Event Cards

My plan today was to write about old rules, and how they are weird. It is a pretty fun topic, and one that has a tendency to spark debates. Should tapped artifacts be off? Is mana burn a good thing? If I add a +1/+1 counter to Triskelion with Dwarven Weaponsmith, should the Trisk be able to throw the new counter the same way it can with its original arms?

These are sweet. Don't let anyone tell you they look like dicks.

I then stumbled on Magic Twitter for a spell, and realized that people were already debating quite a bit. Not about the Damage Prevention Step, or whether or not you should be able to use mana from Basalt Monolith to untap Mana Vault, but more about some new promos and B&R updates in sanctioned Magic. So while the topics in my mind were clearly more interesting, it appears that the internet has had enough MtG think pieces for a few weeks. We all have a limited amount of honks to give after all. So let me instead tell you about my wedding back in 2017.

Still here? I like your style. We're actually not gonna talk that much about my wedding, but it serves as a solid enough transition to what we in the industry call "event cards".

My wife knows how to play Magic. Very simplified, I liked to play Magic and she liked to ride horses, so we taught each other our hobbies to share our positive experiences. Now I like to ride horses and she likes to play Magic. She comes from a family of rural salt-of-the-earth Norse farmers, and as such grew up so far removed from any nerds that I don't really believe that anyone in her circle were familiar with nerd shame as a concept. I mean, I'm pretty much fine with it these days, but when she suggested that "Marriage: The Gathering" could be a fun theme of sorts for our wedding - it's a nice pun of a thing we both enjoy, and far easier to work with than horses - I still felt a tingle in the back of my neck. I mean, what if we accidentally had a Nerd Wedding, and the Jock Wedding next door came by and spat on our wedding cake? I eventually realized that I wasn't living in 1997 anymore, and that it is OK to like the things I like without having to physically fight about about it. And Kalle appreciated the pun and even painted a picture for us.

On the wall here in the home office. Sparks joy.

We used that image for labels on wine bottles, on the menu and on the program. But I think the thing the guests remember were the seating cards. Not many people at the wedding knew about Magic, but the seating cards struck a chord with quite a few of them anyway. We had a surprising number of people keeping them for photo albums or fridges (or actual binders).

These cards celebrated an event, and for each individual it was something personal. The actual value of these mock-ups is of course zero, but there's something special and sentimental to them. To the right holder, they are not worthless.

Now instead picture the all-father and creator of Magic celebrating milestones in his life by making custom Magic cards. Those sentimental cards could have appeal far beyond the intended audience. Things like that might even become among the most collectable rarities in the game...

You know where this is going.

Without further fanfare or teasing, Richard Garfield made four event cards, often referred to as Garfield Cards:

  • Proposal (1993), which he used to propose to Lily Wu.
  • Splendid Genesis (1997), which celebrated the birth of his first child.
  • Fraternal Exaltation (1999), which celebrated the birth of his second child.
  • Phoenix Heart (2014), which celebrated his marriage to Koni Kim.

While Proposal is the only one that could possibly be 93/94 legal, Splendid Genesis and Fraternal Exaltation arguably fits under a broader old school umbrella (being "Premodern" and what-not). And if we have decent enough excuses for three of them, it's not like we're gonna leave Phoenix Heart hanging. It's a very sweet card; even the expansion symbol is a heart.


I'm not supposed to show a real picture of a Proposal, so I drew one myself.

The card Proposal was first described to the general public in According to Mr Pling in The Duelist #2 (1994). The story goes that Richard placed one copy of the card in his white deck while on a date with Lily, but he didn't manage to draw it in the first few games. In the fourth game, Lily was beating him badly and asked if he wanted to concede, as he had no possible way to win. Garfield declined the scoop and proceeded to cast Proposal. Lily accepted, both won, and they got married the next July. The shared deck they combined after the game is rumored to still be intact. 

This is how we learned stuff before blags and other intertubes.

Production manager David "Snarke" Howell had been tasked with creating the card. Logistics made printing a single card extremely arduous, so Snarke created a "sticker" of sorts with the frame and symbols, and then had an Iris print made which he bonded to the face of a regular Magic card. In the end, nine cards were made, in two slightly different variants. Two of these nine cards accidentally came out off-center, and whether or not those two were discarded or kept is ambiguous in primary sources. What is certain is that the extra cards not used by Garfield were given to close family members attending the wedding, with the exception of one given to Quinton Hoover (who made the artwork), and one to Snarke.

Those who claim to have seen a Proposal most likely saw it at the late Quinton Hoover's booth during some convention back in the 90s. This was before we had camera phones (or, for most of us, cell phones), but I know some people still managed to snap pictures of it. I don't believe anyone has posted pictures publicly online though. And I know of collectors that have deleted their pics from their hard drives out of sheer politeness and grace.

Not showing a real picture of Proposal is a kinda big deal. I'd even argue that anyone showing a picture of that card is a dick. Richard Garfield specifically asked that no images of the card were made public, and the original files used to create it were destroyed after it was printed.

Real legends burn documentation.

There are a couple of fan-made "mock-ups" of the card floating around online, occasionally getting passed up as real ones. An easy way to spot a remake is the wording; the real card is worded "Allows Richard to propose marriage to Lily...", while most of the mock-ups omits the word "marriage" in the first sentence.

A majority of the few existing Proposal cards still reside within Garfield's closest family. Quinton Hoover's copy was sadly stolen during a tour in Japan in 1999. It was presumed vanished for a couple of decades, though I've heard reports that it might have resurfaced. When the card was stolen, Garfield created a replica of the card and gave to Hoover (no true reprint was possible as the files had been destroyed). And a few years ago, David Howell - with Richards blessing - sold his copy. It currently resides in Europe.

Splendid Genesis

She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.

September 1997 saw the birth of Richard Garfield's first child, and with her the second event card. Splendid Genesis was - unlike Proposal - a factory printed card and indistinguishable in quality from other Magic cards. One 10x11 sheet of cards is estimated to have been produced by Carta Mundi, meaning a total of 110 copies of the card were distributed to friends, family and coworkers. Additionally some smaller and stickier versions of the card were attached to the birth announcements.

"The card 'Splendid Genesis' and the card '1996 World Champion' are technically legal in DCI sanctioned play (as they are real Magic cards). However, since neither of these cards were released to the public, they are not legal in DCI sanctioned tournaments."

    -Paul Barclay, November 1999

Putting the event aside for a moment, as an actual Magic card Splendid Genesis is awesome. It's also at least somewhat obtainable (well, compared to Proposal); at most points in the last 23 years you could find one for sale if you looked around, and the trade value for a copy has usually been around the ballpark of a full Unlimited P9. The effect and the card itself is super sweet, and if someone would bring one to a casual game night or competitive Tribelander tournament I hosted, I would deem it legal to play. Would be rad to nonchalantly add a new player to a duel.

Fraternal Exaltation

"...and when you want to go explore, the number you should have is four."

The third event card was produced in 1999 to celebrate the birth of Garfield's second child. In the Ask Wizards column of August 2003, Brian Tinsman estimated that "around 250 copies" of Fraternal Exaltation had been printed and distributed. Most collectors interpret this number as two 10x11 sheets of cards, i.e. 220 copies. A reasonable handful, and this is a card you could potentially glance at the craziest booth during a major Magic event. The backside of this card is kinda glossy btw, so don't cry foul too quickly if you happen across one and the back seems a bit off.

For those of you who want to go full hard mode on your next Magic trivia night, this card is one of two black bordered cards that were painted by close relatives of Richard Garfield. It's somewhat common trivia that Stasis was painted by Garfield's aunt, but it takes a special kind of nerd to also know that Fraternal Exaltation was painted by his sister.

Phoenix Heart

"The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind I was. Lovers don't finally meet somewhere, they're in each other all along."

Phoenix Heart was made to celebrate Richard Garfield's second marriage, to Koni Kim. Richard and Koni got married on August 29, 2015, in Kirkland, Washington. This event card was mailed out with the wedding invitations, and as such a great majority still resides within their close family. 

The card occasionally pops up on the market though, and sometimes in an amusing manner. E.g. last year a guy who did not know much about Magic - and had declined to attend the wedding - found his old invite and decided to see if someone wanted to buy it on Facebook. The reaction was overwhelming to say the least, with hundreds of random people chiming in on the moral of selling it, asking what it was, screaming it was fake, and just generally doing what strangers on the internet do. I believe that particular card eventually got a 9.5 grade from BGS and sold for $15,500, so not throwing it out when he declined the invitation worked out well.

This is the only event card with an expansion symbol by the way, and I just realized that it is the same expansion symbol as the one my wife and I used on the seating cards at our wedding. Nice.


So that's event cards. The black one, Eulogy, might complete the cycle at some point in a hopefully distant future.

I hope you got some enjoyment out of this dive into celebrations and rarities of the black borders. If your feelings towards Magic are still in a rough spot after the Secret Lair drama this week, I cannot recommend Dave Firth Bard's Organizer's Report from LobstercoM enough. It highlights the best of the Magic community and the joy of the game and the gathering. Check it out.