Over the past year, I’ve been looking at the prices of individual Magic: The Gathering cards get progressively more expensive. It’s disheartening, but with a growing player base, cards of many kinds are becoming more and more in-demand for quite a few different decks. This only got worse when Wizards of the Coast, the company responsible for Magic, abolished a vital financial reference point in the manufacturer-suggested retail price of their products (many of you will know that more commonly as the MSRP).
This can be seen in many cases over the past year. For example, when the themes of the Commander 2019 decks were first leaked to the public, Ixidor, Reality Sculptor was only in the ranges around $1.50 USD. Nowadays, Ixidor is fluctuating in the $20-$22 range. This wasn’t the card’s high point, but that was maybe a week or two prior when it was around $24. At the same time, this sudden jump from less than $2 to over $20 is a huge issue. Wizards of the Coast actively decided not to reprint this card in their Morph deck, and content creators (admittedly, myself included) only furthered the play exposure this card got. This lack of reprint and glut of exposure only served to make this very niche card become relatively inaccessible to players who were initially unaware of the themes for the new decks.
This also holds true for cards that work for the other three decks, as well as those which are important for decks led by new legendary creatures in the upcoming set, Throne of Eldraine. A huge surge we have seen lately is a rise in the cost of Faerie-centric cards such as Bitterblossom (which has been expensive historically but is seeing a new uprising lately) and Scion of Oona (which is able to pump Faeries’ stats and make them harder to interact against). These cards effectively are being boosted by the mere existence of new commanders like Alela, Artful Provocateur.
However, Wizards of the Coast’s unwillingness to reprint older cards of any semblance of value (save for some instances) is inconsistent with their public relations’ allegations that the company doesn’t care about the secondary market. They know of it, and it is possible that they follow the trends associated with the Magic single-cards market. They know what their tournament metagames are like, and know what cards are most used in them, so they know what cards will, logically, sell the most booster boxes for them.
That being said, Wizards does know how to rectify this seeming artificial scarcity problem in Magic: The Gathering. Here is a scenario where this holds true: The new Brawl decks which will come to be released alongside the Throne of Eldraine set each come with a copy of Arcane Signet, a common mana outlet with strong uses in both Brawl and Commander. Right now, even before the decks have come out, Arcane Signet is sitting at $25+ apiece in market value. The average price, however, is over $35. According to some sellers, the decks should only cost about $15 apiece to buy from their wholesalers and are being retailed at $20 each.
There’s clearly some sort of discrepancies here. $80 worth of decks shouldn’t yield $100+ in four identical cards alone, with another 236 cards in addition (and some of those other cards are $10+ each right now!). Arcane Signet being as in-demand as it is now, Wizards has gone on record as stating that extra printings of the Brawl preconstructed decks will happen. This is an important thing to consider when buying the Brawl decks at a high price point because it’s almost a guarantee that the prices will shoot downwards. People are now canceling preorders they’ve made in hopes that they can get a better deal in the coming days.
In the end, Magic: The Gathering has become a pseudo-stock market for investors of “fine cardboard squares”, as one Magic Historian puts it. People are putting stock into the collection and buyouts of sought-after cards in hopes that they’ll appreciate in value for a quick sellout soon thereafter. This isn’t how this game is meant to be interacted with. This card game is a game and while for Wizards of the Coast it’s their business, they shouldn’t solely be pandering fully to local gaming stores’ overall need to sell single cards. The goal should be to do this but also be able to cater to the players who aren’t as invested in the game. Draw them in by making expensive, powerful cards more accessible to the average casual player.
And yes, there’s the Reserve List making cards more inaccessible, but there are so many workarounds that the company can take to print the cards that this is silly to ignore (but still, Wizards has said they won’t try to work around their Reserve List, made originally to pander to early investors). Some of these cards are vital for Eternal formats like Vintage, Legacy, and even Commander, so simply making a legendary or snow version of, say, a Volcanic Island or Underground Sea would make these formats much easier to enter.
In conclusion, Magic: The Gathering has gotten insufferably expensive for a lot of disenfranchised players. A growing number of content creators are taking note of the price hikes in cards, both in the single and sealed markets. Hopefully, Wizards of the Coast will see this outcry for a solution, and come up with one. Many people already have hypothetical solutions to the problem, and Wizards ought to follow suit with something real. It may cut their revenue, but it may also bring in new players and a glut of fortune for the company.