Comical In Universe MTG References Divide Player Opinion

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Since 2022, when Universes Beyond really hit its stride, it’s not uncommon to see crossover MTG cards anymore. Adorned with the triangular security stamp, these cards containing references and real-world characters are in a universe of their own. Thanks to a Universes Within set being effectively canceled by Wizards, these crossover cards are staying in that dedicated universe.

Despite Universes Beyond initially causing an immense divide, technically, it’s not the only crossover cards we’ve seen recently. While they’re by no means official, Wizards has been sneaking in a handful of comical real-world references into recent sets. Often causing little more than a chuckling exhale and an ‘I know that reference’ these cards are mostly harmless.

As this trend has continued, it seems that ‘mostly’ has become the important word in that sentence. As much as the first few were fun, more and more reference-filled cards are cropping up in premier sets. Now that three meme-worthy cards have appeared in Outlaws of Thunder Junction alone, some players have had enough.

Holy Cow It’s Holy Cow! (And Friends)

During the Debut Stream for Outlaws of Thunder Junction, Wizards of the Coast officially revealed Holy Cow. Despite being an MTG card that’ll literally have you saying “holy cow,” this Ox Angel isn’t all that good. Offering tepid stats and a middling Scry effect, Holy Cow is little more than a pun to make Limited more fun.

For better or worse, as we mentioned before, this isn’t the only meme-y card in Outlaws of Thunder Junction. Not only is there another strange Ox-themed card in Bovine Intervention, but there are also two Looney Tunes characters! They may not have the Universes Beyond stamp, but the references on Cunning Coyote and Resilient Roadrunner are unmistakable.

Cunning Coyote and Resilient Roadrunner

As far as the cards themselves go, sadly Resilient Roadrunner isn’t much to write home about. Since Coyotes aren’t an established Typal archetype, the protection from them is only useful against one card, it’s effectively useless. Sadly, Resilient Roadrunner’s activated ability isn’t much better as it doesn’t even make them fully unblockable.

Rather than being an interesting and playable MTG card, it seems Resilient Roadrunner is all about the reference. Thankfully, the same isn’t true for Cunning Coyote. Outside of this card’s new creature type and the vague connection to plotting, the reference is hardly relevant. Instead, Cunning Coyote can stand on their own as a good MTG card.

Capable of proving Haste and setting up massive swings through Plot, Cunning Coyote is genuinely good. Appearing to be especially potent in Gruul Aggro decks, this semi-crossover card could genuinely see Standard play. Should this happen, their referential nature should just be a talking point at the table, rather than the card’s entire point.

Enough Is Enough?

Sophia, Dogged Detective

For better or for worse, the referential cards above aren’t the only recent examples. To kick off 2024. Wizards released Sophia, Dogged Detective in Murders at Karlov Manor Commander. In case their art doesn’t make it obvious, Sophia is heavily inspired by Shaggy and Scooby Doo. At the time, this was just a fun reference, but now this fun may have gone too far for some.

Taking to Blogatog, Tumblr user Sapphicvalkyrja recently complained to MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, about the recent increase in levity. With references, top-down themes, and hats aplenty, recent premier MTG sets have definitely been a little sillier. Evidently, just like Un-Sets, this change in tone isn’t to everyone’s tastes.

According to Mark Rosewater, however, the slight increase in humor is what the majority of players want. In their response, Rosewater stated Wizards is simply responding to “feedback from the players that many enjoy having sets have some lighter content.” Since Wizards collected feedback is a lot more vast than one Blogatog complaint, Wizards should know what’s for the best.

Proving this point, Tumblr user Banksyguythrowingthings went on to highlight their enjoyment of both Holy Cow and Bovine Intervention. With many players sharing this opinion in the comments of recent Blogatog posts, it seems Wizards’ research isn’t off the mark. That being said, a lot of Blogatog users are die-hard Un-Set fans, so it’s no wonder the levity is appreciated.

Ultimately, the increase in comical and referential cards is bound to drive some players, like Sapphicvalkyrja, away. While these players may not quit permanently, it’s still far from ideal to have an increased ebb and flow. That said, if the majority of players enjoy these fun and referential cards and want more of them, then it’s in Wizards’ best interest to keep creating them.

The Novelty Keeps on Coming 

Loan Shark

For better or worse, the novelty and referential cards we’ve seen so far are just the tip of the iceberg. Not only does Outlaws of Thunder Junction also include Shoot the Sherrif and Loan Shark, but future sets have high novelty potential. Looking ahead at the 2024 and 2025 release calendars, the majority of sets are top-down designed, with high meme potential.

Between Bloomburrow, Duskmourn: House of Horror, Death Race, and 2025’s space-themed set, MTG continues to go all over. In these sets, despite the varied themes, we’d be very surprised if we didn’t see even more comical cards cropping up. Technically, whether or not that will happen remains to be seen, but it certainly seems likely going forward.

Ultimately, we can only hope that Wizards won’t go too deep down the references rabbit hole. As much as a few novelty cards may be fun problems could arise if too many appear in sets. With tone potentially being lost, we may only realize we’ve gone too far when it’s too late. Considering MTG’s development schedule, this could cause a lot more problems than playing things safe.

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