The Accidental Pope Hat

A few weeks ago I managed to complete my Antiquities set.


The final piece of the puzzle was Urza's Miter. A good-looking yet highly mediocre card that just barely passes the Deep Water Test.

The Deep Water Test: Would it be good if it cost zero to play and activate?

Looking at the card, I can't help thinking about Bronze Calendar; one of my favorite joke-cards from the silver-bordered Unglued set.

It may be my recently activated dad-joke gene, but I find it simply hilarious that the art depicts a colander rather than a calendar. Who would want a colander made out of bronze? And why on earth would such a thing let you cast spells cheaper? Then the utterly nonsensical yet grandiloquent flavor text expertly ties the madness together.

While Bronze Calender's art is clearly a joke, there really was a handful cards from Magic's early days where the artist misunderstood what they were supposed to illustrate. The most famous of these is probably Hyalopterous Lemure from Ice Age, which depicts a lemur (a cute primate native to Madascar) rather than a lemure (a devil in a shapeless form of quivering flesh).

One could be forgiven for not knowing what a lemure is, but sometimes I think the people involved just misread the card names. Like, try to tell me that Cynthia Sheppard didn't accidentally read Rubinia Soulsinger as Rubinia Soulsigner before creating the art for its Commander 2013 reprint.

But it takes at least two people to miscommunicate, and we can't always look at the artist. One of my favorite of these stories is from when Legends designer Steve Conrad - who had played D&D with WotC founder Peter Adkison since the 80s - designed a card to represent the spellbook belonging to Peter's wizard character Alchor. But when ordering the art, Conrad accidentally wrote the card name as Alchor's Tomb instead of Alchor's Tome. So Jesper Myrfors painted a crypt instead of a magical book. Upon realizing the error they opted to just change the card name to match the art rather than re-do it.

And now we know why there's a card representing a tomb that has nothing to do with graveyards.

But every now and then the designer writes the right word and the artist reads it correctly, and things still go wrong. Because some words can mean more than one thing. A famous example of this is how the Japanese version of Yawgmoth's Agenda originally translated to "Yawgmoth's Day Planner" - a very different meaning of the word "agenda". And I think that is how Urza got his pope hat. Because before Antiquities, the only thing we knew about Urza was that he had glasses (and sunglasses). You could be excused for thinking that he was bishop of some sort. And maybe you didn't know that "miter" is a word with more than one meaning. But let's do a quick image search for "miter" and see if we find something that makes a little more sense for an artificer than a liturgical headdress.

Ah, tools.

A commonly used miter tool is the miter box; an appliance used to guide a hand saw for making precise cuts.

Those precise cuts can be used to create a miter joint (often simply called a miter). And I would bet cash money this was the kind of miter that Urza's Miter originally intended to represent. Even makes some kind of mechanical sense for the rules text of the card; when an artifact is destroyed it gets cut up to form new joints that could be used for new things (i.e. you draw a new card).

But hats off to the great art regardless.

It's nice to finally have completed the Antiquities set. It is a cool set with a lot of nostalgia and interesting designs. And most likely with a joint maker accidentally depicted as a headdress. And that's some proper oldschool.


  1. Goddammit, I love these trivia posts! Your writing skills really shines here!
    I erratad to pass the Deep Water test, I would try it in an Atog build.

    1. Those are very kind words Preacher, thanks a lot :)
      I think I'd try out a 0:0 Miter in e.g. Troll Disco or Project M as well, but I can't say how good it would be. If you could use it on a card you sacrificed it would be a very different story though.

    2. Oh, I misread the card! I thought it triggered when artifacts died.

    3. Yeah, that would have been a bit more expected... The strange "non-sacrifice" clause makes it very hard to abuse.

  2. Great article on Old School trivia as always. I get a sudden urge to splash for some Drop of Honey, Urza's Miter and a bunch of Tetravus! Great combos be great!

  3. I never knew, what to think about the picture of this card. Thank you for explaining.

    Have a nice winter season MG!

  4. Thanks a lot guys, and a great winter season to you as well!


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