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Zendikar Rising substitute card

A substitute card (or double-faced helper card) is an optional substitute for a double-faced card or meld cards, providing the standard missing card back these cards are naturally lacking.[1]


When playing with double-faced cards, either the traditional transforming ones, meld cards or modal double-faced cards, it's important that your cards are indistinguishable from one another. To accomplish this, you can use either opaque sleeves, substitute cards, or both. To use a substitute card, you must have the actual double-faced card in your possession.

Substitute cards were introduced as checklist cards with Innistrad in 2011, the name change "substitute cards" in the rules happened in 2020 with Zendikar Rising.[2]

Checklist cards had a list of all double-faced cards (common-uncommon/rare-mythic in Shadows over Innistrad) in the respective set on one side and the typical Magic card back on the other side. In Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan boosters, double-faced cards (almost) always appear with a checklist card.[3]

Because the checklist cards were never super popular aesthetically[4], an improved write-in substitute card was introduced with Zendikar Rising.[5][6] When initially revealed and leading up to the release of Zendikar Rising, these were called "DFC helper cards", or just "helper cards". However, in the release notes for Kaldheim[7] and Strixhaven: School of Mages,[8] this terminology was abandoned in favor of "substitute cards".

The front side of a write-in substitute card is blank, with two title bars and a large text box for other information. The back side is a regular card back. The early checklist cards may be exchanged for a write-in substitute card when playing the older double faced cards. Write down the name of the card you're representing, along with any other information visible on the actual card. You can't use substitute cards to jot down sideboarding notes, or anything not found on the card. During the game, if the card is in a public zone, swap in the real card. If it's in a hidden zone, use the substitute card.


From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (April 29, 2022—Streets of New Capenna)

Substitute Card
A game supplement with a Magic card back that can be used to represent a double-faced card or meld card. See rule 714, “Substitute Cards.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (April 29, 2022—Streets of New Capenna)

  • 714. Substitute Cards
    • 714.1. A substitute card is a game supplement that can be used to represent a double-faced card or meld card. A substitute card has a normal Magic card back.
    • 714.2. Each substitute card must clearly indicate the name of at least the front face of the card that it represents. Other information from the printed card (e.g. card type, mana cost, and power and toughness) may also be written on the substitute card.
      • 714.2a Some substitute cards list the names and mana costs of the cards they can represent. Exactly one of the fill-in circles must be marked to denote which card the substitute card represents. This style of substitute card was found in Magic products that released 2011–2018.
      • 714.2b Some substitute cards represent one specific listed card. This style of substitute card was found in the Core Set 2019 release, and it represents the card Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.
      • 714.2c Some substitute cards can represent any modal double-faced card. These substitute cards include the front-face and back-face symbols on the front face of the card. To use one of them, write in the name of each face of the card it represents. This style of substitute card is found in the Zendikar Rising release.
    • 714.3. If a substitute card is used in a deck, the card it represents is set aside prior to the beginning of the game (see rule 103.2a) and must remain available throughout the game. A substitute card can’t be included in a deck unless it is representing a double-faced card or a meld card.
    • 714.4. For all game purposes, the substitute card is considered to be the card it’s representing.
    • 714.5. If the substitute card is face up in a public zone, it should be set aside and the double-faced card or meld card that it represents should be used instead.

Card rulings[]

  • It's important that the cards in your deck be indistinguishable from one another. To accomplish this with double-faced cards, you can use either sleeves, or the substitute cards that are included in some booster packs of sets featured double-faced cards.
  • You must have an actual copy of a double-faced card that the substitute card is representing with you for each substitute card used. For example, if you use four substitute cards to represent Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, you must have four actual copies of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy too.
  • The double-faced card should be kept apart from the rest of your deck. In tournaments, the double-faced card should also be kept separate from your sideboard.
  • A substitute card can't be included in a deck except when it's being used to represent a double-faced card. If you opt to use a substitute card to represent a certain double-faced card, all copies of that double-faced card in the deck must use a substitute card instead of the actual copy too. (You may use substitute cards to represent a double-faced card, but not using them for another double-faced card that has a different name)
  • You must mark exactly one fill-in circle on a checklist card to indicate which double-faced card it represents.
  • You can still use card sleeves, even if you also choose to use substitute cards.
  • During the game, a substitute card is considered to be the double-faced card it represents. For example, say you have a substitute card in your hand representing Tormented Pariah and an opponent casts Despise. The substitute card is a creature card, so your opponent may choose the substitute card and you would discard it.
  • As soon as a substitute card enters a public zone (stack, battlefield, graveyard, or exile unless it's exiled face down/manifested), use the double-faced card and set the substitute card aside. If the double-faced card is put into a hidden zone (hand or library), use the substitute card again.
  • If a double-faced card is exiled face down or being manifested, keep its identity hidden by using the face-down substitute card.
  • Certain older sets include checklist cards to represent double-faced cards or meld cards from those sets. A write-in substitute card can be used to represent those double-faced cards. The same rules about what information may be written on substitute cards apply.
  • You must write clearly on the substitute card to show which double-faced card it represents. The name of at least one face must be written on the substitute card, and any other information visible on either face of the card may also be written. Information that isn't available on the card may not be written on a substitute card.