For MTG players clamoring about information regarding the Reserved List, there has been a good amount of conversation surrounding it this week. Mark Rosewater replied to a comment over the weekend on his Blogatog, and an Ex WoTC employee commented today, Wednesday, July 20. While Rosewater mentioned that removing the Reserved List is basically impossible, Bill Stark addressed why it can’t be removed and what an alternative solution to the Reserved List could be.
It’s a Legal Problem
We recently covered the Reserved List conversation earlier this week. For those who are unsure as to what the Reserved List is, we break it down there. Ex WotC member Bill Stark has confirmed on Twitter that the Reserved List won’t be going anywhere due to “legal reasons that would bankrupt the game.” We discussed briefly how removing the Reserved List could expose Wizards to promissory estoppel. While the exact legal reason hasn’t been confirmed, there’s a very good chance it’s at least related to this. Long story short, should Wizards of the Coast remove the Reserved List, every player who owns a card that is negatively affected financially could have the right to sue. Considering some of the insane prices of cards on the Reserved List, like Black Lotus, this is definitely a means that could lead to a bankrupt MTG.
An Alternative Solution
Alongside somewhat confirming the reason for the Reserved List’s continued existence, Bill Stark also presents an alternative solution for the Reserved List that could dodge legal repercussions: just power creep the crap out of it. Two design examples that Bill Stark suggests to deal with the Reserved List’s most expensive card, Black Lotus, involve either making a strictly better version of it (add four mana instead of three on sacrifice) or creating the same card with a different name that prevents the caster from casting any of the original card (White Lotus that does the exact same thing as Black Lotus but also gives an Emblem on cast preventing the caster from using any Black Lotus).
It was to my understanding that part of the Reserved List ensures that Wizards of the Coast was not allowed to print any cards that are functionally equal or stronger versions of the cards that were already on the list. Still, this suggestion may demote that to hearsay.
Have Faith in the Design Teams
Regardless of Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro’s path, Bill Stark reassures readers that he believes the team behind Magic: the Gathering will continue to make the best decisions for the game. Vintage is the only format that truly suffers from the Reserved List’s presence. Some Reserved List cards are Commander legal, but you don’t need those to play a casual game with friends. Proxying for Commander is a healthy alternative widely accepted in playgroups. While this will not fly in a competitive setting, it at least ensures that the Reserved List does not actively hold back MTG’s most popular format.
Vintage may remain a format that constantly has a foot in the grave, but mistakes have consequences. Hopefully, the Reserved List matter can now be put to rest for a while, so MTG fans and creators alike can look forward instead of reminiscing over lost ideals. If you want to catch up on the rest of the Reserved List discourse this week, you can do so here.