When the first Atog appeared, grinning up from its cardboard it marked another original creature creation for the world of Magic: The Gathering. According to Allen Varney, the name Atog is an anagram of goat, and that Atogs are “the goats of the Dominian ecosystem,” (Dominia later became named Dominaria). Atogs went on to make several appearances through the first decade of Magic, but it began with that original grinning purple face from one of the earliest sets.
Atog (Antiquities, Jesper Myrfors)
It all started in Antiquities, the second expansion for Magic: The Gathering, released in 1994. Antiquities revolved around artifacts. Every card in the set was either an artifact itself or interacted with artifacts in some way. Hidden among the Strip Mines, Millstones, Urza lands, and other wildly powerful cards was an innocuous two-mana value 1/2 creature: Atog.
Visually, the original Atog has a round purple head and large lips that wrap around the front of the face. Inside its mouth are rows upon rows of sharp teeth for breaking up and consuming the artifacts it eats. Its bulbous almost glowing eyes and wicked grin made the Jesper Myrfors illustration one of the most iconic pieces of art from the first year of the game.
Sacrificing artifacts for an explosive but temporary boost in stats made Atog fit perfectly with the theme of the Antiquities set. The sacrifice of the artifacts representing being eaten by the creature and was an interesting overlap of gameplay mechanic and aesthetic presentation. This mechanical and creative overlap was at the heart of what became a family of Atogs appearing off and on from Antiquities through to Mirrodin.
Foratog (Mirage, Mark Poole)
When Foratog appeared two years after Antiquities, it built on both the visual and gameplay elements of the original Atog. It had a similar round head, large gaping mouth, and large forward-facing eyes—giving it, like Atog, the suggestion of being a predator. The addition of spiky quills on its head and face, and less prominent lips made Foratog stand out from its predecessor.
Its stats were like the Atog, a power and toughness of only 1/2, but it cost an additional colorless mana, and its ability now cost a mana to activate, instead of being free. Foratog is the only member of the Atog family whose ability costs mana to activate. Where the Atog fed on artifacts, the Foratog, fed on forests. In addition to the mana payment, a sacrificed forest provided a similar temporary stat boost. Where the Atog was red, Foratog was green, setting the expectation for a cycle of Atogs, with one in each color of Magic. This expectation was met with an Atog variant in each of the following sets, Chronatog in Visions, Necratog in Weatherlight, and Auratog in Tempest. Each had similar stats, and an ability to trade a type of resource from the game for a stat boost in line with the creature’s color identity. After Auratog completed the mono-colored Atog cycle, a few years passed before the next Atogs appeared in Magic.
Odyssey introduced a huge leap in Atog evolution, the first multicolor Atogs. Instead of one Atog in the set, there were six, one for each allied-color pair, and a legendary Atog that was all five colors. The mono-colored abilities of some of the original Atogs made a return in their multicolored cousins, with tweaks or outright replacements in others. The temporary stat boosts for each activation were also reduced to +1/+1 across the board, and unlike with Foratog, no mana payments were required. The abilities, broken down by color to represent the resource those types of Atogs consumed, were as follows:
Of the five allied color Atogs in Odyssey, the most iconic, and winningest of all was Psychatog.
Psychatog (Odyssey,Edward P. Beard, Jr.)
Combining the blue ability of discarding a card from hand and the black ability of exiling two cards from a graveyard to power it up, Psychatog’s abilities synergized well with each other. It made the creature an ideal win condition for a blue-black control deck, which could convert spent resources from the graveyard, and unneeded resources from hand into damage to close out a game. Psychatog defined the era of competitive play in which it was relevant, including taking Carlos Romão all the way to the top of the 2002 World Championships. In addition to Psychatog, and the other allied color Atogs in Odyssey was the only legendary Atog ever printed.
Atogatog (Odyssey,Ron Spears)
The five-color, five mana value 5/5 Atogatog was the largest Atog ever printed. While all Atogs feed on some sort of resource in exchange for a temporary stat boost, the legendary Atogatog feeds on other Atogs, and grows proportionately to their own size when sacrificed. Add in some changeling shapeshifters to increase the number of Atogs in the deck, and you have the basis for a Commander deck that can win through combat or Commander damage, and have some other tricks up its sleeve as well.
Odyssey introduced many new Atogs to Magic all at once. While Atogatog and Psychatog became the standouts of the bunch, each can have a place in a deck built to take advantage of their abilities. Thankfully, this big influx was not the last we’d see of Atogs in Magic.
Like Antiquities before it, Mirrodin was a set with a large artifacts-matter theme. It was the perfect place to reprint the beloved Atog, this time with a fiercer and more aggressive look.
Atog (Mirrodin, illustrated by Puddnhead)
All the cuteness of the Jesper Myrfors piece is gone, replaced instead by pure savagery. The face and mouth are more horrific, and the elongated fingers and hints of claws of some of the other varieties of Atogs are indicated but obscured by the card frame. The flavor text of the card succinctly sums up the differences. It reads: " On Dominaria, a scavenger. On Mirrodin, a predator.” This brutal reimagining of Atog wasn’t the only Atog in Mirrodin. The set also introduced the second-largest base stat Atog we’ve seen.
Megatog (Mirrodin,Pete Venters)
The Megatog is a massive Atog species whose facial structure, particularly the mouth and eyes more resembled the original Atog image by Jesper Myrfors than its brutal Mirrodin cousin. The claws, rippling muscles, and exploding skin on the arms and flanks of the massive beast were in line with the other native Atogs of the plane, making the Megatog a weird amalgam of the two visually. While not as large as the legendary Atogatog in terms of base stats, the Megatog had the advantage of being mono-colored and easier to cast. Its ability not only granted a massive +3/+3 temporary stat boost, but also granted the trample ability, making it more likely to connect with an opponent’s face. While nowhere near as powerful as some of the broken cards that came out of Mirrodin, Megatog as a solid Limited card for Draft and Sealed Deck play and was the last new unique Atog we’ve seen.
Atogs seemed ripe for a return in the artifacts-matter block Kaladesh in 2016. However, much to the disappointment of Atog fans, a new artifact and magic energy consuming nuisance was introduced to the setting of Kaladesh: Gremlins. Gremlins with their pointed ears and long snouts had a much different visual aesthetic, more akin to real-life anteaters than the fantastic look of Atogs. Their philosophical and gameplay aesthetics, however, were very much in the same spirit—so much so, that in Aether Revolt, the second set in the Kaladesh Block, Wizards introduced a functional reprint of the original Atog, with a creature type appropriate for the new setting.
Ravenous Intruder (Aether Revolt, Mathias Kollros)
Where the Atog appeared to feed on the raw materials of the artifacts themselves, the Gremlin, with its long protruding snout, seems to penetrate artifacts and suck out their magical properties. In the image for Ravenous Intruder, we can see it perched above and sucking out the magical energy of what appears to be a very famous ring.
Sol Ring (Kaladesh Inventions, illustrated by Volkan Baǵa)
With two decades between now and the last appearance of a new Atog variety, it’s uncertain if we’ll ever see our grinning friends return. According to Mark Rosewater, Magic’s head designer, on his blog Blogatog (a clever Atog reference), Atogs fall high on the Beeble Scale. The scale ranks the likeliness of creature types reappearing in a new Magic set with a score of 1 being will definitely return and 10 being will never return. Atogs with a rating of 7 are not likely to return unless the setting is right. Even then, we’ve already discussed one instance where Atogs could have returned but a decision was made to go with a different creature type instead.
The fact that Atogs are so universally tied with their mechanical aspects means that design space on these is likely constrained. A reimagining of the potential of Atogs could happen, broadening them beyond the narrow confines that have defined them so far, but it seems unlikely.
What’s your favorite Atog? Of the creatures we’ve discussed in past installments, which would you be most excited to see return? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Join me next time when we dive into the deep end of the Beeble Scale for a look at some creature types that will never return, and iconic cards that changed types as a result.