Thursday, March 18, 2010

Magic Questions: The Reserved List

Today WotC has announced a change to their Reprint policy. Go here to read the announcement. If you are unfamiliar with the Reserved List, go here to read a great article on the subject written by Ben Bleiweiss of Starcitygames. A great deal of discussion has been generated since the announcement of Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs. The Coalition, which will contain a foil Phyrexian Negator (a card found on the Reserved List). According to the old rules of the Reprint policy, WotC was allowed to print premium (i.e. foil) versions of cards on the Reserved list. However, this usually only took place as Judge Reward foils, and thus did not greatly increase the amount of Reserve List cards in circulation. In fact Phyrexian Negator has already been reprinted as a judge foil. Of course the printing of Phyrexia vs. The Coalition changes things.

You may or may not have been aware of all the discussion going on about this subject. A great many people have been flipping their shit about Phyrexian Negator being reprinted. Not because of Phyrexian Negator or even most the cards on the Reserved list (Stephen Menendian calculated that the median value of all the cards on the Reserved list is 99 cents...thanks a lot Homelands!), but because of the dual lands. The prices for dual lands have been increasing by a significant amount in the last few years. This is usually attributed to the growing popularity of Legacy. For example, I can remember 4-5 years ago buying 4 Tropical Islands on eBay for $70.00. I just checked completed listings on eBay for 4 Tropical Islands and I found the average price to be about $184. Of course inflation is a factor too, but the price has more than doubled. I think the people freaking out most are those who have "invested" in dual lands thinking their prices would continue to increase rapidly and are afraid that WotC will start reprinting foil dual lands (even though WotC has never even suggested that might do something like this).

Some people are concerned that once prices reach a certain point (like comparable to the Power 9), people will stop trying to get into Legacy and it's numbers will drop to be similar to that of Vintage. As someone with many dual lands I am concerned, but I think I'd rather have a vibrant Legacy format than expensive dual lands. Plus, I bought them to play with not to resell for a profit and if they reprinted them I could pick up the few that I lack at a cheaper price. But I wanted to know what you thought about this. Is the Reserved list a good idea or not? Is the recent announcement that WotC will no longer be printing premium versions of cards on the Reserved list good or bad? Would it be good for WotC to reprint the dual lands in some fashion (thus getting rid of the Reserve list)? Or would it totally ruin Magic forever and start World War III?

PS: What does everyone think about the fact that the next big fall set will take place in Mirrodin?

PPS: My current plan is to come back to Raleigh in late July and stay through mid-late September. I hope you guys are around for some good times!


  1. I think it is a real shame that Wizards seems to be reluctant to discuss their rationale for the restricted list because, based on their track record of making other unpopular but correct decisions and all the awesome sets they have made recently, I am amusing they have a good reason for their policy that maybe the magic community probably does not fully appreciate not having their inside knowledge.

    Generally, like most other magic community controversies, I think this whole discussion is a little overblown. The reserved list has little to no impact on the majority or magic players and the way they want to play the game (draft, casual, standard). I think people over-estimate the ability for Wizards to control the secondary market or even their desire to do so. They have to focus on making great sets and making a profit first and the secondary market should be a much lesser concern.

    I would be surprised if Wizards does not print new dual lands in the next five years or at least. I doubt they will reprint the old duals, although they might. But they always gradually make cards more powerful to test them out (like bringing back incinerate and then lightning bolt or reciprocate, then condemn and then path to exile). The man-lands they made in world-wake and the tri-color lands are both pushing the land power curve. Maybe they won't print lands too powerful because they have said they wanted multicolored cards to be harder to cast than they were in Ravnica block, but I would be surprised if they do not come up with a creative kind of dual lands that would work well in legacy, but maybe not as well in standard.

    I can understand some player's frustration at the reserve list though and legacy is pricey format to get into especially since there are more players that want to play it now than there are cards available. However, with the huge size of the card pool I feel like there is a ton of room for creative and innovative decks in this format and that decks like merfolk or others offer opportunities for people to get into the format with too much cost. For those who want to be uber competitive and win a major tournaments, they should suck it up as the cost of being uber-competitive or try to lighten up and have fun playing magic instead.

    All in all, Wizards has been producing such a high quality product for the last few years that I am tempted to give them the benefit of the doubt and trust their judgment and inability to tell us about their future plans even if the reserve list is perplexing.

  2. As far as Mirridon, I'm not so sure I am looking forward to it. Artifacts seem dull and linear to me. However, it would be cool to see more fortifications like Darksteel Garrison and they would be cool with Zendikar block lands.
    And unfortunately, I start work on the first week of August, but hopefully I will be around some of the same time you are. Hopefully Joey and I will have a house with a spare bedroom by that point too if you wanted to come out here to visit us.

  3. You bring up a lot of good points and are more level headed than almost everyone discussing the issue. As you said, many "controversies" in the magic community are overblown. I here are some comments:

    First, it seems like the reluctance to discus this decision (and in all likelihood the decision itself) comes from some higher ups in either WotC or Hasbro, based on some tweets (god, I can't believe I'm using Twitter as a reference), made by Aaron Forsythe and Mark Rosewater after the announcement. So even though WotC has been making a lot of good decisions recently (M2010, Zendikar, etc.) this decision may not have come from the same minds. I think I would be more willing to give WotC the benefit of the doubt if they explained their reasoning, instead of making the announcement and then saying (via Twitter) there would be little to no discussion about it. I would have thought, perhaps naively, that if there was a greater overarching plan at work here, like the plan to introduce a new set of powerful duals, they would have at least hinted at it in an explanation. Mark Rosewater seems to love to do that sort of thing.

    Second, I agree that it's not really WotC's job to control the secondary market, which is one reason the Reserved list isn't such a great idea, since it was created to preserve the secondary market value of cards. Standard and Draft are definitely bread and butter of Magic sales for WotC. However, I think it is in their best interest to support older formats as well. Since I think the player who participates in more than just Standard and Draft is more likely to stay in the game and keep buying product. The fact that they continue to update the Banned and Restricted lists for Vintage and Legacy shows that there is some concern there. Although maybe not enough to try and do anything about dual lands, since Vintage has been a prohibitive format to get into cost wise for years and WotC has not taken any initiative to ameliorate this situation.

    Third, I think you made a really good point when you said there is a great deal of room in Legacy for innovation. Restriction of options can often enhance creativity instead of stifling it. So those who cannot afford dual lands might be forced to consider cards/decks they might otherwise have ignored and stumble upon something great. Likewise, WotC has one less option now (reprinting duals) so they may have to come up with more creative solutions as well. Maybe instead of creating new dual lands of varying power, they could go the other direction. Create hosers for dual lands, so efficient and worthwhile that the desire to play dual lands drops. Like if they printed a 4 mana Baneslayer that had "Sacrifice this when you control a land with two or more basic land subtypes). Or they could ban the cards outright in Legacy. However, I'm not sure the people complaining about WotC possibly reprinting the duals would like either of these options as the price on duals (especially if they were banned) would probably drop significantly. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how Legacy deals with dual land prices and shortages. Perhaps the format will surprise us.

    As for Mirrodin, there was definitely a time when I would have jumped for joy at the announcement of another artifact set. This is not that time, though. That said, I think maybe it won't be so linear, since this is, presumably, a post Fifth Dawn Mirrodin, so maybe we'll see more colored artifacts. One can hope.

    I'm bummed that you have to work starting on the first of August. Wow, a house. You guys are really moving on up! Let me know when you get that deluxe apartment in the sky. Maybe I'll have to come visit you guys. Do you know if Tommy is going to be around during the summer? I've been really itching to play some Magic lately.

  4. I'm not sure what to think of them possible printing the old dual lands again. It may be a nice opportunity for newer players to get old cards so that makes me think that they'd probably do it to make money. As for Mirrodin: Whatev. Mirrodin makes me want to fart. (On a squirrel maybe)

    I don't know when I'll be in Raleigh this summer since we have to move in July. Hopefully Tommy will come home for a visit but I think he doesn't want to see my parents very much.

  5. You're right about the way Mark Rosewater and Wizards have not dealt well with or more likely been forced not to talk about the situation. It would make a lot more sense for Hasbro to make this decision because of a lawsuit or because they are an out of touch greedy corporation. Then Wizards would not be allowed to talk about it and they would be forced to change the direction they were going with the foil reprints as they intended to slowly repeal the reserved list. Now I can understand magic players feeling betrayed by this, especially since Wizards is usually so good at communicating their ideas. Hopefully, in a few years whatever the issue is will all be settled and we can all have a good laugh while playing with our foil text-less underground seas and taigas.

  6. I think that just because WotC says one thing today, doesn't mean that it will apply for all time. I can certainly see them revoking the Reserve list sometime in the future. I hope that you're right and we'll be playing with our foil text-less dual lands while sipping champagne from funnels made from 100 dollar bills.