Magic: the Gathering’s Reserved List is the bane of many players’ existence. As a list of cards that are never to be reprinted, the Reserved List ensures many cards fetch astronomical prices. As amusing as it is for Magic to have a card that sells for $800,000, the Reserved List doesn’t make it easy to play MTG’s Eternal formats.
This makes the Reserved List one of Magic: the Gathering’s most controversial topics. Collectors don’t want it touched to ensure their investments are stable, but most players want it gone. Wizards of the Coast rarely comment on the list’s future, letting the controversy run rampant. Recently, however, Magic’s lead designer, Mark Rosewater, has spoken on the future of the Reserved List.
What Is MTG’s Reserved List?
If you’ve not heard of it before, Magic: the Gathering’s Reserved List is a list of cards that Wizards of the Coast have committed to never printing again. Created in the early days of MTG, the Reserved List protected the value of many cards on the secondary market. The financial opportunities present in MTG’s secondary market were quickly made clear to investors in collectors in the early stages of the game. The first time MTG cards were reprinted, collectors were furious because their investments in MTG’s market had crashed. Therefore, the Reserve List was created to address this backlash. This saved Wizards of the Coast from the scorn of collectors whose cards were potentially up for reprinting. The Reserved List also stands as a monument to some of Magic’s most overpowered and rarest cards.
As Wizards of the Coast states themselves, “Reserved cards will never be printed again in a functionally identical form.” However, this leaves the possibility for vaguely similar cards, such as Jeweled Lotus to be printed. Wizards of the Coast have also repeatedly stated that “no cards will be added to the reserved list in the future.” Considering their past commitments, Wizards have often said that “no cards will be removed from this list.”
Thankfully for digital players, Wizards of the Coast have stated that the Reserved List does not apply to digital cards. This means that Magic Online and MTG Arena can see sets such as Vintage Masters.
What’s Happening to the Reserved List?
Despite the repeatedly empathic statements that Wizards of the Coast have made, players continually ask for the Reserved List to be done away with. Thanks to their Tumblr blog, Blogatog, MTG’s lead designer, Mark Rosewater, is often at the receiving end of many of these questions.
As we can see, it doesn’t appear that the MTG Reserved List will go away soon. This is despite Rosewater and Wizards of the Coast knowing many players want to see it gone. Unfortunately, Rosewater didn’t explain exactly why the Reserved List is here to stay, beyond stating that there are “other obstacles” that would have to go away first.
This isn’t the first time players have heard this oddly cryptic messaging from Wizards and Rosewater. Last year, Rosewater was asked a similar question: “I can’t go into details, but I think you all will be mentally happier if you accept that it’s not going to change.”
This consistent lack of clarity has caused many players to grow even more frustrated with the Reserved List. Without proper explanation as to why it’s sticking around, players don’t see any reason why it should. Some players theorize that Wizards’ staff decidedly doesn’t want to go back on the promises they’ve made; however, this hasn’t been confirmed. It’s a good thing this hasn’t been confirmed, as we don’t want to see WotC staff being harassed to make the reserved list disappear.
Alongside the potential wishes of WotC staff, Wizards could also find themselves in legal trouble for removing the Reserved List. As discussed by attorney Scott Peitzer, removing the Reserved List could expose Wizards to a lawsuit for promissory estoppel. While Wizard creating the reserved list is not a contract, promissory estoppel allows a court to enforce a promise as if it were one. This would make Wizards’ promise not to reprint Reserved List cards legally binding and allow every Reserved List card owner to sue. Obviously, Wizards will do their best to avoid this potential legal nightmare.
What Does This Mean for Magic’s Future
Unfortunately for players who would very much like to see the abolition of the MTG Reserved List, it appears that nothing is going to change for the time being. This means that the price of the rarest cards on the secondary market won’t get any cheaper soon. This may be good news for shrewd investors clutching their Mox Pearls however, it’s bad news for everyone else. Especially for those with an inkling to play Legacy or Vintage.Black Lotus getting reprinted would naturally tank its value somewhat. However, we don’t think it’d be turned into a bulk rare overnight. Cards from the Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited sets, tend to keep their value regardless of reprints, after all. For example, on TCGplayer, cards such as Wrath of God and Lightning Bolt are still worth nearly $700 each. This is despite these cards being reprinted multiple times throughout Magic’s history.
The effect of reprints, or rather lack thereof, can also be seen more recently in Imperial Seal. First printed in Portal Three Kingdoms, Imperial Seal’s original printing has barely been affected by the Double Masters 2022 reprint. According to TCGplayer, the Market Price for a Portal Three Kingdoms Imperial Seal is $1,787.50 and hasn’t changed in months. Imperial Seal’s Judge Promos’ however, haven’t fared as well, with the price dropping over $100 since Double Masters 2022’s release. The reprinted Imperial Seal’s price has also dramatically tanked below the expected value. Dropping over $150, Imperial Seal is undoubtedly more affordable than ever.
It’s clear then that older Magic cards will always be prized for their specific rarity and art. This is entirely separate from the reprinted rarity of the cards. There is no doubt that Wizards of the Coast and its owner, Hasbro, are both astutely aware of this. Not only do players keep telling them this day after day, but Wizards also know the value of art. Recently, Wizards of the Coast have been ramping up the number of available showcase frames and unique foil treatments. This clearly indicates they know the value of alternate art, which often exists separately from the primary card’s value.
WotC also knows reprinting highly prized cards would earn them a lot of money. Money that they are currently not seeing through sales on the secondary market. This sounds like the biggest win-win situation, yet Wizards is still committed to their past promises. We can only hope that this changes sooner rather than later, as it’s unfair for players to have to fork over at least $40,000 for a viable Vintage deck.