RC Statement on secret lair: the walking dead

We’re not going to bury the lede here.  We’re not banning the cards from Secret Lair:  The Walking Dead.  We understand that this won’t sit well with some folks; we have spent a lot of the last few days listening to a wide variety of opinions, and we want to thank everyone for taking the time to share their thoughts. It was, at times, quite overwhelming. It’s clear that this is an issue that many people are passionate about.

Our decision doesn’t reflect an endorsement of these cards, but what we believe is best for Commander in the long run. If you’d like to understand how we arrived at this decision, we encourage you to read on.

We identified three major concerns during the course of these discussions, and we’ll address each and how they relate to Commander below. They are:

  1. The availability of these cards is problematic
  2. The existence of non-Magic IPs on cards should be discouraged
  3. Negan is a dubious character.

There’s no support in the Commander Philosophy Document for banning these cards. They certainly present no mechanical difficulties, and taken simply as cards, don’t come close to fitting any criteria we have for banning.  However, as we are always seeking to improve the document, we discussed whether banning these cards could fit under new philosophical criteria and whether using the banlist in this way was appropriate.


A concern of many players is that these cards would not be widely available, and for some countries, only available through third-party sellers. They worry that this model will be repeated in the future. We’ve heard you loud and clear on this issue.  Because the cards are mechanically unique, this is the major problem most folks have. We wish that all of our friends around the globe had access to these cards.  However, the RC of its own accord can’t solve that problem.  What we can do—what we already have done—is add our voice to yours. Since this issue broke, we’ve been in contact with well-placed people at Wizards of the Coast to make sure that they understand your displeasure and where it comes from, as well as urging that they work towards a solution. 

While we understand why people are concerned about such limited availability, we don’t believe that the problem applies to Commander in the same way it does to tournament formats. Successful tournament formats require generally equal and complete access to cards. But, one of the themes that we’ve reiterated since the earliest days of the format is that you don’t need access to every card in order to have fun playing Commander.   The focus of Commander being on non-tournament play, plus the enormous cardpool available where almost everything goes, means that unique cards floating around don’t present the same kind of problem. The stakes in a Commander game is the fun of the participants, and that doesn’t require all the cards.  

A problem we see with adopting a ban philosophy based on card availability is explaining it down the road.  If, a year from now, someone stumbles across a copy of one of these cards, tries to use it and discovers that it is banned in Commander, they will ask why. And the explanation is unsatisfactory: people didn’t like how they were allocated. This does not make a lot of sense to the person who is holding the card, and who doesn’t own many other cards that may be out of reach for them. We want people to be able to play the cards they own, and only resort to bans when it’s problematic for the health of the format, not the wider ecosystem.

These cards are in no way a threat to the health of Commander.  In fact, we see it just the opposite.  We’re the only format that could bear the weight of this kind of experimentation.  This is the format in which Crab Tribal is just as valid as Blood Pod.  Adding a few quirky cards that aren’t ubiquitously available doesn’t threaten that. 

One of the calls from the community was that we should ban these cards to “send a signal” to Wizards of the Coast for a “blatantly commercial act”.  First of all, we don’t think it’s appropriate to tell them how to run their business; that’s way outside the scope of our charter.  Second, the banned list isn’t the appropriate vehicle to voice our displeasure over something, nor is using it as punishment.  The banned list is an abstract construct to corporate decision-makers.  The right path to walk is the one we’ve gone down:  real change happens from having real conversations with real people, which we have been doing since the news broke.  Finally, attempting to send such a signal would be doomed to failure.  It will not have the effect that people hope.  The primary goal of these cards is almost certainly new-player acquisition. Wizards hopes to lure some Walking Dead fans into Magic and any interest from Commander players is just a small bonus. Banning the cards until functional reprints are available doesn’t do much either. 


Some folks simply don’t like the idea of The Walking Dead crossing over into Magic, a modern IP breaking an immersion barrier. We understand that feeling (none of us care at all about The Walking Dead), but also realize that almost everyone has some universe for which they’ve dreamed of having Magic cards.  We don’t think it’s productive to try to gatekeep that.  If you dislike it, we support you not playing with the cards.  Introduction of a different IP opens Commander to audiences who might not have ever heard of Magic or the format; we welcome the new friends we haven’t yet met.  


We’ve also heard some displeasure over the Negan character being on a card, given his (fictional) history of terrible actions. We are sympathetic to this, and did give some consideration to banning just that card. We chose not to because Negan is a villain, plain and simple. There’s no implied endorsement, sanitation or glorification of his actions.  In that, he’s no different than other villains already in the Magic universe, even though as portrayed by an actor it seems closer to “real world” discomfort.  No one is suggesting that by putting him on a card  he should be idealized, any more so than Nicol Bolas or Yawgmoth.  We will use this as an opportunity to remind each other to respect other players’ boundaries.  Being empathic and accommodating is vital for a healthy gaming community; being considerate of other players makes us all better.   


The community outcry over these cards did not go unheard.  We used our relationship with people inside Wizards of the Coast to have an honest conversation about how and why so many of you felt betrayed by this process.  One of the outcomes of that conversation is that they were supportive of whatever decision we made.  We believe that conversation has had influence and they clearly understand the concerns. Thank you to everyone who has weighed in with their thoughts. We tried very hard to keep up with all of them, even as the Discord became overwhelming. 

37 thoughts on “RC Statement on secret lair: the walking dead”

  1. I understand some reasoning to the decision you, the committee, has made. I though, am still very upset with the outcome. I won’t get my pitchfork and fight a losing battle. But I want you to know that this decision had caused many player to consider putting up the cards. I’ve considered it at this point as well. I trust that you and your relationship with WotC can help regain some trust in the EDH player base. I hate that we sound like crying children, but I truly feel like this decision has only justified Wizards blatant cash grab. I’m sorry for any insults and threats to come out of the community. They don’t represent the majority of us. I just hope you may reconsider the decision, or consider doing something different for future secret lairs.


    A fellow Commander Player

  2. Typically disappointing, but completely unsurprising. I don’t know why anyone would have a shred of faith in the RC at this stage, your only interest is in enabling WotC’s worst impulses and not caring about the community.

  3. Magic and the rules committee have become one big joke to the edh community. Constantly asking for the community to voice their concerns and opinions then go on to blatantly ignore them and then proceed to throw another log on this raging dumpster fire

  4. None of these 3 points even attempts to feign the fact that you all know what you’re doing is wrong. You are of the community, by the community. This means that when the community as a (almost) WHOLE voices displeasure at these cards, you respond accordingly. There is more at stake here than the IP’s used or feelings, this is the life of magic being sucked away. Commander is the most popular format by far, and if you can’t enforce some order over them, this game will die.

  5. Sheldon,

    I am incredibly disappointed in your decision here today. You say that the ban list is not a place to vent issues or handle non business concerns, but Wizards has already set that precedent with the banning of cards like Invoke Prejudice. Remember that? It was a distraction to make us forget about WOTC’s racist and sexist actions. If this was your stance, why didn’t you speak up then? What happens to some poor player who wants to play their Crusade in a stupid anthem tribal deck?

    I was that player, and while I understood why the ban happened you didn’t stand up for me.

    No, you stood up for WOTC and gave us empty platitudes. I’m done with words, I demand action. I am going to refuse to play with these cards, and I encourage everyone to do the same.

    You always say the banlist is just a suggestion. Here’s mine.

  6. As someone who was indifferent on the cards themselves I appreciate the stance you all took on the cards with not banning the cards. I am not a huge fan of the walking dead but my girlfriend is a fan of the actor who played Negan and was actually interested in that card and I have been trying to get her to play magic for years. I respect your decision and the manner in which you presented it was perfectly put. I also appreciate you taking the time to listen to those that were upset and hear what they had to say even though you ultimately didn’t do what they wanted you to. It reaffirms my faith in the rule committee to not be a tool by the public and to truly look at things objectively.

  7. I think this process done by wizard could be damaging for the format eventually if they keep doing it and eventually there’s a considerable part of the card pool that is just ot avalable to people. Not just expensive but ridicoulously expensive or just impossible to find whatever the price. I understand the philosophy saying people should be able to play with the cards they own. however, I think we should ask ourself where and when does it create an impression to the majority of player that they don’t bellong to the game because a lot of it is just avalable for the one pourcent. I think that feeling is a real threat to commander but also magic as a whole.

  8. I don’t really know how to respond to this. It shatters my heart to see the RC give in and not stand up to corporate greed. One thing I always, always like about EDH was that WotC had no say in it and I hoped this to remain true. I know this might sound overreacting and melodramatic, I know. But seeing how many people were outraged, seeing how many, vocal community members were condemming the pratictice and precedent of this. We wanted you, one of the many that could act against this. Wave figurative signs at Wizards to be better.
    I’m sorry to say this, but saying that you used the connection to them to talk about it and get them to be supportive of your decision isnt hard when they know you will decide in their favour. It might not have happened that way, but we don’t know and we can’t know. I’m sorry but these cards, this practice and your indirect support of it sickens me. I often imagine that back in the good olden days WotC was a company of “nerds” making a game for “nerds”. But right now it seems like MTG is more and more becoming a game for sacks of money by a company driven by money.

    I stronly hope you will reconsider that decision, giving up ground is sometimes is a better option than to fortify a lost position.

  9. Unbelievably disappointed. Why does the RC even exist if it’s just going to kowtow to the very type of corporate greed it has been tasked with protecting the from.

  10. My group(s) will bully the shit out of every player who thinks that these cards should be allowed.
    Fuck capitalism.

  11. Thank you for listening and considering the issues. It would have been very easy to bury your head in the sand and say “its none of our buisness” and not even communicate the community displeasure to wizards.

  12. What they are really saying is that they don’t wish to alienate the company and lose what influence they have with them.

    This is what outsider institutions do when they become finally insiders. Politics 101

  13. This was your one chance to take a stance against the direction WotC is taking the game. Now it is obvious that you are condoning if not outright supporting the corporate agenda that will in the long run prove destructive for the game. Not that it was unexpected, but it is still very, very disappointing.

  14. These are your words and for these cards to not get banned is an absolute disregard for them. I dont find it fun to sit across a table to someone who had money/access to these cards that I did not have. I don’t care about the IP, I dont care about the villain. I care that there are people out there who want these cards and can’t obtain them. I understand that you guys have confronted WotC about our displeasure unfortunately, without the banning of these cards they will just go and do this again milking commander players like a cash cow. I hope you guys are happy.
    “Commander is for fun.The primary focus of the ban list is on cards which are problematic because of their extreme consistency, ubiquity, and/or ability to restrict others’ opportunities.”

    1. How do you feel when I bust out a moat? Because that’s way more expensive than any of these cards will ever be and moat isn’t banned. There are far more cards harder to get than anything secret lair is going to put out I promise you that

  15. Well reasoned and fair. I’m not at all happy about this new product, but I appreciate the hard work of the RC in navigating these controversies with grace and wisdom. Thank you.

  16. Thank you RC. This whole thing is a mess, and while I do not agree with WOTC’s handling of the situation, I understand – to some minor capacity- the complications in banning these cards.

    With far more real world issues at stake, including real health issues some of you are living currently, I understand there are problems that really matter. I am not implying in this statement that the matter was handled with any less care or effort than it should have been ( you folks willingly bare immense responsibility) and I do not mean this to undercut the importance of Commander and Magic to people – obviously many have built their livelihood around such an amazing format and game, many have sunk a great amount of finance into their hobby, myself included.

    I mean to say we live in serious times, and if a persons primary concern right now is a Walking Dead/MTG crossover, then maybe those folks should reevaluate their priorities.

    I respect your decision, understanding it is the way forward, and thank you for your efforts. I will admit that i am scared of long term ramifications this move from Wizards will have on the greater ecosystem of magic, and it’s future.

    I love Commander. It is the best format of the greatest game ever made.

    Strengh and health to you Sheldon. May you persevere.

    Thank you Toby, Gavin, Scott.

    1. To gain perspective on this issue just watch any of the youtubers. Commander’s Quarters, Tolarian Community College, and many more.

      The thing is, this is indicative of the direction Wizards are now taking with their business model. This absolutely threatens the integrity of the “greatest game” and the “greatest format” Not to mention, this is a breach of trust based on past statements from Wizards acknowledging that doing this is a problem and they they won’t do it again.

      No, a couple of walking dead cards isn’t a big problem, but if people actually purchase these and play with them, then it opens a whole can of worms and sends us down a really unfortunate path that betrays a lot of what Magic used to be. At least in my opinion.

  17. I wanted to post a rebutal because I think this is an important time for Magic and I to emphasize that importance by joining my voice to the conversation.

    You say that banning the cards until such a time as there are functional reprints are available wont do much but I tend to think that is not true. For one, it puts the onus on Wizards to be proactive with plans to put these cards in a set readily available to the community. Second, it sets a precedent for guidance for how these cards will be accepted from the community going forward. If there are other products like this going forward (and here is where I try to stay postive) then it is important that the edh community have a voice in the distribution and perception these products create.

    This is the breach of a promise. A promise Wizards made to no longer make mechanically unique cards in a product not readily available to the consumer base. That is most of this conversation. How Wizards is disrespecting the fan bases ability express their concerns and instead thinking first of their bottomline and second about the overall health of the product they put forth. There is a general exhaustion that Wizards is not listening to the community and instead exacerbating any issue by responding in an opposite manner.

    Like it or not, the RC is that voice. As the governing body for this format, it is 100% your responsibility to make the format fun and accessible to everyone. But you also have to represent the wishes of the community to the company that makes the cards we play with. The outcry cannot just be heard, it must be felt. I think a banning is an important step at not just asking Wizards nicely to be more consumer thinking.

    The notion that you aren’t gatekeeping while having a ban list in the first place is kinda nonsensical to me. I’ve had to have those conversations with people in various play groups as to why they can’t play Emrakul in thier Vaevictus deck or play Rofellos in the 99 of their mono green Titania lands deck. Your argument that someone wanting to pick up these cards to join and play is predicated on availability. A secret lair is not like picking up a standard pack and opening a commander and deciding to build a deck. This isn’t an specifically casual product. I understand that fear (of the walking dead) of pushing away fans that may be added solely based on adaption by fans of this IP. But the perception of outside IPs infringing on MtG’s unique IP and corrupting the canon and identity of Magic is doing more harm than good.

    So I beesech you to reconsider your position. Your authority on all issues surrounding Commander/EDH leaves you in a perfect spot to be the voice of the community. As the gap between the company we support and it’s fanbase grows larger, it’s up to you to take responsibilty to fill in and stand in that gap. The outcry from the community is more severe than the response you’ve made dictates and a banning here (until such a time as Wizards officially prints alternatives) will allow the community to express their displeasure and let for Wizards be held accountable for their seemingly destructive business practices.

  18. I was under the impression that the banning of certain very old (reserve list) cards (P9 for example) was largely due to availability issues. Black Lotus is not especially broken in commander, nor are the moxen. So if card availability is a justification, why not here?

  19. This is very disappointing. What this shows is that the RC is beholden to WotC, and will never make any decision that does not meet with their approval.

    I mean, realistically, if you had gone against them on this, they would likely have done what they could to eliminate the RC as a meaningful entity, because they clearly put profits ahead of anything else, and would not stand for anybody trying to tell them they can’t exploit the community for as much money as they can get, with no regard for what is good for the game.

    So standing against them would probably have ended up being a largely symbolic gesture in the long run…but IMHO it is better to make a symbolic gesture in defense of the community, and go down because of it, then to willingly decide to be nothing but a puppet for WotC.

  20. https://www.strawpoll.me/21015634/r Very disappointing. 94% of people who took this survey voted to ban these cards. 28,000 people. Clearly your interests are not in alignment with the majority of players. Yes, this number is probably a bit different on the whole, but it is still representative.

    To me, Commander represents the very best of what this game has to offer and to think that we are now going down this dark path really makes me sad.

  21. I wonder how the RC will feel 2 years from know when it’s not 5 cards, but 500 cards that are hard to obtain and every game is an unrecognizable mess of IPs.

    This is so short-sighted and cowardly.

  22. While I understand the reasoning behind the decision. Respectfully, I think the idea of change being made by having conversations is misrepresenting reality. No amount of conversation with WotC will change that it is a subsidiary of Hasbro, or that it is a company that answers to shareholders.

    Naked greed will not be solved by conversations with people beholden to the corporation. I assume your reach does not extend to the Chairpersons of Hasbro, so the only option that remains to express dissent is to answer in a way that will impact sales.

    Regarding the idea of a player finding the card, and being excited to build with it, I see very little measurable difference between this and silver bordered cards.

    I hope you reconsider this position when (not if) WotC inevitably tries this again.

  23. I 100% believe you are either in WotC’s pockets or afraid you’ll be cut off from cooperating with future content and can’t actually ban anything WotC deems unbannable.

  24. I have to say this is pretty dumb. In my playgroup with every card that is banned eventually the discussion comes around to why. Not everyone is convinced in every case, even with something obvious like Prophet of Kruphix. That card was banned because it was overpowered. There are plenty of other really powerful cards that are still legal. Another example in my play group is Sol Ring which we have declared taps for (1). We have to go over a long explanation for why this is the case. If someone showed up down the road with a walking dead card we would have to tell them it was banned and go over the long story just like with any other card. The simple answer is it’s banned, you can’t play it, and it doesn’t matter why. Banning a card because Wizards are a bunch of money-grubbing assholes is very much in the spirit of commander being an accessible format for any level of player. Saying there’s no precedent for this type of ban is a cop-out because this has never really happened before. Set the precedent now.

  25. Commander (EDH) was once a “House Rules” type of game that existed outside of Wizards of the Coast.

    Do not be surprised if another ruleset becomes more popular than your own at this point.

    Our playgroup has banned these cards, and it has made us evaluate and ban some other “unfun” cards.

    We’ll end up likely refusing to play against these as commanders… That’s the state we’re in.

    I agree with an earlier point. Unban the power 9, why not? They arent overtly powerful compared to some others now, and if availability isnt an issue…

  26. Having read this, I feel like you didn’t really hear people all that well, and whomever you spoke to at WotC only assuaged your fears.

    Problem is – It doesn’t matter who you talked to at WotC because the only language Corporations understand is profit motives.

  27. To the Rules Committee & Wizards of the Coast,
    You have made a terrible mistake by producing and allowing the walking dead to enter the magic the gathering realm and in doing so you have alienated a large part of your existing customers and fandom. These are people that have been nothing but loyal throughout the years and literally have loved this game myself included. I don’t see any way that I can take this game seriously as you have not only betrayed us but have also clearly lost your way. I have since I’ve started playing magic the gathering have always maintained that magic the gathering has been a step above the rest and able to withstand the test of time succeeding where others have failed. Sadly it would seem that I was wrong and that you have let us down. Magic the gathering has jumped the shark it would seem and when given the chance to make things right smiled and waved as that opportunity passed them by. Unfortunately I no longer see this game as a wise investment and can no longer justify giving my business. You would be wise to treat the new fan base that you are desperately trying to reach well.

  28. Look, I understand.

    However, it’s still sad that the net result from this decision might be that we’re welcoming newer players at the cost of losing so many faithful players, the cornerstone of our community…

    Also, this decision tells WoTC that they can continue on with limited mechanically-unique black-bordered cards, because they’ll always go unpunished until it’s too late and they a fatal (and probably inevitable) mistake; it just might be the beginning of the end.

    I’m afraid you’re being blinded by the relationships you have with your connections. And I get it. You wouldn’t want to hurt the friends you made there. But this is bigger than that… it affects the whole community and the future of the game.

    Let’s see. I hope we’re wrong and this will blow over without major damages in the long term. I really, really hope you made the right decision here.

    Thanks for listening to our concerns, at least.

  29. While I respect your argument for why these cards shouldn’t be banned and the logic behind it, I still believe this is the wrong decision. I fear that this release style will become a trend and will have actual consequences on the playability and enjoyability of the format. If that does become the case, I urge you to reconsider your decision and, in the meantime, use all your influence with WoTC to make sure it doesn’t happen.

  30. “Our decision doesn’t reflect an endorsement of these cards, but what we believe is best for Commander in the long run.”

    Except that in the purely financial terms of a corporate entity like Hasbro, it DOES represent an endorsement.

    Anything that is not expressly prohibited, is allowed. And, by not explicitly condemning it, they are implicitly endorsing it (not saying no, means yes).

    And, at no point did the RC explain in this article how this, and the precedent it sets, is in the long-term best interest of this format.

    I understand they’re in a very difficult spot here, but I also think this community deserves better.

  31. This decision is fine, as long as WoTC commits to reprinting these cards in the future as “real” magic cards in the same vein as the Godzilla cards. As someone who was really underwhelmed by most of them, I think not banning them was a good decision, but only if WoTC plays ball with the community. This issue may come up again in the future if WoTC does not modify there clear plans for future cross overs.

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