Star Wars Themed
When Will The Best Card Game/Movie Franchises Come
by Jeff Zandi
A long time ago in a
little country town far, far away, thirteen year old Jeff
Zandi and his best pal Kent went to movies together to see
Yesterday, in Dallas, forty-year old Jeff Zandi and his pal
Kent returned to the movies to see Revenge of the Sith. When
it comes to Star Wars movies, I’ve been there since the
beginning. Similarly, a gamer named Jeff Zandi was shopping
for a new set of dice and selling old Dungeons and Dragons
books at Origins 1993 in Fort Worth, Texas, the first place
that Magic: the Gathering was ever sold. When it comes to
the best collectible card game of all time, I have also been
there since the beginning. Yesterday, I thrilled to the
latest (and maybe last) Star Wars movie. It might be the
best one ever.
Tomorrow, I will be head judge at a pre-release for Magic’s
newest expansion, Saviors of Kamigawa. Revenge of the Sith
may very simply make Star Wars the greatest and most popular
movie franchise of all time. Magic: the Gathering has
out-survived all competitors as the number one card game of
all time (apologies to poker and bridge).
Wouldn’t it be to tap two white mana and drop Luke Skywalker
(Creature – Legendary Jedi Knight) into play. On the next
turn, you might pay one colorless to play an equipment
artifact called light saber and then spend a couple of mana
to equip up your Legendary Jedi Knight before attacking with
him. Wouldn’t you like to perform the classic Magic “Jedi
Mind Trick” on your opponent while actually holding an
instant spell in your hand literally titled Jedi Mind Trick?
I know I would. I want to pay 2GG and play a 3/3 Wookie.
Why haven’t these two great expressions of creativity come
together? In 1977, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ran these
commercials where some dude was so loving the chocolate
candy bar that he was eating that he would accidentally
crash right into some similarly-addicted peanut butter
maven. One of these geniuses would say, “You got peanut
butter on my chocolate!” The other guy would say, “YOU got
chocolate in my peanut butter!” After thoroughly stating the
obvious, each person would taste the chocolate/peanut butter
combination and nod at each other happily while making what
Mel Brooks once described as “yummy sounds”. When it comes
to Magic and Star Wars, many people has wondered, as I have,
at why we have never had the opportunity to find out if
these two great tastes taste great together.
A LITTLE HISTORY OF STAR WARS CARD GAMES
In case you didn’t know, there have been a few Star Wars
collectible card games already. Back in December of 1995,
Decipher published Star Wars: the Customizable Card Game.
The cards were very good looking. Game play?
Snoresville! To play, you either played a deck composed of
either light side (good guys) or dark side (bad guys). In
tournament play, each player would bring both a good guy and
a bad guy deck and take turns playing each. The game was
popular, in its time, and was considered a fun to play game.
The good-looking cards were very collectible. A pair of
expansions followed the first release, but the game more or
less rumbled to a stop after just a couple of years.
Apparently, Decipher retained the Star Wars card game
license for some time after that, because they went on to
release two other Star Wars-themed card games. Well,
licenses don’t last forever, and now that world toy leader
Hasbro is behind Wizards of the Coast, you gotta think
there’s a way to put the twin juggernauts of Star Wars and
HOW IT WOULD WORK
Folks, when I talk about putting Magic and Star Wars
together, I’m not kidding around. I don’t mean that Wizards
should produce some original card game using the Star Wars
license that might or might not be as playable and enjoyable
as Magic: the Gathering. No sir. I would produce several
sets (one large set and two smaller sets jumps to mind…) of
Star Wars-themed Magic cards. The set I would create would
have the amazing flavor and graphic excitement of everyone’s
favorite space fantasy with the proven one-of-a-kind world’s
favorite collectible card game.
Different card backs? I suppose, in order to make the Star
Wars-themed game a little more distinctive from the
fictional milieu of Magic: the Gathering.
You know, Wizards once thought of producing Magic cards with
different backs that could still be played together. In
fact, it was one of the FIRST things they thought of more
than ten years ago. For those that don’t know, Arabian
Nights, Magic’s very first expansion set, was almost
produced with different backs. It has been considered
extremely important that Wizards decided that for the cards
to be played together, the backs of the cards needed to
remain identical between all the various Magic card
products. Today, however, with a wide range of opaque card
sleeves (they’re only opaque on one side, clear on the other
side for enhanced playability!) available and popular with
competitive players, there really is no problem playing
Magic with cards with different backs.
The cards I would produce would feature the visual flair,
story continuity and overall flavor of the Star Wars
universe, but the game play would be pure Magic. Creatures
in the game would have abilities already familiar to Magic
players like Haste, First Strike, Flying, and so on. Cards
would still be divided between lands, artifacts and the five
colors of Magic.
From an artistic perspective, a Star Wars Magic expansion
would probably be a lot more beautiful with the use of
original artwork. However, cost considerations, as well as
the desire of Star Wars fans to see the images most familiar
to them, would probably result in the use of photos from the
movies in the card art.
PRO’S AND CONS
Well, I think it might be best to look at the negatives
first. Some of these are exactly the reasons that my dream
of Star Wars-themed Magic cards has not happened already.
First of all, there is the license issue. The license for
Star Wars cards would have to be available for Wizards of
the Coast to purchase or lease or whatever. If there is no
license available, or Lucasfilms just doesn’t feel like
issuing this license, then the project would be a no go.
Even if the license were available, Wizards of the Coast
might decide that paying money (maybe A LOT of money) to
secure the license would be too high an expense to add to
the risk inherent in producing a new card set (or sets).
One issue that many people at Wizards as well as many Magic
fans would consider as extremely important is the issue of
story flavor. From the beginning, Magic was meant to exist
in a fictional world completely created by Wizards of the
Coast, the world of Dominaria. Even Wizards would admit that
Magic’s original back story has grown into a very large
However, there are also many of us who love the game of
Magic but feel nothing special whatsoever for the fictional
realm used for the game. There have been many times in the
past ten years when I watched as Wizards of the Coast pour
real resources into a back story for Magic that frankly, I
could care less about. In my opinion, Magic is successful
because it’s an incredible game, not at all because of the
fictional world in which the game is supposedly taking
place. Let’s put it another way: on a scale of one to ten, I
believe Magic’s value as an original game concept is a
TEN…the fictional back story of Magic, on the same scale, is
a five AT BEST.
If you would like to see a Star Wars-themed Magic expansion,
here are a few reasons it can and should happen.
Hasbro is a giant toy company, Hasbro owns Wizards. Hasbro
can go and GET the license for Star Wars. This summer would
be a pretty good time to do that. Revenge of the Sith will
be the biggest movie in theaters all summer long. Magic
sales, as good as they have been, could use the giant boost
that they could receive in the future from sales of Star
Wars-themed Magic cards. In the end, there may be no more
important reason that such a project could actually happen
than the idea that large sums of money can be made.
Ten years ago, there were literally dozens of card games
that followed closely on the heels of Magic from competing
companies as well known as Parker Brothers and Topps. Today,
Wizards of the Coast stands alone at the top of the
collectible card game mountain. Market dominance makes it
more possible than ever for Wizards to use a known license
like Star Wars to expand their power.
With a REALLY open-minded research and development team,
Wizards could produce Star Wars-themed Magic cards for just
one year. Using the current development calendar, one could
imagine a Star Wars themed block of three sets including one
large set released in September followed by small sets in
the following February and May. Just as 2004-2005 was the
year of the Kamigawa block, 2006-2007 could be the year of
the Star Wars block. An approach like this could reduce
license fees by only printing cards for an expensive
franchise like Star Wars for a single year. Negative effects
on the game of Magic as a whole, if there are any, would be
minimized since only a single year of Magic releases would
If a Star Wars-themed Magic set were as popular as I think
it would be, the door would be flung open to creating Magic
sets flavored by other interesting franchises as diverse as
Lord of the Rings all the way to The Simpsons.
Of course, I’m always interested in hearing what YOU think.
P.S. Twenty-eight years ago, my best friend Kent Parish and
I made a bet with George Lucas (I guess we never really let
George in on our bet) that Kent could go through puberty,
make a woman fall in love with him, marry her, have a baby
with that woman and raise that child through high school
graduation before George Lucas could make six Star Wars
movies. Revenge of the Sith came out yesterday, May 19th,
fully ten days before Kent’s oldest boy Michael will
graduate from high school. Kent gave it a good shot, but
George Lucas wins again.
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online