Anyway, moving on.
So on this site, I will likely discuss a number of topics, some directly related to Magic the Gathering and some only related by an incestuous arranged union. Here is where I mention that Magic the Gathering is a collectible trading card game owned by Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast, not me. This blog/website is not affiliated with Hasbro or WOTC and in no way implies ownership of card names, images, symbols, game mechanics, their dumb backstories, corporate policies…..blah, blah, blah, whatever. Unfortunately, all opinions expressed within are mine.
That may seem like useless information and a waste for me to mention it, but in reality, it is important. You see, I am a big fan of one of the ugly unintended spawns of the Reserved List: Proxies. And, somewhere here in this pixelated drivel, I expect that I will flex my liberties bestowed upon me within the Bill of Rights and tell you how pro-proxy I am. And, I don’t feel like having a Hasbro Corporate Lawyer who is too lazy/afraid to redact the Reserve List, try to bully me into complying with his/her corporate censorship. Too bad.
Having said that — I buy proxies. Have done so for a while now. I have tried making my own, but they really don’t compare in quality, and the work I put into them “costs” me much more than simply buying them. They are for me only, I do not sell them, trade them, or defraud someone into believing they are the real thing. Like customized chess pieces produced by a master craftsman in the mountains of Colorado, I use them as you would your own store bought chess pieces. If I were playing in a tournament, and I was asked by a judge if a card I was using was a proxy, I wouldn’t care enough to lie about it:
Judge: “This Tundra spiral looks….pink? Is this card a fake?”
Me: “Yup – All of these duals are proxied. I misplaced my good Tundras so I had to use that pink one instead. Actually, the deck list itself is proxied too. And the game strategy I am using playing this deck isn’t even original; I read about it in a click-bait article and as bad as I am doing today, this will be the last time I trust that website. If fact, I don’t even own the car I came in today. I borrowed my girlfriend’s since my breaks started squeaking yesterday. Shit, you know what else? I was listening to Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All album on the way over here – which I downloaded, not bought. It’s a great album, but I have to say I think “…and Justice for All” is better because of Blackened and One.”
Judge: “ I don’t care what car you drove or what you listened to on the way over here. You knowingly are using (evil) counterfeits and are DQ’d. I am reporting your DCI number and you can expect they will ban you from sanctioned events!”
Me: “You mean the DCI number the registration booth just issued to me when I paid my entrance fee? Damn, that number had an ‘8’ and then two ‘0s’ and then another ‘8’. Do you know what word that spells out to be?! The chances of me getting that series of numbers again are as slim as the chances of you finding a sense of self respect from levelling up to Judge level 3! ”
Judge: “Yes, (looking at my registration information) Mr…Donald Trump? Your name isn’t Donald Trump”
Me: “Hey, the DCI hasn’t issued rulings against proxying someone else’s name. I can’t be banned for that.”
Judge: “What’s your real name?”
Me: “Its actually Donald Alexander Trump. Now, step out of my narrow pathway between tables so I can go to the restroom, I have to pee.”
Judge: (following me to the restroom)”What’s your real name?!”
Me: “Am I going to have to build a wall to keep you from following me?”
All this proxy stuff started about 8 years or so ago when my good friend and I were playing magic with a new group of guys one Friday night. With my old playgroup, nobody gave a shit, and you could simply print out the card you wanted to use, cut it out, and slip the piece of paper in the card sleeve, shuffle and play. But apparently this group was different. And they didn’t know me. And they thought my Beta Lotus was real from across the dining room table.
Until this one guy — lets call him “Heath” –arrogantly asks why I would play with a real Black Lotus, and not keep it in a hard case, in a safe, at home, insured, with a Magnum PI/1980s home security camera system watching it. Just like Heath did.
I somewhat laughingly picked up my card and handed it to him, saying “oh no, its not real…look. Its just a hi res printed piece of paper”.
Heath was quiet.
He continued playing his turn. In silence. Frowning.
We played a couple more turns and Heath simply couldn’t take it anymore. He got up, looked at me and at Phil, and accused us of being frauds. Cheaters. It was like the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Heath was Donald Sutherland, standing, pointing, and screeching unintelligible sounds hoping to identify us to the other “body snatchers”.
Phil and I still laugh at Heath to this day. And we doubt Heath has gotten over it yet.
As we played with other folks over the following years, the subject of proxying Magic cards, and whether they are “ethically” allowable (even at kitchen tables) has come up more and more. As you might expect, there are a vast number of people who have been naively brainwashed into thinking Proxies are….”wrong”.
And its not even like its up for debate with them. Like a 1983 Jimmy Swaggart serman preaching that Dungeons and Dragons is a subversive plot of the devil, they won’t hear any other reasonable, logical point of view. They spew forth a one-way monologue of talking points with their eyes and ears closed. Oddly enough, I kinda like Jimmy Swaggart, but he was wrong about DnD, and they are wrong now about proxies. The WOTC corporate marketing machine evangelizing innocent young minds into thinking proxies are wrong is itself, “wrong”. There is nothing morally wrong, amoral, immoral, hormonal, or any other oral about playing with them.
Especially if you use really good proxies. Crap proxies, like my pink spiral Tundra, are a joke and are so distracting form gameplay, that they should be banned – but because they are really crappy, not because some guy named Juang printed it himself in Shenzen.
But if my proxy is so good that you can’t tell the difference across the table…isn’t it a “real” Magic card then? “Don’t ask, don’t tell” should be the standard proxy policy. And, if the TO or judge needs to pull out a jeweler’s loupe (because he is an overachieving prick) then the card is “real”, whether its real or not. The tie goes to the runner.
So why are things “the way they are” today, regarding proxies? What has led us here to the place where little Timmys and Johnnys associate the word “Proxy” with something that’s “bad”. Where your LGS can’t even use the word and must instead call them “playtest” cards if allowed in unsanctioned events. How did this happen?
I have no clue. Really, I don’t. But that has never stopped me from talking as if I actually do know what I am talking about, so here goes:
If another company, organized crime syndicate, East Asia Island counterfeiting ring, or similar group had the ability to perfectly manufacture, package, and ship Magic cards in boosters and booster boxes then WOTC would be in trouble. WOTC invests heavily in guys sitting around corporate conference rooms all day slaving over heroic decisions like whether they should reprint Juzam, but at 1BBB casting cost or BBBB. All of this research and development expense puts HASBRO shareholder ROI at super slim margins and any threat to dipping below their expected quarterly profit would be cause for serious economic concern. “Something will cause us to charge less for cardboard, or cause us not to make as much money off of it? Them’s fightin words!”
Now, give credit where it is due: Magic is an amazing game. It ushered a paradigm shift in the gaming industry when it was released in 1993, and literally millions of young nerds (me included) have never been the same since playing it. It is a game, but it’s also a publicly traded business, and their highest priority is making more money. God bless them with that. WOTC, and their
evil corporate overlords parent company, HASBRO, own the intellectual rights to what they produce and sell through their micromanaged, narrowly restricted, controlled cabal of distributors and their long-suffering LGSs. They sell their product to those distributors, but after that…they have no economic loss or gain from what happens with those boosters. Whatever happens once the product leaves the printers does not affect WOTC financials in any way, because they already sold the boosters to the distributors.
But proxies aren’t sold in booster packs. In fact, they aren’t even sold as Magic cards! They are sold for what they are: fakes. They tell you straight up, here are 9 fake cards and they cost $18. There’s no gamble involved with buying proxies: “oooohhh, I sure hope I get the Golden Ticket in this booster pack”, like there is when buying a real WOTC booster. There is no false hope lottery ticket stealing your money with proxies. You get (in most cases) exactly what you expect.
WOTC doesn’t do that. Their business models are completely different, and actually, non-competitive with each other. Proxy printers supply exact order singles, and no boosters, and WOTC supplies random generated groups of cards in booster packs, and no singles.
So there is (not yet) any direct loss to WOTC with the existence of proxies. So what about indirect economic loss? If the LGSs and online stores who sell singles begin getting undercut by cheap replacements from overseas, their capital investments shrink, and they will be less able to support the local gaming community, right? Less places to play, ultimately means less boosters are purchased, and the WOTC business model constricts. Correct?
Not so fast. Online stores are just that – online businesses. Other than a few operations, they don’t enhance the local gaming community. In fact, LGSs have (generally speaking) taken a hit with the prevalence of online sales undercutting their singles. The store owners I have talked to explain that their “bread and butter” are sales of boosters and other gaming crap (dice, sleeves, boxes, etc), not really from singles.
So the only “real” financial competitors proxies go head to head with are….online sales? Yup, that’s about it. Online singles sellers, which have been known to work in concert to effect buyouts and drive singles prices don’t sell as many singles as they used to.
But aside from business
excuses reasons against proxies, aren’t proxies unethical? Like most ethics topics, that depends on to whom you speak. Little Timmys and Johnnys can only repeat what they have been told to say, so you can’t ask them. Businesses have a financial motivation and are driven by what brings in more money, so you can’t trust their opinion.
That leaves just “adults” who play Magic. And the majority of us, like it or not, are nerds. Most of us, during our formative years, were picked on, ignored, powerless, and ultimately not in control of things in our lives. In Magic, we found that missing ability – to be able to control and predict the rules of the game we were playing. And ultimately, control the rules you had to play by too.
This sense of “power” can be intoxicating. And damn you if you try to take it away from Heath, by using a hi-res scrap of paper.