If there is one thing that I simply cannot stand, it's reprints.
With Masters 25 on the horizon, like you, I woke up every day hoping that some extremely subpar cards would be repackaged for the purposes of menial Draft escapades and little else. When they revealed Ratcatcher and Nezumi Cutthroat, I breathed a sigh of relief. Woolly Loxodon? Thank you. Stangg or whatever the hell that thing's name is? Perfect and God bless.
It seems like there were a good bit of you out there who would agree with me.
You checked your binders and made sure that your investments were safe and sound as a pound.
But then…tragedy struck.
Okay, okay, okay. We knew Jace, the Mind Sculptor was inevitable. I adjusted my tinfoil hat as to block out the secret frequencies that Wizards of the Coast were likely trying to jam into my brain so they could extract information from me. We all know that they unbanned Jace and completely ruined Modern so they could sell more packs. That's the easy part. Deciphering that felt as elementary as reprinting Kindle.
First they came for my Imperial Recruiters. SCG has these available for $75, which has brought the price down of Portal Three Kingdoms Recruiters…umm…not any dollars, yet, but that doesn't mean they aren't going to drop. They will. Look at Magus of the Moon. The Future Sight version used to be over $20, but now since being reprinted it has dropped down as much as two dollars. That's a pack of Coolmint Ice Breakers. Are you serious? I took the biggest bath of my life on my playest of Magus of the Moon. If we adjust those prices, I'm primed to lose upwards of $30 on my Imperial Recruiters.
Of course, I don't actually own any Recruiters, but now I'm far too frightened to invest in them for fear of losing all of my hypothetical cash.
Hey, did you know that the moon landing never happened?
We'll talk about that later.
Seeing their gross negligence when it comes to reprinting cards so limited in their availability throws me for a loop. So, check this out: I'm sitting on my couch trying to feed my copies of Azusa, Lost but Seeking. She likes the attention. Anyhow, I look on screen and see that she's coming back. Uh oh, wallet, Wizards of the Coast is trying to assault you like you were a pretzel. For the low, low price of $20, you can pick up an M25 Azusa. Even worse, foils are preselling on StarCityGames.com® right now for $39.99.
Do you know what the O.G. Azusa from Saviors costs? $38. For two more bucks, which we already discussed is a fully loaded pack of mints, you can have the foil M25 version with arguably better art that makes Azusa look like she's forming some kind of Spirit Bomb out of plants. How is this fair to those of us who bought high on Azusa and wanted to sell even higher on her, even though I didn't plan on selling these cards any time soon because I enjoy playing Magic?
Why Reprints Are Killing a Trading Card Game
The Reserved List has set the standard of what we should do when it comes to reprints, which is "not create them." In 2010 I bought a ton of dual lands, pretty much a set of each of them, when they were relatively inexpensive. We're talking Underground Seas for about $90. Back then it was quite a bit, but I wanted to play Legacy, so they seemed like the gatekeeper to getting in to the kinds of decks that looked like they'd be the most fun to play. If I wanted to jam Tombstalkers, I'd need Undergrounds and Bayous to complement Dark Confidant.
The SCG Tour® then started making Legacy Tour stops, and the format exploded. Demand vastly exceeded expectations and supply, and all of a sudden those dual lands doubled and tripled over the next few years. Having them was as good as having gold because you knew they'd never get reprinted. I invested thousands of dollars into Legacy before the boom, so when my deck jumped from a thousand to three thousand in just a few weeks, I sold all of them and put a down payment on a house.
Just as the Lord intended.
My playset of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale was easily let go. I definitely didn't need my Bazaar of Baghdad. These cards were never going to be printed again and were only metrically increasing in value. Keeping them was almost a liability. I didn't want to get robbed! I cashed out when I felt like they were about as high as they were ever going to get, but like a Creed song, they got taken higher.
Hey, did you know the Earth is flat? Just wondering.
What makes cards on the Reserved List so prestigious is that Wizards has committed to a handful of backpack vendors and businesses that primarily make their money off of Standard and Modern cards to never reprint these cards again. They want them to be able to maintain their value and iconic nature.
Can you imagine going on StarCityGames.com® and buying a reprinted, mythic-slotted Black Lotus, and then, after receiving that card in the mail, taking it to a local Vintage tournament that was actually able to fire and play it alongside the black-bordered Moxen you also bought that were a part of a commemorative set or something along those lines?
How freaking miserable would that be?
Now, that one person in your town that has held on to their Power Nine since they were a teenager is going to have to do battle with the rest of these swine that are ruining their favorite format by wanting to play it in the first place. Stick to Pauper, peasants, if you can even afford it.
You see, when Chronicles and Forth Edition came out, collectors were furious. 1996 was a wild year, folks. Sunny from WWF had just been voted AOL's most downloaded woman of the year, and WMAC Masters on Fox Kids was just hitting its stride. Show was so boss. Collectors were super ticked off that their card values were tanking, so Wizards of the Coast decided to give them a bone by declaring that certain cards from early sets (Alpha, Beta, Arabian Nights) would never receive reprints again.
Throughout the years they'd make various amendments, and even tried to pull a fast one with From the Vaults: Relics by trying to say you could reprint cards if it was done in a promotional or premium way, like with Mox Diamond. Thankfully legal action was threatened, and Wizards backed off their high horse of trying to get everyone involved.
Magic may have multiple formats like Legacy and Vintage that are almost entirely contingent on cards that exist on the Reserved List, but that just adds to the allure of these prestigious tournaments. Legacy events are still getting huge turnouts, so why should we even worry about it?
At their core, reprints functionally destroy whatever game they touch. Yu-Gi-Oh! is my favorite example of a game that is literally bursting into flames. They reprint cards over there all the time. They have these things called "Reprint Packs" to provide players with cards that are generally considered to be either too expensive or required tournament staples. Can you even fathom that? Everyone playing…
I mean, I get that in 2013 they broke the record for largest trading card game tournament in history with something like 4300+ players, but let's be honest here, is giving players the ability to play the decks they want without having to sell their kidneys a good thing? Absolutely not. And that's why Magic is and will always be better. We make our players sell organs to get Mishra's Workshops.
The thing that I always try to keep in perspective is that cards aren't meant to be played but are instead supposed to be retirement plans. If I can't make money off them, they are of no use to me, even though I intend to continue playing them and have no real plans of liquidating soon. I just like having the option, should I have to.
Did you know that theFed is printing money at an alarming rate? If you sell your Magic cards, invest in gold and MREs.
Now you may be asking yourself: why do reprints like the ones in M25 warrant such a hostile reception? Are they really killing the game, Mark, or are you just being a hypochondriac? I don't believe reacting to Wizards of the Coast taking money out of my cats' mouths is too dramatic. Let's break down the issue:
1) I have four Gatecrash Boros Charms for trade. They are about $4 apiece.
2) M25 comes out with a reprinted Boros Charm. Boros/Naya Burn players have to play this card.
3) Instead of wanting my playset of Charms, they're going to want the ones belonging to the person with four M25 Charms so they can save themselves a dollar per Charm.
4) I am losing so much money here.
5) Hulk smash.
The math is very clear on it.
Never mind what people and financial experts say about "demand increasing" or "interest in a format skyrocketing." That's all propaganda, like how there's fluoride in the water meant to increase the amount of frogs out there living alternative lifestyles.
Check out Snapcaster Mage. This card was reprinted as an RPTQ foil as well as being included in Modern Masters 2017. A once-$50 card is now…closer to $80. All right, so that card didn't go down, but instead went up. No worries. I can find a good example of them trying to torpedo my collection's value.
The Ravinca shocklands! All of them used to float around $20 apiece, but with Return to Ravnica the originals have stayed the same price, but the newer ones can be picked up for between four and six dollars less. These are huge hits I'm taking, unless you account for the fact that the cards I currently own are still the same price. It's absolutely devastating out here. Did they really need an Ensnaring Bridge reprint to bring down the cost of the original by…half a buck so far? What is the benefit of having more players have access to these cards, anyway? I just don't see it.
Magic is at a crossroads here, folks.
They can choose to continue to reprint expensive cards like Jace or Azusa or Imperial Recruiter. Newer players looking to get in to Modern or Legacy will flock to these cards and begin investing in the format, which will increase the overall growth of Magic as a whole, thereby ruining it.
Or they can increase the restrictions of the Reserved List and not just limit it to older cards, but newer ones as well!
Imagine a world where Bloodbraid Elf was never reprinted, so upon its unbanning it goes $3 to $100 overnight. Sure, you'll never know what it feels like to cast it or even own one, but that's your fault for not having the foresight nine years ago to hoard your playset. Seems like a personal problem to me.
Reprints will continue to come and they'll continue to devalue collections across the globe, inevitably causing Magic to die when too many people finally infiltrate our secret clubhouse. High-powered collectors from all over the world will sell all their cards, the Magic economy will crash, and then tournaments will cancel because what is the point of even going if you can't show off how expensive your deck is?
Do yourself a favor and write, tweet, and email your local politicians and put a stop to Wizards reprinting cards.
A vote for a universal Reserved List is a vote for the health and longevity of Magic.
Also, were you aware that we are all living in a simulated reality and that none of this is actually real?