Last updated on February 28, 2023
Illustration from Ubisoft
Like it or not, Universes Beyond is a category of Magic product that’s stuck. I lean towards accepting them because I grew up with Lego more than card games. I had loads of fun making characters from different franchises face off against each other. Could never really figure out what wins between Jedi powers and a Green Lantern ring, though.
One of the upcoming Universes Beyond releases features a crossover between the world of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed and Magic. But why would MTG want to mess with Assassin’s Creed, a game set in a reality that’s a lot closer to our own? Surely you don’t expect to see Leonardo da Vinci as an artificer, right? What mechanics would pop up, and what could Assassin’s Creed cards look like?
Let’s dive in and find out!
Assassin’s Creed and Magic: The Gathering Basic Information
Assassin’s Strike | Illustration by Chase Stone
Assassin’s Creed will release in 2024 or later, as revealed by an announcement from WotC president Cynthia Williams during Hasbro’s Investor Day presentation. Nothing else was revealed at that time, so all we have is speculation.
Assassin’s Creed is a video game franchise developed by Ubisoft that spans multiple main games, a bunch of spin-off releases… and mobile games. There’s merch of all kinds, extended media (books and a board game), and even a motion picture! The less said about that flick, though, the better.
The story of Assassin’s Creed focuses on the centuries-long conflict between the Assassin Brotherhood and the Knights’ Templar. It’s a struggle between free will and control, a theme that should resonate with Magic players.
The first games follow Desmond Miles, a descendent of assassins living in current times who relives genetic memories through a machine called the Animus. His journey through his ancestors’ memories allows him to locate Pieces of Eden, ancient technologies that are considered magic (mostly because the knowledge of their inner workings is lost to time).
The primary gameplay takes places in memories within the Animus, where Desmond explores worlds that approximate our own history and geography. As the player you can visit all kinds of landmarks and meet historical figures. Meanwhile, the conflict between the Templars and Assassins continues in the modern day, outside the Animus.
2022 marked the 15th anniversary of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and the 30th for Magic. It’s safe to assume that the crossover’s cards will only be legal in eternal formats as a Universes Beyond product.
It’s more likely that Assassin’s Creed drops as a Commander or Secret Lair product. Universes Beyond releases have tended toward Secret Lairs, but Magic may want to move into fuller products now that the product line is a proven concept. I expect them to reserve full sets for franchises that have more universal appeal like Lord of the Rings, but there may be enough Assassin’s Creed gameplay to translate into cards and make Commander decks. Assassins vs. Templars, anyone?
Another option is to have Commander decks headed by the different player characters, especially if WotC is looking to cover as much of the franchise as possible. Doing this lets them cover settings like Industrial Revolution-era London, Renaissance Italy, and Ancient Greece under the same Assassin’s Creed banner while keeping the individual products cohesive.
There remain questions about of just how deep into the game series Magic will go and what the balance between historical and modern setting cards will be. I’m assuming that the product will pull from the first few games like Assassin’s Creed, and the games included in the Ezio Collection. This allows for a more focused product and the ability to come back for more later.
Start with deathtouch. No, seriously.
If an Assassin’s Creed MTG product features no creatures with deathtouch, that’s a design failure. This is a world of assassins; it’s a lay-up! If not that, first strike is also a winner considering that striking first in a combat encounter is emphasized in some of the games.
Flash feels flavorful, while vigilance also has viability. Would any assassins deal damage in the form of -1/-1 or poison counters?
Time for assassin tribal! There’s got to be some lord abilities, cost reduction… maybe a mentor figure who tutors for assassins? There’s plenty of design space here depending on the characters you want to include and how creative you want to get. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag allows for a return to pirates… see why I’m trying to limit speculation to just a few games?
Ninjutsu seems like a mechanic that would fit an AC product on the surface, but here’s the issue: it’s limited to ninjas, and they don’t really appear in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. They showed up in an iOS game about a decade ago and a paperback that has yet to be released, and are only mentioned in Black Flag and referenced in Valhalla DLC.
There are far more important factions in the lore, so I don’t expect ninjutsu to be a factor. Something similar but renamed makes more sense.
Pieces of Eden in Assassin’s Creed have all kinds of power that can be used to control people, so there’s room for experimentation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see abilities that let you take control of an opponent’s human creatures. Shrouds of Eden could have damage prevention, regeneration, or reanimation abilities as healing objects.
The memories that Desmond relives lose synchronization when you do things that didn’t happen to his ancestor. Think a “game over” screen when you die or fail an assassination, or how the game warns you when you reach the edge of the map. This could be incorporated as an instant, or as an ability to let you reanimate the player character assassins.
Part of the AC gameplay revolves around reconnaissance missions, which sounds like an opportunity for scrying or looking at your opponent’s hand. The franchise is also known for its viewpoints that allow you to expose more of the map, which sounds like a card that lets you look at and rearrange cards from the top of your library. Gather information and plan your next move vibes.
Some of your actions in Assassin’s Creed cause the local guards to become “alert.” Redditor arlondiluthel suggested the idea of an “alert” counter that would protect an opponent’s creatures after your assassins kill them (u/gamasco added that it would expire upon upkeep). OP’s suggestion seems to point to an activated ability that lets you destroy an opponent’s creature before you even start combat on your turn.
Here’s my version of an activated ability based on their proposal:
Mana cost: Destroy target creature. Its controller puts an alert counter on all creatures they control. (Creatures with an alert counter have “Prevent all damage dealt to this creature by assassins. Remove 1 alert counter on controller’s upkeep.”)
I originally had the creature tap, and that could still be a part of the design. You could also reformulate this as an ETB ability. I specify removing one alert counter so that players with proliferate can punish their Assassin’s Creed-loving aggressor. It’s called balance. And by balance I also mean that you have to give an AC deck some way to wipe all alert counters away. Throw some coins on the ground or something.
Cards and Characters
Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad and Ezio Auditore da Firenze are near guarantees to appear. If the product goes beyond the scope I’m assuming, any of the player characters could be included with color identities, abilities, and stats that fit them and their setting. I saw more than one Redditor call for Kassandra from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, so shout out to you guys.
It seems almost natural for most of the player characters to have black as part of their color identity, and I’m feeling white and/or blue for the dual or tri-colored characters. I wonder if Templars are more likely to have blue in their color identity given the themes of control they represent.
Maybe a Golgari () pairing is appropriate for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla if they get that far.
Leonardo da Vinci appears in Assassin’s Creed II and translates Codex pages to create new weapons for Ezio. I’m less than optimistic on whether Magic will make cards of historical figures, even if it’s an adaptation of a video game characterization.
As a Magic card da Vinci would probably be an artificer, and I’d want something that uses Codex pages as tokens. Maybe da Vinci generates Codex tokens equal to how many assassins you have on the field on upkeep, and you can sac them to da Vinci to get +1/+1 counters.
Know what would be funny, though? Giving da Vinci flying somehow.
Other characters like Al Mualim, Rodrigo Borgia, and Machiavelli could make an appearance, but it really depends on WotC’s appetite to include historical figures. They’ve been hesitant so far, but it would be a shame if that trend continues.
The Animus itself just screams artifact, as do Pieces of Eden, including Shrouds. Desmond Miles could easily be considered a “planeswalker” considering how he travels through different “planes” of genetic memory. Which abilities would Desmond have? Not a clue.
Aside from him, I’m not sure if any of the modern-day characters will feature. Wizards could also leave Desmond and the Animus out entirely.
There could be an equipment card that’s a gun with flash, like Ezio’s hidden pistol. Hidden blades are a must-have, and other weapons also make good equipment. Distraction techniques can serve as instants. You could also design a card based on hiding in crowds of people. Call it “Crowd Cover” or “Thick Crowd” or something.
The most obvious card to reprint would be Murder, but you could probably fill a whole other article with others. Does Leap of Faith work enough as-is to fit into an AC deck, or would you have to make an “Assassin’s Leap of Faith” that’s more in-line with the game mechanics?
Thrill-Kill Assassin | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson
Assassin’s Creed has been going strong for over a decade and a half, and you can bet that Ubisoft will continue to cash in on this brand. Magic brings us to new planes, while Assassin’s Creed brings us to new time periods. It remains to be seen how their partnership will play out, but it’s sure fun to speculate. Whatever we get it’ll probably be killer!
Are you excited for a Magic/Assassin’s Creed crossover? Which characters and game elements do you hope to see in card form? How would you turn Eagle Vision into a card or mechanic? Let me know in the comments below or over on the official Draftsim Discord.
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