Since The Walking Dead crossover cards were first announced in October 2020, MTG players have been seriously skeptical about Universes Beyond products. Starting on the wrong foot, the mechanically unique Secret Lair cards outraged the community. This outrage was so intense that Wizards was even forced to take drastic action. Putting a Universes Within reprint policy in place, Wizards quelled much of the community’s anger. However, the criticism didn’t end there. Due to the cards’ unique art styles and what they represent, many players are still vehemently against Universes Beyond products. Despite this negativity from hardcore enfranchised fans, however, it appears that Universes Beyond is nothing if not successful.
Across social media, when Universes Beyond news pops up, the surrounding discourse is typically rather negative. The more products that get announced, the more MTG players bemoan that the brand is being diluted after all. Recently, however, the online discourse has been trending more positively as MTG players start to get Universes Beyond. Whether it’s because of choice cards that players can’t resist, or a franchise they love getting MTG cards, player opinion seems to be improving. With negativity still surrounding the Universes Beyond brand, some players seem to be going out of their way to make their positive opinions heard.
Most recently, Tumblr user Joysculptor took to Blogatog to inform Lead MTG Designer, Mark Rosewater, that Universes Beyond does indeed have fans.
“I just wanna say, while I’m fully aware a lot of the MTG community is concerned about UB products, me and my partner have been discussing potential cards in the Doctor Who EDH decks with autistic ramble mode in full throttle ever since the announcement. […] I almost feel kind of guilty being this excited for a product so heavily reviled. Anyway, just wanted to let you know there IS a lot of excitement for the cards from down under!”Joysculptor
After receiving this glowing ray of positivity, Rosewater responded to say that this opinion isn’t as uncommon as it may appear. “Don’t confuse internet chatter with majority opinion,” Rosewater emphatically told Joysculptor. “Universes Beyond products have been doing great. There are a lot of players excited for it.”
Previously, a statement like this would usually get a lot of pushback from players who didn’t believe Rosewater’s comments. After the success of the Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks, however, this time around, players can’t deny the brand’s appeal. Commenting on Rosewater’s response, Tumblr user Lookingupanddown, for instance, noted that “there seems to be this running trend of people vehemently against Universes Beyond and everything it stands for… then getting a franchise they like and understanding its purpose.” As if to prove that exact point, Tumblr user Light-wolf highlighted their growing interest in Universes Beyond. “I’ve been neutral about current UB products because there hasn’t really been one I’m particularly interested in yet. But I’m really looking forward to the LotR set, and as a mostly Arena player, I’m glad it’s being released there too.”
Similarly, on Reddit, MTG players highlighted the growing popularity of the once-controversial sub-brand. “I might eye roll at transformers being in brothers war boosters, but I do love my Tyranids,” Reddit user u/Printed-Spaghetti stated, for instance. “One thing to remember is that these products can get the attention of people who are fans of the crossover franchise and give them an incentive to try magic. As long as Universes Beyond don’t dominate the release schedule I think I can be healthy for magic by bringing in new players and getting the creative teams to think outside the box. It could become an issue down the road if mishandled but so far so good.”
Alongside those sharing their support for the brand, several players reiterated Rosewater’s comments. For example, u/RealityPalace, for instance, stated that “don’t confuse internet chatter with majority opinion,” is an “Evergreen comment.” Likewise, u/pedja13 offered in-depth support for Rosewater’s comment.
“People need to be constantly reminded that the Internet is not really representative of real life, and Reddit is but a subsection of it.
You are way more likely to see negative takes about any topic, which creates an incorrect perception that the negative opinion is also the majority opinion, which is not always true.
Just consider this: the most upvoted post this week on this sub has 3.6k upvotes and 1.7k comments. The sub has almost 600k members, and as I already said, it’s just a forum in one corner of the internet, so there’s no way any opinion here is representative of anything”u/pedja13
Missing the Point
While MTG players on Reddit couldn’t deny that Universes Beyond products were thriving financially, several players suggested this doesn’t make Universes Beyond good. Reddit user u/Yarrun, for instance, stated that “it was never in doubt that these products sold for a lot of money, not since the initial reception of the Walking Dead. The only thing that was in question was who was buying most of them […] and whether their profitability justified the things that people don’t like about them. Companies making money is rarely ironclad proof that they’re doing the best for the consumer, after all.”
Backing up this point, u/f0me commented, “don’t confuse short-term profits with long-term sustainability.” Not all players were so keen to accept this stance. Rebutting f0me’s claim, u/planeforger questioned “is there anything to indicate this isn’t a sustainable long-term approach? There are infinite potential cross-overs out there, so Universes Beyond has a pretty solid opportunity to constantly bring new fanbases into the game. They obviously sell really well, too. If anything, I’d guess Universes Beyond actually helps MTG’s overall long-term sustainability. Especially when the alternative is…what, diminishing returns from releasing yet another Ravnica set?”
Ultimately, whether players like it or not, Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast are continuing with Universes Beyond into the future. In 2023 alone, Wizards has already confirmed the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth draft set and the Doctor Who Commander decks. Following this, in 2024, the Universes Beyond product line will continue to expand with Assassin’s Creed and Final Fantasy crossovers. It’s also highly likely that several currently unannounced Universes Beyond Secret Lairs will release throughout 2023 and 2024.