The Great Magic Fake Off: Why Counterfeit Cards Are Bad News.

I’ve seen a few posts in the UK trade group recently regarding cards up for purchase on eBay. They’re listed as “mint condition”, “rare”, and “probably proxies”.

Liliana Proxy

These have ignited a lot of discussion and debate in the community, which of course means I am all over it. I’m going to take a look at some of the reasons the fake card industry is bad news for the game as a whole, although it might on one level seem like a good thing for the consumer. Buckle up folks: let’s dive in.

You don’t know where they’re going to end up

Unless they’re literally printed out pictures stuck onto a Cornflakes box, there’s a very real chance that people are going to buy these cards at bargain basement prices and pass them off as the real deal for sale or trade, scamming the unwitting recipient.

dumb fake - hurkyls.jpgThe Hurkyl’s Recall is a fake. Not quite a Cornflakes box, but not far off.

They’re definitely not tournament legal

“Proxies” have an explicit definition in terms of tournament rules. The word is also used to describe mocking up a card for inclusion in a casual cube, or playtesting with a new deck. The former is legal in a tournament if provided by a judge. The latter isn’t legal in sanctioned tournament play at all.

If you’re playing with your cube on your kitchen table, or with a commander deck in your friend’s living room, you can chuck in whatever cards you like real or not. The moment you take counterfeit cards to play in a sanctioned tournament – whether it’s Friday Night Magic or the Mythic Championship – you’re playing with an illegal deck.

Best case scenario, you’re going to be given a game loss and told to either source legit copies of the cards before your next match or replace then with basic lands. Worst case scenario, you’re looking at disqualification from the event entirely.

This happened recently in a GP Bilbao side event. The faked cards, although realistic enough to pass at first glance, were spotted by someone else playing at the same table and a judge was called. That was the end of the side event for that player.

It erodes trust in the market

The more prevalent fake cards become, the more suspicious people will be when buying them online. Can you be sure the card you’re buying from a seller in the trade group on Facebook is real? What happens if it isn’t? The more widespread and harder to detect they are, the more reluctant people are likely to be when it comes to buying them.

Liliana of the Veil proxyliliana of the veil.jpegLighting aside, unless you really know your stuff it’s going to be hard to tell from looking that the top card is fake.

This doesn’t seem like a problem if you’re buying a card that basically admits it’s fake right off the bat, but there’s no way of knowing where the revenue is going. There are real and thriving businesses in various parts of the world that are producing these. More revenue for them means more investment into counterfeiting procedures and better quality fake cards.

For example, about three hours ago a friend – who is a moderator on the mtgUK and Ireland trading groups and deals with questions on card authenticity (and kindly provided the photographs in this post) – discovered completely by accident that their masterpiece edition Ensnaring Bridge was a fake, using a technique that made it almost indistinguishable from the real deal.

bad fake - dumb island sympbolUnlike this one.

Piracy harms companies

Fraudulent Magic cards have the potential to impact Wizards of the Coast and the future of the game. Buying fake cards increases the quality and volume of these cards being produced. If someone on the internet can make cards on demand for a fraction of the price of the official ones, why bother buying booster packs, or any supplemental products at all? And once you start going down that road, that’s when Wizards profits start to fall, and the game itself becomes a victim.

When we step back from the big company perspective, it’s still not great news.The secondary market is one that helps to support a lot of game stores, who buy and sell singles as well as offering products and tournaments. Undermining this with an economy of fake cards is a direct hit to the income of a lot of stores. Once stores start losing money, it impacts the stock they carry, the number of events they can put on, and eventually that’s when you start to see your FLGS closing down entirely.

*

This is one of the most controversial discussions in Magic at the moment, because people have a lot of feelings on the secondary market, and the Reserved List, and cards that are overdue a reprint. Want to build a competitive Legacy deck? Hope you’re rich. Want to build a competitive Modern deck? Hope you’re similarly rich. Even getting hold of the cards for the Standard deck you want to play can be a pricey business.

good fake - trackerIt’s not just Reserved List cards…

I’m not going to sit here and tell you you’re an awful person for buying these cards. I’m as big on aesthetics as anyone, and it pains me to come across a random printout in my commander deck when I’ve got a hand full of foils, so I can understand the desire to have your deck looking on point without having to remortgage your house. But I do think fake cards are ultimately damaging to the game. They’re one of the few things that genuinely do have the potential to kill Magic.

SaffronOlive from MtG Goldfish wrote an article on this topic last year and you can see from looking at the comments that it’s an incredibly divisive issue and people are unlikely to be swayed. Despite this, I would strongly encourage people to look for legit alternatives – for the community, for your local store, and for the long-term health of game.

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