Tag Archives: reserved list mtg

Reserved List in Commander

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So About Those Legacy Cards….

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How about that? Magic prices have been going crazy over the past few weeks, and a lot of it is thanks to the Eternal Masters Announcement that I personally haven’t really talked about a whole lot. I’ve been more focused on casual hits and collection grinding recently to worry about that kind of stuff, although I did enjoy the jumps on a few Legacy staples. Thankfully, the market that I want to talk about today moves a lot slower than the more competitive land of 4-ofs. While the wake-up call of “Reserved List is here to stay” has driven some interesting Legacy prices spikes, I’m happy to say that Commander has so far remained relatively untouched. If you’re someone who’s been on the fence about certain Commander staples for a while, let me be one of the first to say that you don’t have a lot of time left.

Why Commander?

First, let me address some of the reasons for speculating on cards when their sole demand comes from singleton formats like Commander, Cube, and Tiny Lea-hahahaha…. Sorry, I couldn’t write that with a straight face. Anyway, let’s say for example that you buy 9x SP copies of Volrath’s Stronghold for $21.29 each. You know that it’s a powerful staple in almost every black Commander deck, and you’ve jammed it in at least a few Cube drafts before. According to EDHrec, Stronghold sees play in 10% of all decks that can support it. While this isn’t close to the numbers of staple cards like Eternal Witness or Sol Ring, it’s still a strong showing and a versatile card.

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You did so because you’ve been noticing the supply dwindle on TCGplayer from 48 sellers with no price filters, all the way down to 30 sellers as of 3/1/2016. You want to check vendor confidence in the card, so you check SCG’s storefront and their buylist. They’re currently out of stock on Volrath’s Stronghold at $30, and their buylist for NM copies is $17.50, which is 75% of the TCGmid price today. Starcity wants more Strongholds, so I’m going to follow suit.

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One of the problems in speculating on a 1-of wonder is the inability to unload a significant amount of copies relatively quickly. Patience is a virtue when dealing with Commander cards and finding the right buyer for them, because we’re not shipping them out in playsets or selling into the hype from tournament results. We have to accept the slow trickle of sales as they come, and that type of strategy certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s probable that this is not the single best Magic: The Gathering card to buy right now if you’re looking to make a huge amount of money in a short period of time (In other words, it’s not the next City of Traitors where you can easily sell playsets to aspiring Legacy players). However I think it’s safe to say that cards like Volrath’s Stronghold and Earthcraft are some of the safest buys you can make at the moment (Except bulk rares!), especially if you intend to jam them into your Commander decks for the next year or so.

Specsheet Tracking

I sometimes obsess over cards that I speculate on, because I’m that confident in them. Many of the cards that I buy in collections and set aside for later have an “Eh, maybe one day” feel attached to them (Breaking // Entering, Seance, and Aggressive Mining are some of the forerunners in this category). However, the rest are the vocal majority that I’ve chosen to write about. I like to break down as many aspects of the card as possible, and keep my finger on the pulse day after day to check any minuscule change. Noticing the small 2-3% increases in price day after day is often the sign of an incoming spike in the near future.

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While this spreadsheet model is far from perfect, I think it’s a decent representation of the factors that I’m trying to keep track of in my single-card case studies. Creating an “MTGfinance” routine in the morning can take less than ten minutes; simply scroll through Twitter, check your mtgstocks interests, and take quick glances at the applicable pieces of information in the spreadsheet above.

So Other than Stronghold….

Oh, right. Volrath’s Stronghold is obviously not the only card that we need to keep our eyes on here.

Tower

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Is “Buy reserved list cards” going to be earth-shattering news to anyone with a cardboard cutout degree in Magic finance? No, of course not. You all have already made your money on Mox Diamond and City of Traitors, so these singletons are irrelevant to you.

 

End Step

  • Breaking news: Wizards just announced the first werewolf planeswalker, which we can probably assume will follow the trend of being a double-sided walker like Garruk Relentless. I would assume that she is able to flip back and forth between forms due to the following line “she can control the transformation, in both directions, with relative ease.
  • As we talked about last week in the Werewolf article, the Shadows over Innistrad checklist that was spoiled shows no mention of any legendary werewolf or planeswalker, but it is labeled “CH1/297”. I think this all but confirms that we will receive a second checklist card with a separate set of double-faced cards to represent [Ed note: Wednesday’s Werewolf Planeswalker announcement supports this]
  • I do not think that Wizards will reuse the templating from the Origins planeswalkers, because “Legendary creature turning into planeswalker” now has the flavor attachment of igniting a spark and having time pass between the two faces of the card.
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Wherewolves and Whywolves

I Have Returned

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So, I’m back. It’s been a while since I’ve actually had the chance to sit down and write, so let me explain. If you don’t give a crap about my personal life and explorations, I don’t hold a grudge against you for skipping ahead to the bold heading a few paragraphs below that reads “Finance Starts Here”. I promise there’ll be an entire article’s worth of content down there. I’ll start by saying I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks, and we have a hell of a lot of content to talk about. WordPress decided to mutiny and failed to publish my article (the one that was published last Thursday) on time, and Corbin wasn’t able to catch it because of a battle with the flu. Therefore, the article that went up last week was supposed to go up the week  before that on the 11th, and I didn’t catch it because I was on a 15 hour drive. Mistakes were made by multiple people on the team, and we apologize.

Okay, so remember that trip to Georgia I was talking about a few weeks ago? Remember how I said I was going to shopcrawl? Well, I didn’t get the chance to. I had a bunch of stores picked out, and our plan to leave at 3AM from upstate NY was in place weeks in advance. While Oswego is normally known for its’ incredible levels of snowfall and cold weather, the weeks leading up to our trip had left us with zero snow whatsoever.

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Unfortunately, the powers that be were saving up all of the snow over the past month, and felt the need to dump it all on us on the evening before our trip was scheduled to begin. When we braved the storm outside into the campus parking lot, we learned that we were completely trapped until the snowplow came through so that we could shovel ourselves out.

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Except that it never happened. It wasn’t until 9AM that we managed to give up on the plow coming through, and tried to dig ourselves out and use tracks that someone else had made, so we were six hours late on the start of our journey. No shopcrawling, as we needed to actually make it to the hotel in time. Alright, fine. I’ll just shopcrawl on the way b–

Nope. A deadly combination of a personal emergency on Sunday night combined with another ridiculous snowstorm up north meant that we had to put the bulk buys on hold as we rushed back to NY on Monday. One small vehicle collision on I-81 at 12:30AM later, and my fiancee’ and I were stranded at a motel for another day in Pennsylvania while we waited for information on a rental car from the insurance. Thankfully we’re both okay, but it was certainly a stressful event overall.

Finance Starts Here

Remember that trip to Georgia I was talking about a few weeks ago? Contrary to what you may have thought, I didn’t drive all the way down there to unload pricey staples, post-spike Modern cards, or anything like that. The real treasure here was the fact that Card Advantage’s buylist is one of the deepest in the entire country. In the pictures below, ignore the first three categories. Then, convert the numbers into cents.

These are the real treasures of #mtgfinance, because it’s impossible to lose while buying bulk. While we spent almost an entire day pricing out everything and settling the final cash number, it was made much easier by the fact that everything was alphabetized beforehand. I’m sure some people reading this will take this photo as a humble brag, but it just goes to show that with a good network and the willingness to pick the dimes and quarters, you can walk away with a lot of cash that nobody else will even care to sneeze at.

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The Next Spawnsire?

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So for the past two weeks or so, I was planning to write about how Mayor of Avabruck was a darn fine spec target at his current $2. I had this whole repeat Spawnsire argument planned, and how werewolves are a slam-dunk casual tribe that were going to receive new support in Shadows over Innistrad. I was going to advise you to buy into the puppy lord so that we can all revel in his future $5 price tag together. Part of my argument included the SOI checklist card that was leaked a few weeks ago, and how Mayor was obviously not going to be included.

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That argument fell apart about ten minutes ago, when I actually put a little bit more thought into the comparisons between Spawnsire of Ulamog and Mayor. As you can see in the linked picture above, Lars on Twitter said that the possibility of receiving a Legendary werewolf this time is 99%. I thought so too, until I actually read all of the names on that checklist card. Tell me, out of all the double-sided cards that are in this set, how many of those feels like a name they would use for a legendary werewolf?

None of them. We don’t even have a character name on the sheet. Unless this is only one checklist card of two in the set (You’ll notice that we can see CH1/297 in the bottom left corner of the card), then we’re not getting a legendary werewolf. In fact, it looks like there’s less than ten werewolves in the entire set. This is a whole different level of archetype support than Eldrazi were receiving in Battle for Zendikar. None of the other rarewolves have moved an inch over the past four and a half years. If you want to, it’s still extremely easy to build a werewolf deck for less than twenty or thirty dollars because all of the pieces are literally pure bulk, and the supply is plentiful.

Because of these factors, I honestly don’t think Shadows over Innistrad will spark a surge of werewolf demand like BFZ did with the Eldrazi. While the buy-in is certainly cheap and you’re running a very low-risk operation, I think you’ll at least have to wait until more news about Eldritch Moon before we can expect returns on Mayor. or any of the other werewolf creatures.

If you’re someone who wants to throw a few dollars into the ring for fun, I can think of a couple cards that I expect to stay under the radar for a while longer. While neither of these are cards you want to buy from the internet at full retail, I’ve been stocking up on these for several years in slight hopes of a casual resurgence. I had the opportunity to move them to Card Advantage for a fair 8 cents a piece, but I quickly declined.

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As I said before; I really don’t expect demand for werewolves to spike significantly enough from SOI to put a dent in the current supply. When we look at the amount of stock that stores have below, it’s hard to expect commons and uncommons like this to move any meaningful amount.

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What we can do, however, is hold onto the cards with the hopes that we can network and make connections with non-competitive players at the prerelease, managing to get “full retail” (and by full retail, I mean the full 50 cents a piece) for our five year old commons and uncommons that have dodged reprints up until now. Putting playsets of Moonmist in your trade binder at the SOI prerelease will go a long way towards shaving discounts off the new Standard staples that you’re hunting for in the set.

End Step

While we’re still on the subject of double-sided cards, I want to talk for a minute about Delver of Secrets. Once heralded as the Nacatl of the skies while terrorizing eternal formats, Delver’s wings have been clipped for a while now, and we haven’t seen him show up recently in any sort of high-level event. What I have seen, is a group of people advocating picking them up at their current $1.50, and foils at $10, as a result of the checklist card from before confirming an absence of reprints. I honestly don’t think that alone is enough to cause demand for Delvers to increase, so I would personally away away. As a matter of fact, I sold every single Delver that I owned to Card Advantage back in Georgia for $1.00 each (which is also an example of how strong their buylist is).

 

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Point-Counterpoint: Is Legacy Running out of Fading Counters?

I’m not going to call it a death knell. I’m not going to say the sky is falling. I’m not going to call it the hammer that shatters the format. But I’m also not going to shy away from it and what it indicates.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Star City Games made some very large waves Monday afternoon when it announced changes to its Organized Play system. Not only has the Open Series been renamed the “SCG Tour”—a weak imitation of the Pro Tour for sure, but still a positive development overall for Magic — and announce changes to some prizes and events, but it absolutely gutted its schedule of Legacy events.

To be sure, there’s a lot to digest from the full announcement, and I highly recommend reading it in full. Before I get into today’s full topic, I’ll touch on one thing I’m not concerned about: the slightly reduced number of events. SCG follows Wizards of the Coast in this regard, and while it does likely mean we haven’t had the explosive growth in the playerbase we had during the five previous years, tournament Magic is still incredibly healthy. SCG expanded its offerings at the lower levels, and the truth is that no matter how many people play Magic, the ecosystem can still only support so many events. With SCG and Wizards both lumping so many onto the schedule, it was bound to hit a wall sooner or later. Prize support is still strong across the board—heck, Wizards increased the prize for winning a GP to 10 grand—so this doesn’t throw up any flags for me.

But what does hit a few is the dearth of Legacy events on the first part of the schedule. I’ve had a few conversations on Twitter and elsewhere about what exactly this means, and there are a ton of ways to interpret it, but all readings try to answer one basic question:

Is Legacy Dying?

I’m approaching this from a neutral perspective, and I want to make that clear before I dive in. There are a ton of heated opinions on both sides of the aisle here, and truthfully, no one can say for sure what the future holds. So sitting here and just throwing my opinion out at you like it means anything more than the next players’ simply because I have a platform would be, frankly, arrogant of me. But what I can do is present the evidence we have, and allow all of us to draw our own conclusions.

With that said, let’s dig in.

Point: Star City Games has Functionally Dropped Legacy Support

For years, Star City’s Open series was the heart and soul of Legacy. Every Saturday would be a boring Standard format, but on Sunday we’d all have fun watching or playing Magic’s most exciting and diverse format. Survival-Vengevine broke out and broke the metagame, though it was ultimately a blue-black Merfolk deck that won the Grand Prix where Survival emerged.

This was of huge interest to the community at-large, and Survival of the Fittest began to inexorably take over the format. I played a lot of Legacy during this time, and when Survival was ultimately banned, I split the finals of an Open with Merfolk, kicking off what became the second-best romantic relationship of my life. I say this not because it’s hugely relevant to SCG’s actions, but to show that I’m not some shadowy finance guy who doesn’t know anything about the community; instead, I was as keyed in then as I am now, doing regular coverage.

So Legacy was huge then, and we saw rapid growth on a lot of cards in the format, or cards that might break out. So much so, in fact, that growing concern over the Reserved List became a huge, contentious issue again. Ultimately, this played into the creation of Modern, which both served as a replacement for the lagging Extended format and gave Wizards an eternal format not constrained by cards that wouldn’t be reprinted.

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At first, SCG ignored the fledgling format, and even Modern 1Ks on Sunday failed to generate huge interest. I recall a conversation I had with a senior member of SCG around 2012 where he told me very simply how the company felt about Modern:

“You can see how we feel about it based on the schedule.”

At the time, that meant the company was fully committed to Legacy, which continued to be heavily supported. Today, we have just one Legacy event on the schedule for the first four months of the 2016 season.

Counterpoint: This is a Small Sample, Not a Mission Statement

It may seem from this that SCG is just off of the Legacy train. But let’s not forget that the company has always led the way when it comes to Legacy support, and it wasn’t that long ago that Grand Prix New Jersey completely ran the Legacy hype train off the rails—people were talking of taking freaking Standard decks to the event just to be there and get the playmat and deckbox and signed Brainstorm paraphernalia. Excitement ran wild, and the event ended up drawing more than 4,000 players, an incredible number for any event.

That’s hardly the sign of a dying format. Sure, SCG has pulled support of Legacy in their Open Series early in the year, but it doesn’t have a Legacy Grand Prix on the schedule this year. Why would a company support a format that ultimately ends up promoting someone else’s GP instead of its own? In this context, it makes sense why SCG would instead throw its support to other formats.

Point: Modern has Eclipsed Legacy as the Eternal Format of Choice

If there’s ever a contentious point to make, it’s this. But at the same time, this seems to certainly have evidence to support it. It’s evident in SCG’s scheduled events, in WOTC’s schedule events—including the Pro Tour—and Modern certainly generates more headlines. These days, it’s very rare when new cards come out that we talk about their Legacy playability; instead we’re much more interested as a community in how they’ll do in Modern. Because of this, there’s always something new to consider with the format, and every few months we see something new break out.

This speaks to how Modern—with its carefully curated banned list—is viewed by the majority as a more exciting format. I see a ton of players come into my store hoping to gets certain cards to break into Modern, but almost never does someone come looking for Legacy cards. Nearly every LGS around here has weekly Modern events, but none of them carry Legacy events. While this isn’t the same throughout the country or world—at least in the U.S., the coasts have more Legacy players than the Midwest or South—it’s certainly part of a larger trend.

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And while we talked about how Grand Prix New Jersey hit big numbers, it failed to surpass Grand Prix Richmond, which is still the third-largest Grand Prix to date, with only the two Modern Masters Vegas events passing it. In this world, if you’re not growing, you’re dying, and these things seem to indicate that Modern is growing and Legacy is not. Legacy is not irrelevant because of these things, but Legacy has become to Modern what Vintage is to Legacy—existent with a passionate community but ultimately less relevant.

Counterpoint: Modern and Legacy Can Coexist Peacefully, and It Doesn’t Have to Be One or the Other

Everything said about Legacy and Modern—that one is less prevalent than the other on the schedule, one generates more day-to-day social media interest and headlines—can be said about Modern compared to Standard, as well. After all, no format is more played than Standard, and it dominates the Pro Tour schedule, not to mention being the LGS format of choice by and large. If we were to sample a given time period’s top headlines, it’s highly likely Standard would dominate Modern in those regards. But I don’t think anyone would say Modern is dying because these facts hold true, so why is it used to say that Legacy is dying?

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Furthermore, fewer events doesn’t mean less interest—it simply means more pointed interest. The fact that Legacy doesn’t change as often as Modern is seen by many as a benefit since the deck you build today is less likely to get banned or hated out when you do get to play it. Legacy’s metagame doesn’t change as much as Modern’s simply because there are more cards legal, and this fact will automatically generate fewer day-to-day headlines. But that doesn’t mean people care about the format less, it just means there’s no need to obsess over it every day. And because the schedule isn’t saturated with events, the ones that do happen will have more success thanks to the condensed air time. No one gets tired of Legacy when you don’t have it shoved down your throats every week; can the same be said of Modern?

There’s more to a format than number of events and Reddit upvotes. Legacy has a thriving community and is in no way falling off.

Point: Legacy Prices on Staples Flatlined or Declined in 2015

Allow me a few graphs to illustrate this point.

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That’s a lot of downward movement, and it’s certainly atypical from what we’ve seen in the past, where Legacy seemed to be a growing format rather than a stagnating or declining one. I spend more time tracking price movements of cards than 99.9 percent of people who play this game, and I can tell you that it’s extremely rare that I see Legacy cards make it onto the weekly or monthly interests page.

When I started playing this game seven years ago, there were always Legacy movements happening. A new deck would break out at an event, and cards would shoot up. Even if there wasn’t a new event, the substantial growth of players getting into the format would increase prices steadily enough to frequently make new cards worth watching. These days, that’s left solely to the purview and Standard and Modern.

Modern prices have, as a whole, increased despite reprint pressure in Modern Masters 2015. The reason is that more people want to play the format and are willing to purchase the cards, which moves the price up, regardless of card prices beforehand. If the same were true in Legacy, we’d see duals rising. Instead, they’ve fallen flat, and despite 2015 being another banner year for Magic, some of its most iconic cards couldn’t keep up with the growth. If Legacy were truly still growing, why wouldn’t this be the case? Even the most stapleish of all staples—Force of Will and Wasteland—experienced a flat or slightly negative 2015.

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Even if you want to suggest that the movement in duals is tied to playability, it’s hard to make the same argument about these two cards, which are perpetual must-haves of the format. If Legacy were truly growing rather than fading, these graphs would look far different.

Counterpoint: Sure, 2015 Was Weak, but These Cards Are All Still Higher than They Were Two Years Ago

For a game that’s been around for nearly 25 years like Magic, taking one year of price movement to try and illustrate a trend for an eternal format is silly. No one claims the stock market is dying because it experiences a bad year or two. Trying to draw blanket conclusions from Legacy based on 2015 alone is a wasted exercise.

And if the format were truly fading, why are prices still far higher than they were two years ago, in many cases? The run-up was so much, so fast it’s natural to expect some settling, and these will rebound in the future.

Not to mention, there are a ton of factors that explain why prices didn’t move besides claiming the format is dying. It’s no secret Star City Games leads the market in these cards, and the run-up to Grand Prix New Jersey was a result of great advertising and market influence by SCG. Given that the company doesn’t have a GP this year to draw people to, why would it need to buy staples so aggressively? When the market leader has a Grand Prix-level reason to support these staples again, the movement will pick right back up.

Point: The Reserved List Exists, so Legacy Will Never Be Able to Be Played by Anything More than the Most Hardcore of Players

It’s a simple concept. There are exactly X number of dual lands on the market, and that number decreases every year as copies are lost or destroyed. Furthermore, because there will never be reprints of these cards, there is a hard cap to the number of players who can play top-tier Legacy decks at any given time. How can a format be anything but dying when the copies of cards needed to play literally die off more and more every year?

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Even if we don’t reach the “hard cap” in Legacy, there’s a reason Reserved List staples have trended up over the last few years: only the most dedicated and well-off financially will be able to play. More and more players are priced out of the format every year, and they give up and sell their finite copies of dual lands, which go to players buying in who are willing and able to pay a premium for the chance to play Legacy. It’s very much a luxury among luxuries; after all, we see NBA teams get sold for more and more every time one comes for sale, but I still count only 30 teams in the league. It’s hard to call that “growing,” and as we established earlier, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

Counterpoint: These Factors Have Been True for Years, and Haven’t Stopped Legacy’s Growth

Continuing the NBA example, it’s also hard to call that “dying,” either. If people are willing to pay more and more to buy in, what is that if not a sign of the format’s popularity? And given that popularity, how can you say that Legacy is dying?

Also, I haven’t seen TCGplayer sell out of dual lands recently. As of this writing, there are more than 100 copies of even the most popular blue duals available. If this “hard cap” was so dangerous, why haven’t we seen the market sold out yet? And for every dual that becomes “lost,” another becomes found. People are still turning up collections from the ’90s that are loaded with duals, and the number that are actually destroyed is so minuscule it doesn’t affect the overall market.

A fraction of the money cards.

Attendance at Legacy events has continued to be strong, and players find ways to play even if it’s not with the most expensive duals. And when Standard can cost over $700, how is using the price of Legacy staples — that don’t rotate — a point against the format?

Conclusion

I have to say, I feel like both sides of these arguments have merits, and the truth likely lies somewhere in between. For me, the problem lies in the question itself: so many people are worried about proclaiming the “death” of Legacy because it’s a flashy headline, but the truth is that Legacy doesn’t have to be in the spotlight every single weekend to be relevant.

But no matter how I evaluate each individual point, it all comes back to one simple question for me: is Legacy more relevant today than it was five years ago? Will it be more relevant five years from today than it is now? I think it’s hard to argue that it will be. Wizards of the Coast has proven that it’s Modern that will be getting the support, both in reprints and in events, and over time, the format will continue to eclipse Legacy.

Yes, it will be fun whenever we get a Legacy event or there’s one on Twitch, just like it’s fun when Vintage occupies that niche now. There are way more cards out there for Legacy, so it will never truly be as rare or expensive as Vintage, but it will continue to be pushed into that corner, where it’s a luxury hobby within a luxury hobby. I don’t think this constitutes dying or even “fading,” but it’s hard to see Legacy being more relevant five or ten years from now than it was five or ten years ago.

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That will mean something different to everyone, and the most important thing to consider moving forward is how you plan to interact with the format. If you want to be a hardcore Legacy player, I suggest looking toward local and regional events—many of which are already springing up to fill the void SCG left—and finding ways outside of SCG to support that hobby. If you’re a casual fan who enjoys watching the format, this will make those events we do get all the more exciting. If you’re someone who wants to get into competitive Legacy, this may make the transition a little bit easier in the coming years.

For all of us, what’s far more important than worrying about whether or not Legacy is “dying” is worrying about how you want to go about enjoying it. Because it is a fun ride, and that’s never fading away.

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter/Twitch/YouTube

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