This week, Wizards of the Coast announced the Magic 30th Anniversary Edition, a booster product that aims to celebrate the original Magic set in a way that calls back to the past while modernizing the look for the present.
The product will be released on November 28, 2022 and sold directly through 30thEdition.wizards.com by Wizards (currently redirects to the official information article). Each display is priced at $999, which amounts to a small box containing four anniversary booster packs.
The packs contain non-tournament legal versions of most of the cards from Beta, albeit with modern wording and the current card frame (though there is a slot in the boosters for an old frame card). Naturally, given the price point and the fact that the cards aren’t tournament legal, the community as a whole reacted extremely negatively towards them, seemingly rejecting the product as a scam and calling the cards glorified proxies. One would think this puts the product in jeopardy of failure, but there’s a lot more to it to consider.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Magic 30th Anniversary Edition won’t be a failure, and is very likely to sell out almost immediately. The product is a really bad investment if you’re looking to just crack it open due to the variance, but as a sealed product, it makes a lot of sense to invest in. The Magic finance community is already circling around the product, as there’s existing evidence of the sort of value this product line can accrue (see: Magic Collector’s Edition).
The current recession (or impending recession, if you believe we’re not already in one) also means that the average person just will have less disposable income for a product like this, meaning more will be scooped up by collectors and investors in general. This is a product for them, and seemingly not one for the players.
Magic Collector’s Edition released for $49.95 back in 1993, and contained one of every card in the original set in a similar non-tournament legal fashion. Today, the Black Lotus alone is worth around $5000. That should give you some kind of idea as to what kind of value “official proxy cards” can have. This product is likely going to have a smaller print run than the Collector’s Edition, as well, given the limited window when it’ll be on sale. I’m not here to sell you on the product, though. I won’t be buying any of it, I think no one should buy this when it goes up, and I’d prefer for it to bomb. I’m just presenting the reality to you of what this looks like in terms of an investment.
Apart from the Power Nine and the dual lands, Beta is not a set with a lot of highly sought after playables. A lot of the best cards have seen numerous reprints now, and most are pretty affordable in one form or another. That’s the big problem that the product faces for players: If you open your four booster packs, which you just spend a thousand dollars on, and you don’t hit duals or Power, you’re going to feel ripped off.
For some, that gamble will be exhilarating, I’m sure, but I can’t recommend it to anyone really. I’m honestly a little surprised they didn’t do more to make this product exciting and pull cards from more early Magic sets. They could’ve eliminated a lot of the worse rares and added some better hits from sets like Antiquities, The Dark, and Legends. That would’ve at least made the price point feel a little more justified.
That’s the crux of the issue: Magic 30th Anniversary Edition is a product made for collectors and investors that seems designed overtly to be against actual players. If you have the money to gamble on it, you can just use it to get a couple of actual dual lands. Power is exciting, but Vintage isn’t a heavily played format, so it’s mostly used for Cubes and for investment anyway, and the former doesn’t care if the Power is real or not. If anything, this product could’ve been tailor-made for Cube curators, but again, the price point and high variance means it’s just not.
I would like to end this discussion with what I consider a reasonable idea: 30th Anniversary Edition should be put up, with some minor adjustments, as a Historic draft set on Magic Arena. Most of the cards are relatively low power, and the most powerful cards could just be banned right out of the gate. I doubt the Limited format would be too much fun, given how early Magic was designed for opening and not for draft, but it’d still be a neat novelty draft that could run around the time of the actual anniversary of the game next August. Digital Magic would give this product a chance to shine with actual players, while keeping the paper product the high price luxury item they seem to want it to be. A virtual win-win, as it were, earning the company some good will from those feeling slighted by this specific product.
Magic: 30th Anniversary Edition will be going up for sale before year’s end. Again, it will almost assuredly sell out right away. It’ll be interesting to look back on it this time next year and re-evaluate the product’s financials, as well as what impact it had on the Magic player community. I still urge you all to think carefully about what you want to do with regards to this product. It’s the biggest gamble Wizards has put forth thus far, and the financial risk is much higher than we’re used to with Magic sets. Take care, and always do whatever you feel is right for you.