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Proxy War: Who Really Wins & Loses When Proxying Cards?

Proxy War: Who Really Wins & Loses When Proxying Cards?

When it comes to the headline issues for Magic players, it seems as though everyone has an opinion on proxy cards. Is it okay to play with proxy cards? Who does it affect? Is it morally justifiable? Those are just a few of the questions you might have asked yourself, and regardless of your conclusion, the issue is probably more complex than you’d think. Most people fall into two mains camps, and I’ve found, at least in my experience, that those on either side are both quite vocal, but also quite bias and set in their ways.
Today, I’d like to look at the issue objectively, and explore the issue of Proxy cards in depth. But first, what are Proxies?
Proxy Cards
Proxies are essentially stand-ins for other cards. The dictionary defines Proxy as:
the authority to represent someone else, especially in voting
a figure that can be used to represent the value of something in a calculation
In Magic terms, this is essentially using one card to represent another. The most common way this is achieved is by inserting a piece of paper over a reversed Magic card, with basic and often crudely rendered information indicating what the card is. This could be as sparse as solely the card name, but as detailed as to include the rules text and a fun doodle. Others will opt to write in marker on the back of a bulk card in order to circumvent the need for paper at all, while others still will spend hours on graphic design to represent the card in the most accurate or aesthetically pleasing way possible.
A series of proxies. The Syr Gwyn proxy is made by a not-for-profit community member, ALK Alters, who does giveaways regularly
The most important distinction to make here is that proxy cards, no matter how realistic, are not legal in tournament magic. This means that in any official tournament, whether a Mythic Championship or just FNM at you local store, the cards are illegal to play with. So, why use Proxies?
Why Proxy?
The most common way to use a Proxy card is for playtesting. Whether this is for a 60-card constructed format like Modern, Pioneer, or Standard, or for testing out the Limited environment in a way that is cost efficient to competitive players; playtesting forms the biggest population of proxy users when it comes to Magic: the Gathering. The attraction of proxies becomes clear when looked at from this angle—Magic cards can be expensive, and so it helps to be sure that it’s worth parting with your hard earned cash before picking up a playset for your deck.
For formats like Limited, many of the top teams will want to practice as soon as they physically can in order to gain a competitive edge over other competitors. The moment spoiler season finishes, printers will fire up and print proxied versions of the spoiled cards, to immediately be drafted and playtested before the product is available to buy. In many ways, proxying cards this way seems like a necessity—it’s essential to be well versed in a format, and experienced with new cards, as soon as possible. What’s more, if the pros are doing it it must be fair, right?
But what about formats like Commander? Why should you proxy there?
Proxying in Commander
Proxying for formats like Commander is what has given rise to the debate about proxies, more than any other format. At its core, Commander is a casual format—as many like to say, “it’s not about the winning, it’s about doing cool stuff. ” Yet, people still proxy cards in Commander.
For some, they like to practice with newly spoiled cards to test out interactions with cards they own. In a lot of ways, this is no different to a pro team practicing with new cards—it’s harmless, generally speaking, and comes from a place of seeking to understand and learn, more than anything else.
A pretty intuitive way to use Proxies is to denote cards you own in your collection, but that are required in multiple singleton decks. As you don’t technically need six copies of Solemn Simulacrum, you can save time resleeving between decks by having a proxied card in each of your EDH decks, and a “side deck” with the real cards in. Most players shouldn’t have an issue with you shortcutting like this, and it can save you a lot of time, and importantly, money.
Others still like to use Proxy cards in a similar vein to altered cards, using the opportunity to enact their own personal artistic direction to achieve their own personal aesthetic. Proxies in this way often replace cards that can’t be foiled, for example—adding a foil proxy to a deck that has otherwise been foiled out as a passion project.
The aesthetic decision to proxy might also come into play when trying to achieve a certain theme or style for a deck. Having the artwork of a card reflect the Commander, or a tribe in the deck, can go a long way to making a deck feel complete. Card alterists—artists that paint in thin layers over an official Magic card to alter the appearance—have been doing this for practically as long as Magic has been around, in a similar manner. An altered Magic card is still legal if the original text denoting the name of the card is unobscured, and the paint isn’t too thick to alter the thickness in shuffling—though this is ultimately to a judge’s discretion, and they can refuse altered cards entirely.
Proxying in Commander isn’t limited to aesthetics and playtesting the odd new card, however. There are many players that want to proxy cards that they simply can’t afford. The common argument is that when cards are costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars, the fault is with Wizards and the reserve list, or the over inflation of card prices on the secondary market. Because of this, they argue, they should be free to simply proxy these expensive cards, and enjoy the play experience that many others who were either luckier or better off are able to.
I don’t necessarily disagree that Magic cards being expensive is a problem, and I also lament the fact that I can’t afford to add certain cards to my collection because of this. Some players have decided to use the gold-bordered World Championship series cards as a way to solve this. What started out as a cheap way to get access to cards like Enlightened Tutor and Gaea’s Cradle has now ended up with these ‘proxy’ cards fetching nearly $100 for the pricier options – and that’s a lot of money to invest if the table you sit down at doesn’t condone this solution. The issue doesn’t really end there, though, and much to the chagrin of many players who feel like it does, I want to explore it a little deeper.
The Casual vs Competitive Problem
When considering high-end Commander, whether competitive in nature, or in name (like cEDH), I think this argument is most watertight. When playing competitively, it is beneficial to players to have access to the same cards, and when looking at competitive Commander, it’s more akin to Vintage than it is to Modern. The staples of both cEDH and Canlander can be very expensive, with the latter even having Black Lotus available for play. Proxies are a potential solution to this, to allow more people to play cEDH and Canlander, and I can definitely get behind this.
On the other hand, I don’t think argument is as relevant when you consider that Commander, at it’s heart, is a casual and social format. At any other level of play, there isn’t a need to play with rare and expensive cards—indeed, the format began as a way to play the cheaper and jankier cards that don’t see play anywhere else. Power creep has unfortunately started to push that idea out of vogue, with the speed and consistency of most decks increasing rapidly over the past year or two, thanks to insanely pushed cards. When power creep pushes more casual players to react, sometimes that reaction will lead to considering older and more powerful cards that they don’t own.
At risk of going way off topic, a great way to frame this is in relation to fast mana. I won’t get into the pros and cons of it here (or what my ultimate thoughts are); but I feel like for some color combinations to compete with the raw value in Green, it’s becoming more and more acceptable for them to be playing cards like Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, and Grim Monolith. Whether you think these cards should be banned or not, the point is that they are expensive, and for many decks, looking backwards provides as many (if not more) solutions than looking forward would.
The Ethics of Proxying
There’s more to consider when thinking about proxies, though. What impact does using a proxy have on you, your playgroup, or your Local Game Store?
First off, consider that by starting to proxy, you’re essentially making the first move in an “arms race. ” Now, it’s not that arms races don’t exist outside of proxying; but more that, beyond playtesting the odd card here and there, when you really start to proxy more frequently, you’re inviting the other players in your group to join you. Even if they might be reluctant, there’s little to say they shouldn’t join you if they want to keep up. If you’re proxying a better mana base, then why shouldn’t they? The arms race can in this instance run to its logical conclusion—before you know it, you could be proxying most of a deck. There’s no financial barrier to stop this from happening, and it’s a lot harder to try and manage.
I’ve talked to players who do this—players who turn up at a shop expecting to play these cobbled together piles of competitive scrawlings because, “it’s all they have to play with their other playgroup. ” Whether the shop would allow this or not aside, it’s not conducive to playing outside your own playgroup, and it isn’t in the spirit of Commander. Not many playgroups would allow this. That’s a great segue to talk about Local Game Stores, though, so let’s move on.
We all know that the LGS is struggling. With each new product Wizards sells direct, and each discount on buying online, the incentive to purchase from an LGS dissipates. It’s not the only front they have to fight on, though, with increasing tax and rent prices depending on where in the world you are. All in all, it’s a miracle some are still open, and too many of us have had to watch our favorite places to play shut down.
Knowing all of this, I think it can be pretty ignorant to then take proxy cards into a shop that relies on selling singles for a living. Even if it’s “only one card, ” or you don’t do it all of the time, or it’s not a sanctioned event, or whatever reason you’d offer up as an excuse. Ultimately, it can propagate the idea that proxies are okay, and when that idea spreads through playgroups; and gradually the store, it can lead to a downturn in singles sales from the shop. I’m not going to sit here and deny that most people buy pricier singles online, because they do. What I’m talking about, more generally, is the cheaper cards. The cards costing less than $5. These are the impulse purchases that keep an LGS alive, and these are the cards that proxies hurt the most.
Many stores don’t allow proxies for this reason, and I respect that. Moreover, when you consider that for any event to fire and be logged by stores it has to be a legal event, it begs the questions of why Commander should be exempt from the same rules that govern every other sanctioned format.
As an aside, proxies from a gameplay perspective can also be pretty jarring. It’s a fun challenge to get someone to recall the modes on a Player Reward’s Cryptic Command, but when facing down multiple minimal-effort proxies across a table, it can become frustrating quickly if those proxies aren’t providing an accurate level of detail to represent the card they are meant to be representing. Misplays can happen, and when it’s due to game-pieces being sub optimal, it’s no fun.
What’s the Answer?
To really find an answer to the issue, it’s necessary to think about what’s important to you and your playgroup. At home, on the kitchen table, anything goes. Out there in the wild, though, I think it’s important to consider the wider consequences of how you represent the hobby to other players. Proxying is a way to make magic more accessible to everyone, and that’s a great goal; I think, though, that this can be achieved in a way with less feel bad, and less impact on the stores that might miss out on single sales.
It’s pretty simple—even if we’d love to play with Gaea’s Cradle, we should be happy to play at a lower power level and forgo the proxy depending on the context. Ultimately, those around us should respect that decision, and playgroups should be happy to make Commander the most inclusive that it could be by adapting to others and ensuring nobody feels left behind. It’s easy to take a position that you’ve worked hard to earn those high-end cards, and that everyone else should have to, too. It doesn’t end there, though, and if you want to take that position, it’s probably better to meet other players half-way and build a more casual deck, too. We’re all happy to donate cards to newer players to catch them up a little, but de-powering some of your decks is also a great option.
There’s always going to be a card out of reach, and really, Magic is a privilege that we should enjoy responsibly. As much as I can sit and advocate for proxying being bad for the ecosystem, I can’t not acknowledge that the pieces of cardboard in many deckboxes are worth more than their weight in gold. At the end of the day, however you feel about proxies, we could always do with more reprints. Some archetypes even hinge on these types of cards being available at a reasonable price—I’ve attempted to build lands-matters decks like The Gitrog Monster countless times, and each time I’ve felt underwhelmed precisely due to my lack of fetchlands. Wizards seem happy enough to print these Commanders, like Lord Windgrace, but not reprint the cards that are most needed to support them.
It’s an awkward place to be, and I hope things change soon. Mystery Booster and Commander Legends are both looking to shake up the Commander scene with reprints this year, but I just hope it’s enough.
What do you think? Do you allow gold-bordered cards at your table? What about full proxies of cards that people don’t own? Let me know on Twitter what you think to continue the discussion.
Based in the UK, Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up.
Is Making Proxies Illegal - Magic General - MTG Salvation

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Is Making Proxies Illegal
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Sep 20, 2011
I’ve heard from a couple of people that making proxies of cards that are copyrighted is illegal in America, is this true?
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Immortal One
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The copyright laws are specific as to prevent you from just printing copies at your local Kinko’s to play with. Proxies (aside from tournaments where they are legal) are not legal in any tournament environment. Thus if you wanted to print a “proxy” of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. it’d be “illegal” but not for kitchen table magic (and if you’re using JTMS in your kitchen table, you’re messed up anyways:P)
Well, you can’t use proxies anywhere except casually anyway, so I don’t think anyone’s really going to call you out…
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In theory: yes it’s illegal. Making copies of copyright protected material is illegal. (There are a few exceptions though like making copies of something you already own for personal use. You could ‘abuse’ this to make a playset while only owning 1 copy)
In reality: nobody really cares. I highly doubt anyone will call you out on a proxy unless you are actively selling loads of them.
Ascended Mage
Making a proxies isn’t illegal. I can wallpaper my house at home with Fake $ if I want. As soon as I try and pass it off as real is where it becomes illegal.
Go ahead and make your FOIL Black Lotus for your home game!
Also, I have heard of a few shops doing Vintage events with x # of proxies allowed per deck.
adam w
Resident Planeswalker
Massachusetts, USA
4, 286
“Illegal” in the sense that you can’t use them in sanctioned tournaments, or “illegal” in the sense that you would go to jail?
It’s not “tournament legal” to use proxies. Some Vintage touraments allow proxies due to card availability issues, but those tournaments are not sanctioned by the DCI, so it’s fine.
It’s not illegal to make proxies; however, it is illegal to sell them, since the cards are protected under copyright law.
I have heard vague rumors of a moustache-dispensing vending machine in a distant laundromat, across the street from a tattoo parlor. However, this information is shaky, and time is of the essence.
Yes making proxies by photocopy is illegal is you write down black lotus on an island like LMTRK brought up its not really illegal.
3, 045
I am not sure about US Laws but for most Commonwealth countries, that is illegal. The Forgery and Counterfeiting act covers counterfeiting currencies with or without intention of passing it off as genuine or even by merely possessing it.
On topic, it is nigh unenforceable but it remains as one of those stuff which you should probably not do in front of any Wizards’ legal staff.
Actually (and this is only American money but) if you print money that is not at least half sized or double sized it is illegal. Haven’t you ever wondered why play money always looks so fake and is never anywhere near “real”size?
As some have said, printing any of the magic symbols, logos, or any magic artwork does violate the copyright but it really only becomes an issue if you attempt to profit from it. If you want to print from home to use for personal use, go ahead. No place like Kinkos should print any of the cards as that would make them legally responsible for whatever those prints get used for after and could be sued as a co-defendant.
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My belief is that it becomes illegal as soon as you try and pass it off as real.
i make proxies and use them, but i try and get the cards i proxied, i dont like using proxies forever. i also use them with high money cards and i keep the cards nearby in a screw case.
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Claim its real or make profit off it = illegal
Writing a few words down on card or printing a copy out to use for lol’s = Legal
LOL… — –.. — /.. / –. — – /. – /. –. -. -… /.. —. / -. -.. -…. /…. -….. — -. –.. — / -….. – – /.. / -.. — / -. — – / -….. -…….. – /….. — / -…. — —.. / – — /. –… – – / — -. — / -.. — -… /. – -. / -… -……….. – — /. – / -. – -….. – – —. / —. / – — /.. / —.. – – /. –….. — —. /… —-. — / -. —… – –.. — -…… — — -…. – -………. — –.. —-…. – / –.. — /. / -….. – – / -. / -…. — -.. – -… —.. – / -.. / -……… – /… —-.. – -.. -…… -………. –
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I think it’s only illegal if you try to sell them as the real thing. Then it becomes less about copyright infringment as it does fraud. I doubt the proxy police are going to knock down your door if you’re doing it for your own use though.
i was thinking about to create my own set of basic lands to play in tournaments, i think is maybe illegal but, what about if use a normal forest card and print a different art on it, i think that’s legal its like altering the art by painting to me.
Several issues but lets see if I can hit them all.
1. you are using custom printed cards that may not be the same thickness even in sleeves and may then be considered “marked” by tournament standards.
2. The artwork isn’t the only thing that’s copyrighted, the mana symbols and card frame are also copyrighted and owned by Wizards of the Coast.
you try to sell these new basic lands then you are still violating Wizards trademarks, if not then you still have the problem pointed out in 1.
5, 831
Technically, I believe it’s “illegal” if you don;t own the card. Not that anything will ever come of it.
If you own the card you can photocopy as many copies as you want for personal use legally. Any card I own worth anything substantial is in a binder safe at home and I xerox off about 30 copies of it to use in decks. Someone could walk away with every deck I own (16) and they’d have maybe $20 worth of cards. I thnk my keep at home binder is approaching the $5000 mark
So, this is what I took from all the replies, let me know if I’m correct or not:
It’s legal in US law to create a proxy of a card you already have, if you don’t sell them.
I think the main point there is the not selling them part. If you Xerox a card and put it in front of another card to use it as a proxy, even if you don’t own the card, you’re not going to get in trouble. If you show up to a sanctioned tournament doing this, that is against the rules and you will be penalized. I’m fairly certain America’s police force has enough to deal with before they start worrying about people proxying Magic cards.
***Note: I am not a lawyer. Please do not use this as real legal advice.
Technically reproducing a card in proxy form (IE printing it, or otherwise creating) is copyright infringement. Writing “Jace The Mindsculpter” on a forest is not however. The plus side is wizards doesn’t seem to care very much about it so long as you aren’t trying to sell the proxy. Trying to actively sell fake cards however will probably land you in court.
That said most people make proxies of cards they don’t own every so often, and in fact a number of people proxy cards to playtest before investing in them. Wizards only really cares if you’re trying to make money off the fakes. So if you print up a full set of Innistrad and put it on ebay, you’ll probably get a cease and desist letter at the most lenient, or more likely a lawsuit. If you’re making some alternate art forests to run at FNM as long as you can’t tell the card is different in anyway aside from looking at the art on the front of the card then it’s fair game.
Likewise making tokens isn’t copyright infringing unless you use something that they own a copyright on like mana symbols (if they want to copyright 1 they can rot because that’s just retarded but I’ll give them WUBRG and the hybrids and phybrids). So making your own Ooze token won’t get you any flak, nor will writing “Black Lotus” on a basic land. You just can’t play proxies in tournaments unless the TO specifically allows it. Which doesn’t happen in anything but vintage and sometimes legacy generally.
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Though making proxies is technically illegal, it is nigh unenforceable. Just stick to personal use only and you should be fine. I own one Force of Will and use it in nine different decks, for instance.
It is absolutely not even a little illegal to use proxies of magic cards.
To make counterfeit cards and sell them as real cards would be illegal.
Technically reproducing a card in proxy form (IE printing it, or otherwise creating) is copyright infringement.
If this were the case or in any way enforced I think tcgplayer would be in trouble, but I haven’t heard anything about that yet. When you search up a card, at the bottom of that card’s page is a print proxy button with 1-4 proxies, however many you need.
If the question is whether or not proxying cards is legal then the answer is yes and no. no it isn’t legal for most tournaments unless otherwise stated and you will get disqualified. It is Legal by law, counterfeiting would be illegal but you can’t pass off a paper print out of a card as that card to anyone. Alternate art is also legal as long as it is that card.
You could probably even get away with selling proxies to your friends in the sense that you are selling someone the ink it took to print them off, but that’s between you and that person and would be hard to enforce whether it’s legal or not.
I don’t mean taking it to kinkos and photo copying it or printing it onto computer paper I mean actually printing copies of the cards. Cardstock wise that is. Trying to pass them off as the real thing.
I’ve seen a guy with a fake Foil Jace TMS. He uses it in EDH/Cube idk but This would be illegal right?
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Surprisingly, every one of you who have posted so far is wrong in some respect, or wrong entirely. Usually at least one person posts the right answer. Son, I am disappoint.
Making a proxy by copying the image of a card, etc, is INFRINGEMENT, but it may or may not be illegal. That is because an infringement is not illegal if it is done under fair use, as codified in law at 17 USC 107. The enforcement of fair use is determined as the dispute arises, with abundant case law out there to guide the court, such as Campbell v. Acuff-Rose, LA Times v. Free Republic, Kelly v. Arribasoft, MGM v. American Honda, and so on.
To the extent that it affects any of you, your use is likely, but not guaranteed, to be fair use if you are making and using the proxies for your own, personal, recreational use, and not distributing them either freely or by sale. Instances where people sell custom-painted proxies alongside ballast (a legitimate card, whether the real card the proxy is based on or not) are much less certain to be fair use, and in fact might not be, depending on a given court’s assessment using the four-point balancing test from the statute. It is wisest NOT to get yourself into a situation where you might have to find out at the business end of a gavel whether your infringement was fair use or not!
EDIT: Whether you are trying to “pass it off as the real thing” could be evidence toward one of the elements in the four-point balancing test, but it is not the central element of a fair use determination. In practice, doing that falls under the criminal conduct category known as “uttering, ” which encompasses concepts such as forgery, counterfeiting, and other forms of fraud. Copyright is a civil issue, while uttering, being fraud, is a criminal issue. Create an obvious proxy and sell it, and Wizards of the Coast LLC may have a civil claim against you. Create a proxy that is intended to counterfeit the real thing, and WOTC doesn’t even enter the picture — the STATE may have a criminal CHARGE to lay against you. The More You Know (Tm).
Hope this helps!
/I am not your attorney. For legal advice get yourself an attorney, don’t base a potentially life-changing decision on what you read on an internet message board.
Sep 21, 2011
As long as you dont try to pass them off as real, or try to sell them, there shouldnt be any problems with the law.
And the guy with the fake foil jace, I’d say it depends on your playgroup. I myself dont mind proxies as long as they look good and dont give them any ingame advantage. It’s pretty much the same with my friends and we have an unspoken rule with it.
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Frequently Asked Questions about pokemon proxy maker

Are proxy cards illegal?

The most important distinction to make here is that proxy cards, no matter how realistic, are not legal in tournament magic. This means that in any official tournament, whether a Mythic Championship or just FNM at you local store, the cards are illegal to play with.Feb 24, 2020

How do you make a proxy Holo Pokemon card?

Some Vintage touraments allow proxies due to card availability issues, but those tournaments are not sanctioned by the DCI, so it’s fine. It’s not illegal to make proxies; however, it is illegal to sell them, since the cards are protected under copyright law.Sep 20, 2011

How do you make Pokemon proxies?

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