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A lifelike painting of Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and the tenth Doctor (David Tennant) from the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who, with both characters standing in front of the TARDIS, in a promotional image for Magic: The Gathering’s Doctor Who card sets. Image: Wizards of the Coast

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Doctor Who comes to Magic: The Gathering with different decks for every era

Who’s your Doctor? That’ll help you find your deck

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Maddy Myers has run Polygon’s games section since 2020 as deputy editor. She has worked in games journalism since 2007, at Kotaku, The Mary Sue, and the Boston Phoenix.

Doctor Who celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and for fans of the show and of Magic: The Gathering, Wizards of the Coast will honor that anniversary with a crossover collection of cards. As part of the Universes Beyond line, the Doctor Who-themed card collection includes four Commander decks, collector boosters, and Secret Lair versions of certain cards — these are limited-time, print-on-demand cards with alternate art.

Polygon got an advance look at the cards to be included in MTG’s Doctor Who extravaganza, all of which are available for pre-order and will be released Oct. 13.

Gavin Verhey, who serves as a principal Magic designer at Wizards of the Coast, also happens to be a Whovian. In a video call with press in late September, he described his excitement at the crossover: “When I was told we were doing this project, my first reaction was actually to laugh, because I thought it was a prank. I’m like, Well, they couldn’t have just picked my favorite show in the world to do a Universe Beyond of. What am I actually gonna be working on? And they were like, ‘Oh, no, no, really — we really are doing Doctor Who.’ And I was ecstatic.”

Verhey went on to explain the team’s decision to release four different Commander decks, each with its own theme — separated according to “the way the fans identify themselves, which is to ask each other the question: ‘Who’s your Doctor? When did you start watching?’”

The four decks represent different eras of Doctor Who, starting with Blast from the Past, which contains “the first eight Doctors, so kinda the classic run of the show,” as Verhey put it. Then there’s Timey-Wimey, comprised of the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors, representing the 2005-era relaunch of the TV show. The third set, Paradox Power, focuses on the “newest bits” of the show, featuring the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctors. But with all the Doctors accounted for, what would be in that fourth deck? That one’s called Masters of Evil, and it’s chock-full of iconic Doctor Who baddies.

The design of the Commander sets pays homage to the structure of the show in a few key ways. For example, the Doctor Who Commander decks introduce a mechanic called “Doctor’s Companion,” which — as you’d expect — allows you to play both a Time Lord and a companion, with both serving in the “Commander” role as a duo.

A promotional illustration of five characters from the Doctor Who TV series, standing in front of the TARDIS Image: Wizards of the Coast

There are also several Saga cards in the Doctor Who collection, each of which honors a specific episode of the show. “The title of the Saga [card] is the name of an episode,” explained Verhey. “And then the Saga effects kind of play out the story of the episode, or represent it in some fashion.” There are 19 Saga cards in the set: There’s one for each Doctor (including the War Doctor and the Fugitive Doctor), and the rest are for villains. As for the decision on which episodes to include, that involved “a lot of discussion and arguing,” Verhey said. “It’s like every fan discussion, but taken up to 10, because we have to make cards for them.”

The best episodes might actually be the ones that fans create through these cards. “Our whole tagline for working on the product became ‘Build your own episode,’” said Verhey. “Every time you play a game of these Commander decks, it’s like you have your own wild episode of Doctor Who that no one’s ever seen before, or will ever experience again.”

Of course, the cards are also a trove of references for Doctor Who fans. Take, for example, all of the thought that Verhey put into designing Donna Noble’s card: “We see her with Soulbond here — it’s fitting, because the first time we see her is during a wedding episode, so Soulbond makes sense there. But also, she’s a very fierce protector of people that she cares about, and so whenever Donna or the person she’s Soulbound to takes damage, she lashes back out. She’s like, ‘Hey, don’t hit my friends! Don’t mess with my mates!’”

Verhey also explained what the deal is with the Doctor Who Collector Boosters, since Wizards of the Coast has “never done Collector Boosters with a Commander release before.” That’s why it’s so special, Verhey explained: “A lot of times, Commander players are like, ‘Hey, where can I find a foil version of this Commander?’ Normally the answer is, it just doesn’t exist because it was in a Commander deck, and it wasn’t in foil. But here, you actually can — through these packs — get these cards in foil, and extended art, and all the other treatments that people love.”

Verhey also hopes that Doctor Who fans who aren’t as into Magic will take this opportunity to try it, or to get back into it again — and that Magic players might get interested in Doctor Who as well. “As a huge Doctor Who fan, I’m already seeing fans of Magic be like, ‘What the heck does this card do, and why does it do this?’ And having Doctor Who fans explain that. So, I love that kind of melding of the worlds, as Who fans and Magic players come together to have a fun discussion.”


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