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Arabian Nights Variants

Guest Article
Written by: Neil Troy

In the Arabian Nights set there are several common cards that exist in both a “light” (b) and a “dark” (a) version. This article will answer:
- What makes the card light or dark?
- Why don’t all commons in the set have a light and dark version?
- Are there any uncommons which have a light and dark version?


A magic card is printed using several printing plates that each have a different color associated with them. These plates are fabricated from a rendering of a computer design file. In order to print grey there are two options, use sparse black dots allowing the white cardstock to show through or to print roughly equal amounts of all the colors and let the white cardstock show through. The common theme in these methods is the cardstock must be visible otherwise the resulting color is too dark.

This is where the dark version comes from. For most "dark" cards the colorless mana symbol’s grey is printed with both methods and no white cardstock can be seen showing through.

Rukh Egg dark (D) and light (L) version casting cost

The image above is the casting cost for Rukh Egg in both the dark (D) and light (L) versions. The image is with the same camera, same zoom, same lighting so all differences you see are in the cards themselves. If you look at the dark version’s colorless mana symbol closely, you’ll see there are red, yellow, green, blue and black but almost no white from the underlying cardstock. When you view this in person it is noticeably darker than this computer image because your eye can’t resolve the print dots without the help of a loupe or a microscope. The light version is the one Wizard most likely intended to print, as the colorless mana symbol is the same size as the colored one and is consistent with the look of modern cards (Antiquities onward).

The black mana symbol also has differences in these printings. Erg Raiders is shown below where the colorless mana symbol is the same as Rukh Egg’s but the black mana symbol’s background is different between the two versions. In the dark version the grey color is created with the cyan, yellow, and magenta allowing the cardstock to be visible but in the light version grey is created with black dots.  Future magic cards (Antiquities on) were printed with the “dark” black mana symbol but with the “light” colorless symbol.

Erg Raiders dark (D) and light (L) version casting cost

Not all commons have two printings. The only cards which have two printings are commons that are black and/or those that have colorless mana symbols somewhere on them (see Nafs Asp below).


There are only two cards that meet these criteria that do NOT have two printings and they are Cuombajj Witches and Desert Nomads, all other commons that meet this criteria have two printings.  For reference, photos of all these cards can be found at the end of the article.

As to why the light and dark versions exist, it is likely due to the light version being the desired version but only rendered in one quadrant of the design file before the printing plate was made. At the time a single rendering for the printing plate could not be created on a computer so it was broken up into quadrants. The assumption is that Desert Nomads and Cuombajj Witches are not found in this quadrant so never received a light variant. A single quadrant of light printing also would match with the overall rarity of these lighter versions as they are rarer or the same rarity as the dark versions.

Nafs Asp dark (D) and light (L) version text box

No uncommons are printed with this variation, they are entirely printed in the dark version. Guardian Best is shown as an example below showing the “dark” mana cost.

Guardian Beast Casting Cost

Additional Cards with Light and Dark Variants

 Hasran Ogress Casting Cost
 Oubliette Casting Cost
 Stone Throwing Devils Casting Cost
 Fish Liver Oil Casting Cost
Giant Tortoise Casting Cost
Army of Allah Casting Cost
Moorish Cavalry Casting Cost
Piety Casting Cost
War Elephant Casting Cost
Wyluli Wolf Casting Cost
Bird Maiden Casting Cost

April - 2022

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