Today I’d like to talk to you about the proxy controversy in Magic: the Gathering.
Magic, like many other trading card games, can be expensive. It’s not uncommon for a single card to cost $20, $50, $100, or more if it’s powerful in many formats. Then if you fork out the cash to get that card, you still need 59 or 99 more cards to finish your deck.
It’s easy for a single deck to cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to play with the cards you desire without spending the cash:
Bet you didn’t know I was going to say that. It’s not like it’s the title of the article or anything.
What is a Proxy Card?
A proxy is anything that stands in place of a card. For example, you can write on the backs of your cards with a sharpie. Take a basic land and scrawl “Black Lotus” on it. Or, insert a piece of paper that says that card’s name, print out an image of that card, or get your hands on a realistic card stock version as we offer at Proxy King.
Sometimes a proxy doesn’t need to be physical. It can be verbal. If I pull out my deck to play and decide, I want to see how a new card will play in the deck. I might say, ” Hey, the Baneslayer Angel in this deck will be an Avacyn, Angel of Hope for this game. I’m trying it out.
Of course, I would only do this in a casual environment where I’m familiar with the players and only if there were no other viable way to make a proxy at that moment.
I would never do this with people. I don’t know. Unfortunately, many MTG players don’t appreciate proxies.
It’s at the point where some people refuse to play against decks that use them.
Arguments Against Proxies in Magic
Here are some reasons people don’t believe proxies are suitable for the game.
Impact on LGS
Many players argue that proxies are bad for Local Games Stores because it doesn’t support those businesses.
They think if you have $10, why would you spend it on a $50 card at your LGS when you can buy a proxy of that card for a few bucks?
In their mind, if you remove the possibility to play with proxies, the LGS will receive those $10 as they were supposed to.
But say Timmy has $10 to spend on Magic, but he needs a $20 card to complete his deck. So he doesn’t go to FNM and doesn’t spend money at his LGS.
Now say Timmy learns about proxying. So he proxies that $20 card has a fun afternoon playing magic at his LGS, and decides to spend that $10 on drinks and booster packs.
Proxying doesn’t mean not supporting your LGS. Sometimes it just means supporting them in a different, more affordable way.
Slippery Slope Argument
Another argument against proxies is that some people will take it to the extreme.
In this example, the belief is that people will proxy very powerful decks, forcing other players to buy expensive cards or proxy cards to keep up.
It’s a faulty argument because:
You’re not forced to play with a player you don’t want to.
Just because your deck is cheaper doesn’t mean it’s less powerful (especially when it comes to a multi-player game like commander).
If your opponent is playing a deck clearly out of the league of other decks at the table, they should probably find a table with more similar quality decks.
If they bring a cEDH deck to your casual table, it doesn’t matter whether the deck contains proxies or not. It won’t be a fair fight.
That’s not an issue with proxies – it’s an issue with deck compatibility.
It Takes Away the Fun of Deck Building
Commander is a format of unique deck building. Therefore you shouldn’t need to proxy the best cards. Instead, a lot of the fun comes from finding replacement cards until you can acquire the cards you want.
It’s an argument I see a lot: The journey is more important than the destination.
Except proxy cards don’t prevent this. Maybe you get closer to a finished version of the deck with proxies, but every card needs to be tested to see if it works in your deck effectively.
I can proxy a card that I later decide isn’t right for the deck based on the meta, its interaction with my other cards, or a handful of different reasons.
Also, expensive cards aren’t always played in many decks and may not even be good. For example, City in a Bottle is just shy of $400. But it’s garbage.
Maybe it’s good for your meta, though. So you want to proxy it.
At the end of the day, every argument against proxies has flaws.
There may be reasons people don’t like proxies, but no good reasons why people shouldn’t be allowed to use them.
Benefits of MTG Proxy Cards
Now let’s look at the benefits of proxy.
Lowering the Barrier to Entry for New Players
The most significant advantage of proxy cards is lowering the barrier of entry for players.
Recently, I decided I was going to proxy cards on my first build of a new deck. So I purchased roughly 40 proxy cards, costing me a fraction of the price it would have to create the same deck using original real cards.
For example, proxying a complete set of Shock Lands is cheap at Proxy King.
And you get super high-quality card stock proxies.
If I had purchased real versions of those same cards from card kingdom, it would’ve cost hundreds. And I can tell you with 100% certainty that if I hadn’t proxy those cards, I wouldn’t have spent $350 at card kingdom or my LGS.
I just wouldn’t have built the deck.
And not building the deck doesn’t benefit my LGS. It just means I’m less likely to come in to play magic gathering.
Another reason to use proxies is to try out a card or two or even a whole deck. You want to see if you enjoy it before spending hundreds of dollars. It sucks to pony up for an expensive card only to find that it’s not fun or that a card doesn’t work for you.
If I spend $20 on a Cyonic Rift because I want to try it in a deck and I don’t like it there and take it out, then that’s $20 I could have put towards a card I will end up keeping in that deck.
Proxies Save Money
The third benefit to proxy is it can just save you money, period.
If you’re willing to spend however much it costs to build a deck, then spending $15 on Dual Lands instead of $350, that leaves you with $330 to spend on whatever else, other Magic cards or other hobbies (yes, there are other hobbies than Magic).
Maybe it’ll allow you to be responsible, pay your bills, or pay down your credit card while still being able to buy the magic cards you want to play with.
There’s also a group of players between complete acceptance of proxies and total rejection. These players are generally okay with proxies as long as you already own a copy of that card.
For example, if you have one Tropical Island, but two civic decks, they find it acceptable to proxy the dual land for the second deck, so you don’t have to switch it back and forth again.
And again, the idea of having to own the card helps people with multiple decks, but does nothing for people with a single deck or only a few decks of different colors or themes.
There is still a problem with this argument. Are these people saying you must own all the cards in your deck?
What if you’re borrowing a card from a friend? Is that unacceptable? If it is acceptable, can I also proxy a card my friend would be willing to lend me if it wasn’t already in his deck? And if I have to own it, can I pass my friend a dollar before every game I play and then sell it back to them afterward? Is it a question of whether I can afford the card I’m proxying? What if I didn’t have a copy of the card, but I could show a card of equivalent value to prove I could have bought it?
Is the point to only allow a single piece of cardboard to be represented in one game at a time? Then while I’m proxying the card from my other deck is that first deck unplayable? My friend, can’t start a game with that deck until my match is finished.
And why should your ability to buy a card be the determining factor anyway? Is it right that the game is ‘pay to win’? Or even, pay to enjoy?
It’s all arbitrary.
There’s no good reason why you should have to own the card to proxy it.
And it’s pretty easy to work around that rule if you wanted to.
The bottom line is most players who use proxies aren’t doing it to stiff their LGS. They’re doing it because they can’t afford the expensive cards they want and sometimes need to play a format.
Allowing proxies can grant more players access to the decks and formats. They want to play, increasing the number of people showing up at their local game store.
Restricting or stigmatizing proxies won’t make players spend money.
They don’t have real versions of that cardboard so it’ll only shut them out of the type of Magic they want to play.