What happened with Legacy and the Reserved List?

Death of a Legacy

WotC has finally taken action on the Reserved List, bowing to immense pressure from the gaming community that subsist on and support their product; the following concession was made after the voices of thousands cried out for the ending of the archaic contract that soon promised to keep Legacy from being playable by all interested parties: The Final Word.

It seems that the final word on the issue, handed down from upon high by an Executive somewhere, likely with a nodding Legal staff behind him, was essentially a single word.

No.

If you haven’t looked at the links yet, the official word is that there are a handful of reprints using the previous ‘premium loophole’ that will come out this year, 2010, but that beyond that there will never be another reprinting of the cards other than oversized promo materials.

A Murder Mystery

I have been speculating on the situation above and I could make some reasonable guesses as to the events that lead to this. Let me start out by saying that Legacy will not die overnight. This is not a decapitation. This is Phthisis. Let’s have a mental exercise to see possibly whodunit.

Hypothetically, the format is currently being supported in part by WotC, and also in major part, by a substantial secondary market card store (SMC). WotC is only getting marketing value out of supporting Legacy, selling very few cards from recent sets to support the players. The SMC, being the biggest name in the market, benefits greatly from card resale traffic. As the format grows in popularity, the margin on each card grows with demand. This is especially true for powerful cards that are needed in a vast number of decks and are also on the Reserved List. The Dual Lands are the best example, followed closely by cards like Mox Diamond and Lions Eye Diamond.

(Disclaimer: I will state now that while it was suggested that I go to law school, I haven’t, so lawyers and law students feel free to jump in and correct erroneous assumptions or support/guide my suspicions.)

Means

Wotc’s Reserved List, I suspect, could be seen as some type of legal guarantee of value in the investment medium of the game components listed upon it. By ‘promising’ in an open publicly known and promoted policy, WotC may have opened themselves to the Reserved List acting as some sort of contract. This would also open them up to possible lawsuits if someone with significant interests and resources would stand to lose from unfavorable changes in this policy.

A SMC could launch a suit do to the increased buzz of activity and discussion around negating the Reserved List, either defacto through the ‘premium loophole’ or in whole by obliterating it. Such a suit, if it holds merit or if it would prove very costly, would pressure WotC into an out of court settlement, changing the policy, reaffirming it, possibly even paying losses, all the while the employees of both WotC and the SMC being bound by a non-disclosure agreement which requires them to refrain from discussing the reasoning, implementation, and fall out from such an action.

Motive

If WotC negates the Reserved List and prints a new bevy of limited circulation cards, the demand for the cards vital to this format will drop. Subsequently sales traffic and margins will also drop, denting the SMC’s bottom line. Meanwhile, this would be healthy to WotC and the MTG community playing as more players would gain access and WotC would be able to sell the reprint product fresh off the printers.

Opportunity

If WotC, seeking to test the waters regarding a possible elimination of the Reserved List, began talking about it in public forums, such as their company website, and gave an interested party reason to believe that they would suffer major capital losses, such a party could begin to monitor the situation closely, and perhaps even send representatives to meet and discuss the issue. They could then use the information gathered to launch a suit, and perhaps even an injunction, against WotC citing imminent and unrecoverable business losses.

Means, motive and opportunity aside, the bit players and key figures in each company and the community might not have even known what all was going on until it came to a head in some series of hush-hush legal meetings. Perhaps all figurehead parties would love to have gone ahead with the elimination, but those behind the scenes with their fingers on the purse strings might have moved to interfere. We will not know for certain due to the shield of the law. This means that we are left to only our own reasoning and speculation. I have nothing against the hypothetical SMC described above, but without explanations, this is what makes the most logical sense to me.

What this all means is that the Legacy format will likely continue for a time to climb in demand and prices until such a time that only the wealthiest players can afford to play, and the format will slowly fade into obscurity as prices will only ever creep upwards due to cards leaving circulation in any number of ways.

Eternally yours, Unrequited

Sadly, I was slowly attempting to pull together a Legacy legal deck as I really wanted to play in the only GP within a reasonable distance from my particular location on the globe, GP Columbus, OH. With the prices of Legacy required cards sky rocketing, I cannot afford to buy-in to the format at a latter time. With the prices as high as they are, I cannot afford to buy-in now thanks to the Economic Recession. Now that I know prices have no hope of coming down while also maintaining a healthy format, I feel no desire to invest into the format.

I am a player of Standard and Limited as they are the easiest formats to enter competitively. I would play Extended if the format had support in my area as I’m not in a position to go fifty to one hundred miles out of town each weekend to play in a PTQ. Vintage, proxied tourneys aside, is priced at such a level as I would only consider it if I won the lottery or some other windfall. Legacy was a shining hope for playing with old good cards and making a run of it competitively.

Legacy now has fallen into the same compartment as Vintage. Indeed, I almost see no reason in separating them anymore as both serve the same elite level of players: the wealthy and well-connected. I will miss this opportunity lost, but WotC doesn’t love me back, and so I must look now to the future.

Classic Revolution

We, the players, will have to pick ourselves up, dust our cards off, and begin anew. The Reserved List has not been added to since Urza’s Destiny and will not be added to ever again, in theory. I then propose that we push the emergence of an Eternal format that may be eternally renewed without the barriers of some arcane seal barring the cards from reaching our hands.

Classic is a format in which all cards older than Mercadian Masques are banned. All sets from Mercadian Masques on into the foreseeable future will be legal, reasonable broken card bannings not withstanding. This format will enable both WotC and the MTG community to do a few important things.

  • Have a stable, ever expanding format in which new discoveries will be possible with each new set.
  • Create, for however brief a time, a new game-wide meta-game and format structure to explore and develop.
  • Ensure that if a card begins to rise to meteoric heights that WotC always has the option to reprint it. This also applies to cards dropping out of circulation and the hands of players for whatever reason.
  • Retain cards that rotate out of Extended and other rotating formats and continue to play them in a widely accepted and non-elitist format.

These things represent an Eternal format that is healthy and not impossible to enter for those who are students, work for a living, have a family, or have not been playing since the dawn of the game. Yes, I am aware that there are plenty of people in the game that have traded-up, won, or otherwise acquired the best cards in the game, but a fine minority should not rule the majority. Besides, I don’t believe that having Classic, a format with the above listed qualities, would hurt the game in any manner and provides only upside for both WotC and her customers.

7 thoughts on “What happened with Legacy and the Reserved List?”

  1. I strongly sympathize with your position, though I own a lot of “reserved List” cards. I just wanted to add, that it’s NOT just the wealthy and well-connected, but also the older players that just happen to have the cards since 1995 or so. I don’t consider myself an elitist, although I can understand that this might appear this way. See, I remember acquiring Dual Lands for Type 2 staples when Mirrodin came out. I even remember trading for an played bb Underground Sea at the value of a Arcbound Ravager because it’s border had been recolored with black sharpie, and everyone in the room said, that even if it was a dual, it can’t be worth more than that ravager because the recoloring of the white spots with sharpie “takes down the value to mere 10$” Just take that into consideration, please :)

  2. The Classic format could be an interesting idea, but please call it something different. Classic is already the Magic Online version of Vintage, so having a second eternal format with the same name would be very confusing.

  3. @ Wannabevintage You are right in that there are some people who have the old cards just through having been around then. I once had a box full of a few fun old cards from the list back when I played in Tempest, but that box is lost to eternity. I’m not sure if my family lost it sold it or destroyed it when I left my collection behind to move to another city. That box a year ago would have been worth a couple hundred dollars. Now it’d be worth no less than one thousand, since the cards are in demand due to the supported format.

    @ Nicholas I was concerned about that, but I have a hard time coining a new phrase that might be accepted. I also was under the impression (I don’t play MTGO) that they were canning “Classic” and turning it into Legacy now that all the needed cards are online. What would be a good alternative name? “Veteran”?

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  5. As a law student I can tell you that the reserve list had no legal significance. Wizards made a one sided promise which are generally unenforceable under contract law unless you can show reliance. In this case that would be almost impossible to prove as Wizards does not sell singles, all rares are equally likely to appear in a pack, and it does not determine the value of cards. There’s simply no way of showing you relied on the reserved list to purchase any particular product from Wizards. This is complicated by the fact that Wizards printed many of the reserved cards (and all of the important ones) prior to making the promise which would make reliance impossible as you can’t rely on a promise made after the original sale of goods occurred.

    Even if a court somehow found the reserve list binding, the damages would be so small that it wouldn’t be worth pursuing. Wizards cannot be held liable for inflated secondary market prices on their products over which they have no control. The damages would be limited to the MSRP of the pack in which the reserved card was purchased because that’s all Wizards has ever sold and the hypothetical guarantee would apply only to products actually sold by Wizards.

  6. I agree with almost everything you’ve said. I only wonder if “classic” as you’ve called it would need to be a recurring theme. For example, if in 5 years time, the price of something like Rishadan Port has increased in the same way as the legacy staples, would a new format have to be introduced? Although the fact that they could reprint these would be beneficial, but I’m not sure as to how best reprint older cards whose power make them unacceptable candidates for standard.

    @wannabevintage I have nothing against players like you, and I think it’s great that Magic has so many dedicated fans. All I want is to be able to play Magic using some older cards. While I admit there are elitists out there who don’t want me playing Legacy, I would be more than happy to play with anyone who wanted if the card pool were simply more available. We have 1 Legacy tournament a month here in Edmonton, and we can’t get 8 people so that we can make it sanctioned. Of the 6 or so who do show, 2 people have tier 1 decks, I have a mediocre deck (I have 3 Forces and some other good legacy cards, but no duals), and the people who simply port extended/standard to legacy.

    I’ve been following this story closely, and I’m very interested to watch how Legacy does over the next few years if nothing is done about it.

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