Tuesday, 20 December 2022 12:30

A brief look at Magic's powerful and polarizing Psychatog

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A brief look at Magic's powerful and polarizing Psychatog WOTC

In late 2001, Magic: The Gathering's Odyssey expansion came out. While there were many notable cards in there, one in particular took 2002 by storm.

That card? Psychatog.

Atogs, or that creature type known for the consumption of lands, graveyards, turns, and even cards from your library, were all the rage back then. However, while each atog received its own unique ability, the blue/black atog's was still a bit in the air.

As former MTG vice president Randy Buehler put it, "When we were developing the new cycle of atogs, we started out by figuring out what they should eat. Land, graveyards, enchantments, and artifacts seem like easy, obvious choices since that's what the last round of atogs enjoyed munching on; but what should be the "blue" thing to eat? The last blue atog ate turns, but we didn't really want to have two more of those, especially at uncommon. We thought about what else an atog could eat ... your hand? ... your life total? ... your library?..."

Wizards of the Coast R&D was on to something there.

"Your library!" continued Buehler. "That sounded cool: Remove the top 7 cards of your library from the game: CARDNAME gets +1/+1. This would give the atog a couple of free and easy activations built in, but we figured you'd only actually be able to activate it like 5-6 times over the course of a game and that tension seemed interesting. Plus, imagining the toothy monster ripping into all the books in a library had great flavor."

While this was ultimately scaled back to "Discard a card: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn," and "Exile two cards from your graveyard: Psychatog gets +1/+1 until end of turn.", it still struck a nerve.

Throughout 2002 , the card just sort of broke Magic. Six of the top eight 2022 World Championship players had a Psychatog-based deck.  The tournament winner, Carlos Romão, piloted a deck that was essentially blue-black control, complete with Counterspell, Memory Lapse, Chainer's Edict, and the like.  With this deck, Romão repeatedly stalled out his opponents, only to cast Upheaval to fill his hand with Psychatog fodder.

In short order, the card became one of the most hated Magic cards of all time.

At the same time, however, the card also quickly turned out to be one of the most beloved cards as well too. The ability to discard cards whenever you wanted turned out to be a much larger success than they thought. And, to this day, Psychatog remains a good choice for many playing styles. The card's even been given the promo card treatment.

And, sure, the card isn't nearly as powerful against the field as it used to be. But, for a while there, it was one of the most popular and fearsome there was.