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Vintage Advantage – So you want to be a Vintage Mage

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Vintage

In my accompanying article I look at the whys and wherefores of the proxy system commonly used in Vintage Magic the Gathering; here I’ll go over some of the basics of creating your own proxies for use in tournaments and in testing. There are methods available for everyone, whether you have infinite free time and loads of artistic talent or if it’s five minutes before the tournament armed only with a marker and a stack of basic lands.

I should note first off that, if you’re planning on playing in a tournament, check with the organizer to see if there are any requirements you’ll have to abide by. Some will disallow ballpoint pens because they might indent to the back of the card and be visible through a sleeve, in addition to being difficult to read from the front. Others might not allow paper inserted into sleeves because it would give proxy cards a distinct thickness from single cards by themselves. There might also be limits on what cards you can proxy. Just be sure to check ahead.

The other thing to mention is that, if you’re inclined to put some time into them, proxies can be a fun, personal sort of arts-and-crafts project. Having made several different proxy sets for myself over my Vintage career, I can say it’s worthwhile to put some time into proxies you enjoy and feel proud of. Having proxies you actually want to play makes it less of a drag not owning the real cards.

For example, when I needed a set of Bazaar of Baghdad,I made up a set featuring my favorite movies, the Indiana Jones trilogy (okay, also including the fourth one). I tried to recreate bazaar or marketplace scenes from the movies, beginning with the famous “sword fight” from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Medium: Sharpie marker and pencil on card-stock. I’d estimate that (depending on the complexity of the art) these take about an hour each.


Adrienne Reynolds (@DreamtimeDrinne) similarly combined her Vintage Magic hobby with her love of vintage actress Elizabeth Taylor and created a striking set of Power. Adrienne designed the cards herself digitally and then made high-quality printouts. If you look closely at the moxes, you can see she even incorporated the original mox artwork as tribute! And on the Ancestral, the statues framing Taylor’s portrayal of Cleopatra are Ptolemy and Alexander the Great, actual ancestors of the Egyptian ruler. “We had ultimately powerful, expensive rare jewelry and Liz Taylor wasn’t wearing it, this made NO SENSE to me. I fixed that for the universe,” said Adrienne of the project.

Displaying Artists.jpg I also have a set I’ve been working on over the years getting Magic artists to draw proxies for me when they’re available at tournaments and conventions. I wiped the art box and gave them the blank canvas to work with, letting them interpret the art as they like, on the fly. That’s Christopher Moeller on the Ruby, Steve Prescott on the Lotus, Matt Stewart on the Emerald, Rob Alexander on the Jet, and Daarken on the Pearl.
Displaying WeberWalk.jpg Taking this a step further, some artists will also proxy cards themselves. Amy Weber replicated the original art for Time Walk in paint over another card. It even has the name, text, and casting cost painted in, though it doesn’t mention being a sorcery.

So you see there are plenty of ways to go about it. Find something that works for you and that you’ll be happy to use regularly until you can buy the actual card.

Sharpies and a Basic Land

Basic lands are surprisingly good for proxying because there isn’t a lot of text already on them to cover up, and any text that is there is fine for proxying Moxes and other lands that make mana. For example, it’s surprisingly easy to cover over a mana symbol with the number “3” and add the sentence, “Spend this mana only to cast artifact spells,” to create a Mishra’s Workshop.

Proxying on a land is quick and easy. It’s almost certainly what you’ll be doing before a Vintage tournament if you want to adjust your mana base to include a different set of fetchlands or splash a color with another dual land you forgot at home. The best lands for proxying in this way are from Revised because the printing is so light, making it easier to cover over existing text and art with your own. Anything you can do to help clarify what card it is from your opponent’s perspective—adding art or color, for example—would be helpful.

With this method, as with all the others, you want to make sure you have all the pertinent information for a card: name, casting cost, card type (including creature type, if necessary), full Oracle text if at all possible, and power/toughness. Most tournaments will require this information, but some might give you a pass on the full text if the card is simple (like a Mox) or well known (like Force of Will). It’s also worth noting that, even with the full text, you should expect calls for rulings on anything complicated or unfamiliar (like Time Vault).


I’m sure some of you are already familiar with websites that will group card images into pages you can print, cut out, and stick in sleeves to use as proxies. Two of the better ones are Bluebones and MagicCards.Info, both of which provide instructions and additional tools to help get you started. Printouts are great since they capture everything necessary for a proxy, including the color if you print them as such. They also make it simple to do a complete deck or group of decks for testing purposes.

The biggest drawback, as I mentioned before, is that a sleeve with a Magic card and a paper overlay is going to be slightly thicker and heavier than a sleeve with just a Magic card in it. Some tournament organizers may not allow this because of the potential for cheating. Other tournaments may insist that if one card is going to be a printed insert, then all the cards need to have that (a fully proxied deck), so all cards are the same.

If you’re thinking of going this route, printing eight cards in landscape format (two rows of four) will have them be closer to actual size than nine cards printed vertically. I also recommend a paper cutter. You can also do proxies manually using Photoshop or a similar program to ensure they’re the proper dimensions.


Acetone is a solvent commonly found as an active ingredient in nail-polish remover and paint thinner. As such, it works to remove the printing ink from Magic cards, leaving you with an erased, white area that you can draw and write on. You can buy it at most hardware stores and can find it usually either near the paint supplies or with cleaning chemicals. While you’re there, I recommend picking up some blue painter’s tape. It’s also helpful to have an eraser shield and a gritty ink eraser, which can be found at arts and crafts stores.

This is a fairly simple process and is what I did for all of my proxies. I like it if you’re interested in doing your own art or putting a twist on the old art.

1. Pick a card that shares some characteristics with the card you want to proxy. You might use an Unsummon to do Ancestral Recall or several Welding Jars to do Moxes and Lotus. (Use Dark Spheres for that classy Beta look.) The idea is to do as little erasing as possible, so when I did dual lands and fetches, I tried to find basic lands that looked like the appropriate dual. Ice Age plains make great Tundras, for example, and there are plenty of Tropical and Volcanic looking Islands. I just had to do the text box and name area.

2. Use the blue painter’s tape to tape off the area you want to erase using the blue painter’s tape. Make sure you seal the edges of the tape firmly to give a crisp, straight edge. Regular masking tape is okay too, but it might stick, leave residue, or separate the edges of the card. I find it works best to do the picture and the text box separately, but you can tape off everything but the border and do full art too.

3. Read the warnings and advisories on the acetone. It’s not the worst stuff, but you should be careful with it since it’s flammable, will bleach some surfaces, and will weaken some plastics. Keep it in the can, and a little dab’ll do ya.

4. Wet a paper towel or rag with the acetone. You don’t need too much; you’re not trying to soak the card. Then start wiping the taped off area. You should see the printing lose its gloss, then smear, then start to wipe off, leaving a blank area. Wipe until it’s clean, but don’t go too far and start damaging the first layers of cardstock.

5. Pull the tape up carefully and repeat as necessary.

6. I usually use the eraser shield and an ink eraser to clean up any edges and do the card name box, card type box, and power/toughness box if necessary. The eraser gets things clean as well, but doing a whole card that way would take a while.

Once you have a blank canvas you can do whatever you like to draw on it. I sketch in pencil and then fill in with markers. I prefer Sharpies since they dry well and won’t come off on the inside of a sleeve. Prismacolors are also popular because they blend well. I’ve also used colored pencils, which are forgiving to work with, though they’re not as bold, and they do get a tired look after a while in sleeves.

More Advanced Methods

After this, you can get as complex as you want. You can erase an entire card front with acetone or by peeling an old foil. Then you can rig any of several systems to print directly onto the blank card or you can print and apply your own decals to the surface. Foils up through Mercadian Masques are generally easy to wet the edges and then pull the foil off like a sticker, leaving just the card underneath—videos are available online.

There are resources online for these improved techniques, but they’re intricate and more than I can convey here. They also begin to approach methods that make some people nervous; printing directly on a Magic card is the first step toward making fake Magic cards that might pass for the real thing. Still, if you’re making proxies for your personal use (especially if you’re doing new design or artwork), they will look awfully nice…

As you can see, there are plenty of options and opportunities for Vintage players to make and use their own proxies. Once you have them, the entire format opens up and you can suddenly play whatever you want. Go to tournament threads on The Mana Drain and find an event near you, or organize one yourself.

Good luck and have fun!

Nat Moes

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