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Magic the Gathering announces The Walking Dead products, met with player outrage

(Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast)
(Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast)
Modified 29 Sep 2020, 21:32 IST

Even if you’ve never taken a step into the world of table-top trading card games, you’ve probably heard of Magic the Gathering before, and almost certainly heard of the hit TV show and comic series The Walking Dead. This recent crossover has created a wave of backlash against Wizards of the Coast (the company behind Magic).

Why are Magic players upset with crossover cards?

Before looking into the response, let’s look into the reason for this communal anger. Firstly, Magic has carefully cultivated its world and flavor since 1993. Even as Magic sets jump between worlds, or pull greatly from real life mythologies, the end result is always something identifiable as something set within and made for the Magic universe.

With Magic also being the main driver of fantastical art, it can’t be understated that Magic’s lore and world are important for the game’s success.

But there is more to this issue than that the cards aren’t set in the same universe or made of the same stuff, Wizards of the Coast also released this product in an atypical way. Over the past year or so, Wizards has run a program called Secret Lair, a product they sell directly to customers (not through card shops) with a hyper limited run, usually only lasting a few days, after which those unique cards will not be printed again.

The modus operandi was for these Secret Lair cards to be reprints of old cards with brand new art, sometimes comical but always unique. Secret Lair had never featured totally unique cards, meaning that if you needed a particular card for some reason you could get it without buying the special cute cat art version of it.


The Walking Dead Secret Lair, however, were advertised as (emphasis mine):

“The cards included in this very special Secret Lair drop will be completely new to Magic, depicting the iconic characters of the long-running and critically acclaimed TV series. These are mechanically unique cards that will be legal in Eternal formats. Commander players especially should look forward to bringing their favorite characters from The Walking Dead to life on the tabletop!”

Because these cards are not simply reprints, and because they are going to be legal in eternal formats (Legacy and Vintage where decks can cost upwards of thousands of dollars), many Magic the Gathering players were outraged at the limited print run of these cards. To emphasize, there is no known way to get these cards except through this product which will only be available for eight days.

Magic the Gathering player reaction

(Image Credit: r/EDH) Should the RC (Rules Committee) ban the walking dead exclusive cards from the format
(Image Credit: r/EDH) Should the RC (Rules Committee) ban the walking dead exclusive cards from the format

Understandably that was a lot more background than I expected to go into, but it’s fair to say that there seems to be a plethora of reasons why players are upset. A recent poll on a popular Magic the Gathering subreddit (r/EDH) asked players if these cards should be banned, to which 93% asked said yes.

Here, it’s important to state that while Wizards of the Coast controls most competitive formats, the biggest format (EDH, also called Commander) is community run and separate from Wizards. A ban in EDH cut demand for the product down significantly, as the biggest player base wouldn’t be able to play them.

Regardless of what happens there, it seems that the Magic community will simply remember this as yet another violation of their trust and good will. The last 18 months of Magic have been characterized by missing the mark repeatedly, and creating a negative experience for many players. Cash grabs, chaos, bans, and outright unfun games have led many players to shift how they play, or move on altogether.

Published 29 Sep 2020, 21:32 IST
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