Last updated on May 14, 2024

Mana Reflection - Illustration by Chris Seaman

Mana Reflection | Illustration by Chris Seaman

A proxy in Magic is a placeholder that represents an existing card but isn’t actually a legal Magic: The Gathering game piece. This can be anything from a professional mock-up of the original from places like mtgproxy or printingproxies, to a slip of paper with the relevant details written out. In other words, it’s something that saves players the hassle of having to purchase expensive or elusive Magic cards.

The important thing here is that proxies aren’t real Magic cards and aren’t suitable for tournament play. Why proxy, if you can’t actually use them? Well, there are some places where it’s perfectly fine to run proxies, but you just need to be aware of when it’s appropriate.

Let’s explore those formats, shall we?

What Are Formats That Allow Proxies?

Shifty Doppelganger - Illustration by Greg Staples

Shifty Doppelganger | Illustration by Greg Staples.

Formats that allow proxies are usually either casual, non-tournament style formats, or involve events set up by a local game store/LGS. Any event involving a registration or sign-up process that allows for proxies should make that abundantly clear.

For example, you might see an event on your LGS’s calendar marked “Proxy Legacy” or “Pauper – Proxies allowed!” Something along those lines. If you intend to join an event and you don’t see mention of proxies, it’s safe to assume that proxies are not allowed in that event. You should always check with an event organizer if you’re unsure.

The common throughline is that casual, non-sanctioned events often allow proxies, while sanctioned tournaments never allow proxies. As a small aside, while I’m generally a proxy advocate, my goal here isn’t to tell you whether proxies are “good or bad for Magic,” just to inform you of the most acceptable places to play them.


Cube is the best format in Magic (objectively), partly because it’s completely proxy-friendly. Cube is almost never played as a sanctioned event, so it’s entirely up to the discretion of the Cube creator(s) to determine whether they want to use proxies.

In fact, proxying is almost ideal for some cubes. Many Cube designers enjoy “powered cubes,” which include Power 9 cards like Black Lotus and Time Walk. Those cards aren’t within any reasonable budget range, but it turns out a proxied Time Walk does the same thing as an actual Time Walk.

Word of warning: If you do use proxies in your own Cube, they still need to be indistinguishable from other cards. You can get professional proxies printed to mimic a normal Magic card, or you can print out the proxies you intend to use and just slip them on top of an existing bulk card. Either way, you’ll need sleeves, and players shouldn’t be able to tell a card is a proxy if they see it face-down.

Casual Commander

Commander’s the most common format where you’ll encounter proxies. Commander can be a sanctioned event, in which case proxies wouldn’t be allowed. However, if you just show up at an LGS and sit down in the casual pods, odds are proxies are perfectly fine. Casual Commander should be fun and accessible to everyone, and proxies facilitate that.

However, you should be forthcoming and let your opponents know that you’re playing with proxies as part of a Rule 0 conversation. Some players dislike proxies strongly enough that they might refuse to play with you once you tell them you’re running a few. If that’s the case, you should come prepared with non-proxy swaps for those cards, or you can simply find another group to play with who doesn’t feel the need to gatekeep the game so hard.

Final note on Commander: Many players are open to proxies but find it distasteful to proxy hyper-powerful cards. You’ll see this a lot with things like Gaea's Cradle and Wheel of Fortune. Use your best judgment, but just know that it’s okay not to play with the best possible cards. Of course, this all goes out the window when you’re playing cEDH, where everyone should be playing with top-tier cards. Plenty of cEDH matches are proxy-friendly, too.

Store-Specific Constructed Formats

Most Constructed formats are sanctioned, which means no proxies in Standard, Modern, Legacy, Pauper, etc. However, some stores offer proxy-friendly versions of these events, so check with your LGS to see if they schedule any. I see this most often with Vintage/Legacy, which are so financially restrictive in paper that they’re just completely inaccessible to many players without proxies.

If you attend a proxy-friendly Constructed tournament, try not to be too fancy with alternate arts and mock-ups; make sure the cards are recognizable to your opponents.

Limited Events

This is a bit of a tangent, but I wanted to bring this up for anyone who’s specifically looking for this information. Limited formats like Draft and Sealed use sealed product to build decks, but printing errors (curling foils, bent cards) might result in some cards being physically unplayable in a deck, usually because they’re easy to distinguish from the other cards.

In this case, it’s possible to proxy a card in your pool with a placeholder of some sort, but only a judge may issue this proxy. This often involves using a basic land that doesn’t match any in your deck, writing the intended name of the card on that land, then allowing the player to sub in the damaged, physical copy once it’s in play. Again, do not attempt to proxy a card yourself; if you have a bent/curled/damaged card you want to play in Limited, bring it to a judge and let them issue the proxy.

Shadows Over Innistrad Double-Faced Checklist helper

There are also some Magic sets that use helper cards for double-faced cards. These are technically a proxy of sorts, but they’re perfectly legal to use without express permission first, since they’re an actual Wizards-created game object.

Why Aren’t Some Formats Proxy-Friendly?

There are several viable reasons proxies aren’t allowed in some formats. These are pretty obvious for sanctioned tournament events. Whether it’s a local FNM or a full MagicCon tournament, these events often involve some sort of Wizards-supported prize system, whether that’s promo packs or cash payout. If WotC is providing any sort of prize support, you can see how they’d want players to invest in their product instead of proxying it. They’re a business, and they want you to buy their cards.

They also want to showcase their cards when it comes to viewership. Any tournament event with coverage needs to use the recognizable versions of cards so viewers and commentators can track the game accurately. You might argue that some of the Secret Lair art and Booster Fun treatments already make this hard, but that’s a different argument altogether.

There’s also something to be said about proxies at the LGS level. If players are simply printing their decks out at home, that likely means they’re not investing in the LGS itself, and I could see some businesses banning proxies as a means to encourage buying packs/singles from the store.

Proxying in Limited should be a no-brainer. To preserve the integrity of a Draft or Sealed event, players need to play with the cards that were opened at the table, so there should be no reason to come with proxied cards in the first place. Doing so is probably an indication of intentions to cheat.

Wrap Up

Cursed Mirror - Illustration by David Gaillet

Cursed Mirror | Illustration by David Gaillet

That’s the scoop on formats that allow proxies. Basically, you’re free to proxy for anything that isn’t a sanctioned tournament or a Limited event, so long as everyone involved is okay with it. If it’s casual, proxies are usually fine. Just don’t be that person who proxies The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale in all their Commander decks.

Proxies are a great way to combat the increasing prices of Magic cards, though it’s a pretty contentious topic depending on who you ask. I’m pro-proxy, but don’t proxy myself, and I see logic in both sides of the argument. If you have a strong opinion about proxies one way or another, or if you’re aware of any other proxy-friendly formats that we left off, let us know [calmly] in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.

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