No really, this is meant as a mature discussion about replica cards in Old School

Intro: Lose with what you have:

As much as I enjoy playing Type 1 –Doh! – I mean Vintage MTG, I think Old School is probably my favorite format. Ironically, one of the greatest things to me about Old School MTG is that the DCI (you know, WOTC) isn’t involved in any way.  In fact, it’s (mostly) “grassroots”, driven by community participants, with only minor periodic influence from vendors.  Now you would think that means it’s a format all about the game itself, and collecting and socializing, and not structured to encourage/push card sales, and that’s mostly accurate (aside from outlying ass hats like vintagemagic wishing they could jump in on the OS bandwagon as though they are a standard-bearer for the format.  Its entertaining watching Daniel wish he were somehow the “face” of Old School).

Sometime ago I was on Reddit and reading the Old School MTG sub. And, there was ‘dis guy…’dis guy, who was asking for input about an OS event he was considering hosting. Cool, so I shared my input suggesting the event be friendly toward replica cards.  What I confirmed that afternoon, is that there exists a portion of this “grassroots” OS community that appears to be driven by something other than the game or nostalgia.  Where collectors try to outshine each other with schoolyard comparisons of whose collection is worth more…  As if they haven’t moved past adolescent reasoning that their value as a person is measured by a financial metric.

What if we weren’t talking about Magic, but something else that people collect but don’t need – sports cars…..?  What if they saved up and paid $65k for a Corvette, and I just bought an identical one for $165.78? I mean, who cares, right?  We both can be a part of the Corvette car club, and have Corvette racing flags on our shirts, and both take the same back roads on Corvette poker runs….why is everything equal, as long as I also paid $65k for my Corvette?  If I paid fractions in comparison, why am I now a “cheater”?

I digress too easy sometimes.

Now, in spite of this unique element of what I term “competitive greed” within the OS community, this community really is one of the nicest, most inclusive, friendly MTG communities to be a part of.  Players freely share cards back and forth, help educate each other on this and that, they aren’t critical of each other’s deck choice, or card selection.  They get it when someone says they are playing with a card because “it just looks cool”.  No worries.

In comparison, the Old School community really is the mature, grown up version of MTG, with a median age I can only speculate is somewhere around 35 to 40 years old. Woman, minorities, anyone who may feel marginalized, bullied, or judged in Modern, Legacy, or Standard, would love to join the OS community.

That is, if they could afford to join the OS community….

Because although OS folks pride themselves on saying “play with what you have”, that notion really applies to every MTG community, and isn’t unique to OS.  It actually translates to “lose with what you have”.  The staples, iconic cards….hell even the uncommons in OS are outrageously priced and are climbing as speculators and businesses buyout the RL.

So, this leads me to this post where I want to take time to go point by point why the OS community should pause…….(deep breath)..…and seriously consider the inclusion of high quality replica cards in organized events.

Together, I want us to examine both sides of current key points, look at a few fallacies that exist, discuss practical solutions, and ultimately learn how the most high, exalted ex-president Bill Clinton has shown all of us the pathway to enlightenment on this very subject.  (Hint: The way to harmony lies in four little letters).

I anticipate this will take a good bit of text to cover everything, but hang in there, and as long as I don’t get too lazy, or sidetracked with other crap this just may end up being helpful.

But first a few housekeeping items:

protest this shit

  1. Laugh a little. We all get so emotionally charged with senseless debates today (such as if replica cards should be allowed in a casual format) that we forget that some things are just meant to be humorous, silly, absurd, and not intended to insult. If you read something here that you would laugh at if it were a different discussion topic, then laugh.  Laughing at something I write, doesn’t mean you agree with me, or admit that I am correct, it just means that whatever I wrote was, in fact, silly.  That’s cool.
  1. Follow The Golden Rule. If you want others to be rational, mature, objective, non-assuming, and just plain “groovy”, then be “groovy” yourself, even if the other person isn’t.  If you are that one reader (Heath) who is violently opposed to using replica cards in organized events, or any proxies at all, this is where I ask you to set your emotions aside for a few moments, breathe, and just slow down while you read this.  Actually listen to the words you are reading here, and don’t let your emotions drive your mind to wander while your eyes are scanning the text.  There is (some) mature logic here, and those of you who understand how to objectively read without presumptions, excuse this point, its not for you.  Assume the opposition (me, the writer) is coming from a good place and not trying to trick you out of something.
  1. Keep in mind that sometimes there are hidden agendas behind the scene of a source of information you receive. A specific example to illustrate, if you read an article from Channel Fire Ball remember that Channel Fire Ball exists to make money. If the conclusion of the article is that you should do or shouldn’t do something because it will hurt card value, or you should hurry and get these Invasion commons now, before they hit $3/ea…well…maybe you should just file that article away for future reference and not “do or don’t do” whatever the article tells you.  Everyone needs to understand that in the bigger MTG scheme of things, websites, with their dozens of daily articles, videos, tweets, etc. use those as a marketing tool to drives sales.  Its good, smart business in today’s world.  This principle also applies to you tube content creators and even similar self-employed individuals. But you need to be cognizant of it, so you still form your own perspectives, with your own best interest in mind.

 

  1. Some casual definitions for the purpose of you and I being able to communicate with each other, apples to apples. Hold you anger until we get finished with these. These are my definitions, and I am sure you can go to “Magitator’s always wrong.com” to find different syntax of these definitions, but whatever…this is how I refer to these things:
    • Proxy – Any card used in place of another, which doesn’t pretend to be the actual card. Could be home-made, professionally printed, use alternate art, or simply state “P” or “Proxy”, or “Not for Sale” on it.  Could be a paper copy of the card slipped in a sleeve, or a sticker placed on a card.  Could be an Island with “Mox Sapphire” written on it.  Whatever works.
    • Replica – A card with nearly identical card stock, color, imaging, texture, lettering, etc of the real card it is used in place of. A replica is 99.99998% of the time professionally printed on a 4 layer (or maybe higher) printing press, using multi-card sheet templates, cut by machine, and sold by vendors, usually out of China, and are honestly sold for what they are – replica cards.  Most replica cards have difficulty re-creating the feel of the original MTG card, and have a really tough time with producing the same lettering details, the same esoteric print errors, rosette patterns, and black layers.  If you de-sleeve and directly handle a replica card, it will be quickly apparent it is not the real card. However, most Replicas tend to be high enough quality to allow a player to create appropriate wear (see “ageing”), double sleeve, and play with the rest of their deck without any distractions.  Replicas are close enough to the real thing to allow both players to experience the same gameplay as if the original card was being used, for only $2/card.
    • Counterfeit – Any card (no matter the level of quality) used 1) to defraud someone in the passing possession of the card, and 2) exists for no other reason than for said fraud. In all my experience playing MTG, and specifically years of using proxies and replicas, I still haven’t run into any instance of a card intended to be used to defraud someone into a bad trade or purchase as if it was real. I have seen idiots list replicas for sale on eBay without noting that they are replicas, but that’s about it. I also saw a news article a while back where one of those eBay idiots was actually arrested for doing so. I don’t doubt that some of you have worked at an LGS where someone tried to sell you a card as if it were real, but I haven’t experienced any of it. They key here isn’t how well the card imitates the original, but the card being used as the original in a change of possession, that shifts it into the counterfeit category. A high quality replica that changes possession as a high quality replica is not a counterfeit – it is a replica.
    • Card “Ageing” – The art or skill of taking a replica card and modifying it to give the appearance of wear and damage which would likely be present with a card as old as it is. Some players simply shuffle cards over and over hundreds of times to create aging, some players use direct abrasive removal methods, some add natural dirt and grime, while others actually add dyes, inks, and paints to cards.  It takes a definite knowledge of old cards and a high level of skill to appropriately age a card without creating unnatural wear patterns.  Appropriate “aging” = a more realistic experience in an OS game of MTG, which I will go into further later on.

I know, some of you are stressed and angry, just reading my definitions, so to start, lets talk about the areas we agree.  In the simple exercise of listing these points out, I was impressed to see both camps are really closely tied together. Even though we easily fall into a default “us vs them” mentality, and instinctively assume “they” means those guys are the complete opposite of everything I think/feel, this simply isn’t accurate.  See here:

  1. Its awesome the DCI and WOTC isn’t involved in Old School MTG. This means the current banned/restricted lists (and there are many) are decided by us, with the purpose of furthering the play experience we all have, not by targeting a successful archetype, or creating a rotational card pool.  A TO can have 100% proxy events without fear of the WOTC police. No DCI means that you can down a pint while tapping two blue for a Counterspell.  It also means if you retweet a spicy/edgy meme on your twitter page, you won’t have WOTC’s Special Police Internet Task Force On Social Crime (SPITFOSC) sending you an angry-mail informing you they are investigating a harassment claim against you.  No DCI, No WOTC = good for OS.
  1. Old School gameplay is preferred. Nothing surprising here, but its worth mentioning that we all believe a single open green mana could mean I shouldn’t allow that Juggernaut to go unblocked, especially if I am at 10 life, or that it doesn’t necessarily matter that I am at two life and you are at 17, because on my next upkeep, we are gonna swap those numbers around.  It also means that I can strategically plan around your counter-magic by closely watching your available mana, no matter how many cards are in your hand. It means if I can get a 2 or 3-power flyer on the board, that guy just may be able to win the game.  Generally speaking most of us like a “less-creature-ability-focussed” game, which allows spells and artifacts more room to be “swingy” and have an impact on the game.
  1. We love the artwork and “feel” of the old cards. Many players continually express being drawn to and preferring the aesthetics of the old frame, artwork, and flavor text of the old cards.  I guess there may be players who play OS that might prefer newer graphics, but it’s sorta the point of OS magic to experience the same feel the game had when it first came out, so the player base would naturally default to those who prefer that original style.  Many also like the odd idiosyncrasies of the original prints runs, where there were too dark or saturated inks, or too light inks along with white borders, or whatever.

 

  1. Probably the biggest area both camps agree on is the nostalgia inherent in Old School MTG. So many players are drawn to the format by their experiences when playing the game back in 1993 and 1994. Holding cards in their hands that they haven’t tapped in 20 years floods their minds with old emotions the way the smell of cologne and the tastes of foods do. Many grew up spending their weekends in a 70s or 80s dining room rolling dice hoping to make a saving throw against a green dragon chlorine breath weapon (who else was excited to see the kids playing DnD at the beginning of E.T.?), or Saturday mornings watching Transformers and GI Joe cartoons, playing with He-Man action figures.  Many OS players feel like they are back in their College Student union, or middle school Cafeteria when they pay to pump a revised Shivan. Not everyone is old enough to be scared of a nuclear holocaust watching The Day After, but most OS players probably paid attention to news enough to know that Reagan seemed like a friendly grandpa, and so its no wonder Gorbachev would like him – because who doesn’t like friendly grandpas? Generally speaking these common denominators, now the worn out soundtracks to a lot of OS player’s lives, are the bulk of the conversations we have with other OS players.  Not deck-tech, not current politics, not even MTG finance….but instead its “Hey, I remember that song!” or “That show was awesome!”

 

  1. Card prices have gotten out of hand. Yes, yes, I can hear the few of you out there who are screaming at me through the intrawebnet.  Truth is, as much as the greedy little part in you is excited your Juzam Djinn can be sold for $950 now, when we sit down and play, we both shake our heads and go “Wow, can you believe how much this Juzam is now?  Its insane, that just a short while ago, it was like $250…cray-cray.”  The possibility that you could spend $35 on a card now, and that in a year, it might top $125 is exciting, sure.  But just about every person I have encountered playing OS agrees that the current prices are not justifiable, and can’t believe people will actually pay so much for cards.  Anecdotal?  Maybe, but there isn’t much evidence to point to on this topic of replica cards (pro and con) that isn’t.

So with these points of agreement in mind (prices are too high, OS gameplay is groovy, we love the aesthetics of OS, WotC abandoned us and vintage formats years ago, and isn’t it cool to see this card again?), lets look at the first facet of replica cards in Old School – “proteckt yo’ junk!”

Part 1 – Card Protection 101

In the 80s, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) became prevalent, spawning many public education efforts, benefits, government programs, and inspiring a great deal of unnecessary fear among the ignorant of American Society.  OS players who grew up in the 80s may remember the 1990 story of young Ryan White who contracted the illness innocently via hemophilia treatments – a heartbreaking story of courage, perseverance, and the horrible prejudice he faced.  Same with three brothers, Ricky, Robert, and Randy Ray in Florida.

The disease primarily spread through intimate contact between partners, so there was a self-righteous ignorance among many in America that individuals diagnosed with the disease, by default must have done something to “deserve it”.

How does this relate to OS MTG, and especially replica cards?  One of the primary tools for stopping the spread of the disease was the use of “protection” by those involved.  In addition, there was a lot of truth in the notion that the best way to keep from contracting the disease was to remain abstinent, and have no intimate contact at all.

At the risk of being crude, you will note that we in the OS community nearly without fail, use deck protection when playing with our OS decks.  From Ultra-Pro to Ultimate Guard, Legion to KMC there exists a huge business in card sleeves and deck box protection.  And OS players dive deep into that market not only by buying expensive deck boxes, suitcases, and playmats, but also using thin plastic sleeves to slide their cards into.  Most even double-sleeve, for extra protection.  Sure, some OS gamers think of themselves as Alpha-males who play bare-back and only hold their decks together with a thin rubber band, and they know the risks they are taking in exposing their decks to the dirt and elements, but they believe that the feeling they get from playing one on one “au naturel” is worth the risk.  If a drink were to get spilled on their Beta Tundra, those sitting next to them would remark “that’s what you get for not using protection”, and frankly, they would be correct.

And yet, as irreplaceable as those rare cards are, some players will still take that risk.   But no one is forced to take that risk – and this is important.  The fact that one person can choose to play with no protection, doesn’t mean their opponent can’t play with protection.  The two aren’t dependent on each other.

Taking this adolescent analogy further, if one bare back player wants to use no sleeves, how can the other player use the greatest form of protection – abstinence? They can do so by not using their real cards at all, and instead use replica cards.  Referring back to my definition of replica cards (link) you may remember what I am conveying here is that the use of a replica card in place of a very expensive real card will allow both players to experience the same one-on-one intimate game, without the distraction of a proxy card, yet still allowing for the highest level of protection for their valuable cards.

If you have no skin in the game, you can’t really loose…

But aside from simply protecting very valuable cards from accidents and subtle play damage, there remains the very real concern about security of those same assets.  Yes, for many, their valuable cards in their OS decks are some of the most valuable personal assets they own.  They may have a $4,500 12-year-old car, rent a two bedroom apartment, and only save $50/check in a 401k, but they have a $3,000 Lotus, a few black border dual lands ($2,000 each?), multiple $1,300 moxen, other $250 to $750 spells in their deck…easily over $15,000 in a single deck alone.

Even with a great collector’s insurance policy…how comfortable are they really with playing games, out in public places, drinking alcohol….?  If they were very into playing chess for example, but when playing chess, they had to have $15,000 in cash bills sitting on the table next to them, as an “entrance fee” of sorts – they would laugh out loud and go play somewhere else.  No one would do that.

Yet, we OS players do.

Not only could single cards innocently get shuffled up in opponent’s decks, but other nefarious individuals could easily slip out of a brewery with your $15,000 deck, and even if you filed a police report, and even if there were good CCTV footage capturing full face images of your bad guy…they still have your cards, and can pawn them off all over the world, relatively easily.  You may get a payout from your collectible insurance policy (sans deductible), but go ahead and try to replace your deck with that money – especially if you have other bills/debts to pay.  You may only end up replacing half of it, and be out of OS for a long time rebuilding your valuable staples back up.

Now, had those valuable cards have been high-end, aged replicas, you might be out about $2/card, and would likely be more upset about losing the cool deck box you had your cards in, or the 18 Beta basic islands that are now gone…

I prefer that scenario, where I am abstinent, and have no “skin” in the game.

Replica cards being implemented in this scenario just make sense to me.  However, I entirely respect anyone of the opinion that playing OS like this wouldn’t “feel” the same.  What chaps my hide is that same respect currently isn’t reciprocated.  If I were honest with my opponent that I was using replica cards, primarily for the security and protection of my real cards, I would be attacked with the same vigor and animosity as if I were actively trying to sell him a (now) counterfeit card.  And that same opponent would even use much of the same “counterfeit” language…as if it were somehow applicable.

Next, we’ll take a look at “The OS experience”

Part 2 – Replicas and the OS Experience

In this installment on using replica cards in OS, I address a rather nebulous but key facet of the discussion I call the “OS experience”….

Tom is playing against Heath in some OS 93/94. Tom is relatively new to the OS community, doesn’t have a vintage collection of cards, but is fascinated with the artwork, the swingy gameplay, and the welcoming attitude among everyone.  Since Tom has two young kids at home, and is the only breadwinner in his household, he can’t afford to dip so deep into his finances to get dual lands, Juzams, or even the Thunder Spirits to finish off his white weenie deck.

Tom is left with a relatively weak pile of entry-level cards that, at least for now, are lower cost.

Heath has been playing MTG since the 90s, is single, high school teacher with tenure, has chosen to forego contributing to a 401k, and instead invest in P9, duals, and other RL OS staples.  Heath’s  pretty comfortable in his life, and prioritizes MTG very high among his time, money, and attention.

Every game they play, Heath crushes Tom.  He’s friendly, and polite about it, but Tom never has a chance.  One game, Tom got close and had the momentum, getting Heath to 5 life pushing through Berserkered fliers….until Heath drops a Mirror Universe and flips that game around, Hurricaning Toms new 5 live away.

Tom is left with a horrible gaming experience.  Heath was nice, but clearly has an insurmountable card advantage.

Until, Tom meets Bob who turns him on to Chinese replica cards, which Tom buys, and is now able to flush out 4 full OS decks, at a power level strong enough to go about 50% again Heath’s decks. Some of you would say “Magi-baby, wait a minute.  Winning isn’t everything.  OS school is about the Nostalgia and getting together and just playing the game”.  Correct, but losing is a Herzberg hygiene demotivator, which keeps new players away from any game or play format.  If all people do is lose, the majority become disinterested and won’t play anymore.

But here is the real question.  Regarding the following week’s games between Heath and Tom, why would Heath care at all that Tom is using a card that was printed by Carta Mundi in 1994 versus using the same card, printed by Juang Chu Len in Shenzen in 2017?

As a real “replica” card, Tom’s Tundra would look, feel, and appear the same as Heath’s.  I am not talking about a proxy card, but a true replica.

So why would Heath care?  Why would Heath, by default, prefer having less opponents to play with, and have those opponents be at a lower level of competitive capability?

Wouldn’t it be a better game experience for both players if Tom was able to be honest and share with Heath that his Tundra was a replica, and for Heath to just be happy to have a new person to play against?  Heath would get some fun, competitive games in, Tom would gain more experience and get a nice break from the kids, and both would walk away happy.

Instead, Tom knows, because Heath has always been so vocal against anyone using Proxies, that if Tom were honest about the new replicas cards he has, that Heath would no longer be welcoming and friendly, and in a best case scenario, refuse to play.  So Tom is left to be “dishonest” and play as though the new cards are in fact original WotC cards.

Now, if Tom does this, Heath’s gaming experience is exactly the same.  Think about that.  Heath’s gaming experience only changes with the knowledge of replica cards.  His perceived reality remains the same, until he eats of the tree of knowledge.

The difference is Tom spends his “honesty” as the ticket price to enter the OS theme park, where Heath spends literal money to enter.  Tom shouldn’t have to put his integrity aside to play, as someone’s integrity is worth far more than money.  Yet, Heath has forced this set of circumstances by not having the ability to see the bigger picture, even if its unintentional.

The logical solution, is that Tom be honest, and that Heath just not give a shit.

Now, this all changes if Tom doesn’t respect Heath’s expectation to have a nostalgic OS experience.  By this, I mean Tom has to respect and be willing to protect Heath’s desire to feel as though he is playing against someone else who using the same 93/94 cards, using the same rules, etc.  This nostalgic experience gets ripped from Heath if he is distracted by Tom using a Tundra with a “pink” spiral behind the text box.  You know what I am talking about – you have seen them too.  Proxies printed at a quality level low enough that they just look obviously “off”.  This same point is why foils, and alternate art printed proxies are typically frowned upon in OS – its too distracting from the OS experience for a large portion of the player base.

So, if Tom is going to use a replica card, out of respect to all the Heaths he may play against, he will push for the highest quality replica cards he can get, and if they don’t have the same age, color, as the original, Tom will not sleeve them up.

There is a give and take on both sides of the spellground here to maintain the best OS experience for both players – Tom has to have really high quality replicas, and Heath has to be open-minded.

Part 3 – You Stole my Lotus!

Damn, I would be so pissed if someone stole one of my Black Lotuses (Loti?).  Well, in fact, I have been pissed anytime anyone has stolen anything from me, but my Lotuses really mean a lot personally, and have value to me, not tied to a Dollar amount.

But in this installment on replica cards in OS, I am not addressing card security (I already covered that), but instead the fervor that some players respond to the suggestion of using replica cards instead of real cards in games – over card value.  As much as I see other replica cards get dropped down on the table across from me (and I just never say anything), I also encounter a fierce, near violent remnant of players who are so offended by the notion, that they respond as if you literally just stole their Black Lotus from them.

Why?

The argument is that the existence of replica cards lowers the value of their own cards, and pushing their train of thought to an extreme, its like my usage of a replica Black Lotus, just took $3,000 out of their pocket.

Now, honestly…I have tried very objectively to see this point of view, but I just can’t.  I own multiple Black Lotuses (WotC originals, mind you), and have been actively collecting proxies and replicas for nearly 7 years now.  Over those same 7 years, proxies have ramped up the quality level on a “Moore’s Law” type of slope, and yet the value of Black Lotus has steadily increased.

I see no negative correlation between the two, yet I hear that argument repeatedly.  I politely, and patiently respect that viewpoint….but its simply not accurate.

Why hasn’t the secondary market bubble burst from proxies yet?  Why are OS cards, as well as key staples in other formats, steadily increasing in value on the secondary market?

“Oh, the impact just hasn’t hit the market yet”

“The Proxies aren’t 1:1 quality yet”

“There aren’t enough of them out there yet”

As a finance laymen, I can look at a few data points to see if replicas “should” be impacting the secondary market yet.  If I were edumacated in economics, business accounting, corporate or retail finance, investment strategies, etc. I could do a much better job of this, but I think the following might shed some light:

Replicas are shopped via a number of various avenues, but for this exercise, lets just pull some simple numbers from the bootleg Reddit sub.  The sub has been around for a few years now and currently there are about 2,800 subscribers.  So let’s think of that 2,800 number as a potential pool of people who might own at least one replica Black Lotus.  Contrast that with the number of real Unlimited Black Lotuses which is believed that there may have been about 11,000 ever printed.

If that 11,000 number of original Black Lotuses is accurate, then introducing 2,800 more (replica) Black Lotuses to the player population might be similar to increasing the supply from 11,000 to 13,800 wouldn’t it?

Now, this increase to the supply would have occurred over, say the last two years, from 2016 to 2018.

Yet prices for any beat to hell condition of a Black Lotus have steadily increased.  In fact, has there ever been a time where any Black Lotus has decreased in price?  No.

In my dumb example, over those two years, SUPPLY increased by 25.5%, and card value has  — hang on – increased as well!!  Card Kingdom price history for Unl Black Lotus on MTGPrice shows a card value increase of 32.3% for the same time period.  MTGPrice Best Buy List went from $4,000 to $4,300 over the same time.

Some will say “but a Black Lotus isn’t a good example”.  True, it’s a highly iconic, esoteric, Reserve List-ed collectible item that has a ton of outlying factors at play – you are correct.

So what about other cards?  What about Shivans and Serra Angels that have been reprinted over the years? Birds of Paradise? The Beta version of those cards have, doubled or even tripled…yet high quality replicas of those same Beta versions have been out in the hands of vintage and casual players for a very long time now.

None has dropped in value.

I just received another play set of “nearly” perfect revised Tundra replica cards – they can be had from about 5 different vendors for the usual $2/each. There are reasonably thousands of replica Tundras in the wild, being used in Vintage, Legacy, and EDH decks all over.  And, looking at Tundras right now online, Revised look to be averaging $175 each, with some retailers charging over $250.  In 2013 they were $90-$125/each.

Conclusion – The “card’s will drop in value” argument simply is just a fear.  Its not applicable.

Next, Heath will present his opinion that OS is more about “the chase” than playing the game.

Part 4 – That’s…..no, that’s not it at all, man.

So, we turn our attention now to Heath and hear his opinion that the whole point of Old School Magic is “the chase” of rare, missing cards he needs for his deck.

Wrapping himself in a flag of smug indignation, Heath espouses that if I want to use replica cards (and he is still calling them illegal counterfeits, by the way), it’s because I don’t have the ability, the maturity if you will, to see the real draw to OS is the pursuit of original print hard-to-locate cards.

I am not entirely sure Heath understands the words that are coming out of his own mouth here.  Heath is claiming that OS (a format where players chose to play with only the editions of cards from a vintage two-year period) isn’t really about playing with those cards/decks, but it’s really about acquiring those cards (the chase).

A game-play format isn’t about game-play, but about collecting.

If you haven’t learned by now, Heath isn’t too bright.

OS players do LOVE collecting….and I mean they freaking dig it! But what everyone is buzzing about over the last 3 or 4 years is that now there actually is a game-play format where they can play with the cards they could only collect before!

It would be more accurate to say OS collecting is more about playing with the cards now, than it is about collecting them.  We know that is not entirely true, but it’s certainly more accurate!

But let’s assume Heath’s “questionable” sanity wasn’t so precarious for a moment.  Let’s go with that opinion…that the collecting and acquiring of the original print cards was the whole “point” behind OS…

How does what I put in the deck I am playing affect what card Heath got in the mail this week?

Seriously. Heath’s pursuit of original print OS cards is in no way affected by me using a replica card in a game.  I could even use a proxy and it wouldn’t have anything to do with his collection.  It doesn’t interfere with his 4th Beta Serra, or his 12th Juzam he is now hoarding.

Heath can continue to amass an endless library of rounded Alpha-whatevers he wants.  More replica cards being used doesn’t mean he has less Unlimited Shivan’s to buy.

I could sorta get the thinking behind the fear that good replica cards might impact card price, and lower the value of someone’s expensive collection – even though that’s not true – but this….man this is like saying me buying a BigMac and asking Marta who takes my order to hold the cheese, somehow magically removes the dressing from Heath’s chicken Caesar salad that he is having at Marie Calendars.

What.  The.  Hell?

Does Heath have a Dead Zone ability to know that I am ripping apart the OS future by using my replica Library of Alexandria – a la Butterfly Effect?

Its silly, and frankly, its an excuse, not a reason.

Speaking of reasons, let’s go back in time to a post I put on this same Old School subreddit in August of 2017, where I asked other players, “What does Old School format mean to you?”  Note: I find it interesting that of those 21 responses, none mentioned that they were excited for Old School because you could make money owning the cards, or that their collections were increasing in value due to Old School.

Here is the breakdown of the different reasons they enjoyed Old School, as mentioned in their replies:

  1. Nostalgia – the primary reason given by respondents (48%)
  2. Artwork/Card Design/”Feel” of the old cards – (38%)
  3. Gameplay – (23%)
  4. Social interactions – (9.5%)
  5. No DCI/WoTC involvement – (4.8%)
  6. Collecting Cards – (4.8%)

That’s correct, collecting OS cards was tied with no DCI involvement at the lowest percentage 4.8%  That’s one person mentioning that they enjoy collecting the OS cards.  One.  Heath, you should have logged on with a few alts and posted more replies about collecting cards…

So, with Heath not having any success trying to convince me I was committing Counterfeit Fraud by playing with a replica Emerald, Heath turns to his friends online and quips something like “yeah, Magitator just doesn’t get it”.  “He is out of touch about what it really means to be a part of the OS community”.

Sigh…..

Hopefully you see Heath isn’t considering logical reason here, but is driven by emotional reaction.

But, Heath isn’t a “bad guy” for this.  I don’t blame him for this since it’s a manifestation of his disability.

What chu’ talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?

Those of you who are aligned with me and covertly use replicas in OS need to remember this – Heath is still that same kid from Junior High who’s best come back is “oh, yeah, well, your mama”.  Have some sympathy for him, his early life was tough and now he’s found, what he feels is leverage, in this collectible card game.  So he is frightened to death to lose that.

I realize it sounds arrogant to say it, but the truth is that we need to be patient with Heath and carry him along with us.  Heath needs to be reassured that his kick ass collection of 12 Juzams is still worth, oh, I don’t know, $11K…and that its amazing that he is able to put that group of cards together.  Heath needs us to reassure him that as the format and this community moves forward, he is actually valued and respected for just being “one of us”.  Even if he had shit for cards, he would still be welcomed, as we all should be.

But Heath, if you want to remain a dumbass well then, too bad.

Part 5 – The Tale of Denny

Gather ‘round as now I shall regale you with the tale of Denny…

Denny was an auspicious chap, who began casting spells when the artifacts of Antiquity rose to fame.  And, though he fell foe after foe in duels charged with rainbows of mana, eventually, he set his spells aside and pressed forth with other distractions.

As time moved forward for Denny, the one enemy he couldn’t defeat was love, and the spell it cast over him.  He gave in to love and became entwined in a religious, social, and very legally binding manner.

When his love grew weary of him, and their time together had come to an end, Denny was informed that, due to his signing this love-enduced contractual obligation, now half of all his spellbooks will be handed over to a person he truly despised.

Denny, feeling no other option, paid 1 colorless, and tapped his Nevynrral’s Disk, destroying it all forever (the dude sold his collection so he could afford a divorce attorney and not have to hand over half of it to his “ex”).

There is only a very few people in the OS community who haven’t had to sell off their collection, or at least the valuable staples, due to some sort of critical financial situation or change in their life, such as a divorce.  Many, many, many players sold off cards, simply because they felt upset with WotC for various reasons back in the late 90s.  Early 2000’s.

They truly loved playing, and had a blast in the mid 90s, but today, find themselves in the unfortunate spot of being, well…..a victim of sorts.

When they think to themselves that MTG was so much fun for them back then, and they look into the game today, they stumble across OS and go “YES!!!  This is for me!!  It’s exactly what I wish I could play today!”

If they only still had those cards they had to sell off because their Ex forced them to come up with a down payment for a new 1999 Chrysler minivan…that shit’s just wrong.  When they had to buy list their P9 to keep paying the mortgage after getting laid off….that shit’s just wrong.

Maybe I am alone on this island over here, but I feel very strongly that guys like Denny should be able to splurge $200 on a chunk of high quality Chinese replica OS cards, toss together and sleeve up a few good decks and jam games across the same table as Heath.

Now, a funny thing inevitably begins to happen here.  It will start slowly, but Denny will find himself scrimping and saving to swap out his replicas with the real cards.  Replica Underground Seas, get replaced one by one with real Revised copies.  Replica Chaos Orbs get un-sleeved, and a real Unlimited Orb gets dropped in it’s place…and each time, you see Denny on the OS discord chat posting his “mail day” pictures.

These Replicas are not an end-state of game play, but they provide an incredible amount of flexibility and options for everyone from the newest newcomer to the format to ‘dose Swedish bros who first posted stuff online about it.

Think of Replica cards as the “X” factor filling the gaps in each of our OS game environments.

If there are newer people in an area willing to dive into OS, but they don’t have the resources (money), replicas allow them to join in.  If someone has all their P9 slabbed and graded, replicas allow them the ability to keep them slabbed, but get to use them too.

In fact, we already openly welcome anyone playing with replicas…

Whaaaaaaaaaat?  No, we don’t, do we?

Yup, we openly encourage CE/IE cards, which weren’t even printed with the intention for play.  Sold as a niche collectible in 1993, they now get drawn and tapped all day long in OS.  So, how can a HQ replica be any different from a CE/IE card? Who printed them, and when they were printed somehow mean something?

They aren’t different from CE/IE, and who/where the cards were printed makes no difference.  I mean, what if the Chinese printers began replicating CE/IE cards, complete with gold borders and square corners… what then?

Part 6 – Cheating Counterfeiters!!

One point Heath just will not be able to get, but you may, is that in the community who buy, age, and use replica cards in organized play, there isn’t a desire to defraud someone and pass replicas from one person to another (a change of possession) as if they were the real card.

In fact, behind the scenes on bootlegmtg sub and the discord chat, many watch for, and report online sale posts that might be fraudulent.  If you believe you may have picked up a fake MTG card, you could head over to the sub and they will give you their honest opinion, providing you can give good scans or hi res pictures of the card. You will likely be given a swarm of helpful hints and tips to further identify replica cards.

In fact, it’s Heath who is pushing replica cards getting closer to 1:1 quality by not accepting replicas/proxies in organized or even casual play.  When he assembles his proxy hunt crew, Juang just doubles down and makes the next print run of replicas a little better, so they can be used without detection.(and, making a killing each time too).

If Heath and his proxy brigade would calm down and not attack folks for using replicas, I konw many who would push the vendors in China for alternate back cards with 1:1 fronts, so the cards souldn’t be fradulently sold as real.  But since the back have to be able to pass as well, we end up with hi quality inventory that can be used illegally.

So, why is it that there is an accusation among Heath and his buddies that replicas are 1) cheating and 2) counterfeiting?  Besides the fact that Heath himself is a dumbass, you mean?  Well lets start with the cheating.

So when we play MTG, there is an agreed upon format (Standard, Limited, Modern, etc).  We stick to that format deck constructions rules, the rules for steps of the turns, all that.  So how is a “fake” card cheating?  Especially in a casual OS format where cards that are not even printed with the intent for play (CE/IE) allowed?

That’s a misleading question.  Obviously, cheating would be drawing two cards per turn, or using 3 Demonic Tutors, etc. To understand how Heath believes Tom using replicas is cheating, the real question that should be asked is “what game is being played”?  Because Heath isn’t playing OS, he isn’t playing Vintage, in fact Heath isn’t even playing MTG.

Heath is playing “Collector Competition”.  Heath enjoys collecting the cards, but really sees a “better” collection as an alternate win condition for the game.  It’s why he uses phrases such as “it’s a luxury hobby”, “playing is a privilege, not a right”, and “if you can’t afford it, go play something you can, like pauper”.  That immature mentality bolsters his position and justifies his ploy of acquiring better cards to play with as a literal game strategy, which by default, means he has to also keep you from getting better cards as well. When Tom can get a Lotus for $2, Heath feels that’s cheating (at collector competition).

Heath doesn’t just play when he and Tom are sitting at the table…he is trying to play a Machiavellian 24/7 strategy where there is a play environment where he can use cards that you can’t.

Truth be told, it’s really Heath who is “cheating” by trying to stack his deck, and pull cards from Tom’s deck between games…. If Heath has to buy those cards for $2000 and you can get them for $1.96, its cheating to him (even though at worst, its really just a matter of fairness).

And what about #2 – counterfeiting?

Sigh…  So, the subject of counterfeiting, well, really isn’t applicable to proxies and replica cards.  I mean, it could be applicable, if someone tries to deceive someone and change possession of a fake card as though it where the real card.

For example, if I print a shit filled blurry Ornithopter, and put it on Ebay for sale as an original real Ornithopter, and you buy it, I ship it to you, and you go, “hey, what the fuck is this shit”?  Well, that’s fraud, and the card I printed is a counterfeit.

If I put the same thing on Ebay and sell it as a shit-thopter, you buy it, I ship it to you, and you go, “what is this shit”, I will tell you it was a shitty card just like I said in my shitty item description, and I hope you enjoy the shit out of it.

But it certainly would not be fraud, and the card isn’t a counterfeit.

However, for those who are emotionally charged on the topic, it is easier , sounds “official”, and seems like they can speak from a position of legal and moral power to claim that possessing and using replica cards is illegal and toss around terms no one digs into such as “illegal counterfeiting rings”, “fraudulent”, “vigorously protecting you”, etc.

Frankly, its WotC corporate buzz words, used by WotC to make Heath and other speculators feel like WotC is actually doing something to fight the good fight to protect their vintage collectibles…..but its just “spin”.  WotC only does the bare minimum, whatever the obligatory and obvious “must do” things are to be sure they still have evidence to claim they actively fight copyright infringement, if needed in the future…because if they don’t do a bare minimum, courts can take that as them abandoning their copyright claim.

Mostly, corporate statements posted online.  That’s it.

Important side note for anyone thinking of running replica cards sales in the US:  Having a large, obscene quantity of replica cards, more than what a single person might be able to use or justify in a typical collection of MTG cards, or actually selling and trading/transferring ownership of cards here in the US can be grounds for a charge of trafficking counterfeit goods.  No matter if the seller is completely honest about the origin or not.  See the purse lady here.  It can be confusing, but trafficking can be illegal, where possession is not. But trafficking (the term “traffic” means to transport, transfer, or otherwise dispose of, to another, for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, or to make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess, with intent to so transport, transfer, or otherwise dispose of) isn’t what the WotC SJWs and Heaths of the world bitch about.  Its using them in play that they are upset about. Apples and oranges.

Although possession of replica cards may be a civil violation of copyright infringement, even that is not a criminal matter, unless maybe there exists a trafficking or fraudulent sale element to it.  Just like the music industry being upset that you have a downloaded copy of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” without paying for it, you possessing it is not a crime.

One can get very pedantic about giving a single copy to a friend as defining you as a pirated music trafficker, but that’s about the equivalent of saying Rosanne is a professional singer after she sang the national anthem at a MLB game here.

Would it be reasonable for  Sony to file a civil suit against you for one song?  What about 10 or 12 songs?  What about 10 albums?  Nope.  They could do it, but it wouldn’t be reasonable for them to.

And I would love to see how many movie files are on Maro, Elaine Chaise, or Heath’s hard drives…

And WotC has created a convoluted predicament here, especially with the Reserve List – since they have already sold all of their inventory of those booster packs.  They have already made money, they have publically promised they will never print any more, and sales of individual singles cards are not a business model they work in, so there is no business competition with the Chinese printers…there exists some legal grey areas here that would make for some interesting legal discussions.

For example, from a legal perspective, how much is a Revised Badlands worth to WoTC (who is the only party who could claim they are a victim of copyright infringement)? I understand WoTC has stated that cards in the packs, and online as well, have no value.  So how can loss be proven in a civil suit when the victim has already stated that there is no value on the item in question?

Claiming the cards do have value would open them up to running illegal gambling operation via a “pack” sale lottery system…

 Closing – Bringing it all home

Eventually, we will get there.  Card prices, especially for RL cards, will continue to climb. One day reaching the point that there will be so few people who have enough resources to be able to acquire them, that all of the available pool of players and cards will be stagnant.  Anyone with common sense would keep a $150,000 deck graded and secured because the value would simply be not worth risking by playing with the cards.

I mean, would you EVER have thought a basic land would sell for $15?

One day, the only way we will be able to play OS would be with proxies/replicas…so why all the fuss now?  Why not be open and honest and welcome them?  I don’t get it…this is a game, with a really cool collectible aspect to it – but if you take the game away, you are left with just collecting football and baseball cards. There has to be a balance.

And, why is it that Heath doesn’t mind using Cockatrice, or Untap to play the game, which contain no original electronic copies of the cards, but across the table in person….oh hell no!  Why iare replicas and proxies fine in OS online play over Skype or Appear.in, but not in real life?  There can be no other reason but to measure dicks, and hope they have “stacked the deck” enough to win.

I hearken back to Clinton’s first term, when in Feb 1994, Magic booster packs were hard to find on game shelves, and gays were, well, gay.  For whatever reasons, they were not viewed as equal to straight men and women.  And in the military, they were not permited to serve.

To serve, gays had to sacrifice their integrity and be dishonest as their entry fee.

So Bill Clinton, primarily to appease the left voter base who put him in office, implemented a solution which, even though it wasn’t truly appropriate for the homosexual community, fits perfectly for the OS game format:  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  DADT.

What if…we did the same?

What if we simply assume every spell cast was a legitimate original, and those using replicas had their shit straight and didn’t use pink spiral Tundras, because if their shit looks fake…they can’t use it?

The only difference is that TOs, and Heaths need to back off and not ask.  We won’t tell, and you won’t ask.  It’s really only a slight change from current practice, but one Heath will have a VERY hard time with.

So I have been discussing the topic of replica MTG cards within the framework of the Old School format, which just makes sense to me, especially since playing with replicas in OS events doesn’t violate any DCI rules, as the events aren’t sanctioned.

But what about other DCI sanctioned formats and events?  Aside from Vintage and Legacy where a good proportion of the player base is accepting of the many variety of proxy events, what about Modern and (gasp) Standard?

Chinese replica printers have been printing Modern staples for as long as they have been printing Unlimited Rubys.  These same points I have been making apply to Modern as well – player base filters, such as someone’s economic status, fall to the side when replica cards are introduced.  No longer do affluent punks get to maintain control just by owning the latest list of cards they read about online.

One vendor is working to get the hologram stamp down so they can begin printing Standard and more recent Modern staples…problem is that dude just happens to be a psychotic asshole, so he’s not trusted, and doesn’t have many people rooting for him.

But in Modern, with more people having access to more cards, game play becomes more important than “winning by collection”.

And, lastly…for those of you who, like Heath, want to still preach the mantra that “this is a luxury entertainment”, it’s a “privilege to play, not a right”,  or “if you can’t afford it, don’t play”….you’re just an asshole.

I’ll meet you behind the Stop-and-Go after school this afternoon and we’ll settle this.

 

 

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