Kiora and Maori: Why 'Magic' had to change an entire character

Kiora,Master of the Depths (WOTC/JASON CHAN)

How the Maori people influenced one of Magic's planeswalker.

In 2012, the green/blue merfolk planeswalker, Kiora Atua, made her Magic debut. She proved to be pretty popular, and in the years that followed has only been on more cards and included in more of the stories and mythos.  However, there has been one pretty major change with her: her name.

Since 2014 she’s done the "Cher," "Teller," and "Madonna" thing by being strictly on a first-name-only basis. Why is that?

It turns out a few players in New Zealand pointed out what the names really meant. In Maori "Kia Ora" is like a version of "Hello," roughly being translated to "Be well". And "Atua?" Well, that’s ALSO Maori and means "god" or "ancestor." So, essentially, her name in Maori was akin to her being named “Hello God” in English.

Doug Beyer, a writer and designer at Wizards of the Coast, took lead on making the necessary changes. When the official name change came out in January of 2014, Beyer explained that Magic was fantasy, and that the real world was, well, real. 

He went on to say in a post:

“Some assumed—reasonably, I think—that the connection to Maori terms was the intent. Given the spiritual significance of the meaning, we felt the name choice was, in retrospect, not appropriate.

So when it came time to create Kiora’s card, we saw an opportunity to change course on her surname, and decided that the best course of action was to drop it altogether.

That’s why we have chosen not to list a last name for Kiora on her card and in the Born of the Gods Planeswalker’s Guide entry. We also do not intend to refer to Kiora as having a last name in official creative contexts going forward. Her name is Kiora.”

This was also confirmed by Mark Rosewater

Since then, she has only gotten awesome nicknames through the years.

This has included “The Crashing Wave”:

“Master of the Depths”:

And of course “Behemoth Beckoner”:

Not only has this boosted her popularity, but it fits amazingly well into the entire lore and story of Magic: The Gathering

Thanks to being open-minded and respectful of another culture, Wizards of the Coast managed to make a possible Magic PR mess into something great for the game and its fanbase.

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.