Two weeks ago, in The Unwilling Speculators, I wrote about the Modern format and how its affordability (or lack thereof) is quickly spiraling out of control. The article got some good discussion going—thank you to all the commenters who contributed.
The article wasn’t intended to be another “blame Wizards” piece. I can only fit so much into one article, and in this case, the problem statement was big enough to stand on its own. Today, I want to talk about solutions. I promise these won’t be ridiculous pie-in-the-sky solutions, either. These are ideas that are feasible, easily implemented, and won’t destroy Wizards’s business model. I’m not going to suggest that Tarmogoyf be the next FNM promo.
Obviously, Wizards can’t snap its fingers and fix all the issues with Modern’s affordability. There is no silver bullet here. Nor do I expect that Wizards is interested in keeping super tight control of the secondary market. At this point, though, Wizards doesn’t seem to have any handle on it at all.
So here are three simple suggestions that would help make Modern an affordable and accessible format. They are small changes for Wizards that would make a world of difference to players. Here we go.
1. Tell Us What Reprints Are Planned
Wizards knows this stuff far ahead of time, so why not just reveal it? The information would create some stability in the secondary market.
Take, for example, Bitterblossom. When Wizards unbanned this card, they did almost everything exactly wrong from a secondary market perspective. They created a shock and it touched off a nasty storm of speculation, panic buying, and real demand.
Now, we know we have a Modern event deck coming our way at the end of May. That was announced on January 9, nearly a full month before the DCI Banned & Restricted List update. Conventional wisdom is that the deck will be a black-white tokens deck.
If that is true, why didn’t they just say it? Imagine how much less painful this would have been if they announced a reprinting of Bitterblossom in the event deck along with its unbanning. Players could then make a rational decision about whether to buy the card now (maybe they want it for Pro Tour Born of the Gods) or wait until May and pick it up at retail (if they just need it for Modern PTQ season). Instead, players are forced into the “now or never” mentality because of the risk that they are wrong about the event deck. Releasing information like this can cut down on panic buying significantly. Wizards can erase the fear of missing out just by telling us what they already have in store for us.
Announcing reprints as early as possible is also a good way to reduce speculation. Most speculators are going to stay away from cards that already have a reprint scheduled. Granted, the reprint has to be timely—I would venture to guess that announcing fetch lands in 2015 would actually cause a short-term spike, not a drop in price. That’s not because this approach doesn’t work, it’s because the fetch reprints are already overdue and Wizards would be confirming another year or more without them. In contrast, if Wizards is planning on printing something useful in Conspiracy this June (like Noble Hierach), revealing that now would curb speculation over the next few months and allow the price to begin deflating immediately.
2. Stop Wasting Time Developing Limited For Reprint Sets
Modern Masters was a great Limited set. Almost everyone who played it had good things to say. The problem is that a great Limited environment was a secondary goal for the set, and the primary goal of getting more Modern cards into circulation was not nearly as successful. Besides, 2013 already had Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, full RTR block, Magic 2014, and Theros Limited to occupy us. We weren’t hurting for something to draft.
We need reprints if Modern is going to be affordable. Limited playability is nice, but it’s just icing on the cake. If development of a Limited environment is delaying the set (Vintage Masters, ahem), Wizards should just drop it. It’s far more important to get the cards out there.
Want to know where the fetch land reprints are right now? Stuck in Development at Wizards while they figure out which landfall commons and uncommons make the best Limited environment for the 2015 release. I’m sure drafting the exalted/infect deck will feel great for the one month I get to do it next June, but it’s pretty far down my wishlist as a player. Finishing my set of blue fetches is much closer to the top.
Conspiracy will give us more of the same this summer—a quirky new Limited format that no one asked for with some, but not enough, reprints mixed in. Conspiracy will be fun. Modern will be more expensive than ever.
Wizards created a format entirely out of reprintable cards, and now they should reprint them. Create the card file, get it to the printer, get it in stores, sell packs. Done. I don’t care how the set plays in Limited if I can get the cards now. I want fetch lands this summer so I can PTQ, not a deep and nuanced draft experience in 2015.
It’s time to get over the Chronicles thing. It was over 18 years ago. The truth is that we need another Chronicles. Make it happen, Wizards.
3. Define Its Role In The Secondary Market
This is the most important one, in my opinion.
When I got into Modern, it was specifically because it was a non-rotating format that would be substantially less expensive than Legacy. Did Wizards ever promise that outright? No, of course not. It was certainly implied, though. There is no reason to create a new eternal format where every card is reprintable if you don’t care about the secondary market. I couldn’t afford Legacy then and I can’t afford Legacy now. I thought I could afford Modern based on what they said, so I jumped in. I, like many others, was under the impression that Wizards would play an active role in managing the affordability and accessibility of the format. Was I wrong? If I was, I would like to know now so I can stop feeling guilty about my half-baked Modern collection, sell it, and play Limited full-time.
I think it would be a huge step forward if Wizards just came out and told us how they view themselves in the Modern secondary market. They should define “affordable” and “accessible” for us, and say whether or not they really care about those things. They should tell us whether they are going to get more aggressive with reprints or whether this is it.
They shouldn’t be dodgy about it either. I know I can get a Modern deck for $300, but I want to play tier-one decks. I’m far past the point in my life where I’m okay getting crushed by someone just because he spent more on his deck. Is Wizards comfortable with $1,500 tier-one decks? $2,000 decks? $3,000? As players, we need to know, guys.
I also understand that Wizards doesn’t want to piss off collectors and stores with massive inventories. My question is, “Are you going to do it anyway?” If that group is untouchable, fine, it certainly appears that way right now. Just come out and say it.
By telling the player base where they see Modern going financially, Wizards will empower each one of us to make the best decision for our Magic-playing future. None of us are quitting the game, let’s be honest, but I for one would really like to know if Modern is what I thought it was when I got into it.
If Modern is just a Legacy reboot, do accessibility and affordability even matter?
What we shouldn’t have to deal with as players is sitting around waiting for Wizards to reprint cards to make Modern less expensive only to see the opposite happen. There are plenty of other ways to play. We want answers. I think we’re entitled to them.
As I said, none of these things are going to change Modern overnight. They are simple by design, Wizards could essentially implement all of them tomorrow. At this point, they would be welcome changes.
Thanks for reading.