Oracle of the Alpha
28, Dec, 22

Top 9 Most Controversial MTG Cards of 2022

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Throughout 2022, Wizards of the Coast has created a lot of good for MTG worthy of celebration. Filling the year full of awesome cards and incredible sets, if anything, MTG players have had too much of a good thing this year.  Unfortunately, while 2022 contained a lot of good MTG products, the year was also dominated by controversy. Thanks to more new and unusual products than ever before, many MTG players felt Hasbro was pushing the game down the wrong path this year. This problem was so severe that even the Bank of America took notice and double-downgraded Hasbro’s stock.

Now that 2022 is finally drawing to a close, it’s high time we look back at exactly what made the year so controversial. Unlike our past list of the top 5 best cards of 2022, this list won’t only feature new MTG cards. Instead, since reprints have been part of the problem this year, we’ll be including some of them too. Now that caveat is out of the way, let’s get right into the list. So, without any further ado, here are our picks for the top 9 most controversial MTG cards of 2022!

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse 

Sheoldred, the Apocalpyse

By our count, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse wasn’t the best MTG card of 2022, but it was close. Ranking at number 3 on our list, you may think that players are happy about this absolute powerhouse of a card. In reality, however, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse may be a little too good, as it has caused a variety of complaints. Most loudly, these complaints have been coming from the MTG Arena community, who struggle to deal with this frustrating opponent. Due to the simplified turn structure on MTG Arena, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse often sneaks in for two damage, even when a player has an answer in hand. As a result of this digital quirk, MTG Arena players complained en masse, which eventually resulted in Wizards mercifully fixing the issue.

As if Sheoldred, the Apocalypse wasn’t bad enough on their own, Dominaria United also introduced several other powerhouse cards to Standard. These included Lilliana of the Veil and the frustratingly effective Cut Down. As a result of these powerful additions, Standard quickly became dominated by black decks. For weeks it seemed that these decks had no competition, so, for better or worse, Wizards of the Coast stepped in. Electing to ban The Meathook Massacre in Standard, Wizards aggravated numerous MTG players. 

On its own, The Meathook Massacre is good but not overwhelmingly powerful. Instead, it was merely part of the more significant problem that needed to be fixed. Due to its strength, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse was arguably the right choice for a ban in Standard. However, that card just came out. Subsequently, Wizards chose to frame this ban as “a little shakeup.” While this was arguably the right thing to do, it was a deeply controversial choice that threatened the integrity of future bans.

Wurmcoil Engine

Wurmcoil Engine

Having existed since 2010, Wurmcoil Engine is hardly a new card. In its latest iteration, however, Wurmcoil Engine typifies a growing concern amidst the community. As part of The Brothers’ War, Wizards launched the new Serialized Retro Artifact promotion, which pushed MTG to new heights of collectibility. On one hand, this was an excellent way to celebrate MTG’s 30th Anniversary, and an artifact-filled set. On the other hand, however, many players complained that Wizards was leaning too hard into MTG’s latent collectability.

Thanks to the Reserved List and cards like Black Lotus, there is no denying that MTG is inherently collectible. This, however, has often existed alongside the game, rather than being the focus. In recent years, however, Wizards and Hasbro have been more eager to appease the collector audience, launching Secret Lairs and Collector Boosters to supply the market better. Alongside these, Wizards has started launching collectible promotions driven by scarcity, rather than the secondary market. 

The Serialized Retro Artifact promotion is the latest and most extreme example of this recent trend. Theoretically worth upwards of $25,000, these serialized cards are each technically unique, making them the rarest cards in existence. For some MTG players, this was too much to handle, as the artificial scarcity was seen as the start of a slippery slope. This problem was so severe that even MTG’s original creator, Richard Garfield, spoke on the topic. “This is a game first. […] If you treat it as a collectible first, then you are not doing your game players any favors.”

Okaun, Eye of Chaos

Okaun, Eye of Chaos

Three items into our list, and we’re already breaking its rules, as, technically, Okaun, Eye of Chaos wasn’t printed in 2022. Instead, Okaun, Eye of Chaos was reprinted at the tail end of 2021 in the Heads I Win, Tails You Lose Commander deck. At the time, nothing was out of the ordinary about this unique 100-card Secret Lair product. As 2022 dragged on, however, MTG players slowly realized that something was afoot. Unlike a typical Secret Lair drop, which can take a month or two to ship, the Heads I Win, Tails You Lose deck was miraculously missing. 

Month after month passed by without so much as a peep from Wizards as to the deck’s whereabouts. Subsequently, MTG players started getting suspicious and frequently complaining about the deck’s disappearance. Receiving radio silence from Wizards, these complaints would only grow louder until October, when Wizards finally broke their silence. Announcing compensation and a revised release date, it seemed Okaun, Eye of Chaos’ controversy was finally at an end. Unfortunately, however, problems would persist even longer, with delays extending long enough that orders were even canceled by sellers!

Thankfully, Okaun, Eye of Chaos and the Heads I Win, Tails You Lose Deck would eventually end up in players’ hands, but only after some serious controversy. Unfortunately, this was far from the only problem that plagued Secret Lairs this year. With additional shipping mishaps, needless exclusivity, and scalpers galore, Secret Lairs haven’t been entirely perfect. It’s not too surprising that there were some duds, however, when Wizards released 70 Secret Lair MTG products in 2022 alone! 

Oracle of the Alpha

Oracle of the Alpha

Since its launch in December of 2021, Alchemy has been subject to constant criticisms and complaints. As a result, we could have picked any one of 2022’s many Alchemy cards to fill this spot. That being said, no Alchemy card was quite as striking as Oracle of the Alpha. Utilizing the digital-exclusive Conjure ability, Oracle of the Alpha brought the Power Nine into MTG Arena. In theory, this should have been a reason to celebrate, as these cards have been a highly requested addition for years. In reality, however, MTG players were quick to complain about every last detail. Alongside the frustration of this card being Alchemy exclusive, initially, players suspected that Oracle of the Alpha would be too good. Once the dust had settled, however, players realized that this assessment was rather generous, as Oracle of the Alpha was pretty naff. 

Despite failing to break formats, Oracle of the Alpha, and spiritual Urzatron successor Urza’s Construction Drone, continued to draw the ire of the MTG Arena community. Unfortunately for already disgruntled players, however, Alchemy wasn’t done being controversial. In August, Wizards of the Coast decided to push Alchemy’s influence one step further by rebalancing cards in Draft formats. While done for good reason, MTG players understandably weren’t too happy about this change and Alchemy’s growing reach. Subsequently, the entire Alchemy format has been subject to heavy criticism throughout the entirety of 2022 by MTG players. 

Optimus Prime, Hero

Optimus Prime, Hero

As a Universes Beyond card, it’s safe to say that many players aren’t too fond of Optimus Prime, Hero. Sporting unique art from franchises outside of MTG, the entire Universes Beyond brand has been controversial since its inception. However, the difficult response from players hasn’t stopped Wizards from continuing to push the brand. Subsequently, Universes Beyond has moved beyond the Secret Lair drops, with the Transformers cards being available within The Brothers’ War. Despite initial concerns, thankfully, this was not as major a problem as expected. 

Over time, following the release of the Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks, player opinion of Universes Beyond has improved. Recognizing its potential to create cool cards and entice new players, it’s hard not to see the appeal, even if the cards do look a bit weird. Despite this positive opinion, however, Universes Beyond products continue to be embroiled in controversy for a different reason. Unlike the Universes Beyond Secret Lair drops, recent Universes Beyond products aren’t being guaranteed Universes Within reprints. Instead, Wizards states they only “retain the right to do Magic versions of Universe Beyond cards if later we need function equivalents of popular cards.” 

Due to players no longer immediately dismissing Universes Beyond cards, the lack of a reprint promise is a growing concern. After all, if players want the mechanics of Optimus Prime, Hero or Poxwalkers they’re being forced to play with the uncouth Universes Beyond cards. For some players, this is a line they do not want to cross. This has ensured that Universes Beyond cards are a frequently controversial topic that won’t be going away any time soon. 

Seasoned Dungeoneer

Seasoned Dungeoneer

Boasting powerful effects that gain and keep the Initiative, Seasoned Dungeoneer caused havoc in Legacy. This resulted in a seriously steep 1000% price spike as players raced to get in on the action! Due to its prevalence, Seasoned Dungeoneer was plenty controversial on its own. However, it also highlighted a more significant issue. Namely, that Commander was ruining other formats and warping competitive play

Due to the popularity of the Commander format, Wizards of the Coast has understandably worked to cater to player demand. In 2022, for instance, Wizards announced a new design philosophy for MTG, dubbed the “Eternal World,” by MTG’s Lead Designer Mark Rosewater. This design philosophy puts Eternal formats front and center since that’s where most players’ interests lie. Despite this seemingly being a sensible move, disgruntled players have been quick to complain that the Eternal World is far from perfect. 

As Seasoned Dungeoneer demonstrated, Commander-focused products often facilitate the creation of seriously powerful mechanics and cards. While these cards excel in casual four-player matches, in 1 vs 1 tournament play, they can be somewhat problematic. Alongside this, MTG players have fervently complained about how Commander’s design influence is diluting the rest of MTG. Premier sets have been infiltrated, for instance, and Legendary Creatures are no longer as legendary as before. Subsequently, as a beacon that encapsulates all these issues, Seasoned Dungeoneer is more than deserving of its place on this list. 

Goblin Coward Parade

Goblin Coward Parade
Goblin Coward Parade | Unfinity Sticker Sheet

From the moment that they were announced back in July, Stickers have been an intensely controversial addition to MTG. Alongside their Alchemy-Esque mechanics that concerned enfranchised players, there was also the concern that Stickers would damage MTG cards. Since choice cards are worth upwards of $800,000, this is obviously quite a worrying prospect. Thankfully, MTG players needn’t be so concerned, as following their release, Stickers were too weak rather than too sticky. Unfortunately for Wizards, this caused a new wave of concerns from players who criticized the almost one-time-use cards. 

Despite being Eternal legal, for better or worse, it appeared that Stickers were destined to die a quiet death. Following the launch of Unfinity, few players cared to remember these cards, despite their implications for the future. That’s not to say, however, that Stickers were immune from further controversy. Thanks to curious players, it was eventually discovered that Stickers could, in fact, damage MTG cards. Affecting a foil-etched copy of The Swarmlord, the Sticker Sheet Goblin Coward Parade was to blame for the damage sustained. Subsequently, it’s more than deserving of a space on this list for all the trouble it, as well as other Stickers, caused. 

Black Lotus 

Black Lotus

Despite being on the Reserved List, a reprint of Black Lotus did launch in 2022. Arriving in the seriously controversial 30th Anniversary Edition, it should be no surprise that this card is near the top of our list. While being announced, MTG players weren’t entirely opposed to the idea of 30th Anniversary Edition. Supporters of the Reserved List were seriously panicked, however, the product appeared to be a phenomenal collector’s item. Unfortunately for Wizards of the Coast, however, this initial interest was quickly obliterated once the price was announced. Costing $999, 30th Anniversary Edition quickly became one of the most hated products in MTG history. 

Following the end of its announcement Livestream, hate toward 30th Anniversary Edition flooded the internet. However, that was only the beginning. After the reveal, Wizards bafflingly gave out 30th Anniversary Edition packs to celebrities, further tarnishing the product’s reputation. Continuing this trend, Wizards would later give 30th Anniversary Edition packs to Black Lotus VIP ticket holders at Magic30. While this was an exceedingly generous gift, players that were left out were understandably annoyed, to say the least. 

As if 30th Anniversary Edition wasn’t already problematic enough, things somehow worsened following its sale. Rather than selling out, Wizards instead stated that the “sale has concluded,” leading players to suspect shenanigans. While unconfirmed, it’s heavily believed that Wizards pulled the plug on the sale early, in order to fake interest. Many players were quick to point out this detail. However, that didn’t stop scalpers from miraculously making a profit. Through all these factors together, 30th Anniversary Edition even managed to draw the ire of investors, being named and shamed during a Bank of America report.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx 

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Miraculously beating out 30th Anniversary Edition to the top spot of our list is a rather unassuming Theros land. On its own, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is far from controversial. Even if it is causing a little bit of trouble in Explorer. Instead of being controversial for that reason, however, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is a part of a much more significant problem. Launching within Explorer Anthology 2, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx was one of the last MTG cards released in 2022. Throughout the entire year, Wizards of the Coast released a staggering 5,757 cards (according to Scryfall). For many players, this number is simply too high, as the most significant controversy of the year has been the overwhelming number of releases

Highlighted by the Bank of America in their damning report, the overwhelming pace and number of releases have been a constant concern throughout 2022. As we mentioned at the start of this article, each product hasn’t inherently been bad. That being said, there were too many products to keep up with, which is ruining the game for many players. After all, it’s not easy to keep track of everything when a new product is released every 4.4 days on average

Due to these concerns, MTG players have consistently complained about this topic since the year’s start. Thankfully, these complaints have created a positive change at Wizards, as fixes have been announced. Attempting to appease disgruntled fans, Wizards recently delayed Phyrexia: All Will Be One. While this isn’t a perfect solution, it does show Wizards is at least aware of the ongoing problems, giving us a glimmer of hope for the future

Read More: MTG Sellers Give Up and Cancel Orders After 13-Month Delay!

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