The reserved list has been a hot topic within the community for a long time, stirring up vast amounts of controversy throughout Magic’s history. The question everyone asks is: should it be abolished? Obviously, it has caused great deals of problems among newer players, making it almost impossible for the vast majority to enter formats such as Legacy and even buy some Commander cards. But it’s not as easy as just flipping a switch and saying, “Okay, guys, the reserved list is gone now.” So today, we are going to analyze the real implications of the reserved list, the situation it has created in the shadows among the community, and how difficult it is for Wizards of the Coast to actually deal with, explaining why they don’t want to act.
First, however, let’s talk about the issue:
The Reserved List was created long ago, back when Magic was a fairly small game. Long before anyone ever dreamed of Black Lotus being anywhere near $10,000; before the whims of time drew in vast crowds of players to FNM; before major retailers (such as Star City Games and Channel Fireball) firmly rooted themselves into the very inner workings of the game. The list was created in response to a mistake Wizards had made with their print runs – they had accidentally reprinted a fairly substantial amount of older, more expensive cards (not anything expensive like today, we’re talking $20 or less). But the prices of these cards substantially tanked, and buyer security was completely shattered. So in response, Wizards set out to make a pledge: they would never again destroy the value of cards in an insane print run. By doing so, they created a list of cards they pledged to never reprint ever again; this list became known as the Reserved List.
Today, the Reserved List has created many problems within the community. The price of formats such as Legacy and Vintage are just too ridiculously high for most players to get into them. Frustrated, many players call for the Reserved List to be abolished – why can’t the old cards be reprinted in a controlled manner? I mean, it’s not like anything substantial will occur if it’s done properly (which is a very valid thought process). In fact, if the cards are reprinted carefully, nothing bad will happen, and there is a way to regulate a print run so that insane price drops won’t occur.
The main issue is that if Wizards was to abolish the Reserved List, the impact it would have on the secondary market would be unpredictable. Everyone knows about the big guys – Star City Games, Channel Fireball, TCG Player, and Card Kingdom – but a lot of people don’t realize how imperative these companies are to the health of the game. If all of them were to go out of business, or be afraid that their secure investments were being ripped away from them, then the health and overall longevity of this game would almost completely vanish. The entire game’s fundamental economy revolves around the secondary market, and if it gets stirred up too much, so does buyer security and all of the businesses that help Magic be as popular and successful as it is.
Small stores would lose their security, too. Many card stores make all of their money off of single sales, and losing the security that their cards will hold value would quite possibly make them incredibly weary. If, in fact, Wizards do begin reprinting all of the old cards (Dual Lands, Black Lotus, etc.), and they do end up tanking in price, many, many, many stores and companies that have shown complete, utter devotion and commitment to push this game to success will have to close their doors for good. Magic’s continued health completely revolves around these businesses. Without local game stores and FNM’s, where and why would people even buy sealed products from Wizards? What reason would people have in the first place to go out of their way to play the game if there was no solid network of stores and businesses to back it up?
While getting rid of the Reserved List seems like a substantially beneficial idea in theory, allowing many, many players to enter formats such as Legacy and Vintage, such an action could quite possibly destroy Magic’s hidden foundations, sending waves of terror throughout the entire community, and causing the game’s greatest retailers and contributers to leave the community for good.
These are the types of issues Wizards has to deal with when making a decision such as abolishing the Reserved List. Do they listen to the calls of their player base? Or do they listen to the calls of their greatest contributors – the people that go to work every day to keep the game alive. While both groups are incredibly important, the black and white decision to abolish the Reserved List is one that will, no matter what, only please one side.
However, there are some alternative ideas that could work. Perhaps Wizards could keep the Reserved List, but make some edits to it. They could say that they pledge to never reproduce the cards on it in mass quantity – instead, once every couple years, they are allowed to print a small set (such as Eternal Masters) that can have a limited amount of reprints on it. While this isn’t a solution to the price problem, it would definitely not cause RL cards to go up in price, and the impact on the secondary market would be much more cushioned, alleviating much of the fears that would ensue for the Magic market.
While the Reserved List is definitely a major issue for both retailers and players alike, it is not an easy issue for Wizards to fix. The very foundations of the game has become reliant on cards costing money, and without it, retailers could quite possibly go out of business. The question shouldn’t necessarily be “should Wizards abolish the reserved list?” – maybe something more along the lines of, “What can Wizards do now with the current situation to please both the secondary market and the player base, and perhaps editing the terms of the RL?”
I hope this article was helpful to you in some way! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave them in the box below.
And, as always, happy gaming, everyone!