Leaks aren’t going away no matter how much Wizards of the Coast wishes they would. Too many people have access to cards ahead of their official release and whether by accident (such as the most recent leaks) or by design (such as when Wastes showed up unexpectedly ahead of schedule) there are very few controls in place and also far too many incentives when it comes to revealing confidential information about Magic’s future.

The life of a card goes through many, many, many hands. It starts with the design team at Wizards and from there goes to the development team. Along the way though it needs to go through editors, flavor text writers, play-testers, art directors, brand managers, translators, and quality control folks. All of this is before the final card file, which is stored in a database at Wizards, is handed off to the printing company, Cartamundi.

I don’t know the inner workings of Cartamundi but one has to imagine that once again there are folks who do reviews, editing, and quality control before the card file goes to the printer, and then more quality control has to be done once the printing process is done. These two chains, the design and then printing of Magic cards, requires the cards to pass across the eyes of many individuals. Leaks have become almost inevitable.

There are probably a few things Wizards could do about leaks, but the list isn’t as long as they’d like. We don’t know too many details about past investigations into leaks. A bunch of judges got banned once, but it turns out they weren’t the source of leaks, they just didn’t report them to Wizards in a timely fashion. I’m sure that if Wizards identifies the source of a leak, they take the appropriate action. Yet it keeps happening.

So either Wizards isn’t discovering who is behind leaks, or there’s simply too much incentive to leak cards to the public to prevent the leakers from going ahead with their profiteering scheme. The logistics are simple. Find a potentially impacting card like a planeswalker. Buy cheap cards that are currently undervalued but in a vacuum could be good with your pending leak. Then leak the card and list your cheap cards at double the value.

Magic players are eerily predictable and it’s all but assured players will snap up the cards for which the leak source has already inflated the price. Sure, most people think they’re getting a steal on a $1 card that might become a $2 card when the leaked planeswalker is released to Standard, but the source of the information already turned it from a ten cent card to a $1 card, making a nice pile of money in the meantime.

That’s not to mention that they got to corner a market while you had to fight with the entire community to snap up cards from TCGPlayer and your LGS as fast as possible.

Regulating the secondary market would go a long way towards eliminating the incentives behind leaking cards to the public. Speculating on unreleased card information is basically Magic’s equivalent of insider trading. Unfortunately Wizards does not have the means to regulate the secondary market and it’s more than likely that the community would revolt at the idea. I’m sure half of you are already writing angry letters to my editor ([email protected] thanks).

Wizards is going to have to eventually make a hard decision. Do they care more about the long-term growth of their game to wider and wider audiences or do they care more about the artificially inflated secondary market that continues to be a growing barrier of entry to their game If I were Wizards, or Hasbro, I’d be spending every waking moment figuring out how to destroy the parts of the secondary market that inhibit them from growing the game. Then again, the reprint policy is still around.

Here are ten more thoughts on the Magic community this week:

1. Speaking of the reprint policy, it seems like the Legacy community on MTGO grows every week. I haven’t looked at the numbers for attendance of online Legacy events but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s going up. The technical limitations of MTGO are numerous, but the physical limitations of Legacy are more prominent than in Modern or Standard.

2. How do stores feel about the secondary market? I’ve talked to a few shop owners and employees in the past on the topic and reactions are mixed. Some folks love buying and selling cards to and from their customers. Others hate it but understand it’s part of the business. Pricing and grading are obviously where the bulk of the work is, not to mention sorting. Why isn’t there a standard system for this?

3. These thoughts have been on my mind because last week TCGPlayer bought ScryGlass, an app that identifies and prices Magic cards for you. The plan is to roll out a TCGPlayer app which will include stores’ buylists as well as the ability to search for products, decklists, and articles. It’s very ambitious but could change the landscape of how the secondary market operates.

4. Technology should ultimately fix many of the secondary market’s problems, and ScryGlass will help begin to build a centralized marketplace, but what it can’t do is sort cards or grade them for you, or put them in your case, or deal with managing your retail store-front. So what I’m saying is it won’t be putting local stores out of business. Hopefully it will help ease their burden somewhat.

5. New this week to the Magic community is Mana Screwed, which is possibly the best produced Magic content I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen it yet you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

6. Commander Anthology is coming out this week and will let fans who missed out on some of the iconic Commander deck releases over the past years to collect them in a new shiny package. $165 will get you four decks which in Commander is 400 cards, plus dice and what appear to be deck boxes. I have a feeling this will be a big hit among casual groups.

7. Meanwhile, the new Archenemy boxed set will be out in two weeks, so expect to hear more about it this week. This will be a similar product to Commander Anthology, meaning it’s all reprints, but with a $50 price point it’s a bit more palatable. Archenemy first debuted as a multi-player format a long time ago, so most people will be playing it for the first time. For maximum fun I recommend getting the Commander Anthology and Archenemy Nicol Bolas and shuffling everything together and see what you get.

8. Three more Grand Prix tournaments were held this weekend and attendance numbers are still questionable. The format of the weekend is Standard. In fact these will be the last major Standard events before Hour of Devastation comes out, in just over a month. Manila saw a total attendance of 757 players, Amsterdam saw 1,167, and Omaha saw 832.

9. You might see 1,167 players in Amsterdam and think that this is not too bad, but GP Manchester last year, which was Standard on the last weekend in May, had an attendance of 1,697. GP Prague, which was Legacy and held on June 11-12 had an attendance of 1,477. These are still a small sample size, and the upcoming GP Las Vegas could be taking away peoples funds, but there definitely seems to be a consistent drop-off in Standard GP attendance this season.

10. Last but certainly not least, huge congratulations from everyone at Hipsters of the Coast to our very own Kate Donnelly and Aaron Gazzaniga who this weekend got married (to each other). Legacy’s power couple will be on-site at Grand Prix Las Vegas for the Legacy main event if you want to shower them with gifts of dual lands or gag gifts of Sensei’s Divining Tops. Kate and Aaron have not only been fantastic contributors to the Legacy Community and Hipsters of the Coast but have also become great friends of mine personally and the entire Magic community is fortunate to have such bright gems as these two.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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