28, Feb, 24

Universes Within Cards are Leaving Magic

Article at a Glance

Over the course of the last couple years, there’s no denying the sheer volume of Universes Beyond products that have entered the world of MTG. Given the massive success that the Lord of the Rings set had overall, the increase in focus on MTG crossovers isn’t too shocking. While MTG head designer Mark Rosewater made it clear that Magic the Gathering IP and in-universe content isn’t going anywhere, it appears as though Universes Beyond products have also become a priority for Wizards of the Coast.

Despite the overall success of some of many of the Universes Beyond products, especially some of the major full-blown sets like Lord of the Rings, plenty of players have voiced their frustration with the mixing of MTG lore with stories from outside the MTG sphere. This issue became exacerbated with the release of Lord of the Rings cards into Modern. This completely changed the landscape of one of MTG’s most popular Constructed formats.

As such, some players have become disinterested given the lack of continuity in the lore. One player in particular posted a question on Mark Rosewater’s Blogatog page highlighting his disappointment with the massive emphasis on Universes Beyond cards in recent years. They emphasized that no in-universe versions of many of these cards exist. Mark Rosewater’s response to this post is extremely revealing with regards to the future of MTG and in-universe products.

Lack of In-Universe Versions of Universes Beyond Cards

The One Ring

“We’ve done the research. There just isn’t a large enough group that wants “Universe Within” cards. We don’t think the product would sell well enough to warrant making it.”

Mark Rosewater

In the Blogatog post made by topdeckhero, they mentioned that the influx of powerful Universes Beyond cards forces players to consistently interact with cards outside of the MTG IP. This is true even if they just want to play Modern. They also stated that they would happily become more invested in Modern if in-universe versions of the cards were made available.

The issue that Mark Rosewater pointed out was that, according to research, not enough players would be interested in these Universes Within cards. Up to this point, Universes Within versions of Universes Beyond cards have not been made very often. Universes Within cards have primarily shown up after mechanically unique, non-canon Secret Lair cards were printed.

Starting with The Walking Dead Secret Lair, Universes Beyond cards like Rick, Steadfast Leader began receiving Universes Within versions well after their initial printings. However, this process has not taken place for any of the major Universes Beyond sets. This includes Lord of the Rings, Warhammer 40k, and Doctor Who.

While Doctor Who and Warhammer 40k were primarily designed for Commander (though some cards like Triumph of Saint Katherine have shown up in Legacy), Lord of the Rings introduced a ton of extremely powerful cards into Modern. It’s unclear if MTG Assassin’s Creed will have the same effect, but these cards will also be Modern legal. With Mark Rosewater essentially confirming that these cards like The One Ring will not be featured in any Universes Within product anytime soon, it’s safe to say that lots of players aren’t pleased.

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Player Reaction

Triumph of Saint Katherine

“This is why “if UB is not for you, just opt out” is a disingenuous argument.”


In general, a lot of players have made complaints over the years about being forced to interact with crossovers in MTG that highlight franchises they don’t want to be involved in. For many players, the goal has been to simply interact as little as possible with the Universes Beyond products that didn’t appeal to them. However, as moxopal10 points out, it can be tough to opt out and avoid a specific crossover while simultaneously having a desire to play formats like Modern where these cards are quite strong.

Players also suggested that part of the reason Mark Rosewater’s data suggests that Universes Within products would be unsuccessful is that players have become accustomed to essentially biting the bullet and buying cards as necessary. After all, with no alternative in sight, aficionados of formats like Modern would feel pressured to purchase the powerful cards they needed.

Additionally, The Yango points out that two similar products like these could eat up sales from each other. In this sense, it would be tough to release Universes Within cards in a similar time frame as matching Universes Beyond ones.

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A Demand for Reprints

Orcish Bowmasters

Where a large percentage of players seemed to agree with each other was with the idea of a Universes Within reprint set at some point down the line. Huaojozu mentioned that once enough pricy Universes Beyond cards have been in circulation, a Masters-style reprint set with Universes Within variants could be very successful.

This seems to have garnered a lot of support. Further, some cards like Orcish Bowmasters and Delighted Halfling have generic enough names that featuring them in a Universes Within environment wouldn’t be unreasonable. This seems like a fairly reasonable solution to the problems described in the Blogatog post.

Even if it isn’t a short-term solution, it seems to make sense for consumers and businesses alike. Given the focus on Universes Beyond products moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see if something like this might arise in the future.

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