They did it. They won! The fans of Dungeons & Dragons slayed their proverbial, uh, Dragon, in the form of Wizards of the Coast’s lawyers (and to an extent their brand, press, and/or marketing departments). It has been an absolutely wild few weeks it has been, from the rumored leaks of a new Open Gaming License, the claims by Wizards that said leaks were a “draft” product, the decision to workshop that agreement more through surveys, and finally the coup de grace of Wizards moving the entire Dungeons and Dragons System Rules to a Creative Commons license.

Wizards opening salvo in this short but devastating conflict was the “leaked draft” of OGL 1.1 in which the Dungeons & Dragons designer would be demanding both royalties and content ownership rights from any sufficiently successful commercial usage of their content through the new license. Whether or not this was meant to be the “final form” of the legal agreement between Wizards and 3rd-party studios is debatable but this was an example of opening negotiations with your pie-in-the-sky dream terms of surrender.

The community responded to violence with violence, climaxing in the announcement by Paizo, the studio behind the successful Pathfinder game, that they would be fronting an alliance of game studios behind the banner of the Open RPG Creative License (ORC). Paizo’s return of fire was devastating. They committed to a free and irrevocable license that would be managed by an independent not-for-profit entity. The ORC is envisioned as a place for any studio to add their system rules so they can all be freely shared by the tabletop community.

Wizards conceded defeat two weeks later with the move to Creative Commons.

And for many that’s the end of the story, but not for us, because we’re not here to talk about Dungeons & Dragons are we? No, we’re here because this, my friends, is a Magic the Gathering site. And like all Magic sites, whether they be blogs, podcasts, videos, or some other medium, we come once again, full-circle, to an inevitability. Yes, this is an article about, THE OFFICIAL MAGIC THE GATHERING REPRINT POLICY, AKA THE RESERVED LIST.

What is the Magic Reserved List?

That’s a complicated question, but thankfully our own Katie Bates covered that very question several years ago. Not a whole lot has changed since then, with the very high-profile exception being the Magic the Gathering 30th Anniversary Edition product, which we’ll cover shortly. In summary, the Reserved List is a promise, made by Wizards of the Coast, that they will never, ever, ever, ever, ever reprint the cards on that list, in a tournament-playable form, nor will they cheat by making functionally identical cards with different names, nor will they cheat by creating variants (e.g. textless promo versions) of those cards.

The Reserved List is a thorn in the sides of many Magic players but specifically those who want to see more accessibility for formats like Legacy, Vintage, Cube, and Competitive Commander which all make significant use of many cards on the Reserved List such as the original Dual Lands, the Power Nine, Bazaar of Baghdad, and more. Repealing the list would mean products could start introducing reprints of those cards, making them accessible to new players and allowing the growth of those formats to no longer be barred by enormous financial requirements.

The counter-argument is that many secondary retailers rely on the value of these cards to maintain and ultimately continue to grow in value. The repeal of the list would essentially mean that these cards would likely all come down in value, or at least most of them would, and many would drop by a significant amount. This could directly harm the livelihood of many secondary retailers.

Now, it’s entirely debatable whether or not that would actually come to pass, and its also debatable whether or not Wizards could be held legally liable should such harm take place. But those debates will have to be settled elsewhere. Let’s talk about the community and if the community can pressure Wizards into dropping the Reserve List much like how the D&D community just pushed Wizards into dropping the Open Game License.

No, they can’t.

Okay wrap it up. Great article folks. Really good copy editing today. Love to see it. Hit the lockers we’re going to … oh wait, you’re still here? You want an explanation?

Alright, here goes. In order to commit a murder, or at least in order to prove someone did it in a game of Clue (by Hasbro!) or whatever, you need three things: means, motive, and opportunity.

The Means: Both the Magic and the D&D communities have the means to force change in their respective games, and both have done so in the past as well. For example, 5th edition D&D resembling 3rd edition is the result of direct community push-back on the 4th edition system. Many Magic products have changed due to the demand for more Commander products.

However, this time around the means were very specific, and it did not involve angry social media postings or survey feedback. According to this piece by Gizmodo journalist Linda Codega, what initially forced Wizards’ hand was the mass cancellation of D&D Beyond Subscriptions. The Magic equivalent here would be for fans to stop buying product. So while its possible, right now it seems unlikely, especially with a hot new set about to release.

The Motive: Magic fans hate the Reserve List just like D&D fans hate the proposed OGL changes. Maybe, maybe not. While there is certainly a very vocal group of Magic fans who continuously call for the end of the Reserve List, their chorus is not nearly as united and outraged as the reaction to the proposed-leak-draft of the OGL 1.1 was. But, more importantly, a lot of fans might be perfectly happy with products like the 30th Anniversary Edition packs if it weren’t for the obscene price tag.

In “The Professor’s” video on the topic, titled “Magic the Gathering’s 30th Anniversary Edition is Not For You,” he primarily laments the price tag, not necessarily because of the reprint policy or because of concerns for Magic’s secondary market, but because of the fact that this actually looks like it could be a fun product that casual and engaged fans alike could have enjoyed, instead of just the most financially well-off collectors.

Other than the Reserved List itself, there isn’t a rallying point through which fans can express their displeasure like the OGL provided for D&D fans.

The Opportunity: Wizards opened themselves up to this retaliation by the community. They haven’t made that mistake with Magic the Gathering, not yet at least. If anything, they have tried to poke and prod at the Reserved List, trying to open up holes and areas for monetization of the cards on the list without directly violating the spirit, if not the exact terms, of the deal.

Ben Bleiweiss, who is one of the Magic communities foremost experts on the secondary market, shared his thoughts on this topic in a Twitter thread. His conclusion is that while repealing the Reserve List is unlikely, it seems clear that Wizards will continue to poke as many holes through it as possible and find ways to make more money off of it than they have in the past.

Is it possible that Wizards will do something that does provide the community with the means, motive, and opportunity for the demise of the Reserved List? Absolutely. No one expected Wizards to shoot themselves in the foot so hard over the Open Game License, why not do the same with the Official Reprint Policy? As they continue to poke and prod and test at the community and the list itself, they continue to do so at the risk of once again waking the beast that their fan base can become.

If anything I expect the lesson from the OGL to be for Wizards to continue to take things slowly, try harder to get pro-active feedback on these decisions, and work from there. They’ve tried that in the past with mixed success but the threat to their bottom line may be greater now, as we know Magic the Gathering is one of the primary products keeping Hasbro in business these days.

Could the community kill the Reserved List? Sure, if enough of us actively boycotted the release of a product like Phyrexia: All Will be One, under very clearly-stated demands of repealing the Official Reprint Policy, and hurt WotC’s bottom line, it could happen. But right now none of that actually seems terribly likely.

Rich Stein (he/him) has been playing Magic since 1995 when he and his brother opened their first packs of Ice Age and thought Jester’s Cap was the coolest thing ever. Since then his greatest accomplishments in Magic have been the one time he beat Darwin Kastle at a Time Spiral sealed Grand Prix and the time Jon Finkel blocked him on Twitter.

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