For those who don't know, Wizards did everything in the NPR segment in the first couple years of magic. Despite this, and the show's tone doesn't really convey this, the secondary market was still there (for the times) and card scarcity was a big, big problem.
Wizards of the Coast reprinted basically everything they could from the first couple years of magic in one set.
“Released in July 1995, this 125-card set was created in an effort to satisfy players’ demand for out-of-print cards.”
This tanked the secondary market for cards. Investors who had been holding onto certain rare cards and treating them as an investment suddenly had the rug pulled out from under them.
Long story short, a few years after this, Wizards created the Reserved List (tm), essentially a promise to NEVER reprint all cards contained within. Intended to create a safe haven for investors and collectors, this list covers the first ~5 years of Magic cards and almost all of its most expensive prints. It's a source of huge contention within the community as many people would like the reserved list to be abolished so they have access to play with cards they wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.
Feel free to let me know if I missed something critical, was just an thought I had while listening to the show. The reserved list is a huge reason for the bubble's stability.
The reserved list really does hurt great formats like Legacy that include cards covered by the reserved list. The market has gone absolutely crazy for those cards. Many Legacy-playable cards will set you back hundreds of dollars each, and a deck can hit $10,000+. This really limits the number of people that can play the format.
Deciding to keep the reserved list also directly led to the creation of the Modern format, which tries to be Legacy but only with cards Wizards can reprint. Modern has not quite flopped, but is not all that popular considering the amount of resources Wizards has poured into it - and this is attributable to a lack of diversity of decks caused by the more restricted pool of cards.
The reserved list kept the game going at the time, but in the end is probably one of the worst mistakes the company ever made.
The fact that a card like Tarmogoyf goes for $200 shows that Modern is far from unpopular.
Modern isn't as popular because it's 1) expensive and 2) complicated. To play Modern and have any hope of winning you had better be ready to throw down chunks of $1K and know the mechanics of Magic really well (a good Modern player is probably more knowledgeable than most low-level Magic judges). You also have to know which cards out of the 10,000+ can be used against you. etc. That's a big investment of time and money.
Standard format -- $20 gets you into Sealed and Draft. $500 gets you the most expensive deck in Constructed. That's a LOT cheaper and you only have to know about a couple hundred cards.
If they really wanted Legacy or Modern to be popular, the solution is really easy. Put big prizes behind winning them. Suddenly everybody will be playing Modern.
They don't want Modern and Legacy to be driving things. They don't make money from those formats. They make money selling new cards--and that's all about Standard.
Tarmogoyf is a really poor example. It's popular in every format in existence, including Legacy and even Vintage. Modern is not solely driving its price, likely not even mostly.
Any non-rotating format is going to be more expensive than a rotating format. Modern being as "expensive" as it is is a good argument that they should've ditched the Reserved List, not that they ever will at this point.
> $20 gets you into Sealed and Draft. $500 gets you the most expensive deck in Constructed. That's a LOT cheaper and you only have to know about a couple hundred cards.
With Draft, you have to pay $20 every single time you want to play a game and the cards you come away with may well be worthless. With Standard, you have to pay that $500 every 18 months and those cards tend not to hold value well short term.
> They don't make money from those formats.
Wizards absolutely makes money from "eternal" formats. Even setting aside the products they print with eternal-only cards - which sell like gangbusters - Wizards makes money from players treating the game as a long term investment. If Standard was the only format, cards would plunge in value once they turned 18 months old.
Playing Standard is actually quite demanding, while Legacy/Vintage changes in a much slower pace, making it great for people that likes to play from time to time to "the same game they already know".
Also the "eggs" deck did a lot to kill the format. I top 8'd a PTQ (playing 5 color zoo - which was essenitally a tribal flames burn deck) this was my best result in a large tournament but was one of the most miserable days of magic due to the shear amount of time it over-ran due to all the eggs players. My friend ended up winning the PTQ (playing affinity) and we didn't get home until the very early hours of the morning it was riddiculous.
This is why Vintage is basically a dead format. You either have to have been playing from the dawn of Magic and just so happen to have acquired all of the cards you have needed through advantageous trades, pack openings or tournament winnings, or you have to be absurdly wealthy with tons of money to dump into your hobby.
This is the reason a lot of modern collectors like myself overbuy cards in more recent sets. They're doing better about it now that they're more committed to making Modern cards available for play, but I remember e.g. buying a ton of Mirrodin cards simply because the reserved list was always a threat and "how else would you get a playset of these things later".
There's usually something along the lines of Sligh with Blood Moon, or mono-blue control with Back to Basics. I did a decent number of local tournaments with the latter - it worked rather well, though I did have to shell out around $200 for a playset of Force of Will. Ended up being something like a $300-400 deck.
Interesting also that NPR said Wizards was very concerned with the secondary market prices, when Wizards spokespeople never mention secondary prices directly, referring to secondary prices indirectly with the phrase ``card availability''.
So why not just create a Chronicles-alike with new cards, which just so happen to be mechanically equivalent to the Reserved List cards?
I've no idea why that isn't done for magic so collectors can collect rare originals while players can build decks full of lotuses and moxes and whatever other powerful cards they want so they can compete on skill, not wealth.
There are also differences allowing you to pick an Alpha from a Beta from a 1st Ed.
4th edition onwards, the reprints have a white rather than black border.
The Lotus and Moxes were discontinued after 1st Ed for being too powerful due to their zero casting cost. Instead you have cards that will cost you life and at least some mana to cast so it's not game over first turn.
Creatures have mana cost (1 mana, 2 mana etc) in the game. To play creatures you need mana and mana cards can only be placed on the board 1 per turn. this means usually a deck with a some creatures having 1 mana cost so you can hopefully play them turn one, some with a cost of 2 for turn 2 ... etc.
Black Lotus let's you get 3 mana when you play it. So you can put serious pressure if you have a BL because it's basically "turbo" and let's you put bigger creatures on the board "earlier" than normal. (In theory a creature costing 6mana wouldn't come into play until at least turn 6 because of the 1 mana played per turn.) There are also ways to use cards that copy other cards abilities so if you copied BL you could make a lot of mana fast. That "breaks" the game because everyone would start to use that tactic and you'd get a less diverse metagame.
If WoTC made a "red lotus" that did the same exact thing as BL, the value of the Black lotus would drop (pissing off collectors) and they'd have to restrict this red lotus the same way (You can only have one BL per deck in the current rules) or the red lotus would end up more valuable than the black because it wouldn't be restricted to one per deck and people would want 4 of them. (the max of a regular card per deck.) This would also probably piss off current players because it "broke the meta" and would be expensive.
The reserved list isn't the best solution in the world but it's pretty solid to avoid making even more people mad. Most people that have "invested" in a BL are still playing magic or involved in some way so why make them mad?
I dont quite get it. You can print and laminate whatever you want at costco/home depot, why arent players making their own 'reproductions'?
a more serious answer:
1) The printing process is pretty difficult. There are multiple things you have to get right
2) There are people making fakes, most of them not good enough to pass as real cards.
3) The main point of having the real cards is to play in tournaments, where this stuff is enforced. If you are just playing with friends or trying out decks before settling on making one, it is common to make proxies of the cards you want.
4) Well made fake cards, like fake money will do Bad Things (tm) to the internal economy of the game.
(not to mention if you use fakes in sanctioned Magic and are caught, big penalties can ensue)
We ended up playing all night. We liked it so much that the next morning we bought the rest of his plastic containers. They were filled with cards of all types. These ended up being all 'alpha' cards. Little did we know, we were stacked with Moxes, Black Lotuses, etc. As a group, we must have had dozens of them.
We had no idea that they'd be worth anything. And, neither did Wizards of the Coast. The original rules stated that you had to ante a card out of your deck, just to play!
Very few games embrace the unknown dynamic nature as well as MtG did. They would introduce cards that could be mixed with past-future cards almost on a whim, creating moments of pure frenzy as people managed to build systems that seemed indestructible.
It's crazy to think how much some of these cards are worth now:
To me, the main reason Magic is fun is the variety of skills and approaches it encourages. You can play it as several different resource management games: there are at least 4 important resources to manage (time, mana, cards, life) and you can win by focus on getting one or more of these resources more or by preventing your opponent from having/using any resources, and all of those decisions have major impacts on your play and deckbuilding style. You can also play it as a game of assembling your crazy exploit of the rules fast enough to win (combo decks), or you might even be able to exploit the rules so hard you're essentially playing a different game from your opponent, so you have a completely different win condition to achieve (legacy Dredge).
Deck construction really is one of the more creative aspects of MtG where you can create new kinds decks or twists on old ones
This story illustrates one of the most important aspects of economics, and one that often seems to get lost in the rush - an economy needs to do something other than move money around. The concepts of money, value, and all that, are all just a means to an end. In this case, the end is an enduring, entertaining game, and they achieved it.
All too many real world economists seem to forget the fact that there is no value to an economy unless it is serving some end beyond its own cyclic process of simply shuffling value around.
Doing that consistently is an unsolved problem. If money leaves your pocket as fast as it flows in, you aren't building any wealth for your future, and there are entire classes of things you can't do with your money: save up for a large purchase, invest, buy anything that isn't in your current means. But when money accumulates in the hands of a person so fast that they cannot spend it, cannot do anything but stick it into long-term investments or play status games, then the money isn't moving as fast as the rest of the economy needs.
As one of the artists, it's a welcome sight to see.
He had all the old cards: Alpha, Beta, Arabian Nights, etc. He would also cycle through lots of copies of the "Power 9" (the moxes, lotus, Library of Alexandria, Ancestral recall, Timetwister, Timewalk).
We played in type 1 tournaments (it's a format that lets you use all the cards ever printed, with a few banned cards that involved things like coin flips) and he would lend me all these power cards for my decks. It was always a treat to play a mox or lotus on the first turn and watch my opponent's eyes go wide just from seeing an actual card like that in play.
When we went to college, he ended up "cashing out" and selling something like $30,000 worth of cards to fund his first apartment. He still had tens of thousands worth of cards, and over the years he was slowly selling them off to fund various things.
That was years ago. Prices for the old cards today have massively jumped in price in just a few years. I think if he had held on to those old cards instead of selling them to buy an apartment, he would have made more money just from them going up in value vs. renting out his apartment to pay off its mortgage.
Type 1 actually allows all the coin-flip cards; the banned cards are those that involve ante (because ante turns a MtG game into real-world gambling for objects of value) and one card that causes you to play a sub-game of magic (because it takes too much time, especially if repeated).
Probably all shit ones though.
I tried to get rid of my copy of X-men #94 a while back and there weren't many options that come close to its theoretical value.
 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Brannan
Self-styled "MtG Finance Guru"s have also been paid to give talks to players at events like Grand Prix.
From the point of view of the marketing, it is absolutely BRILLIANT. It was an amazing well oiled machine that was printing money, while developing an impressive game that has been around for 20 years and hasn't grown old.
They knew all the ins and outs of the game from the rules to the way to organise tournaments and how to create a community that is absolutely obsessed with it, playing everyday.
It's easy enough that I've seen 8 year old kids playing, and complex enough that a match can be determine by a very precise use of the rules.
I've never really been a hard core player, but after watching it from the point of view of a business, it's really impressive.
 In case anyone is interested in a low-tech business experience, I talked about it here: https://wrongsideofmemphis.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/i-was-on...
Without invalidating anyone's experience or denying anyone their liberty to do whatever they like, I'd like to encourage looking for something "realer". Maybe collect things that have meaning to you, or do actual investing, or try out challenging and interesting games that are not tied to such a crazy scheme.
Artificial scarcity has this big problem (or natural cure): piracy.
So proxy playing went well for a few months b/c it did not matter, what mattered was playing such a badass game! But suddenly patriotism kicked in: "dude, I wont duel if you play proxies, that's not right, blah, blah, blah". Proxies died eventually, they where going to be the PopCornTime of MtG, the Napster.
Me and a couple of playmates decided otherwise, we thought MtG needed to be open-source. We created a small set and played it along MtG cards. Nothing fancy since we sucked at drawing but fun still. At the time we knew of other players doing something similar (do remember that MtG is rooted on D&D where players make 'everything'). We gave in eventually. (Btw, I am from SA so the theme on my custom cards was Inca mythology). Another proxy attack came online: the first online apps to play MtG where NOT official MtG apps. Those too died eventually b/c, you know, official online digital cards where also collectible and artificially scarce.
I sold my first two collections, the third one is sitting there on a closet waiting for my kid to grow up and waiting for a home-use cardboard color printer (or maybe an online service that prints and ships proxies or custom cards).
In the open sharing economy, every day there is less space for artificial scarcity business models, MtG will not escape this reality, twice.
Some cards are so prohibitively expensive that building decks around them (in a non-proxied tournament) is simply not feesible. Even if the expensive cards are objectively better (which is arguable in legacy's case) they are 'priced out of the market' so you rarely see them in tournamnets this is stuff like (Tabernacle, imperial recruiter, candelabra, grim tutor etc. in legacy's case).
Sure some people will throw down a small cars worth of cash to play with "the best cards" but they are outliers in any tournament once you allow proxies suddenly everyone has access to "the best cards" and suddenly an entire room of people are all playing the same deck. When I go to a tournament half of my enjoyment comes about because of the diversity of opponents you will face playing the same match round after round is not fun and thats what proxing leads to.
A good compromise is to allow for a limited number of proxies typically 5-10 cards maximum this allows you to play with a fewcopies of cards you otherwise wouldn't have access to but stops people going online to find the best deck and proxying 100% of it (decks are typically 60 cards).
Cards like Tabernacle, Imperial Recruiter, candelabra, Grim Tutor are not objectively more powerful than commonly used alternatives. These are role players in a couple of decks and while some of these decks are quite good, none of these decks are particularly dominant.
The metagame would not collapse in on itself if the guys that spend $10K+ on foiled out decks and beta duals just decided to buy rare expensive staples instead. If there was a way to pay money to have an unfair advantage in tournaments there is no way in hell the people who basically do it for a living wouldn't be doing it.
I play almost exclusively Legacy and almost exclusively with people who have either no qualms with proxying or large disposable incomes. My local meta is extremely varied. We have unsanctioned tournaments with large prize payouts so people are very much incentivized to play the best deck possible. Proxying allows the people with less disposable income to have options outside of the typical 3-5 tier 2 budget decks.
The deck won once and then next week every single person copied the wining deck from previous week there is zero innovation and proxies just discourage that further. I really want to play with Gush but I don't want to sit through multiple rounds against the same deck over and over again which I know will happen.
For example mana drain has been on the decline because it is a slowish and hard to cast card (relative to the format) so it is relegated to ~3of in hard control decks, if that.
Actually, UR delver and monastery mentor strategies as well as Fish decks are very popular in vintage ATM. These decks deviate significantly from "play all the best cards Grixis control" lists.
I myself play White Trash because my meta happens to be very weak to turn 1 uncounterable Thalias, and I can play between 0 and 2 pieces of power
Thanks in part to Wizards aggressively growing the number of players and former addicted teens now being in their 30s with commensurate disposable income, MtG speculation today is at an all time high - speculators prefer the cute term "MtG finance". There's orders of magnitude more speculators today than there's been in 20 years, and it's driving up card prices incredibly - not great if you want to play the game. Active players going up year after year after year provides fuel for speculators, but if the game ever has a down year the speculators are due for a painful contraction if not a bubble bursting.
Heh heh. I think we all know what dragon and what angel he's talking about.
Some cards even had nicknames, such as Tim.
I think the most infuriating thing about MtG was the obsolation of whole sets, I get that's its' smart business from WoT and there are some tournament forms where you can use different sets... but still, felt a little bit like playing a game you never could win :)
Must give credit to MtG for introducing me to a world of cutthroat deal-making that would give UN a run for their money. Trying to saw together swaps with other collectors could be very challenging and rewarding. You learned the hard way the times you were "scammed" and someone got the better of you.