Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Banned 7: Invoke Prejudice. Magic's biggest myth and legend.

What can be said about this card. The cream the crop of all Magic controversies in the entirety of Magic's 25+ year history. It's a card that is surrounded by myth and legend, as the title would suggest, and so is it's artist, the reclusive Harold McNeill. I personally never met Mr. McNeill. I never saw it, or met him. Everything I've heard about him have been from second hand sources, or read from other places online. Now with that disclaimer on the way, lets get this started. 

 The First myth involving this card is the 'Klansmen': Those of my readers who aren't Americans, the Ku Klux Klan was a fraternal organization largely based on racism against Blacks, Latino's, natives, and Catholics. Originally founded by Nathan B. Forrest as a fraternal organization in the days of the Civil War, they grew in numbers during the Reconstruction Period. Their trade mark outfit, white robes, originally were formed to make them look like ghosts. Over time, they grew violent, and lynched more then a few freed slaves and northern carpet baggers. Officially the original klan was disbanded during the Reconstruction Period, after state militia's and even the federal government got involved with removing them. In 1915, D. W. Griffith's ground breaking movie "The Birth of a Nation" was released. The movie portrayed the Klan as knight like figures, being defenders of southern hospitality and innocent women. While the movie was by no means accurate, it was one of the first 'Epic' movies, containing multiple acts, big scores, and top notch cinematography, and is considered by many to be the first 'modern film'. This created a reneawed interest in the group, and a new Klan was formed, this time preaching isolationism, and national identity. The end of the 20's it boasted over a million members in numerous chapters across the United States. While lynchings are said to happen in this time, and prejuidice certainly did, its main goal was goading Americans desire for isolationism at the time of the 20's and 30's, and had become a early lobbyist group. However, it was found by the media to be nothing more then a pyramid scheme, with the top members being more degenerate and curropt then those they were allegedly fighting against, and the numbers quickly shrank to between 10-20 thousand members nation wide. Since then, the numbers have continue to shrink. The few "active" chapters are located in isolated places in the South, where they drink and complain about losing to this day. Just for the record, I do not endore the Klan, nor am I, or have ever been, a member. I just find the study of American subcultures and organizations fascinating. 

With that little history lesson out of the way, lets get to the subject at hand. According to McNeal, those aren't Klansmen. Klansmen don't wear black, they wear White or Red depending on rank. Instead he invoked the idea of Spanish Inquisitors who wore black cloaks while 'interrogating' for a 'confession'. He specifically showed the subjects in the paintings hands to be black to distance himself from any accusations, at least that's what I've read. It could be an artistic choice, and he said that long after the fact. More importantly, I've never seen a Klansman, in real life or in media, carrying a fucking battle axe. In this same regard, I've never seen an Inquisitor in drawing or film either (excluding a certain Sci-Fi franchise obviously). That one figure seems to invoke the conventional trope of the masked executioner.

 The Multiverse ID of 1488: In my surprise while writing this, that quietly in the last year Invoke Prejuidice's multiverse ID has been quietly changed from its infamnous number to something completely different. If find this both hilarious and sad, because it was legitimately an accident. When the cards were first put into gatherer. they were entered alphabetical order by color and set release. Example being Multiverse ID for 1 is the Alpha print of Ankh of Mishra, 2 is Basalt Monolith. In this vein 666 actually makes the unlimited printing of Lich, 1111 is Helm of Chatzuk, and 2012 is Sand Silos. There are some that complain the cards 'above and below' Invoke Prejudice don't have the ID of 1487 and 1489, and I assure you, these people have the IQ of room tempature. 1487 is In the Eye of Chaos, and 1489 is Juxtapose. Acid Rain is 1470. While I would love to shit on WotC for delibaretly choosing a number for a card descrbing prejudice, and it wouldn't be the first time I unironically called out Wizards of the Coast for racism, but this is honestly just a hilarious coincidence. For thos who want to know, 1488 apparently has something to do with the 14 words, a mantra said by white supremacists that I can't be arsed to look up right now, and Hitler's name starting with H, the 8th letter of the English alphabet. Invoke Prejudice ID is now 485302. 

McNeill is a neo-nazi: This one might actually be true. He certainly enjoys Nazi aesthetics in his art, and his most damning picture is the portrayal of Adolf Hitler as a christ figure, complete with a crown of thorns. This should piss me off, both as an American, and a Catholic, but his right to draw this is protected, and I must respect that. Which is to bad, because I absolutely love his art style. Sylvan Library might actually be one of my favorite pieces in the entire game, due to just how old worldly it looks. It could have came from a Medieval woodcarving. Ray of Command and Death Ward are well enjoyed favorites of his as well, and shows you just gow much possibility in style he could have. I dislike his CoP set in Tempest, because of how similar they each look. I have one other piece I actually really love, which I will get to later. When I asked a few of my sources about him, one person simply said 'he is a complicated human being'. I can't verify that he's a neo-nazi, or if he was in the early 90's, that he hasn't changed his ways, which is certainly possible. I can only say, without ever meeting the man, that I enjoy his art, and I'm glad it exists on Magic cards. 

Impact on the format: This card was the most banned by the 7, with Northern Paladins banning it outright (but letting an approved proxy with different name and art take its place). The other six were extremely discouraged. Other groups like NEOS simply said IP needed to be heavily altered in order to be used. However Eternal Central said that none of the cards are banned, for their historical importance. I applaud EC for sticking to their guns. I feel this card, which was probably the most played outside Oldschool in 2020, is rather lackluster in the format. I can honestly say I've never seen it played it any game that wasn't EDH.

I wonder if this alter counts.

Or perhaps this one? With actual klansmen

In fact with this rule, several groups came together to print "politically correct proxies" of these cards, some having entirely different names. In fact, seeing these were more interesting than Invoke Prejudice ever was, and while I never bought any of them, I did consider it for historical reasons.

Cardboard for a cause did my personal favorite: Invoke Pony.

I don't imagine this effect with that name at all. You can see them all here:

(The rest of those cards are admittedly very pretty).

I think this cards legacy is going to be outside playing it. A year later, Twitter drone's are still complaining about this card. 

I'm going to finish this with a final statement.

The above art, which is drawn by McNeal belongs to the card "Dazzling Beauty" from Mirage. It was commissioned by then art director Sue-Ann Harkey, and allegedly is based on an ex-lover of McNeill's. While I admit that last part is nothing more then a rumor, the rest are facts.

Harkey was a very cosmopolitan liberal in the 90's, McNeill is well McNeill. They put aside their differences, for the sake of professionalism. Did he stick to his guns, and draw some aryan woman in a wheat field or the Alps? No, he drew a Nubian goddess in the desert.

I love this piece. I love the 90's "head floating in the sky", I love how abstract and desolate everything around her looks, I love the shadowy figure. There's so much left to the imagination with this piece, it's as if it is telling a story. I like this piece more then any other McNeill piece, in MtG or not.

Has public discourse disintegrated so much that you can't separate private life from the professional one. Do people honestly have so little worries, so little going on in their lives, that they openly are offended by a card that was printed (for many) before they were even born, and only seen when one intern felt salty.

I remember one judge, who shall remain nameless, that in one corner bashed this card, but in the next was selling this playset at a premium price. Of course he blocked me when I pointed this out to him.

This card, went from being a relatively obscure fact piece, to being the poster child of the culture war in MtG, and is probably the best example of the Streisand Effect ever in MtG. Long after the game falls into obscurity, this card will be remembered and famous, along Black Lotus and Tolarian Academy for its historic importance. 

In fact people have started running these cards as defiance against the people who said you shouldn't. A literal 'fuck you're.

Wizards of the Coast, if your goal was to get less people to run these cards, you just did the opposite. 


  1. I still sometimes run into people saying that while the other six cards, or at least most of them, were only banned reflexively and don't really seem racist, but that Invoke Prejudice should have been banned a long time ago. I've always found this sentiment a bit strange. There isn't a lot of detail on the murky figures that pegs them as Klansmen instead of inquisitors or executioners, and that elaborate ceremonial axe is perhaps the most prominent aspect of the painting. I've never seen anyone actually put forth an argument for why those figures have to be Klansmen. It's just supposed to be obvious. One interlocutor even flat-out told me that the figures in the art are wearing "white robes." It's surreal.

    Although the actual playability of this card would almost entirely be limited to casual multiplayer, it's too bad that this was ever even controversial. The effect will probably never be revisited again in any recognizable form, but it has a kind of unique play pattern to it. Before the ban, I was in an EDH game where someone played Invoke Prejudice, and I kept bouncing his blue creatures to keep a third player from being able to play blue creatures without paying the tax.

    One bit of weird trivia on Invoke Prejudice is that the Oracle wording means that the card affects artifact creature spells, while the last official ruling on the subject specifies that it does not affect artifact creature spells. "It affects Creature spells, but not Artifact Creature spells. [D'Angelo 2000/03/03]" As far as I know, WotC never actually issued a new ruling countermanding the old one. I assume that the ruling would not longer apply, but it appears that the card was so obscure they didn't even bother cleaning that up.