I felt like Wizards delivered an early Christmas present when they announced Modern Masters during Pro Tour Return to Ravnica coverage. Not exactly because of the cards in it—though I'm still missing a set of Thoughtseize and I'm pretty sure it should be in there—but because of the precedent it creates. You see, if Modern Masters is a success and increases the supply of Modern staples without much backlash from collectors, it opens the door for other reprint projects, something Legacy could benefit from greatly.
Modern Masters is a great step in the right direction. Dual lands may be the biggest factor limiting the growth of this lovely format, but they're far from the only thing that's starting to be in rather short supply.
Oh, before I continue, let me silence the moans of an abused R&D department expecting another call for abolishing the reserved list. Yes, I would totally be in favor of that (and I own most of the cards on there), but Wizards has said they can't and won't revert that policy. Actually, they seem to hate that decade-old mistake as much as we do, but for some secret reason they can't go back on it. I guess honoring one's promises, even stupid ones, has quite a bit of intrinsic value. So there's that at least.
Just because we can't get rid of the reserved list, though, doesn't mean there aren't a few perfectly valid reprints for me to ask our Magical Santa for—that's what I'm going to talk about today. So let's get started, shall we?
Santa Non-Denominational Seasonal Wizard...
I think I've been a reasonably good boy this year. I didn't cheat in any tournaments, only mind tricked my opponents when unavoidably necessary or for the pure fun of it (it's surprising how many people you can get to discard cards when casting Gitaxian Probe by telling them "I'll take Stifle." And before the accusations start, I obviously made them get back whatever they discarded.) and participated in a minimal number of forum flame wars. So here's what I'd like for Christmas this year: please reprint some or—even better—all of the cards below in a way that doesn't collapse the secondary market but makes them more accessible for everybody. I'll even let you know why I think these are good ideas!
Special Set Cards
Putting Loyal Retainers into Commander's Arsenal was a great move already, but there are a number of cards from the Starter/Portal sets that could do with a little supply boost.
I already have a playset of these (thanks to Stephen Menendian building Grim Long way back when), but they're ridiculously expensive now and are a big hurdle to jump over for anyone who wants to start playing Legacy's only Yawgmoth's Will deck (Cabal ANT). I don't think a card that is significantly worse than Infernal Tutor should cost as much as a couple of dual lands. This one's power level might even be fine in Standard (three life seems like a fair trade-off for a mana compared to Diabolic Tutor in that format), though a print run as big as that would be pretty bad for me personally (and just about everyone else who has a few Grims).
Speaking of personally, when the miracles mechanic was spoiled, these saw a sudden price jump, but nothing has come of the interaction. I still think this card will at some point find a home, and when it does, it's going to become prohibitively expensive (like everything from these small print run sets). Personal Tutor has already turned up as a one of in decks such as Omni-Tell, and I've been experimenting with it to fetch sideboard bullets while also working as another engine piece in Storm lists. It may not be necessary yet, but the day when Personal Tutor becomes limiting is already looming on the horizon.
The earliest poster child for unreasonably priced cards from Portal sets, Imperial Recruiter is powerful, no question. It's what allows Aluren to still be a real deck and gives consistency to the mono-red Painter's Servant deck (there's a reason it's called Imperial Painter). Both of those decks are sweet and quirky and shouldn't be out of the range of most people's budgets because a three mana 1/1 has a triple digit cost.
This isn't exactly a Legacy reprint, seeing how it's banned and all that. Still, Imperial Seal's price rivals that of the Power Nine, though at its heart it's nothing but a much worse Vampiric Tutor. It's honestly surprising how much worse being sorcery speed makes a topdeck Tutor.
The fact that it doesn't see ubiquitous play in Vintage means it's at least possible that this card could be fair enough to be legal as a four-of in Legacy, which would give black decks a way to increase consistency without having to play blue.
At its current price level, most people would perceive an experimental unbanning of the card as an insult, and even if it proved to be perfect as black's library manipulation option, only a small fraction of players would actually benefit from it. A reasonably sized reprint would make this experiment significantly more reasonable, and if worse comes to worst and Imperial Seal breaks Legacy, a reprint would still mean Vintage and Commander players would gain easier access to it.
Deck-Specific Older Cards
The next few cards aren't exactly rare like the ones I just mentioned. They're just old enough to fetch a rather high price and important enough pieces in Legacy decks that quite a few players can't play what they really want.
The people that would profit the most from this being reprinted are players interested in jamming Goblins or Death and Taxes (Legacy's resident White Weenie deck). One big reason to make sure these don't become too expensive is that both of these decks are eminently fair—well, for Legacy standards—and play an honest game of Magic (play guys, bash, etc.).
Both of them also happen to be viable mono-color decks, meaning there's no need to shell out for a bunch of duals from the get go, something that is ideal for players interested in getting into the format. Keeping entry-level decks somewhat affordable is something both Legacy players and Wizards should have a vested interest in because Legacy being popular is a boon for Magic as a whole. No other format has as much variety of play as Legacy does, and the fun that comes with that is great for player contentment and the continued growth of the Magic community as a whole.
Show and Tell, on the other hand, would be a good reprint for decks on the opposite end of the spectrum; it fuels the only combo decks in the format that have a low enough skill cap to be viable choices for players without much experience doing broken things. Sure, Show and Tell is obnoxious to play against, but doing impressively broken stuff is another thing that makes Legacy awesome, so providing the opportunity to do so has value.
In addition, making sure Show and Tell doesn't become too expensive also provides a nice safety net for the day when Wizards decides to print something that truly breaks it. Not being able to play with your $30 cards feels a lot less heartbreaking than losing a $100 investment per piece of cardboard.
Sneak Attack is on here for the simple reason that it is one of Show and Tell's favorite partners in crime and has also managed to dodge the reserved list. Everything I just said for Show and Tell applies to Sneak Attack to a certain extent, though it's much less likely to ever need to be banned.
The Must Haves
All the cards I've mentioned so far I'd definitely like to see reprinted, but with them it isn't a truly important matter. The following eight cards, on the other hand, are so integral to the format that I believe we actually need to see them reprinted at some point to avoid trouble for the format.
Force of Will is probably the most important card in Legacy. Without the threat of turn zero countermagic, it would be quite reasonable for a number of combo decks to do what Belcher does and sacrifice resilience for speed. You only have to look at the number of people that play Belcher on Magic Online (where Force of Will is significantly more expensive than in real life) to get an inkling of what shape the format would take if Force of Will wasn't around to punish people for ignoring their opponents.
As the price of Force of Will rises, so does the number of players being priced out of interacting with turn 1 combo. That is not a good thing. There need to be ways for budget conscious players to punish the blitz if people decide to bring it (even if it means running Merfolk for an event or two).
Legacy is defined by dual-fetch mana bases. Whatever combination of colors you want to play, from extremely stable two-color decks to weird five-color monstrosities, the mana is there to support it. This allows high-power multicolor decks to be prominent, and it is quite important for the health of the format that there is an easy, convenient, and rather effortless way to punish players for playing fast and loose with their mana. That's exactly what Wasteland does, and as such it plays a big role in allowing (cheap) mono-color decks to compete with teched-out Legacy veterans and keeping the splash insanity in check.
Wizards seems hellbent on printing better and better legendary fatties. First we had Iona, then Emrakul followed by Jin-Gitaxias, until we finally hit the lifelinking Yawgmoth's Bargain Demon of Doom that is Griselbrand. These cards are the biggest reason Show and Tell (mentioned above) is as stupid as it is, though Entomb and its friends Reanimate and Exhume play into it, too. Being able to cheat these cards into play cheaply is something that has come to define Legacy and gives players that don't have the time or commitment to master something more complicated like Storm a way to experience the joy of true brokenness.
Given the power level of these cards, though, it is extremely important that there is a cheap, accessible way to deal with them that can't easily be stopped.
Karakas does more, though. Legendary hate bears along the lines of Gaddock Teeg and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben have reached power levels that can shut down whole decks, and as a result, Karakas has become a widely played answer in a multitude of decks, covering the whole spectrum from aggro (Maverick) to control (U/W Miracles) and combo (typically in Storm sideboards).
As long as cards like Emrakul and Griselbrand are playable in Legacy, a cheap, efficient answer like Karakas is of incredible value to the format's game play experience. Nobody should be priced out of having access to such an important tool.*
Handing out Karakas as a Judge Reward Promo was a great step in the right direction, yet given the importance this card has gained in the format in the last year or so, this small jump in supply simply isn't enough.
* There's also the matter of Death and Taxes, as a White Weenie deck, being a very appealing deck for Legacy newcomers, and the deck usually wants a full playset of Karakas. This argument is much less important compared to the effect Karakas has on the format as a whole, though.
Onslaught Fetchlands: Polluted Delta, Bloodstained Mire, Flooded Strand, Windswept Heath, and Wooded Foothills
The five cards that are one. As mentioned before, Legacy is defined by dual-fetch mana bases, and as a result, Wasteland is a necessary and important cog in the format. At the same time, though, balance mandates that there is a way for people to fight back against the zero mana land destruction spell. It has to be possible to construct mana bases in a way that is resilient to Wasteland.
The most efficient way to do so for a large majority of decks is to run a number of basic lands using fetchlands to grab them when Wasteland threatens. With the price of the original cycle steadily climbing, certain color combinations have become more and more expensive to play. Reprinting the original fetches provides an easy way to counteract the already ridiculous cost of lands in Legacy decks.
For the Future
And finally, one card I'd like to see printed again, if only for my flights of fancy involving a renewed interest in Vintage and possible unbanning in Legacy.
This last one isn't something I think will be too important for Legacy in the foreseeable future, but playing with this card is just so much fun that I can't help wanting it to be legal. While Mana Drain remains banned in Legacy for the moment (and for good reason, I suspect), the amount of play actual Counterspell sees in the format is rather limited. That gives me hope that, at some point, Legacy will evolve enough to make unbanning Mana Drain an actual possibility. The card is just so much fun to play with that I can't help but wish we had access to this poster boy of blue being the sickest color, even though it's pretty bad to be on the receiving end of it.
Mana Drain being reprinted would be great for Vintage and Commander. It would also mean it could be reasonably considered as a candidate to come off the banned list once Legacy has developed to the point where it wouldn't break things.
The truth is that as much as I don't think secondary market prices should be a reason to ban anything, unbanning cards like Mana Drain or Imperial Seal with the current supply would be a slap in the face to most of the Legacy community at this point. Given that I'd love to play with them, though, I'd really like to see more of them put into circulation, enabling possible unbannings just to see what happens.
Waiting for Christmas Eve
And that's what I want for Christmas this year: WotC finding some way akin to Modern Masters to bring a reasonable amount of Legacy staples into circulation.
What do you think? Is that something you'd like to see happen? Would you buy product that contains these cards? Or do you think it would be a desecration of these old veterans to reprint them after all this time? On the other hand, maybe you think I missed some particular card (remember, nothing from the reserved list). If so, speak up. Wizards is taking a big risk with Modern Masters given the Chronicles precedent, but if the set turns out to be a home run, they will surely be looking at similar things they could do without breaking their promise to collectors. Maybe we can get them to throw the old dog a bone while they're doing so. I know I'm looking forward to it.
Until next time, make your own non-denominational seasonal wishes!