The card frame or card face is printed onto the front of a Magic card and gives a structural property to the card. The card face includes the illustration, the card frame is literally everything around the illustration. Several components are capable of expressing story elements. 
History[edit | edit source]
Since its inception, the game had a card frame separated into two halves. The top half was dominated by the artwork of the card while the lower half was dominated by the text box. Other features such as name, cost type, rarity and power/toughness for creatures was printed directly onto the frame, which at times, especially in earlier editions, made it hard to read. Though some changes were made over the years, such as color coding the expansion symbol to reflect the card's rarity or the introduction of a collector's number (both changes introduced with Exodus), the frame stayed unchanged for a long time.
Already in 2000, the Magic brand team was considering a change to the card face. 
With 8th Edition a new card frame was introduced in which the name and cost, types and expansion symbol as well as the power/toughness were given their own boxes to elevate them from the card frame and enhance readability. Card names were printed in a more modern font (Matrix Bold, rather than Goudy Medieval).   However, critics noted that some individuality of colors was lost with the card frame, e.g. the textbox of green cards no longer looking like old parchment.
An early problem was that the new card frames of white and artifact cards were hard to tell apart with a quick glance, which lead to the darkening of the frame of artifact cards with Fifth Dawn. Another problem with artifacts was that the symbols for colored mana on artifact cards were gray in the textbox of artifact cards. This was corrected with Ravnica: City of Guilds.
With the exception of Timeshifted cards in Time Spiral, two cards from Unhinged, and some rare promotional cards, the old frame has not been reused and older cards that are reissued as reprints in new products or in promotional settings are changed into the new card frame.
With Magic 2015, another update was made to the card frame. This concerned the introduction of a special Magic font (Beleren), a holofoil stamp, revamped collector info and a decreased border size.  The main reason for the change was the facilitation of digitized printing, so that the machine could read the card number and rarity. 
Structure[edit | edit source]
Name[edit | edit source]
The name of a card is positioned at the top left corner of the card and is the primary method of identification.     Each English card name is unique  , though in some other languages have used the same name for multiple cards. Also, translated cards with super-long names have been typeset using a different font - either the normal font compressed, or an actual smaller point size.  A small subset of cards refers to other cards by name in the rules text. 
Casting cost[edit | edit source]
The casting cost is in the top right corner of the card and specifies how much and what type of mana needs to be spent to play the card. The types of colored symbols in the cost decide the color of the card.
Illustration[edit | edit source]
Type line[edit | edit source]
To the left of the center box of the card is the Card type, possibly preceded by a Supertype and/or followed by one or more subtypes. This builds the Type line. The type specifies when and how a card can be played. The supertype gives additional game rules while the subtype is just a method of categorization with no rules specific to them, though other cards may refer to subtypes or are dependent on subtypes.
Expansion Symbol[edit | edit source]
To the right of the Type is the Expansion symbol, unique to each set and shows which set that card belongs to. Early core sets used no expansion symbol. Since Exodus this symbol is color-coded to represent what rarity the card is; black for common cards, silver for uncommon cards and gold for rare cards. Shards of Alara introduced a fourth rarity, mythic rare in orange.
Color indicator[edit | edit source]
Some cards printed from Innistrad forward are printed with a color indicator, which is a small circle inlaid into the frame directly before the type line. This is meant to identify the color of cards which have no printed casting cost. Currently only the backside of Double-faced cards and the Dryad Arbor reprint of From the Vault: Realms have a printed color indicator, but they have been retroactively added on the Oracle database to past cards without mana costs or mana costs of 0, such as Evermind, Restore Balance, Kobolds of Kher Keep or Slaughter Pact.
Text box[edit | edit source]
The text box dominates the lower half of the card and contains all relevant rules text as well as all possible flavor text. Flavor text is always the bottom-most and italicized in the text box and has no functionality on the card outside of Unglued and Unhinged. Some sets and blocks such as Ravnica block and Scars of Mirrodin, as well as promotional cards, utilize watermarks and background textures to further distinguish the cards or enhance the flavor of the card or set.
Power/toughness or loyalty[edit | edit source]
If the card is a creature card the Power/Toughness of the card is printed on the right side below the Text box. It specifies how much damage a creature deals in combat and how much damage is needed to destroy that creature respectively. If the card is a Planeswalker card instead a different box denotes the number of loyalty counters the Planeswalker enters play with.
Information below the text box[edit | edit source]
On the left side below the Text box (in some editions centralized below the text box) there is the credit for the illustration of the card. Below this is the copyright information for the card as well as a collector's number.
From Magic 2015 on, series of letters and numbers in the lower left of the card will that indicate the card's collector number (e.g. 122/269), rarity (e.g. R), set (e.g. M15), and language (e.g. EN). Between the set and the language is a little dot, or a star on premium cards. The black background for this updated collector's information makes it machine-readable by recognition software at the production plants. It will help eliminate the rare packaging error. 
Background and box borders[edit | edit source]
The background of each card is dependent on the casting cost and type of the card. White, Blue, Black, Red and Green have backgrounds in these respective colors. A golden background represents multicolored cards. Lands and artifacts, usually colorless, have their own background. Starting with 8th Edition, the borders between the boxes are also in a color akin to the casting cost of the card. If the card is multicolored between two colors, the borders in between boxes will blend from one color into the other. However, the background of the card is golden. If the card is of three or more colors the box borders are gold as well. An exception to this are hybrid cards, the background, like the borders of the boxes, fade from one color into the other.  It could be also noted that M:tG card frame was radically changed in 8th Edition, and had some minor changes through earlier years, like text box becoming wider to align with picture box, mana symbols getting slightly redesigned, and artist and copyright information format being changed. All those traits might be useful in recognizing cards from earlier expansions. Of all the magic cards, non-basic lands will probably have the most widely varied card frames through the years - from striped textbox in Limited edition to differently colored text boxes in early expansions (like brown in Antiquities and snow-like in Ice Age) to color-blended textboxes and borders reflecting the color of mana said land could produce in later editions. In cases when that mana is colorless, textbox is grey, and when more than 2 colors of mana can be made (e.g. any of the 5), then it is golden. Also, other special frames have been introduced - colorless non-artifact spells and creatures have semi-transparent white frame showing artwork, as well as multi-colored artifacts have gold box borders and artifact background.
Borders[edit | edit source]
The borders of a card denote legality to play. Borders have been printed in four different colors: Black for cards of expert expansions as well as Alpha, Beta and Core Sets from 10th Edition onward  ; White for Core Sets between Unlimited and 9th Edition inclusive; Silver borders for the Un-sets, and gold borders for commemorative sets. Cards with black or white borders are tournament legal while cards with silver and gold borders are not.
In 2002, white-bordered versions of regular black-bordered cards were sold as exclusives. It turned out it was possible to "erase" the border off of a card using transparent tape and a good eraser.  It is highly unlikely that white borders will return. They tend to wash out the art and make the cards less aesthetically pleasing. 
The Un-sets (Unglued and Unhinged) are self-parody sets. They are silver-bordered to denote they are not tournament-legal. They feature mechanics that would be impossible to print in a normal expansion.
Holofoil stamp[edit | edit source]
Magic 2015 introduced a little silver oval holofoil stamp in the bottom center of rares and mythic rares. This was done to make those cards feel more special, as well as to guarantee authenticity.  It makes counterfeiting more difficult. Commons, uncommons, and basic lands will not feature this stamp.
Back[edit | edit source]
Special card frames for mechanics[edit | edit source]
Planeswalkers[edit | edit source]
While the text boxes of normal cards have an opaque white background, the text box of planeswalkers are translucent and show additional parts of the artwork. Often the artwork also protrudes outside the borders of the Illustration box and into the box for the name and casting cost. Additionally, small shield-icons on the left side of the text box represent the change in loyalty to activate one of the planeswalker's abilities.
Colorless[edit | edit source]
Many Eldrazi are colorless. Like planeswalkers, these cards from Rise of the Eldrazi have transparent frames, allowing the art to run all the way to the border. This frame was also used for Scion of Ugin, a non-Eldrazi colorless card.
Devoid keyword[edit | edit source]
Eldrazi-related cards that are devoid have an additional moulding at the top, similar to the carvings on the hedrons. The color from the mana cost fades away downwards. This coloration is intended to aid deck building and gameplay. 
Miracle keyword[edit | edit source]
Cards with the Miracle mechanic have a standard card frame with some slight alterations. They have radiant spokes on the texture of the frame on the side of the artwork and on top of the name and cost box. Additionally, the name box has an arrow-like outcropping pointing up.
Split cards[edit | edit source]
Split cards from Dragon's Maze feature some special design elements in regard to the Fuse mechanic. Split cards with Fuse have arrows protruding from the name and type boxes of each half pointing at the other. Additionally, they have one small textbox for the Fuse mechanic including its reminder text at the bottom spanning both halves.
Flip cards[edit | edit source]
The Kamigawa block introduced so called Flip cards, e.g. Nezumi Graverobber. These cards have an illustration in the middle and a structure consisting of a name/cost box, a text box and a type-box with a box for power/toughness on the right side on either side. Both boxes are oriented inward on the card so the bottom box is upside down. Below the bottom box is the artist credit, copyright information and collectors number as well as the expansion symbol.
Leveler cards[edit | edit source]
Rise of the Eldrazi introduced the Level up mechanic which makes use of a special card face. It is nearly identical to the regular card face, except the textbox is split horizontally into three sections. The topmost section has a regular white background, with the other two an increasingly darker shade of the cards color. Each of the section also has a Power-toughness box on the right, and an arrow-like symbol on the left with the level description in black font inside it.
Double-faced and Meld cards[edit | edit source]
The front of the card is almost identical to a regular card frame, except it features a sun symbol on the top left corner next to the name, and it has the power and toughness of the other card face on the bottom left of the text box above the regular power/toughness box and small notch of the card border next to it. Instead of the sun symbol other symbols like the dawn symbol from Magic Origins and the full moon symbol from Eldritch Moon can be used.
The "back" of the card has a card face similar to the ones of Planeshifted cards. The name, type and power/toughness box are all the same color as the border frame, and the text in them is white rather than the regular black. The textbox has a darker shade of a background, but no special texture. Additionally, there is a moon symbol next to the name box and the type box has a small circular hole filled with the color of the creature. Instead of the moon symbol other symbols like the planeswalker symbol from Magic Origins and the Emrakul symbol from Eldritch Moon can be used
Enchantment creatures and enchantment artifacts[edit | edit source]
Enchantment creatures and enchantment artifacts in the Theros block all have a card frame that shows the starfield of Nyx. The Nyx frame doesn't have any rules associated with it. It's just a reminder that these creatures and artifacts are also enchantments. Other enchantments in Theros use the regular card frame. 
Vehicles[edit | edit source]
Vehicle cards have a bronze and grey blocked pattern.
Token and Emblems[edit | edit source]
While not actually functional cards, Token and Emblem cards have been inserted in boosters and given out as rewards or promotions. These cards usually have a different box for the name centralized on the top, no mana cost and only a smaller text box denoting abilities if the creature has an ability at all. Older token cards had flavor text in text boxes but newer token cards feature no text box at all if the creature token has no abilities. All of this yields space for a larger illustration.
Special card frames for aesthetics[edit | edit source]
Basic lands from specific sets[edit | edit source]
The basic lands of the Un-sets (the only tournament legal cards from those sets) and Zendikar/Battle for Zendikar blocks feature different frames, shuffling parts of the cards around and eliminating the text box for a larger illustration. In Amonkhet, 1/4 of the basic lands use this frame.
Masterpiece Series[edit | edit source]
Masterpieces come with a special card frame unique to their respective home plane.
Planeshifted cards[edit | edit source]
The timeshifted cards in Planar Chaos, e.g. Damnation also known as planeshifted cards, use the same card frame as regular cards but with slight alterations. For planeshifted cards the type line box and the name/cost box is colored in a hue according to the casting cost and the text in those boxes is white instead of the usual black. Power/toughness, if present, is also printed in white font. Additionally, the background of planeshifted cards is different from regular cards of the same color, and the textbox has a special texture as a background unique to the color. )
Futureshifted cards[edit | edit source]
The timeshifted cards in Future Sight such as Tarmogoyf are significantly different.  The artwork is now in a circular frame rather than the usual rectangular. The frame extends behind the name on the top and below the type line box and behind the text box, all of which are now translucent. Starting below the name box on the left side the artwork has a row of semi-circular pockets, six of which are next to the artwork. The casting cost in altered mana symbols is placed inside these pockets. The top left corner of the card has a symbol inside a circle representing the type of the card.  The expansion symbol on these cards is housed in a small circle next to the type line box. Additionally the text box on these cards is not rectangular but bends outward on either side and the information below the text box is right-justified.
There is also a cycle of vanilla creatures in Future Sight utilizing the frame which have no text box at all in exchange for a larger illustration spanning the entire card. These cards are Blade of the Sixth Pride, Blind Phantasm, Mass of Ghouls, Fomori Nomad, and Nessian Courser.
Unglued and Unhinged cards[edit | edit source]
Many cards from Unglued and Unhinged break norms for card frames and artwork that warps the organization of the parts of the card. Examples of this would be Topsy Turvy, Curse of the Fire Penguin, Burning Cinder Fury of Crimson Chaos Fire, B.F.M. (Big Furry Monster) and Greater Morphling. Additionally the artwork of many un-cards protrudes outside the frame for illustrations.
Promotion cards[edit | edit source]
Textless[edit | edit source]
Since 2005, the Magic Player Rewards program has given out special Textless cards which feature no type line, expansion symbol or text box but only a larger illustration in an oval frame. So far only Sorcery and Instant cards have been given out featuring this frame.
Full-art[edit | edit source]
Another rewards program gives out full-art cards that have their card text printed upon a larger, alternate illustration which extends from below the name/cost box to the bottom of the card, occupying the same space as the illustration, type line box and text box of normal cards.
Special card frames for alternate game formats[edit | edit source]
Wizards of the Coast has printed a number of cards for specific alternate game formats which do not work like regular Magic cards and for that reason have a vastly different card frame as well as different card backs.
Character[edit | edit source]
In the Vanguard format a player plays with an additional card which represents a character from the Magic storyline meant to represent an ally in the battle against the opponent (who also has an ally). These cards are called Vanguard cards though they bear the type "Character" (not a regular card type). They are also larger than regular Magic cards. On the top is a golden name box with the name centered, followed by artwork representing the character. Below that is a smaller golden Type box with the word "Character", also centered. Below that is the text box with the ability of the character. The text box bends inward below that ability to give way for two circles inside ovals on either side. The left circle gives the starting and maximum hand size throughout the vanguard game when playing with that character. The right circle gives the starting life total when playing with that character. Both values are given as a difference from the regular values, 7 and 20 respectively. In between them is the flavor text. The information below the text box is inside a golden ornamental box with a purple circle at the bottom and the text is centered.
Planes and Phenomena[edit | edit source]
Planes are used in the Planechase format and represent a place in the Multiverse. They are twice the size of a regular Magic card and horizontally oriented. Almost all structural parts of the card face are translucent for the artwork. On top of the card is the a name box. On the bottom is a text box which is separated into two halves vertically. On the top is the regular card ability. On the bottom is the chaos ability preceded by a large chaos symbol. The background of the chaos ability is also a slightly darker shade than the regular ability. On top of the text box is a type-line box with the type-line centered and the expansion symbol on the right. The information below the text box is centered. The boxes are all bordered with ornamental copper lines which decorate the rest of the card as well.
Scheme[edit | edit source]
Scheme is a card type introduced in Archenemy, representing a large effect that may be a one-time effect or ongoing. Scheme cards are oversized full art cards, but overlayed with a rectangular gold and bronze ornament, separating the card in four sections. The topmost has the card name, below it is the actual art frame which is considerably taller than on regular cards, below it is the type box with the textbox underneath. All boxes except the art frame have a translucent white background and black font. Additionally, the art outside the frame appears to be darker than inside the art frame.
Further, the card is decorated with spike-ornaments in the four corners as well as to the left and right of the type box. There is no rarity of Scheme cards so the rarity symbol appears to be black on all of them. The information below the card frame is center-justified. The card back is unique too, featuring the Magic: The Gathering logo and the word "Archenemy" as well as the spike-ornaments also present on the front, connected by a large silver frame.
Conspiracies and draft ability cards[edit | edit source]
Card frame gallery[edit | edit source]
- Default card frames
- Card frames for mechanics
Double-faced card with sun symbol
Double-faced card with dawn symbol
Meld card with full moon symbol
- Card frames for aesthetics
Richard Garfield from Unhinged
- Card frames for alternate game formats
References[edit | edit source]
- Mark Rosewater. (July 28, 2014.) “Story Time”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Monty Ashley. (November 10, 2011.) “The Card Face That Wasn't”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (January 27, 2003.) “Frames of Reference”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- MagicTheGathering.com Staff. (January 20, 2003.) “Card Face Redesign FAQ”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Randy Buehler. (October 31, 2003.) “A Scary Card Frame Story”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Aaron Forsythe. (January 06, 2014.) “From the Director's Chair: 2013”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (July 29, 2016), "2014". Drive to Work
- Matt Cavotta. (April 25, 2005.) “Say My Name”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Garrett Baumgartner. (March 22, 2010.) “The Secrets of Creation”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Aaron Forsythe. (April 29, 2005.) “The Functionality of Names”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Doug Beyer. (August 26, 2009.) “Your Mailbox is Over Vorthosity”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Doug Beyer. (May 05, 2010.) “Form of the Writer”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Doug Beyer. (November 28, 2007.) “Name Killers”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Doug Beyer. (January 12, 2011.) “Season Seventeen”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Arcana. (July 24, 2002.) “Mouthfuls II”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Monty Ashley. (August 16, 2011.) “Speaking of Other Cards”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Matt Cavotta. (February 21, 2005.) “The Big Deal About Little Pictures”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Randy Buehler. (November 21, 2003.) “Flight of Fancy”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Aaron Forsythe. (October 14, 2005.) “Framing Ravnica”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Arcana. (February 15, 2007.) “A Special Tenth Edition Announcement”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Aaron Forsythe. (February 23, 2007.) “Bordering on Lunacy”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Arcana. (November 29, 2002.) “White borders?!”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (March 15, 2015.) "Will we see white bordered cards again?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
- Mark Rosewater. (2009 July 20.) “The Silver Lining”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Wizards of the Coast. (September 23, 2015.) “Battle for Zendikar Release Notes”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- magicthegathering.com Staff. (September 02, 2013.) “The Mechanics of Theros”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Aaron Forsythe. (May 11, 2007.) “Three Things I Get Mail About”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. ( April 09, 2007.) “The Future Is Now, Part I”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Arcana. (May 24, 2007.) “Future Sight’s Card Type Symbols”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.