We would be remiss if we didn't discuss the current state of card quality in Magic: The Gathering. Is this a widespread problem, or simply overblown by a small subset of loud disgruntled players? Let's dive in:
First, lets start off by discussing foils. Somewhere between 3-4 years ago, players began lamenting online that their foils had begun noticeably curling, sometimes just hours after opening them from their packaging. While regular foils are occasionally doing this, From the Vault foils seem to be especially notorious for it, due in part, to the special foiling process used on the product.
Unfortunately, all foiled cards will eventually warp, due to humidity affecting only the card stock and not the foiling layer on top (the moisture makes the card stock expand, and the card bend inward).
This issue was brought to the forefront last weekend as a player received a match-deciding game loss in Round 12 of GP Toronto for having a "marked" Nihil Spellbomb. With these curling issues, players are facing the very real possibility, almost certainty, of not being able to play a legal card just hours after having opened it.
I realize in this particular case, the Nihil Spellbomb was from Scars of Mirrodin, but the root of the issue remains, foil curling.
It's especially troubling that WoTC hasn't issued a statement on this yet, as per the MTG Tournament Rules, Magic Judges do not have a policy for issuing proxy cards to replace curled foils for players at the competitive level. Tournament Rule 3.4 states: "A proxy card is used during competition to represent an Authorized Game Card that has been accidentally damaged or excessively worn in the current tournament (including damaged or misprinted Limited product) as determined solely by the Head Judge. Proxies are not allowed as substitutes for cards that their owner has damaged intentionally or through negligence." In essence, a head judge can only issue a proxy card for cards damaged in the course of play at the event.
I've seen some people argue that players just shouldn't play foils in competitive events and that would solve the "marked cards" issue. Well, while being correct, they're also wrong in thinking that should be the players' solution. Players should not have to shy away from using any legal-for-the-format card. Plus, you run into cards like Kess, Dissident Mage, whose only printing came in foil from the Commander Series. No options there, but to not use her.
In addition to the curling foils, there have been some very noticeable printing inconsistencies, especially with the latest block, Ixalan.
Take these two copies of Legion Lieutenant, they came out of the same Rivals of Ixalan Bundle!
This is an example of one of the more tolerable inconsistencies, but could still be considered a print error. Some of the more glaring examples I've seen are; blurry card titles and misprints on the card art in Rivals of Ixalan.
Also adding the fact that some of the original flip-lands in Ixalan were printed on token card-stock (no internal blue layer), you've got to wonder what's going on with WoTC's QA Department.
Hipsters of the Coast sat down with WoTC's President of Organized play, Chris Cocks, and asked him about the card quality issue. His response was surprising:
Chris implied that any variations in the quality of Magic’s card stock came down to, “the old adage: you can have it fast, cheap, or you can have it good.” But he emphasized that Wizards of the Coast is “committed to having all three. It’s important to us. So we meet with our vendors regularly. We test the heck out of the cards regularly, and if we need to make any changes, we’ll make those changes.”
I don't know about you, but his response seems to imply that they've opted for fast and cheap, while letting quality fall by the wayside.
Is this a concerted effort by WoTC to cut costs and increase their bottom line? Or is it simply an oversight in their quest to push an ever growing number of products per year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!