First launched in 2021, Wizards of the Coast’s Universes Beyond products have been controversial, to say the least. Something always seems to be amiss, whether it’s fans complaining about the art style or the new mechanics. Despite this, Wizards of the Coast doesn’t seem to be slowing down with their release plans, as many more Universes Beyond sets are coming.
With the latest Secret Lair x Fortnite drop looming on the horizon, the question remains, are Universes Beyond products actually good, and should Wizards keep making them?
What Is MTG Universes Beyond?
Cooked up by Wizards of the Coast in 2021, Universes Beyond (abbreviated as UB) is a series of crossover products between WotC and other franchises. In their words, “Universes Beyond—a series that combines the gameplay of Magic: The Gathering with worlds, characters, and stories that are cherished by millions of fans around the world.”
Like Acorn cards, the Universes Beyond series cards have their own triangular security stamp. This security stamp denotes that these cards are non-cannon and do not affect the broader Magic: the Gathering universe. Unlike Acorn cards, Universes Beyond cards are playable in Eternal formats.
Somewhat confusingly, Magic: the Gathering’s Universes Beyond cards also feature a unique name, even when they are reprints of existing cards. Thankfully, to mitigate confusion, Wizards of the Coast also includes the original name of the card printed underneath its Universes Beyond name. While they may sport different names on the top of the card, they’re still the original version of the card when rules are concerned.
What’s the Point of MTG’s Universes Beyond Products?
Whether it’s in Secret Lair drops or complete sets and products, the Universes Beyond series expands the reach of Magic. Through collaborations with other brands, WotC can create and push unique Magic cards to new audiences. This can entice new players into what’s already the world’s most popular TCG. Magic may be the world’s most popular TCG for now, but it’s vital for the game’s long-term health that it continues to grow.
While Universes Beyond products are excellent tools for marketing, they can be absolutely terrible for new players. For example, the recently showcased Secret Lair x Fortnite drop has a deeply confused identity that doesn’t help anybody. On the one hand, the Secret Lair drop is a lucrative avenue into Fortnite’s massive audience. This could obviously be a huge potential boon to MTG. On the other hand, the drop contents are something no new player would be interested in beyond their aesthetic.
Featuring the likes of, Grim Tutor, Triumph of the Hordes, and Wrath of God, Secret Lair x Fortnite drop undoubtedly contains a lot of value. While this is nice, the value from a product that likely costs $30-$40 isn’t a new player’s main interest. Instead, if you can believe it, newly indoctrinated MTG players are likely looking for something to play. This is hardly an easy thing to do with Secret Lair drops, as on top of being prohibitively expensive, they only provide you with one copy of a card in isolation.
This relegates the enticing possibilities of a Secret Lair drop into little more than a collector’s item. Without viable ways to play the Universes Beyond cards, collectors won’t be tempted into playing their new cards. Ultimately, this makes Universes Beyond Secret Lair drops almost pointless outside of making Wizards some more money.
Are Magic: The Gathering’s Universes Beyond Products a Good Thing?
Thankfully, while Universes Beyond Secret Lair drops have their problems, they’re not the only Universes Beyond products. Later this year, Wizards of the Coast is expanding their Universes Beyond line by producing ready-to-play Commander decks. Set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, these decks offer an enticing introduction to Magic for new players.
Besides offering a compelling ready-to-play experience, preconstructed Universes Beyond products offer plenty for existing players; namely, the chance at Commander and Modern staple reprints. While we’ve yet to see inside the Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks, if they’re anything like the Universes Beyond Secret Lair drops, they’ll definitely be worth the money.
In the Secret Lair x Fortnite drop, for example, Grim Tutor, Triumph of the Hordes, and Wrath of God may not be ideal for new players. However, they’re worthwhile investments for existing players. This is one of the Universes Beyond series’ greatest strengths, as it can offer somewhat easy access to reprints. This will help reduce the price of getting into Magic or building a new deck. Something I should hope we can all agree is a good thing.
Read More: Popular Paper MTG Format Has its Meta Torn Apart!
Secret Lair x the Walking Dead Was Wrong, but Oh So Right
For better or worse, not all Universes Beyond cards are reprints. Much to the chagrin of many players, the first Universes Beyond product featured entirely new, mechanically unique cards. Released in the Secret Lair x the Walking Dead drop caused quite the stir in the Magic: the Gathering community.
While not all the cards in the set were good, they were all tough to get ahold of since they were only available via the Secret Lair drop. As limited-time sales, this gave The Walking Dead crossover cards incredibly restrictive availability. This was unacceptable since new, never before seen cards shouldn’t be held hostage in a timed Secret Lair sale. Especially since, unlike Acorn cards, Universes Beyond cards are playable in Eternal formats.
Thankfully, after receiving widespread condemnation from the Magic community, Wizards changed their approach to releasing new Universes Beyond cards. In a blog post, WotC ensured that in-Magic versions of mechanically unique Secret Lair Universes Beyond cards will be available via The List “approximately six months” after their debut. This allows players access to these cards, even if they missed out on the limited-time sale.
While not a perfect solution, since a Secret Lair card could run rampant in the meta for six months before other players get to own it, it has allowed Wizards a lot of creative freedom. This freedom is precisely what the Universes Beyond needed to reach its full potential.
By creating mechanically unique cards, Wizards can entice players with more than just fancy art. With mechanics that benefit the crossover franchise, players will have a compelling base to start deckbuilding and exploring the world of Magic. This is considerably more beneficial than a handful of reprints new players have no use for.