With nearly 30 years of history behind it, it’s no secret that Magic has innovated a lot over its lifetime. Generally, these innovations that broaden the horizons of the game are well received, with players enjoying the new mechanics of a set. Recently, however, Wizards of the Coast has pushed the boundaries of what MTG players are willing to accept. Thanks to Universes Beyond Secret Lairs and Unfinity, many players believe Wizards has passed the point of no return. Unfortunately for worried players, the future of Magic: the Gathering is about to get a whole lot stranger. Before too long, some MTG maps may even require the internet for you to use them on paper.
Coming to an MTG card near you: Internet!
As if stickers, attractions, and vowels weren’t causing enough noise already, one of Unfinity’s strongest and weirdest Acorn cards was almost forever legal. With the ability to generate literally infinite mana, Urza’s Fun House was unmistakably an Acorn card. If the infinite mana symbol wasn’t enough, Urza’s Fun House also requires MTG players to use the internet. Using the AskUrza.com website for his third ability, players didn’t blink twice at Urza’s Fun House’s Acorn Security Seal. Surprisingly, however, it seems that Urza’s Fun House was much closer to being Eternal Legal than players initially thought.
In an attempt to gauge how close he is to being legal eternal, Nicolbolas96 recently asked on Blogatog, “could Urza’s Fun House be eternal without the infinite mana ability?” In response, Mark Rosewater unsurprisingly pointed to another, slightly more apparent culprit for the card’s Acorn card stats. “We thought ‘have to go on a website’ crossed the Acorn line,” Rosewater revealed, not shocking anyone. Compared to his internet antics, Urza’s House’s infinite mana generation ability is actually relatively tame. Requiring all three Urza lands to be in play, Urza’s Fun House is honestly relatively slow when it comes to infinite mana generators.
While not the best infinite mana generator, Urza’s Fun House is undeniably an Acorn card, thanks to AskUrza.com. In a shocking twist, however, Mark Rosewater said that “maybe one day it won’t be [be].” Just as Un-Sets dice rolls have become eternally legal over time, it seems that AskUrza.com might also be eternally legal one day. Thankfully, Rosewater clarified that “we’re not far off right now”, however, it’s clearly an option on the table.
Push the limits
Perhaps even more than stickers and attractions combined, the AskUrza.com mechanic could seriously threaten the integrity of MTG. Understandably, players were quick to express their concerns once Mark Rosewater revealed the possibility of online components being a legal MTG mechanic for Eternal. “It really feels like strictly glandular territory to me,” bravelion83 said. “I really hope it stays Acorn.” Likewise, philippesaner said, “I really hope that doesn’t change,” and an incredulous passerby pleaded “don’t bring this into Magic on paper.” Please.”
Despite its first glance appearance, AskUrza.com may not be pushing the boundaries of Magic: the Gathering as far as you might think. Urza, Director of the Academy, for example, could absolutely be a legal eternal card. Amazingly, this was proven when the original AskUrza.com website was accidentally killed via rebranding. While this should have been the killing blow to this mechanic, it actually revealed just how doable it really is. Essentially, AskUrza.com was little more than a digital die, randomly generating numbers between 1 and 20 before showing the relevant ability. It’s entirely possible to do it on paper, so much so that this is now how Urza, head of the academy, works.
With AskUrza.com now dedicated to Unfinity cards, Urza Academy Headmaster players must now generate random numbers themselves. After rolling a D20, players must now access a PDF to find the relevant ability rather than a website. That may sound like a lot of faff. However, this is ultimately doable in MTG paper. Admittedly, fitting 60 abilities and over 900 words onto an MTG token is not easy, as you can see below. However, scaled down versions could work just fine. Even if Wizards wanted to give twenty abilities to every Internet requiring an AskUrza.com card, it’s not out of the question to require MTG players to bring a PDF with them. If players already have to bring tokens, stickers, rides, and their deck to events, what’s one more piece of paper?
The limit of acceptability
Ultimately, with PDF tokens providing redundancy, AskUrza.com would simply make it easier to use these complex maps. Still, while these cards are forever legal, they push the boundaries of what’s acceptable in MTG. As Mark Rosewater notes, however, Magic: the Gathering has been pushing those boundaries for quite some time. When answering a question about Unfinity’s design sensibilities, Mark Rosewater revealed that these boundary-pushing innovations are “a by-product of a game that keeps creating new game pieces.”
“Most games can stay away from the edges because there is enough content to do so, but the nature of a collectible card game that continues to grow steadily ends up having to play around the edges,” explained Rosewater. As Far proven, the line between what works and what doesn’t is not always clear to players. It can cause a huge uproar if a new mechanic is too spicy for players’ tastes, even if it works within MTG rules. Because of the complexity of these rules, the line between what works and what doesn’t is incredibly fine-grained and ill-defined. Even Mark Rosewater admits “I do this for a living…and even I don’t know where the line is.”
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