7, Jul, 24

MTG Head Designer Suggests a New Universes Beyond-Less Format Could Exist

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Universes Beyond products in MTG have sparked a lot of controversy over the years. Obviously, many Universes Beyond products have sold incredibly well. Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth, for example, was one of the most successful MTG sets ever. This is hardly a surprise considering crossover sets have a dramatically expanded potential audience.

That being said, many players have also voiced their frustration over time with Universes Beyond cards being blended in with MTG culture. This is especially true in Constructed formats, where cards like The One Ring are incredibly popular.

With more Universes Beyond products releasing each year, formats like Commander, Legacy, and Modern are getting new crossover cards increasingly frequently. This led to an interesting exchange on MTG Head Designer Mark Rosewater’s Blogatog. Here, one player asked if we could ever see a new format created barring Universes Beyond cards.

According to Mark Rosewater, such a format could theoretically exist in the future. For that to happen, however, it would require a good deal of player support. While somewhat unlikely, having this idea come to fruition isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.

Not an Unusual Precedent

Reanimate

Currently, Mark Rosewater states that the support isn’t quite there for Wizards of the Coast to create a Universes Beyond-less format officially. This claim followed a bout of market research which specifically looked into the demand for such a format. According to Rosewater, only 7% of respondents were actively interested, which is definitely on the lower end.

As damning as that low percentage seems, there is still some hope for this theoretical format. After all, as Rosewater noted in their response, many formats started out as ideas created by the MTG player base. Commander, for instance, was created and popularized by fans. Now, the format is one of the most played in our game.

To this end, as Tumblr user Chrislkimball notes, this format could start from incredibly humble beginnings, such as a Discord server. This is not an unprecedented move as the Gladiator format started from a similar place. Originally, Gladiator emerged as a way to give Canadian Highlanders a cool alternative during the Covid-19 pandemic. The discord server created near the format’s inception helped make matchmaking easy from the beginning and has been thriving since.

There’s no denying that Gladiator is a real MTG format nowadays. Not only does Gladiator have its own format panel to oversee ban decisions, but it’s even been featured as an official format on MTG Arena. This showcases that if you can spread the word about a new format and get enough players to play, the format could definitely stick.

In the case of a Universes Beyond-less format, support could easily grow over time. As chrislkimball also stated, there’s a good chance the upcoming Marvel crossover is rather divisive, which may add more fuel to the fire.

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Why There’s Interest to Begin With

The One Ring | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth

At the end of the day, the 7% interest level may seem small, but it still highlights that some players want to play without Universes Beyond cards. Having some support shouldn’t be too shocking, as many players have been vocal about this since Universes Beyond was first announced.

Players have been stating for years that they didn’t want competitive MTG cards to come from crossovers outside of Magic’s original IP. Fast forward to today, and there are tons of highly impactful Universes Beyond staples in Modern and Legacy.

Players have stated additional concerns with the fact that Universes Beyond cards can potentially be harder to reprint. There’s a general consensus that players want pricier, popular Universes Beyond cards reprinted with MTG artwork. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done since cards like The One Ring are closely tied to the crossover franchise’s lore.

Worryingly, this detail gives many Universes Beyond cards a pseudo-Reserved List status. This can cause prices to balloon. Right now, The One Ring is selling for $94 on TCGPlayer, with no promise of a reprint anytime soon.

With this in mind, having a format similar to Modern but without Universes Beyond cards could potentially gain support. Increased metagame diversity and lower deck prices are very enticing prospects, after all. On top of these potential benefits, there will also just be players won don’t like Universes Beyond cards for whatever reason. As more Universes Beyond sets come out, including Marvel, the 7% could very well increase.

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Potential Format Structures

Tarmogoyf

This begs the question: what would a format without Universes Beyond cards look like? In theory, you might think such a format would just be Modern or Commander with every Universes Beyond card removed. While this would suffice, there are other ideas that have a lot of players talking.

Instead of just removing Universes Beyond cards exclusively, there have been calls for a Modern or Legacy variant only using cards that were previously only cards that were previously Standard legal. Not only would this remove Universes Beyond cards from Modern, but it would also eliminate Modern Horizons sets. This would make for an entirely different experience, perhaps one where iconic cards that fell out of favor, like Tarmogoyf, could thrive once more. In Legacy, this would also get rid of Commander-specific cards.

There have been many complaints that various Horizons and supplemental sets have made MTG harder to keep up with. Horizons sets have also pushed out older cards and decks via power creep. This has caused major metagame shifts every time a Horizons set comes out, which many players are not fans of.

Ultimately, this is a different idea than simply removing Universes Beyond cards, but it accomplishes a similar task in a way that could possibly gain additional traction. Universes Beyond sets have become a massive part of MTG and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

For now, Mark Rosewater’s Blogatog response at least leaves the door open for a new player-driven format to arise, which would be cool to see. Whether or not Wizards would officially support such a format, however, remains to be seen.

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