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Is Magic the Gathering Dying?

I have been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994 and have won a few draft tournaments in MTGO and MTG Arena.

The Decline of Local Gaming Stores (LGS)

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Local gaming stores provided players a venue to hang out, play and trade. You can also sell your cards to the store for some quick cash. They hosted tournaments and helped introduce the game to new players. They helped propel this once grassroots game into becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

During the early days, Wizards was very supportive of these stores and gave prize support as well as exclusive products like From the Vault.

It was quite profitable to operate a gaming store back then as cards were more affordable so more people could afford them and the expected value made opening boxes worth it. There were also far less products back then so players retained interest in products longer.

Nowadays, Wizards does not care about your local gaming store.They care more about supplying big box stores like Walmart and Target. They also are dipping into selling singles through Secret Lair and trying to directly ship to customers via Amazon.

The global pandemic has been the nail in the coffin of your :LGS and Wizards has not exerted any effort to support them during these rough times.

Wizards of the Coast Reprinting to Oblivion

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While reprinting cards is necessary to keep prices affordable and make sure players have access to much needed game pieces, Wizards has overdone it because of greed and has even promoted some cards to mythic rarity in order to encourage people to open more packs in order to get these much needed cards.

Wizards has also jacked up the price of of reprint sets to $10 or more per pack. This is just greedy as it costs no different to print a normal expansion versus a masters set.

The reprinting has tanked card prices as they have not been able balance when to reprint and how much to reprint. They have also significantly increased pack prices. So if the pack price goes up and the expected value of cards tank, how will you make money? How will your local gaming store make money?

The Rise of Premium Products

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Wizards not only release a ton of product per year but now produces a premium version of the latest expansion.

This poor practice started in Throne of Eldraine and this has only served to tank card prices.

People have started to look for the premium or showcase version of cards and has devalued the normal versions of cards.

Wizards Selling Singles

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Wizards has become the Federal Reserve and has started to print money. They introduced Secret Lair as a way to undercut local gaming stores and sell directly to the secondary market.

Imagine if you had the ability to produce artificial scarcity and have a monopoly on the artificially scarce product. You would be De Beers Jewelers producing artificially scarce diamonds.

This is bad as it steals revenue from your local store and transfers it to Wizards' already fat pockets.

Lack of Playtesting

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Bannings are bad for the game. The reason for this is because people will feel stiffed. Imagine paying $50 for a card and then have it tank to $10 overnight because of a banning.

Wizards needs to playtest cards thoroughly as cards at times are harmless on their own but can be broken when they interact with other cards. The sad part is that at times the deadly combination is just two cards from the exact same set.

A big failure was the companion. Companions gave players card advantage too difficult to overcome and some companion effects were also broken.

Too Much Product

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If you look at the first few expansions of Magic the Gathering, they were released with a few months gap and were more of a quarterly thing. Arabian Nights was released on December 1993. Antiquities was released on March 1994. Legends was released on June 1994. The Dark was released on August 1994. Fallen Empire was released on November 1994.

The core set, Revised Edition, was released on April 1994.

Having one base set and three expansion sets per year is not bad as the expansions are released frequently enough for the company to make money but infrequently enough that sets retain interest.

Fast forward to 2019 and these are the products I managed to compile.

Core Set 2020
Ravnica Allegiance
War of the Spark
Throne of Eldraine
Modern Horizons
Signature Spellbook: Gideon
Deck Builder's Toolkit (Ravnica Allegiance Edition)
Deck Builder's Toolkit (Core Set 2020 Edition)
Throne of Eldraine Bundle Gift Edition
Commander 2019

To add to this, there were also seven Secret Lair sets released as well. While there is nothing wrong with producing a lot of a good thing, there is something bad with producing too much.

Too much product is bad for the game as it leads to wallet fatigue and lowers the value of the single cards.

Poor Card Quality

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Carta Mundi was once the exclusive printer of Magic the Gathering.

The cards were of high quality and printing errors were not rampant as they destroyed any substandard cards. This gave rise to the misprint community as misprints were collectibles as they happened so infrequently.

Fast forward to our present time, the product is so expensive and yet the card quality is piss poor. There are many printing error and the card stock is so thin. Foil cards has a curling issue and often is curled fresh from the pack.

Magic the Gathering essentially makes only one product and has done so for three decades and yet is regressing instead of improving.

The End of Magic?

© 2020 Jan Michael Ong