There’s a divide in the Magic: The Gathering community. As a collectible card game or CCG, the notion of having a collection that is worth something is important to many. We spend money on booster packs, which with their lottery system can sometimes be a thrilling experience when you pull a card worth more than the pack price, or sometimes even worth more than the whole box of packs. We also spend money on singles, so we know that some cards that are older and/or rarer can sometimes carry high price tags themselves. Some will play the economy of MTG like I have, in the sense of buying packs and then selling off high dollar cards that I don’t intend to play with in order to buy copies of other cards that I will use. Some take this a step further and “spec” the market, buying out low price copies of cards that are anticipated to spike due to an interaction from other cards in an upcoming set. This artificially brings up the price of the card due to high demand and low supply, and then those people will sell at the higher price to just do that again later, or perhaps to further their own collections with other cards. Whatever the case, buying low and selling high is always a good idea to snowball the hobby. It’s clear that people hold these cards in high regard, and as such they aren’t as keen on the use of proxies.
What is a proxy? There are several definitions for the word, but the most straightforward is “a fake card” that is used in place of the real version. People also alter their cards, whereas “altering” is taking an existing real card and then painting over the top. There are a number of ways to alter a card, from leaving nothing left of the original, to just extending the art beyond the borders, to painting over everything but the original text. Alters are still real cards, but they are treated as proxies when it comes to sanctioned play. Anything that is done at WPN stores or tournaments/conventions aren’t going to allow proxies. Casual play (kitchen table and anything that isn’t following tourney rules) tends to be more lax about their use.
Proxies can be simply printed copies of cards, and in some cases can be purchased from vendors online. These vendors are not recognized by WotC, but they do exist and some do some amazing artwork including the most premium versions of cards and foils too. They’re considerably cheaper than their legitimate counterparts, so many people feel it’s okay to use these, especially because they only play Commander and only with friends who also proxy. If that’s your thing, I won’t hate on you, but I was always a purist in that I wouldn’t play with cards I didn’t own. That was until I spent a year building a tier 1 deck that is currently worth about $1400. After spending almost $100 on a single card, it feels bad to have to buy another copy to throw into a different deck. It also feels bad to swap a bunch of your best cards around from deck to deck. As such, the most common method of proxy use I’ve seen, is a proxy binder. In this binder, you put your original cards, and then use proxies in multiple decks, where you can prove you own the card, and if someone is a stickler you can swap it into the deck real quick.
Since joining the PlayEDH Discord channel, I’ve seen more proxies than ever, with many people using all of the above methods. I don’t think I’ve played a fully proxied deck, but people are definitely being generous with their use. I have seen far too many OG dual lands that I don’t think were legitimate. It is stated in the channel’s rules that proxy use is fine, with or without actually owning the cards. Seeing as how we can’t really see each other’s decks/cards, and seeing as how these can look legitimate on camera, I guess it’s fine to use these as Commander is the ultimate casual format. My opinion hasn’t fully changed, in that I am still more on board with playing with cards that I own and only proxying extra copies, but I am tempted by the fact that I can actually use those OG dual lands or even print out several mana crypts as just one costs $150+. Other factors have played into this as well, because COVID-19 has shut down most online retailers so buying copies of anything is nearly impossible at the moment. Whatever the case, I have bitten the bullet and ordered a printer in order to test out some proxy methods. I’ll share the results here with you now.
Given I’ve purchased a printer in order to cut costs that fuel my MTG habit, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money. I had considered buying good-looking proxy copies of cards on my wishlist but even then I think over time I would have spent more than the initial investment of buying the printer and supplies. I found one of the cheapest options on Amazon, the Canon Pixma TS5320, for $50. It must have been on sale, because looking at that now it appears to be more money than I paid. Anyways, I wanted something that was compact in design, along with being wireless so I wasn’t forced to put it on my desk. We already had a little stand that my girlfriend suggested I use for it, and it fits in the office right next to the mini fridge, on the opposite wall from my PC; it’s excellent not being restricted by wires. A ream of paper was $7 so for $57 I am able to print proxies.
I found a free tool for setting up proxies to print. As you can see above, you simply plug in the card names and how many copies you want, hit build it and download a printable PDF file. To do a test run, I ended up only doing 9 cards which take up most of a single printed page. What’s really cool about this tool is you can select from multiple versions of card printings, so you can get the identical copy of the card you own, or you can have fun versions like judge promos despite the fact that you’ll never actually spend the money to get that alternate art.
As you can see, a regular sized paper holds 9 cards comfortably, but you wouldn’t be able to add more. I assume using MTG Press for a full deck, it would set up the PDF to print out as many pages as needed with 9 per page. To test this out I picked a few cards off of the top of my head that I knew I needed extra copies of, but also straight printed money with 6 Mana Crypts on the bottom. That’s like a grand right there! I’m still not sure if I’ll use any of those, but the option exists. Perhaps I could slot one into one of my more competitive builds but regardless the option exists. I feel like if I did print out a bunch of powerful cards and made a mostly proxied deck I’d feel a little dirty, but at the same time if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t I? I would like to know what it’s like to have the ultimate mana base. I’d like to know what it feels like to have a ridiculously expensive deck that works well. I have built some humble decks that took a lot of time and money and those are sources of pride, but just for the lols, perhaps I do print out some of those unattainable cards.
So because these are being printed out on cheap paper, they’re obviously a bit thin compared to traditional cards. Despite the use of sleeves in my decks, you still wouldn’t be able to shuffle these up, nor would they feel thick enough in hand. As such, the method I have chosen to use, is to make use of the box full of basic land cards I own, and to simply turn them backwards in the sleeve, then putting the printed proxy on top of said card. The finished result is pretty good, and honestly on camera it’s not that easy to pick out the fakes.
Here they are side by side. You can see small variations but overall they are kind of hard to tell apart. I had my girlfriend look at these in person, and she initially picked the real card as the fake, but then did a double take and realized that she was wrong. I’m sure you can tell now because I’m asking you to scrutinize these, but on camera while playing the game, these will be further from the camera and harder to tell. So as I’ve said, I’m unsure how far I take this, but as of right now I’m feeling good about being able to make some decks better by virtue of extra copies of powerful cards that I already own. Perhaps I’ll also experiment with some deck building prior to buying cards so that I know if I actually like something I slapped together. If nothing else, I’m definitely saving some money during this economic downturn, and for that I am thankful.