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Since the game's inception, Magic has always had an air of controversy over the nature of the game. Dungeons & Dragons created a large stir over the supposed negative impact it has on youth when it was created, and since Magic was largely based on Dungeons & Dragons when it was made, the same controversy soon followed it.
Religious beliefs goad some into a fear of witchcraft so strong that they consider even fictional depictions of it to be harmful. For them, the very idea of summoning creatures and casting spells must be kept away from impressionable minds. This is somewhat ironic in light of the fact that the white and black cards are depictions of the very struggle between good and evil, Angels and devils, in which the most zealous religious believe.
Early in the game, the cards made references to real-world people and ideas that people could better relate to. While sometimes the references were harmless (the Legends version of (create) depicted Albert Einstein), there were also references to real religious icons. Wrath of God and Armageddon, for example, are inspired straight from the Bible. Conversely, black depicted Satanic symbols, such as (create), demons, and an inverted pentagram in early versions of Unholy Strength. Some cards also depicted an ankh, such as Ankh of Mishra. The Dark included cards like (create), Witch Hunter, and Abbey Matron for a religion that, although fictional, mirrored Christianity. Because Wicca is a religion of nature, the color green is may be considered to have a direct connection with that religion.
As part of the controversy over religion, black included demons in the early part of the game. This was perhaps the strongest piece of controversy in the game, since the player is supposed to be controlling these creatures. For this reason, Wizards of the Coast stopped making demon creature cards for many years. Eventually, as the controversy subsided and Magic became a superpower, demons were allowed to return. Grinning Demon was the first card to signal this, and in Kamigawa block, demons actually played a starring role. This decision occurred because the block was based on Japanese folklore, and as long as the demons stayed in line with a Japanese style guide, they were not likely to cause another wave of controversy.
There was some concern over nudity being depicted on the cards, such as Fire Elemental. Though no genitalia was ever actually shown, some of the early art did come incredibly close. The controversy over this mirrors that of the debate over the difference between art and pornography. This is no longer practiced, but women are still often shown barely clothed and in sexually suggestive positions. Auriok Champion, for example, is shown in art that does not have anything to do with the card's effects and dressed in what looks like white underwear (earning her the nickname of Magic's underwear model). This is done embracing the idea that the game is intended to appeal to teenage boys, though female characters are often depicted as strong individuals, as well.
- (create) depicts two monkeys in the background apparently engaging in sexual intercourse. Uktabi Kong later parodied this, showing one of said monkeys during pregnancy.
- One of Magic's artists, Phil Foglio went on to create the standalone card game XXXenophile. This game was entirely sexually themed and aimed at adults. An example of his work can be found in (create), though in Magic, his illustrations were more comedic than sexual.