Universes Beyond MTG sets have largely been a hit with the MTG community. Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth, for example, was one of the most successful MTG sets of all time. From Secret Lairs to fully draftable sets, Universes Beyond provides an opportunity for Wizards of the Coast to feature the worlds of other IPs in a crossover with the world of MTG. Every year it seems more and more Universes Beyond products are being featured. While some players are very happy about this, it doesn’t come without some controversy.
Not everyone is a big fan of the abundance of crossovers within the unique game that they love. In most cases, however, these products are simply separate from any main Standard-legal set. This allows MTG enthusiasts that aren’t interested in becoming immersed in other crossovers to just avoid them. It also lets players that enjoy specific crossovers to pick and choose which ones to become involved in. It seems natural that these crossovers would be separate from Standard-legal sets as well, given they are not legal in Standard themselves.
That being said, there have been a couple examples of crossovers being woven into Standard products. One of the most memorable instances of this came with the Brothers’ War, which distinctly featured Transformers cards in specific packs. They also happen to be returning in Caverns of Ixalan featuring Jurassic World. According to recent feedback on Head Designer Mark Rosewater’s Blogatog, many players are not fans of this experience. To understand why this might be the case, let’s dive deeper into the history of Universes Beyond cards being in In-Universe packs.
Premier Set Distribution
For the first time in 2022, some Universes Beyond cards were being distributed through a premier set. Specifically, Transformers cards could be found in the Brother’s War set boosters and collector boosters, as well as bundles. There were 15 distinct Transformers cards, each of which were mythic rares, and each available in foil and non-foil. Roughly 10% of set boosters featured Transformers cards. Every bundle contained at least one non-foil Transformers card, while each gift bundle contained a foil one.
Additionally, roughly 12% of collector booster packs also featured a “shattered glass” version of a Transformers card. Shattered glass variants featured new artwork and frames, despite being mechanically identical to their traditional counterparts. These cards were designed to show off a unique alternate reality with a different storyline.
Booster Inserts Vs. Skinned Cards
Notably, these Transformers cards are distinctly different from “skinned” cards. Skinned cards, such as the Godzilla-themed cards from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, provide a distinct showcase treatment to pre-existing MTG cards. These cards feature an alternate name in the title, but it is considered flavor text and does not impact the gameplay of the card in question.
Transformers cards, on the other hand, were mechanically new and unique cards, not reprints. While Transformers cards were the first example of new Universes Beyond cards being shown off in packs of a premier set, it appears as though the Jurassic World crossover may follow a similar pattern. While there will be two Jurassic World-themed Secret Lairs, some Jurassic World cards will be available in packs of Lost Caverns of Ixalan. It is clear, though, that not everyone is happy about this trend.
Should Crossovers Get Their Own Sets?
“UB should be their own thing, product-wise. It’s clear they’re already a divisive topic among the fan base, so best practice feels like it would be to sell them as their own packs.”this-already-exists-doesnt-it
It appears as though most players believe that Universes Beyond cards should receive their own products separate from traditional MTG sets. Not everyone is a big fan of Universes Beyond crossovers to begin with. Still, when these new cards are shown off in their own distinct sets, players can simply choose to not interact with them. This is the biggest reason that players like lizardwizard100 are upset. When they open booster packs of Brother’s War, for example, there’s a solid chance they will open a Transformers card that holds little to no value to them. Of course, they can always trade the card in question, but it still forces MTG players that enjoy the Brother’s War to interact with Transformers cards whether they want to or not.
“I hate it too. If I dont want to buy UB I dont have to, its not for me, so I dont want to see it in standard sets, the sets where the ongoing story takes place.”wildcardgamez
While this might not sound like a big deal for those who simply want to open packs to add to their collections, some would argue that the Transformers cards in particular absolutely clashed with the overall theme of the set. First of all, the Brother’s War as a set is specially designed to show off the skirmish between Urza and Mishra that escalated into an all-out-war. As a result, the Borther’s War is labeled as an “event set,” focusing its mechanics on a specific event, rather than an MTG world. Showing off Transformers cards in a set that also features retro Artifacts isn’t necessarily an issue, but for a set with such specialized lore, it can definitely irk some players.
Differences Between Transformers and Dinosaurs
“My main drawback about transformer cards was the artwork. They didn’t “look” like MTG cards to me. I feel like I can deal with UB products if they don’t clash too much with the feel of MTG cards (for the gameplay you do a great job, but for the art I personally didn’t like it)”sparkdragon42
“The transformers cards felt really out of place, I think mostly due to the clashing art styles. I think if UB cards would blend in better with the rest of the set it’s ok.”verycoolcardgames
Another reason many players were disappointed with the way Transformers cards were handled was that the artwork made the cards feel even further out of place. The Transformers cards themselves had such distinctive art styles and mechanics that made them feel extremely unique. This might normally be a good thing, but it only further created a schism between the normal cards in the Brothers’ War set and the Transformer cards. According to verycoolcardgames, if the Universes Beyond cards themselves more closely resembled the set they were being showcased in, it would be more acceptable.
“I think the transformers from brothers war were really out of place, I do agree on that front. That being said, Jurassic park is as close as it gets to Ixalan so I personally don’t mind it but I think it’s probably best to keep them separate”lordmohses
While some players still want Universes Beyond card as separate as possible, others are more open to the idea of them being featured in premier sets as long as they fit the set’s theme. It’s clear Transformers cards fell short on this front, but given Ixalan’s focus on Dinosaurs as a plane, showing off Jurassic World cards may not feel as out of place.
It’s important for the featured crossover to mesh with the MTG set’s ideas, and some players are more hopeful that this will indeed be the case for Lost Caverns of Ixalan. It will be interesting to see how these Jurassic World cards fit in, and if crossovers will still be featured in premier sets in years to come.