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The Curse of the Black Lotus – How MtG Avoided Becoming Beanie Babies (npr.org)
107 points by jsnell on Mar 12, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments

Funny thing I noticed: they didn't mention the creation of the "Reserved List."

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.

Enter Chronicles.

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.

Wizards actually came this close to doing away with the reserved list a few years ago. Abolitionists within the company actually got promos printed that violated it, so the issue eventually came to a head. There was a dramatic meeting and things abruptly reversed course: no more promos, no pushing the line at all. Players are likely stuck with the reserved list for the rest of the game's existence.

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.

> 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 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.

> The fact that a card like Tarmogoyf goes for $200 shows that Modern is far from unpopular.

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.

There's also the fact that standard format is constantly changing, and that adds a huge effort in being up-to-date with the cards, the metagame, etc.

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".

I play legacy a lot but I dislike modern because WOTC have been so heavy handed with the banlist everytime an archetype gets popular they nerf it and as a result the format feels really anemic to play and makes a lot of people feel uncertain about investing in the format.

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.

> Many Legacy-playable cards will set you back hundreds of dollars each, and a deck can hit $10,000+.

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 are quite a few good budget Legacy decks. They tend to be one-color and try to hate out the expensive non-basic lands that the expensive multi-color decks run.

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.

The head designer of mtg (I'm getting this from his Drive to Work podcast) seems to imply that a lot of what was done in the early years was not nearly as planned as the NPR story says. From what I understand, they were printing as much as they could in the early years. Checking whether packs were selling above or below retail may have started after the disaster that was Fallen Empires (late 1994), which was so overprinted and underpowered that it still sells today for below retail.

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''.

Something I've never understood: the collectors value the Reserved cards for their rarity, not their usefulness, right? So you can do whatever you like as long as you don't reprint those exact cards.

So why not just create a Chronicles-alike with new cards, which just so happen to be mechanically equivalent to the Reserved List cards?

In my limited experience with collectable card games (not magic) it was common to see reprints with a different color border. These cards were otherwise identical to the originals and played exactly the same, but to a collector they were worth less because more might be printed at any time.

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.

Reprints have a different set symbol, and in some cases border colour. For example the Arabian Knights cards that came out in Legends.

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.

You'd think that if there was widespread agreement that a card was "too powerful", then it could just be decreed as banned in all formats. Or, to put it another way: why would players want to play a match in which a Lotus or Mox could be played against them, if they themselves might not have the opportunity to also have one? By analogy, who would play a fighting game where your opponent can select a highest-tier character but you're unable to?

It's kind of both rarity and usefulness. For example, Black Lotus, is rare but also incredibly useful.

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 am not sure but I read somewhere that mechanical equivalents are covered by the agreement on the Reserved list.

This is correct, they included all functional reprints on the reserved list. That's why people are praying for snow-covered dual lands, but honestly those will never see the light of day.

This is correct. This issue even pops up from time to time when the developers accidentally create a card that is mechanically equivalent to something in the reserved list and have to change it to something else before the card goes to print. For example, one of the cards in the reserved lists is Thunder Spirit, a simple 2/2 flier with first strike.

Why not just print your own cards?

They aren't tournament legal so people do (they call them proxies) but that's just for "fun".

But a bunch of players could get together and decide to play the game however they want, right? If people are upset there are no "rare" cards to play, whey not create a league where certain proxy cards are legal?

Having asked this of a few friends who are MTG league judges: a lot of players feel a sort of "fiscal sympathy" for Wizards. They like the game, and want its continuing development to be incentivized, so they want to pay for cards rather than "pirating" them. Or rather, they want to act in such a way that cards still have value. It's similar to Bitcoin, in a way—nobody who holds the stuff is going around suggesting people should build their own private virtual economies instead.

Yeah, Chronicles and 4th edition really took a lot of the fun out of having some of the cool old cards. Of course, it also let you actually play with them, even if people would say "Oh man is that a... oh, it's 4th."

>"Reserved List."

I dont quite get it. You can print and laminate whatever you want at costco/home depot, why arent players making their own 'reproductions'?

why aren't people printing their own money?

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.

There have been a lot of attempts, including a recent wave from China. However, there are unique features about how the cards are printed that make it difficult to reproduce: cards bend in a certain way, use a proprietary font, have a strip embedded between the layers, etc. High quality fakes can fool some people, but not usually those who can afford to fork over hundreds or thousands for the really valuable cards.

(not to mention if you use fakes in sanctioned Magic and are caught, big penalties can ensue)

But but... only n00bs black with white border cards ;)

My friends and I were at the Origins conference in Ohio. It must have been some time around 1992, or so. We were there to play some AD&D. But, we happened to be roaming the conference area, and some guy, wearing a tshirt and MC Hammer pants, was at a booth selling these cards in a plastic container. It was a new game, he said. Magic. He gave us a bunch of cards for free and some rule books.

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!

I can only speak to MtG when it first came out, I've been out of the loop since eh since when 4th edition started or so. MtG exploded because it was (and I hate to use this term): hackable. You could build creative exploits into the game, at our local shop there was a no CoP rule (no circle of protection) because they were considered too unfair; in hindsight this was a ridiculous rule.

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: http://www.mtgprice.com/sets/Beta/Savannah

To expand on Magic being "hackable": The game is this way because every rule of the game can be changed by a card. There are no set in stone rules in the sense that they will always apply the same way no matter the gamestate - there are cards that say "You can't win the game" or "End the turn", "Skip the upkeep phase", etc. The game isn't just about playing by the rules effectively, it's also about changing the rules effectively and dealing with how your opponent is doing the same. I think a related reason the game exploded is the fact that design (deckbuilding) is an integral part. Having a hackable game is great, but if the hackableness is random it's not that exciting. It's when you can design an exploit (deck) and improve on it that it gets really exciting.

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).

Yeah I tried to get back into it a couple years ago, because it is a cool game. But it was just simply no fun to play; it's obviously a game that mainly relies on being able to spend a lot of money buying power. Even at a tiny little shop, everyone had these insane combos and whatnot. Really impossible to win against without investing a lot.

Draft! 3 unopened booster packs per person. Everyone opens up a pack, picks a card, and passes to the right. Keep doing that until all the cards are gone. Then everyone opens a new deck, and passes to the left this time. Repeat for the third deck, going right. Minimum deck size is 40. This eliminates any sort of monetary advantage and privileges people who can come up with good deck combinations on the fly.

If you like the deckbuilding mechanic without the collectible aspect, you might like games like Dominion.

Huge Dominion fan :)

If it's just between friends, why not use self-printed cards and put some reasonable limits on number of powerful cards? The images must be available online somewhere.

Try playing draft, instead.

I wouldn't say that's true (unless things have changed since I played). There are some decks that are dependent on many rare and expensive cards... but its also possible to build killer decks on common/uncommon cards with perhaps a few rare ones.

Deck construction really is one of the more creative aspects of MtG where you can create new kinds decks or twists on old ones

It's so hackable that it is Turing-complete. http://www.toothycat.net/~hologram/Turing/HowItWorks.html

I think the allure/success of Magic is that it is many different things to many different people (and is many things to one person at the same time). WOTC describe the customers as Timmy/Spike/Johnny, but there are even more demographics in the audience. You have the gamblers who love to rip packs, the prospectors who love to buy/sell, the socialites who want to play with groups of friends, etc etc.

Wow that's pretty funny, the CoP cards are pretty much considered terrible today.

Interesting Disqus comment by Jessie King: [1]

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.

1 http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?story...

More to the point: when money is locked up in vaults, it doesn't contribute to the economy. The value of money is in making it circulate 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.

I find that one can liken money to blood, in that both need to circulate.

As the bearded German put it, capitalists are in it for the MCM+ rotation, while the rest of us are in it for the CMC.

What's MCM+ and CMC? What bearded German?

Money, capital, and Marx.

Karl Marx

The original art that goes along with many of these pieces is also seeing an incredible rise in recent years. Lots of collectors with increasingly deep pockets. Both for the old stuff and some of the new stuff. It's begun breaching the low 5 figures and seems to be only going up.

As one of the artists, it's a welcome sight to see.

For those who don't play the game, this guy is one of the great ones. Prolific and well-respected artist contracting for Wizards of the Coast.

Why thank you very much. I'm around Magic nerds everywhere I go, I suppose.

I have a friend who was a hardcore wheeler and dealer of Magic cards back in highschool. He would travel around North America, buying and selling cards.

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.

> with a few banned cards that involved things like coin flips

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).

Dear me. I have binders full of old Revised, Dark, Legends, Ice Age, etc. Maybe I should take them in and get them valued. On the other hand, I'm trying to get my friends to play casually with me using the rather more basic old sets.

You can search by set and sort by price to see what your cards are worth. I'm fairly sure the only big money comes from Revised dual lands and Force of Will in Alliance.


Thanks for posting this. I have about 500 very old MTG cards (pre'95). Had no idea they were worth anything. Going to sort them now :)

Probably all shit ones though.

You might find this site useful to cut down on the sorting: http://mtg.dawnglare.com

Thanks - that's really helpful and a lot easier to navigate through. Also prices are a little higher by the looks which is more fun :)

Let me know if you hit a jackpot! People will pay for crappy commons if they are from Beta/Alpha. :)

I got to $95 in (about 200 cards which was cool) and got bored. Resuming at the weekend as I've made a big spreadsheet of it all.

Yes, thanks. Was fun digging out my old MtG cards. I had to do a bit of Googling to even remember some of the basics of how to play. From a quick skim it looks like I've got a bunch of $5ish cards, but nothing too fancy.

Post up some pictures! It's always great to check out old binders, the feeling of finding a random old card that's worth a bunch now is awesome.

I don't know the as much as things like cards and other collectibles are worth, sometimes the high end ones are hard to get anywhere near the "full" value for.

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.

If someone today were to identify a consumer products bubble like the Beanie Baby craze or baseball card bubble of the 90s, what would be the best way to capitalize on it. I posited this to my economist friend and he suggested something ancillary like conferences, a publication, or website. I agreed but it'd have to guarantee me a very substantial return for me to go through the work of say putting together a national Beanie Baby convention, on top of the dread of hosting something that I have no interest in. So I'm curious if Hacker Newsers have any other thoughts on how to capitalize on a situation like this for a large return with less work involved.

I agree that remaining ancillary is the way to go. It should allow you to profit during the bubble while not assuming the full risk of being directly involved. The example that comes to mind is Samuel Brannan [1] who monopolized the sale of mining equipment and profited handsomely by selling to the miners themselves. Focusing on something that has a tangible value outside of the bubble (physical goods like shovels and picks) can help in cutting your losses if the bubble bursts at an inopportune time.

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Brannan

The slicker MtG speculators are running things like http://www.quietspeculation.com/ . They generally have pretty intense interest in the subject though. Identifying an opportunity seems difficult without some minimal interest to recognize it.

Self-styled "MtG Finance Guru"s have also been paid to give talks to players at events like Grand Prix.

I ran a comic book shop for a couple of years (this was 8 years ago), including a big deal of MtG (selling, organising tournaments, etc) [1]

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.

[1] 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...

Everyone in this thread seems to play along and never question the basic nature of either Magic or Beanie Babies or any other artificial scarcity that ties real value to a virtual ressource fully controlled by a company.

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.

WoC did not beat speculation, it sustained growth with a powerful dose of American patriotism. Allow me to explain. Their business model is the same as telcos, software, movies, mosanto, etc. It is called artificial scarcity, in other words, find a legal (in the case of MtG a moral) way to control distribution of a product or service that is otherwise naturally abundant. Bare with me. I was there in the 90's and Kinkos would print a very decent set of 6 The Black Lotuses (or Lotusi?) for a buck and change. Go home, cut them nice, dress them with a sleve and go play with your proxy.

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.

As someone who occasionally plays Vintage and pretty regularly plays Legacy (two of the formats which allow use of 'any' cards printed including many of the more expensive cards in mtg's history). I dislike playing against proxies because it warps the metagame.

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).

you are completely missing the beauty of the Legacy format.

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.

I said they were arguably better not definitively better. Legacy is not so bad and you get a pretty diverse set of decks (that's why I like playing legacy - Hell I've played Goblins for something like 9 years and its still competitive) but in vintage it's a huge issue. Our store has vintage events with proxies sometimes and it's always proxied mana drains, proxy ancestral recall, proxy timewalk, proxy moxes and lotus, there will be 20 of the same Grixis control deck.

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.

To some extent, this is how the vintage format is intended to be played. The format is all about being able to play with your power and other "broken cards". The fact that each deck starts of with 3-5 pieces of power is kind of a given. That being said, I think that is more of a problem with your local meta.

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

This seems like a poor time to claim Wizards has solved speculation. Five years ago you would've been on firmer ground.

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.

"You'd pay, like, $3 for pack and get a bunch of random cards. But occasionally there would be a rare and powerful something in there - a dragon, an angel."

Heh heh. I think we all know what dragon and what angel he's talking about.

I don't. I think the dragon and angel references are there not because of an understanding of the game but rather to make it sound like what a powerful card should be. Obviously, to the reader who doesn't know MtG a rare dragon is more powerful than a rare flower, after all.

i meant that he is almost certainly referring to the shivan dragon and serra angel, two of the oldest and, at least back when i played, more sought-after cards in the standard set.

Generally we referred to them by their name, like Sengir rather than vampire; same for dragons or angels. Of course back then you only had a Shivan and the Whelp.

Some cards even had nicknames, such as Tim.

I started playing at 8th Edition, so my "classic" Dragon and Angel are Shivan and Serra, respectively. Don't know how far back those two go, though.

It was the same in Revised edition, in the early 1990's. My grade-school friends and I would, of course, fawn over the Serra Angel at lunchtime. But nobody ever acquired a Shivan Dragon, we just read about it in the catalog!

All the way back to Alpha.

ah the dreaded "Power Nine" :)

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.

Axing sets may be part dollars and cents, but it's also important to the field of play. It allows them to recover from unintended power creep ("Crap we accidentally made a combo way too powerful", think Psychatog or Urza's Saga) and it also makes it easier to balance the game. They have so many cards in circulation they could never playtest the whole thing.

Sometimes they revise the rules to break things. I remember creating a deck that could generate an infinite amount of life. Actually way able to play the combo in an Emperor tournament. 6th edition rules about how damage resolved scuttled that though.


"Obsolescence", perhaps?

Hrm. Personally my favorite format is limited. I've been drafting with the same group of friends since highschool and even loosing is fun because I'm playing an intellectually challenging game and hanging out with friends. Legacy is incredibly fun to play but competition is completely out of the question so we end up playing on line. The thing that drives me to buy boxes is that I want to play with my friends, the fact that someone might need a card or three for one of their decks later is entirely secondary.

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