those not present at the time can truly understand the scope of things. And for those of you who already know how the cases go and have not already skipped ahead to the interview it will be a nice refresher course.
So that we can reference the events of the time I have taken the data from the poll that sneakyhomunculus attached to the thread. The results are as follows:
Poll Question: Is the "Power 9" poster real?
Poll Option: Yes, I believe it is.
Vote Percent: 46.14
Poll Option: No, this is just a great fake.
Vote Percent: 27.29
Poll Option: I don´t dare to vote on this one...
Vote Percent: 26.57
As you can see from these numbers it was the general opinion of the public that the poster was real. In addition another fourth of the public was undecided. Even those who believed it to be fake claimed it to be the most realistic Photoshop job they had ever seen. Regardless of what side of the coin you were on, you realized the implications that this poster held. And whenever the stakes run high, the arguments, the debate, and the work put into proving one's point run even higher.
Part Two: The Argument For The Poster Being Real
The first and most obvious reason for such strong support of this poster is basic human nature. It is hope. It is the fact that almost all of us, even those of us who believed the poster to be fake, wanted it to be real. It being real would mean different things to different people. However, almost all of them ended in a happy audience. There were those who said that it would increase the power of Type II to a breakneck speed as well as those who said that they just did not want to see these cards back, but most were saying very different things. They were saying they were happy to have such classics as Duress, Brainstorm, and Rancor back. They were saying how happy they were they would not have to shell out the money for their Legacy Imperial Seals. They were saying how glad they were that Wizards had finally seen that the corrections and exceptions needed to be made with the Reserve List.
And such was the beauty of the card selection of the poster. The poster included cards of all colors and an artifact. The poster included old favorites like Jester's Cap. The poster included Legacy gems. The poster included balanced classics. The poster included a Mox. And maybe most convincing of all was the inclusion of Winds of Change. It is just random enough and just out of place enough to seem like something Wizards would do. Also under the present circumstances of the time people were even more susceptible to a poster of this nature. It was a middle of Saviors rumor season and people were tired of hearing about Moko, the Frankfurter-Deprived Monkey and Hooter, the Tight-Bunned s
Server. Also around this time the duals and Hyppie were being hyped and if those would be in Ninth, it followed that other power cards like these might be included. Finally with a Core Set and an Extended Rotation right around the corner people were speculating on what changes might need be made. A few speculated on Wrath of God being removed in favor of some other white mass-removal spell. The poster satisfied this. Some had speculated on possible inclusion of the Timmy/Johnny/Spike pleaser that is Tradewind Rider. Finally people had hoped that the power level would be increased for the coming rotation. The poster obviously did this.
More generally, people were prone to believe the poster because no other fake had ever been so detailed or so flawless. As said even those believing it to be fake had to admit it was the best they had ever seen. These details include:
- Convincing New Arts. No other fake in recent memory could produce art as realistic as those seen on the Power 9 poster and none which would make more sense with the illustrators who supposedly created them:
- The addition of new plausible flavor text:
- The changing of Oracle Text:
- The addition of a white shade in the bottom right corner which gave it the look of light shining on it from one position, as seen in real posters:
- The crease running the length of the poster
Part Three: The Argument For The Poster Being Fake
Despite all of this evidence in favor of the poster there was still a good fourth of the community which believed it to be fake. How you might ask? Because there was just as much evidence for it being fake. The first and almost fatal mistake which made the poster look fake was the headlining card of the poster, Mox Diamond. While being the closest thing to Power 9 and being the center of attention of the poster it also is included on the reserve list. Reserve list=no printing; no printing=poster being fake, or at least that's how the logic would go. However Wizards in the past had considered revision to the list, as rancored_elf pointed out, and the thread was re-opened after being locked after the first thirteen posts.
The next major issue raised with the validity of the poster was use of older art. No art on cards pre-Mirage are printed today due to royalty prices. Jester's Cap was printed during this time and therefore it was doubtful that the poster was real unless Wizards had made another change or had somehow signed a special deal for the art.
Other issues, including those used by some to prove the poster to be real were used to prove it fake. Some took the rewording of Mox Diamond to be a tell of a fake. Other felt that Winds of Change did not fit the rest of the poster and if made by Wizards would not have been included. Finally some felt that the flavor text and new art were not realistic.
Part Four: The Interview
In the end all of the above elements of the poster were true. The poster, as so many would painfully find out, was a fake. The creator, who stepped forward before the firestorm went too far, was a MTGSalvation, MTGNews, and MiseTings poster by the name of Tidwell. Now that time has passed and wounds have healed I convinced Tidwell he would not be assassinated if he gave an interview. The following interview occurred on October 14th at MTGSalvation's newly-constructed Times Square News Center:
SorryGuy: Well first of all I would like to thank you once more for granting me and Salvation this interview.
Tidwell: Yeah, no problem.
SorryGuy: To begin, I would like to ask you the question which I think it on everybody's mind: what exactly was the motivation for creating the poster?
Tidwell: Motivation is probably a poor word choice for my reasoning...lack of motivation to do anything else is more likely. The concept of creating fake cards has existed since Magic first began; classics like Throat Wolf and the like, and the infamous "6th color" rumors perpetrated through Scrye, Inquest, etc.. Online, fake cards have become incredibly easy to create, and with widely available PSD files, they can become just as realistic as real world cards (all too often we lambast Wizards themselves for shoddy mockups they slap on their articles). When it comes down to it, there is a constant drive to prove that you can do something of the same quality as a respectable company.
We [a select group from MiseTings] have done tons of spoofs before (and may continue in the future), but they never succeeded. They were either too complicated, easily refuted, or unrealistic. Personally, I wanted to do something incredibly simplistic that had massive potential. I believe that it was [Saviors of Kamigawa] rumor season at the time, and I absolutely loathed [Champions] block. I hated the flavor, the mechanics, and was totally sick of hearing about it. The [Rumor Mill] was also fairly dead at the time, and 9th was merely the next big thing. There was just enough information and speculation to make it worthwhile, but not so much that a spoof would be easily refuted.
Overall I just had a sound concept; Photoshopping it would be fun, and it would generate conversation that I would enjoy reading.
SorryGuy: And how exactly did you get the idea?
Tidwell: The idea behind "Power9th” was really quite simple. I had reached the conclusion that a poster would be a good spoof, and mulling it over generated the slogan. I felt it would be a nice word play, and would allow me to push the envelope (as far as power-level believability). On the cusp of discussion about faulty 8th edition sales, once the "Power9th" slogan sunk in, the rest fell into place.
SorryGuy: And when did the idea come into your head?
Tidwell: I had been mulling over a "large scale" spoof for a while, and had been debating between something like a magazine article, poster, press release, etc. Once I came upon the poster concept (about two days before it was posted) it fell into place through discussion with a friend.
SorryGuy: Can you take us into the process of creating the poster? How long did it take you to 'shop the poster?
Tidwell: Total Photoshop time was probably around 8-10 hours, although a good 16 hours was spent to get the whole thing together. After compiling the ideas, we started making a rough card list of which 9 cards to include. We knew from the start that every color needed to be represented, and one artifact. The actual card choices were pretty much just looking for cards that pushed the power level in the past, though would be fairly realistic to be reprinted in a power-pushing set. The only two I started knowing I wanted were Rancor (simply because it generates so much discussion) and Brainstorm (wishful thinking, and MaRo has said in the past it isn't too overpowered). After we had the final list down, I went through and made a text file of the Oracle wording for each of the cards, and searched for the FNM pictures for the cards that were already put into the new face (Duress). I grabbed the new frames, searched for high-res art for the cards that needed it, and went about making the cards with the PSD. Halfway through that, while getting bored with making new-framed cards, I started working on the poster. The 9th set symbol was ripped from MTGS and had a few minor alterations. The text was simple, and the other few pieces were grabbed from other posters or just pure inventions of my own.
I dropped the cards into the poster, and sent that off to a friend to review for errors. He pointed out a few things (lack of reminder text on Tradewind's flying, misaligned text in the text box, and most importantly the order of the mana symbols at the bottom of the poster). Fixed those, and we had a fairly long conversation about Rancor needing reminder text. It looked horrible once we put it on (strangely, we never argued over what the text would be, and it turned out pretty close to Wizards' final version).
A few more revisions and the poster was pretty much done. I Google Image Searched for the wall and the other poster was completely random (no idea what it was for, which is one of the things that was brought up on [MTGS] that I found most hilarious). Fixed the wall, dropped the posters on, did some ‘choppery effects, and added the creases. Also realized that one of the things you NEVER get with spoofs is multiple angles, so I quickly did a few tweaks and created the second angle. Saved them, renamed them, etc.
SorryGuy: You mentioned your finding of the new art. Where did you find the new art for the Cataclysm and Winds of Changes?
Tidwell: One of the pieces had been stored on my computer for the last 4 years or so as a desktop (the winds of change art). That I simply dropped into Photoshop and changed the levels and color balance to give it a more "red" feel. The other one was a Google Image Search for generic apocalyptic artwork that turned up an image from Final Fantasy VII. A bit of random changing, and realizing that no-one would be able to see the art close enough to recognize it made it a shoo-in. It seemed generic landscape-ey enough to be Avon art. The other high-res art for the rest of it was found on the individual artist's websites thanks to the list on Wizards that talks about each of the artist's sites.
SorryGuy: You also mentioned taking the Oracle text of all the cards. Why was it, then that you changed the text of Mox Diamond?
Tidwell: The text on Oracle said one thing. The text on magiccards.info said another, and MTGS still said a different thing. I went with Oracle, but subconsciously added the other wording (especially after going over Duress and contemplating the wording change they made when it was FNM-ed)
SorryGuy: And what about the story itself? Where did you come up with Tara Campell from?
Tidwell: The story itself is always a difficult selling point when spoofing. Obviously you are getting inside information somehow. The easiest excuse is that Wizards made a mistake. Someone breaking a NDA is incredibly unlikely, and blatantly stupid stories tend to be discounted immediately. Creating a character was easy, and giving it a personality (collecting the posters) was probably the third or fourth idea I stumbled upon (earlier ones included what was eventually speculated, the "stolen off the assembly line" and the "sent to a magazine as a promo"). It was simple, original, and gave room for speculation.
After that, when it comes to creating the Tara account, you have to remember that MTGS logs all IPs and can view IPs of everyone that logs in or even accesses the site (its a feature of vBulletin). I wanted Tara to be from somewhere close to the US, so I searched through my proxy lists for somewhere in the US or Canada. Found a good place proxy in Canada, did a lookup to make sure it really was in Canada, and used that proxy to post the images.
SorryGuy: What did you think of the reaction to the poster? Was it what you expected?
Tidwell: Honestly, I thought I was sunk after the first mention of the reserve list. It became very cut and dry and was closed after maybe a dozen posts. The eventual argument over the changes in the reserve list made it fairly believable. The reaction, on the other hand, was far more than I ever dreamed. I think that the main reason it wasn't exposed was because everyone suspended their judgment because they wanted the poster to be true. It wasn't until I realized that some people stood to actually lose money off of this (should it hit the spoiler list) or anything of the such, that it had to end.
SorryGuy: Would you say that this is your biggest Photoshopping achievement?
SorryGuy: Now that you have pretty much forever written yourself into MTG Lore is there anything you would like to say before I let you go?
Tidwell: I really do want to thank everyone who posted in the thread - it was fun to read the comments- to the Tingcards group that helped me out, and to Wizards in general. Wizards is a fantastic company, and I have every respect for what they do as a company. They do make some crazy decisions (pro player cards?) and I may often disagree with their choices (I hated CHK block's flavor), but they produce a game that I enjoy, that has become something I can do with friends, and has become another fun thing that my fiancé and I can enjoy together. The poster was made more out of respect than annoyance. Also for those who took it very seriously and now hate me, I would like to apologize. I never meant to do it maliciously and never thought that any of what happened would. Also I didn't really mean to "write myself into MTG Lore" but hell, its probably the only way I will ever be known for anything magic related.
Part Five: The Impact
Now that everything has settled and almost everything explained it is time to reflect. What is the difference between this and the fakes that the Rumor Mill fields almost weekly? Why does this one deserve an article and the rest do not? Without being too longwinded the answer is that this one said something to the volumes of which people want Wizards to make a good Core Set. This simple poster made more than a thousand posts in just a day, not just because people wanted to prove each other wrong and show that they could weed out the best fakes but because people cared. People saw this poster as what they had been wanting for years. This was the Core Set they had been wanting and it was finally fulfilled.
As rancored_elf and numerous other members put it, even Mark Rosewater in a later interview, Tidwell was good enough to be in Wizards' Marketing. The poster was a smashing success. People were proclaiming the boxes and cases of 9th they were going to buy if this turned out real. Had it Wizards' would be sitting a lot prettier right now than they are with the Core Set they did produce.
So what separates this from all of the other frauds created over the years? Simply put, this one should have been real. While it is generally assumed something posted is fake, this one was assumed true because it should have been. People proclaimed it to be real because they wanted it to be. These are the kind of cards we want to see. These are the kind of marketing techniques that we buy. So if this article serves no other purpose than to retrace the steps of the most famous fake in Magic history, let it serve to be a call to Wizards. A call to Wizards to make Core Sets better, a call to Wizards to improve the game, and a call to Wizards to give us what we want.
And with that I bid you a farewell and have only one thing to say:
“Thank you”s to Goblinboy who has to put in more work for me than anyone else. Also to Tidwell for giving the interview and being so cool about it. Finally, thanks to the members of Salvation for reading this.
By Jake Sticka on October 26th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
About Jake Sticka
Achievments: Two JSS Challenges Top 8.
Expertise: Look above. What do you think? I know about Magic in general and have some knowledge about Extended and Limited. If you want to talk any other constructed format, go find HKKID.
Favorite Article: Aimless Wanderings: The Poster that Changed it All
Closing Comments: More? More? It was hard enough for me to formulate the above!