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What's the most cards I can own at once in a game, presumably with the cooperation of all players?

I think it's something like Graveyard Busybody with an Abyssal Persecutor, so the opponent(s) can have all their cards in the graveyard and the game still goes on.

That gives a player ownership of all the cards that's possible to be played in a game.

But are there ways beyond that? Like my hypothetical "turning an infinite number of tokens into 'cards' a.k.a 'things that will persist beyond death'", is currently impossible, but are there other ways?

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  • 4
    Could you clarify what mean by "own"? Ownership is a very specifically defined term in the MtG rules, and the things you are referring to do not change ownership in any way. Feb 27 at 18:44
  • All the cards that changed card ownership are really old and banned - cards change control of other cards, or zones in a few silver bordered cases, but ownership is something different and does not change.
    – Andrew
    Feb 27 at 18:59
  • @PhilipKendall - Make it so cards that cards that were played by your opponent can now be affected by cards that say "Your Graveyard / Lands / Whatever", such as [mtg:Unburial Rites]... Interesting that [mtg:Reanimate] itself can be used on any graveyard...
    – Malady
    Feb 27 at 19:32
  • I believe there aren't any cards that say "your lands," "your creatures," or anything else that's "your" followed by a card type (except in reminder text). Feb 28 at 14:52
  • @TannerSwett - Well, it seems to be more "X you control", for cards, when not talking about spaces like Library or Graveyard. ... Not sure if editing "control" for "own" in now is changing the question too much. I think it is...?
    – Malady
    Feb 28 at 17:01
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There is no limit to the amount of cards in your deck. For a given number N, the simplest way to own at least N cards during a gaming of Magic is to start with N cards in your deck.

100.5. If a deck must contain at least a certain number of cards, that number is referred to as a minimum deck size. There is no maximum deck size for non-Commander decks.

Most cards are limited to four copies each, but basic lands and cards like Relentless Rats are not.

Also, the only cards which change the owner of other cards are either silver-bordered or referring to ante and are outright banned in any competitive format.

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  • Hmm... Is it too late to clarify "increase the number of cards I own, beyond the starting number"?
    – Malady
    Feb 27 at 18:42
  • 2
    It's best not to edit the question to change what it's asking in a way that invalidates existing answers. So, yes, probably too late. You could post a separate followup question though.
    – David Z
    Feb 27 at 18:52
  • Are there any silver-bordered cards that change ownership? I suppose there might be, but I can't come up with the correct search terms. Also, you need to be able to shuffle your deck reasonably, so in addition to collecting an N-card deck to play with, you'd better practice shuffling too. Hope you have big hands. (Would it be allowed to shuffle with a machine? That would probably make it easier to deal with a huge deck.)
    – ilkkachu
    Feb 27 at 19:14
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    The rules at least used to require that you be able to randomize your deck without assistance in a reasonable amount of time. This appears to have been taken out in recent years (likely for accessibility reasons) as I cannot find this rule anymore in the comprehensive or tournament rules.
    – Zags
    Apr 21 at 18:21
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Case 1: Tournament Rules Magic: N + 15 cards, where N is the number of cards in your deck.

There is currently no way to exchange ownership of cards in Magic: The Gathering that is legal in tournament play. Cards that refer to fetching cards from "Outside the Game" like Living Wish may only search your sideboard, which is limited to 15 cards. The maximum number of cards you can own in a game is equal to the size of your deck + the size of your sideboard.


Case 2: Tabletop Magic, legal magic cards only: N + M, where N is the number of cards in your deck and M is your total collection of magic cards.

Per rulings on any of the cards that refer to "Outside the Game", any card from your collection may be fetched by these cards assuming they follow the criteria specified by the card.

In a sanctioned event, a card that’s “outside the game” is one that’s in your sideboard. In an unsanctioned event, you may choose any card from your collection.

Here's the combo we're going to set up and use in later stages.

  1. Tap City of Brass for mana.
  2. Cast Cloud of Fairies and untap City of Brass
  3. Cast Cavern Harpy and return Cloud of Fairies to your hand.
  4. Pay one life to return Cavern Harpy to your hand.

This nets you one mana of any color and returns to a previous game state. Repeat for any amount of mana you need.

  1. Cast Research, get four cards from your collection and shuffle them into your library.
  2. Cast Eternal Witness to return Research to your hand.
  3. Cast Man-o'-War to return Eternal Witness to your hand.
  4. Cast Cavern Harpy to return Man-o'-War to your hand.
  5. Pay one life to return Cavern Harpy to your hand.

You've now net +2 life and in the same game state as before. Repeat until your collection is in your library.


Case 3: Tabletop Magic, Ante Cards allowed: N + M, 1 * (Number of Opponents) after the game is over.

If you are playing with Ante rules and your opponents aren't cooperating with you and are deliberately trying to prevent you from owning as many cards as possible, the number is the same N + M from before, plus receiving each player's Ante once the game is over.

There are ways to own every card in every player's deck + collection using Ante, but due to the ability for a player to concede at any time, opponents would be able to prevent you from pulling off any combo that allows you to steal cards. The cards anted by opponents would then become yours after the game ends.


Case 4: Tabletop Magic, Ante Cards allowed, opponents cooperating with you: all cards in all players respective collections.

Using only Ante cards in tabletop magic and with your opponents cooperating with you, it is possible to own every card in every player's collection using a handful of new cards.

  1. Use the same board state as Case 2, but also have Hive Mind on the battlefield. Cast Research until all of your opponents collections are in their library.
  2. Have a method to create infinite token copies of a creature. For the sake of argument, use Rite of Replication to make your copies. Recur it back to your hand in the same process as Research from Case 2.
  3. Create a number of token copies of Tempest Efreet equal to or greater the number of cards owned by each opponent.
  4. Create a copy of Jeweled Bird for each player, Harmless Offering a copy to each opponent (using your infinite mana and recursion from step 1 to do so), and have each player use the token to put their anted card into the graveyard. The token of Jeweled Bird ceases to exist in Ante as tokens can only exist on the battlefield.
  5. Cast Time Walk, cast Sway of the Stars, and while Sway is on the stack also cast Teferi's Protection. Your opponent's entire collection is now either in their hand or library, your board is unaffected due to Teferi's Protection.
  6. Once your permanents phase in at the beginning of your next turn, use your copies of Tempest Efreet to steal your opponent's hands. These tokens disappear once they enter your opponent's graveyard. (Note: we're using Time Walk so that opponents don't get another draw step before you can start stealing cards, and would thus have to discard to 7.)
  7. As your opponents draw their first card every turn, use another Tempest Efreet copy to steal that card from them.
  8. (Optional) If an opponent owns more cards than you, use Timetwister and your infinite recursion from step 1 to continuously shuffle your graveyard into your library so that you don't run out of cards.

Case 5: Tabletop Magic (We're gonna need a bigger table), ante/silver bordered cards allowed, all members of humanity cooperating with you: all cards in existence either owned by someone who is reachable by phone, and all cards currently in booster packs

Additions needed from Case 4:

  • Better than One needs to be in your deck
  • Booster Tutor needs to be in your deck
  • An infinite real-world money combo (Combo of choice left to the reader)
  1. Have the same board state as Case 4.
  2. Use Better than One to make every opponent find a partner, but fail to find one yourself (it's important to fail to find a team mate, as your combo does not work with N-Headed Giant partners, which players recruited via Better than One become).
  3. Recruit every human being on the planet (since humanity is cooperating with us, that means that people who own MTG cards but are out of contact with humanity would come back into contact to make sure they can give us their magic cards using a convoluted in game combo using multiple illegal cards).
  4. Use the combo from Case 4 to make them fetch and then steal all of their cards.
  5. Destroy Hive Mind in some way, and use your infinite money combo alongside your infinite copies of Booster Tutor to purchase and open every extant Magic: The Gathering product in existence. Be sure to destroy Hive Mind because all these people are being nice and helping you steal their cards, and it would be rude to make them also buy the packs for you.
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  • Please share the details of your preferred infinite money combo :)
    – Zags
    Apr 21 at 18:10
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Aside from putting more cards in your own deck or taking ownership of your opponent's cards, you could explore cards that add cards to your hand from outside the game (often known as "wishes", after a cycle in Judgment). Many wishes don't exile themselves, so you could find ways to replay them to add more cards to your hand.

In particular, Fae of Wishes looks like a good candidate for bringing arbitrary numbers of cards into the game. Play the adventure, wish for a card, play the faerie from exile, and then return it to your hand and repeat (much easier for a creature on the battlefield than a spell in the graveyard). With a card-efficient way of bouncing it and a sufficient supply of mana, you could hypothetically stuff your entire collection (except creatures) into your hand.

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  • I've refined the first search to eliminate Companions (which can only fetch themselves from outside the game) and a number of Un-cards that refer to people outside the game.
    – Cadence
    Feb 27 at 20:23
  • In competitive games Fae of Wishes can only fetch cards from your sideboard, which can only have a maximum of 15 cards, so you can't go up to an arbitrary number of cards.
    – Allure
    Feb 27 at 22:58
  • @Allure OP specified "with the cooperation of all players", so I assume they aren't looking at a competitive game.
    – Cadence
    Feb 28 at 9:51
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The rulings of Graveyard Busybody include:

Cards owned by your opponents still go to the appropriate graveyard.

and

Speaking of [another ruling], cards in graveyards are shuffled into their owners’ libraries. You won’t put any cards from graveyards you stole, er . . . borrowed into your library.

which appears to imply that the graveyards are "yours", but you don't own the cards.

Which matches how the "owner" in game terms closely shadows the actual owner of the cards, e.g. if a player leaves a multiplayer game, cards they own also leave the game. Which they would do in any case if the player decided to pick up their belongings and go.

(108.3 does say that "Legal ownership of a card in the game is irrelevant to the game rules except for the rules for ante." and that instead "The owner of a card in the game is the player who started the game with it in their deck [etc.]", which could make a difference if a player plays with a borrowed deck. In the worst case, it could mean that all players play with cards actually owned by some other player in the same game... But even if someone does play with a deck borrowed from a friend, they still get to pick up that deck and go when conceding the game, and there's not much the game rules can do about that.)

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Cadence's answer describes one mechanism for moving cards from your sideboard (if in a tournament setting) or from your collection (in a "casual" setting) into your game. Their answer focuses on wishes. There are many other ways to bring cards from outside the game into the game. My personal favorite is Spawnsire of Ulamog. i.e. bring as many cards as you want from outside the game all at once.

That said, the number of cards that can exist in a game are determined by the format. Different formats have different numbers. For instance, in Magic the Gathering: Arena, your deck and sideboard together can have a max size of 250 cards.

In tournament play, your sideboard (which is the extent of your collection "outside the game") can have at most 15 cards. Your deck can be as large as you can shuffle it in a reasonable amount of time. (Shuffling 400 cards in a reasonable amount of time is quite difficult....)

In casual play, you are allowed to bring all cards you own from outside the game into the game via these mechanisms.

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From 2008 2016, there were over 20 billion MtG cards printed. So the total number of cards is probably in the neighborhood of 50 to 100 billion. However, a Gathering ruling on Battle of Wits says "In tournaments, you must be able to shuffle your entire deck within a reasonable amount of time." So it would be up to a judge how long "a reasonable amount of time" would be.

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