Popular collectible card game Magic: The Gathering is celebrating its 30th anniversary by releasing packs of cards that cost $999. It’s called Magic: The Gathering 30th Anniversary Edition and will contain some cards that haven’t been reprinted in decades, all with their original art.
Nine hundred ninety-nine dollars will buy a collector four sealed booster packs. “Each pack contains 15 cards, 13 cards in the modern frame—1 rare, 3 uncommons, 7 commons, and 2 basic lands—plus one basic land in the retro frame, one additional retro frame card, and a token,” according to Magic’s website.
These cards are purely collector’s items. They’re not tournament legal and have different backing than the original cards. It’s also a limited edition print run. Magic publisher Wizards of the Coast hasn’t said how big that run will be, just that it’s limited and that card shops will receive a limited supply with the bulk of the cards being sold online.
The set includes reprints of cards, some of which haven’t been reprinted in decades, including the Power Nine, nine powerful cards from the early sets that include the iconic Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall. These were some of the earliest cards to be restricted from tournament play because they were overpowered; they were eventually discontinued. A Black Lotus sold at auction in 2021 for $511,000
This new limited edition Black Lotus won’t likely reach those lofty pricing heights. Again, these cards can’t be used in tournament play and are only meant to be a collector’s item. Customers will be buying packs in sets of four for $999, so they’re paying $250 for a booster pack they can only ever display and never play with. The community is upset.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the set yet, but Michael Caffrey, who owns TOAMagic.com and tweets about the financial aspects of MTG, did some quick calculations and estimated that obtaining a full print run of this anniversary set would cost around $24,000. Two of the top threads on the Magic: The Gathering subreddit right now are complaining about this $999 loot box.
“Reminds me of the comics industry. There were so many cash grab crossover and special editions that it turned away fans. Sales crashed, they had to simplify and get back to basics, and fans returned,” Reddit user jdeezy said in a Magic: The Gathering subreddit thread about the collection. “Tldr:stop buying and this will be over faster.”
“The price tag is more what I'm upset about. They aren't tournament legal cards and don't even have the normal card back for at home play,” wrote Reddit user Abearthing92. “Proxyking can churn out products like this for next to nothing. And they expect anyone to pay a THOUSAND DOLLARS for these? Wotc has totally lost touch with reality.”
There’s been a growing divide in the Magic: The Gathering community between the casual players and the collectors. Magic was always an expensive hobby, with tournament play requiring players to buy booster packs roughly every three months to keep their decks up to date with the game’s legal regulations. Casual play can be less stressful and high-stakes, but there was always a reason to buy new cards and spend money.
As Magic has grown in popularity and the number of out of print cards has grown, some rich collectors have turned the cards into a kind of commodities market. Card prices are watched like stocks and people pay big money for sealed boxes of boosters from 20 year old sets. Wizards of the Coast has increasingly catered to this kind of consumer, releasing branded Secret Lair sets with limited print runs and art by people like Bob Ross. The sets are expensive and often out of reach for the casual player.
The 30th anniversary of Magic: the Gathering is a momentous occasion for the hobby. It would be nice if everyone involved in the hobby, regardless of income, had something to enjoy. Wizards is releasing some play promos, previewing new sets, and remastering an older set as part of this anniversary too, but the 30th Anniversary Limited Edition set is the set piece for the anniversary. It’s what everyone is talking about and what everyone is interested in.
Despite the anger and upset in the community, this collector’s market is big enough that these sets will inevitably sell out. Magic: The Gathering is big business and many of these $999 sets of boosters will end up in some rich person’s collection, unopened, gathering dust and appreciating in value.