Magic: The Gathering recently announced another round of terminology changes to the venerable trading card game, including decoupling Rakshasas from cats and finally allowing Naga and snake creatures to live in the same house.
Publisher Wizards of the Coast announced the relatively small batch of updates on November 3rd via an article on MTG’s mothership website. The headline change affects Rakshasa creatures, which will no longer carry a cat subtype on both already printed cards (handled via errata and digital changes) and future designs. All changes will go live on Magic Arena starting November 8th.
MTG’s art team will also “follow updated creative guidelines” for new Rakshasa creatures that decouple the shapeshifting creatures featured in Hindu mythology from their common portrayal as large, anthropomorphic cats - most often lions and tigers. While Rakshasas traditionally could take the forms of animals, they were not limited to these forms nor preferred them. The link seems to derive from a single piece of David A. Trampier’s art printed in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ 1st Edition to represent the Rakshasa within the tabletop RPG’s bestiary.
This change partly aligns with WotC’s pledge to keep MTG as inclusive and welcoming as possible by accurately portraying a bit of appropriated Hindu mythology but also opens up the artistic space for Rakshasas in the future. MTG will return to Tarkir in 2025, so this moves cleans up the back catalogue and paves the way for new cards down the line. Here’s a list of the affected cards:
- Rakshasa Deathdealer
- Rakshasa Debaser
- Rakshasa Gravecaller
- Rakshasa Vizier
- Soulhunter Rakshasa (Magic Arena-only card)
- Mahadi, Emporium Master
Other terminology changes include replacing “totem armor” with “umbra armor”, affecting the Enchantment auras that provided the enchanted creature with Totem Armor protection alongside another card-unique ability. Not only does this change drop the use of totem in MTG’s fantasy - the word is largely associated in the US with the totem poles created by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest - but aligns the cards with their actual names, e.g. Crab Umbra or Bear Umbra now providing Umbra Armor.
“Kindred” will replace “tribal” as a card type, affecting a group of cards first introduced in the portentous Future Sight set and later explored in depth during the Lorewyn block. Tribal-nee-Kindred cards could be sorceries, instants, enchantments or artefacts and not just creatures that all shared a subtype - Goblin, Faerie, Giant, Elemental, etc. These cards might have unique interactions based on their Kindred subtype and were a somewhat unsuccessful exploration of design that has been all but retired.
MTG previously announced a return to Lorwyn in 2025, and so - much like Tarkir - this change could be a timely and appropriate housecleaning that prepares the TCG’s first step back into the realm of kithkin, boggarts and scarecrows. Wizards of the Coast explained its logic for distancing MTG from “tribal” as a term, both internally and on printed cards, earlier this year. Regardless of what Reddit will say, the US’ fraught colonial history of relegating and governing indigenous peoples according to federally recognised tribes - along with its cultural ties to images of primitive, naive and sometimes savage life - provides plenty of reason to switch to something like Kindred.
The last change will excite the ophidiophilic players who have longed for a day when Naga and Snake creatures could clasp hands (er…) like that Predator handshake meme as family. All Naga creatures will now use the Snake subtype, adding 40 more cards to those who like their Kindred Commander decks super scaly. A long running in-joke amongst enfranchised players, the Naga/Snake divide is a bit of an oddity in a fantastical universe where humanoid creatures comfortably carry dog, cat, elephant and even donkey subtypes. Naga might be another holdout from D&D’s outsized influence on MTG, but now the slithery kin can all show up to the same family reunion.