Angel of Eternal Dawn Sticker Bomb
18, Oct, 22

Future MTG Stickers May Permanently Alter Cards

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Article at a Glance

Since their reveal in mid-July, Stickers have been one of the most controversial additions to MTG in recent memory. Players were apprehensive about not just the mechanical implications of Stickers but also the damage they may do physically. Come to the release of Unfinity in early October, and players discovered Wizards did their best to ensure Stickers are non-destructive. Rather than leaving cards covered in a sticky residue, Unfinity’s Stickers instead would barely stay on their own Sticker Sheet. While there were a few isolated incidents of destruction, for the most part, the concerns around Stickers were seriously premature. Despite the initial backlash, Unfinity may not be the last time MTG players are forced to play with Stickers. For better or worse, the future Stickers may even be a lot stickier to alter cards permanently. 

A New Legacy

Murktide Regent
Murktide Regent | Modern Horizons 2

Upon first hearing about it, you may find the idea of permanently altering your Magic cards completely outlandish. Not only would this process potentially damage cards and make them difficult to sell, but mechanically, it’s quite the leap. Surprisingly, however, it’s a concept that’s not entirely new in the world of tabletop gaming. In fact, these kinds of evolving and ever-changing games, known as Legacy games, have existed since 2011. Pioneered by game designer Rob Daviau, the first Legacy Game was a variant of Risk, fittingly titled Risk Legacy. In this game, the game board was permanently changed each time you played, and new rules could even be added. Risk Legacy also had little mechs, which is just cool.

Unlike traditional tabletop games, Legacy games play over the course of a campaign, much like the role-playing game of Dungeons & Dragons. This provides a more unique, mechanically complex, and story-rich experience to players throughout the duration of the campaign. This novel and somewhat new innovation in tabletop gaming has also been infrequently tested by MTG’s R&D teams. Appearing during Hackathons, Magic’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, attests that “we tried a version of Legacy Magic where cards get stickered and permanently change for future games.” 

For better or worse, it’s unclear exactly why or when Studio X trialed this novel interpretation of Stickers in MTG. While perfect for creating a campaign experience for players to enjoy, current MTG formats don’t obviously need this Legacy mechanic. Regardless of the possibilities that it presented, it appears these exceptionally sticky Legacy Stickers aren’t something players need to worry about. Ultimately, the major iteration of Legacy Stickers was scrapped during the hackathon. As Rosewater explains, “we did some market research, and players were pretty adamant about not wanting to permanently ‘harm’ cards.”

A Lasting Legacy

Cryptic Spires
Cryptic Spires | Double Masters 2022

Since the Legacy Stickers never made it past market research, it may seem that they’re destined never to return. Surprisingly, however, Magic: the Gathering already has its first tournament-legal Legacy card. Debuting in Double Masters 2022, Cryptic Spires mandates that players must physically draw on it before a game. Proving two color fixing that enters the battlefield tapped, Cryptic Spires isn’t exactly good. However, it is nonetheless useful. Suited towards Double Masters 2022’s Limited Draft environment, Cryptic Spires allowed players to always Draft relevant fixing. This was vital for Double Masters 2022 since it had ten three-color archetypes in Draft, essentially mandating complex mana bases. 

Quickly dubbed with the nickname ‘doodle lands’ by Reddit users, Cryptic Spires would prove to be remarkably effective fixing. Since it was a common card in every sense of the word, MTG players didn’t have huge reservations about physically marking it. Unlike the proposed permanent Legacy Stickers, Cryptic Spires didn’t mandate players irreversibly mark the cards. This allowed Cryptic Spires to be changed should players wish to use it in their constructed decks for whatever reason. 

On its own Cryptic Spires is relatively harmless and inoffensive. However, its ramifications for Magic’s future might not be. Following its appearance in Double Masters 2022, it’s entirely possible we may see this Legacy-Esque card marking once again. After receiving some positivity toward Legacy cards, Mark Rosewater revealed that “we are dipping our toe in it with things like Crystal Spires.” Rosewater also reminded players that “it tested poorly,” however, Crystal Spires may nonetheless lead to bigger and better things. 

Not the First Time

While Cryptic Spires is the first tournament-legal Legacy-Esque card, it’s not the first Legacy MTG card. That dubious honor, instead, goes to Inspirational Antelope. Inspirational Antelope debuted as a test card in 2019’s Mystery Booster, featuring the literal Legacy keyword mechanic. Playable only in Draft, Inspirational Antelope required players to physically write in a keyword or keyword ability that then determines the card’s effect. Despite ambiguous stating “before the game starts” the official rulings explain that “once you’ve written a word for a word-blank legacy ability, you can’t change it, even between games. It remains part of that physical card.” 

Gold Mine also features the Legacy mechanic and operates similarly to Cryptic Spires, albeit with changes being permanent. While understandably, MTG players may have reservations about permanently altering their cards, they show the strength of permanent Stickers. Specifically, in Draft events, Legacy cards can simultaneously support all Draft archetypes, which gives players more freedom during the Draft. Similar to Mystery Booster’s Test Cards, these cards needn’t necessarily be playable in Constructed formats. If not outright restricted from Constructed play, Wizards could easily balance Legacy cards to not be playable in Constructed formats. 

Collectible Conundrum

If you ask me, this is a fascinating opportunity, just like Alchemy’s rebalancing in Draft. However, there are some serious concerns. As Tumblr user winterwrap noted, “having stickers be permanent could be highly problematic for this collecting aspect of the game.” Winterwrap went on to state that “cards like Cryptic Spires are fine because they only create ten versions for collecting purposes, and they never reach a state of uselessness that would require repeatedly buying more copies of the cards if you wanted to keep playing with them,” however, there’s obviously an underlying problem. 

Should Wizards make good Legacy cards, collecting them may be a nightmare. On the secondary market, MTG players could care about the Sticker’s placement or the handwriting of the card’s original owner. Unaltered cards may also become exceptionally expensive, making the card financially unviable to play in Draft. Because of this, we reluctantly hope that Wizards doesn’t haphazardly introduce Legacy cards into constructed play.

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