(Yes, this is the start of another tired old thread about the Reserved List. You may stop reading now if you wish.)
I see that it has been an exciting year in Magic: the Gathering.
A while back, despite the previous existence of Judge foils, when the Reserved List foil card Pyrexian Negator
appeared in Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs. The Coalition
, there was quite an uproar. People had not understood "premium" in the Reprint Policy to include anything tournament-legal, even if it was foil.
Now, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that Commander's Arsenal
did not cause any similar hue and cry. After all, the Reserved List cards that were "reprinted" in it, Karn, Silver Golem
and Sliver Queen
(Hmm, maybe they should have called it Commander's Typographical Error
...) were not tournament-legal. They were oversized cards. And there have been lots of oversized reprints; for example, an oversized Black Lotus
was included with SCRYE #15.
And yet I an going to say that Commander's Arsenal was
transgressive and unprecedented in one way. The oversized cards in it weren't tournament-legal, but for the first time, they were intended for use in a kind of Magic play, even if it was a casual variant.
And, of course, an even bigger event happened - in MTGO. When the last Masters' Edition
came out without the Power Nine - but with it appearing that their inclusion had been seriously considered - there was considerable dismay. Wizards responded that the P9 would eventually come to MTGO, in a form worthy of their stature.
One component of how such a statement would be interpreted was, of course, that they would be released at a high price - the cynical among us thinking a very high price. That didn't happen; instead, the Holiday Cube Draft
was Wizards' Christmas gift to its MTGO customers.
These things make me, at least, think about what it is that makes pieces of cardboard with printing on them valuable.
Well, some will say that value is not a mystery. It comes from supply and demand, end of story.
That's true enough, and supply
is no mystery, since whatever X is, for every card, there were X copies of it printed for some X.
But demand is the mystery.
I mean, some of demand is obvious. If you need four copies of Underground Sea
to build that hopefully prize-winning Legacy deck you want to play, you'll be willing to pay a few dollars for them.
But there's more to it than that. A part of the value of a Magic card is its collectability. So a Beta Black Lotus is worth more than an Unlimited Black Lotus.
Would having more Vintage events offset the negative impact on P9 prices of throwing the Reprint Policy to the wind and printing more copies of the P9? After all, if the demand for copies of the P9 comes from two factors -
- their collector value, and
- their utility in play
then, since reprints wouldn't be counterfeits (a Magic 2015 Black Lotus wouldn't be an Unlimited Black Lotus or a Beta Black Lotus), and Magic would remain a recognized game with a rich history, the collector value shouldn't change,
and the use value of the P9 cards would shoot up if there were more opportunities to play Vintage, the utility value would increase, wouldn't it?
Of course, this isn't true. The utility value, since it would be attainable at a much lower cost, would collapse to match that cost. So an Unlimited Edition Black Lotus might go from $1,500 to $200 if you could get a reprinted one for $20, and a Beta Black Lotus would likely lose a few more dollars off its price.
And what isn't lost in price would be lost in liquidity, particularly for Unlimited cards.
Demand is built on very subjective factors that motivate the desire for a thing. And so Wizards is right to tread cautiously with the Reprint Policy.