Ask the Judge! - Let's talk about Altered cards and Proxies

Magic: the Gathering

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Ask the Judge! - Let's talk about Altered cards and Proxies

In this article, I'll talk about the rulings for altered cards and proxies on sanctioned events.

By Antonio, 06/18/21, translated by Romeu

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Greetings! This week I'm going to talk about a subject that raises a lot of doubt in tournaments: altered cards and proxy cards, can they be used or not? What are the “restrictions” on use? So let's understand how this works in the rules.
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Our old acquaintance, the MTR (“Magic Tournament Rules”, for those who forgot or aren't aware), has two parts that deal specifically with this theme, and look what a coincidence! They are practically side by side, in items 3.3 and 3.4 of the document.

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This part of the MTR deals with the legality of cards in any event, as well as the conditions for a head judge to issue a “proxy” to a participant. A proxy, for those who don't know, is a card made in place of another, which for some reason cannot be used directly in the person's deck - but should still be available to demonstrate that the card is in fact part of the deck, and for in-game use (when leaving the hand or deck and going to a “public” zone: the Field, Graveyard or Exile).
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Regarding proxies, it is important to understand that players are NOT allowed to make proxies. They are made by the event's head judges, through one of three possibilities: 1. The card was accidentally damaged during the event (cards damaged by the owner's negligence or already acquired with damage should NOT be given a proxy); 2. The card has a defect (physical or print), SPECIFICALLY when it comes to a Limited format tournament (i.e. Sealed or Draft); 3. The card only exists in foil format, it is not possible to replace it with a non-foil product; In points 1 and 2, the concern is to preserve the integrity of the participants' cards (without, however, exempting people from the responsibility of taking good care of their cards) and also not harming the playability or use of a card in a deck by a "manufacturing problem”, so to speak.
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In point 3, here's a good example: the card

Kess, Dissident Mage

, before being reprinted in Modern Horizons 1, existed only in the foil version contained in the Commander 2017 preconstructed deck and as the MH1 version did not yet exist (which was only printed in 2019), and the card was being used in Legacy decks, it was necessary to open this exception to use a proxy for players who had Kess in their decks. The most recent example of that kind of proxy use was

Nexus of Fate

, which only came out in the foil buy-a-box versions, which led to head-judges creating proxies of the card as long as players had their original copies to show, so it wouldn't be spotted on the deck since they were the only foils.
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Regarding altered cards, it is undeniable that it is very fun, beautiful and different for someone to have a unique, outstanding card. It's another element of the series of things that make Magic more than just the game itself, as there's a whole experience involving art, card design, color matching, etc. The document's concern, in this case, is only to clarify that altered cards cannot contain offensive words/images, make the original art unrecognizable, or contain strategic help. Makes sense, right? After all, imagine if you could use a

Meddling Mage

and write on top of the card the best “options” for you to name!
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The document also highlights that any artistic modifications must not hide or change the name AND mana cost of the card. It's important to pay attention to this, especially when you “order” an alter from someone, if you intend to use the card in the future at an event.
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Another caution that needs to be taken is that altered cards are not “noticeable” even when inside a sleeve. Often the layers of paint applied to the card can affect its thickness, making it easy to identify where they are, even in the middle of a deck with other cards and the same sleeves.

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When in doubt, always consult a judge at the event - the MTR itself says that the final word on the use of altered cards will always be with the head judge, so don't be afraid to preventively look for the responsible person and consult them about any altered cards that you might have, and that you believe they are at risk of disrespecting what is laid down in this rule. Also remember that if the card really has a problem and can't be used, it's the owner's responsibility to find a replacement to use in the event (or, if you can't or don't want to, exchange the card for one of the five basic lands to your choice, for the rest of the tournament). Well, that's what I had to bring you today! Thank you very much, and see you next time!

PS: All altered card images in the article were taken from MtgAlters on reddit.

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Antonio

Antonio Faillace, has played magic since 1995 and has been a judge since 2009. He has an inexplicable passion for weird combos and different decks, but deep down he has a good heart <3

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