Alliances and the Great Gorilla Protest

Artwork from the MTG card "Gorilla Berserkers." - WOTC / JOHN MATSON

In 1996, Magic: The Gathering's design team revolted against the idea of having sentient gorillas be in the game in the most Magic way possible.

When left to their own devices, the Magic's design team can cause a bit of trouble to say the least.

They can change names of things, shuffle around artwork, and pretty much make the most noticeable decisions in the game. They also love anagrams, as Phelddagrif proved. And if you make them mad? They can revolt within the game.

This takes us to 1996. At this point, Magic is three years old and going strong. A new expansion, Alliances, is due out soon, and it is going for a more natural theme. All looks pretty set when the continuity department suddenly adds in gorillas into the game. Sentient, intelligent gorillas. Because the green cards needed a bit of a boost and they wanted new creatures out there.

Rather than embrace this, the design team fought against it. Hard. But when official channels failed and they were forced into doing it, they decided to make everything from this point forward gorillas. Everything.

Some were obvious. Like, oh hey, a big gorilla, let's name it "Gargantuan Gorilla."

But then others were a bit more tricky. Remember when we said that the design team loved anagrams? Well, they also made a new artifact after the order called Sol Grail. Anagram that and see what it says.*

And then there was the one where they stopped trying. They made an instant that they sent up to playtesting.

It's name?

Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Stop That!

It is disputed just how many gorillas were in there, but it had a huge effect. This was a powerful instant, and years from now, the card would be seen as the most valuable in the expansion. So they had to rename it Force of Will.

While the uprising of the design team was long rumored, people from Magic, including Mark Rosewater, later confirmed that the design team did indeed hate the idea of sentient gorillas being in the game and did in fact protest by putting them all in there.

To this day, a lot of the gorilla protest cards continue to pop up. Force of Will and others still are seen as good cards, and the new names stuck. But Magic would never forget, even decades later, just what happened when they gave the team an idea that they didn't like and completely ran with it just to spite them.

*"Gorillas."  It says "gorillas."

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.