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MaRo: Future Sets with Non-Magic IPs Will Not Be Standard Legal

Mark Rosewater, commonly known as MaRo, is the long-standing MTG head designer at Wizards of the Coast, and he regularly posts on his blog where he answers questions submitted by Magic players and fans. On August 16, he responded to a question from a user about a very controversial subject in Magic: black-bordered cards that depict non-Magic intellectual properties (IP).

In October of 2020, Magic communities on social media were set aflame by the announcement of a Secret Lair Drop – a product that was already the subject of some controversy – that would feature characters from The Walking Dead TV series. Many fans were very upset, not only by the fact that the cards were depicting characters from an unrelated fandom, but also because they are mechanically unique, available for only a very limited time, and also legal in the Eternal formats (Legacy, Vintage, and Commander).

In spite of the backlash, The Walking Dead Secret Lair was also apparently the best-selling Secret Lair up to that point. Yet more controversy was generated when Wizards of the Coast announced Universes Beyond, a series of products that would contain more cards based on other IPs, including Warhammer 40,000 and The Lord of the Rings.

Social media uproar aside, cards that depict intellectual properties outside of Magic’s own universe have been a part of the game for many years without much trepidation. Arabian Nights, originally released in 1993, is the first Magic expansion to feature an expansion symbol, and is notable because it’s based on an IP not owned by Wizards of the Coast.

This blog post brought about the “Rabiah Scale” which approximates the likelihood of a plane being featured again in a Standard-legal set.

Indeed, it was not long before the Secret Lair controversy that other non-Magic IP cards had been printed into the game. In 2017, a promo set of silver-bordered cards representing cards from the Transformers universe was sold at a convention. In 2019, a similar promo was launched featuring cards from My Little Pony, and shortly before The Walking Dead controversy in 2020, the Standard legal set Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths included special versions of cards from the main set that were “reskinned” as characters from the Godzilla franchise.

All of these releases predate Secret Lair: The Walking Dead, but managed to (mostly) avoid controversy because they were either silver-bordered (meaning not tournament legal in any format), or in the case of the Godzilla cards, they had regular Magic-universe cards that were mechanically identical for players with no interest in the Godzilla theme.

Perhaps partly as an attempt to avoid the ire of Magic fans who dislike crossover products, the announcement for Universes Beyond specifically mentioned that nothing from the crossover series would be Standard legal. This brings us to the present day, where the latest set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, is itself a Standard legal crossover with the Dungeons & Dragons universe.

To their credit, Wizards of the Coast also made it explicitly clear that Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is not considered a Universes Beyond product because Wizards is “reserving the Universes Beyond branding for worlds outside those built by Wizards of the Coast.” Now, however, Mark Rosewater has confirmed to a concerned fan who was disappointed by the D&D crossover that sets featuring non-Magic intellectual properties will not be Standard legal in the future.

Future sets with non-Magic properties will not be premier sets.

Mark Rosewater, MTG Head Designer

In Magic, premier sets are the four sets per year that are released into the Standard format. Therefore, it seems that Rosewater is confident in saying that sets like Adventures in the Forgotten Realms will not be printed into Standard again, or at least not any time soon.

It’s worth noting that nothing has changed concerning the status of Universes Beyond, so there will be more crossover products in Magic. Whether the cards will be legal for sanctioned play in any format, or if they will have analogous cards that are in the Magic universe like the Ikoria crossover, is still an open question. It also remains unclear if Wizards would replicate what they did with Ikoria’s reskinned cards in Standard legal sets; Rosewater’s wording is too vague to be any kind of confirmation that Wizards would not consider something along those lines in the future.

Nevertheless, it seems that crossover sets like Adventures in the Forgotten Realms will not be a part of Standard going into the future. Even in MTG Arena, which is primarily focused on Standard, it’s probable that crossovers will still appear in the game in some form, whether it be alternative card skins like Ikoria, card sleeves, avatars, or something else entirely.

If The Walking Dead drop has taught us anything, it’s that players have very strong feelings about MTG crossover sets on both the positive and negative sides of the issue. What do you think about crossovers in MTG? Is there any universe you would love to see represented in Magic, or do you abhor even the thought of it? Let us know in the comments below!

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Paul
Paul

Dude from Vermont who likes to play Magic and Escape from Tarkov. Musician, writer, and gamer. Submit feedback or corrections to @Paul on the Discord.

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