From its creation to its changes after FTV: Relics to today, the Reserved List has been a point of contention in the Magic Community. With significant price spikes due to the reprint policy created with the Reserved List this topic has been hotter than ever. But in the discussions, there are lots of incorrect facts floating around about what the Reserved List is and what it entails.

The Reserved List was created on March 4, 1996 in response to an outcry from Magic collectors after Fourth Edition and Chronicles were printed. Wizard’s original policy was “to print any functionally novel card with a black border before or at the same time as it was printed with a white border. It had also been their policy never to reprint with a black border any previously published Magic card which had identical art and card power.” The idea was to make the original black bordered printings collectible, but unfortunately it did not work out that way. In response to the outcry of collectors, the Reserved List was born.

In 2002 Wizards made a small change to the Reserved List, officially announcing that anything from Mercadian Masques and on would not be included, and they removed uncommons and commons from Limited Edition thanks to public support. In the meantime Wizards continued to print premium foils of various Reserved List cards like Gaea’s Cradle, Survival of the Fittest, and Yawgmoth’s Will (without drastically affecting the price of their original counterparts).

In 2010 the Reserved List was altered in a less popular way in response to From the Vault: Relics (which included Karn, Silver Golem, Masticore, Memory Jar, and Mox Diamond, all cards from the Reserved List) and Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs. The Coalition (which included Phyrexian Negator). The original Reserved List policy allowed Wizards to reprint cards as premium foils, but in response to a large amount of negative feedback, this loophole was closed. Mark Rosewater addressed the outcry on his blog (multiple times) stating, “We were experimenting with pushing a loophole. It went badly and we promised to never do it again.” In a later post, he even confirmed that it was an attempt to try to slowly phase out the Reserved List.

So why does Wizards keep the Reserved List? The odds do not seem to be in its favor but it’s still here with no sign of leaving! Except this topic is significantly more complicated than that. I mean do you really think Wizards is just saying, no I would not like any money I can get from these sweet sweet reprints? With cards like Tabernacle worth over $2,000 dollars, reprinting just one card in the right set could definitely mean some serious selling power for them, that they haven’t necessarily seen with sets like Iconic Masters.

First of all, while many people want the list gone (myself included), as MaRo said a few years ago on his blog, Wizards has done research and there are many people who are pro-Reserved List who are not actually very vocal about it. And in response to a question about whether or not people were really that upset about the Phyrexian Negator reprint in the Duel Deck, MaRo responded “More than you know.” Even reading the comments on these posts show more supporters than one might expect.

Another major argument, one I spew quite regularly, is that reprints don’t really nuke the price or collectibility of the original printing of the cards, a point even MaRo seems to agree with. But as he said in response, “logic isn’t going to win this argument.” So it really just boils down to legal nonsense.

The legal side of the Reserved List is immensely complicated. I talked to a handful of lawyers and other people who are familiar with the situation. The legal worries for Wizards is that the Reserved List could be looked at as promissory estoppel which is a legal principle saying that in certain circumstances promises can be enforceable by law.

Wizard’s biggest worries aren’t individual players like you or me, but businesses who have invested a large amount of money in Reserved List cards. A lot of players have pointed fingers at some Magic retailers and claimed they are pressuring Wizards to keep the Reserved List for financial reasons. So I reached out to a few different retailers and got a wonderfully in-depth response from Ben Bleiweiss of Star City Games, who had a lot to say about this.

Both Ben himself and SCG as a company want to see the Reserved List abolished, and they had the “receipts” to back it up, having written about this subject and how to address it all the way back in 2010. Ben assumes that Wizards fears a lawsuit from the promissory estoppel crowd. It isn’t even a worry about losing to them, but the cost of litigating would be large, and Hasbro would be responsible for the fees. So Ben asks the real question, the impossible to answer question: would the profit from reprinting the Reserved List cards be more than the time and money Wizards would have to invest into a lawsuit?

My real question is who would sue them? Are big Magic retailers lining up to do this? SCG is the company I see fingers at the most when talking about companies pressuring Wizards to keep the Reserved List. Even insiders I talked to pointed the finger at them, but for years their actions have said otherwise. They say they don’t like the Reserved List, and a lot of other things that don’t add up to a company itching to keeping it around. Ben at one point told me:

Abolishing the Reserved List would definitely affect prices, but we’re in the business of selling Magic cards, not treating Magic cards as a long-term investment portfolio. If certain cards that were Legacy-played that are currently on the Reserved List were reprinted, there would be a large influx of players into Legacy. In turn, the cards that haven’t been reprinted (either recently or due to the increased demand) would start to rise in price, so in the end the entire format would be more affordable on a deck-by-deck basis, but overall the total cost of the format would be stable.”

Many people familiar with Magic finance are of the opinion that older printings of Reserved List cards would hold value fairly well in the face of a reprint. It seems like this would be a good argument in Wizards’ defense if somebody did sue them for abolishing the Reserved List.

Maybe if we’re lucky Wizards will decide they have more to gain from fighting the Reserved List then they have to lose and will try to leverage the Hasbro legal team. Maybe whatever pressure Wizards is receiving (because there must be some) to keep the Reserved List will be publicly outed. If we’re lucky, it will disappear. I reached out to Wizards to see if they had any additional comments regarding the Reserved List, and they pointed to their official policy and that nothing has changed. Hopefully the next time I send them an email asking for a comment we’ll be getting a different kind of reply.

Kate hails from Worcester MA and also does a bit of Card Altering. Check her Stuff out on Facebook! She mainly plays legacy and modern though will occasionally find herself playing EDH.

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