Throughout Magic: The Gathering’s history, lots of specially printed Magic cards have come about. Some were to celebrate something opening, while others were specially made for players. But, if you’re Magic creator Richard Garfield, you have the ability to create them for life events as you see fit.
(To quote Mel Brooks: "It's good to be the King.")
Of those, one card stands out simply because of it’s simple mission: Proposal.
Way back in October of 1993, Garfield was getting ready to propose to his girlfriend, Lily Wu. He wanted to make it memorable, so he called upon Wizards of the Coast production manager, Dave Howell, to make a special card for the occasion. As in he plays it and it’s his proposal to her, just like that.
Garfield and Howell recruited artist Quinton Hoover, Wu's favorite Magic artist, to make the artwork for the card, with Garfield himself represented on the card proposing as a renaissance outfit-clad character to a golden-haired Wu.
"There are actually two different variants, by the way," points out Howell. "The picture (which Richard and Lily have asked not be published, which is why you don't see it here) shows Richard (looking very gallant) proposing to Lily on bended knee. I tinkered with the artwork a bit. I believe four of them have the artwork just inside the frame like all magic cards. With the other five, Richard's knee is actually resting on the bevelled frame itself."
Rules text was also written for the card saying: “Allows Richard to propose marriage to Lily. If the proposal is accepted both players win; mix the cards in play, both libraries and both graveyards as a shared deck.”
With the finishing touches added a total of nine cards, essentially land cards with a sticker of ‘Proposal’ pasted on top, were made. According to Hoover, this was all incredibly "hush hush" not only due to the proposal, but due to everyone knowing that fans would want these cards too.
“Richard was planning to propose to his girlfriend, Lily,” said Hoover. “He had this idea to use the game to do it. I hadn't met or even talked to Richard at that point. But shortly after The Gathering came out, I get this call from him, right out of nowhere. He said he liked my work, and asked if I would do the artwork for his proposal card. Man, I was really...incredibly flattered. I did up a piece of him proposing to her, you know, in a fantasy setting. He had Dave Howell made it up in secret, and as I understand it, he played the card in a game around Thanksgiving.”
And then the plan went into place. Well, kind of.
While Garfield and Wu did wind up playing some Magic, Garfield just couldn't seem to draw the critical card. This happened game after game. In fact, by the third game Wu actually asked him if he wanted to stop because she didn’t think he would win with the deck he was using. Then finally, during the fourth game, Garfield was able to not only draw it, but cast it as well, thus proposing marriage to her.
She accepted, by the way.
Today all nine cards are rarely seen as Garfield wants to keep them private. While Howell and Hoover each got one for their part in making it, with Hoover’s being stolen at an event in Tokyo in 1999, all others remain with Garfield or the Garfield family. The print sheet itself went with Hoover as a replacement for the stolen copy, but that’s about it for Proposal (though there is reportedly a counterfeit floating around somewhere).
"If you think you've see the image, I'll tell you this: both the real artwork and the bogus artwork that I've seen feature a man kneeling in vaguely Renaissance-like clothing," states Howell. "However, the bogus artwork has a huge poofy collar around the man's neck, whereas the real one does not."
It’s a card that can virtually never be played again and was only played once nearly thirty years ago. But for Richard Garfield and Lily Wu, it was the most important card in Magic history.