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 to 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.
Tournament-legal cards are 2.5 x 3.5 inches (6.35 x 8.89 cm) and weigh 0.064 ounces (1.814 grams). 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. 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." A print coating - a very thin, clear protective finish - is applied over the top of printed materials.
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.
Non-foil cards (including the blue adhesive "core") are fully recyclable.
A card is only referred to as a "card" by game rules or effects when in a player's hand, library, graveyard, or 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.
- 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.”
- 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 Gatherer.Wizards.com.
- 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
A misprint is a mistake in a printed card resulting from editorial or mechanical failures of some kind.
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 in a similar manner. 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 his/her 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.
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.
Traditional vs nontraditional cards
- 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.
- 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.
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. 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.
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. Wizards of the Coast takes legal action, when appropriate.
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. 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.
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