Behind the Scenes with the Alleged Ixalan Card Theft

Posted in News on August 28, 2017

By Scott Kelly and Blake Rasmussen

Scott Kelly is vice president of creative and production studios at Wizards of the Coast, meaning he is in charge of the production process for Magic cards—including the printing of cards and the security of that process.


A few months ago, the Magic community woke up to something we don't see very often—photos of an uncut sheet of an unreleased set plastered all over the internet, showing off dozens of new cards even before Hour of Devastation was released.

To our fans, it was met with a mix of excitement, curiosity, and an underpinning of disappointment that this had happened so early and in this way. To the people working on the set, it was devastating, stepping on thousands of hours of work and ruining a year of planning by our marketing team.

For some inside the building, it was also the start of yet more work. Today I'm going to share with you as much as I can about what happens when something like this occurs, how we respond, and why we're typically silent about leaks. Then, Blake will talk a bit about what this means for this preview season.

But first, let's look at what happened in this instance.

How an Ixalan Sheet Ended Up Online and How We Responded

Due to pending legal proceedings, we can't share everything with you. But here's what we can tell you.

We take the security of our printing facilities very seriously. However, during a shift at one of these facilities, a former temporary employee of that facility allegedly took a stack of uncut sheets from Ixalan, evaded security, and left the building. A security camera recorded the alleged theft.

Subsequently, posts started appeared online on various websites advertising the sheets for sale—including photos of the sheets in question. Those are the photos you might be familiar with. They were blurry, not everything was readable, and they didn't show off the full set—but they were very real.

Every time there is a leak of business-sensitive information, including card set information leaks, our experienced Fraud team investigates. Sometimes leaks have benign origins—sometimes, less so. But Fraud investigates each of these cases and, from the results, helps us shore up the ways in which we protect sensitive information.

In this case, we were notified well before the sheets became public that someone was posting them online. Several people reached out to us through a variety of channels to let us know someone was attempting to sell the sheets and that there were photos out there.

From there, we began working with a number of groups and individuals, including private investigators, investigators who specialize in supply chains, cyber security experts, and local law enforcement.

Through our collective efforts, and the great work of local law enforcement, we were able to track down the alleged source of the images and recover our property in a very short amount of time. And yes, in case you are wondering, the suspect was arrested, is in jail, and is facing significant charges. The case is currently pending.

Unfortunately, as is the nature of the internet, by the time we recovered the sheets, the images spread.

As an aside, I want to thank everyone who let us know about the images and the physical sheets ending up out in the wild. Every tip, every heads-up, and every bit of information helped us track down the source of the alleged theft.

For some, the leaks are great—they want information as often and as much as possible. For others, it's a disappointing way to be introduced to a set that looks really exciting. The excitement of preview season is like Christmas for a lot of players, and unwrapping the presents three months early makes it feel a bit less special for some. Not for all, but for some. Certainly for us.

But that doesn't mean we're not going to try to make Ixalan preview season special regardless. For that, I'll hand it off to Blake to discuss what Ixalan preview season is going to look like.

—Scott Kelly
Vice President, Creative and Production Studios

What This Means for Ixalan Preview Season

As some of you know, previews are my job, and I was one of those people Scott was talking about who were a bit crestfallen when the pictures of the uncut sheet ended up online. The leak was so great that it led me to re-evaluate our preview plan and our typical response to cards ending up online ahead of time.

It's not often we acknowledge a leak of upcoming set information. Most of the time we avoid acknowledging rumors because it can be a bit like whack-a-mole. For every leak, there are a dozen false rumors. Disavowing those rumors but staying silent on the ones that are true is essentially the same as confirming the true ones. We also don't want to get into a situation where individuals might start rumors for the expressed purpose of having us confirm or deny them. Basically, we have to generally stay mum on rumors, even when we want to acknowledge them.

But this one was different. The timing of the leak gave us enough lead time to readjust. The consequences of this event were also more obvious—someone was arrested, and charges are pending. We take intellectual property theft very seriously, so we looked at this in a different light. Finally, the scope was enough that it's going to change how previews look this time around.

So we're going to lean into it.

First of all, we're posting every card that leaked or mostly leaked due to the theft. We're posting those today, and you can see them at the bottom of the article. We're also posting the mechanics article today so you know what those cards do.

Second, we'll be going deeper into the set than we normally do. That means more uncommons and commons will be part of the preview plan.

Third, we'll be doing something different on DailyMTG. Typically, each day would feature two preview articles and somewhere between three to five cards. For Ixalan, that number will be around one to three. To supplement it, we'll be exploring those cards in greater depth in an article posted on the same day. We'll be looking at the art, the card design, and more—things we don't normally start talking about until after the set releases.

This doesn't mean preview season won't be exciting. We've got Pirates and Dinosaurs and Merfolk and Vampires all battling it out. The cards that you can see below might have come out a touch early, but they're still awesome. As you can see from today's mechanics article, we've got some double-faced cards that didn't show up early because they were on a different sheet. We've got a geocaching event where players can explore our world to learn more about Ixalan. We've got half the rare and mythic rare cards still to come, and we've got some amazing commons and uncommons coming your way—including some fantastic reprints you probably didn't see coming.

So enjoy today's previews if you haven't already seen them, and know that we're working behind the scenes to hopefully keep something like this from happening again.

—Blake

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