“If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.” The history leading up to the printing of Nexus of Fate is as follows:
- Wizards starts printing cards that are considered “in the set” even though they don’t appear in booster packs. This happens with the Planeswalker intro decks at first.
- Wizards enacts a policy that these cards are legal in Standard (to do otherwise would result in cards that are part of a Standard-legal set not being legal in Standard, and Wizards wants to avoid this).
- Wizards is extremely careful in playing with fire printing these cards at a low power level.
- With the release of Dominaria, Wizards offers the card Firesong and Sunspeaker as part of the set, exclusively as a foil buy-a-box promo.
- Firesong and Sunspeaker is somewhat low power-level, but not in the same way that the Planeswalker deck cards are. It does something unique and at a rate that isn’t completely hobbled.
- Many players speak out against this decision, warning that even if this card doesn’t prove to be Standard playable, the next card released this way might.
- With the release of Core Set 2019, Wizards offers the card Nexus of Fate as part of the set, exclusively as a foil buy-a-box promo in paper (and exclusively through treasure chests on MTGO).
- Players speak out even more loudly about this card, which is unique, powerful, costed reasonably, and could show up as a 4-of in the event a deck does want access to it.
- The card Nexus of Fate spikes in price online and in paper.
- Wizards increases the drop frequency online to increase digital supply.
- Pro Tour 25th Anniversary features a breakout performance by David Williams, Ben Rubin, Eduardo Sajgalik, and a few others using Turbo Fog decks that rely on four copies of Nexus of Fate. Some are issued judge proxies due to some foils being marked in an otherwise non-foil deck.
- Several players begin crafting “this is fine” memes about the state of Wizards’ decision to play with fire.
What Can Wizards Do?
The possible solutions can be summarized, from Wizards’ vantage point:
- Do nothing. *Twirls mustache*, “People will learn to buy four boxes next release.”
- Admit the mistake and promise not to do it again, but leave the chips where they are for Nexus of Fate. Sometimes a Standard-legal card ends up being worth $40-80. Life goes on, and they might not have a way to get more supply created in paper Magic in a timely manner. Nexus of Fate is likely to remain a fringe player in Standard. You certainly don’t need it to be able to play a tier 1 deck.
- Admit the mistake, promise not to do this again, and fix it by changing the policy (effective immediately) for cards that don’t appear in booster packs. This one is my preference. If Wizards is using a distribution model for a card other than the booster pack, then the card shouldn’t be Standard or Modern legal. This has been a repeatable model for success with Commander products and other supplemental products, which are Legacy and Vintage legal but not Standard or Modern legal. If the concern of having Dominaria cards that aren’t Standard-legal looms too large, then don’t print any. Nexus of Fate doesn’t need to exist with the Core Set 2019 expansion symbol on it, and if it does, put it in the boosters. This isn’t that large a constraint, really.
- Admit the mistake, promise not to do it again, and ban Nexus of Fate in Standard. This works too, but doesn’t apply the fix as broadly as option 3 does.
- Admit the mistake, promise not to do this again, and find some emergency mechanism for quickly printing and distributing truckloads of Nexus of Fates. Here, the commitment would be to better understand the constrained supply and commit to easing it. I worry that the cost and complexity of doing this outweighs the benefits, but hey, they know more about those costs and how to bear them than I do.
- Stop printing promos in foil-only. Seriously, stop doing it. Whatever else you learn, learn this too. Many of us hate foils. I’ve explained this in the past repeatedly but it all seems to fall on deaf ears. Hopefully a fiasco like this can start to change that. The masterpieces, the new cards and commanders, and the slick new art piece—why should these goodies only be available to players who are okay presenting a marked deck? And again, a deck with all four copies, two foil and two nonfoil, is still a marked deck if the foils are bent or will bend (simple proof—if I draw two foil Scalding Tarns and my top card isn’t bending, it’s marked as less likely to be a Scalding Tarn. This is an advantage my opponent does not have when she draws two of her Scalding Tarns).
Just cause I can't stop talking (laughing?) at how this is a thing. Here are the beautiful proxies that @walkingbye used at the pro tour. Thanks for letting me snap a picture 🙂 pic.twitter.com/wvFIY3JRPQ
— Zac Elsik (@utdzac) August 5, 2018
What Can We Do as Players?
- Continue to make your voice heard when a Wizards distribution policy or practices negatively impacts your ability to get the cards at a reasonable price. The “stop complaining” crowd would destroy the most valuable feedback loop Wizards has. Ignore that nonsense.
- Try not to make micro-reserved-list arguments once you have bought into something others are priced out of. I describe arguments like “don’t ban it now, I just paid $40 each” as micro-reserve-list arguments where people try to lock in scarcity or the circumstances that led to it as a way to pull up the drawbridge behind them and protect their investment. If we make this argument less often, Wizards will feel empowered to increase supply with more frequency, regularity, and impact. On that last one, more impact, I wish that the Modern Masters sets had been able to more effectively lower the prices of the cards they contained. Wizards can’t 100% fully embrace “it’s just cardboard” (even though it might already be their position with the IRS?), but they should have no fear of making a $50 card a $5 card. It’s as true of Nexus of Fate as it is for Tarmogoyf. If your Modern deck loses half of its value, you get that value back in the form of a discount on your next Modern deck. And while that doesn’t hold in every single case, it is the way to keep formats like Modern (and Standard with Nexus of Fate) accessible to newer players.
- When someone loans you cards, give them back. I better wrap this up soon before I get so far off topic that I talk about lowering CO2 levels so that our great grandkids can go to FNM in coastal cities. But when cards are scarce, lending can fill in the gaps. But I’ve had to be much more conservative in how I lend cards. I used to have 30+ of every Beta basic land type, for example, and now I have less than 5 of some purely from lending to people like Tom Martell and others who can’t remember what they borrowed and what they purchased a few months or years down the line. Don’t make people chase you. Take pictures, and store notes and pics in the cloud. Do whatever you need to do to avoid this outcome.