To say Wizards has had an issue with public relations lately would be an understatement. First, a group of prominent judges in the southeast was banned from the DCI for three months for alleged involvement or complacency with leaked unofficial spoilers. Next, Wizards poorly explained their stance on counterfeit/proxy cards in non-sanctioned tournaments at WPN stores in a way that was highly confusing and somewhat misleading resulting in a major community backlash. Just this weekend Wizards has had to face more community outrage thanks to the banning of Splinter Twin in Modern. While not all of the anger is justified, there is a common theme in each of these incidents: a lack of transparency.


On January 14th, Wizards Brand Manager Elaine Chase took to the internet to clarify Wizards official position on counterfeits/proxies. However, what’s more important here is the following passage from her statement:

Speaking for everyone at Wizards, going forward we’ll be as transparent as possible and respond to issues you care about as soon as we can. We will always strive for clarity and better partnership, and will communicate with the belief that everyone has the best intentions for the game and community that we all love.

This isn’t just about proxies at stores and it isn’t just about judges in the southeast or banning Modern staples. This is about a cultural shift in the way Wizards operates as a corporation (for more on Wizards corporate woes check out this post by Jess).

Community Relations

It’s clear that Wizards wants to keep their fans happy, especially on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. In the past the formula has been pretty simple. Wizards makes an announcement. The community panics or rages. Wizards remains silent. People call for boycotts. Wizards remains silent. Everyone goes on with their lives. This is basically how things played out until a few weeks ago with the banning of a dozen judges.

So what changed?

As I said at the time, the wedges between Wizards and the communities that support the game, have been growing bigger and bigger for quite some time. Those communities are not only fans and players but also judges, tournament organizers, and game stores. So even though the calls for boycotts and uprisings are often laughably uninspiring, you have to wonder how long it would be until Wizards finally did something that would result in actual financial backlash (e.g. fewer people buying packs of cards).

And so came the proxy card announcement in which Wizards, originally, said the following:

We ask that WPN locations not hold events – sanctioned or unsanctioned – allowing the use of any type of unauthorized reproductions of cards.

Now, the problem here, obviously, is that a lot of this is open to interpretation but there are a lot of questions to be answered. So why did this become the tipping point for transparency? Wizards had finally done something that impacted their most valuable community: casual players.

Casual players are the bread and butter of Wizards cash cow and casual players rely a lot on a specific type of proxy:

Ultimately Wizards came out publicly to make sure people understood that this kind of practice was okay, but damage had already been done. Social media was flooded with all kinds of discussion about how they couldn’t do this kind of thing at game stores. Store owners weren’t even sure what the official policy was. The outrage and confusion lasted for less than a week but it left a foul taste in a lot of people’s mouths.

That taste is the taste of corporate America.

Wizards doesn’t want to be the big, bad corporation stealing all your fun. There’s a world of businesses out there who only think about their bottom line. Actually, all corporations only think about their bottom line, but there’s a massive difference between the ones who do it in a shady manner and the ones who try to be more transparent and compassionate with their community.

The fine folks at Wizards of the Coast certainly view themselves as a compassionate and humane company, but in the (very recent) past they’ve come off as cold and distant. It’s good to see this policy might be changing for the better.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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