Wizards of the Coast made a huge announcement today opening doors for a multitude of our favorite universes, stories and characters to arrive as a part of the new brand within the Magic the Gathering product: UNIVERSES BEYOND.
“Universes Beyond came about thanks to a simple thought—if we can expand our story beyond the game system to things like comics, novels, and other games, then surely we can expand the game system to let players explore worlds outside of the worlds of Magic.” -Wotc
Warhammer 40K and Lord of the Rings were the first franchises to get the UNIVERSES BEYOND treatment. But the door was left wide open for a never ending flood of universes from books, comics, movies and, even, other popular games. Obviously, this is a potential ‘cash-cow’ for Wotc; creating cards with fan-favorite characters, places and stories drawing in not only their current clientele but new players as well. Tapping into the many fandoms that people hold near and dear is a genius way to attract people from outside the current game.
But, is it good for the game itself? What does all of this mean to us who are so deeply invested in the game already? Could this be a breaking point where Wotc collapses on it’s own greed? Or could it be a shot in the arm that will see MTG continue to grow in popularity and revenue?
Let’s take a step back. Last October. A certain Secret Lair starring the much loved franchise, The Walking Dead, hits the internet. It contains cards that are new to MTG and are not simply ‘covers’ to older cards. They are made legal for all ‘Eternal Formats’ (Commander, Vintage, Legacy and Pauper). The fanbase is not happy to say the least. There is what amounts to a ‘melt down’ all across the community. But, strangely enough, this reaction did not keep this limited set from becoming the most lucrative Secret Lair to date.
And, now, with the introduction of the Universes Beyond brand of MTG, they don’t even have to worry about that pesky scenario Maro proposed where they would print a ‘Magic Version’ of any of the Walking Dead cards like Negan, if and when they became popular. Grandfathering TWD set into this new brand means they don’t have to reprint them and, if they do, they don’t have to set them up as a new card.
In the end, what was the effect on Commander, Vintage, Pauper and Legacy? Well, as far as I can tell, not much. It didn’t ‘break’ those formats any more than many other cards that were supposed to ‘end Magic’. According to sites like TCGplayer, the costs on these cards are, for the most part, pretty reasonable. Only Rick, Steadfast Leader, and Negan, the cold blooded, even dare to peak over that $10 mark. with Rick’s card being the big winner running anywhere from $30 to $48.
So, after all the fuss and bother, no one’s even talking about them. And Wotc is definitely happy all the way to the bank, that’s for sure. I mean, that’s always going to be a powerful gauged of the success of any given set or year. The bottom line is we ate it up; bought it like crazy. So, why shouldn’t they do more like it?
Many cry ‘pay to play’ or ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) but obviously Wotc isn’t it in it for the fun, right? And I still see millions of you playing the game at home or on Arena on a budget and, for the most part, you’re always ready for the next drop. The lairs are for the Whales, the collectors or fans of the content of said lair. They have proven unnecessary in the full enjoyment of the game. With or without these limited cards, we will still be making decks in all our favorite formats, including the eternals. We’ve proven this to be true and Wotc now has the green light to go forward and is.
This is looking to be a big year for Magic the Gathering. Not only are we getting an actual set for Forgotten Realms and a return to fan-favorite Innistrad, but now we have the inclusion of content from Warhammer 40K and Lord of the Rings to look forward to. There was no announcement as to when to expect these to land, but obviously it will be after renewal season as we have the rundown already till them. But they also said it would be more than just Secret Lairs. So I would expect some of the non-standard sets to introduce some of these new worlds.
And I wouldn’t expect there to be anymore upheaval than what we’ve seen from The Walking Dead Secret Lair in the last four or five months. And, if you ask me, if we want MTG to continue to be strong, bringing the creative content we love, we should welcome it.
I think we had enough negative last October where it seemed a lot of fuss for nothing now. But, contrary to what we find on social media, let’s look forward to all of the possibilities this new brand brings with it.
First of all, the obvious. We get to own cards, unique cards with some our favorite fandom characters. We get to play, possibly, whole sets anchored in these much loved worlds we have adored all our lives. I’m sure it might get weird down the road when we’re playing our Space Marine commander against our friend’s decks that sport Gandolf, Negan and, who knows, Snake from G.I.Joe. OR will it? It will still be magic, after all.
And, it’s much like Wotc’s other extremely popular product, Dungeons and Dragons. No one’s making you play in Faerun. In fact, there are no gatekeepers there to tell us what edition to play, even. Same here. You don’t like it? Don’t play it. If necessary, find a group to play with that refuses these cards. If your team doesn’t like the UNIVERSES BEYOND brand, you an ignore it; much like so many, I’m sure, ignore TWD cards.
But why? Why would you isolate yourself from these cards? Is it the defiant old-school spirit in you? Is it the ‘we’ve never done it like that before’ mentality? No, drop the barriers and accept the challenge. In the end, you have to trust Wotc to know what they’re doing. Just because it has Frodo or Optimus Prime on it, doesn’t make it NOT a great, playable card. And, if history tells us anything, just like the apocalypse we expected last October, this new brand will only further the game, if not just for the sheer fact it brought more players to the game.
And what you’re getting in the long run is more worlds, more characters, and absolutely the potential for some of the best art in the game. Just take Warhammer 40K to start. Besides D&D and MTG, Warhammer (which I’ve never had time to play) pumps out some of my favorite art in all of nerdom. If you don’t believe me, just hit the internet and take a look. I CANNOT wait! Some of this artwork is right up there with the epic quality that Wotc has set for itself lately.
So, fret not, true believer! If you’ve loved the cards that Wotc has been pumping out over the last year or so, expect more of the same or better. You either like what they’re doing or you don’t. I mean, you could stay in the sets we have and never play any of the UNIVERSES BEYOND sets to come and still have years and years of enjoyable play. There’s so much for fans new and old to love about what they’re doing. Just find your niche and play! You do you. But I’m sure that Wotc will hit your hot buttons in the future more than you could ever dream.
What property would you like to see get the UNIVERSES BEYOND treatment?