Friday 7 October 2022

30th Anniversary Edition

It would seem that to celebrate 30 years of the game Wizards of the Coast very much wishes to take their customers roughshod up the shitter. I managed to read the whole article ( announcing the debacle before the penny dropped. I assumed you would be getting a complete set in addition to your four boosters so you could both build and draft with your purchase. But no, Wizards wish to sell us four boosters for a grand. No lube. No foreplay. Just a fucking grand for about as many cards as you would get in your standard deck of playing cards. I very much hope this product flops and sends Wizards and expensive lesson. At this stage I would be fine with it being a terminally expensive lesson. 

So, moving past the gobsmacked outrage and potty mouth we can look a little at why this was such a bad move and what ramifications it may have. Where to start? Lets just begin with the slap in the face that is this price tag. It doesn't send the message that Wizards respects their customers. Mostly what it smacks of is a company that is badly run and failing to internally communicate important things. This has to have been one of those decisions made by different people at different points in the process. Some group pushed for a product like this to inject options on high end cards for commander players. Keep the commander community sweet and stop bleeding away potential revenue to producers of fakes. Not an unreasonable thing to consider. Then after that got OKed some finance people shit the bed in panic that this reserve list grey area product would crash the secondary market thus eroding confidence and severally harming the primary market further down the line. To keep the finance minded people chill and still get this product out Wizards just set a price tag that would shut up both internal groups without seemingly any consideration for those external to the company... At $250 a booster and with a reasonably high rate of dud rares in the set the price tag for chase cards is going to have to be pretty severe. Ultimately quite comparable to CE (collectors edition) prices. This affords those products a degree of protection but at too greater cost. 

There is probably even a third group in the company that has seen the increased price tag on Modern Horizons boosters, then the high cost of the secret lair products, and had the opinion that they can generally get away with charging silly money for product and still have it sell. I imagine this group got well on board with the idea of charging a boat load for this product, both as a test to see quite how far they can take the piss, and as a means to make a massive killing and get themselves big bonuses. 

While the high price of the product will mostly prevent it from directly crashing the secondary market it's mere existence has eroded confidence. It is not directly breaking the reserve list promise but it is uncomfortably close. I have already seen a dip in CE and reserved list cards since the announcement. This lack of confidence isn't going to be seen as a crash, it is going to be seen as a slowing of growth. I would expect the relative value of reserve list alpha/beta/revised cards to go up less in the next ten years that they would have if this product was never announced or brought to market. Economics is all about confidence. The 30th Anniersary Edition is the biggest hit to that confidence since Chronicals and the subsequent advent of the reserved list. It is basically that simple. Yes, not everyone is benefitting from the significant value and appreciation of old reserve lists stuff but most are in some way benefitting from the market stability and confidence that the reserve list brings. Our cards hold value better and there is more availability of product as a result too. 

Another thing this product seems to do is endorse the use of proxies. Again, very understandable that with CE and similar product often being used in commander circles, that Wizards thought this was a good idea. And in many ways it was, just so poorly executed. These cards should have been competing with counterfeiters, not CE and actual reserved list stuff. These boosters should have been much nearer the normal sort of price for boosters and that way they would have sold a lot more and given people a good alternative to using fakes. What Wizards have unwittingly done is just opened the door fully on the "use proxies" debate while entering the market with outrageously uncompetitively priced options. 

I do not think anything too drastic is going to happen, I don't think the game is going to drop dead nor the markets crash. I don't expect this product to do well but equally I do not expect it to completely bomb. If this was a terminal mistake it is going to be a slow death. Likely pitted with increasingly desperate moves from Wizards. 

I had very mixed feelings about Modern Horizons, Secret Lair Products and much of what Wizards have been doing over the recent years of the game. I was sad to see the competitive scene crumble despite having no involvement in it anymore. Secret Lairs somewhat stopped the collector in me. I certainly don't include that product in anything I do collect as I simply do not have the budget to waste on such things. Rather an incomplete collection than destitute! I felt betrayed by the pricing on Modern Horizons and stopped being a complete Wizards loyalist and fanboy when MH1 was announced. That was when I started using fakes in my own cube. This however is the point at which I am happy to advertise that fact and recommend others do the same. Fakes are bad for the game if people are trying to sell them off as real and scam each other. When knowingly used as proxies they make the game more attractive and accessible to all. The only loser is ultimately Wizards and they have had plenty of opportunity to remedy that. When you operate a monopoly as Wizards effectively do one should expect forms of competition to arise in unconventional places. Wizards do not seem to respect that somewhat unique aspect of their business. They seem much more as if they like to bury their heads in the sand when there is talk of fake cards. 

While I am flabbergasted at the stupidity of this release I don't find myself caring, despite what the language might suggest. That is to emphasise my shock. I cared at Modern Horizons and I cared at Secret Lair. A lack of caring is quite the ominous sign. It is when you know the love is gone. As a reader of this I would be like "yeah mate, of course you don't care, that is why you have written this huge rant about it". Certainly it might seem like I care. Mostly I am just commentating on Magic as that is what I have been doing for many a year now. This feels like more of a eulogy than a rant. I don't think Magic will die, and I am certainly not quitting. But I think we are just friends now. I think we have changed too much! This is a eulogy not of Magic but of my relationship with it. The fact that I am playing so many different cubes at present, skipping out sets, doing loads of things with old school and pre-modern legalities, all suggest that this falling out of love had already started. I think it just took me seeing a laughably price tag on a product and finding it funny rather than getting angry or emotional about it to realise that we had run our course. There is always that season in a series where you are still enjoying it but you realise there is nothing more to do. It should wrap it up there and end on a high rather than carry on pushing with weaker content and retrodden paths. Obviously that is not how economics work and things limp on till there is no more money to be had. It is just sad to see that.

If anyone is considering buying this product do please let me know complete with the reason why. I am super interested. I would advise against it but that is as far as I go. I am not intending to sell out of Magic or stopping playing or even stopping with the blog. I am just less committed than before. I enjoyed poking holes and poking fun at this farce. Perhaps that is a direction! Likewise, if you don't however think this is a farce, even if you do not intend to invest in it at all I am keen to hear your supporting arguments. They will be responded to kindly (by me at least!) 


  1. Nick, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this abomination. As someone who's supported this company for 25 of those 30 years, my response was very similar to yours. In short, along with the ramping up of that Universes Beyond nonsense, this travesty destroys what little goodwill I had left for this company. The future of MTG is now confirmed to be a dystopian hellscape in my eyes.

    This official endorsement of proxies is my biggest gripe honestly. Fundamentally, I've always enjoyed the dopamine hit of collecting Magic cards. Plan and simple. It's in the name: trading card game. The experience of acquiring the game pieces you want is an integral ingredient to the overall appeal for me. Once you move to proxying everything it deletes that part of the hobby for you. I definitely respect that choice, but it's not for me and never will be.

    Next, let's look at the product development costs of 30th Anniversary Edition. Unironically this SKU could conceivably be completed start-to-finish in an afternoon, by a few interns. Zero new illustrations commissioned, zero new frame designs, zero game design / rules testing, recycled card art even for tokens FFS. And STILL it's botched, with some artist signatures cropped or omitted. The cost to company is about as low as it can possibly get for a Magic release. Yet it carries the highest price tag of any product they've sold in the history of WoTC. Never before has there been a clearer demonstration of the insanity of collecting this expensive cardboard. This move has the power to 'break the spell', even for diehards like me.

    If you haven't seen the official reveal on YouTube, please take a moment to do so. Watching in detail the person who announced this betrayal was morbidly fascinating: the stammering speech, the hyperventilating, the forced smiles and laughter, their eyes flicking to the teleprompter, the trembling hands. On a physiological level, this long-serving Wizards employee was well aware of the audacity of the whole thing, the convoluted racket they are complicit in. I was surprised at Maro's composure, he should be troubled the most by this indictment of his life's work. To crown it all at the end, there was a quiet slideshow of these cards that felt very much like a prolonged moment of silence at a funeral.

    I'm imaging how this whole thing will play out. There could be a planned 'WE HEAR YOU' follow-up (after the viral marketing has run its course), announcing a reduced price / greater availability. Which would damage confidence even more, but I wouldn't put it past them. Or the release will just come and go, with little impact other than defrauding a few brain-amputated whales. They managed to test the waters, and everything will chug along. But in my opinion the frightening thing is not even 30A itself, but what it heralds.

    Finally, dear reader, I would like to draw your attention to that innocuous little 0000 four digit collector number. The set has only 594 entries currently, but what if there were thousands of proxy reprints? To me it's abundantly clear that there will be further additions announced before the actual 30th anniversary of MTG in August 2023. Hasbro very much wants to sell Commander players Gaea's Cradle after all. Along with all sorts of other reserved list staples. That's the entire point of this reprehensible, rapacious exercise.

    They will gleefully milk their old faithful cows until the udders are raw and fall off, as a thank you for three decades of support.

    1. Oh for sure, I love the collector aspect too. I only proxy the odd card and I do it properly, you cannot really tell at all with a sleeve on. It all started with Wrenn and Six and is basically every card released since then that has never dipped below £10 on the secondary market that I proxy. New cards don't feel like good, stable, or suitably liquid investments and so I am not willing to pay that much for them since the good will has eroded.

      I have watched the release video now, I do pity the dude, it is a very hard sell and he cannot hide his feelings. His final face at the sign off summed it up pretty well.

      100% agree that unless this product flops, which most seem to think is pretty unlikely, that we will see much more of the same. Strap in. Next stop Arabian Nights!

      I remain sanguine about it all as magic feels pretty complete. New stuff isn't adding as much as it did in terms of replayability and excitement for me. I think I would have more fun making my own cards at this stage. I do however very much appreciate and sympathize with the significant amount of anger and disappointment across the community from those who want to see more good stuff from Wizards.

      As an aside, I saw the Post Malone thing for the first time today. Wow. Throw shit in every which way and see what sticks. I guess they reel in more random punters than they lose with stunts like this but really, have some self respect. I know nothing about Post Malone but I know he has a lot less of a place on a magic card than a Space Marine or perhaps more shockingly, even Rick Grimes....

  2. Appreciate the post, please continue sharing.
    10th anniversary