Inspired by the new Magic: the Gathering token card frame design seen in the Core Set 2020 spoilers, lets take a look back through the history and evolution of the MTG token frame. We'll cover all the major and minor design changes over the last 22 years including:
- 2019 - Core Set 2020 (re-design)
- 2018 - Dominaria (legendary name design)
- 2017 - Unstable (full art design)
- 2014 - Magic 2015 Core Set (re-design)
- 2013 - Theros (enchantment background)
- 2010 - Rise of the Eldrazi (colorless background)
- 2008 - Shards of Alara (gold background)
- 2008 - Shadowmoor (two color backgrounds)
- 2003 - Scourge (re-design)
- 2000 - Invasion (re-design)
- 1998 - Unglued (first design!)
Major frame design changes
2019 - M20 frame
The recent Core set 2020 spoilers revealed a brand new, full art, token design! To make room for the new, larger artwork, the colored background has been removed. To identify the token color, the background of the token name is now the card's colour and the text has been changed from gold to either black or white. The text box background and border is also a slightly darker shade of the tokens color.
2014 - M15 Frame
In 2014 Wizards of the Coast introduced a new card frame across MTG cards and tokens alike. The new design featured the Magic font Beleren, a reduced background size and shape, revamped collector info, a full width token name and a smaller border size. One of the main reasons for the change was the facilitation of digitized printing, so that the machine could read the card number.
In another notable change, the card type "Token" was prefixed to the token type line. In the collector info, language and set was added. The token number became clearer and was presented in a consistent format (I.e. 001/020 T).
2003 - Modern Frame
The modern token frame was introduced in 2003 with Scourge and 8th Edition, at a time where tokens were just starting to become a part of each set release. Until this point they had only been given away as player and judge rewards at various Magic events.
The design changed drastically, becoming more consistent with MTG cards in appearance and layout. The token name, types, expansion symbol, power/toughness were all given their own boxes to elevate them from the card frame and enhance readability. Coloured token backgrounds were introduced. The font was updated to Matrix Bold, from Goudy Medieval. The "TOKEN" text and flavor text were both removed. If the token had no abilities, the text box is also completely removed, allowing for a larger illustration. Finally, a collectors number was added to the end of the copyright message.
2000 - Players Reward Frame
The Invasion block, Odyssey block and Onslaught block all featured player reward tokens - the first token designs to share many similarities with MTG token cards. They are visually very different from the full art Unglued tokens as they contain rules text, creature type and subtype, flavour text, power/toughness and an expansion symbol.
1998 - Unglued Frame
Unglued was the first Magic set to officially print token cards. The 1/1 Red Goblin and 1/1 White Pegasus were later re-printed in Anthologies.
Full art tokens like these didn't make a return to Magic until Unstable, another un-set released in 2017.
Minor frame design changes
2018 - Legendary name design change
Dominaria emphasized the design of the token name box for legendary tokens types.
2017 - Unstable full art tokens
As a throw back to Unglued, un-set Unstable featured full art token cards. They're beautiful but sadly didn't become a regular thing.
2013 - Enchantment background design
Theros block added a new background style for Enchantment token cards.
2010 - Colorless background
Rise of the Eldrazi block included a new colorless background design.
2008 - Gold background and two colour backgrounds
Shards of Alara contained the first Gold creature card backgrounds. Up until this set, only one and two coloured token cards existed.
Apocalypse contained the very first two colored token, but it wasn't until Shadowmoor in 2008 that two color tokens got their own multi-colored background design.
Thanks for reading - Adam