Fighting the Blues: Leaving the Legacy

“Oh, man! Oh dang!” I gasped. The train to my work was packed and I didn’t even have room to move. I felt several sets of eyes glance at me, probably wondering what this foreign looking individual uttered in the mostly silent commuter train. My mind was busy calculating and didn’t have time to bother. Bitterblossom had been unbanned in Modern, spiking my two copies from a mere $20 to over $60 in a matter of minutes. I had just made over $80.

At first, I was ecstatic. As a person who is the sole bread winner in the family (by choice of my wife and I), I am very shrewd on how much I spend on cards. I learned early on the impossible art of how to keep my personal purse strings in control. Yet, Magic: the Gathering is a great game in which you are able to invest in cards and make some money. Although I am no pro, I have become apt enough at trading and investing to be able to support my hobby without tapping into our family funds. Bitterblossom was fodder for that project. As I was rummaging through ideas of how to use the extra cash, a thought struck me. With this hike in price, I was overjoyed. But how about other people?

I swiped my phone on and opened my browser to my favorite Japanese blog. The first few lines were telling. Every blog post was about Bitterblossom and many others mentioned the hike in price. Some rejoiced like me and others lamented. The bar for entering Modern (at least with Faeries or any other Bitterblossom deck) had just been raised. This caught my eye.

I am a fan of eternal formats. When Modern was announced I was excited. Even though I decided not to enter the fray of Modern fighters, I still support its cause. Yet, there is a problem when the price of a deck becomes similar to decks in Legacy.

My issue with it stems from the very reason why Modern was conceived in the first place; to have an eternal, non-rotating format that escapes the ancient vow Wizards of the Coast made to never reprint old staples. Alas, I’m not here to complain about the Reserve List. Although I think it can easily be modified, I understand the worth behind keeping a promise. I am just uneasy of the fact that Modern is a more heavily sponsored format and Legacy is left mostly up to the fans. I am essentially the older sibling who is irritated by the volume of attention the younger receives. Why does Modern get so much love? Why doesn’t Legacy get more sanctioned events? The heart of the issue lies, I believe, in the availability of cards and the high price point of entry.

With the Reserved List in place, they are afraid to promote a format in which prices of cards will go through the roof. But, remember that I am not here to tackle the Reserved List. I’m writing this to propose ways to make Legacy more accessible, safe, and fun for all ages as much as possible. Thus, I am proposing to you three ways to drop prices of cards in Legacy without fighting the age old nemesis of the Reserved List.

If All Duals Were Created Equal

SavannahI own seven dual lands; three Savannahs, three Bayous, and a Scrubland. I have been using them for a while and love them all. One of my Bayous is a foreign white border card in which the picture is darker and has sharper contrast. Out of the three, I love the art of Savannah the most. I often imagine being in that land where fields of tall brown grass grow and a warm breeze brushes up against my cheeks. What I can’t figure for the life of me is how this beautiful dual land is less than half the cost of a Volcanic Island. Okay, I lied. I know why and it fits right into my most passionate topic; how blue has been treated throughout the years.

As you are sick of hearing, Islands have been the most dominant force in Legacy. Blue staples match the price with the prowess. An uncommon Alliance blue card is over $70, where other cards in the same cycle barely break a few dollars. Polluted Deltas is close to $100, while Windswept Heath is as low as $40. Since most top tier decks use blue, players flock to the blue staples, driving up the price.

But what if other colors were as strong, were as viable? The number of useful, powerful fetch lands will increase by six (four blue fetches, six non-blue fetches). Force of Wills will not be the only option to stop fast combo. Brainstorm will not be the only way to provide consistency. Show and Tell will not be the only way to consistently and powerfully two card combo. The prices of non-blue cards will increase and blue cards will lose value. Players are able to pick and choose which cards to start their Legacy from and the availability of the magic pool will increase significantly. Have you seen anyone use four Plateaus in a deck? Me neither. At least I haven’t seen them use them as much as four Tundras or Underground Seas. All those copies of Plateaus can potentially fuel Legacy players if only there was a viable deck. The same goes for Badlands, Taigas, and to an extent, Scrublands and Savannahs.

Thus, my solution is as follows; print more cards like Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay. These cards impacted Legacy to make owning a Bayou useful. Bayou decks have become powerful competitors and allowed people to have a chance without owning Tundras and Volcanic Islands. The price rose, but is steady at around $80-90 on eBay. Now what if there were more cards printed that made other duals prize-worthy. They can be Standard cards that do not kill the format and will shift the demand away from blue to other combos of colors. It will destroy the necessity of owning blue cards, dropping deck prices and ultimately lowering the bar of entry. Is this idealistic? Yes, it is. Does this solve issues with other card prices? No, it doesn’t. But it sure is a step in the right direction. Other cards can be reprinted; duals can’t.

Now to prop up Wizards of the Coast, they are doing precisely what I am suggesting. Printing Cavern of Souls, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, reprinting Thoughtseize, Liliana of the Veil, and now Spirit of the Labyrinth has not gone unnoticed. We just need much, much more. Blue has been very well developed in the early years of Magic and has piled up many useful cards. We need an equal amount of development for the other colors and strategies.

Restricting Availability

Here is my wilder idea. Have you ever wondered why Brainstorm is restricted in Vintage? Or other cards like Power 9? The obvious answer is that they are too powerful. Having multiples in a deck can cause imbalance in the format. Restrictions help the fact that the cards in many decks have a severely limited print run. You only need to own one! Yet, Vintage is still played with a player base that is faithful, albeit smaller. Restricting cards has helped in keeping Vintage still approachable.

My second proposal is to introduce a Restricted List in Legacy. I know there is going to be a massive reaction or backlash against this. Legacy was made to separate it from Vintage, and the restriction rules were introduced to make a distinction. I understand this line of thought, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Legacy is now, I believe, in a place where the future health of the format is utterly dependent on how much support it can garner from Wizards of the Coast and private vendors. If we care about the format, we must act on it.

Imagine StarCityGames dropping the format for a promise of a larger audience from shall we say, Modern? Even now, StarCityGames Legacy Opens only attracts about half as much as Standard. The ones who make it to the top are the same bunch of people; those who can afford to buy or borrow the two hundred dollar Underground Seas. What does this do to the audiences at large? Japanese people are already shifting towards accepting StarCityGames as the number one source for up-to-date decklists. If they drop the format, there goes the metagame, not to mention card prices and investments.

I believe introducing a Restricted List in Legacy will not only help alleviate problems and costs associated with card availability, but would also shake up the metagame. Can you imagine a deck regularly using shock lands to supplement the restricted revised dual lands? Burn will inevitably get reach and fast beating strategies such as Zoo will gain in value. Daze will carry more risk, as bouncing a shock land may, well, shock themselves when they replay it. Filter lands will not be able to be used with Dazes and Submerge.

Yet, it will still cater to those who want to use the broken land as players are able to jam one in their deck. Fetchlands will still be available to get it, making sure that players are allowed to consistently display their prized possession.

As you can imagine, this might flood the market with a large number of extra copies of Revised dual lands, ultimately dropping the price and helping people get into the format. Not only that, but other lands producing two different colors of mana printed in the past will gain value. People will be able to create decks without using a single dual land while still giving a tiny edge to those who own them.

I seriously can’t imagine why this is a bad thing for the format, aside from those who own way too many revised duals. Even those people, I believe, won’t suffer due to the fact that the lands will not drop in value too much. Look at Vintage. Power 9 is still very expensive.

Just as a reminder, I do own multiple copies of dual lands. I realize that the drop in value may hurt my investments, but I don’t care. If more people play Legacy, the demand rises (see: Thoughtseize). The difference is, other reprint-able cards now have a reason to exist.

The Cards That Never Were

world1998deckHere is my wildest idea. Ready for it? I don’t think you are. Before I let you in on it, let me tell you a story. It was roughly two and a half years ago. I was excited for another set to be released. As I was rummaging through the spoilers list, I noticed something odd. There were two cards with the same card number. As I was reading through the explanation for the spoiled card, I was shocked. They had explained that they were going to print a card that would flip during the game! I couldn’t believe it. The design of the back of the cards I got so fond of was being changed to include another side of the card. The rules demanded for sleeves to be used during a tournament.

When I thought about this, I thought this could easily apply to Legacy. You know those reprinted, not legal promotional gold cards? Why can’t they make them legal? The only difference is that the outside line (back or front) is gold instead of black. The back design may differ, but can be hidden by sleeves. There are droves of these cards in circulation and they help with availability like none other. Crazy? I know.

This opens up a can of worms too many to count. I understand the ramifications this could cause. It touches on the reprint policy, it makes authenticity fuzzy, it can ruin reputation, or simply, it can’t be done. But all I am suggesting is another way to think outside of the box. If you are as serious as I am to keeping Legacy a healthy and supported format, we have to do something drastic. And in desperation I thought of this idea.

Final Note

In the wake of Grand Prix Paris, I think it is obvious that Legacy is still popular. I have suggested different ways for Wizards of the Coast to act on the eternal format many older folks have learned to love. I want to see this healthy, competitive, and creative format alive for the younger generation. I have given three specific things Wizards can do, starting from more plausible solutions to the unlikely. I know that the ideas may seem foreign to you, or to those who have become accustomed to the way it has always been. I know that some ideas may touch a nerve. But I firmly believe that if Magic as a whole is to become bigger, better, and mainstream, we have to approach the formats holistically.

Wizards of the Coast can’t simply focus on the newer formats while ignoring the old. That only alienates those who have become attached to the old cards, Magic players who tend to be more faithful to a format and have the means to pay for new products. Keeping Legacy alive also gives hope for those younger players who want to play the same cards after rotation or want to use cards banned from Modern. No matter where you stand on the format, I hope I have suggested some ideas outside of the box. I encourage all of you who are fighting the Restricted List to take a look at these ideas. Perhaps we can convince Wizards of the Coast of a solution that protects their integrity and supports Legacy.

I am very interested in what you think. Let me know in the comments.