Magic's Weirdest Crossover Products

Nick Wolf • January 10, 2024

Gideon Rises From the Grave to Sell You a Tiny Stromboli

Universes Beyond, as a concept, sees guest Intellectual Properties (IPs) crossing over into the world of Magic: The Gathering in card form, which is why older players groan and make snide comments about "the good old days" whenever opponents at the LGS cast a hobbit, sentient robot/boombox, or, God forbid, a middle-aged British man. But what if I told you that, while guest IPs crossing over into Magic is a relatively new concept, Magic crossing over into the real world is not?

It's true. Even while Magic was new, Wizards of the Coast has explored ways of increasing the game's player base by joining forces with established brands, IPs, and handheld lunch options. Most commonly we've seen these crossovers with other brands owned by Hasbro: Dungeons & Dragons products allow for games to be in MTG settings, or, of course, those pesky Transformers cards, starting with Grimlock, Dinobot Leader. Since then, many of these crossovers have faded into antiquity, forgotten by most. But not all. It's a strategy that continues to this day, and it has seen several iterations over the decades. Let's take a look at a few of the weirder ones and try to pretend we're Hasbro shareholders as we judge whether or not these crossovers were a worthy use of our marketing resources. 

Magic: The Gathering Planeswalkers in Smite

We're nearing the one-year anniversary of Magic's crossover with the free-to-play video game Smite, so let's start here. 

Smite is a game in the MOBA genre, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, similar to games like Defense of the Ancients (DotA) or League of Legends. In essence, you control a hero (in Smite's case, a god or legend from real-world mythologies) looking to do battle with enemies, take down opposing heroes, et cetera. You get it.

Starting on January 24 of last year, "the Multiverse opened" and some of "the most powerful, favorite and dangerous Planeswalkers and creatures from Magic: the Gathering" showed up as skins for existing playable characters in Smite. Those above quotes are from the promotion's marketing material, by the way, which goes on from there for several sentences describing what I assume is a convoluted series of microtransactions needed to acquire these "Planeswalkers and creatures."

With the crossover, Smite players were able to get "God Skins" of Magic characters, meaning they weren't their own unique characters but window dressing for characters already in the game. But at least there were plenty of options, as Jace Beleren, Chandra Nalaar, Liliana Vess, Atraxa, Karn, Nicol Bolas, Vivien Reid, Teferi, Nissa Revane, and The Wandering Emperor were all available for your favorite God character to cosplay. You could also get some swirly effects to signify mana as well as doodads that look like Phyrexian and planeswalker symbols. 

Did the Smite crossover generate new Magic players? Who knows. But it was also around the time that Hasbro/WotC was in some hot water (can you believe it?) for their brief changes to Dungeons & Dragons Open Game License, so goodwill from a crossover was likely overshadowed, at least on the internet. 

Magic: The Gathering IHOP Pancakes

Did you know that if you say pancakes, you're probably a blue mage? And we all know that those flapjack truthers out there are black mages, while white mages always say hotcakes. Green mages call them griddle cakes, and of course, red mages call them floppy rolls. God only know what colorless mages call them. 

What came in the form of a tweet shook the twin worlds of tabletop card games and chain breakfast establishments to their cores:

It was only a few months ago, but the world hasn't been the same since. The options were as follows:

  • Ajani's Purr-fect Pancakes (just a stack of five regular pancakes because Ajani is apparently considered boring even by pancake standards)
  • Jace's Illusion-Berry Pancakes (four double blueberry pancakes "conjured specially for magic lovers," which, denoting the lower case on "magic," makes it sound like these pancakes are for magic lovers, not Magic lovers)
  • Liliana's Chocolate Corruption Pancakes (four chocolate pancakes filled with chocolate chips and drizzled with chocolate syrup, which yes, is a corruption-level amount of chocolate, so the marketing team wins that one for sure, as well as dentists)
  • Chandra's Pyroblast Pancakes (these four banana-filled pancakes come with strawberries, even more bananas, and strawberry syrup, and the marketing recommends that they're "consumed with haste", which seems like a terrible idea for those looking to avoid a Painful Lesson in pacing yourself, but we'll award bonus points for using an actual card name in the description)
  • Vivien's Heroic Protein Pancakes (four protein-packed pancakes that are "in tune with nature & in tune with your stomach," a phrase that seems straight plagiarized from an Activia commercial, and it's our hope that this one isn't like Chandra's by using an actual card name in the product as well)

For diners at IHOP, purchasing one of the five planeswalker-flavored (ed: I told you to reword this) plates provided MTG Arena experience points, so I hope you got your money's worth if you ordered these. If not, you're just leaving value on the table. All food should double as passive fake currency generators, honestly. 

And it didn't just begin and end at the griddle. IHOP also sponsored the "MTG Creator Arena" during November's Magic Con Las Vegas. No word yet if Luke's Italian Beef is in the running to sponsor the creator space at Magic Con Chicago.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice Magic Cards

We've covered a few more recent examples, but let's go back now a decade and change and talk about a little movie called The Sorcerer's Apprentice. 

Pulled straight from Wizards' own website, here's a quote: "On July 14, [2010], the Disney movie The Sorcerer's Apprentice will be released into the world. And it's going to have a Magic tie-in!"

In a sentence, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is an attempt at capitalizing on the extreme popularity of fantasy wizard bullshit during the twilight of Harry Potter's theatrical run by putting a wig on Nicolas Cage and tasking him with defending Manhattan from Doc Ock.

If you've seen this particular movie, you know exactly what we're going to talk about. There's a character named Drake Stone, a wizard with some downright envy-inducing frosted tips, who in the fiction of the movie is sponsored by WotC as a celebrity spokesperson. Think NASCAR with brand logos on a racer's car, but in the movie's case, some guy with all-together too many rings. In the movie, the Drake Stone is so famous that he's inserted into Magic: The Gathering, right onto the cards themselves. Have a look:


So in terms of crossovers, this is like a matryoshka doll situation, where Magic crosses over into a Disney movie that crosses over into Magic. I think I finally understand what rules advisors mean when they talk about layers. Also, it's worth noting that outside of Concentrate, these cards were designed by Wizards R&D themselves "that only appear in the magical world of cinema" -- raising an eyebrow that they'd burn not one but two single-word card names on this sentient soul patch. 

Was this the first Secret Lair? The first Universes Beyond?* 

Oh, and by the way, users on Letterboxd score The Sorcerer's Apprentice a 2.6 out of 5 stars. Let me know in the comments whether you think it deserves higher or lower than that.

Magic: The Gathering Cheez-Its

It's a little-known fact that Cheez-Its are Teferi's favorite snack, but it's actually canon. All you Vorthoses (Vorthosi?) out there already know this of course, but there's a line in a story printed years ago where Teferi casts some sort of time bubble and quips "Mmm, time magic is pretty satisfying, guys -- almost as satisfying as Kellogg's brand Cheez-Its, made with 100% real cheese." Here's the link if you don't believe me.

This particular crossover was a one-day sweepstakes for the limited edition packaging you see above on the left, the one that looks like the back of a Magic card. That one day was in July of last year, so I would advise not filling out the contest entry form that is still inexplicably live online. Also, no one outside of the good ol' USA could win, sorry. The Cheez-Its contained within that limited edition packaging were regular Cheez-Its, which was a missed opportunity. Also, there's probably a joke in there about this being the perfect tie-in considering that Cheez-Its and Magic cards are basically the same nutritional value and mouthfeel, but it's not my job to tell jokes, only report the facts.

In total, 400 people were said to have won the "grand prize" of the special Magic-themed Cheez-It boxes. It should also be mentioned some alleged that for a brief time, you could just go to the store and buy a "bundle" of two boxes for $15, which for non-Americans and non-Cheez-It purchasers is roughly double the standard fare. Contradicting that hearsay is a report that an "initial wave" of the boxes sold out online in minutes. Either way, if you don't already have these "ultra limited" boxes hiding in your closet somewhere, the only way you're getting them is by buying them second-hand. And far be it from me to judge your discretionary spending, but if you're seeking out and buying Magic-themed boxes of Cheez-Its from a scalper on Facebook Marketplace, I hope that you're in a good place.

Magic: The Gathering Hot Pockets

In May, reports started flooding social media of a peculiar discovery in the frozen aisle of grocery stores nationwide. America's favorite mass-produced microwaveable turnovers are sponsored by Planeswalkers. Like Wheaties before them, Hot Pockets boxes now bore the likeness of a new kind of athlete. The fictional kind, that uses magic. 

Surprisingly, Hot Pockets as a brand and as a food item are actually older than Magic, debuting some time in the early 1980's, and currently there are more than 50 varieties of Hot Pocket. That's not really relevant to this discussion, I just found it interesting. Anyway, for a little while you could walk into your favorite Meijer (everyone has a favorite Meijer, right?) and grab a few boxes out of the freezer. What you did with the contents of the box after that is up to you and your gastroenterologist, but the Hot Pockets themselves weren't the draw here. 

It was all a tie-in with Magic Arena, and the proof of purchase of each box provided that purchaser with an Arena code. Purchasers could redeem up to five codes, with each redemption earning the purchaser a different tier of Arena prize, from a pre-constructed Vivien-themed deck with the first code, then a few more Vivien-related items before topping out at some Mastery Pass XP with the fourth and fifth redemption. In other words, it's microtransactions with extra steps, as to redeem the full five codes you needed to buy five 2-packs, which would run you in these parts around $16. And to get these rewards, you actually had to take a photo of your receipt and upload it to a Hot Pockets website like it's 1996. After you did that, they would then email you a promo code. That's a hell of a lot of work, and after all that you still have to eat two Hot Pockets.

Oh, and there was also a Walmart-specific code found in Liliana-themed "Pizza of the Veil" Hot Pockets, because of course there was. That one would net you a digital copy of Vivien on the Hunt, but with exclusive art by Chris Rallis. You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Liliana box would get you Liliana stuff, but forgiveness doesn't mean much in today's world of Hot Pockets.

Magic: The Gathering Jones Soda

If you're a Magic player of a certain age, you remember Jones Soda very well. It was the coolest drink at the gas station, with twist-off caps that told you your fortune and a bevy of flavors so varied it would make Hot Pockets blush.

Near the end of 2009, Zendikar was hitting shelves representing our first foray into that particular plane. Everything was new and exciting, and to sate our thirst for the new adventure setting, we had Jones Soda. The photo you see above featured five flavors that, despite their Magic pun titles, were actually just regularly available Jones Soda flavors, so sadly, "Beast Brew" was really just Green Apple and not whatever Garruk would be offering up, which now that I think about it is probably for the best. And Magic wasn't the only Wizards IP that got the soft drink treatment, as around the same time, Jones also offered a tie-in with D&D, featuring flavors like "Bigby's Crushing Thirst Destroyer" which is a way better name than any of the Magic ones.

If you've got money to burn, some of these are still available on online reseller websites with prices averaging in the $40s per bottle. It would be a pretty solid power move to buy one, drink it immediately, then recycle the bottle. 

But 2009 wasn't the only time we saw a Magic x Jones Soda cross-promotion. This time featuring six flavors, new Magic-themed sodas appeared as prize wall items at Grands Prix in 2017. These had slightly more inspired names, like Survival Cache, Blue Elemental Blast, Red Elemental Blast, Natural Spring, and Necromantic Selection (ew). The sixth flavor, featuring Saheeli, was called Inventor's Brew. As prizes, you could finally try to save a little money winning a drink instead of paying exorbitant convention hall prices.

Magic: The Gathering Bean Bag Chair

Attendees at Magic Cons in 2023 undoubtedly saw hundreds of Magic players throughout the weekend plopping down on special branded bean bag chairs distributed in certain areas around the halls. Those who created the bean bag chairs likely would not want me to refer to them as "bean bag chairs" considering they're around $1,000, but come on. They're bean bag chairs.

Specifically, Magic partnered with Lovesac to create a "3oth Anniversary Celebration Sac" for all your formless furniture needs. Instead of beads, the bulging objects are filled with Durafoam bits and pieces, which I'm told is better. Purchasers got their Sac and also received a Set Booster box of Phyrexia: All Will Be One for the low, low price of $975. And if you already had a Sac, you could just buy the outer covering, but that still ran you about $500. 

When the product was announced, reaction was mixed. Among the "hey, that's neat" comments were a flood of "why would I want this?!" and "who is this for?!" That answer is still undefined. What we do know is that Lovesac as a company does very well for itself selling eye-poppingly expensive sac-based furniture, and Magic as a hobby attracts some very affluent players with discretionary spending habit issues, so there is certainly a cross-section to be exploi- er, marketed to. In truth, however, if you told me in my 20s I'd spend $250 on boots and be happy about it, I'd have called you a liar. Who's to say there isn't someone out there who loves Magic, has a lot of money, and has always looked for an opportunity to say "this ain't your dad's bean bag chair, this is a Lovesac!"

Magic: The Gathering Socks

I'm going to level with you. I'm wearing Stance socks right now as I type this. I will spend $30 on a three-pack of socks. I am that guy. 

Even still, I have my limits, and seeing this particular crossover, apparently that limit is $55 for two pairs and a promo card. 

Packaged in a box not unlike the first several Secret Lair runs, purchasers in December received two pairs of Stance socks, themed with mana symbols and the Planeswalker symbol, respectively, as well as a promo copy of Winged Boots. You know, because feet. It can be argued that these socks could have avoided a bit of the snide comments online had the promo been a bit more interesting while keeping with the pun, like say Wooded FOOThills. In the end, it doesn't even matter, because they sold out very quickly anyway, which is a lesson that people whining on social media are not representative of a consumer base as a whole.

Winged Boots is actually not a terrible choice, either. Before this bundle, the card had only been printed once, in Forgotten Realms Commander, and was hitting around $7 in price. Not to get all Reprint Review on you, but a promo version in a socks box isn't going to do jack for that price. It's still cool, though, and the art featured on the promo is a literal pair of socks. 

Life Has No Mistakes, Only Experiments

Did I miss any bizarre Magic crossover experiments? It's always weird to see the game bleed into real life, as Magic in most of its 30-year history has been insular to those who play it and an utter mystery to those that don't. If you don't believe me, ask my parents in 1996 what Magic is. 

Maybe next time, I'll have time to talk about FNM&M's.

Did you buy any of these cross promotions? Let me know, and if you bought a Lovesac, send me your address so I can come over and sit in it.