Wizards of the Coast, hereunto will be referred to as WOTC, has dropped another banlist. I personally am hearing a lot of reactions from various sources about how “outrageous” ban lists are. There are mentions about investment into the paper game becoming more and more dangerous because of the instability of the secondary market. So many people are in my ear about how WOTC shouldn’t print cards that they are going to ban later on in the format. It is my opinion that we need to consider the concept of eternal/rotating formats versus power creep when observing ban lists in general. Should we believe WOTC when they claim to ignore the secondary market? What does this all mean for the future of paper Magic? In the interest of transparency I will disclose that I run a card store that makes its profits on the secondary market. I am also an avid player of both Yu-Gi-Oh! (YGO for short) and Magic the Gathering (MTG for short). Therefore I consider my opinion rather unique in regards to existing in both “worlds” so to speak. The first being the perspective of a player, and the second being of the perspective of an online seller.
The difference between bannings in YGO and MTG is that YGO is driven towards selling upcoming products. MTG bannings are largely done to facilitate healthy gameplay between players. YGO will do the same if it first accomplishes their main goal of selling new products.
Unlike Magic, YGO is exclusively an eternal format. Perpetually in Legacy, if you will. There is much to be discussed here in the difference of their reprint strategies versus WOTC. In YGO, if a card begins to see play and the original/only printing there gets bought out on the secondary market, then Konami reprints that single---a billion times. For the most part Konami despises the secondary market. They want to see more players playing their game, and if you need three Mystical Space Typhoons to as mainboard removal in every deck, Konami simply reprints it in a supplemental set. Arguably, this achieves two goals. Dashing the hoarders/investors in the secondary market from cornering/scalping cards and encouraging new players into the game by giving them the tools to play on the same level as the veterans.
Speaking of veteran to the game, I want to discuss the infamous MTG “Reserve List”. This has to be the most backwards, corrupt move WOTC has ever made. Which is ironic because they enabled it to ensure that those players who “invested” in the game early on can be “rewarded” for holding onto their precious cardboard for as long as humanly possible. The reason this is a corrupt move on WOTC’s part is that it generates an exclusivity towards their eternal formats. That is their intention. By design, WOTC has promoted the fact that a list of cards known as “the reserve list” will never be reprinted again. From my store perspective, this is great! All the older pieces of cardboard that have been collecting dust on back shelves are appreciating in value, therefore generating more profit for the store later down the line. As a player, the reserve list is the most discriminating policy that could be enacted. Effectively, if a new player, such as myself, wants to enter into an MTG Legacy format, then I have to take out a mortgage for real-estate manabase just to be competitive. This sort of thing is not conducive to building a healthy community of MTG players.
What then is the solution? The simple answer is to reprint the reserve list cards for all the new “eternal” format players to be able to enjoy the game of MTG. Reprinting has been proven to lower prices time and time again. I guess the counterpoint to this argument would be that WOTC wants to focus on the newer rotating formats rather than keeping the older ones going. If this is the case, then naturally we wouldn’t have a banlist.
That was the argument before right? It is not necessary to ban a card because it will rotate out in 3-6 months.. Well, that wasn’t the case for Rampaging Ferocidon, Ramnuramp Ruins, Attune with Aether, Once Upon a Time, Oko,Thief of Crowns, Agent of Treachery, Veil of Summer, Cauldron Familiar, Teferi, Time Raveler...you should be getting the point by now. The concept of a rotating format is flawed if you begin to ban newer cards before rotation. At that point it is just blatantly obvious that WOTC is either cognizant of the fact that these cards are pushed to the point that they must be banned shortly after print, or even worse that they are not realizing how power crept their game is getting, to the point where they have to go “Oops, sorry about that, we didn’t think this would be so broken.” So the argument that rotating formats fix the need for a banlist just doesn’t hold water.
Maybe I am not being all that fair to WOTC. These bannings are at the very least accomplishing the very thing that players want. They want to have fun.Teferi, Time Raveler is not fun to play against. Wilderness Reclamation is bullshit to play against. Oko, Thief of Crowns turns out to be the most ridiculous Planeswalker ever printed, at the time of writing this article Oko, Thief of Crowns is banned in 4 out of 7 formats recognized by the game designers. He’s honestly a boogie man in Legacy and Vintage, so much so that it wouldn’t surprise me if they ended up banning him in those formats as well. So let's think about this for a second. Jace, The Mind Sculptor is legal in every eternal format. THE original boogie man of Magic The Gathering has now been outshined by a fairy with an affinity for Elks. All of that is to say that WOTC means well when they are banning these cards. No one wants to play a game if it isn't fun. All of the cards on the Banned and Restricted list are on some level, incredibly difficult and frustrating to play against.
Interestingly enough, WOTC and Konami do differ dramatically when it comes to the secondary market. From the impressions I get as a store, Konami HATES the secondary market. They have no respect for the value of their cards in the secondary market. Actually they use this to their advantage by reprinting chase staples into newer products to generate interest and sales out of otherwise bland products. Absolutely nothing is holy in Yu-Gi-Oh! Every single card has the potential at any point in time to be either reprinted or banned. This makes for an interesting relationship between Konami and its “investors”. Remember those? The people who aren’t players, they aren’t collectors either. They are trying to make a profit. Yes, I am talking about myself here. WOTC has come out before and said that they do not pay attention to the secondary market. That is no longer the case, if anyone ever really thought it was to begin with. See the “Secret Lair” product line for more than enough evidence of that fact. So now we have to ask ourselves. Why are they not printing older cards that exist on the reserve list? They can no longer say that they aren’t aware of the secondary market. So that leaves antiquated traditions, or artificially inflating a market to the point of exclusivity as the most logical reason why reserve list cards are not being reprinted.
What about the bannings? Perhaps it is a natural result that a card loses value because of its banning in a game. If you can’t play with it, why want it? That isn’t to say that Konami purposely bans cards because of how expensive they are. Konami certainly doesn’t ban cards because the cards themselves become a monetary barrier of entry. This simply proves the fact that the value of a card is directly related to its playabillity in any given format it exists in. You can see this as Terferi, Timer Raveler, once a $20-30 card, now going for $8-9. That's just in the 12 or so hours after its banning on 8/3/2020. No one should be arguing or calling for the banning of cards due to their price point, which is not what I am suggesting here. If we can all agree on that, then we can also agree that the reserve list is, perhaps not at first, a ban list of cards that are based on their monetary value in the real world. The reserve list is actually the original ban list that isn’t spoken about.
Konami wants to keep engaging its player base. They want to bring new players into the game constantly to make sure that the game survives. They understand that the concept of an eternal format cannot work if the cards that are staples in those formats are not eternally reprinted. Imagine a world where the company Konami is more player oriented than WOTC. Well, that is unfortunately the reality today. Unless I am proven wrong with the inclusion of reserve list cards in the upcoming Zendikar Set Boosters, Konami is looking like the more player oriented TCG company.
So what does this banlist mean for MTG overall? From one player to another, I have to warn you to get used to this sort of thing. WOTC has tasted blood, they are not going to end random banlists. Banlist will become as common to Magic the Gathering as it has been to Yu-Gi-Oh! I suggest you get used to it now or prepare to be disappointed again and again in the near future.
Saul Agis, your friendly neighborhood cardboard dealer.