Eleven, the Mage, Michonne, Ruthless Survivor, & Blanka, Ferocious Friend | Illustrations by Pauline Voss, Romana Kendelic, & David Rapoza

Eleven, the Mage, Michonne, Ruthless Survivor, & Blanka, Ferocious Friend | Illustrations by Pauline Voss, Romana Kendelic, & David Rapoza

Magic is everywhere. And I mean everywhere, even in intellectual properties (IPs) and genres you might never expect. MTG has branched out into other popular creative spheres thanks to Universes Beyond, adapting various non-Magic fantasy worlds into legitimate MTG cards.

Some players shudder at the thought of playing with non-Magic characters and locations, but thankfully Universes Within provides a solution to that. Let’s get into it!

What Is Universes Within?

Othelm, Sigardian Outcast - Illustration by Alexey Kruglov

Othelm, Sigardian Outcast | Illustration by Alexey Kruglov

Universes Within rebrands cards from the Universes Beyond products with flavor more accurate to Magic’s worldbuilding and aesthetic. It’s the overarching idea of taking a Universes Beyond card and changing the name and art to make it canon within the world of Magic instead of a reference to whatever IP it’s originally from.

Universes Beyond received criticism for forcing cards that “don’t feel like Magic cards” into the game. But a lot of these cards are mechanically unique, which means you have no other option than to play the card if you want that exact effect in your deck. Universes Within gives players a solution to this problem by making these cards feel more like regular Magic entities.

Not everyone is keen to put Eleven, the Mage from Stranger Things in their MTG deck. Instead they can play the Universes Within version Cecily, Haunted Mage. Same card, even down to the silly “friends forever” text, but it’s more in line with the typical Magic ethos.

Universes Beyond cards have a triangular holo stamp at the bottom of the card while Universes Within cards instead have a set indicator in the bottom left that shows the original version. Both versions are considered equivalent cards, which means a deck can only have the combined total allowed for the format, regardless of which version you use. For example, you can’t have a Universes Beyond card and its Universes Within counterpart in the same Commander deck.

History of Universes Within

Wizards announced Magic adaptations of Universes Beyond cards in set boosters on June 7, 2021. They maintained that this treatment would only apply to cards exclusive to Secret Lair products. While they originally had no intentions of back-tracking cards that already existed, they’ve since amended the original statement to include The Walking Dead cards.

The name “Universes Within” was coined by popular card database ScryFall and officially has been adopted by WotC. December 13, 2022 marked the first use of the term “Universes Within” in an official Wizards announcement.

List of Universes Within Products

Stranger Things

Secret Lair x Stranger Things was released in the December 2022 Secret Lair superdrop and featured nine new cards based on the popular Netflix show, Stranger Things. The Universes Beyond equivalents appeared for the first time in Streets of New Capenna set boosters, re-flavoring them as characters from Innistrad.

Seven of these new cards featured the “friends forever” mechanic, which works the same as “partner” and allows you to play two of them as simultaneous commanders. Why are the Magic versions of these cards all friends with each other? You decide!

Street Fighter

Secret Lair x Street Fighter released in the February 2022 Secret Lair superdrop and featured eight unique legendary creatures as well as a bonus Hadoken, a Universes Beyond version of Lightning Bolt. These cards were based off the popular Street Fighter video game franchise.

The Magic-flavored versions of these cards are expected to appear in Phyrexia: All Will Be One set boosters. Sadly these cards don’t share the same friendly bond that the Stranger Things adaptations do.

The Walking Dead

The controversial Secret Lair x The Walking Dead was the first Universes Beyond product released in a Secret Lair. It came out in October 2020 and contained six mechanically unique cards as well as a Treasure token and five Walker tokens, which were reskinned Zombie tokens showcasing important story moments from The Walking Dead TV show.

This batch of cards hasn’t yet received the Universes Within treatment. This has been the cause of a fair amount of controversy, especially over the playability of Rick, Steadfast Leader in eternal formats. Players are expecting the Universes Within versions of these cards in the near future.

Godzilla & Dracula

The Godzilla treatments from Ikoria and the Dracula treatments from Crimson Vow aren’t technically part of the Universes Beyond or Universes Within collection. These collections of cards predate the introduction of this branding and don’t feature the triangular holo stamp used to denote Universes Beyond cards.

Products like the Stranger Things and Street Fighter Secret Lairs were designed to have mechanically unique cards while the Godzilla/Dracula treatments are just reskinned versions of regular Magic cards released in the same set. While we’re here, raise your hand if you knew that Zilortha, Strength Incarnate was the Magic equivalent of Godzilla, King of the Monsters.

D&D Sets

Magic has released two products with tie-ins to the D&D universe. Both Adventures in the Forgotten Realms and Battle for Baldur’s Gate feature elements from the D&D IP, but Wizards also owns that property so they don’t classify D&D as Universes Beyond content.

Warhammer 40k

2021 saw the release of four Warhammer 40k Commander decks featuring art, characters, and settings from the 40k universe. These are considered Universes Beyond products, but WotC has no plans at this time to make Universes Within versions of the cards exclusive to this set. Their current plan only includes making reskinned versions of unique cards from Secret Lair products.

Are Universes Within Cards Legal?

Universes Within cards have the same format legality as their Universes Beyond counterparts, which never includes Standard but generally includes eternal formats like Legacy and Commander. None of these cards are banned in any format at the moment.

Universes Beyond vs. Universes Within

In a nutshell, Universes Beyond encompasses cards that reference IPs and content outside the world of Magic. These can be new designs like The Walking Dead cards, or already-existing Magic cards that have been reskinned with another property like Secret Lair x Fortnite.

Universes Within is the solution to making sure players have access to the mechanically unique cards printed in Secret Lairs. It looks to re-imagine those cards with flavor that matches the aesthetic and canon of Magic’s Multiverse.

Time to Look Beyond

Immard, the Stormcleaver - Illustration by Kai Carpenter

Immard, the Stormcleaver | Illustration by Kai Carpenter

Are you tired of me saying “beyond” and “within” yet? Well, get used to it, because there’s plenty more Universes Within to look forward to in Magic’s future. We’re bound to get more crossovers that warrant Universes Within adaptations of new cards as long as Secret Lairs remain a regular force in Magic.

How do you feel about this? Love it or hate it, let me know which Universes Beyond cards you’re looking forward to, or which ones you already play in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.

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