Players may use any Authorized Game Cards from Magic: The Gathering expansions, core sets, special sets, supplements, and promotional printings. Authorized Game Cards are cards that, unaltered, meet the following conditions:
- The card is genuine and published by Wizards of the Coast
It is important to remember that fake Magic cards exist. Usually, these cards can be identified as fake under scrutiny. If these cards are found to be in use in a tournament, they should not continue to be used. Also, the player using the card may not realize that they are using fake cards, so aside from alerting them that they are using fake cards and informing them that they must replace them, we, as judges, should not take further action unless we believe they knew and were using such cards intentionally.
Also, Tournament Officials do not have the legal authority to confiscate fake cards and should not attempt to do so. Stopping their use in the event is sufficient.
- The card has a standard Magic back or is a double-faced card, or is a card that is part of a meld pair.
Artist proofs are published by Wizards of the Coast, but do not have a standard Magic back. They are, therefore, not usable in tournament play.
- The card does not have squared corners.
Collectors’ Edition cards have black borders on the face, but square corners and a gold border on the back. These are not legal for tournament use. Also, uncut sheets of cards are sometimes cut for use. It is important that these cards have the same corners as all other cards.
- Silver-bordered cards may only be used in casual events and only when the format explicitly permits them.
Cards from Unglued, Unhinged, and Unstable all have silver borders with a standard Magic back. These are only legal to play in their specific formats. Gold bordered cards also exist, though they do not have a standard Magic back.
- The card is not a token card.
Tokens are used to represent objects that don’t exist as normal Magic cards. While some official tokens exist, it is not required that they be used during tournament play.
- The card is not damaged or modified in a way that might make it marked.
Significantly creased cards can be distinguished from other cards in a deck, even sleeved. Also, altered cards may be thicker than the other cards in the deck, depending on the method used to alter the card. If any cards can be distinguished from the other cards in the deck without viewing its front face, then those cards are marked and not legal for tournament play.
- The card is otherwise legal for the tournament as defined by the format.
The cards being played in the deck must be printed in a set that is legal in the format, even if the printing being used is from an otherwise illegal set. For example, it is okay to use the Stronghold printing of Mana Leak in Modern even though Stronghold is not a legal set for use in Modern.
The Head Judge of a tournament may issue a proxy (see section 3.4) for a card that has become worn or damaged during the tournament.
Any other cards that are not Authorized Game Cards are prohibited in all sanctioned tournaments.
Players may use cards from the Alpha printing only if the deck is in opaque sleeves.
Players may use otherwise-legal non-English and/or misprinted cards provided they are not using them to create an advantage by using misleading text or pictures. Official promotional textless spells are allowed in sanctioned Magic tournaments in which they would otherwise be legal.
There are some famous misprints whose art is from a different card. For example, the German-language printing of Revised had a Forest (Wald) with Plains art. These cards, while an interesting curiosity, create an ambiguous and confusing game state and should not be used in tournament play.
Artistic modifications are acceptable in sanctioned tournaments, provided that the modifications do not make the card art unrecognizable, contain substantial strategic advice, or contain offensive images. Artistic modifications also may not obstruct or change the mana cost or name of the card.
The Head Judge is the final authority on acceptable cards for a tournament.
If a player is required to replace a card in his or her deck and is unable to find a replacement, the player may replace the card with a card named Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, or Forest of his or her choice. This also applies to cards that are lost.