New Phyrexia Stock Exchange: History of the Reserved List

Hey all, Mike here with another look into the Magic Finance world. This week, we’re going to take a break from the dollars and cents of everything and go over a bit of history. One major part of what keeps Magic Finance alive is the Reserved List and its ability to protect the value of several highly-valued cards.

For the unaware, the Reserved List is a list of cards which will never be reprinted again in a functionally identical form. Some of Magic’s most famous cards such as the Black Lotus and original Dual Lands are on this list.

Wizard’s stated purpose of the Reserved List per their reprint policy is to, “maintain [players’] confidence in the Magic game as a collectible.” For some, this policy is a boon that protects their collection and for others it seems to be an unnecessary barrier to entry for eternal formats.


White Borders

White borders are a guilty pleasure of mine but most players would probably prefer a black-bordered card. White bordered cards had a short run and are gradually less common, but players generally do not bother to question why they are there.

White bordered cards were actually the result of an early pseudo-reserved list.With this policy, anytime a card was reprinted with the same art it had on its original version, it would be printed with a white border instead. This created a set of “more collectible” original version cards which were readily identified by their black borders.

The printing of 4th Edition and Chronicles showed collectors and players that white borders were not enough to protect the value of their cards which some people cite as the first time Magic almost died.


The First Reserved List

The original Reserved List was officially published in March of 1996. It included a few categories of cards:

  • Cards from Limited Edition Alpha and Beta which were not reprinted in 4th Edition or Ice Age. Of course, this includes the Unlimited and Revised versions as well.
  • Rares and Uncommons from Antiquities and Arabian nights which had not yet been printed with a white border, and
  • All Rares from Legends and the Dark which were not yet reprinted with a white border.

Now that the list had been established, a system was also put into place for adding to it. Going forward, Wizards committed to reprint at most 25 percent of the highest rarity cards with a white border, while the remaining rare cards from the expansion were added to the Reserved List. Early sets had subrarities of cards, so some Rares/Uncommons were actually more rare than others.

Before each Core Set was released, Wizards would announce which cards were due for a reprint from the previous expansion. Any that weren’t included were then added to the list.


Reserved List Overhaul

In 2002, Wizards made an update to the Reprint policy. It was decided that cards would no longer be added to the list starting with Mercadian Masques. This change was and still is generally well received by players.

With the original Reserved List, only Rares were subject to it, but there were a certain number of Commons on the list from Alpha/Beta which also brought some Uncommons just like Antiquities and Arabian Nights. Player support persuaded Wizards to remove Commons and Uncommons from the list such as Demonic Tutor. However, they committed to not removing any other cards from the list after this.


Wizards Tries a Workaround

2010 must have been an interesting year for Magic Research and Development. From the outside looking in, there appears to have been a concerted effort to make bad decisions.

What started it all was the announcement of the supplemental product Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs The Coalition. One of the decks included the Reserved List card Phyrexian Negator. Community reaction was almost universally negative, and Wizards found themselves in a very tough Public Relations spot. Their justification was that the policy itself did not specifically exclude premium, or foil, cards. I tend to be very critical of this claim because the policy was put into place in 1996 – 3 years before regularly printed foils were introduced in Urza’s Destiny. In fact, in Mark Rosewater’s own blog he states that they were attempting to exloit a loophole to get around the Reserved List.

The Duel Decks were not all though. After the public backlash, Wizards committed to not reprinting Reserved List cards in any foiling or otherwise tournament-legal iterations. However, they also had more to confess – From the Vault: Relics and Judge Gifts.

From the Vault: Relics, due to be released about 5 months after the Duel Decks, was to include four Reserved List cards – Masticore, Memory Jar, Mox Diamond, and Karn, Silver Golem. There were also 4 Judge Gifts (Promos) due to be Reserved List reprints – Phyrexian Dreadnought, Thawing Glaciers, Morphling, and Wheel of Fortune.


No matter your opinion of the list itself, there is no denying that it has been an important and interesting part of Magic history. Do you think it helped Magic stay alive as such a large card game? Let us know in the comments. You can also reach out to me on my YouTube channel’s twitter account: @mtg_vc

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Mike VC

Mike VC

Mike started playing Magic around 2005 - starting with the Kamigawa block. His favorite format to play right now is Pauper which he regularly plays on MTGO. Mike is a Magic YouTube content producer who specializes in sealed product openings; you can find his content under MTG Vintage Crack. Find him on Twitter @mtg_vc.

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