Magic The Gathering’s ‘Universes Beyond’ tie-ins are synergistic gaming perfection

By admin May7,2024

To me, Wizards of the Coast is the company that made the Pokemon Trading Card Game. That probably speaks to my age as well as to my level of exposure to the company: it was in fact only responsible for the first few waves of Western Pokemon releases, before Pokemon spun up its own internal operation. That just so happened to be when the TCG had taken over my school playground. But, the point is, of everything WOTC has done, I typically still associate them with a brand they haven’t worked with for decades.

Or to put it another way: I’ve never really been a Magic: The Gathering person.

This has never really tracked. It’s weird, in fact. I was into the Pokemon TCG, and regular readers of VG247 will know I am a disgraceful RPG mechanics nerd of the highest order. Magic is the sort of thing I should be into – but I’ve just never quite gotten around to it. I needed some sort of push to get me into it – and Wizards has really found exactly the right way.

A couple of weeks ago, on a Fallout TV series high, I did what a lot of people did: start a new Fallout 4 save, dabble in Fallout 76, and obsess-scroll through wikis to remind myself of practically irrelevant series lore. But I also did one more thing: I hopped online and ordered some of the Fallout-themed Magic: The Gathering sets. These are sets that I never would’ve considered until the show instilled a heightened sense of Fallout fandom in me – but furthermore, until recently, I wouldn’t have purchased Magic cards at all.

I owe my minor Magic conversion to Doctor Who, the BBC TV series which also got a MTG tie-in. I picked up those cards because I am a Doctor Who mega-fan and do actively collect a few pieces of show memorabilia – but it scratched an itch. The original art on each card tickled me. It opened the door just a crack, enticing me to the Fallout cards. Once the Fallout sets arrived, that door yawned a little wider still – I started playing.

Dogmeat Magic the Gathering Card, presented in the Commander Pack from the card game.
Dogmeat! | Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

And now here I am, a few weeks later: I’ve purchased my first non tie-in magic cards, downloaded the digital version of the game on Steam, and am now looking forward to future video game tie-ins eagerly. Assassin’s Creed is out soon, dropping 100 all-new cards with unique mechanics. In 2025, MTG will have two of its largest pools of licensed franchise lore and character to draw from with the addition of Final Fantasy and Marvel-themed sets.

These sets, released under the overarching banner of ‘Universes Beyond’, have been around for a while. The first such release was in 2020, with cards based on The Walking Dead. There were even gaming collaborations at this time, with Magic crossing over with Street Fighter, Fortnite, and League of Legends’ Arcane. But all of these offerings were more limited – a handful of cards, essentially designed for Collectors first. They were sort of a bonus for Magic fans.

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, though – and it really feels like Wizards of the Coast happened upon what was truly needed for crossovers once they hit the release of the heavily-publicized Lord of the Rings range in 2023. This was not just a handful of cards, but a whole series – enough that, if you wanted, you could play a strictly Middle-Earth only version of the game. It felt like a more authentic way for a LOTR fan to enter the world of Magic. Now that ground has been broken, we’re reaping the rewards with expansive decks and collections based on gaming brands.

An Alpha Deathclaw card from Magic the Gathering.
A menace, indeed. | Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

With more than a handful of characters, locations, and staples from each franchise present in the newer Universes Beyond releases, it suddenly becomes infinitely more fascinating to see how the tropes of Fallout or Doctor Who become represented in Magic: The Gathering mechanics, even if the cards aren’t technically compatible for all ‘proper’ rulesets. How on earth might the relatively run-of-the-mill characters of Assassin’s Creed manifest in the cards?

Will the generational memories element of those stories become a tentpole mechanic, like Time Travel does for Doctor Who? How might Final Fantasy sets represent things like ATB, equipment, leveling up? Something about the way this is all executed is a delightful itch-scratcher.

More than anything, I can feel myself bitten by the bug – both for playing and collecting. I’m ridiculously pumped to see what these Final Fantasy cards are like – and to see what other gaming franchises could support additional Universes Beyond releases. If the plan was to make MAgic converts, its mission accomplished. All it took was a hefty dose of weaponized nostalgia.

By admin

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