Ex-WotC staff says destroying Reserved List would bankrupt MTG

Magic: The Gathering Reserved List legal - artwork of the demon bird lawyer falco spara.

Bill Stark, former senior product manager for Wizards of the Coast, has spoken up about the Magic: The Gathering Reserved List. “You can’t abolish it for legal reasons that would bankrupt the game,” wrote the ex-staff member in a Twitter thread on Wednesday. He also implied that a risk of lawsuits prevents Magic’s creators from scrapping the Reserved List, and that the upside doesn’t outweigh the costs.

As Stark says, the Reserved List conversation has recently “bubbled back up”. Last Friday, MTG head designer Mark Rosewater explained that most fans want the Reserved List gone, but implied that there are “obstacles” preventing this. Stark’s statement is notable, as it’s far less vague than Rosewater’s comments or any other explanation WotC has provided in the past, referring to possible legal trouble and a monetary cost to abolishing the Reserved List. “Lawsuits aren’t about whether you win or lose, it’s about the cost to doing so,” Stark says.

A perennial controversy in the MTG community, the Reserved List is a decades-old promise by WotC that prevents a subsection of Magic cards from being reprinted. This makes them the most hard to find and expensive MTG cards of all time, while also preserving their value. It’s good for the collectors who own these cards, and bad for Vintage players, as their format becomes more and more pricey.

Stark, who worked for Wizards for almost 14 years (and was an MTG pro player prior to this) also shared his thoughts on how the company could solve the problems caused by the Reserved List, without abolishing it and breaking its promise.

“You can smash it by just printing improved versions of the cards,” Stark says. Or, he suggests, you could make a White Lotus that performs the same role as Black Lotus with the caveat that it prevents you from playing a Black Lotus (this would prevent players with deep pockets from running both cards and also stop the new version being functionally identical to the old).

“You can do that to any card that matters on the Reserve List,” Stark continues. “It’s good for Vintage because it makes that format more accessible, is in spirit of the RL promise, and has whatever impact on prices.

“You have to do something like this at some point to dive into a massively untapped pool of highly sought after cards to put in boosters. Because the current slate of reserves is running out. You can’t hammer FoW into EVERY set, and alt art only goes so far.”

Stark clearly has faith in his former co-workers, however. “The crew in charge will make good decisions for the long-term health of the game,” he concludes.

Is the Reserved List doomed, or would abolishing it doom Magic? Find out more about the issue in our Reserved List guide.