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Proxy, Playtest or Counterfeit?

Since the announcement of Wizards of the Coast’s Magic30 collector product, proxy cards have been a hot topic for discussion among Magic players.  On social media and in local game stores, we’ve ranted at length about what makes a card real or fake, and when playing a less-than-real card is acceptable at the table. 

With card prices ever on the rise and the global economy in flux, Magic as a hobby has become cost prohibitive for many players.  The backlash over the much-needed reserve list reprints coming in a premium, non-playable collector bundle has shone a harsh light on the only bridge between the Magic Haves and Have-Nots.  Players are asking their groups and local game stores to ban proxies outright in the hope of increasing pressure on WotC to reprint high-demand cards.  It feels like accusations of cheating and elitism are everywhere right now.  It’s only a matter of time before “this product isn’t for you” discussions turn into “this game isn’t for you.”

What is a proxy?

By the letter of MTG law, proxy cards are specifically cards issued by tournament judges to replace cards which have been damaged in the course of tournament play. They can also replace cards which are foil and have no non-foil printing.  (Foil cards are problematic in competitive settings because of their tendency to bend inwards, or pringle.  This can lead to them being ruled “marked” cards.)  These cards are only legal in the specific event for which they are issued. 

So then what am I playing?

High quality “proxy” of a Blood Crypt

What most MTG players refer to as “proxies” are more properly called playtest cards.  These are typically basic lands or tokens with card names/reminder text scribbled on them in sharpie.  Some alters can also fall into this category.  Playtest cards are not tournament legal, and in sanctioned events players will typically be asked to replace any playtest cards in their deck with official copies of the card or basic lands.

Many players use printouts or photocopies of cards when they are testing out new decks or filling in gaps in existing decks.  While they’re not created with ill intent, because they use art and text that is copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast, these cards get lumped into the third category.

Actual WotC Playtest Cards

Counterfeits are bad, mmkay?

Technically, any reproduction of a card that uses its regular art and text is a counterfeit.  That’s kind of a scary word to throw around though, so it’s mostly used for cards that are not real but which pretend to be real.  Few of the players I’ve encountered would even consider playing a fake card in a tournament, and even in a casual game would likely announce “I have proxies/playtests” before starting a game.  I know some, however, who have purchased what they thought were legitimate cards only to find out they were very convincing fakes.  With the price of playable singles trending upward, however, counterfeits are turning up a lot more.

And Magic30 fits into this how, exactly?

Magic30 collector cards, and other collector’s edition gold-bordered cards, fall into a fourth category.  These are official cards which are not legal for official play.  If permitted by their playgroups, players can use these cards for casual play, but they are not permitted in sanctioned events.  CE cards are meant to be collected, not played.  These aren’t “fake” cards.  They’re printed by Wizards of the Coast, so they’re real by definition.  Tournament legality and playability is not an indicator of a card’s authenticity.

Do you use playtest cards?  Have you ever had a judge issue you a proxy?  Or do you have strong opinions on the subject of proxies and Magic30?  Drop a comment below and let me know!

About the Author
Silver has been playing Magic: The Gathering and other trading card games off and on since 1999, and is a lifelong roleplayer. They believe in Rule 0 and The Rule of Cool, and that the gaming table should be a safe space for everyone.

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