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The Ultimate Spoiler Season: MTG Preview Fatigue, Collectability and More

Inhaling the cool fall air of early October in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I excitedly hopped onto my bike and sped off down the road.  

It was here.

Lorwyn was finally being released. 

 

 

Planeswalking for the first time

By this point, I’d been playing Magic for maybe a year, if not less. I remember my first games like they were yesterday. It was a warm Saturday morning, my best friend Kalson and I met at Darkstar Books. We’d been planning this trip for about a week, and I was overflowing with excitement upon arrival. It was a bit overwhelming. 

But that subsided a bit as soon as we opened the door and were greeted by the familiar aroma of new and used books that permeated the storefront. The sound of employees and patrons conversating floated through the building until softly graving ear drums. 

Immediately, my gaze shot to the ground on alert for the store’s pet cat that traversed the building with free reign. You didn’t always know where he was, but you always felt his curious observance upon you at all times.

As my gaze rose, we walked to the wall of Magic: the Gathering cards. It contained a litany of products spanning the history of the game. Boxes of Time Spiral and Tenth Edition stole my attention with the striking art of Dragons and Wizards on the faces of their packaging. The thinner packs with Homelands boldly written across them were contrasted by their meager $1 price tag.

Asking Kalson what I should buy, he pointed at the small selection of preconstructed decks and after some back and forth, he stated “Red/white is a good place for a beginner to start.” So, after picking up the “Charge of the Boros” theme deck and a cheap pack of sleeves, I’d unknowingly made a decision that would alter the course of my life in ways I could never have foreseen. 

Ravnica: City of Guilds - Theme Deck (Charge of the Boros)

From there, we quickly migrated to the steps of our local library and I eagerly began thumbing through card after card. Each one captured my attention just as much as the last. For what seemed like an eternity of minutes passing by, I read text boxes, absorbing bits and pieces of lore with each line of flavor text I read, and fell further into a new world of wonders as I drank in the painted strokes of each cards art. Eventually, I stopped, my voracious consumption of painted wood pulp halted as my eyes focused on one card. Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran

A single thought entered my head.

“He looks just like me.”

I was hooked.

Kalson and I immediately began playing game after game, my Boros precon against his 80-card Beast tribal deck. Eventually, he pulls out his binder and says “Your deck has one legendary, but every deck should have more.” With that he handed me two cards: Yosei, the Morning Star and Ryusei, the Falling Star, both of which, alongside that Agrus Kos, are still within our collective possession.  

And with that, my journey through the multiverse began. 

Fast forward…

 

Buying Lorwyn 

 My friends and I met outside the LGS. For months, our excitement for Lorwyn had been growing. So much of the set felt like it was made just for us. Planeswalkers, a new card type, were the talk of the town. We didn’t quite understand how they worked, but this felt like a historic moment within our microcosm of society.

The sets tribal theme had us all foaming at the mouth. By this point, we all had some sort of tribal affinity and I was looking for some sweet new additions to my Elves deck – namely, Imperious Perfect. The lord ability was perfect and she made more Elves? She was…

As soon as the store opened we walked inside like Birdman, pockets full of Guap, ready to make that rain… drop. 

I didn’t open an Imperious Perfect… but I did crack a Chandra Nalaar

Fast forward…

 

Tezz in the Cut

I’m standing in Superfly Comics and Games with my mans Zane. He’d just taught me how to pack war, and after kicking my teeth in, we started scrolling the Shards of Alara spoiler. 

We had the normal level of excitement one would experience during spoiler season we paused when we saw Tezzeret the Seeker. Looking at each other, we shared a singular thought

“He looks just like us.”

It was a pleasant moment, and over the years, we’d both draw our own forms of inspiration from the character. Notably, Zane uses him as an occasional subject of his art.

Fast forward…

 

Modern Masters

It’s 2013-ish, I’d been primarily playing Commander but had been fostering my growing interest in Modern. I’d broken into the latter format by building RG Tron but had also fallen in love with some of the Gifts Ungiven shells that were running around the format. I didn’t have the money needed to build one of the four-color midrange shells, but UW Gifts Tron was roughly in my budget, except for Gifts Ungiven, which were expensive at the time. Luckily, they were in Modern Masters, a set that had an insane amount of hype behind it.

Fast forward…

 

Commander Precons 

The 2013 Commander Precons had been announced and everyone was going crazy. My EDH friends were excited for the new format exclusives. Legacy players were starring at True-Name Nemesis like it was the return of the McRib.

The product drops. 

You couldn’t get them anywhere. Even the Walmart in the hood. You could always find random stuff at the hood Walmart because nobody drove through the trenches to get there. You know how hard a product gotta go for MTG nerds to drive through the ghettos of Cincinnati to perform a buyout? 

People were risking their lives just so they could feed their opponents a cold filet-o fish with no fries or Sprite. Someone could have pulled up on them with that Tezzeret (Tidehollow slang for “improvised weapon”).

True-Name Nemesis

For context, at GP Cincinnati 2014 there were multiple cases of people going outside to get some air, setting their bags on the ground, only for someone to come running out of the shadows, snatch their satchel and sprint down the street.  

And that was in a safe part of town. 

Pause.

 

Rituals and Traditions

It would take forever to detail every spoiler season I’ve lived through, but new set releases evolved from a source of teenage curiosity to an anticipated tradition with friends. 

I’ll never forget:

  • The whole group chat staying up until midnight to refresh Mythic Spoiler to catch updates in real-time. 
  • People seeing like five cards from a new set and immediately posting on forums about how they broke Standard with some pile that would never see the light of day.
  • Frequently checking Tomoharo Saito’s Instagram account to see whatever based deck lists he posted that day.  
  • Listening to the “Drive to Work” and “Next Level” Podcasts to hear Maro’s perspective as a designer compared to Pat Chapin’s perspective as a deck builder. 
  • The 24-hour conversation cycles in the Miracles Cabal as we determined what new cards would be effective tools for and against our deck and how we should adjust as such.
  • And the countless other ‘traditions’ that were born of something as simple as being told about fresh new cardboard.

I’m sure many long term players will find resonance with one or more of the experiences described above. 

 

The 20 Year Cycle…. of Burnout

Unfortunately, at some point, spoiler season became less and less interesting to me, probably because the longer I’ve played MTG, the less I’ve approached the game from a bright-eyed viewpoint as more of a coldly analytical mindset took over. Maybe it was shifting from long hyperbolic discussions about the game with insomniac college students to succinct dialogues 35-year-old parents with reasonably adjusted sleep schedules. Maybe it’s just that keeping up with the increased product release cycle becoming too distracting from the other curiosities of life. Maybe it’s because constant remakes and rehashing of IPs from my formative years have caused me to dissociate a bit from the “20”-year* cycle of media. 

*Sometimes the cultural orbit operates on a 30 or 40-year revolutions depending on the subject.  

The 20-year cycle of media, or nostalgia, is the idea that roughly every 20 years, a piece of culture will find itself at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist after falling out of favor. One thing this is generally attributed to is a generation coming of age and becoming the primary buying force. Someone might not have been able to indulge in all of their interests in their formative years due to financial restrictions. But 20, 30 or 40 or so years later, they are more likely to have children and enough disposable income so if they’re reintroduced to an IP they loved in their formative years, they’re not only likely to spend money on it, but also introduce their children to it. Thus, this plants the seeds of a subsequent generation of consumers. 

This trend is most evident in the film/TV industry where reboots and sequels are a safer investment for studios than taking a risk on original works. But, in a world where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is steadily approaching a point where the timeframe of its existence will encompass the majority of my life, I’ve slowly started to draw less and less joy from new additions to the franchises of yore as opposed to just consuming the familiar old works. 

 2021 flew by and the only product that had any memorable impact on me was the Black People Secret Lair. Coming into 2022, I was indifferent to the game’s 30 year milestone… which is why I was pleasantly surprised at my joy upon seeing:

  • A follow-up set to Kamigawa, a block that’s inextricably linked to multiple important moments in my tenure playing this game.
  • A Warhammer 40K Crossover, a franchise I was first introduced to in high school when a friend showed me some of his minis and gave me a brief overview of the Horus Heresy, to which I quickly responded with something along the lines of “that sounds like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” Anyway, so after reading all six Space Wolf books, I began rambling to him about how someone on a creative team was like “Ayo, what if we took Wolverine from the X-Men, made him like 13 feet tall, gave him a sword, covered him in armor, gave him two pet 15 foot tall wolves then sent him into war with like 90,000 seven foot tall “mini-me” versions of himself. Also, they’re Vikings. With Chainsaw swords. Also some of them are werewolves.” Everyone else was like “yes, the world needs this.”

None of that was hyperbole. Space Viking Werewolves y’all. The world did need this.

  • A set based around The Brothers’ War. Zane’s infectious love of Urza’s story is what got me to pick up my first MTG book.

So like a Studio Ghibli protagonist, I hopped on the hypetrain, ready to be taken to new horizons… then I promptly fell asleep and missed Kamigawa. I guess that wasn’t my destination after all .  But I thought to myself “40K and Brothers’ War are coming up. I’ll totally catch the spoilers for these two sets, it’ll be a grand ol’ lighthearted time. It’s not like both are metacommentaries on how greed, fascism, xenophobia and zealotry, whilst calling into question the concept of moral absolutism and portraying examples of how the morally relative philosophy of demagogues can warp the human psyche, especially during periods of prolonged conflict that the societies consumed within.”

Anyway, September comes and it’s time for me to catch my stop at spoilerville.  

And was promptly stomped out by a mob of previews from more sets than I could count. My body crumpled from the seemingly unfinite assault as blow after blow sunk into my sternum, Secret Lair elbow drops left my skull rattling, My vision blurred as the anticipated Brothers’ War spoilers descended upon me. Between multiple Urzas, Space Jaces, and with my sight fading in and out, everything snapped into focus when I saw sepia-toned editions of Jalum Tome and Ivory Tower. With my mind racing, I thought “The Deck? We’re getting callbacks to the deck? Do people who even remember The Deck want to be reminded of its existence?” Before I could form another thought on the matter, Transformers started bludgeoning my backbone. Megatron Milly-Rocked on my block. I was experiencing the full brunt of the 30th handaversary.

It was time to unplug. Gasping for breath, I ran from my computer to the nearest exit. Once outside I let out a sigh of relief… then I got a message from my friend. Looking at the screen, the adorable unblinking visage of Li’l Giri pierced my soul. Only a single phrase fell from his nori wrapper. 

Locking my phone, I looked towards the night sky for some semblance of serenity. Rapidly exhaling in an attempt to decompress from my overstimulated, I’d finally found a sense of peace. 

Then my phone rang.

*Conversation has been paraphrased and converted from African American Vernacular to Standard English* 

Mike: Lawrence, did you see the new Mishra card?

Me: Not yet.

Mike: Have you seen the weekly MTG promos?

Me: Uh, no.

Mike: Lawrence, they’re reprinting Reserved List cards.

Me: Oh cool, I’m sure this will be a nice boost in supply for the formats that want them. Are these actual reprints or gold border?

Mike: They’re black-bordered with a Magic 30th Anniversary back.

Me: Oh, that’s fine, they’ll still be playable in-

Mike: My (African-American), it’s a thousand dollars for four packs.

*silence*

Me: My (Blasian) are these like, precons filled with the bangers or-

Mike: No my (person who was in Paris), these is pack packs.

Me: PACK packs?

Mike: PACK PACKS!!

Me: But aren’t like 90 percent of the Reserved List cards completely unplayable?

Mike: (Black-Man) yes

*silence*

Me: Why not do something akin to the Championship Decks?

Mike: Do you know anyone who could afford these and would buy them?

*silence*

Me: Is there a target demographic for this product that doesn’t operate in an unsanctioned environment and found a way around card availability issues? There’s only like three sanctioned Vintage events a year, and Legacy events are largely on MODO or in underground, community-run tournaments. 

Mike: The Lord of the Rings set is going to have a Japanese foil Tarmogoyf with the Future Sight border and Modern Masters art.

Me: Uh okay, that’s not for me but I’m sure the target audience for that will love it.

Mike: The 30th Anniversary Secret Lair is going to consist of a card from each year of Magic and each one is going to have a different Secret Lair border.

Me: Sure

Mike: I sent you the link

Me: Aye (Bredren), that Elspeth is fire as-

Mike: Post Malone is getting a Secret Lair, who is that even for?

Me: That actually makes sense to me. His non-MTG fanbase is huge, and he’s been getting a lot of love in the EDH content creator sphere. 

Mike: Secret Lair Post Malotus.

Mike: Also a Doctor Who Secret Lair.

Me: Yeah sure.

Mike: Also there’s going to be Assassin’s Creed and Final Fantasy cards.

Me: Okay, I can dig it.

Mike: I’m gonna buy the Final Fantasy one.

Me: Yeah, I feel like this is something 16-year old me would go crazy for.

Mike: What if they have an alt art Sephiroth drawn by Yoshitaka Amano.

Me: My (Woadie), the streets would go crazy, wasn’t the Liliana he did like $600 when it dropped?

Mike: My (individual with attitude), that card is $2,000 now. It’s not even a playable card. 

Me: (Beloved) playability was never the point. It was about collectability.

 

The Conceit of Collectability: Who are these $1000 packs for anyway?

For quite some time now, I’ve witnessed many conversations maligning MTG being more of a trading card game than a collectible card game. Though we had FNM/GP Promos, From the Vault releases, limited print run decks, judge promos, box toppers, champs promos, DCI Legends membership promos, prerelease cards, extended art promos, Junior Super Series promos, silver-stamped cards, Guru lands, APAC lands, the list goes on. That didn’t really create a sufficient market of specifically collectible items.  

A MTG card’s value as a collector’s item is either determined by either its viability within constructed play, both casual and competitive. Or, there being an extremely limited supply available, e.g. Splendid Genesis, Proposal, 1996 World Champion and Shichifukujin Dragon. Specifically within Magic, the former has been much more relevant than the latter. 

In a more generalized sense the collectible aspect with a card game can be looked at one of two ways (I’m not sure if these concepts already have formal labels but this is what I’m going to use):

  1. Horizontally: Multiple mechanically unique cards featuring the same recognizable figure/character/mascot.
  2. Vertically: Multiple copies of the same card with a variation in some aspect. Within MTG. we most commonly see variations in card art or border. 

Regardless of a cards horizontal or vertical collectability, there are a number of factors that also impact its worth including:

  • Whether the card is foil.
  • What foiling process is used.
  • Region exclusivity.
  • Language exclusivity.
  • If it was part of a limited print run.
  • The type of product it was released in. 

A good point of comparison is the Pokemon CCG. 

Given that I was only vaguely familiar with the games ecosystem, I spoke with Mike, a rabid collector of Pokemon cards, who explained a few things to me:

  1. It’s extremely common for top-tier format staples to float around $20 to $30 on average. 
    • Cards like Origin Forme Palkia and Arceus V are, to my understanding, widely played powerhouses, but have multiple non-premium printings keeping them within an affordable price point for most, while also having a bevy of premium printings for those who want to ball outrageous. Also, on top of that, they’re thrown into preconstructed collections, further maintaining their accessibility  
  2. Functionally unplayable, yet expensive chase rares exist because they look sick-nasty delicious. 

So why does Pokemon contrast Magic heavily by being able to support both vertical and horizontal collectability so easily?

Given MTG’s current product structure, it’s significantly easier for the game to support vertical collectability. Products such as Secret Lairs and the like allow for easy avenues to reprint fan-favorite cards at varying and potentially rapid intervals. Are you someone who wants like seven visually unique Thalia, Guardians of Thraban? Then great! You can do so! But that sort of diverse vertical collectability is great.

However, it’s also offset by a disproportionate demand. Commander players only need one copy of their favorite art, and maybe they’ll buy a number of extras just to have. Copies of Thalia are cheap enough to justify spending as such. Unfortunately, that becomes harder to do with a card like Mana Crypt that sits at a higher price point. In general, collecting non-character-specific cards is a passive endeavor. Players are likely to pick up alternate art or foreign language copies of a random card that’s personally memorable to them, and getting extra copies is convenient and budget-friendly. I don’t remember when, how, where or why I acquired six Russian and one signed Spanish Think Twice, three Korean, two Chinese, one Russian and three Japanese Negates, five Japanese and two French Counterspells, a playset of both Japanese and French Treasure Cruise and four Chinese and five Russian Mystical Teachings, but “UwU notice me Senpai” apparently.

Playmat from Angelarium.
Also, what?

Constructed players by comparison tend to gravitate towards purchasing identical editions of cards to avoid situations where they accidentally leak information to opponents, thus losing some tactical agency when failing to conceal information. For an example, your opponent casts a discard spell seeing one Thalia art, and on your next turn, you draw and play a different Thalia art, revealing otherwise concealed information.

But what about horizontal collectability in MTG?

Well that’s a more complex predicament. Since collectability is so heavily linked to a player’s emotional connection to the card or character, they have to really be invested in a memory surrounding the card or the character’s lore, and even then, that doesn’t guarantee a purchase. A lot of folks who like Thalia do so because of her in-game impact as a staple in various white creature-based strategies. By contrast, how much someone cares about the story of the character is a dynamic variable. Not everyone is a Vorthos. We’ve all known a number of people who played Magic for 15+ years and couldn’t tell you a single thing about any story arc within the game. They just didn’t care. Conversely, There are a number of people who can tell you the story behind every block, and that Tarmogoyf was originally made with the power and toughness being star/star and the change to star/star+1 was a last-minute change when it was recreated from memory for its addition in Future Sight.  

While “Return to (wherever)” planes give WOTC the opportunity to create horizontally collectible cards by bringing back notable figures, players might overlook them if they aren’t relevant within their preferred format. So, while there’s likely someone out there who loves Thalia as a figure and has collected every printing of every card bearing her name, other players are doing this:

Curious that Pokemon doesn’t have this issue, no?

Both Magic and Pokemon have a nostalgia element to them but it acts as a weakness or neutral factor for the former and a strength for the latter. And while both Pokemon and Magic have a million recognizable characters, present in various forms of media providing lore context, most fans fall in love with particular Pokemon either due to:

  1. Finding it aesthetically pleasing to look at
  2. Playing one of the RPGs and having a particular Pokemon lend itself to a particularly memorable period of gameplay or seeing a Pokemon in a manga, movie or anime and going “Glaceon is now my personality.”
  3. Pokemon, a franchise that’s comprised completely of mascots only has four card types, only one of which doesn’t depict a figure from the franchise. Just about every Pokemon card depicts a character or item of relevance within one of the connected media. Essentially, everything is legendary from a story perspective. 

Because of the above, it’s borderline impossible to interact with Pokemon as a franchise for an extended period without consuming enough of the lore to become emotionally invested in some aspect of the story, which creates a tighter link between player/collector and nostalgia. This lends itself to the consumer forming their own emotional relationship with their favorite Pokemon. Even the original theme song lyrics put an emphasis on this relationship, priming the consumer for a parasocial dynamic with the brand.

There’s also something to be said about how the concept of dual coding has played into Pokemon’s branding. Each generation’s visual presentation is built upon the foundation set by original character designs; even the in-game music does the same. So, players are building a connection with the franchise on visual, auditory and potentially multiple layers of haptic feedback, depending on whether players are holding a stack of cards, a gaming console or feeling the texture of a plushie. While a random passerby might not know the name of a particular creature, they can still identify it as a Pokemon… or at the least go “ain’t that one of them there Pikachus?” Conversely, for an non-invested onlooker, a story-relevant MTG character is simply “Generic Fantasy Character #3218135435461.354357” and without access to a visible logo or watermarking, it’s less likely they’ll be able to mentally link the image to a brand. 

Also, as previously mentioned, Pokemon cards’ appeal to collectors isn’t as heavily linked to its in-game viability, but instead how sick it looks. So while an active player of the CCG might buy the cards for their functionality, there’s also fan of the franchise who simply buys cards with their favorite ‘Mon because it makes them feel good. There’s the a higher chance that a lapsed fan might purchase cards of their fave on a whim. 

So, you have some like Beky Bell, our community’s resident Magics/Valorant/League of Legends/Teamfight Tactics player, commentator and chalk wizard as an active collector of a wide array of Pikachu merch.

On the flip side, have someone like me who has passively picked up Pokemon cards over the years to use as tokens. For example, as I write this, I’m thinking about the 21 Ancient Mew, six other promo Mew (IYKYK) and the litany of other cards depicting personal favorites that were purchased my LGS because I had a surplus of credit and they had nothing else of interest. 

Using cards from other games isn’t a behavior unique to myself, though it does operate as an example of Pokemon’s strengths in being able to find usage in other card game spaces. 

But constructively speaking there are ways to increase the Magic’s horizontal collectability. 

  1. Make non-format legal collectible cards that are distributed via controlled channels: Those Ancient Mews function as proof of concept for this methodology.
  2. Lean into other collectible items that could provide players with other engagement: Tokens are cool inserts and all, but a lot of them go largely ignored. The signature art series is a banger idea and leaning into that a bit harder could prove fruitful. Furthermore, something like these Volrath life counters you used to be able to get from the Duelist Magazine is another potential angle. Also, you can create varying levels of collectability by taking advantage of the aforementioned factors that determine desirability.
  3. Make character lore more available for consumption.

I find it curious that a set based around The Brothers’ War, a series of events depicted in books from late 90’s, didn’t have a coinciding rerelease of the lore books. A product that, outside of it’s Kindle version, is hard to find at a reasonable price. Part of the reason I find this perplexing is that we’re looking at a set detailing one of the most iconic moments in MTG lore containing characters… that a large portion of MTG fanbase has no familiarity with because the text documenting their exploits had gone out of print before they were even been born. 

This seems like a perfect opportunity to get players (re)engaged with the game’s story, while also providing additional collectible cardboard. The Artifact cycle consists of four books. Within each rerelease, you would include a card depicting an important artifact from the story. The back of the cards would then contain flavor text describing the item from the point of view of a character from the arc. The art itself could be uniform, or you could have each one be different to visually reflect the feelings of each character. A simple implementation of this idea would be something like this:

  • Brothers’ War: Might Stone
  • Planeswalker: Weak Stone
  • Timestreams: Golgothian Sylex
  • Bloodlines: Legacy Weapon
  • POV Characters: Urza, Mishra, Kayla Bin-Kroog, and if you really want more variation, you could do a Phyrexian language version detailing the viewpoint of Gix.

If you want to go really hard in the paint on some Lil Wayne Mixtape era energy, you could make the insert for each contain a book-specific artifact and quotes from characters within the book.  My example above only encompassed the artifacts that incited The Brothers’ War and the Legacy Weapon, which is of relevance later on. 

This gives you per book three or four unique keepsakes that collectors will desire. Not only will they have a reason to engage in the lore, but they’ll be rewarded physically for doing so. Also, by hunting down the other printings of the artifacts, the collectors’ actions would act as a real-world parallel to the in-story actions of the characters themselves, thus furthering a cohesive bond between the lore and the consumer.  

At this point, you’re probably thinking “Won’t this add to spoiler season fatigue?”

Not necessarily. You don’t need to tell the consumer base about every product coming down the line. Let some things be a surprise. Magic is a dynamic game wherein players have to exercise their critical thinking skills to reach the desired outcome. Give people a puzzle and let them solve it. As soon as people buy the books, discover the lore inserts and find out from some reddit post about the variations, they’ll be engaged on multiple levels. People would need to come together to figure out what’s going on and how many of these things there are. On top of that, don’t even release an official translation of Gix’s text. People will come together and figure it out. Make the cards themselves a limited print run and you have a fixed rarity and collectors will have more incentive to purchase any other reissues of other lore texts under the assumption that similar shenanigans will be afoot. 

While previews do generate buzz, there is something to be said about surprising players being beneficial. For example, the knowledge of Transformers cards in The Brothers’ War was a point of increased confusion and fatigue for some. But what if they were never announced and players just randomly found them within packs? Let folks figure out what’s going on and change a portion of the spoiler season dynamic from being centered around consuming spoon-fed information to being something players are actively engaging in via puzzle-solving effort on their part.  You can still release the same amount, if not more product without players feeling like they’re being Clockwork Orange’d every time there’s a product announcement.

Also, doing so would hopefully save a bit of that marketing budget to go towards making more of those sick trailers. Or something else, idk. God, how far we’ve come.

As an aside, this 2001 commercial has been seared into the back of my skull for *looks at calendar*  just over… 20 years.

Also, there’s some other factors in the collectible space that aren’t consistently appraised within the secondary market, such as cards that have been signed by the artist…

Or their namesake player…

Or have been misprinted or altered…

Yasova done by Kevin Lapage. Academy Ruins done by Zane. Shackles done by Unknown, though if someone does know the artist, I’d love to give them credit for their stellar work. This print run of Korean Ashiok reads +1 instead of +2

The value of each card above is determined on a sliding scale. Vendors categorize signed cards as damaged and offer lower rates, while collectors will pay a premium for certain signatures. Misprinted cards and alters also vary in worth depending on the card, what type of misprint and for the latter, who did the alter itself. Of the above, the only cards that would be appraised similarly across various player demographics are the Chris Rush Bolts and Mana Leaks. Overall, it’s been interesting to observe the schism in appraisal, and I’m curious to see if there’ll be a convergence of viewpoints. 

As an aside, I don’t think that collectability has to be directly tied to a card’s worth. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Sometimes there’s a sentimental aspect to it which is why horizontal collectability is important. *points at the above wall of Pikachu plushes*

So when we ask “who are these $1000 packs for,” there’s really only one answer.

You.

Or well, some of you. 

But probably not the some of you who are reading this article. 

You might have found yourself nodding along in agreement to the paragraphs above, which I’m not going to say you’re wrong for doing. It’s easy to see the tweets, videos, Facebook posts and other reactionary discourse and assume that there’s a congruent outlook on products such as this. But it would be very remiss of me to not point out that the Magic’s predominant buying force is a silent majority. While the social media and such backlash could be an accurate reflection of how the majority feels, it could also be yet another echo chamber contributing to a false consensus effect

A product like 30th Anniversary Edition isn’t conceived nor put into print with the functionality of the cards in mind. It’s meant to be exclusive, a limited edition Ferrari if you will. A primary cornerstone of an item being worth collecting for under financial motivations is the buyer knowing that due to a limited supply, it won’t be readily available to the public. It’s made with a select few people in mind.

Not me thooooooo.

It’s just a shame that this product contains cards that multiple sub-communities of players would benefit from having increased supply to pull from. 

I’m feeling like I’m forgetting something though. Like a way for Magic to take advantage of dual coding, haptic feedback and other layers of engagement. Oh yeah, or branching out from just the card game, something that WOTC has been building towards for quite some time now. 

In 2006, Time Spiral was released and massively depowered planeswalkers so they could be more broadly utilized in other media. Or, as Mark Rosewater stated,Time Spiral block’s storyline had us revamping the power level of the planeswalkers to allow us to make them a bit more approachable (characters with god-like powers were hard to relate to).”

Shortly after, in 2008, the ball started rolling on Universal Studios-produced films based on a number of Hasbro IP’s including Magic, but that deal came to an abrupt halt in 2012.

Note: Correlation isn’t causation 

Unfortunately, since then, there have been a few other false starts on a live-action MTG-based movie, but at the moment, there is an animated series still in the works

But, there’s also other arenas the IP could jump into. For example, the fighting game space is always open for new well made games. Namco Bandai caught a huge dub with the release Dragon Ball Fighter Z, a game they outsourced to Arc System Works, the creators of long-standing franchises BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. There’s also that League of Legends fighting game in production which was supposed to come out this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if its release will coincide with the premier of Arcane’s second season. Magic has an extensive backlog of characters that could mechanically work within a few fighting game formats. Anything in the style of Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, Injustice 2 or even a party game like Smash could work. You could even do something within the FPS space by shoving planeswalkers into a Valorant/Overwatch style of game.

All of the above would allow MTG to replicate some of the aforementioned traits that have attributed to Pokémon’s success. This increases brand awareness as the game’s characters and lore spill into other avenues of media. We’ve got the potential for haptic feedback in the form of various video games. Also, there’s the tangential benefit of fighting games and first person shooters having proven sustainability within eSports fields. The above would allow for a greater number of non-cardboard collectables to be made as audiences are already predisposed to purchasing figures, plushes, custom controller skins and whatever else get drip fed into the market. 

I guess the only thing left is to have someone make a banger MTG theme song. Which I’m sure there’s someone who would be perfect for that task but I can’t quite Post my finger on who that would be.

 

The Secret Lair of St. John 

“Professor called, seen you on Game Knights

Content done changed ever since was on

I dreamed of collabin’ every since I saw

They said this game was nothin’”

A Post Malonecentric Secret Lair drop was recently announced. One thing I’m curious about is how the dynamics of purchasing Secret Lairs will operate. For years, the MTG sphere has been able to exist within a fairly isolationist bubble, meaning that even limited edition products were often relatively easy to purchase upon release, or found on the secondary market without too egregious of a markup, depending on the age of the product. If Secret Lairs centered around celebrities are printed with a predetermined cap, then we could see them fall prey to the botting that has plagued more mainstream arenas like the shoe and electronics markets.

Botting is the practice of using an automated system to purchase a massive quantity of some limited edition the moment it drops. This immediate choking of demand allows resellers to immediately make sale listing of the items at a grossly inflated rate.

To my knowledge, Secret Lairs have largely, if not completely been unaffected by this practice. Even within the secondary market, outside of the superbundles, many out-of-print Secret Lairs or the cards contained within can still be found at decent prices relative to where they were values at release

My hope is that even with a presumable massive increase of demand from a probable influx of attention, WOTC is able to execute these drops such that each populace of buyers, both those invested in the game and those only invested in the celebrity, are able to access enough product without oversaturating the market as to have enough exclusivity for these items be relevant as collectibles. I suspect that the supply will be reasonable enough to accommodate the demand.

Each of the crossover products exposes Magic to a new audience who wouldn’t have bought packs otherwise. I’m not sure how many people from outside of the MTG sphere take a long term interest in the game as a result of their collectable purchase, but I’d posit that the retention rate is decent enough to provide a beneficial addition to the community as a whole. Furthermore, it was only a matter of time before before the crossovers branched into other aspects of pop culture. I fully expect there to be more items like this. It would be shocking if there weren’t other celebrities who would love to be immortalized within the game, especially given Hasbro’s optimism about potential profits in the coming years as they license the usage of more IP’s in the coming years. That said, It would also be nice to see future Secret Lairs potentially shine light on various other long term community members who have had a notable impact within the game’s history. 

As an aside, I heard that one of the drops was going to have a lands theme. I don’t know why I forgot that those are pretty much always a set of basic lands but for some reason, I was expecting this. 

(Please don’t ask me why I’m like this)

Anywho, here’s a few Secret Lair ideas on the house:

Megan Thee Stallion: Red Hot Hotties Burn Spell Collection

Lil Nas X Tweetcret Lair

All of the cards are just full art screencaps of his best tweets

Twitch Chat Secret Lair

Reprints of your favorite MTG cards but every line is incorrect. 

Richard Garfield Ph.Decret Lair

Richard Garfield, Ph.D.

Thanks for the 30 years bruv.

Tales from the Pit #WotcStaff Secret Lair

I don’t even have a real tagline for this one. I’m just hoping that if this is an actual product in development, it doesn’t get announced before this article goes live. 

Magic: The Gathering of Juggalos ICPectret Lair

Faygo and card games, how does that work?

Hearse Boys Secret Lair

Everyone’s favorite inclusive, multicultural gaming and music(!) collective out the Bronx.

Banksy Secret Lair

Delivery not guaranteed

Secret Lair: Pokemon

These don’t count.

Secret Wars Lair

The MCU crossover is inevitable really.

 

Anyway, Secret Lair PostMalotus gon’ hit the streets harder than (Reagan administration activity) in the 80’s.

 

Exhaling 

Whilst finishing this article, I took a step outside to clear my mind of. Exhaling during a cool October evening, I couldn’t help but to reflect on the moments past, the spoiler seasons come and gone and my overall relationship with this game. 

Thinking about the new cards and how excited my teenage self would be to purchase them, but at this point I find myself jaded to it all. However, the sentimental value of the time past and spoiler seasons long gone will be everlasting memories. Maybe not every set is for me, maybe I can’t keep up with the frequency of set releases anymore, but honestly, none of that really matters. I can rest easy knowing that there’s a new generation of Magic players who are able to enjoy and experience the jubilee spoiler season as I once did which is within itself is exciting enough for me.

And hey, they look just like me.

 

Wonderful People to Check Out

Hearseboys

Referenced Members:

Rainey:

Bojaq:

Mike Wildspeaker:

Artists Referenced

Beky

Kevin Altered

Zane

Angelarium

Special Thanks

Mike for lending me his extensive knowledge of the Pokemon CCG ecosystem and for making “PostMalotus” and Cloudpost a thing 

Works Cited

Miscellaneous Other Links 

 

4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Spoiler Season: MTG Preview Fatigue, Collectability and More”

  1. Very entertaining article with a nice ending that really ties it together. I can hardly believe you took the time to write the whole thing considering the thoroughness, but it needed to be written, so I’m glad you did. The variety WOTC is churning out for the 30th year feels like a culmination of some turning point for the entire collectible card game industry and where they expect the direction to go.

    Money printers go brrr…

  2. Idk if people remember but WotC did try branching out into the Diablo/PoE genre with an isometric ARPG, but it flopped hard because the game design was just… not there. It tried too hard to call back to a “card based” game system which just wasn’t an enjoyable experience to play. Hopefully they learn from that and realize that I don’t need the Thorn Elemental I’m summoning to be a literal card in order for it to stir my childhood memories.

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