This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series Massive Art Attack

This week on Massive Art Attack I’ll be taking a look at the most basic of graphic design on a Magic card, the frame.  The old school frames were replaced after being used for ten  years.  The current frames have also now been in use for ten years.  This is my tenth article, so I figured it was a good time to tackle the topic.  I’m going to start off with brief history of the card frames for newer players, then I rank my favorite frame for each color.  Sound kind of interesting?  Then read on!



A Little Background on Frames

Old School Borders


Alpha and Beta burst on to the Magic scene with black borders and old school frames. The old school frame went through some tweaking as it served Magic from its inception in 1993 until its replacement in 8th edition in 2003.














In Unlimited the card borders changed from black to white.  From then on all core sets maintained white borders until Tenth edition in 2007.  Meanwhile the expert expansions kept the black borders.  The problem with the white borders is that they showed dirt and grime from play very easily.  Also the black border tends to be simply more aesthetically pleasing with the colorful cards anyways.  Its a wonder the white borders lasted as long as they did.













A couple of other subtle changes came along.  The double line beveled edge for Limited and Unlimited disappeared in revised and then made a cleaner come back in fourth edition.














The old school borders saw another subtle change around 1996 when the text box was widened to the same width as the card art.
















The Good:  The old school frames had more character that evoked the whole fantasy feel of each color.  Green had the wooden text box, black had worn parchment and bubbling muck frame, blue had swirling arcane power and rippling water text box, red was a little more dull with cracked stone, and white had patterned text box and almost snake skin looking texture border.  The old school borders certainly helped you feel like you were immersed in a fantasy game.  They conveyed that sense of wielding the power of the different magical elements.


The Bad: Compared to the new frames the old had less room for text and art.  Some of the color contrasts weren’t optimal so text can be harder to read.  Also by 2003 they were honestly looking a bit dated since no one thought the game was going to explode quite they way it did when they were originally crafted.  There wasn’t a crack team of graphic designers perfecting the frames before its initial release anticipating the millions of cards that would be put into circulation with that design.


New Borders

In 2003 the release of 8th edition and Mirrodin debuted the new card frames.  They have remained mostly unchanged since their release.  The original, somewhat inexplicable idea of changing mana symbols in the text box in monochrome gray was quickly scrapped after the Mirrodin block.  Eighth and Ninth Edition are the only two sets to be released with white bordered new frames.  Other than that the new frames have remained pretty constant for the past ten years.













The Good: The new frames have a much cleaner and more modern design.  They look less “budget”.  They also have more room for art as well as text.  The text is also easier to read since they were able to use a black font.  The gold multi color frames do a better job displaying a cards color identity and creature cards have a much more prominent power/toughness.

The Bad:  To allow the text to be clearer, the colors are much more subdued where words are present.  A lot of the cool textures like the wooden text box from the old school frames disappeared.  It feels like overall the cards are easy to read and look good, but they don’t have that same character.  There is nothing that screams fantasy game about them to me.  It could be a card frame for a game about factions of battling Mechs, the elements of magical spells, or a fancy edition of Uno.  If you looked at just the frames themselves they could be for anything really.


My Favorite Frames



Now here we have all four major borders used for white.  Old School, New School, Time Shifted, and Future Shifted.  For the Time Spiral block wizards debuted alternate reality frames and the future shifted frame.  I really like the time shifted frames since they take on a lot of the character of the old school frames while still being easy to read.  However I think the time shifted frame is a little too yellow for my taste.  The normal new school frame is crisp without being boring.

Winner: New School Frame



The old school blue frame was pretty cool and the future shifted frame actually looks pretty fitting in blue.  However my pick has to go to the time shifted frame.  The normal new school frame is just too bland and I think the time shifted version solves that problem.

Winner: Time Shifted Frame



To me the new school frame is too light.  There is too much gray and not enough black.  The future shifted frame is a bit murky, but not bad.  Despite the time shifted frame looking pretty cool, I’m giving the nod to the old school frame.  I love the parchment text box and all black frame.

Winner: Old School Frame



Lets face it, the old school red border is too boring and uninspired.  The future shifted frame is too orange.  Also why was most of the art on future shifted cards murky as shit?  (I’m looking at you too goyf).  The time shifted frame is a clear winner here, blood red frame with a nice cracked texture all the way around.  Can’t we just scrap the new school frames and replace them with the time shifted style?  It almost seems like it was wizards go at getting the new school frames right.

Winner: Time Shifted Frame


The new school frame bores me to tears.  The future shifted frame isn’t bad, but like all of the future shifted frames it doesn’t strike me as all that practical.  The time shifted frame wins this one too.  I dig the old school frame, but the time shifted version pulls in all the cool features of the old and new frames.

Winner: Time Shifted Frame


Hey Wizards its been ten years since the last major frame redesign.  Can we please acknowledge its faults and change it up a bit?  I think the time shifted frames were a great revision to the newer style frame.  I want some character and style back in my Magic.  Make it happen!  What are your favorite frames?  Are you nostalgic for the old school?  Thanks for reading!

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