It seems that every year or so we have a new call to abolish the Reserved List and now is the time for this year’s call. While I enjoy the Professor’s videos, I have some issues with this one. I definitely don’t want this article to come off as contentious, but I feel there are some glaring errors in the Professor’s statements, and ignoring these errors would be a failure to the Magic Finance Community.
Statements I disagree with:
1) “It (the Reserved List) is one of the biggest things holding the game back today.”
If this were true, the game wouldn’t have seen massive growth since the inception of the Reserved List. The reserved list has no effect on Standard, Modern, or the Pioneer formats as no cards in those respective formats are on the Reserved List. They are all still among Magic‘s most popular formats. I would be willing to accept that the Reserved List holds back the Legacy and Vintage formats from a widespread appeal, but those represent a small fraction of the overall Magic games being played.
Many stores that try to promote Vintage run unsanctioned events that allow for proxies, which essentially eliminates the financial burden that the Reserved List places on prospective players of the format. Even with these proxies being allowed, we don’t see massive turnouts to these events. WotC’s removal of Planeswalker Points means that sanctioned events have little benefit over unsanctioned events from the player perspective, though hosting sanctioned events is better for stores.
The only format I haven’t mentioned so far is Commander where the Reserved List does legitimately affect what some players can put into their decks. However, it is mostly a casual format; most players have no issues with other players using proxies in their decks, barring the event being a sanctioned one.
2) “There is no reason to think that the secondary market would be affected much at all.” (RE: the dual lands.)
This is the most egregiously incorrect statement in the entire video. This statement seemingly ignores the basic Law of Supply and Demand in economics. We have seen time and time again that reprints do affect the secondary market and always in a loss of value of the original cards when these cards are for playing for the simple reason that the supply increased more than the demand did.
I agree that there would be a lot of demand for original Dual Lands with a reprinting, but if players weren’t willing to pay $500 for an Underground Sea now, they certainly wouldn’t pay $500 for one after a reprint hits the market.
I specifically picked these Portal Three Kingdoms cards because that particular set is extremely rare in English, and thus is more similar to a lot of the oldest Magic sets. These sets happen to contain a lot of Reserved List cards, there is very little supply, and a fair amount of demand, resulting in high card prices. In all three instances, we can see significant price drops after the reprint was announced.
He tries to justify a lack of price drop by claiming they are collector’s pieces. That argument would only be true if most of their value was attributed to their collectibility rather than their playability. He uses ABU printings of Shivan Dragon and Birds of Paradise, and in both instances fails to mention the value of the Revised printings.
If he had included Revised, it would have obviously nullified his entire point. These are worth far less than any of the older versions because there are so many more copies floating around.
3) “Even with a non-Reserved List card that wasn’t in Alpha, the price has held.”
The Professor uses Scroll Rack as an example to argue that reprinting hasn’t caused the price to drop. Both reprints were from premium supplemental sets, Commander’s Arsenal and Kaladesh Inventions, which added relatively few new copies to the overall supply. The price stability of Scroll Rack really only indicates that the overall demand wasn’t satisfied by these reprints.
Given the whole point of his argument is to abolish the Reserved List and print enough that the demand from players would be met, choosing this example is a bit disingenuous. If they abolished the Reserved List tomorrow and printed 100 new copies of every card on it, the price of the originals would likely see no change.
However, if they printed 100,000 new copies of every card on it, there is no way the price wouldn’t drop. Players with originals would try to unload them as soon as the announcement was made in order to lock in whatever value they could. Instead of Scroll Rack why not look at a card in a similar vein that has been reprinted on a much larger scale?
Polluted Delta sees play in numerous formats from Vintage, Legacy, Modern, and Commander. The Khans of Tarkir printing caused the price of original Onslaught copies to drop by over 50% and remained pretty flat for four years. Only recently have we seen an uptick in price, but it’s still far from its pre-reprint highs. I would expect any mass reprinting of a Dual Land, Moxen, or any other high-dollar Reserved List rare to react more like Polluted Delta than Scroll Rack.
4) “Reprints of dual lands would add value to players collections.”
The argument here is that after players have acquired the reprinted copies, they would eventually gravitate towards the price of the originals. There could be some merit to that, as saw with Polluted Delta listed above. Just because a card rises in value from $38 to $49 dollars doesn’t mean it has recovered.
The high for Onslaught copies was $115 and it was still $93 right before Khans of Tarkir released. So instead of owners losing 60% of the value of their cards they only lose 48%, which is still pretty far from “adding value”.
5) “The idea that people would sue Wizards of the Coast is a load of bull plop.”
We live in a pretty litigious society, where people sue others for all sorts of reasons. I don’t have any legal background to know how much of a case anyone would have for WotC deciding to end the Reserved List, but I don’t doubt that they would certainly have to spend effort and/or money on legal counsel.
He then points out that WotC has already made several changes to the Reserved List policy, and argues that WotC made those changes before and didn’t get sued. I am curious if this can even be verified. I think the elimination of the premium version clause of the Reserved List (which until 2010 was still an option for WotC), indicates that something caused them to “strengthen” the Reserved List rules. Given the public disdain for the Reserved List by many WotC employees, most notably Mark Rosewater, it would seem unlikely that WotC would end this policy on their own accord.
I can honestly say that I don’t really have strong feelings toward keeping or abolishing the Reserved List myself. I feel I would definitely lose money should it be abolished. I also have to acknowledge there would be a great benefit from its removal.
My favorite format is Legacy, and I would love to see the playerbase for it grow. The price barrier that the original Dual Lands present is likely a major contributing factor to its stagnation. That being said, I think it’s important to dissect the points provided in the video, especially when they are erroneous.