Wizards of the Coast released some of their thoughts on how to handle potential card availability issues with the mechanically unique Universes Beyond cards, which will be sold through upcoming Secret Lairs.

Last year, WotC did their unofficial Universes Beyond test run by adding characters from The Walking Dead to Magic: The Gathering (see "Preview: 'Magic: The Gathering' 'Secret Lair X The Walking Dead' Contents and Images"). This caused a social media firestorm when the player community raised issues about the availability of these one-time-print, unique cards. TWD cards were apparently good enough to see play in eternal formats, as well as Commander, and players claimed that allowing them to remain out-of-print would detract from the fairness of competitive play.

Additionally, some players were offended by the image of Negan on a card, due to his nefarious actions in the series. They petitioned the Commander RC fan site to get the card banned, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Over time, WotC eventually moved past this minor player base uprising, and kept TWD cards legal to play in the Commander, Vintage, and Legacy formats.

As they move towards Universes Beyond, WotC is clearly contemplating ways to avoid another round of backlash with this new product, as it presents similar problems to the TWD set (see "Wizards of the Coast's 'Universes Beyond' Announcement Reveals Their Licensing Plans for 'Magic: The Gathering'"). They are currently crafting a plan to satisfy both the Universes Beyond and the Magic Multiverse fan bases, which includes the following design initiatives:

  • (WotC will) create and print versions of the mechanically unique Secret Lair Universes Beyond cards that are set in Magic's Multiverse approximately six months (the exact time may vary) after their release in Secret Lair.
  • The in-Magic versions will be available on The List, findable in Set Boosters for as long as players are still interested in opening them. To start, they'll appear on The List more frequently than other cards to make them easier to find. In the future, (WotC) may reprint these cards in other products.
  • These cards will be considered equivalent game pieces, meaning (players) could only play four copies (or one copy) of either the Magic version or Universes Beyond version in (their) deck.

This initiatives essentially boil down to the idea that WotC will give the Universes Beyond cards the "Godzilla" treatment from the Ikoria set (see "Godzilla Pantheon to Appear in 'Magic: The Gathering - Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths'"). The Godzilla cards were based on in-print cards that already existed in the Ikoria set, but their artwork was re-skinned to feature the famed Toho monsters. In competitive play, Godzilla cards were the exact same as their base set counterparts, and only four of either the base card or the re-skinned card could be included in a given deck.

WotC also mentioned that they will try not to hold back critical game pieces from players that don't purchase cards through their direct-to-consumer channel. This is a minor win for retailers as now distributed sealed product will feature the equivalent cards of the mechanically unique IP-themed cards found in the Universes Beyond sets. However, the sealed product containing the equivalent cards will be released six months or more after the Secret Lair release, so retailers won't see the FOMO benefits of the cards being brand-new.