Since first launching in 2019, the Universes Beyond sub-brand has steadily been increasing in prominence. Starting out with just a humble Secret Lair, now Universes Beyond products are full-on major MTG releases. In fact, in 2024, there will even be brand new products entirely dedicated to Universes Beyond sets!
Despite this rampant growth over the past few years, Universes Beyond products haven’t always been entirely beloved. When they first launched, for instance, they were hated by much of the community due to a litany of issues. With these being fixed over time, and the strengths of the brand recognized, now even many die-hard MTG players enjoy these crossover products.
While most players now recognize the strengths of Universes Beyond, it’s undeniably still an oddity. With crossovers ranging from Warhammer 40,000 to The Princess Bride, it seems almost nothing is off-limits! For better or worse, however, according to MTG’s Lead Designer, that’s not true.
Picking the Right Property
Following the dramatic expansion of the Universes Beyond product line, many MTG players understandably presumed Wizards was up for anything. After all, what else would explain the unorthodox crossovers like Jurassic World and Stranger Things? Since both were vaguely popular at the time of release, it’s very easy to say Wizards is just chasing trends
With yet another Universes Beyond product currently stealing the show, this concern has been brought up once again. Doing exactly that, Tumblr user Cassiesuccubus questioned Mark Rosewater about the philosophy of Universes Beyond. Noting it as a concern of the community, Cassiesuccubus asked “Did R&D ever actually reject a property that was interested in having a UB product?”
Responding to this question, Rosewater stated emphatically, “Yes, we have turned down numerous properties.” Unfortunately for curious MTG players, this is all that was said on the matter for now. Subsequently, there’s no telling exactly which properties might have approached Wizards and been turned down.
Despite this all-important detail of missing facts, many MTG players got to speculating. Posting across social media, there were several theories about properties that didn’t make the cut. One of the most frequently suggested of these was The Binding of Issac by Edmund McMillen.
Having gone on record multiple times sharing their desire to create a Secret Lair, Edmund McMillen has sadly never been given that honor. According to Reddit users, this has also led to their game being snubbed, although evidence of this is minimal.
Alongside this supposed snubbing, many MTG players expected Wizards had also turned down the Harry Potter brand. While undeniably a huge commercial success, this brand has become deeply controversial due to comments made by author J. K. Rowling. Due to this, Wizards may well have wanted to steer clear.
Difficult Design Dilemmas
Ultimately, without confirmation from Wizards, we don’t know what potential Universes Beyond products were pitched and rejected. While this lack of juicy details isn’t too fun, it’s likely not all drama as to why pitches have been rejected. As Mark Rosewater recently revealed, designing for Universes Beyond is seriously challenging.
In a recently released article, Rosewater explained much of the creative process, and difficulties, in designing a Universes Beyond product. As you might expect, many of these problems stem from the requirements of each IP. With every property having its own lore, themes, and style, Wizards needs to ensure each IP can even work within the Magic universe.
Unsurprisingly, as the rejections prove, not every video game and TV show naturally fits within the highly complex world of MTG. Many properties, for instance, often have issues at the very base level of MTG design due to the color pie. As you may have noticed, Doctor Who is one such property with this issue.
Within their article, Rosewater pointed out that Doctor Who leans heavily towards the blue end of the color pie. The Doctor is always outthinking his opponent, using brain rather than brawn, which heavily skews the color pie. Thankfully, with 60 years of history to pull from, the Doctor Who decks managed to mitigate this issue, but that didn’t make development easy.
Alongside the color pie being a nuisance, Doctor Who posed a number of other problems. For one example, Flying, or the lack thereof, made balancing a lot tricker. Rather than relying on this staple evasion ability, Wizards R&D had to get creative, bringing back mechanics like Shadow. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the one creature that looks like it should have Flying, Weeping Angel, doesn’t even have the ability!
A Job Well Done
Despite all the problems that Wizards of the Coast R&D faced, they managed to pull through to create the Doctor Who decks. While Wizards could make it work in this instance, it’s likely, judging by IPs being turned down, it isn’t always possible. Thanks to this, players hopefully shouldn’t have to worry about Wizards jumping on every single IP under the sun.
At the end of the day, concerns aside, many MTG players are absolutely loving the Doctor Who decks. Enthusiastically voicing this praise, Mark Rosewater has been inundated with comments from happy MTG players and Doctor Who fans alike. Even those who aren’t fond of Universes Beyond, like Polluxr, can’t deny these MTG decks look fantastic.
“As someone who is not a fan of UB in general and against mechanically unique UB cards, I must say that I’m impressed by Doctor Who cards; you can really see how much love and effort was put into it and it’s always lovely to hear people gush/explain things they’re passionate about. And hopefully, it’ll also spark some more love for time-shenanigans mechanics like suspend and cute self-recursive cards like Heaven Sent.”Polluxr
Ultimately, despite the past concerns, Universes Beyond sets are becoming a welcome addition to the MTG product calendar. Hopefully, going forward, this will continue to be the case, as there’s a lot more in store. With Fallout, Assassin’s Creed, and Final Fantasy all getting major releases, Universes Beyond should go from strength to strength.