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In Magic: The Gathering, a card is the standard component of the game and one of its resources. The word card can refer to an individual physical or digital card, or the identity of a card by name without having a specific instance of it in mind. As a game entity, cards exist in most zones of play, but theoretically not the battlefield or stack. Official Magic cards conform to a specific style on their two faces, whereas other card-like objects like token cards are technically not Magic cards at all.

Description[ | ]

Card profile

Profile of a Magic card

Tournament-legal cards are sized like playing cards.[1] They measure 2.5 x 3.5 inches (6.35 x 8.89 cm) and weigh 0.064 ounces (1.814 grams).[2] Non-foil cards are approximately 0.012 inches (0.305 mm) thick. Magic cards, like regular playing cards, are made from two layers of cardboard joined together by an opaque blue adhesive so that they're opaque even seen in direct sunlight. The card stock allows the cards to be handled and shuffled without losing their "bounce", or bendability.[3] The corners of the card are cut with a radius of 1/8 inch (3 mm). Foil cards have an extra layer on the card that highlights certain parts of the artwork over others, the "white under-print plate", or "WUP."[4] A print coating - a very thin, clear protective finish - is applied over the top of printed materials.[5]

Official Magic cards always have a Magic card front and a Magic card back, unless they are double-faced cards or meld cards. Rules inserts and tokens lack these, so they are not technically cards. They're also made of different cardstock than gameplay cards, not having the opaque layer in the middle.

Magic cards pass global toy safety regulations for heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals. The cards are non-toxic and completely safe for normal use and foreseeable abuse for children 8 years and older.[6]

Non-foil cards (including the blue adhesive "core") are fully recyclable.[7]

Rules[ | ]

A card is only referred to as a "card" by game rules or effects when in a player's hand, library, graveyard, exile, or command zones. Tokens are never considered cards, even if cards are used to represent them. When a card has been cast and is on the stack waiting to resolve, the game refers to it as a "spell." When a card is on the battlefield, the game refers to it as a "permanent," or simply by its type or subtype. Very old card text may refer to interacting with cards on the battlefield, but they have received errata to refer to "nontoken permanents" instead since all non-token objects on the battlefield are indeed represented by cards.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

The standard component of the game. Magic cards may be traditional or nontraditional. Tokens aren’t considered cards. In the text of spells or abilities, the term “card” is used only to refer to a card that’s not on the battlefield or on the stack, such as a creature card in a player’s hand. See rule 108, “Cards.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 108. Cards
    • 108.1. Use the Oracle card reference when determining a card’s wording. A card’s Oracle text can be found using the Gatherer card database at
    • 108.2. When a rule or text on a card refers to a “card,” it means only a Magic card or an object represented by a Magic card.
      • 108.2a Most Magic games use only traditional Magic cards, which measure approximately 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) by 3.5 inches (8.8 cm). Traditional Magic cards are included in players’ decks. Certain formats also use nontraditional Magic cards. Nontraditional Magic cards are not included in players’ decks. They may be used in supplementary decks. Additionally, they may be oversized, have different card backs, or both.
      • 108.2b Tokens aren’t considered cards—even a card-sized game supplement that represents a token isn’t considered a card for rules purposes.
    • 108.3. The owner of a card in the game is the player who started the game with it in their deck. If a card is brought into the game from outside the game rather than starting in a player’s deck, its owner is the player who brought it into the game. If a card starts the game in the command zone, its owner is the player who put it into the command zone to start the game. Legal ownership of a card in the game is irrelevant to the game rules except for the rules for ante. (See rule 407.)
      • 108.3a In a Planechase game using the single planar deck option, the planar controller is considered to be the owner of all cards in the planar deck. See rule 901.6.
      • 108.3b Some spells and abilities allow a player to take cards they own from outside the game and bring them into the game. (See rule 400.11b.) If a card outside that game is involved in a Magic game, its owner is determined as described in rule 108.3. If a card outside that game is in the sideboard of a Magic game (see rule 100.4), its owner is considered to be the player who started the game with it in their sideboard. In all other cases, the owner of a card outside the game is its legal owner.
    • 108.4. A card doesn’t have a controller unless that card represents a permanent or spell; in those cases, its controller is determined by the rules for permanents or spells. See rules 110.2 and 112.2.
      • 108.4a If anything asks for the controller of a card that doesn’t have one (because it’s not a permanent or spell), use its owner instead.
    • 108.5. Nontraditional Magic cards can’t start the game in any zone other than the command zone (see rule 408). If an effect would bring a nontraditional Magic card other than a dungeon card (see rule 309, “Dungeons”) into the game from outside the game, it doesn’t; that card remains outside the game.
    • 108.6. For more information about cards, see section 2, “Parts of a Card.”

Parts of a card[ | ]

Building a card

Physical elements of a Magic card

On a card face, several elements can be distinguished.[8][9]

Main article: Parts of a card

Card legality[ | ]

From the Tournament Rules (May 13, 2024—Outlaws of Thunder Junction)

  • 6.2 Card Legality
    A card may only be used in a particular format if the card is from a set that is legal in that format or has the same name as a card from a set that is legal in that format. Zendikar Expeditions and Masterpiece Series cards may only be played in formats where the card is already legal.
    Cards banned in a specific format may not be used in decks for that format. Cards restricted in a specific format may only have one copy in a deck, including sideboard.

Misprints[ | ]

Main article: Misprint

A misprint is a mistake in a printed card resulting from editorial or mechanical failures of some kind.

Marked cards[ | ]

A marked card is a card in a deck that can be identified by some means other than looking at its face. Protective sleeves can also be considered marked similarly. Marked cards are illegal in all tournament play because there may be a chance that the player is cheating by knowing all the marks and may predict their draws.

Some examples of features that make a card "marked" include excessive wear, patterned wear, pen markings, card curvature, or card-back color saturation. Card curvature can matter when using foiled premium cards, as early foil cards would warp differently than normal cards. Card-back color saturation can matter when using cards from different sets, especially when combining older and newer cards. Older cards tend to have a more varied and lower saturation to the card back while newer cards have a more homogeneous and higher saturation to them.

Card sleeves could also be marked, e.g. if the part of the sleeve is creased deliberately. A card in a marked sleeve is treated as a marked card.[10]

From the Tournament Rules (May 13, 2024—Outlaws of Thunder Junction)

  • 3.12 Marked Cards
    Players are responsible for ensuring that their cards and/or card sleeves are not marked during the tournament. A card or sleeve is considered marked if it bears something that makes it possible to identify the card without seeing its face, including (but not limited to) scratches, discoloration, and bends.

    If a player’s cards are sleeved, the cards must be examined while in the sleeves to determine if they are marked. Players should use care when sleeving their decks and should randomize their decks prior to sleeving them to reduce the possibility of cards becoming marked with a pattern. Players should also keep in mind that cards or sleeves may become worn and potentially marked through play during a tournament.

    The Head Judge has the authority to determine if a card in a player’s deck is marked. Judges may request that a player remove their current sleeves or replace any of the deck’s current sleeves immediately, or before the next round.

Altered cards[ | ]

Some players and collectors have their cards signed by artists, written on by celebrities, drawn on, or otherwise "embellished". In recent years it has become a popular pastime to erase parts of a card, leaving the name bar, P/T, or any other pertinent information intact, before applying layers of colored ink by hand with a wide variety of pencils, pens, or markers and thus creating extended or original art. Sometimes, the foil layer from one card is carefully peeled away, trimmed down, and glued onto another card for visual effect ("foil peel").

In tournaments, it is always the head judge's call as to whether a card is "disruptively" altered. Cards with just a signature on them are almost universally acceptable; the fuzziness starts when the whole text box is covered or if the art is obscured too much. Even if the card name is readable, altered cards can be ruled illegal if they seem deceptive to your opponent from a distance.[11]

Traditional vs nontraditional cards[ | ]

Nontraditional magic cards (like Schemes and Planes) are typically oversized as opposed to traditional magic cards.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Traditional Magic Card
A Magic card that measures approximately 2.5 inches (6.3 centimeters) by 3.5 inches (8.8 centimeters) and is included in players’ decks. See rule 108.2.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Nontraditional Magic Card
A card not included in players’ decks. It may be oversized or have a card back other than a “Deckmaster” back. See rule 108.2.

Counterfeits[ | ]

If a non-foil Magic card is bent corner-to-corner (or top-to-bottom), it will not crease, and will bounce back to its original state instead.[12] This is one way in which people test for counterfeit cards, although it should be carried out with caution, as even a genuine card may fail after repeated bending. If you put the card up to a strong light, you should be able to see through the card. If no light passes through the card, the card is likely fake. Another test is the "Green Dot" dot test: You need a jeweler's loupe. Put it on the green dot on the card back of the card and look for an L-shaped set of red dots within that green dot. If the pattern isn't there, the card is likely fake.[13]

Illegal counterfeit boxes of Magic as well as counterfeit single cards have been produced and distributed. Most counterfeits are easily distinguishable as fakes by a different color, gloss coating, or texture.[14] Wizards of the Coast takes legal action, when appropriate.[15]

In November 1995, the Windsor, Ontario Police in Canada were informed that two men were running a counterfeiting operation in the area. The police seized 40,000 counterfeit Magic cards, as well as film plates for the reproduction of more. Eighteen rare cards (including moxes and dual lands) were printed 2,200 times each. The men were charged with eighteen counts under the Canadian Copyright Act.[16] In 2002, white-bordered versions of regular black-bordered cards were sold as exclusives. It turned out it was possible to "erase" the border off of a card using transparent tape and a good eraser.[17]

Authorized cards[ | ]

From the Tournament Rules (May 13, 2024—Outlaws of Thunder Junction)

  • 3.3 Authorized Cards
    Players may use any Authorized Magic Game Cards from Magic: The Gathering expansions, core sets, special sets, supplements, and promotional printings. Authorized Game Cards must be regulation-sized, genuine Magic cards publicly released by Wizards of the Coast. Cards that are not Authorized Game Cards are prohibited in all sanctioned events.

    Cards that, unaltered, feature gold borders on their front or back, and cards from the “Heroes of the Realm” and Theros block “Challenge Deck” series (usually denoted by a different card back), are not Authorized Game Cards.

    Silver-bordered cards and cards with an acorn-shaped security stamp or acorn-shaped symbol may only be used in casual events and only when the format explicitly permits them.

    Cards labeled “Not for constructed play,” “Playtest”, or featuring a playtest sticker or picture of a playtest sticker on another Magic card may not be used in Constructed events.

    Wizards includes additional game material in packs, intended as game aids and not as traditional cards. Examples include tokens, title cards, dungeons, and art cards. These are not required for play and players are welcome to use any representation that is clear to both players when they are needed in the game.

    Players may use otherwise-legal non-English and/or misprinted cards provided they are not using them to createan advantage by using misleading text or pictures. Official promotional textless spells are allowed in sanctioned Magic tournaments in which they would otherwise be legal.

    Artistic modifications are acceptable in sanctioned tournaments, provided that the modifications do not make the card art unrecognizable, contain substantial strategic advice, or contain offensive images. Artistic modifications may not cover or change the mana cost or name of the card.

    The Head Judge is the final authority on acceptable cards for a tournament. If a player is required to replace a card in their deck and is unable to find a replacement, the player may replace the card with a card named Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, or Forest of their choice. This also applies to cards that are lost and must be replaced to have a legal deck.

    The Head Judge of a tournament may issue a proxy (see section 3.4) for a card that has become worn or damaged during the tournament.

Card Identification and Interpretation[ | ]

From the Tournament Rules (May 13, 2024—Outlaws of Thunder Junction)

  • 3.6 Card Identification and Interpretation
    A card is considered named in game when a player has provided a description (which may include the name or partial name) that could only apply to one card. Any player or judge realizing a description is still ambiguous must seek further clarification.

    Players have the right to request access to the official wording of a card they can describe. That request will be honored if logistically possible. The official text of any card is the Oracle text corresponding to the name of the card. Players may not use errors or omissions in Oracle to abuse the rules. The Head Judge is the final authority for card interpretations, and they may overrule Oracle if an error is discovered.

    Some cards with a Universes Beyond treatment have different names for the Universes Beyond and Universes Within versions. These cards are considered to be the same card. Other special treatments of cards may alter the name in ways that are clear references to the original card (e.g. Swords2Plowshares); these are also considered to be the same card.

    Some nontraditional cards (i.e., attractions) may share a name across multiple versions of the card. The name is considered to refer to all versions and does not need further disambiguation, including during deck registration.

Proxies[ | ]

Main article: Proxy card

A proxy is a card that represents another card in casual play. They are forbidden at DCI-sanctioned tournaments.[18]

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (June 19, 2023). "Was the size of the cards something that could have been changed?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  2. Kelly Digges (April 24, 2007). "Ask Wizards - April, 2007". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Tom Wänerstrand (May 17, 2018). "Playing Card Board". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Tom Wänerstrand (June 29, 2018). "Building a Card". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Tom Wänerstrand (April 26, 2018). "Playing Card Coatings". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Wizards of the Coast (March, 2008). "Ask Wizards - March, 2008". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Sustainable MTG Packaging & Something New in Secret Lair! (Video). Good Morning Magic. YouTube (November 24, 2021).
  8. Ted Knutson (October 21, 2006). "Anatomy of a Magic Card". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Ken Nagle (June 15, 2009). "Convertible Design". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. David McCoy (April 28, 2019). "Yuuya Watanabe Disqualified from Mythic Championship II London for Marked Cards". Hipsters of the Coast.
  11. Aaron Forsythe (April 16, 2002). "Customizing Your Collection". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Warning: Magic Counterfeiting on the Rise, The Duelist #8, December 1995
  13. Detecting Fakes: Green Dot test
  14. Mike Elliott (April 26, 2004). "Buyer Beware". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Elaine Chase (July 22, 2014). "Protecting You from Counterfeits". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. The Duelist 15 (February 1997), p. 17
  17. Magic Arcana (November 29, 2002). "White borders?!". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. Elaine Chase (January 14, 2016). "On Proxies, Policy, and Communication". Wizards of the Coast.