Best posts made by MaximumCDawg
posted in Vintage Community read more

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P.S. I still love you, Duck.

posted in Vintage News read more

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The issue that WotC and you boys care about is whether all blue decks tend to use the same cards to draw more cards. What does it matter whether they're all the same card so we can classify them as an "engine" because it iteratively functions to transform inputs oh my god stop.

I suspect that, as we get more broken blue draw spells, eventually the correct move will just be to play Highlander Blue Draw Spells. What are you going to restrict then, huh?

posted in Vintage Community read more

It looks like some folks out in California decided that the Judge Program actually constitutes employment of Judges by Wizards of the Coast and they've filed a class action lawsuit over it.


Wizard's Press Release in Response:

In relevant part, FLSA (and the California equivalent, apparently) does not allow you to volunteer for a for-profit corporation. See

So, the argument they are making -- and it's fascinating to me professionally - is that what a judge does constitutes "employment" within the meaning of applicable law and, as such, Wizards has been very bad for not paying minimum wage or otherwise complying with the law related to employees. That does not sound frivolous to me, though of course I'm not privy to the details of the Wizards / DCI / Judge relationship. I would expect that no matter how this shakes out, changes will be made the judge program to either resolve the lawsuit or protect against another.

I have questions:

(1) Does this mean anything for Vintage? Do we dodge the results since we usually have the TO judge the event anyway? Is this a boon for unsanctioned "Play Test Tournaments?"

(2) If this pushes on-line play, where judges are not necessary, does that help or hurt the format?

(3) It sure seems to me like this puts a fine point on the Reserve List issue that keeps popping up - yes, yes people WILL sue Wizards of the Coast in a class action if you give them a chance to do so.

(4) Steve, you're the only Magical Card Attorney I know of in California. Care to weigh in as someone who is licensed to do so? I'm not barred there. (PS NO POST IN THIS THREAD SHALL CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU CAME TO A FORUM ABOUT MAGICAL CARD GAMES FOR BABIES AND EXPECTED LEGAL ADVICE, YOU ARE IN THE WRONG PLACE.)

posted in Vintage Community read more

JACO, while I respect your position, you're not really giving this an even-handed approach.

@JACO said:

  1. WotC has intentionally structured their organized play program so that they do not run most of the tournaments (outside of Pro Tours), so if there was any kind of employee/employee relationship it would be between the judge(s) and the tournament organizer (let's say SCG, Channel-Fireball, etc.). The change in judge Foil compensation and so forth was to help clarify their stance on this issue. Your local gaming store and the regional tournament organizers are the ones paying judges (by whatever labor agreement they come to).

I'm sure all of that is true, from Wizard's perspective. But, just because you strive to set up a relationship that falls outside of the definition of "employment" does not mean you always succeed. It depends on the particular kind of relationship. I would assume that WOTC attorneys have already vetted the relationship and set up something they believe will pass muster, but it's very hard to stay on top of shifting law in a state like California. Even worse, all your best laid arrangements can sometimes mean nothing if the "worker" themselves is disputing what the relationship actually was.

@JACO said:

  1. Most people would consider judges, Uber drivers, and other part time ad hoc workers as contractors.

Would they? To begin with, obviously reasonable minds can differ on this. Uber, for instance lost a motion for summary judgment where they contended basically this. (They did then settle the lawsuit before a jury got to decide.)

You have to be careful making sweeping generalizations about what is an employee and what is not. For instance, suggesting that all "part time and ad hoc" workers are not employees would exclude temp workers or part time workers. Courts do a more holistic analysis of the facts of the relationship when they look at it.

  1. Concurrently, the NLRB under Obama's direction...

You lost me here, when your post started to read more like a political diatribe than a reasoned opinion. Here, you started using words like "bogus precedents," call the case "wackass," suggest that WoTC is "clearly in the right," and so on. In an effort to bring more moderation to the discussion, let me explain the situation as I see it (as someone who litigates this issue on both sides in my state):

I have observed a push by state agencies (in non-liberal states) towards reclassifying workers as employees. Locally, this started around the time of the recession in 2008, when the state unemployment insurance office started hemorrhaging money due to all of the people being out of work. It appears to me that the agency beefed up its enforcement wing substantially to recoup the losses and has been pushing hard ever since.

The way the agencies view it, they are not trying to "push a libru'l agenda on 'merica" or anything like that. They see themselves as trying to fight a business system that has evolved to try and escape regulation through artificial structures designed to make what would at first blush look like an employee -- the person who actually does the work your business gets paid to do, under the company's direction and control -- into an independent contractor. Sometimes, like for small contractors, this is done out of ignorance or because the worker sees a bigger paycheck if they get a 1099 instead of a W-2. For more sophisticated businesses, like FedEx or trucking companies, this is a very specific plan designed to minimize the business' costs or liability exposure.

It's not "clear" at all which side is in the right here. I have seen and dealt with many businesses who have very deliberately designed a relationship to try to escape the normal protections workers enjoy. I have also seen businesses who legitimately need to hire contractors and not employees (for example, where the workers are doctors or other licensed professionals who need to exercise independent judgment.) It depends on the context.

The reason I find this case so fascinating is that I have not yet encountered a situation where someone is freely engaging in a leisure activity, but in an authoritative role, and considered when that would cross the line into employment. Consider: are sports referees employees? At the professional level, I bet they are. What about people who volunteer to ref at a Little League game? Or parents who run a Cub Scouts Den? There's probably cases out there on this, but I have not read them yet, so I look forward to learning more about where the line is.

@nedleeds said:

So are these clowns going to pay back taxes for all the product if they win? Or is being paid in barter somehow tax exempt?

Tax advice is a tricky thing and you need to pay a lot of money to get it from someone who will review the particulars of each situation. In general, however, the IRS will tax income from any source, including litigation, absent certain exceptions.

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

Andy, I understand your desire to keep The Mana Drain held to a certain standard of quality. It makes sense to winnow out posts that peddle misinformation, trolling, incoherence, and so on. It's a good idea to try to elevate the discourse. But, for whatever it's worth, I would be above any kind of bright line rule about what cards are or are not worthy of a thread.

I've got a few reasons for this:

1. Playing a test game with a card is work

It's not much work, sure, but it is some work. Anytime you increase the cost to get something, you will lower the amount of it you get. I know that I usually check The Mana Drain when I'm on breaks at the office. I do not have an opportunity to playtest a card spoiled that day. When I finally get home, I may or may not have the energy left after work to proxy something up and mess around with it. I cannot imagine this is a unique situation. As a practical matter, a rule like you propose would lower the number of threads and contributors to threads.

2. Ongoing discussion between members of The Drain has value.

...even where the discussion is over a bad card. I know we're not primarily a social website, and some of us (like me!) are totally unknown to the core group personally. Even so, the fact that we have a bunch of 30+ Vintage players chatting online in a forum about something that interests us has social value and contributes to all of us staying in the format.

On top of that, analysis of why a card is bad is a good thing to have around, too. Just because we have threads for the 6cc Anjani and Tezzeret does not mean that the level of discourse in those threads was all worthless. With respect, the least worthwhile posts in those thread were probably those where people took personal offense at the fact that the thread was made or the fact that other people were so offended.

3. Theorycrafting is fun.

This is the biggest reason to avoid hard and fast rules, I think. We're here on the Drain because we enjoy being here. We contribute because we want to hear others' thoughts. This isn't Team Meandeck / Serious / whatever's Testing Forum, where only the lean and mean proven decks and new tech can be discussed. It's a place for us to interact and enjoy ourselves.

@Brass-Man said in [AER] Whir of Invention:

If no one on this website is willing to play a single game of vintage, maybe the website shouldn't be active.

As to this... let's be real, opportunities to play real Vintage are rare unless you've invested in MTGO. I used to have access to weekly sanctioned Vintage, then it went away. I've tried to revive it, and no one cares. I can play casual and EDH and cube with my kids, but I do not trust my Vintage collection with The Sticky at this point. So, no, I actually don't get to play much Vintage at all. I regret that.

Even then, I do enjoy WATCHING and TALKING about it. It's nerd football. E-Sports. There's nothing wrong with that. 🙂

P.S. Good luck in the play-in tournament tonight!

posted in Vintage Community read more

I get grumbly when people argue that MUD having access to "five Black Lotuses" is a problem because this misses the whole point.

@xXHazardXx said:

I would be more likely to equate the restricted MUD spells (Trinishpere, Chalice and LSG) to the restricted blue spells (Ancestral, Brainstorm and Timewalk).

Yikes, no way. In a vacuum, Ancestral Recall and Timewalk mop the floor with other effects. These Blue effects are so much cheaper than the MUD lock pieces that you don't need a "T: Add UUU" land to fuel them. I mean, there's a reason why Ancestral is broken and Concentrate is not.

If you print cards that generate lots of mana without restriction, they just go into Blue.dec. Mishra's Workshop without restriction doesn't create Shops; it fuels broken combos out of Blue.dec.

Literally the whole point to Shop (and Bazaar) is that they are INCOMPATIBLE with Blue.dec. This means that, if you can use them to make a deck that is of comparable power level, you have natural fault lines in the format ensuring diversity.

To drive the point home, here are other cards that are more or less incompatible with Blue.dec and could function as cores to diverse decks in the future, if they get enough powerful cards:

  1. Cavern of Souls. (We already see this in Humans and Merfolk decks)
  2. Eldrazi Temple / Eye of Ugin (Power level isn't there, but the theme works)
  3. Gaea's Cradle / Nyxthos, Shrine to Nyx (Elves can't quite get there, but without Chalice, maybe new printings could push it over the limit)
  4. Serra Sanctuary / Enchantress (Way too weak at the moment, of course)

And so on.

Basically, it's a Very Good Thing when we get new cards that you can't really run profitably along side the original P9. Workshop and Bazaar are the only two to really get there yet, and we need to hold them up as examples. not undermine them.

posted in Vintage Community read more

I don't think this is the first time that modern speculation culture has impacted Vintage, but it might be the first time some people have noticed. Modern and Legacy have been dealing with this for years.

Perfect Information, Free Market

Here's the issue. Information and cards are available to anyone, anywhere today. On the information side, Twitch and similar programs allow people to keep a close eye on what is being played. Robots scour the internet collecting price data and aggregating information about buying activity and buy list prices on major retailers. There are at least three very prominent websites (mtgprice, quietspeculation, and mtggoldfish) pushing financial and market data, as well as articles about how to invest wisely.

On the card side, we have peer-to-peer sites like TCG Player and Pucatrade along side the old standbys of eBay and major retailers. If you want a card, you can go online, punch in some information, and you will get it. If you see a card getting played at the Legacy Open in the top eight, you can go online and click to order it immediately. If you want to unload a card, you can post it and get it sold in seconds. Bargain hunting? Well, we got that covered now too, with sites like MtgScavenger searching eBay to find unusually low prices on cards.

The point is that both information and cards are now liquid in paper. Not quite MTGO-liquid, sure, but still very liquid.

This presents a speculator with money to burn with a very specific kind of opportunity.

Anatomy of a Price Spike

Since everyone knows everything all at once about Magic goings-on nowadays (well, everyone who cares to can, anyway), buyers and retailers can react instantly to new information. Algorithms react even faster than that.

When a card gets play at a big event, or enables a new combo, or whatever, the player base can move generally to buy the card. In the case of a rare from Legends, it takes a very tiny percentage of the player base making this decision to buy out the card. Sellers take notice, and repost at a higher price. This is one way price spikes happen.

Speculators can also cause a spike by doing their own buyout. If you think that some card, say, Moat, has been static for too long, you can charge out a credit card and buy most of the available copies from most retailers. Then, you re-list them at an absurdly high price and wait to see what happens.

These spikes do not always stick. Regardless of whether the community or a speculator sucked up the supply, if the new price is so high that sellers can't move their stock at that price, it will slowly go down. Slowly, because the seller will only move the price down if time proves it won't move, or as competitors list their cards just under the higher prices.

However, a price spike does accomplish one thing, and it accomplishes that thing VERY WELL: A price spike quickly determines the maximum possible price that retailers can charge for a card in that environment. That is to say, a price spike lets retailers determine exactly how much they can get away with charging for a card. A recent example is Mindslicer.

Someone bought out this dumb-little hellbent enabler and relisted it for around fifty bucks. Everyone laughed because this was dumb. People did not buy Mindslicer for $50, and the price tanked. People started buying again when the card was a much more reasonable price, around five bucks... which was actually still a 500% increase over what the card was selling for before the spike! In other words, the spike allowed the selling community to determine that the market will actually bear a $5.00 price tag for this particular card no one uses.

Moat will do the same thing. It will fall in price after the spike only until someone decides to pay that price. Once they do, the price won't fall any further.

What This Means For YOU

These price spikes mean that Magic cards are going to cost the maximum they possibly COULD cost much faster than in the old days. Is this a good thing? If you're a retailer or speculator, sure. If you're a player, no. Either way, it's hard to see how you could put the genie back in the bottle at this point. Perfect information and perfect card availability is here to stay, so these things are going to happen.

The best that players can do is find ways to stay educated. Look for cards that are likely to spike and acquire them before they do. Don't buy into spikes at all; once the ship sails, look elsewhere. Keep abreast of the finance community's articles so you have some idea of what's going on and you can get good advice about what may be coming down the line.

posted in Vintage News read more

Oh god, does this mean everyone on the Drain has to write a book now.

Sheesh, fine.

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posted in Vintage Community read more

@mediumsteve I mean no offense but let me tell you a tale.

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posted in Vintage Community read more

@JACO said:

Labor law is easy until bureaucracy is injected for political aims.

A bit too broad, perhaps, but I understand what you're trying to say.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that the phrase "political aims" does not necessarily mean "Dark Plots of the Illuminati." The agencies pushing back against the use of independent contractors (or employee leasing or whatever) probably view what they are doing as stopping employers from evading laws that ensure protection to workers, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Unless you want to repeal the FLSA entirely (which is a whole separate discussion), there's a government role in stopping people from evading it.

The way I always explain it to people is this: your secretary, who shows up 9 to 5 in your office, does what you tell him to do, and is paid an hourly rate, is an archetypal employee. The plumber you call to fix a leaky sink on one occasion who then invoices you and leaves to do other jobs for other people is the archetypal independent contractor. Betwixt the two extremes? There be dragons.

Now, I'm not saying Wizards is trying to evade labor laws; from what little I know, it seems like this lawsuit is just the result of (1) people doing something they consider fun (judging) as a leisure activity; and (2) the requirements for that activity evolving over time as the game gets larger; until (3) eventually there is enough control exercised by WotC/DCI for someone to argue they've slipped into an "employment" role.

That's totally different from a company actively trying to hire workers for pay but just avoid paying worker's compensation insurance, for example. But, it's not fair to claim that the regulatory folks don't have a bone to pick, in general.

EDIT: Perhaps a better way to put it, JACO, is to say that there are two actors here: businesses and the government. You say the government is expanding the scope of who are employees. I'm pointing out that you can't ignore businesses inventiveness in trying to minimize the scope of who are employees. It's a two-way tug of war.

posted in Vintage Community read more

Let me start by repeating myself a bit, since the negative voices are doing so: I'm an enormous fan of everything Wizards has done in the last two years, just about, and Kaladeh continues an amazing streak of great decisions that have caused me personally to spend more money on Magic and play more Magic (casually, alas) than in prior years.

Design and Development are doing an AMAZING job lately. They launched a rocket since Origins and have not come down since, printing solid sets with solid playables in every release. We have had absurd amounts of Vintage playable cards in the last year or so. Reprints are storming the gates in multiple sets where possible. Kaladesh block marks Wizards' genius move to print a true Johnny set for the first time in a long time, but subtly modifying the combo pieces to guard against the worst abuses of Urza's block.

@Topical_Island said in R&D is completely incompetent:

That first one, that every time wizards does anything at all, there is a huge negative response.

Kind of. There's a common saying that they could put $100.00 bills into packs and players would complain about how they are folded. The reason you hear this is that there are A LOT of players, they are not a monolith, and they each might want different things. It makes perfect sense that a move that makes some players happy (Kaldesh Block, for example) makes some people unhappy. It's just the nature of having a large and diverse player base.

It's not fair to complain that players get upset about everything. The correct way to think about is this: Magic is so large that, for any choice, you can find SOMEONE who gets upset about each choice. Seen that way, it's less about how "Wizards cannot get a break" and more about how "there is a truly huge number of people who play Magic."

The second problem is that Wizards has, I would say, a... what's the word here? a semi-standoffish posture towards the players.

I don't know about that. When I've corresponded with Mr. Tabak, for example, he has always been pretty clear about what he wants and why decisions are made the way they are. Since they need to aggregate data and decide on the best course of action on the large scale, certainly you'll never see them doing exactly what any individual person wants all of the time. That's less "stand offish" and more a result of having to consider everyone's voice, the way people are spending money, long-term goals for the brand and game, and everything else.

Can we all at least agree that we've come a LONG WAY since Theros, the steaming turd of modern Magic sets?

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

We're starting to get spoilers from the new set. None of them really look super impressive yet, certainly not for Vintage, but the mechanics seem very promising.

First, we have Cycling making a triumphant return. I think it's only by accident we don't really use many (any) Cycling cards in Vintage. Practically the only one I can think of is the 2U Hurkyl's, (Rebuild?) and that has not been seen for an age. Still, it's a good mechanic and adds flexibility to cards. I am not holding my breath that this mechanic gets pushed too much, but I'm hopeful.

Next, we Embalm and Exert. Both are explicitly creature-oriented, which is usually a bad sign. Exert is really boring; the creature has to attack, and then in return for not untapping next turn, it does A Thing. Certainly they could print a powerful enough Exert effect to see play, but as a mechanic, this seems dull as rocks. We do not typically enjoy creature mechanics which require attacking (apologies to Scab-Clan Berserker).

Embalm seems more interesting in a vaccuum . Basically it's an activated ability that is used from the graveyard. When you Embalm, you exile the creature from your yard and put a token copy of it into play except that it's a white Zombie instead of its old color and in addition to its old type. Seems... awfully complicated for an iconic ability in the set. Yuck.

Again, I'd be shocked if they put the power level of Emblam cards high enough to make a splash in Dredge, but you never know. One thing in particular makes it very important to keep an eye on utility creatures with Embalm - the creature itself does not come out of the graveyard. Hence, Containment Priest and Grafdiggers' Cage don't do squat against Embalm. If we can just get an Embalm creature that pings for 2 when it enters, or kills an artifact or something, then I think we'll have to see people reaching into the back of the box for Yxilid Jailer again. About time the Mistress of S&M showed up again!

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

So they reprinted Force of Will and some other nice cards as Invocations (Masterpieces for Amonkeht) and they are ugly as HELL.

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Are these available on MTGO? I cannot imagine trying to watch someone play with these unreadable chicken scratchings.

I also really want to see the design file here: what other designs were considered not good enough when they chose this thing?

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

I could absolutely be wrong, but... these seem pretty bad. The best thing about these lands is that you can pay 2 to get rid of them and draw a different card instead.

These lands are a great continuation of a great precedent (putting basic types on dual lands) but is not playable in Vintage. Or Legacy. Or Modern, probably. It's a good idea, and I hope they do more of it, but these particular cards are NOT the situational better dual that the Reserve List is looking for.

  1. Unconditional ETBT is really, really bad. What, was Wasteland not doing enough work? Getting out from under Tangle Wire too easily? How about we have our lands enter the battlefield tapped to boot!

  2. You never want to draw these. On turn 1, they are only good for timewalking yourself. That is, you can either play it and not have a productive land drop, or you can cycle it and gobble up your first turn's mana replacing it. Those are bad. In the midgame, you might deploy them to help you climb up your curve, but now you're giving up massive tempo to the opponent. In the late game, when you are flush with mana, you're just going to cycle this away because you don't want to draw it.

  3. You (just about) never want to fetch these. I'll freely admit and celebrate the fact that these duals continue to make the Mirage fetches and some green acceleration effects much better in casual and EDH. Good times. However, the fact remains that in our format, you can fetch out a ABUR dual land. If you're fetching, then you can get a land that ETBT or one that does not, and they're both equally vulnerable to Wasteland or Choke or Flashfires or whatever. I don't know of any decks that want to be able to fetch 5+ of a single dual, and I can't imagine why you would.

  4. The places where you can make an argument for the utility of these cards are extraordinarily narrow, and the upside is not large even then. Basically, it seems like the one big place these are likely to give you more flexibility than an ABUR dual land is when you Gush, return it to your hand, and use the 2 mana you floated to cycle the land and draw more gas. Alright, fine, you now have the option of making Gush draw more cards but not generate any man for you. However - how hard up were Gush decks for more card draw, again? Given the option between paying 2 to cycle a land in a land-light deck, and paying 1 to Preordain to dig even deeper AND make a Monk token, why would you ever opt for the former?

  5. These do not have the same utility that the Onslaught cycling lands do because they cost 2. Life from the Loam engines are effective in some Legacy decks precisely because the lands are so cheap to cycle. I don't think these kind of decks would be interested in replacing any of their engine cards with Amonkhet duals.

Again, however, I'm totally stoked these were printed and I think this absolutely the way of the future. Dual lands with basic land types are great for casual brewing, cube, and EDH, as they interact so well with older fetch cards. Cycling is a fine ability and these are fine cards. They're just not competitive in eternal, I don't think.

posted in Single-Card Discussion read more

It does, though. Its the little carrot in the bottom right corner of posts!

posted in Vintage Strategy read more

Man, even more exciting than that - WE"RE GETTING ANOTHER UN-SET!

posted in Vintage Community read more

(If you are only interested in the data set of substitutes for RL cards, scroll to the bottom)

One of the most difficult topics to discuss in the Magic community is the Reserve List. It is difficult and rightly maligned as a topic of conversation because it’s the kind of thing that everyone and their little brother has a strong opinion about regardless of whether they have any idea what they are talking about. So, conversations quickly devolve along several predictable lines.

Someone will complain that the Reserve List is a tool to help big retailers keep profits. Someone will explain they already own all of the cards on the Reserve List but they want it removed anyway because it stifles the growth of Vintage and Legacy. Someone will point out that Wizards could get sued if they do violate the Reserve List. Someone will proclaim they want to see more counterfiet cards to “force” Wizards to do so anyway. And it goes on, with people retreading the same old arguments until they’re angry with each other and a moderator steps in to cut off the discussion.

What has always struck me as strange about these discussions is how narrow the perspective becomes. That is, for the most part, people do not argue about accessibility to Legacy or Vintage as such, but instead argue about how they want to own (or want others to own) very specific cards: Tundras, or Libraries of Alexandia, or Black Lotuses. Often the argument boils down to the thought that old formats need more of these particular cards to survive in paper, and if they don’t get them, then the formats are doomed to a slow and doddering death.

And yet, that is clearly not the case. New printings can and do influence older formats in a way that helps the formats survive in spite of the Reserve List. They can do this in two ways. First, they can provide effects as powerful as Reserve List cards without needing them. Dredge in Vintage, for example, requires essentially none of the Power Nine or even dual lands. Sure, Bazaars are expensive, but that was not always the case; they got expensive as a result of the Dredge deck. In Legacy, Eldrazi emerged as a contender and is built almost entirely with cards that are not on the Reserve List.

The second way that new printings can influence older formats is by providing alternatives to Reserve List cards. The Reserve List is very specific; it only prohibits reprinting cards in a “functionally identical form.” This is defined as follows: “A card is considered functionally identical to another card if it has the same card type, subtypes, abilities, mana cost, power, and toughness.” That is, so long as a new card has a different subtype or ability, for example, it is not prohibited by the Reserve List. No, you can’t print a Snow Dual because that’s a supertype change only; but yes, you can print a Mox Sapphire that pings everyone for 1 when it enters the battlefield.

My argument here is that Wizards can, and does, print cards that are suitable substitutes for those on the Reserve List. They even render some of them obsolete. Below, I wanted to share the data I’ve compiled so far to prove that Wizards can and does print cards that match or even exceed the utility of Reserve List cards. There is a concept that Wizards mentioned in the distant past called the “Spirit” of the Reserve List, but that means whatever you want it to mean and is a useless concept for discussion. More to the point, it has not traditionally stopped Wizards from printing non-functional substitutes for Reserve List cards.

I hope the reader will take away from this the idea that arguing about whether the Reserve List is good or bad, should stay or go, or is a vast conspiracy, is a pointless excercise. (Spoiler: It’s not going anywhere.) Instead, the hope of eternal rests in printing new cards. We, as a community, should be putting our efforts and dollars towards convincing WotC to keep printing new cards that substitute for or compete with Reserve List cards, not complaining about the policy.

Link to data set: