Insider: A Whole New Ball Game

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Welcome back readers!

So last week we got a pretty big bomb dropped on us.....

chris christie

Chris Christie's office closed a roadway in New Jersey to get back at someone (or something like that)...O...M...G! Also there was that whole thing about Chinese fakes that I wrote my last article about and crashed the QS website. So....


Anywho, so the cat's out of the bag and the MTG community is deeply concerned over these fakes. A lot of players are contemplating getting out (though not nearly as many as I'd expect, at least not according to this poll started by our own Sean Johnson). What this means is that consumer confidence is shaken, but not broken.

Panic Like It's Y2K

I'm not going to advocate selling your whole collection, buying a small cabin in the woods, and burying gold bars in your backyard. I'm also not going to advocate ignoring this issue and continually going down the MTG finance path blindly following the old ways. As the title says, It's a whole new ball game.

I personally am going to reduce my exposure. I'm going to keep the cards in the decks I enjoy playing (even if it means risking my $2000 deck becoming $50 bucks) and I'm keeping my one-of EDH cards that I've spent the last five years collecting so I can build janky fun EDH decks.

However, I am going to stop picking up dual lands just to trade and I'm not going to hoard cards as "long-term investments". I've pulled some of my personal Legacy playsets that I haven't played, either in a long time or in some cases ever, and placed them in my trade binder. I'm still keeping some of the really fun EDH ones that aren't stupidly over priced.

Each player is left to make their own decisions which need to be based on their own personal feelings and their tolerance for risk. Those who hate risk will be the ones who sell out, those who just want to play and only trade/speculate to keep the cost of their hobby down will continue going forward (though again, hopefully a bit more cautiously).

However the best way to make your decision is to look at the facts and the likelihood of events.


  1. There have been counterfeits for years. We've all heard of fake power (whether it was printed or rebacked Collectors Edition).
  2. The Chinese government is very lax about enforcing other countries' copyright and trademark laws. This couldn't have been more evident than when I was in China (in 2011) and there were stores with giant windows on the main streets selling obviously bootlegged copies of various movies, TV shows, and software. There aren't a lot of Best Buy type stores in China and the few that are don't even bother to carry music, movies, software because the culture just doesn't value the concept of copyright law.
  3. Magic card values have been growing exponentially the last few years. As demand continues to grow there is a lot of money to be made buying/selling Magic cards.
  4. Counterfeiting is a major problem across numerous industries.
  5. Wizards of the Coast likes to make money and will protect their assets to the best of their ability.


  1. 1:999999999999 the likelihood that WoTC will just give up and stop making Magic because of the counterfeiters.
  2. 1:1 the likelihood that WoTC will seek legal action against counterfeiting operations.
  3. 1:1 The likelihood that WoTC will try to make their cards harder to counterfeit (as seen by the new card frame below) wastenot
  4. 100000:1 The likelihood that adding a little holofoil in the center of the card frame will stop the counterfeiters. I believe WoTC will discover what the US government is always have to keep upgrading the security measures you use to prevent counterfeits because the criminals will keep upgrading their equipment to make them.

How did I come up with these likelihoods, you might ask. As usual I used powerful data mining tools and a complex analytical algorithm created by super geniuses at MIT, most often used for government cryptography. Of course I can't discuss them anymore.

Combating Counterfeits

The point is we have to accept the realities before us. Luckily, WoTC's best interest is also our best interest, so they will do whatever they can to keep the game we love safe. The downside is there's not much they can do to protect older cards.

This is the same issue the US Mint has with all the new security measures they've added to numerous bills.


You can add all the super fancy security measures to your new stuff...but you still gotta accept the old stuff.

oldhundred dollar bill

Thus, all WoTC's countermeasures will be good going forward, but have no bearing on the past. Assuming you've read my previous article on fakes, you'll know that WoTC was smart enough to include security measures in their original printings. The blue paper in the middle, the specialized fonts, the specific card thickness and printing process, and the UV ink. So thank God for WoTC thinking ahead on that one.

However, as I previously mentioned (and the 100-dollar bill pictures emphasize), the counterfeiters will work on correcting their errors. Ironically, our desire to spread the word and alert people of what to look for is the exact "debugging" they need done.

Players' Reactions

The caveat is that people will need to purchase cards from them for them to keep making money. The burden falls onto the player base to keep that one in check.

I realize there will always be people who don't care how unethical something is. These will be the guys who buy the fakes and then try to unload them via eBay, trading venues, buylists, etc. The best way for us to fight this is to be vigilant and to speak up.

If you see someone peddling fakes at a venue immediately tell the T.O. These people are violating the law and are subject to criminal prosecution. With any luck this will be the first line of defense, the second being we players not falling for the siren song of "cheap staples".

Numerous reddit readers felt that the counterfeit issue was a good way to air their grievances about the massive increase in card prices the past five years. They complain that the cost of Legacy is too much and willingly admit that if they get the opportunity to purchase fakes that are only somewhat likely to be discovered they will.

But they fail to realize that encouraging counterfeits to make a format affordable will actually just kill the format and likely the game in general. Legacy is a format that is not really supported by WoTC, it is supported by the secondary market (mainly stores, one store particularly). If that format becomes unprofitable for the stores due to massive decrease in demand for the cards, then there is no economical sense to continue to support it and the format dies.

So these same players will spend $50 on a playset of fake dual lands and within a year or two have nowhere but their kitchen table to play them. The same issue will occur across all formats.

The strength and success of Magic has relied on people's faith that when they buy a pack of cards the cards retain some value. Granted a lot of the time the value is considerably lower than the pack price, but every once in awhile it's higher.

I've witnessed first hand how one player getting something amazing from a pack can cause several others to go buy packs despite the fact that the probability of hitting a high-dollar card is likely to have decreased after the first card is pulled.

This would not be the case if massive amounts of counterfeits and a player base with no qualms about playing them entered the market. If a booster pack is $3.99 but the most expensive card in a set is $2, then no one will open booster packs anymore, WoTC will go under and the game will die. That's not doomsday prophecy, that is just plain economics.

Let this be a warning to the player base. Counterfeits are not beneficial to players (in the long run), even if they seem so (in the short run).

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David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

View More By David Schumann

Posted in Counterfeits, Finance, Free Insider, Timeless Info

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44 thoughts on “Insider: A Whole New Ball Game

  1. I agree with this.

    Personally, I wouldn’t buy fakes knowingly, and if I made a purchase from eBay or whatever and got a fake, it’d be reported as fast as I could get onto eBay and PayPal.

    While, yes, I’d love to be able to get a playset of underground seas for $50, I want genuine underground seas where the money has gone to the right people – namely the store and WotC. However, I accepted the day I decided legacy was the format for me that it wasn’t going to be about $50 playsets, it was going to be about $500+ playsets. I’ve made my peace with that.

    If WotC decided tomorrow to axe the reserved list and put legacy masters into development, I’d start saving the next minute. I’d much rather play a legacy equivalent of MMA draft with the money going to WotC to keep the game going than see the game or format die to save money and benefit counterfeiters.

    The problem comes in that there’s no single solution to this kind of thing. The player base is pretty much split in 2 – the tourney players who will buy a product like MMA or Legacy Masters, and the casuals who would love to play with duals and forces, but wouldn’t want to spend the money on either $100+ singles or $150 booster boxes.

    So the way I look at it, a 2 pronged problem needs a 2 pronged solution. For those who want tourney playable cards, the abolition of the reserved list and a legacy masters edition, ideally with enhanced security measures and printed in decent numbers rather than the over limited printing of MMA, would go a long way to help the issue. For the casuals, I see gold border as the solution. If they released a gold bordered version of the MTGO Powered Cube for $50~, many of the casuals who held off on buying singles would consider opening what… 12 fewer boosters over a few months to buy something with cards that are fine for their casual use even if they can’t go any win the vintage champs with them. Either that or a set much like a LCG pack, where you get 1 each of a set of normally expensive cards in gold border for $30. Gold border wouldn’t even violate the reserved list as it only applies to tourney cards.

    That’s what I hope – that WotC will take this as a spur to look at whether some changes to their policies are needed to keep the game viable. Personally, I don’t care if my Legacy staples drop three quarters of their value to do it because if legacy dies, they’ll probably lose more than that anyway. I’d rather lose value and get better access to the format than have $5000 worth of staples gathering dust because the format isn’t played.

    1. Andrew,
      I really like your idea there, especially the gold bordered idea. Printing cards that aren’t tournament legal should in theory NOT violate the reserved list and it would satiate the casual kitchen top players who want to play with the dual lands and other high end legacy cards but don’t want to pony up the money now. As it is, I know a lot of cubers who just print off proxies, so WoTC could make some profits and satisfy that crowd as well. It really is a shame that when WoTC invited some of the biggest retailers to their HQ a few years ago to discuss the elimination of the reserved list it wasn’t “open door”, though I imagine the reason is because any of the retailers that opposed the elimination would have been blacklisted by the the MTG player community.

      1. Exactly, I’ve done it myself. Hell I’ve got one EDH which atm is entirely proxies (its a bit embarrassing really, I own probably 85 of the cards for it, but I’m in the middle of a redecoration that seems to be dragging on forever, so I don’t want to start pulling out mana drains and underground sea’s in the middle of a house that’s full of wet paint, rogue cats and moving furniture. It just feels like asking for damage).

        The thing is that of my local group, I’m the only one who can bring cards like Underground Sea or Force to the table. Most of the rest won’t pay more than $5 for a card because they only play limited, EDH and the odd event like games day. They’ll trade for more expensive cards, but our group is pretty insular, so influxes of duals isn’t a common occurrence. But if they could buy a gold bordered pack which would give them 40 gold bordered duals, 40 gold bordered fetches, 4 forces, 4 goyfs, etc, they’d probably be willing to break their price limits and buy the pack (quite a few of them will do it for stuff like commander precons, so this should fit that pattern) and TBH, I’d buy it too. One it would make me feel better, as I want to have a playset of each dual plus one of each for EDH. I’d be much happier if I could have the 1-of’s be gold bordered, partly because I don’t like people who hoard duals. For every 4 people have beyond their playset, that’s one fewer person who can get a playset. I get quite annoyed when people open trade folders and say “its all for trade except for the 18 volcanic islands on the last 2 pages” because that’s 3.5 playsets which just aren’t available for people to play with, but also because it would mean that if I carry my 5 colour EDH with me and it gets stolen, it’s a damn sight cheaper to replace than if they were black bordered or white bordered.

        Yes, I know collectors edition gold borders exist, but a gold bordered underground sea is both hard to find and often costs more than a revised Taiga, which kinda defeats the purpose in this context.

        1. Groups can react differently to this; I can see it happen that in mine people playing obviously not tournament legal cards would be ridiculed.

          On the other hand, it’s hard to convince people the expensive cards aren’t really needed. I’d win based on skill and deck construction capability, but some will still conclude it’s just because I have more expensive cards. Particularly newer players are prone to this in my experience. In the end I’d probably rather have that they play something that’s not allowed for tournament play than that they feel priced out of winning (regardless of whether that’s true; it’s amazing how often I can win with the EDH precons).

          1. True, but the existence of the gold borders doesn’t preclude people from using black border. If one group only wants to use black border, cool, nothing changes for them except perhaps less competition for the black borders. For the groups like mine which wouldn’t be adverse to gold border (a couple of us have Gold Border Gaea’s Cradles already), it benefits them hugely.

  2. if they abolish the reserved list, the game dies for me. they need to print some black boardered black backed staples sets so i can cube without pulling cards from my legacy and edh decks, only to worry about playing with strangers.

    If you think the problem is 450$ lands, You are wrong. Thats the reason I still play the game. I still have something to aspire to attain. I get upset with reprints on 70$ cards i own that drop the value to 11$. I brush it off and say “Well they cant reprint my dual lands, atleast im safe on those.”

    They Don’t have flawless counterfeit cards yet. Until they do, stop using it as an excuse to “the abolition of the reserved list and a legacy masters edition”

    Silly entitled Gamers. If you want something, save and buy it. If you want to own everything. play Mega Millions.

    1. Controlled reasonable reprints such as Modern Masters would not necessarily bring down the cards value long term- Goyf went up most other cards dropped 20 % and are starting to come back. This is pretty well documented. Reserve list has created more problems than it initially solved. If high quality high volume counterfeiting continues this would hurt your collection much more than dropping the reserve list and having WotC print Legacy / Vintage Masters or Power Cube.

    2. And this is a perfect example of the much touted “you can’t please everyone” philosophy. I’d like to see the reserved list gone so that they can increase availability of cards. I don’t care about the value dropping, I have a good chunk of my legacy staples. Hell, if the reserved list’s abolition happened and prices did crash, it’d probably knock 60-70% off the value of my collection. But I’d take that hit with a smile if that hit brought about a resurgence of legacy play because I see it as a game first, investment second.

      Also if nothing else I’d like to see it abolished so that they at least have the option to revitalize the oldest formats. Just because its gone doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to flood the market with $2 duals, but the way it is now basically means that if someone tries to flood the market with fakes, they’re severely limited on what they can do in response.

      And TBH, I’d like to see legacy masters even with the reserve list in place. Most people are surprised how few legacy staples or even fringe playables are actually on it. I looked at sample lists for over 70 archetypes a while back, from the most cute fringe boggle auras deck right up to the most expensive like lands and shardless BUG and more or less everything inbetween. Of over 5000 cards, it worked out to about 8% of cards actually being on the reserved list, and over half of those were duals.

      And as Aregand said, just because they do print it doesn’t automatically mean a price crash, just increased availability. Price memory will do a lot to keep prices stable. I’d say even if they printed 3x as much LMA as MMA, the medium term price drop would probably only be 10%.

      1. Duals are what everybody thinks of in regard to the reserved list, but there are actually many more cards with lots of value. I wouldn’t worry about the people with Duals feeling bad about the reprints, there are lots of Duals compared to other cards . I’d be more worried about the people who are holding Bazaars, Candelabras, Moats, Power, Shops and Tabernacles, cards that are way more scarce and that would see much more impact in the case of a reprint. There are about 15x as many Revised Underground Seas than there are Moats.

        I’m not sure where I fall on abolishing the reserved list. I am certainly a big fan of what it does for us finance oriented people, but I can see how finding tournaments becoming difficult would be disastrous to a card’s price. I think though that eventually the old sets will become a collector’s market and then it wouldn’t really matter as they’ll want the old versions regardless of reprints. We’re a long way from that though.

          1. I’m trying to get them. Of those mentioned I only don’t have a Moat and all have been obtained in the last 4 years or so.

            However, people have them. Due to their rarity their increase will be much bigger, relatively speaking. A much larger part of their current price is rarity rather than playability. If they were reprinted they would likely end up considerably lower than Duals would as for Duals there would be much more demand. There’s a reason the 15x as rare The Abyss is approximately a fair trade for an Underground Sea (a trade I did recently).

          2. So true…I’ve had my italian Tabernacle sitting in my trade binder for 6 months (I got it to play Lands…then discovered I hated the deck…so lesson is it’s better to proxy a card for testing..then go to the effort of building a legit version of the deck and hating it).

        1. The thing is that, even if it was abolished and Legacy Masters was created, it wouldn’t include Worshop, Bazaar or Power, and there’s no guarantee that moat, tabernacle or candelabra would be in it (they’re powerful cards, but I don’t count them as staples the way I would force, brainstorm, duals or even delver), so of the 14 cards there, only 3 would even be at risk from legacy masters (my gut is that WotC would be very hesitant to reprint P9 because they want to retain their iconic status more than they’re worried about their value).

      2. Plus we could have GP New Orleans in the Superdome- come and play Legacy Masters Sealed with 25000 of your planeswalking friends/enemies. Memorial Day weekend – Day 1 starts on Thurs though.

  3. “This would not be the case if massive amounts of counterfeits and a player base with no qualms about playing them entered the market. If a booster pack is $3.99 but the most expensive card in a set is $2, then no one will open booster packs anymore, WoTC will go under and the game will die. That’s not doomsday prophecy, that is just plain economics”. <—– NO, THIS IS DOOMSDAY PROPHECY, DOOM AND GLOOM, FEAR TACTICS….

    You guys are not the guardians of the game. The game transcends the globe! People are going to make fakes til the end of time of every item that exists on earth. Get over it, learn how to detect a fake.

    There is nothing worse that reading a bunch of noobs whining about the reserve list.

    None of the stuff in the article is going to happen, and none of the stuff in the comments is going to happen. DO YOUR RESEARCH, LEARN A LITTLE.



    And if you cant tell the difference between rebacked power and authentic power, you need to stop dabbling where you dont belong.

    1. There is no proof that the Reserve List is a legally binding contract. A contract requires a meeting of the minds of two parties at the same time and it requires consideration. It may be a warranty from the company or a goodwill gesture. However, I don’t believe it extends privity to third-party transactions – I can’t loop them in because I bought a Candelabra from you and then they reprinted it.

      One would also need to prove damages as well as reliance on the supposed warranty/contract.

      If you have proof to me, supported with caselaw, that the Reserve List is a legally-binding contract, I would love to read it! There are plenty of lawyers who play Magic and we’d all like to see something relevant to this sensitive issue.

      1. You guys must be living under a rock. There have been a half-dozen articles over the years elaborating on how Hasbro would open themselves up for years of legal battles over the reserve list because they are on record saying they will not do something.

        I am not a lawyer and I do not have all the details… If this wasn’t the case, why hasn’t Wizards reprinted them.



        1. Show me those articles. I live in Cincinnati, which is probably under a rock.

          Just because something is legal (or quasi-legal) doesn’t mean that it should be done. “Customer Goodwill” is just one reason they could use for not rescinding the Reserve List.

          1. I’ve also heard of these supposed articles but never seen any evidence of any of them. I honestly don’t see that any company with any sense would agree to something like the reserved list in a legally binding way.

            And all MaRo ever says on it is that they made a promise and they’re sticking to it.

            Plus, they had a meeting to discuss its abolition. If it were that legally binding, why have that meeting?

      2. Although, I want to be clear that my comment isn’t meant to try and “stick it to you” or anything like that. I understand that you are actually a practicing attorney, and you might even practice contract law for all I know. I’m only a law student, and not qualified to practice law to any degree. My opinions on the contract situation are only meant to open discussion on the matter with another student of the law, because this actually seems like an interesting question to think about.

    2. I’ll try to remain civil in my replies to your statements, but this one is just incorrect on your part “That’s not doomsday prophecy, that is just plain economics”. <—– NO, THIS IS DOOMSDAY PROPHECY, DOOM AND GLOOM, FEAR TACTICS…."

      That IS basic economic principal. Basic supply and demand dictates that demand sets prices. If you are the sole owner of something (let's say a miracle drug) but you want to charge $300,000,000 per dose it's unlikely you'll ever sell it as the # of people who could afford it is quite small. Thus, you can charge what you like but there will be no demand for it. The exact same principle holds true in this instance. If large influxes of counterfeit cards were to enter the US (and I do mean large amounts, millions and millions) then the value of real cards would greatly diminish as many of the players who wanted to play them would get whichever was cheapest (they might prefer NOT to know if they are real or not) but either way the demand for real ones would be reduced and thus the prices would fall. If the prices fell far enough (due to large amounts of counterfeits) then it would be get to a point where the price of the cards would be less than the current MSRP of a pack ($3.99). If you can't understand a very basic economic principal than there can be no dialogue here.

    3. The way the reserved list was worded states that “Reserved cards will never be printed again in a functionally identical form. A card is considered functionally identical to another card if it has the same card type, subtypes, abilities, mana cost, power, and toughness.” – from the mothership.

      Reverberate broke that rule and you don’t see lawyers suing the pants off WotC. What about poor old Jizz on Chin? He hasn’t seen tournament play in over 10 years, and has been improved upon numerous times.

      And then there are cards like Mold Demon….

      Mark Rosewater has repeatedly stated he hates the reserved list and the amount it stifles the creative team. Could you imagine being on the r&d and being told “sorry, this common can’t exist. Mold Demon is on the reserved list.” While you would likely just drop a mana cost or two, how far do they need to go in order to preserve the integrity of the game?

      1. Reverberate is a known exception that they have stated they regret printing. It was created before they solidified the reserved list (and it’s not exactly the same as Fork, have a good look). If you want to make that argument you have to come up with a card that is newer and is indeed functionally identical.

        Improved versions are by definition not functionally identical so they would not usually be a problem (Reverberate could be considered an improved Fork, but they are too close).

  4. I am not renewing my subscription after the two articles from yesterday and today…

    This is absurd for subscription based material.

    This stuff is like 3rd-grade level mtg information.

    I am really blown away. Write about speculation, not about fuking gov. of NJ and dwelling on some rebacked power..

    1. “If you see someone peddling fakes at a venue immediately tell the T.O. These people are violating the law and are subject to criminal prosecution.”

      This is actually totally inaccurate.

      A player who posses a fake card is not a criminal. They are not subject to any criminal action and they cannot be arrested. Especially if they are not trying to sell the card at a commercial venue.

      The prosecution could only come in the form of a lawsuit from Hasbro, aka WOTC if the outfit was proven to be producing items that have a trademark.

      For WOTC to file a lawsuit, do you realize the level of trademark infringement that would have to be committed… for WOTC and Hasbro to file a lawsuit.

      Stop trying to scare people with inaccurate info. People can use proxies, fakes, look alikes or print their own magic cards. Its not a criminal offense, so stop lying.

        1. Also, this is the last comment I will be making.

          I know all of this to be true because my friend recently bought a massive collection off craigslist and it contained many rebacked power cards… (He is an ignorant idiot obv)

          But, he spent weeks trying to get the police to help him, all they could do is laugh and tell him they could tell their supervisor and see what he wanted to do.

          Ultimately, the buyer had the sellers phone number and name, but the police HAD NO JURISDICTION in the case. They said it was a matter outside of criminal justice, and that it needed to be taken care of in smalls claims court!!!

          LOL get a life you idiots

          1. In Ohio, it’s called Criminal Simulation:


            “uttering” is defined in my Black’s Law as “putting an object into circulation.”

            I only practice law in Ohio, but we clearly have laws on the books for that. I would imagine other states can cover this with an omnibus criminal fraud law.

            My cursory search of the law databases show about two dozen appellate cases in OH of prosecution for trademark violation (usually purses) that have been successfully prosecuted. Violating a civil trademark in the Buckeye state opens one to criminal prosecution and Magic cards are replete with trademarks.

            1. These examples you cite are large-scale counterfeiting rings that were ripping off high-end designer goods. Not magic cards.

              No Police would make an arrest for a fake magic card. It would put the officer’s career in jeopardy for making a questionable arrest that he could later be sued for.

              Once you guys can cite one example of a person arrested for a fake magic card, then you have my vote.

              1. You should note that just because the current examples are specifically regarding counterfeit high end merchandise, the law Doug quoted does NOT only apply to those..otherwise it would say so. If you’re friend who purchased the fakes lived in Ohio or another state with similar laws in the books than he could press charges.

    2. “I am not renewing my subscription after the two articles from yesterday and today…”

      Finally a good news from you. I’m glad it only took two articles and not 6 months.

  5. I am thinking the police will tell you that if you want “real” magic cards, buy them from a reputable magic card dealer, and stay away from craigslist.
    By the way.. a dispute over any product is not a police issue.. it is a civil disagreement. You can file in small claims court.. but don’t expect to win.

  6. GP New Orleans 2017 in the Superdome – come and play Legacy Masters Sealed with 25000 of your planeswalking friends/enemies. Memorial Day weekend – Day 1 starts on Thurs. Monday top 32 televised by G4. Side Power Cube events . Drew Brees opens the ceremonial first pack. Top 1000 get free entry for GP Vegas Vintage Masters Labor Day Weekend. Preregister now !

  7. I do think that this is a well written article but I would hope most insiders would already know these things. Kinda new here but this does seem pretty basic. A lot of would be useful for people who would consider buying cf’s to read I think.

    1. Agreed, the thing is, the basic articles need to be written too so they’ll pop up every now and then. Fortunately many of the articles and forum posts cover more advanced topics.

  8. Yeah but I cannot imagine that any insiders were, I’ll ruin mtg, while trying to invest in it? Doesn’t make sense to me. maybe I’m just in just giving to much credit to the subs here. Doesn’t seem like an article that people should have to pay to see. It almost seems written for the magic masses tbh.

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