Below are my thoughts on the reserved list as a rational open letter to Wizards. The Podcast contains some additional thoughts.
I write this letter in regards to the changes to the Reserved List policy announced on 3/18/2010 (link below). My first reaction was of outrage, but I believe rants and overly emotional responses are not a productive way to affect change or conduct a rational discourse. Within the body of this text I will express my thoughts, beliefs and even some of my emotions in regards to this change.
First I would like you to know about my background as it will serve as context for my views. I started playing magic in Alpha while I was in college. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the game at the Raven’s Loft in Saint Louis Missouri. That means I remember the times when you could trade the “Laces” for a host of common, uncommon, and even some rares to collectors who only wanted one of each card. Back then it was common for the question what color do you play to be seriously answered by most players. I had a friend that wanted to make a deck powered by all Moxes, no land and was able to do that without taking out a loan. He eventually traded away those cards without knowing that some 15 years later he could put a child through college with that deck.
That was a simpler and a more naive time. As more expansions were released many of my friends stopped playing because they could no longer keep up with all of the cards being released. They were no longer able to collect one of each card. When the Duelist Convocation was formed I mailed in an application with haste and received my 4 digit DCI number. Still I would not play in a sanctioned match for many years to come. Like many players I would buy cards sporadically throughout the years usually a box of the large set around Christmas with my Christmas money. I played when I could find opponents and as I could find time in my expanding life. I seriously started my return to Magic in Invasion Block. When I returned I traded off most of my power believing that I would not play in older formats and seeing what fun new toys I could acquire in vast numbers with them. Today I still own a Lotus, a couple of Timetwisters and almost a complete playset of duals. Most of my duals are white bordered. I find myself drawn to older formats now as I have learned to appreciate the finer things in Magic (Superfast Agro, Dirty Combos, and Dismissive Control). I do not have much opportunity to play in older formats currently as the player base that frequents my local store (NewCastle Comics in Saint Louis, MO) is mostly newer players.
This brings me to present and the changes to the Reserved List. I have been a vocal member in the Magic community for the abolition of the Reserved List on podcasts like Monday Night Magic on www.MTGCast.com, and via twitter under the handle thewachman. I believe that the Reserve List was created with the best of intentions and I honestly do not remember what I thought about it when it was released. Because I generally trust you to act in the best interest of the game I most likely agreed with it at the time. I know I was happy when uncommons and commons were removed from the list. At that time I wondered why not just get rid of it all together. Now I know that decision was still motivated by your promise to collectors and wanting to keep your corporate word. That change and the many reprints in normal sets strongly indicate that reprints help the value of older cards as they become relevant in newer formats. Clearly power and the original duals would not be printed in current sets due to their power level and their abilities to unbalance more modern formats, but you have show recently that they have a variety of ways of printing cards without impacting modern formats.
I urge you to pursue one of the following courses of action. The first course of action (and my preference): Revise your policy to allow reprints of the reserve listed cards. In effect abolish the reserve list. The second course of action: explain why you enacted the latest (3/18/2010) change to the Reserved List Policy. The reasons for my belief follow:
- The Reserved List Policy restricts you from reprinting cards and do not need to be protected. Demonic Hordes and Farmstead. These and many other cards would most likely not be reprinted unless they fit a specific need in a set and if they were reprinted would not destroy the value of the currently printed cards. Some of these cards like Grave Robbers are quite flavorful and might be a boon to a future set.
- When the Reserve List was originally released it was for the betterment of the game. At the time the purchasing public was in an uproar and the Reserve List was released in acknowledgement of that uproar. The Reserved List’s intent was to quell the concerns of a constituency who collected first and played second if at all. Today that constituency has reduced in size considerably.
- The Reserve List places a limit on competitive Eternal play. Others will argue that in a couple of years Legacy will no longer be viable and that Vintage has already past that point because of the haves and have nots of the tournament staples. Even if these estimates are wrong on the timeline they are correct in the final disposition. Competitive Legacy has grown immensely popular with the recent tournament support. Tournament organizers (Wizards or other organizers) picked Legacy because players enjoy it. With the Reserve List in its current form prices of Legacy staples will continue to increase to the point where the barrier of entry will price out most new players.
- Without the Reserved List you have already shown restraint from printing cards such as Force of Will and Mana Drain that would wreck standard. You admit that the Premium Deck Series: Slivers would have been a better product with Sliver Queen in it. These separate points illustrate that you can balance reprints in a meaningful way without having you hands tied by the presence of the Reserved List.
- The longer you wait to remove the Reserved List the greater the impact the removal of the Reserved List will have. The cards posseseing the most monetary value have and will continue to increase in that value. If the Reserved List was removed in the future owners of the valuable cards would have more to lose and would therefore have more (founded or unfounded) fear of the change.
- The special sets Phyrexia vs. the Coalition and From the Vault: Relics led the Magic buying public to believe the abolition of the Reserved List was possible if not likely. When you take actions in the opposite direction it is unnerving. When you will not even explain your rationale it causes confusion as well.
As much as I would love to see power reprinted I can understand why you would not do that. As much as I would like to see Demonic Hoards in a non-Cube booster I can understand why you would not do that. As much as I would love to see the Reserve List permanently removed I can see why you would not do that. What I cannot see is why you would close the loophole you have had in place for so long. Please, if you do not change the policy, tell us why! I understand if you cannot go into great detail. I can understand if you cannot name names. Please just send us at least a tweet. If the explanation is “Legal said no.”, or “It was decided our word and honor are too important.”, or even “Consumer backlash would be too negative.” I could then at least debate the merits of the thought. As of now I am left wondering “Why?” and feeling disappointed and betrayed. I have been robbed of that feeling you get when you open a booster and thumb back to the rare to see which Jace you find, the mind sculptor or the one with Selective Memory. No longer do I wonder if my next player rewards card will be a Tropical Island.
Thanks for reading,
Eric from Saint Louis
Mr. Suitcase on MTGCast.com
Thewachman on twitter.
You can email me at Eric@mtgcast.com
Link to the Reserved List change announcement: