Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reserved List on the Ropes: A Chance to Save Legacy with Reprints

If you are reading this, it probably comes as no surprise that the Legacy format has become a power house recently. It has experienced unprecedented growth over the last year, and the format is more popular today then at any other point in it's history. Some very reasonable estimates indicate that there are 10-20x more active Legacy players today then there were just one year ago. Even taking into account the recently massive growth of Magic on whole, the Legacy format has been growing by leaps and bounds. Wizards, the DCI, and TO's of all sizes have done a great job of giving players reasons to want to play Legacy.

That is what brings us to the potential problem. We have created a situation of relative limitless demand for the format, and thus the cards with which the format is built. Supply of many of these cards doesn't even come close to meeting the current demand. Future demand runs the risk of being insurmountable in magnitude. For instance nearly every multi-color deck in Legacy makes use of the original dual lands. It's a significant portion of the base of the format. First off, yes you can play without these, at some playable cost to your list. Mono-color decks can lack versatility and resilience, and substitutes, like the Ravnica shock-lands, have built in costs. So yes, you can play without the original duals, but ideally, every player is going to want some.

Some rough mathematics, based on the early print runs, and card frequency shows that there may be as few as 57,000 English play sets of any given dual land. Now that sounds like a lot at first glance, but you have to look other factors. How many of those cards are still in sealed packs? How many of those cards have been damage beyond practical play limits? How many of those cards are place in collection binders, never to be played in the foreseeable future? How many of those cards are owned and used by the massive non-competitive Magic Community, not available to those competitive players looking to participate in Legacy? The sad fact is we just don't know, and probably never will, but a number of Magic Scholars would estimate that roughly 50% of these cards are not in competitive circulation. Now that is a huge change for any functional population, and regardless of the quantity I think we can all agree that there are some cards that fall out of competitive circulation for some reason or another. Today the DCI reports that there are 34,418 "active" eternal players, so one could easily argue that there is not even one full playset available for each of today's players. Now dual lands are relatively plentiful, having been printed in 4 sets with a total print run which may be as high as 550 million total cards. Even with so many in circulation, playsets often go for $200 or more.

When talk about Legacy, it doesn't take long for Force of Will to come into the conversation. This card was only printed one time, but luckily was done so as an uncommon. Estimates indicate that there may be as many as 275,000 playset printed. Despite this quantity, this card retails as high as $200 a set.

Wasteland is inarguably the number one card in Legacy. This card also has only been printed in one major release with Tempest, and was printed as Uncommon. The Tempest release is estimated to have put 175,000 playsets in to circulation. It also had a small release as a Player Rewards card. With these two releases, the card still pulls in $100/$160 per set.

Another, and more recent Legacy staple is Tarmogoyf. It's single appearance as a rare in the Futuresight set is estimated to have put between 50,000-250,000 playsets into circulation. Print runs after Tempest Block are much harder to estimate, as the printers contracted by Wizards of the Coast appear to be legally restricted from giving information about their contracts. This card currently goes for $360 a set. The biggest issue is that Goyf will continue to be Extended legal for roughly another 4 years, further straining the supply.

Honestly, you can play Legacy with out any of these cards, but odds are you are going to want at least one or more of these playsets for a competitive Legacy list. The bottom line is Legacy demand is getting bigger, while the supply of key cards isn't. Wizards recent new enforcement of the Reserved list could address some of these issues, particularly with the dual lands, which are the backbone of the format. Wizards broader interpretation of the Reserved list, with regards to Premium cards, could allow them to put a limited number of new premium duals, into competitive circulation. These could be distributed in a number of ways.

What if multi-color Intro packs for future sets had a "1 in X" chance of having a premium, appropriately aligned dual land in it? I don't know what the total production of an Intro Pack is, so what the "X" should be is highly variable. In any case I think you could put as many as 2,000 playsets of a given dual land into circulation, without noticably impacting the value of existing copies. Not only would you help boost Legacy play, but you would also sell Intro Packs, for more then the value of the known rares. These sales would also be far more likely to got to veteran players, increasing the sales base beyond new players.

You could also distribute these cards as Judge Promos, or ultra player rewards ( like one for every 100 or even 1000 event participation). I think distributing these to Judges, doesn't directly address the issue, since many of them may not have an interest in playing Legacy. The exact details would have to be worked out, and I still think there needs to be an upper limit to how many they are willing to put out. Legacy has shown a huge potential for growth, but in order for it to continue, Wizards needs to find away to get more of the base cards into circulation.


GrimJack said...

Lots of good points, but I still dont want to see a bunch of cards from the reserved list reprinted.

The_Magi said...

I agree, the only things even worth considering at this point is cards that have large impact on Legacy. In my opinion Vintage is beyond saving in the immediate future.