Solutions to the High Price of Cardboard

Following our discourse on the potential Breaking of the Reserved List, the community and Wizards of the Coast seemingly need to contemplate a solution to the spiraling cost of older cards if Wizards’ feels that these prices are too high and would prevent a legitimate barrier of entry for newer players. If Wizards’ is going to respect the spirit of the Reserved List and not undermine it dramatically using the foil/premium loophole, what can be done to increase supply and thus lower prices on key Legacy staples? I would suggest that the first thing to do is to look at what cards are priced high, and look at those that are not on the Reserved List that could safely be reprinted without breaking the Reserved List.

So what are considered some Legacy staples that are not on the Reserved List that could theoretically be printed in future sets with little or no repercussion? There are quite a few cards considered staples that have risen to relatively high prices very quickly, so ignoring cards that have already been reprinted let’s look at some cards that I believe could all be reprinted in upcoming sets and aren’t too powerful for the current Standard and Extended constructed environments.
Force of Will – aside from Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Blue is relatively weak in Standard and Extended, and including Force of Will in a normal set as either an uncommon or rare would drastically increase the supply and reduce the price from about $35 to $5-10
Wasteland – with apologies to Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge, there isn’t very good land destruction available to mages right now in Standard and Extended, and by reprinting this as an uncommon the price would drop from the current $18 price tag down to about $2-3 (where it used to be for years), and would also help keep the overpowered Thopter Depths deck in check in Extended
Tarmogoyf – this beast is currently in the $65-70 range and isn’t even legal in Standard currently (when it was it tipped the scales at about $30)! It’s certainly not too broken for any constructed format, and as it was unveiled in Future Sight, the reasoning behind reprinting it could be that Future Sight was merely a preview of what was to come (more Tarmogoyfs, yippee!)
Orim’s Chant – while often decent and sometimes above average, Chant was never broken in Standard and Extended, and reprinting this would drop the price from about $14 to $5
Argothian Enchantress – certainly a powerful card, nothing about Enchantress would break Standard or Extended, but the price would certainly drop considerably if this $12 staple was reprinted
Exploration – currently hovering around $15, this would be powerful in conjunction with Life From the Loam in Extended, and could potentially be awesome with some kind of Landfall cards (which would actually make for a very interesting deck, but I wonder why we haven’t seen any of these interactions in Legacy if they had serious merit). Neither of these interactions would probably wouldn’t be format defining, and reprinting this Legacy staple would drop it to around the $3-5 mark I’d predict
Chain Lightning – if Lightning Bolt, Incinerate, and Lightning Helix are fine in Standard and Extended, I think it would be safe to say that Chain Lightning would also be safe (hopefully once something else rotated out), and reprinting this as an uncommon would drop this $10 staple into the $2 neighborhood
Imperial Recruiter – along the lines of Ranger of Eos, this card would be very fair in Standard and Extended, and reprinting it as a rare would probably drop the price from its current $120 price tag to about $5-10
Imperial Seal – Vampiric Tutor was not a problem when it was legal in Standard and Extended for the longest time, and a sorcery speed one would fit very well in today’s constructed environments. Reprinting this would admittedly do nothing for Legacy as it is banned there, but it would drop the price from $200+ currently to around $15, and would be a huge boon for Vintage players
Entomb – the unbanning of this Legacy bomb and recent success have driven this staple to around $30 and counting. This would not be too strong for Standard and Extended, and reprinting this in a future set would probably drop the price back down to around the $3-5 mark it sat at for quite some time prior to it’s unbanning for Legacy
Ancient Tomb – this could provide a useful but not broken accelerant in Standard and Extended, and reprinting this as an uncommon would drop the price from $5 to $1-2 moving forward

Reprinting all of the aforementioned cards fits would drop prices of these cards considerably, and I don’t believe any of them would be too powerful for Standard or Extended. That being said, here are a handful of cards that probably are too powerful for those constructed formats, but could be reprinted in a different way to ensure they are never in Standard or Constructed.
Loyal Retainers – this would probably be too good in the same Standard or Extended format where Entomb is legal (along with Iona), so I would lean towards making this Portal 3 Kingdoms uncommon a Friday Night Magic foil, which would heartily increase the supply and dramatically reduce the price, while keeping it out of those constructed formats
Price of Progress – I get the sense that the game’s designers have been trending towards getting people to play multicolored and rainbow decks in constructed formats, and with all of the other burn spells available right now in Standard and Extended I think this would be too good, so giving it out as a Friday Night Magic card instead would create foil copies of it and satiate the market demand
Dark Depths – having 20/20 indestructables crawling around Extended seems to be ok, but this would most likely be too powerful for Standard, so reprinting this as a Friday Night Magic foil would create plenty of copies, while reducing the price of this from $23 to about $5-10 in short order
Grindstone – having the Painter’s Servant and Grindstone combo running around a format like Extended would be too powerful and consistent, so reprinting Grindstone as a Judge foil instead would increase the supply enough to probably drop Tempest copies from $18 down to about the $6-8 range

So, what about all of the other awesome cards that are in Legacy that have high price tags? Running through Stephen Mendendian’s nice article The Complete Legacy Checklist, here are the main cards with a significant price tag that the Reserved List would preclude Wizards’ from printing:
Underground Sea
Tropical Island
Volcanic Island
Tabernacle at the Pendrell Vale
City of Traitors
Gaea’s Cradle
Undiscovered Paradise
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Mox Diamond

That’s only about 17 relevant cards with a significant price tag for the format that fall on the Reserved List. There are handful of other smaller cards that are on the Reserved List (such as Humility, Cursed Scroll, Volrath’s Stronghold) that don’t see too much play and can generally be had for $5-10, but these are relatively affordable already so their isn’t much necessity in reprinting them. Many of cards above are Dual Lands that are integral to the format, but by most people’s best guesses and calculations there are around 340,000-360,000 copies of each Dual Land in existence, which I believe is more than enough to support a burgeoning Legacy population. That’s a full playset for nearly 90,000 players as it currently stands. Yes, I know that some people are holding on to more than a playset, just like some people are holding on to 150 Force of Wills. Magic was intended to be a collectible card game as we all know, and these things come with the territory.

The entrance cost has already been paid by a great number of players who wanted to jump into the Legacy format with the announcement of the two Legacy format Grand Prixs in 2010 and the continuing StarCityGames $5K Legacy series, and these are the primary reasons prices for certain cards have climbed so rapidly. Grand Prix Madrid 2010 just set the Magic tournament record with 2220 participants, and Grand Prix Columbus 2010 will probably clock in with around 1000-1400 participants. But after most players have already jumped in it appears many prices have leveled off. Cards like Tarmogoyf have already kind of hit that threshold and have begun cooling a little bit, but that doesn’t mean other cards won’t gradually rise or occasionally spike like they do for other constructed formats when some new deck tech is found. But is a $29 Savannah or $40 Tropical Island really a terrible thing, especially in the face of $45 mythic rares like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Baneslayer Angel that are commonly played in Standard? Is it a terrible thing to have a collectible card that you know will not be reprinted, and won’t rotate out of a format every two years and lose 85% of its street value (like most Standard cards)?

Every single card does not have to be affordable, nor has it been for about the last 10-12 years once more and more people started playing Magic. By slowly reprinting a large number of staples that are not on the Reserved List, Wizards’ can dramatically reduce prices for those staples while simultaneously lowering the barrier of entry to Eternal formats for a great many players. Doing this would allow for more player interest in older formats while avoiding a perversion of the original intent of the Official Reprint Policy.

Please let us know what you think in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!