Three years ago, Magic: The Gathering introduced the world to the first Universes Beyond Secret Lair product – The Walking Dead.
Universes Beyond crossovers have become a mainstay in Magic’s current product lineup, with iconic franchises like Transformers, Godzilla, and most recently, The Lord of the Rings, taking center stage. Before the breakout success and establishment of Universes Beyond, Secret Lair x The Walking Dead’s October 2020 release marked the first time a Secret Lair drop featured new cards and not just reprints with new artwork.
Upon the product’s reveal, the Magic community immediately exploded in a frenzy. While many were simply excited to collect cards with their favorite The Walking Dead characters on them, others considered this to be a cash grab from Wizards of the Coast (WotC). As these two factions battled in comment sections across social media, a third party brought another topic to the table – deckbuilding availability.
Up until this point, no Secret Lair products had featured new, mechanically unique cards, so players could simply ignore the drops if they didn’t care for the cards in them. With the introduction of The Walking Dead cards, which would be legal in Commander, Legacy, and Vintage, the old Nexus of Fate conversation resurfaced – what are players supposed to do when a deck featuring exclusive cards becomes a big player in the competitive metagame?
For those unfamiliar, Nexus of Fate was a Buy-A-Box promotional card for Core Set 2019. Nexus of Fate was not only mythic rare, but also an incredibly powerful Timewalk effect that would go on to warp several formats before being banned in Pioneer and in formats across MTG Arena. While egregious play patterns was the primary reason for the bans, the card was also incredibly hard to find, and at one point during its time in Standard, was regarded as the card with the lowest supply, relative to the rest of the format’s card pool. This exclusivity, combined with many copies of the card becoming unplayable through warping (due to being a foil-only), lead many to become totally disenfranchised with mechanically unique promos in competitive play.
Despite Nexus of Fate’s warning from the past, this concern was all but dismissed for The Walking Dead topic – absorbed into the greater argument once it became clear that the power-level of the cards was likely too low to impact Magic’s eternal formats. That was until Pro Tour Champion, Greg Orange, 5-0’d a Legacy League on Magic Online with a Humans deck featuring Rick, Steadfast Leader, Michonne, Ruthless Survivor, Daryl, Hunter of Walkers, and Negan, the Cold-Blooded.
As part of the preorder package for Secret Lair x The Walking Dead, players received a digital redemption code which granted immediate access to all these cards on Magic Online, even though the physical cards wouldn’t ship for months. This allowed players like Orange an opportunity to try and break the Legacy metagame with cards that would essentially only be available for one week (the length of the Secret Lair preorder window).
After a few days of initial panic, Orange’s run with Legacy Humans was deemed a fluke when the success couldn’t be replicated and the deck was quickly forgotten. In the wake of all the community unease, WotC assured players that The Walking Dead cards would eventually be reprinted in a “Magic version” featuring different names and artwork. This reprinting would eventually become the basis for Universes Within, with the cards available through Set Boosters as part of The List.
Despite Secret Lair x The Walking Dead being the first Universes Beyond product, Stranger Things would ultimately become the first set of Beyond cards to receive their Within versions – included as part of The List for Streets of New Capenna.
Fast forward to present day – nearly three years since the release of Secret Lair x The Walking Dead – we’re finally privy to the Universes Within versions of The Walking Dead cards with the release of Wilds of Eldraine next month.
Wilds of Eldraine is schedule to release on September 8. View our official preview gallery.