Leonardo da Vinci
20, Jun, 24

MTG Players Divided By Real-World Historic Figure Cards

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As seems to be the trend for a Universes Beyond release, Assassin’s Creed hosts an impressive innovation for MTG. While it may not be as exciting as a one-of-one serialized card, the new Beyond Boosters are no less important. Depending on the success of the newfangled product, there may be game-changing implications for future MTG sets.

Miraculously, despite all the trouble with Epilogue Boosters, Beyond Boosters haven’t been lamented as an immediately controversial issue. While this may change once the set is released, for now, MTG players are sharpening their pitchforks for a different reason. Even though they’re hardly a new innovation, many players are up in arms over the historic figure cards in the Assassin’s Creed MTG set.

Four Familiar Faces

Cleopatra, Exiled Pharaoh

If you’ve not been keeping up with the set’s explosive spoiler season, Assassin’s Creed features four, technically five, historical figures. While their appearance may seem rather odd, these characters each play an important role within their respective Assassin’s Creed games. Thanks to this, it’s fairly fitting that they should appear in the MTG set for this expansive franchise.

Despite making sense in the context of an Assassin’s Creed set, not everyone is happy about these character’s MTG debut. After all, while they’re connected to the games, Cleopatra, Exiled Pharaoh is a real-world historical figure. For some, this was seemingly a step too far for a Modern legal MTG set.

Recently, on Blogatog, a few MTG players have been sharing their love for the real-world Assassin’s Creed characters. Tumblr user Blorpityblorpboop even went so far as to ask for more of these familiar faces where appropriate. Luckily for similarly-minded fans, Mark Rosewater responded to this support by saying “If people like them, it increases the chance we do it again.”

Following this initial positivity, additional players shared a similar sentiment and desire for more. In response to this question, however, Mark Rosewater turned the question back on their community to field even more feedback. As usual, upon asking “How do others […] feel about having historical characters on cards,” Rosewater was inundated with responses.

Not My Magic: The Gathering

Leonardo da Vinci

Despite the initial waves of positivity posted as questions to Rosewater, the responses to this post were significantly more negative. In the comments, several MTG players outright stated they “strongly disliked” these characters, or that they were just “Bad. I feel bad.” As Tumblr user Rcardolongo comments, part of this reaction likely stems from these cards being Modern legal.

As much as there was a lot of initial negativity, not everyone was completely against these real-world features being MTG cards. Commenter Dutchseawall, for instance, remarked “Historical figures feel better than Universes Beyond characters.” While not everyone shares this opinion, a few players suggested that moderation was key to not overdoing things.

Curiously, while positivity started this topic, it was almost completely absent from the Rosewater-requested comments. Overall, the most positive response came from Guarddogbitch who commented “It’s certainly interesting and I personally don’t mind it?” Even this positive remark was accompanied by a caveat, however. “Not sure if I would want more of them any time soon, but the way they are done in Assassin’s Creed is pretty cool.”

Ultimately, from this range of responses, it seems much of the MTG community is split over these historic figures. That being said, this Blogatog post only received 21 comments, at the time of writing, so it hardly accounts for everyone. In reality, the actual reaction to these historical figures may be vastly different from the disgruntled voices sharing their thoughts on Blogatog.

Given the nature of Assassin’s Creed as a Universes Beyond set, it’s highly likely these historical figures are an overall positive. Much like in-franchise Universes Beyond cards, these familiar faces can be hugely exciting to new MTG players. For history fans who’ve yet to take the plunge, Leonardo da Vinci could be a great starter Commander.

A Slippery Slope

Sokrates, Athenian Teacher

While it may be difficult to discern the overall sentiment toward these historical figures, they’re nonetheless an important talking point. After all, as Elizaonyx commented, there’s no definition of what an acceptable historical figure is. This ultimately creates a very slippery slope that could lead to Wizards printing contemporary celebrities in major sets. 

“I wouldn’t mind cards derivative of history, but making cards with actual people seems weird. What’s stopping WOTC from making a musician UB with Taylor Swift and Elvis? Where is the line between historic figures and contemporary?”

Elizaonyx 

In theory, this should have already happened in The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. Since the pair of film trilogies are so iconic, it was a surprise that Wizards deliberately didn’t use real-world likenesses. While the Lord of the Rings franchise can handle having multiple cannons, it’s unclear if other franchises can support this.

One popular suggestion for a Universes Beyond set is Game of Thrones, which seems to make perfect sense. Not only is this series rich with lore and iconic characters, but it’s also an easily MTG-able fantasy setting. The trouble, however, once again falls on the fact that the characters are practically synonymous with the TV show’s actors.

In theory, Wizards could do their best to follow descriptions in George R. R. Martin’s books to create MTG cards. Just like Tales of Middle-earth, however, this may cause fans to be frustrated as their beloved characters look different. Sadly, this is going to be an issue for any Universes  Beyond MTG set with a strong film and TV presence following.

Ultimately, with two major Universes Beyond MTG sets planned for each year, celebrity MTG cards seem inevitable. Unless Wizards makes a steadfast commitment to keep celebrity cards out of Modern, they’re bound to happen eventually. We’d say it’s only a matter of time, but in reality, we’re already far past that point.

Secret Lair Celebrities

Mary Read and Anne Bonny

Since the very first Universes Beyond Secret Lair back in 2020, celebrities have been playable in MTG. While these unique cards may be confined to Commander, Wizards has created no shortage of them over the years. From Chris Pine as Edgin, Larcenous Lutenist to Hatsune David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor, celebrity MTG cards are only becoming more common.

While the above cards may only be eternal legal, Modern playable celebrity reprints already exist. If you’re Mill in Modern, there’s nothing stopping you from using Malcolm’s Mercurial Mirth instead of Tasha’s Hideous Laughter. For better or worse, Jeff Goldblum is already a Modern playable MTG card and there’s no going back now.

Outside of these Secret Lair cards paving the way, MTG celebrities have long been getting their own cards. Most recently, Duelist of the Mind celebrated Nathan Steuer’s win at World Champion XXVIII. While these cards celebrate moments within the MTG community, World Champion-winning players are celebrities in their own right.

All this is to say that historical figures and celebrities are both nothing new in MTG. Hell, ever since Legends, Albert Einstein has been the face of Presense of the Master. Thanks to this, MTG cards depicting historical figures likely aren’t going away anytime soon. Unless the reaction to the new Assassin’s Creed cards is miraculously negative, we can surely expect more soon.

Mandated Moderation

Ace, Fearless Rebel

While it seems inevitable that more celebrities will be coming soon, Wizards isn’t going all out already. As Reddit user Fjposter22 recently remarked, Wizards deliberately didn’t create a card for Karl Marx. Since Marx appeared in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, they were technically on the cards as a possible inclusion in this set.

Technically, without omniscience or a juicy interview, we don’t know exactly why Karl Marx wasn’t given an MTG card. That being said, the consensus online appears to be that Wizards is delivering steering clear of controversy and self-censoring. For better or worse, this wouldn’t even be the first time Wizards of the Coast has done this.

Back in the Doctor Who Commander decks, Ace, Fearless Rebel had one of their iconic patches tampered with. Rather than prominently featuring a hammer and cycle, the red star patch is just a red star. From this, it appears that Wizards doesn’t want to engage with any controversial aspects of history, where they can help it.

Given that controversy tends to be bad for business, it’s unsurprising that Wizards is steering clear of any potential trouble. For historical figures, this just means picking who gets cards wisely, but it’s a much bigger problem for current-day celebrities. Should a celebrity on an MTG card be canceled for whatever reason, Wizards may have a problem on their hands.

Read More: MTG Assassin’s Creed Secret Lair Showcases Popular Reskinned Commander!

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