Universes Beyond: Fallout is a great, but pricey, time

As someone who has been tapping mana and flinging spells since the mid-90s and an avid video game player even longer, when Wizards of the Coast announced that the legendary card game would be visiting the nuclear wasteland of Fallout, my interest was piqued more than a usual set would. While the tones and themes of Fallout didn’t seem to mesh in my head with the fantastical elements of the planes of Magic, if the previous Universes Beyond sets (and Kingdom Hearts) taught me anything, it’s that sometimes odd pairings that shouldn’t work, can in fact - and quiet successfully - work out. Wizards were gracious enough to send me a couple of decks and booster packs, and I can happily report that Universes Beyond: Fallout works and works well.

This latest release in the Universes Beyond line - a special type of set that takes a well-known nerdy IP and brings it into the cardboard realm of Magic: The Gathering - offers players four specialty Commander Decks (a format of magic) and special booster packs that contain additional cards. Between these decks and packs, Fallout brings brand new mechanics, beloved characters from across the universe, and brand new redesigns of popular Magic cards with a Fallout Twist to great success. I have to compliment the Wizards team for just how well they managed to bring the feel and personality from Fallout over into Magic; it makes me wish we had a full-blown Fallout card game.

I found I’d gravitate more towards the counters thanks to their unique implementation of the two main new mechanics - Junk Tokens and Rad counters. The radiation system and its counters behave vastly differently from any currently existing token in the game of Magic -. In contrast, counters have, up until now, been placed on other cards (such as +1/+1 counters that strengthen a monster or loyalty counters on the powerful planeswalkers to use their abilities). Rad counters are instead placed on the players themselves. Outside of just being interested in this new kind of counter, I love how thematically perfect they are and just ooze Fallout goodness. Every one of these counters that a player is suffering from will cause them to put a card from their deck into the graveyard and also - depending on the card that was removed - either take damage and remove a counter or no damage, but the counter remains. It's almost as if the player is suffering from radiation sickness or taking Rad-Awat to get rid of it.

The other new mechanic, the Junk Token, maintains the same Fallout vibe as the Rad counters, but I found it slightly less interesting. They are great ways to gain a chance to play a card from the top of your deck, but I tend to shy away from purposely exiling (removing from the game for non-players) cards from my deck. There is plenty of junk you stumble across while playing a Fallout game, so their inclusion certainly fits regardless!

Spending time with the two commander decks I was provided (Scrappy Survivors and Mutant Menace) was fun to play straight out of the box. My friends I play Magic with, and I all got kicks out of all the characters we recognized from the games, doing our best impressions and reminiscing about our memories with the games. Loading up sweet Dogmeat with Power Armor and other equipment while Preston Garvey set up settlements gave me a good chuckle while the Wise Mothman gave everyone Rad Counters was a grand ol’ time. We were all surprised with how well these pre-made decks, with no alteration, held their own just fine with my friends' hand-made decks.

Outside of the four decks you can buy, there are also special booster packs with a bunch of cards that are exclusively available in the packs. There are a lot of fun cards in this set, like “James, Wandering Dad,” that just set my mind into overdrive thinking of new deck ideas, and I love the special “Pip-Boy” alternate art on cards, but these packs are also my biggest issue I have with the set. To be fair, however, it isn’t a problem exclusive to this release - they are too damn expensive. 

A box containing 12 packs of 15 cards runs $400 meaning that each individual pack is more than $30 dollars on its own. The pretty foils and alternates are nice (granted, Magic foils still suffer from curving). It really is a shame that Wizards didn’t release a standard booster box without some of the flair and at a lower price so that more people could enjoy the cards. Had I not been sent some packs to crack open, I know I wouldn’t have pickup up any packs on my own - as someone who isn’t looking to resell cards, play competitively, and just likes to enjoy casual games with friends, I couldn’t justify that sort of cost. 

For Fallout fans testing the radioactive waters of Magic, there are several great resources available to learn Magic - I recommend either the Tollarian Community College, the Command Zone, or the official MTG YouTube channels. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, Magic: The Gathering Arena (a free digital version of the card game available on almost everything #NotSponsored) has a lovely tutorial, too. However, the Fallout cards won’t be available to play on there.

Pricing decisions aside, there hasn’t been much I didn’t love about Universes Beyond: Fallout. I appreciate the care the team at Wizards took in translating the look and feel of the games, and the new mechanics go a long way to sell it, too. Fallout is just the first of Wizards’ foray of the year adapting video games into Magic sets, with both Assassin’s Creed and Final Fantasy releasing later this year. In the meantime, grab your Fallout cards and start playing Vault Dweller.

For more Fallout goodness, check out our interview with one of the Senior Game Designers behind Universes Beyond: Fallout, a preview of some of the cards, and finally, our thoughts on Amazon’s new Fallout live-action streaming series!