Magic the gathering tournament

Is It Legal to Play with Altered Cards in Tournaments?

Are Magic the Gathering altered cards legal to play? Over the last decade, there have been multiple on-going debates, to whether MTG alters are legal in DCI sanctioned events.

Alters by themselves absolutely fantastic and add an extra spark. These artistic changes can range from small details, to extending the boundaries of the illustration to the edge or simply by removing the text box and expressing the true artists intent.

Alternative art provide their players with new fresh designs and details that don’t come in the original prints. Now these shouldn’t be taken by mistake for proxies. Proxies are replacements for destroyed or worn-off cards and not to mistake these with counterfeits either, that are fake prints illegal to the Wizards of the Coast policies and copyright laws.

Anime altered mtg card

Full custom art mtg alters are forbidden in tournaments, because a lot of players have a great lack of proper information, as a result these cards tend to be denied.

First, these altered cards can cause issues at tournaments. A rule that is very important is to know that: Head Judges always have the final word whether they allow an alters to be played, if not you’ll have to substitute them.

It’s highly advised to check with the Head Judge about your deck prior to the start of a match. Now the permission on your mtg alters will differentiate from judge to judge, so carry a set of extra original cards with you, just in case.

magic cards shuffling

Ok! So to start off, but what are the official guidelines to determine an alter acceptable?

Cards most retain original art and be recognizable

Starting off with the card’s name and cost of mana, they can’t be obscured nor exchanged as well. If they are changed, your alters won’t be accepted in most tournaments. So make sure they are clearly visible.

So, adding small details or extending the alter borders should be absolutely fine. As long as you retain most important parts of the artwork. These type of art alternatives is safe to make or get commission. Due to magic cards using the English version as the official language, some people can edit them from another language and edit their graphics. It could make it very difficult for another player to understand what card is coming into play.

As for this, the original artwork must be recognizable and cannot contain any offensive images. These alters is completely legal and playable in any given tournament.

In conclusion the last guideline is that you can’t change the actual card for a another. For example: its forbidden to alter a Jace art for a Liliana instead, etc.

mtg cards on desk table

Cards cannot have strategic modifications

Make sure your alternative art doesn’t have any strategic advice or that can be recognizable while being faced down. There have been cases of some players painting, writing things in the back of their cards to identify what they draw from deck. This can cause them having increased weight or the corners being different from an original one. However, be sure your alters are double sleeved and have a proper shuffle. 

If there aren’t any significant modifications, the judge can allow the use of them in a sanctioned tournament. And if you looking for good alternate example, check our alters database that doesn’t have these forbidden modifications. 

Cards cannot be made offensive

This is really important topic, as most artists modify the original artwork and add some offensive details, NSFW or art which aren’t appropriate to most audiences. As Magic the Gathering is a game not only played by adults, but many teenagers as well. Your cards will be rejected if they contain them.

Head judge’s decision is final

Alright so your alter meets all the criteria to be legal, but it’s always up to the Head Judge to recognize it as so. If he deems it illegal, then the card can’t be used in a Magic .

custom mtg art character in ship

 Should you get your own Magic alters?

That’s an absolute, yes! These precious cards are too good to be left to dust. They are expressions of creativity but also your own expression. Provided you take in consideration the above guidelines, you can always play them along with your friends and at your local Friday night magic!

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