NFTs have been increasingly popular on social media and the internet over the past few years. Because NFTs are difficult to understand, you’re not the only one. When it comes to NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens, they are simply digital certificates that may be used to show that you own a variety of digital assets.
To get a better understanding of NFTs, you can check out this article from The Verge and many other sources on the internet that can probably explain it better than I can. In practise, NFTs are created on the blockchain to represent an item, such as an image or video, and then auctioned off to interested buyers. You can read more about how NFTs work here. Tweets and other “digital things” such as photos, videos, and music have also been used as NFTs.
Is this a game of Magic: The Gathering?
During a shareholder’s meeting in 2013, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner remarked that NFTs were a “opportunity for us” and that the firm was “actively developing” potential in the NFT market. Anything under the Hasbro label, including Magic the Gathering, might theoretically fall under this umbrella.
NFTs have been a mystery at Wizards of the Coast ever since, and Vice President of Design Aaron Forsythe even commented negatively to a tweet implying that an announcement could be made at any time: “Any day now.
Magic-related NFTs are still up in the air, but Wizards has lately been obliged to respond to a third party, calling itself mtgDAO, that has come up with a plan to offer their own NFTs that represent Magic cards and allow users to play those cards in mtgDAO’s imagined format.
MtgDAO’s “white paper” was first released in early January, but only gained attention until Reddit user u/lucien licot posted it to r/magicTCG:
If you don’t want to read the seven-page document, the stated goal of mtgDAO is to create a new MTG format where players must not only own the cards they want to play, but also own and provide proof of ownership for an NFT that represents those cards—provided of course by mtgDAO. What is the point of this? For the most part, the stated goals of mtgDAO seem to revolve around the idea of establishing an additional level of scarcity in MTG even after reading the complete paper and other things that the organisation has published.
DETAILS ABOUT YOUR CARD
Certain cards, particularly those on Wizard’s “reserved list,” which means they’ll theoretically never be reprinted, have long been criticised by the Magic community for their scarcity and consequently high price. In order to preserve their collectible value, many cards from MTG’s first few sets have been placed on the reserved list. Many in the community object to the reserved list because of the prohibitively high cost of cards that are required to make certain decks competitive in eternal formats.
Many formats still allow the original dual lands, which haven’t been printed on paper since Revised Edition but are still used in everything from competitive Vintage tournaments to casual Commander tables. Volcanic Island sells for more than $600 on prominent card retailers, so it’s easy to understand how a deck with a playset of original duals may cost thousands of dollars.
Since the general public is opposed to such scarcity, why would mtgDAO wish to further reduce the number of cards? Firstly, the white paper argues that the creation of NFTs for each card would help collectors and investors, and secondly, the limited number of NFTs accessible for any particular card will lead to more diversified metagames because not everyone has access to the most powerful cards in the field.
For those who are willing to pay top price for the NFTs, this means that anyone running four Thoughtseize in their Modern mtgDAO deck can continue to do so, but the card will be unavailable to the vast majority of players. However, mtgDAO merely provided a broad and non-specific manner of determining the scarcity of each card’s NFT and how much they would cost to the community.
Even though there are many questions about how this approach might work in practise, they may not matter in the long run. A law company representing Wizards of the Coast wrote an email to mtgDAO on February 10 demanding them to stop working on the project and posting a lengthy thread in which they explained why they still believed in the project and claimed that this would not be the end of the road.
But even though it includes creating and profiting from NFTs meant to represent Magic cards (which are unquestionably Wizards of the Coast’s intellectual property), MtgDAO says they don’t believe their proposal would amount to infringement and will continue to negotiate with Wizards on how they could proceed.
NFT Scheme Faces Legal Action
mtgDAO claims in their white paper that their NFTs “aren’t meant to establish ownership of the card,” instead of only being utilised to allow that card to be played in their format, that they are trying to get around copyright regulations. To put it another way, the NFTs are more like “tournament tickets.” For all my lack of legal or crypto expertise, I see no difference between utilising them as tokens of ownership and using them as mtgDAO would need players to possess both the cards and the NFTs directly representing them. I could be wrong.
However, the author of mtgDAO even goes so far as to say that they may “pay licence fees” to put his NFTs into Arena or other official products, but Wizards’ legal reaction seems to hint that they are not interested in working with them in the future. “Wizards is actively assessing its future plans for NFTs, but no decision has been made,” the legal team notes in the email.
NFT copyright infringement and intellectual property theft aren’t new problems for companies, and Wizards of the Coast isn’t alone in having to deal with them. Wizards’ decision to preserve its intellectual property is understandable, regardless of whether or not they plan to provide their own NFT products.
According to the mtgDAO team, a legal challenge from WotC would be exceedingly improbable, especially since it appears to be a minor operation. Consequently, the team’s goal of transforming the world of Magic is unlikely to be achieved. Although most of MTG social media is having fun with the situation, it raises real questions about what NFTs would imply in the MTG world and exactly how Wizards would implement them.