Why Magic Players Are Upset About Universes Beyond

In late February, Wizards of the Coast revealed that a new set named Universes Beyond would soon bring crossovers with other popular franchises into Magic: The Gathering (MTG), but some players are genuinely upset with the news. While Standard format will remain largely unaffected, other popular modes of play might not be so lucky.

What Is Universes Beyond?

Put simply, Universes Beyond is a bold, fun new expansion in MTG that looks to blend some of the most iconic fictional works, including the sprawling, massive worlds of Warhammer 40,000 and The Lord of the Rings to start. There is so much happening in those respective works of fiction that they could have their own games, and in fact, there are already several card games, board games, tabletop roleplaying games and video games for both franchises.

What this means is that Planeswalkers will soon be duking it out with potential allies like Space Marines, Frodo Baggins, and Gandalf, in certain modes of play.

The folks over at Wizards of the Coast are excited at the prospect of creating these fun crossovers, not only because they push the boundaries of what could exist in their own established game universe, but also because “Universes Beyond will bring the game we love to more people who might not have otherwise found us.”

Love It Or Hate It, Universes Beyond Is Not Standard Legal

Regardless of your opinion on the Universes Beyond in its crossover theme, there are a few facts to keep in mind, and the most important is that it will not be Standard legal. These cards will be entertaining, perhaps overpowered, and enjoyable for fans of the source material, but you should never expect to see it in a tournament of MTG paper, online, or arena.

This means that the core MTG universe, with its Planeswalkers, spells, and creatures, will remain intact. While you might buy a Gandalf card for play in other modes, there will never be a Standard legal meta that allows for the use of those cards.

Another major point is that Universes Beyond is being developed and released alongside other regularly scheduled expansions, not in place of them. If one were replacing the other, it would be a different story entirely, but as it stands, neither should get in the way of the other.

Why Some People Are Upset

At its core, the explanation given by Wizards of the Coast sounds like a friendly, inclusionary way to help more people enjoy MTG by blending in other worlds that they might be passionate about. At the same time, players who have collected and competed in MTG for decades might be rolling their eyes at a violation of the purity of the game. MTG has had some silly sets released before, like Unglued, but most of those cards were still designed around the aesthetic of the five main color groups and the types of creatures and spells you would see in other sets.

No matter how you look at it, there is no doubt that an army of Ork Boyz, Eldar, or Chaos Space Marines will shatter any sort of immersion a player might normally expect. Imagine if Universes Beyond continues to blend other popular franchises in the future. In a few years, a player might pilot a deck consisting of Darth Vader, Space Marines, Gandalf, Batman, and some version of Rick and Morty.

If you are having trouble picturing this, think about how Monopoly sells out for crossovers at every chance it gets. Without exaggeration, you can buy over 1,000 different versions of Monopoly, and some see Universes Beyond as the tipping point for MTG to start adding in all sorts of other worlds, regardless of their thematic fit.

Another problem that relates to gameplay is that although Standard will not feature any of these cards, players who prefer Legacy and Commander do have the potential to be directly affected. In both modes, Universes Beyond will be allowed to exist, and if the power levels of certain cards are too high and a UB card becomes meta, then Commander players may feel obligated to include Gandalf in their decks, which some players aren’t happy about.

While Commander is not an officially sanctioned mode of play, it is incredibly popular, and in many ways, each deck acts as a true indication of the type of player at the helm. With that said, friends who play together can always self moderate what sets they allow into their games (most already do) and depending on how the Warhammer 40,000 and Lord of the Rings cards are designed, this might be a necessity among some groups of players.

What Does The Future Hold?

Even though Wizards of the Coast released its overly positive explanation about bringing in new players with interests in other properties, the truth is that the bottom line is probably most important, and licencing Warhammer 40,000 and The Lord of the Rings must be an expensive proposition. This may only be the start of Universes Beyond, and future sets could come from The Witcher, Final Fantasy, Harry Potter, and much more.

However, if sales of these first sets do not meet expectations, this could instead be both the start and end of Universes Beyond.

For now, all we can do is speculate. As an avid fan of Commander and Legacy sets, I personally hope that Universes Beyond creates some truly flavorful cards inspired by the best of each property and that there is a level of respect given to not cause any kind of cataclysmic shift in power creep just for the sake of sales.

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The Fantastic, Science-Fiction, and Horror are Patricio’s go-to genres for literature, film, and gaming. Dead by Daylight is his daily bread and butter as he writes for TheGamer. He teaches Spanish at McGill by day and writes next to his Staffy x Boxer rescue from the SPCA by night.

Patricio graduated from the University of Alberta in 2006, 2012, and will have one more degree in hand by 2020. Innovation in game development, the economics of making games profitable, and the downward, decadent spiral of former great gaming companies fuels his soul to write daily. Will Blizzard Entertainment do something controversial often enough to keep this reference relevant? Patrick certainly believes they will.

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