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If players agree to play for ante, the rule is that at the beginning of the game each player puts a random card from his or her library into an ante zone and then the winner of the game would get permanent ownership of all the cards in the zone.  There were several 'ante cards' with the text "Remove [this card] from your deck before playing if you're not playing for ante." Some, such as Contract from Below, interacted in some way with the ante zone, in this case by giving a powerful effect in exchange for having to ante an extra card. Others, such as Bronze Tablet, could change a card's owner.
The idea behind ante was to introduce an element of gambling to Magic, but it proved unpopular as many players did not like having to bet valuable cards and so rarely played for ante. There were also concerns within Wizards of the Coast that playing for ante could cause official tournaments to be classed as gambling and would therefore have to adhere to the laws governing it (for example, tournament venues may have needed gambling licences.) As a result, playing for ante is now classed as an unofficial variant format, cards referring to it are no longer made and all older cards referencing ante have been banned in every sanctioned format. The last card to mention ante was in the 1995 Homelands expansion - Timmerian Fiends.
Ante is strictly forbidden in DCI-sanctioned play, and is only allowed in unsanctioned games where not forbidden by law.
Examples of cards referencing ante
List of ante cards
- Amulet of Quoz (Ice Age)
- Bronze Tablet (Antiquities, Fourth Edition)
- Contract from Below (Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised)
- Darkpact (Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised)
- Demonic Attorney (Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised)
- Jeweled Bird (Arabian Nights, Chronicles)
- Rebirth (Legends, Fourth Edition)
- Tempest Efreet (Legends, Fourth Edition)
- Timmerian Fiends (Homelands)