At the start of 2023, with Ordinals Inscriptions growing in popularity daily, it seemed every collector worth their salt was out to cash in on the Bitcoin NFT craze. While most turned their attention to CryptoPunks, OnChainMonkey, and other Ethereum-native projects bridging over to the world’s oldest blockchain, one Bitcoin-centric endeavor emerged to establish a new narrative around digital artifacts.
Helmed by an independent developer and longtime Bitcoin advocate, Taproot Wizards (TW) entered not only as the new kid on the Ordinals block but with a mission to become much more than just another generative avatar project. Carrying the tagline “Make Bitcoin Magical Again” and featuring art that holds historical significance within the Bitcoin community, the wizard-themed project completely disrupted the still-developing Bitcoin NFT ecosystem in one fell swoop.
What is Taproot Wizards?
At its core, Taproot Wizards seems akin to the many dozens of PFP (profile picture) projects that preceded it. Featuring 2,121 unique, wizard-themed Ordinals, the collection grew over time, teased bit by bit via the project’s Discord before being fully revealed on February 18, 2023. Though the project has yet to mint at the time of writing, it continues to receive accolades for its avant-garde sensibilities that hedge on a critical piece of Bitcoin history: the Bitcoin Wizard.
On February 18, 2013, exactly ten years before the Taproot Wizards reveal, a user who goes by the moniker “mavensbot” uploaded a crude drawing of a Bitcoin-wielding wizard to the r/Bitcoin on Reddit. The image, which quickly became iconic within the crypto community as a sort of mascot for BTC, existed in numerous forms before finding new life in Web3 by way of Taproot Wizards.
It was initially assumed that those behind Taproot Wizards had only co-opted the original Bitcoin Wizard as inspiration for a PFP project. But on the 10th anniversary of the initial release, it was announced that mavensbot was, in fact, involved in the creation of the art for the TW collection.
Subsequently, a secondary collection featuring the Bitcoin Wizard was launched, independent of the droves of Taproot Wizards already revealed. It served to both onboard users onto Bitcoin’s Lightning Network and benefit mavensbot for his masterful creation and years of blockchain advocacy.
Who created Taproot Wizards, and why?
Taproot Wizards would be nothing without mavensbot’s original contribution to the Bitcoin Reddit. But the impact of the Wizard drawing goes beyond simply inspiring the art of TW. As Udi Wertheimer — a developer, crypto advocate, and member of r/Bitcoin when the original Bitcoin Wizard was posted — puts it, mavensbot’s drawing was a major event that nearly doubled the size of the Bitcoin Reddit at the time. This event, and the cultural shift it marks, would ultimately inspire Wertheimer to leverage the wizard IP to create its modern, non-fungible counterparts.
“The 2013 Bitcoin Wizard brought in a lot of new people [to r/Bitcoin]. The cool thing about it was that it was this very simple drawing. It looks like it was made in Microsoft Paint, and it just says ‘magical internet money – join us,’ that’s all,” Wertheimer said in an interview with nft now.
“People really liked that. So we made a twist of that. We said, ‘Okay, we’re gonna say its magical internet JPEGs and invite people to join us.’ This wizard collection is supposed to be really for people who believe in Bitcoin and want it to succeed.”
When Ordinals first began to hit their stride, Wertheimer — a major proponent of Bitcoin over the years — was seemingly already lightyears ahead of most in Web3. Due to his nature as a Bitcoin native, he saw Ordinals as a chance to shake up the seemingly stagnant bitcoin community and took it upon himself to do so in a grandiose fashion.
On February 1, in an event to announce Taproot Wizards to the world, Wertheimer purposefully orchestrated the largest block and transaction in Bitcoin’s history, achieving the absolute maximum BTC block size of 4MB — something that many, up until this point, thought was impossible.
Yet, perhaps as to be expected, not everyone was happy about the sizeable block, or Taproot Wizards, for that matter. Considering a large portion of Bitcoin maximalists were already opposed to Ordinals for various reasons — including their nature to cause congestion on the blockchain — Wertheimer’s purposeful action of maxing out of a BTC block meant that network usage would come to a halt if only for a short while. Of course, while this was not well received by the keepers of tradition, it was but a single show of force in Wertheimer’s battle plan to bring innovation back to Bitcoin.
The intention behind the project
At face value, Taproot Wizards is a PFP collection featuring thousands of crudely drawn wizard Ordinal NFTs. This much is true. But by leveraging the obvious hype factor and tradablility that comes with PFP projects, Wertheimer aims to create a sort of trojan horse of Bitcoin awareness. Although collectors may come for the art, through disruption, community building, and by re-establishing the longstanding BTC ethos of rebellion, Wertheimer hopes to inspire a new wave of interest in and innovation on Bitcoin.
Fueled by the belief that Bitcoin has essentially lost momentum in the wake of Ethereum’s NFT successes, Wertheimer says he’d love to see the unique, creative, and humorous culture once established by early crypto adopters return to the Bitcoin blockchain. But for this to happen, he feels that Bitcoin maximalists will need to come down from their high horses and accept that the blockchain can be used for more than simply transacting. This is why he opted to launch TW with a 4MB Bitcoin block.
“The statement we were trying to make is: ‘look, whatever the Bitcoin protocol allows us to do, we’re going to do.’ You might have some preconceptions about what is okay and what is not okay, but we’re just going to do what the Bitcoin protocol allows us,” said Wertheimer. “I don’t think that every single thing we do is going to be brilliant, but we’re going to try. We’re going to start trying things which is something that is missing in Bitcoin culture.”
Wertheimer noted that while he doesn’t expect everyone to appreciate Ordinals, users don’t have to think they’re good to benefit from them. But in the spirit of innovation, he says that he disagrees with the current Bitcoin ethos of perfectionism and believes that failure must be achieved for progress to be made.
“It’s not possible to have software that is completely perfect. I think that a much better approach to life, and Bitcoin as well, is that failures and mistakes are going to happen, but they should be embraced because that’s how you correct your path. That’s how progress is made in all fields,” said Wertheimer.
“It seems like people on Bitcoin have been very focused on avoiding mistakes and failures when really they’ve been avoiding his progress. The only way to not make mistakes is not to move at all. So I hope that [Taproot Wizards] can reignite this passion to experiment, to try things, and to learn from mistakes.”
The future of Taproot Wizards
Whether or not Taproot Wizards catches fire as the next big NFT project is anyone’s guess. But while speculation can only take users so far, it seems that Wertheimer’s efforts are meant to have a much greater effect on the Bitcoin blockchain than a simple PFP collection could. In the spirit of bringing renewed interest to BTC, Wertheimer says that he’ll largely focus on education — prompting TW community members to act for themselves rather than offering periodical incentives to those that stick around.
As evidence of this, only a month after his brainchild was introduced to Web3 via the now infamous 4MB block, Wertheimer launched something called the Wizard School to effectively gamify the Taproot Wizards onboarding process. Accessible only to those who complete a social media and email verification process, the Wizard School offers potential Taproot Wizards collectors a way toward becoming a holder through a series of quests.
From learning how to engage with Bitcoin’s layer two Lightning Network to pledging allegiance to Taproot Wizards by way of Twitter or donning a wizard costume and going for a swim, users enrolled in Wizard School are given time-constricted tasks to advance through the ranks in order to obtain something called a “magic key.”
Although, with four tasks down, it’s still unclear how long the Wizard School enrollment will be or exactly what might be attainable once a user completes a full course of quests, the gamified process is inexplicably unique even by Web3 standards.
Beyond Wizard School, it seems likely that TW fans will surely be rewarded for their support and participation over time. Especially considering some within the more creative set of enthusiasts have even gone so far as to launch indie games inspired by Wertheimer’s collection.
And as we’ve recently seen the NFT landscape (and collector rewards) shifting significantly in 2023, Wertheimer’s methodology could inspire new forms of Ordinals project management. But as Web3 matures, Taproot Wizards may have served the blockchain best by highlighting one salient truth: stagnancy and complacency will surely not help NFTs go from niche to mainstream.