What are MTG proxies and are they legal to use?

Playing by YOUR Rules: How MTG Proxies Fit into Your Playgroup’s Dynamic

In the vast landscape of MTG playgroups, one topic often stirs passionate debates and sparks intriguing discussions: the use of proxies. Whether you’re a seasoned player or just beginning your journey into MTG, understanding your playgroup’s opinions on proxies and establishing clear rules in super important. Join us as we delve into the nuances of proxies in Magic the Gathering, shedding light on the diverse rules and opinions within different playgroups.

In this guide, we aim to unravel the intricacies surrounding proxies in Magic the Gathering. From defining what proxies are and how they’re used to navigating the varied perspectives and rules governing their acceptance. We’ll equip you with insights to form your own educated opinion on what works best for you and your playgroup! Whether you’re seeking cot answer the question “What are proxies?” or simply intrigued by the concept of customizing your play experience, this is your go-to-guide for all things proxies!  

What is a proxy? 

Proxies in Magic the Gathering serve as substitutes for official cards, allowing players to replicate the effects of specific cards without owning them. These proxy cards typically feature custom designs or altered versions of existing cards, enabling players to experiment with different strategies or playtest new deck ideas before investing in new cards/decks. While proxies are not officially recognized in sanctioned tournaments or events, they play a significant role in casual playgroups and homebrew formats, fostering creativity and flexibility in gameplay.

The history of proxies in Magic the Gathering dates back to the early days of the game, where players would often use makeshift cards (often as simple as sharpie on basic lands or index cards) to represent expensive or rare cards they didn’t own. Over time, this practice evolved as players wanted to more fully customize the look and feel of their favorite decks. The rise is “customization” can be attributed to the increased popularity of the commander format (a mostly casual format) as well as the increase of “official” alternate art/secret lair versions of cards. 

While the official stance of Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Magic the Gathering, prohibits the use of proxies in official tournaments to maintain the integrity of competitive play, the acceptance of proxies varies widely among casual playgroups and kitchen table formats. As a result, proxies have become an integral (and highly debated) part of the Magic community, allowing players to explore the game’s vast possibilities and customize their gaming experiences to suit their preferences.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common “rules” that playgroups use to regulate the use of proxies. That said, make sure you and your playgroup create your own customized rues so you can have the best overall play experience for everyone at the table. 

Common Rules for Proxies: 

Anything goes: This is obviously the most lenient (an probably the most common) outlook on proxies. Many players simply want to play against their opponents skill/creativity and not simply their wallet. As we mentioned above, there can be LOTS of reasons for someone to have proxies in their deck (playtesting, customization, cEDH etc), however, this type of playgroup doesn’t mind and is often openly supportive of cool/new alt-art proxies their opponents play! 

Only if you Own the Card: Another common reason that someone would want to proxy is that they have an expensive card & don’t want to risk it getting damaged by playing it. This way, you can keep your high-value cards safe in a binder while still being able to play with some of Magic’s most powerful cards. Many plyers also have more than a few commander decks and needing a copy of expensive commander staples for EVERY deck can get expensive very quickly. Some playgroups will allow as many proxy copies of any single card that a player owns. 

    Dollar amount limits: One of the major critiques of MTG proxies is that it leads to overpowered decks and imbalanced play. If your playgroup is worried about one or two players overpowering the table with dozens of extremely high-powered cards, a great rule is to put a limit on the total price of proxies cards that can be added to decks. 

    Limits on Number of Proxies Per Deck: Another way to help make sure your game’s don’t become unbalanced due to “proxy power creep” is by simply limiting the number of proxies each player can have in their deck. For example, your playgroup could decide that each player’s deck can contain no more than 8 proxies. 

    Just Lands: If you’ve played magic for any amount of time, you probably found out pretty quickly that upgrading your deck’s mana base is usually the most expensive part of your deck to optimize. That said, having a functional mana base is essential to having a fun experience playing Magic. A playgroup could allow player’s to upgrade their mana bases with shock lands, dual lands, fetch lands, etc. to help the rest of their decks run more consistently. 

      No Proxies: There are also players and playgroups, that for various reasons, are totally against using and/or playing against proxies. This opinion is equally valid to the ones above. Please do your best to respect these players and their opinions and try to come a a “rule zero” agreement to where both players  are happy. Or simply find a playgroup that best fits your personal gameplay opinions (not just about proxies). 

        Respect Others and your LGS: 

         One final word. The future of this game that we all loves relies on the success of local game stores. Please respect your local shop’s in-house rules on proxies/gameplay in their store. Also do everything you can to support their business through accessories, snacks, singles, sealed product, etc. 

        Proxies can be a great way to help grow the Magic the Gathering community overall by making the game more fun/accessible for everyone. That said, our LGSs still needs all the support you are able to give to grow local communities and player bases. Please support your LGS and be respectful to EVERYONE’S opinions.

        Most importantly, have fun playing this game!


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