Quiet Contemplation: Lord of the Rings, The One of One Ring and its impact towards the future of Magic

On June 30th, 2023, the hunt for the Serialized One of One The One Ring ended with confirmation from PSA who graded it and Wizards of the Coast that it was found. Many in the community celebrated the finding of the card while others jeered and wouldn't shut up about the volcano (It stopped being amusing when the emvious people kept saying it). This event also marked the beginning of the decline in interest in the product as we now make way for Commander Masters to show up.

The hype and madness around the search for the One Ring has been one of the highlights for the community within recent memory. For WotC, they greatly benefited from the increased exposure that Magic the Gathering received. For those of us who aren't as plugged in, not only was the immediate audience of the Magic community talking about it, but the conversation traversed into the Lord of the Rings community, other card collector communities like sports cards and Pokemon, and even to the general public. An exemplary case is USAToday covering the events surrounding the search for The One Ring. This was much bigger than any other marketing gimmick that wizards has tried and much bigger than Magic players expected. 

The Magic ecosystem felt it as well from both the game stores and community. My two LGSes that I frequent, Brute Force Games and Game Empire, told me that sales were up for this set for all products and with some being sold out by release weekend. Online, the bundles and collector's boosters were either sold out or marked up considerably on Amazon, which encouraged players to check out big box retailers and their locals to see if they can get a better deal. On the players' side, I actually notice there was a heightened interest in this new set and an influx of new and returning players asking questions on the best way to get started/restarted. I was even part of a massively sized impromptu trade session. (For context, these never happen at my local level and I've only seen them at larger events.) For content creators/ article writers people really wanted to know about this set and the huge bounty involved (will discuss later). It was easy for some of these guys to create something small to publish to their audiences. No matter who you were there was something from this set for you.

The Stars Aligned

 This set was a whirlwind of factors that just happened to align together perfectly to hype everyone up about this set. Much like Warhammer 40K before it, Lord of the Rings is one of the biggest IPs that WotC could have worked with that has massive appeal to the world, while also having an audience that overlaps with the card game audience. The news cycle from this set only served to increase awareness of the existence of the set (Aragorn's Depiction, the large dump of MTG products in the landfill, and the release of serialized cards). The set design and flavor added to the cards was epic, at least for me. You could really feel the effort that the  Among these, the one of one "The One Ring" was destined to be a massive success. The creation of the card was such a flavor win that anyone familiar with the Lord of the Rings lore would at minimum be amused at the attempt. The desirably of owning such a card lead to the combined communities of LotR and MTG creating a bounty, which created a feedback effect that would only serve to spread the news and increase the bounty. The highest public bounty was the 2.5 Million USD offer from a game store in Spain. 

With the degree of success this product had, I firmly believe Wizards will be difficult to replicate this event again to the same degree, no matter what they tried. This set of events was something that was unprecendented for the Magic market and a novelty. Novelty wears out overtime and future attempts at this aren't truly treading new ground with each one creating less and less interest. Eventually, these will normalize and though there might be a large bounty to find this card, it won't be 2.5 Mil and it will only be Magic players talking about it. Looking at sports cards, 1/1s are only selling for 5 digits and I didn't even know about that market until this discussion happened. The last component of the set's success is the Lord of the Rings IP. Having numerous successful movies and video games within recent memories helped develop the franchise's fanbase among the younger crowd that was more inclined to be playing MTG. Without the IP, this is just another Magic set. 

At this point I'm not even factoring in how Hasbro/WotC chooses to follow up on their successes. They generally have a history of making an inferior product in most of their attempts to capitalize on their major successes like the Expeditions, Masters sets, Signature Spellbooks, Commander Collections, etc. (I will defend Baldur's Gate as a product). This is not an "if" situation but a "when". WotC has already saw the spike interest and sales with this one and they are bound to try this again in hopes of increased growth. I'm an going to assume WotC will start putting 1/1s in every set starting as soon as The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. This second attempt will be carried by the leftover excitement from people wanting to chase the lottery high from the first time, but interest will start declining with that. Future attempts in a short time span only continue these trends. The most interesting part then is that the excitement that ravaged the community transforms into discontent and disgust. Careful implementation is a must in order to maintain this as a powerful marketting gimmick.

Chance at Success

For WotC to pull this off again, they need to strategically release 1/1 every so often. I'm imagining every couple of years, ideally 5, not every single set, and keep it a surprise. This might be long, but it preserves the mystique around collecting MTG 1/1s. Secondly and this might be controversial, but they should only have 1/1 for some type of collaboration with another IP, so Universe Beyond only. This creates the feedback loop for the news as it gets 2 communities involved rather than just the Magic community. It's very important that  a significant bounty is offered preferably by someone who isn't at WotC. As much as I like MTG, there's no way it can generate that much hype on its own. If they manage to do this with an even bigger franchise, I do think WotC can outdo themselves.

Outside of blog writing, I've been streaming more on Rumble of the various games I'm currently enjoying, less effort and it doesn't take away from the writing. Video editting and Youtube weren't things I was feeling successful in the amount of effort made it more less enjoyable, while Rumble has been more receptive of me. If you want to take a look, just click this link here. I typically stream from 8PM Pacific- Whenever I feel like sleeping.

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