It's the end of the year and you're reading a weekly column, so you know what that means - lazy writers making lists instead of creating content!
So here you go: a Magic year in review!
A Chinese counterfeiting ring broke Wizards of the Coast's will in 2013, so with M15 we saw unveiling of a new card frame and the inclusion of a holographic seal on all rare and mythic rare cards.
Player reception was overwhelmingly indifferent as Wizards seemingly lacks the technology to retroactively apply holograms to all existing cards. I know I'll sleep much better knowing that nobody will be able to counterfeit my Chasm Skulkers.
Commander decks are now on a yearly release schedule with on demand reprints. It's unlikely that these products will ever be considered "investment grade" ever again, as many of the Commander 2013 decks are readily available below retail, and even the "chase" decks are still floating around at mass market retailers unpurchased.
Legacy is Dead
The SCG Open series has been the predominant motivator for Legacy prices for years. And with changes to the Open series format, Legacy is surely dead. For those living under a rock, SCG Opens are turning the Saturday Standard tournament into a two-day-$20k affair and reducing Legacy to a 5k event on Sunday rather than a 10k.
So with prize support cutting nearly in half, Legacy cards are in free fall.. Well, not really.
Legacy is a format that players play because they love it, not because of any perceived economic gains. It's never been and never will be a PTQ format, so the demand for Legacy cards has always been from people that want to play Legacy.
We've seen a slight settling in Legacy prices across the board, but that's more likely due to speculators (yeah, you) backing off as prices reached a new plateau. Legacy has never been a format that's experienced a high demand compared to any format, aside from Vintage.
The other major fact most people seem to be overlooking is that Legacy ascended to where it was on the backs of weekly 5k tournaments. So we're actually right back where we started.
Modern Masters is Coming Back
The biggest finance story of 2015 will likely be Modern Masters II. Thousands of players and speculators are waiting with bated breath to see what will be reprinted.
Speculation on which cards will see reprints has run rampant, but we really have no idea what Wizards' plan will be going forward. Will we see another printing of the ultra-expensive cards like Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique? What uncommons will we see?
With Modern Masters II, Wizards will set the precedent going forward. We're likely to see "soft ceilings" on many Modern staples, but anticipating what that ceiling will be is nearly impossible until we see what Wizards decides to do with MM2015.
If we see reprints of higher priced uncommons like Remand and Path to Exile while lower priced staples like Lightning Helix or Kitchen Finks sit this round out, then we can figure out what the price threshold for reprints will be going forward.
Speculating on which marquee cards will be reprinted has been covered by roughly a million sources already, so I won't go too deep into that right now.
One of my main curiosities will be whether Wizards decides to start using the Modern Masters set as a way to skip Standard reprints altogether. There is a non-zero possibility that we see non-standard cards like Containment Priest or Dualcaster Mage reprinted directly into the Modern format.
This allows Wizards to make cards that are fair in eternal formats without the worry associated with breaking Standard. Maybe if I'm really lucky, they'll throw Cabal Therapy into the mix. Because dammit, I want to play therapy in Modern.
Bad MSpaint Drawings Get Funnier With Excessive Use
Plastering bad MSpaint drawings all over everything is just pure #Value. Expect to see more in 2015, because there's ultimately something charming about pixelated graphics in a world of HD.
Fate Reforged is the first, and likely last, attempt at a new draft structure.
We've seen the Big/Small/Big block format a couple times now, but Rise of the Eldrazi and Avacyn Restored were both sets that were drafted alone. Fate Reforged will be drafted with Khans of Tarkir--the large fall set--and Dragons of Tarkir, the spring large set.
With the upcoming changes to the block structure beginning with the fall 2015 set, we're unlikely to revisit this structure even if it is successful.
Real Estate is No Longer Safe
Wizards has stated for years that they did not want "format staples" to have a high barrier to entry, and they're really beginning to demonstrate that in their printings.
We saw a reprint of Ravnica's shocklands a couple years ago and Onslaught fetches appeared in Khans of Tarkir. Both of these land cycles are featured as "bonus slot" reprints.
Over the holidays, Wizards announced that Fate Reforged will randomly feature fetchlands in the basic land slot, similar to the shocklands appearing in Dragon's Maze.
My initial fear is this is a sign that Fate Reforged "kinda sucks," just like Dragon's Maze did. But when I thought about it a little more, this will result in more additional fetches than it did in additional shocklands.
Why? Because Fate Reforged is intended to be drafted with Khans of Tarkir, then again with Dragons of Tarkir. This unique draft structure will result in Fate Reforged being drafted much more than Dragon's Maze was.
Hoarding shocks seemed like a sure-bet, and Khans fetches seem even better. But we might need to rethink that strategy going forward, as most shocklands haven't budged in price since rotation and the Khans fetches keep slipping and will be printed into oblivion.
Beyond the two of those, I fully expect to see Innistrad duals in the last Core Set to mirror the experience we had with M10 duals and the Zendikar fetches, though their prices will probably rise rather than fall with a reprint similar to what we've seen with the enemy painlands in M15.
Ugin is Pretty Awesome
Look at him! No, look at him! He's freakin' sweet! It's Karn Liberated all over again, except a little bit more awesome. This card is a singular win condition for control decks that can easily wipe the slate clean as soon as he comes into play.
This may not be year-in-review material, but seriously guys. Seriously.
PTQs are Dead
Of all the changes we've seen in Magic this last year, the changes to the PTQ structure seem to be the most significant.
I'm sure it will be a while before we fully understand the impact of these changes, but the new structure is a game changer. So far, there has been no event in the US with more than 100 players.
Events are firing with attendance as low as the mid-twenties and I'm sure we'll see reports with some of these events firing as three round, single-elimination tournaments. Many regions are suffering from a lack of the requisite number of Level 2 judges physically required to run the events, where as some stores will be completely unable to run the events at all as judges refuse to work with them due to poor experiences/reputations.
Attendance is clearly a concern with these events, as Wizards has already reversed its policy to allow PPTQs to be combined with SCG Invitational Qualifiers or TCGPlayer style events.
It's hard to anticipate whether or not players will be able to shake off the aura of apathy surrounding these events in the coming seasons. For many players, winning two events to qualify for the Pro Tour is no longer worth the effort.
The success of PTQs was built on the foundation of the idea that any player could attend multiple PTQs throughout the season, run hot at one of them and make it to the Pro Tour.
Now players need to "run hot" twice in order to qualify for the big stage. And that has left many players unwilling to attempt the grind.
The other aspect of PPTQs that we don't yet fully understand yet is the end of vending. PTQs have long been subsidized by vendors willing to rent a table and spend the entire day shelling out bucks to buy cards they'll sell online. With less sellers in the marketplace, there will be less competition to sell.
With no other changes, we could expect prices to increase overall, but that vacuum can quickly be filled by more LGSs selling their wares online as players sell them cards more frequently.
The year 2014 was probably one of the most significant years for changes in Magic's storied history. And it's likely that 2015 will be just as volatile.