Supply. Demand. Reprints. Ah, there must be a new Masters edition being released by Wizards of the Coast. That would explain why social media is full of chatter about topics like reprint equity and the #mtgfinance community has already determined 25th Anniversary Masters to be a financial disaster for Wizards of the Coast.

Supply and demand is perhaps the most straightforward economic theory to understand while simultaneously being very difficult to model accurately. Reprints are, simply put, an attempt by Wizards of the Coast to increase the supply side of the secondary market valuation of cards. In theory, increasing supply decreases prices but that’s overly simplistic.

Yesterday, Seth, better known as Saffron Olive, wrote an article for MTGGoldfish on the difference between low-demand and high-demand reprints with respect to low-supply and high-supply. The article identifies four types of reprints along the axes of supply and demand:

  1. Low-Supply, High-Demand (e.g. Rishadan Port)
  2. Low-Supply, Low-Demand (e.g. Imperial Recruiter)
  3. High-Supply, High-Demand (e.g. Jace, the Mind Sculptor)
  4. High-Supply, Low-Demand (e.g. Tree of Redemption)

What has plenty of people up in arms is the idea that Wizards has completely dropped the ball on balancing the supply of those four categories. The community, or at least the mtgfinance community, wants more of Group I and Group III reprints, are happy to see a few Group II reprints, and are prepared to burn down villages every time a Group IV reprint shows up at Mythic Rare or even Rare in their packs.

Let’s look at the Mythic Rares in Masters 25:

So what’s the point of reprints anyways? Group I reprints are the easiest to understand. Cards that are low in supply and high in demand are easy home runs. The rare slot of A25 has a few Group I reprints including Azusa, Lost But Seeking, Coalition Relic, Darien, King of Kjeldor, and Rishadan Port. Nothing really to complain about here.

Group II reprints are also easy to understand and make up the bulk of the discussion Seth, better known as Saffron Olive, has been driving. At rare this also includes cards like Flash, Eladamri’s Call, and Akroma’s Vengeance. These cards get reprinted because they’re in low supply and Wizards of the Coast wants more people to have them for casual play, Commander, and Cube construction.

Group III reprints are what sells these products and this is where we get to the more interesting philosophical debates. Most of the complaints the community has around Masters products is that there are never enough Group III reprints. This ties in directly to the idea of reprint equity which is to say that there is a limited number of Group III reprints and if Wizards runs out then they’re going to have a hard time moving product.

When the first Modern Masters product was released this group didn’t really exist. But now it is commonly associated with cards like Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, Dark Confidant, Fetch Lands, Liliana of the Veil and so on.

Group IV reprints are the ones that cause the most controversy over the price of packs because no one wants to pay $10 to open a $1 mythic rare (but somehow we’re all okay paying $4 to open a 25-cent rare most of the time?). These cards are in basically every Masters set and include classics like the Kamigawa Dragons and the New Phyrexia Praetors.

So here we are, several-hundred words into breaking down the different types of reprints based on basic supply and demand principles. We’ve highlighted how the secondary market price is impacted and how the community reacts and the challenge that Wizards of the Coast faces. So can we finally answer the question: What’s the Point of Reprints Anyways?

Increase supply?

Meet demand?

Make a fun product?

As a socialist my thoughts are that Wizards of the Coast should always be looking to achieve these three goals with the ultimate reward being an affordable and accessible Magic: the Gathering for everyone regardless of economic condition. However, there’s another aspect of reprint products that we haven’t even scratched the surface on:

Products like 25th Anniversary Masters have a “hidden” goal of indirectly helping to prop-up the secondary markets of local gaming stores.

When mtgfinance folks complain about the value of the box being around $190 the problem isn’t necessarily that there’s only $190 worth of product on average in a box, but rather that a game store has to spend $140 on a product that they make $50 on, at best, and will see diminishing profits pretty quickly.

But, what if it’s fun to draft? The box comes with 24 packs, enough for one draft. Everyone seems to have accepted the idea that $15 is an okay price for a draft (it’s not but that’s a topic for another time) but that only gets you to $120. Raising the price of draft to $20 gets you to $160 so at least you’re making a profit now. $25 will get you up to $200/box and if you can get eight folks to draft for $30/ea you’ll be okay.

Local Gaming Stores need to exist for Magic to thrive. That’s a fact and one that Wizards is painfully aware of. The Pro Tour, Magic Online, Star City Games, Hipsters of the Coast—these are all things that could vanish tomorrow and have minimal impact on Magic’s ability to thrive because Magic is a great game. But it relies on Local Gaming Stores to connect a physical product to consumers.

Cards don’t get reprinted to increase supply. They don’t get reprinted to meet demand. They get reprinted because reprint products are a great vehicle for helping your LGS make money. This was true when Duel Decks was announced. It was true when From the Vault was announced. It continued to be true when Modern Masters was announced. It’s still true.

Reprint products have been hit-or-miss. Some, like Commander sets and Modern Masters are easy home runs. Others, like Duel Decks and From the Vault were tapping from a well that wasn’t too deep to begin with. But make no mistake, the goal of these products is far beyond simple supply and demand in the marketplace.

I hope 25th Anniversary Masters is fun to draft because drafting will move more product than just relying on the resale value of the cards. Unfortunately the community hasn’t had an opportunity to discover if the format is fun to draft yet so instead we get to spend all this time discussing the resale value and that’s a shame.

I don’t have any great conclusion for you but rather branching topics I hope we can cover in the near future including:

  • Why does Wizards have to create products to support game stores?
  • What’s the real “value” of drafting sealed product?
  • How does Wizards of the Coast decide on a price for packs?

Here’s a not-so-great conclusion though: The secondary market sucks and the primary reason it sucks is that instead of getting to enjoy this product for its creativity, its new artwork, its nostalgic value, and its potential as a limited environment, we all have to waste our breath on talking about the secondary market.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13.

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